‘Jane Bond’ gets some pushback

Atomic Blonde poster

Over the past few years, there have been occasional stories suggesting this actress or that would make a great female James Bond.

Of late, there has been some pushback against that notion.

In April, Rosamund Pike told the Uproxx website she was against the idea of a female James Bond, sometimes referred to “Jane Bond.”

“I’d just say write a new story,” Pike was quoted by Uproxx. “I mean James Bond is a character that Ian Fleming created. I mean, you know of course the brand has become bigger and whatever, but take one of the Bond Girls and give her her own story. I think the character of James Bond is a man. He is really.”

Pike, of course, was in 2002’s Die Another Day. So being a former Bond woman gives Pike a platform that others don’t have in addressing the subject.

This week, a writer for Forbes.com took things a bit further.

Scott Mendelson, who writes about films and the box office they generate, said audiences haven’t supported movies with strong women characters.

His article was titled, “You Don’t Deserve A Female James Bond Or A Lady Indiana Jones.” Here’s an excerpt.

We wouldn’t need a gender swap for Indiana Jones or James Bond if you, dear moviegoers, would actually spend your time and money on the female-led action movies we already get. We actually had a pretty great female James Bond flick last summer. It was called Atomic Blonde, and most of you missed it.

Atomic Blonde’s worldwide box office totaled $95.8 million, according to Box Office Mojo. That was less than the $109.8 million for 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., widely seen as a flop. Despite that, there’s talk we may get a sequel to Atomic Blonde.

Another example cited by Mendelson was the recent Tomb Raider reboot, starring Alicia Vikander (who also appeared in the 2015 U.N.C.L.E. movie). Tomb Raider’s global box office was $272.5 million,  with $215.3 million of that coming from outside the United States.

The thing is, Mendelson isn’t a “get off my lawn” guy. Here’s one more excerpt.

When you champion gender-swapped variations of traditionally male franchises (that’s good) while ignoring the female-led movies that already exist (that’s bad), you do two things. You show Hollywood that there isn’t a “go to the theaters” interest in female-led action movies and thrillers, and you place a higher value on older white and male franchises versus newer franchises or standalone movies that began with a female lead. You essentially tell women that cosplaying as a famous white dude hero is the ultimate aspiration.

Once upon a time (as the blog was reminded by reader Stuart Basinger in 2016), when the film rights to Casino Royale were first acquired, producer-director Gregory Ratoff wanted to change James Bond into a woman.

Recent pushback against the idea suggests fans of “Jane Bond” are no closer today than in Ratoff’s time.

Bond 25: The annoying Monica Bellucci edition

Monica Bellucci during filming of SPECTRE.

File this under “A” (for annoying) and under “C” (for “click bait”).

Back on Oct. 14, the Mirror tabloid ran a story saying that 007 actor Daniel Craig wants Monica Bellucci, who had a very small role in 2015’s SPECTRE, back for Bond 25.

An excerpt:

One insider told us: “He wants Monica Bellucci back, that’s for sure.”

Monica made headlines as the oldest Bond girl ever when she appeared, aged 51, as Lucia Sciarra, widow of a notorious assassin.

The problem? The Mirror earlier ran a story in July claiming Bond 25 would be based on a Raymond Benson novel, despite making no attempt to talk to the one-time 007 continuation novel author.

You’d think that would give people pause before citing the Mirror story on Bellucci. But you’d be wrong.

A site called The List ran with it, citing the Mirror. Forbes.com, citing The List, did likewise.

Earlier today, Variety got into the act.

“Bellucci’s agent told Variety on Wednesday that the actress is neither confirming nor denying rumors that she might appear in the 25th film to feature the suave super-spy, which is scheduled to hit theaters in 2019,” the trade publication said in an online story.

Variety didn’t note how this originated with the Mirror, the publication with the shaky reputation for accuracy.

According to Variety, Bellucci herself was being coy during a Tuesday night event, telling scribes,” I can’t say anything.”

Meanwhile, here’s a question nobody has been asking. If Bellucci really is in the picture for Bond 25 (not a given), would she have to play her SPECTRE character? Or could she pull a Maud Adams and play two different characters in two Bond films?

Another question: Is this a lot of hooey for a movie that, two years before its announced release date, still doesn’t have a distributor to actually get the film into theaters?

…and the (007) world goes round and round…

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There’s a scene in The Dark Knight where the Joker performs his “magic pencil trick” and kills a thug by ramming a pencil into his eye. For many James Bond fans, it feels that way over the past week.

Radar Online, an entertainment and gossip site, kicked off the festivities on Sept. 3 with a story saying 1) Daniel Craig had been offered $150 million to do two more James Bond movies by Sony Pictures and 2) that Sony “should be announcing any day that the studio is re-upping the distribution rights for the Bond series.”

The immediate response among some Bond fans on social media was this was GREAT NEWS and Sony would be foolish not to offer the actor such a princely sum. Such fans didn’t want to hear why such an offer wouldn’t make economic sense.

It took a few days, but a number of sites moved to debunk the $150 million offer part of the Radar story, including FORBES.COM, HITFIX.COM and VANITY FAIRWhile those sites went over the $150 million portion, they didn’t reference the second part. Each cited how Sony’s contract to distribute 007 movies ended with SPECTRE, without directly saying how Radar reported Sony (supposedly) had a new deal.

From HitFix: “Will they re-sign with Sony? Unlikely, but possible.” From Forbes.com: “The short (Radar) post makes four references to Sony, a studio that no longer has distribution rights to the 007 films.” From Vanity Fair: “(T)he decision to pay Craig such an astronomical fee would not unilaterally fall to Sony—which spearheaded the wide-release roll-out of the last four Double-0 films—even if the studio re-ups its distribution rights for the franchise, which expired with the release of Spectre.”

Admittedly, Radar waited until the seventh of eight paragraphs to reference how Sony (supposedly) has a new deal. Still, it was part of the story.

Is this post an endorsement of Radar’s story? No way. In our very first post, on the subject, also on Sept. 3, we slapped on the Caveat Emptor tag. That’s even more true now. Radar said Sony “should be announcing any day” it has a new 007 movie distribution deal.

The clock is ticking. If an announcement doesn’t materialize, say, in another week, Radar’s story may officially be dead.

Anyway, on Sept. 10, Radar Online was at it again. Its newest story proclaims actor Tom Hiddleston “could be canned from the James Bond movie he has been gunning for” because of his “split” from Taylor Swift.

Of course, a lot of people were skeptical the two were a legitimate couple in the first place. Regardless, despite being criticized by other news sites, Radar is still at it. The gossip site acts as if it was totally unaware prominent outlets were saying its original 007 story was crap.

Magic pencil trick, indeed.

 

Forbes raises idea of a Nolan-directed 007 film

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan

In the absence of any actual James Bond news, Forbes.com made the case for how Christoper Nolan could enter the world of 007.

The post by Forbes contributor Mark Hughes says Warner Bros. is the studio best situated to strike a new 007 film distribution deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. If that happens, according to Hughes, it could be the catalyst for Nolan to enter the picture.

Mr. Warner (this blog’s nickname for Warners, based on the studio’s cartoons who addressed the unseen Jack L. Warner) “is pursuing the rights full steam and has much to offer — enough, in fact, that I think it makes them the most likely studio to secure the Bond rights,” Hughes wrote. “Warner could use another solid, reliable franchise right now. I also believe Warner is in a strong position to put forward a better deal than other contenders.”

Mr. Warner, meanwhile enjoys a good relationship with Nolan. The director helmed a Batman trilogy for the studio from 2005 to 2012. As a reward, Warner Bros. financed Nolan’s 2010 Inception movie. Nolan, 45, is currently directing a World War II film, Dunkirk, for Warners.

“Warner seems the most likely to bring Christopher Nolan aboard the franchise, and that’s a big chip in the studio’s favor,” Hughes wrote for Forbes.

Nolan has said he likes Bond and 2008’s The Dark Knight includes Bond-inspired bits. Also, Inception included an homage to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Some fans are intrigued by the idea of a Nolan-helmed Bond film and Nolan’s influences were seen in the Sam Mendes-directed Skyfall and SPECTRE.

In May 2013, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who had a history of being correct about his 007 scoops, reported Nolan had been approached about directing what would become SPECTRE. But it became a moot issue when Mendes agreed to a second turn in Bondage.

However, there is a potential barrier to Nolan taking on 007 which would have to be addressed.

Nolan also produces movies, via his production company Syncopy. His wife, Emma Thomas, works as producer on those films. Would Eon Production co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson agree to such an arrangement on a Bond film?

Eon, in the 21st century, has given directors more freedom than the early years of the franchise. Still, it seems unlikely Broccoli and Wilson simply would yield to Thomas. Could they work out a deal where they’d work together, similar to the way Kevin McClory worked with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman on Thunderball?

Some fans figure Nolan loves Bond so much, he’d simply come aboard without his Syncopy associates. As Tracy said in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, “I wouldn’t go banco on that.”

Again, there’s no actual news here. It’s just the speculation about Bond 25 is now branching out from potential successors to Daniel Craig (who has not actually publicly said he’s quitting the Bond role) to other matters.

How a line from David Lean applies to Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bondlifier  feed on Twitter

The line we’re referring to comes from the director’s 1957 epic The Bridge On the River Kwai: “Madness! Madness!”

Put another way, the last few days have been a doozy regarding the future of the cinema version of James Bond.

Character actor and Daniel Craig friend Mark Strong, while promoting a movie, was quoted by THE SHORT LIST WEBSITE as saying:

““Do you know what, I’d have loved to have played the villain in a Bond movie while Daniel was doing it because he’s a pal and that would have been great. But I think he’s come to the end of his Bond time and so it’s probably never going to happen, but that would have always been great.”

Despite starting off the last sentence with the words, “But I think,” Strong’s comments were read as a virtual confirmation not only by The Short List but by THE INDEPENDENT (albeit with the qualifier “seemingly”), THE DAILY MAIL, THE MIRROR,  MOVIE WEB and /FILM.

In turn, FORBES.COM film writer Scott Mendelson used the news (such as it was) to write why Craig should come back for a fifth outing as 007, even though the writer criticized SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, when it came out.

Separately, actress Naomie Harris, weighed in on Twitter with her opinions about 007 film’s future, including how she hopes her portrayal of Miss Moneypenny will eventually be seen like Judi Dench playing M:

Imagine what it will be like when there’s actual news about Bond 25.

Manic-depressive days waiting for Bond 25 news

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Nature abhors a vacuum. So in the absence of Bond 25 news, there’s the occasional 007 commentary that can come across as manic-depressive.

On the manic side, Forbes.com contributor Scott Mendelson weighed in with a Jan. 26 post about what a success SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, was at the box office. Part of the introduction read thusly:

So how did James Bond do this time out? Well, pretty darn spectacular, actually…(T)he film earned an obscene $877 million worldwide on a $240m budget, so it’s obviously a huge hit.

Depends on your definition of “obscene,” but SPECTRE did come in at No. 6 worldwide and No. 10 in the U.S. and Canada at $199.3 million. Neither figure was as good as 2012’s Skyfall but clearly SPECTRE was a popular movie.

However, Mendelson (who wrote a review saying SPECTRE was the worst 007 film in 30 years) may have gotten a bit carried away talking about how the film did at the box office.

“The next entry will probably be Daniel Craig’s swan song and will definitely be out by 2017 in order to capitalize on the 55th anniversary of Dr. No,” Mendelson wrote. (emphasis added)

A few things: 1) Daniel Craig is scheduled to be in an off-Broadway production of Othello this fall. The exact schedule hasn’t been announced, according to stories LIKE THIS ONE. But for Bond 25 to be in theaters in 2017, production may need to get started before the end of this year. Will Craig have enough time between Othello and Bond 25?

2) At this point, we don’t know what studio will release Bond 25. Sony Pictures’ contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expired with SPECTRE. It might be a little premature to assume a 2017 release until MGM reaches a new deal, either with Sony or another studio.

3) 55th anniversary? Do people really care about 55th anniversaries? This is the same franchise that passed up a once-in-a-lifetime marketing opportunity to have a Bond movie come out in 2007.

Neither Michael G. Wilson nor Barbara Broccoli is anxious to produce movies on an every-other-year schedule (which a 2017 release for Bond 25 would represent). It really seems hard to believe they’d move heaven and earth for a marketing tagline of “the 55th anniversary Bond film!”

On the depressive side, there’s a Jan. 7 commentary on the Cultbox website. The post, by on the artistic side, makes it sound like Bond 25 comes at a critical time.

While entertaining in parts, for many the 24th official Bond adventure was one of the biggest letdowns of 2015. The Blofeld twist was the least surprising reveal since Cumberbatch was Khan in Star Trek into Darkness, and him being Bond’s foster brother somehow added precisely zero depth to the narrative and characters.

Coupled with a fondness for lingering silently on dimly-lit moments of supposed tension for an interminable length of time and Daniel Craig’s unease with playing the lighter moments, audiences were left disheartened with the direction the franchise had taken.

It sounds a little dire. Almost every film generates mixed fan opinion. The post does explore alternate ideas (getting a new Bond, sticking with Craig, making a period piece 007 film) and it makes for an interesting discussion.

Reading the two articles back-to-back makes for interesting reading. With no real Bond 25 news to chew over, we can probably expect more varying interpretations of the state of the franchise.

SPECTRE: Here come the North American reviews

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

After press showings over the past several days, North American film critics are weighing in on SPECTRE.

The 24th James Bond film, as of Tuesday afternoon, has a 65 PERCENT “FRESH” RATING on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Reviews of this side of the Atlantic Ocean are mixed, with some writers lavishing praise and others not being impressed.

What follows are excerpts. We’re keeping out plot points but the usual warning applies: Viewers who are spoiler squeamish should probably avoid until they’ve seen the movie.

RICHARD ROEPER, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: “This is the 24th Bond film and it ranks solidly in the middle of the all-time rankings, which means it’s still a slick, beautifully photographed, action-packed, international thriller with a number of wonderfully, ludicrously entertaining set pieces, a sprinkling of dry wit, myriad gorgeous women and a classic psycho-villain who is clearly out of his mind but seems to like it that way.

“(Daniel) Craig is on point as Bond. He’s maybe the least refined version of 007, seemingly more comfortable when his suit is covered with soot and dried blood, relishing hand-to-hand combat, kissing women with almost violent passion. Even when he’s wearing a white dinner jacket, it’s as if he’s hoping a thug will barge in and grab him by the throat, just to jump start the night.”

BRUCE KIRKLAND, TORONTO SUN: “Spectre is spectacular. If this new James Bond thriller really is the exclamation mark on the Daniel Craig era as 007, he goes out with an adrenaline rush of action, insight, drama, pathos, brutality, humility, humanity and even the occasional whisper of mischievous comedy.

“The beauty of this Bond movie — which instantly leaps into my Top 10 of all time, and will probably make it into the top three when I digest its true impact — is that it does all the Bondian things we expect so extremely well.”

SCOTT MENDELSON, FORBES.COM: “Poorly mixing nostalgia and newfangled “it’s all connected!” franchise world-building, the stitched-together Spectre will bore the living daylights out of you while threatening to render James Bond a culturally irrelevant relic of the past.

Spectre qualifies as a textbook example of “Be careful what you wish for!” For those longtime fans who have wanted to see something of a return to the broader and campier films that defined the Roger Moore era of the 007 franchise or those who wished to see the 007 franchise adapt to the new world of explicitly continuity-driven franchise filmmaking, well, you got what you wanted. ”

STEPHEN WHITTY, NEWARK STAR-LEDGER: “So what’s left for Bond?

“Well, judging by ‘Spectre,’ to get back to a few basics, and indulge in a fun bit of nostalgia. It’s not the best Bond you’ve ever seen, but on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a solid 008.

“Although it includes fistfights, gun battles and chases by foot, car, plane and helicopter, there’s nothing flagrantly unbelievable here. The jokiness is toned down, and the grown-up elegance – mostly courtesy of a guest appearance by Monica Bellucci – is heightened.”

STEPHANIE ZACHAREK, VILLAGE VOICE: (I)n the end, Spectre is just too much of a good thing. Though each scene is carefully wrought, there’s little grace, majesty, or romance in the way the pieces are connected. The whole is bumpy and inelegant — entertaining for sure, but hard to love. It’s easy to see how all this aggressive splendor could fall flat: Both Mendes and Craig have said in interviews that they were nervous about being able to top the over-the-topness of 2012’s rich, resonant Skyfall.”

MICHAEL PHILLIPS, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: “‘Spectre’ cost nearly $300 million to make, and I suppose it was worth it. It’s a good Bond movie, which will be good enough for many millions of fans. It’s also the longest Bond movie in existence, clocking in at just under 2 1/2 decadent, carefree, flamboyantly destructive hours.

“Of the Daniel Craig 007s, director Sam Mendes’ follow-up to ‘Skyfall’ is not quite up to ‘Skyfall’ or my favorite, ‘Casino Royale.’ But it’s a considerably better evil-quelling instruction manual than ‘Quantum of Solace,’ a movie Craig himself admitted went before the cameras in rough shape, racing against time and the most frightening of cinematic adversaries: a writers strike.”

(UPDATE): PETE HAMMOND, DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD:Spectre is no Skyfall, but it will have to do. At a cost of about $250 million and at nearly two and a half hours, this outing does feel a little tired. But maybe that really doesn’t matter a whole lot because for Bond fans we just can’t wait for these movies, and this one is definitely stylish and intense enough to deliver all the required action — and then some. I just wish Craig’s Bond had more of the wit of past Bonds and a little more of the sophistication.”