About the buzz over a Bond title song performer

John Barry (1933-2011)

Whenever a new James Bond is being made, there’s a lot of interest in who will be doing the title song. On Sunday, the MI6 James Bond website reported that American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, 18, will have the honors.

While unconfirmed, naturally fans are commenting about it. Calvin Dyson, who runs an entertaining YouTube channel centered on Bond asked the following in a tweet.

Reacting to news that Billie Eilish is likely doing the #NoTimeToDie theme do you:

A: Feel good about it
B: Acknowledge she isn’t really for you but reserve judgement until release
C: Grumble “Never heard of her” for 3 months
D: Froth at the mouth that it’s not Shirley Bassey

For me, the answer is none of the above. Just a personal reaction, but for a while now Bond title songs have been more part of the marketing but tacked on to the films themselves.

It wasn’t always that way. John Barry’s first Bond score was From Russia With Love. He didn’t write the title song (Lionel Bart did). But Barry incorporated it into his score with different arrangements, tempos and orchestrations.

Of course, once Barry started writing Bond title songs with Goldfinger, he layered them into the scores — sometimes quietly, sometimes with a loud, brassy sound. In the case of Thunderball, Barry incorporated two songs: Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (written first but rejected) and Thunderball.

Barry wasn’t around for Live And Let Die. Paul and Linda McCartney wrote the title song. George Martin, who had helped McCartney produce the song and who negotiated with producer Harry Saltzman, did the score. Martin incorporated instrumental versions of the song into his score. Other Bond composers, such as Marvin Hamlisch and Bill Conti, also worked the title songs they helped write into their scores.

In other words, the song was more than just something performed for the titles. A title song became part of the movie itself, playing a role in establishing mood and emotion.

Things change. One reason Barry finally walked away from the series for good was he would not be allowed to write the title song for Tomorrow Never Dies. He’d already been away from Bond for a decade. That was simply the last straw.

The last time a title song got the Barry treatment was “You Know My Name” for 2006’s Casino Royale. David Arnold, composer for the score, collaborated with performer Chris Cornell on writing the song.

In the 2010s, both Skyfall and “Writing’s on the Wall” from SPECTRE won Oscars for best song. Instrumental versions appear in the two movie scores but, to my ear, seem placed because that’s what’s expected.

Nothing stays the same. John Barry died in 2011. David Arnold, who updated the Barry/Bond music template, hasn’t worked on the series since 2008.

The new title song, whoever writes and performs it, may be great. It may be OK. It may be mediocre. There’s no way to know until it’s released.

But, speaking only for myself, I find hard to get excited about it. Your mileage may vary.

Fukunaga talks up ‘the joy of continuity’

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of No Time to Die

No Time to Die director Cary Joji Fukunaga participated in a round of interviews last week after the film’s first trailer was released.

In one of them, with an outlet called Games Radar +, the director talked up the use of continuity in the new James Bond movie.

“Some people might look at it as a burden, and some people might look at it as an opportunity, when you’re inheriting characters or story points,” Fukunaga told Games Radar +.

“The way I saw it was: there’s a lot of rich material to draw from. And then there’s also the joy of continuity.

“So for the people who know the stories, to be able to pick up on some of these things, plus leitmotifs and other references to previous films; it just enriches the experience.”

The Bond franchise has had continuity in varying degrees. From Russia With Love made passing references to the events of Dr. No, for example. The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only referenced what occurred with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

It has been only recently that the series has embraced continuity as a selling point.

In 2011, Skyfall director Sam Mendes said specifically that the 23rd film in the Eon Production series had nothing to do with the two previous entries, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

All concerned, including Mendes, changed their minds with 2015’s SPECTRE. That film’s story did a “retcon” (retroactive change in continuity) that established all the Daniel Craig Bond films were all interconnected — including how Silva, the villain of Skyfall, was part of SPECTRE.

That trend continues in No Time to Die with the return of Madeline Swann and the rebooted Blofeld from SPECTRE.

With that move, Bond is taking a page from Marvel Studios, which has made more than 20 interconnected movies since 2008.

Maibaum’s ‘circular’ script structure

Christopher Reeve (right) with Roger Moore during filming of Octopussy.

A few James Bond films utilize a structure that, for the purposes of this post, I am crediting to veteran screenwriter Richard Maibaum (1909-1991).

That’s the “circular” structure — the audience sees something at or near the start of the movie that is repeated (with key variations) at the climax.

With the following examples, it’s difficult to give Maibaum full credit. Other screenwriters worked on the Bond films involved. But Maibaum is the only constant. So, without further ado:

From Russia With Love (1963): The film opens with James Bond apparently being stalked — and then killed — by Red Grant (Robert Shaw). However, Grant has only killed a double as part of a training exercise.

Grant kills Bond’s double using a garrotte hidden inside a watch. Later, Grant tries to kill the real Bond (Sean Connery) with the garrotte during a fight sequence on the Orient Express. Naturally, Bond turns the tables on Grant.

Caveat: Both Johanna Harwood (who got an “adapted by” credit) and Len Deighton (uncredited) also worked on the script.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974): The film opens with a gangster (Marc Lawrence) hired to take out Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) on his home grounds, including a “fun house.”

Scaramanga has to scramble before he finally dispatches the gangster. Much later, James Bond (Roger Moore) is lured into the “fun house.” Bond loses his own Walther PPK. But he kills Scaramanga taking a PPK from a life-sized 007 figure.

Caveat:  Tom Mankiewicz was the original screenwriter, then Maibaum was brought in. Mankiewicz did the final rewrites.

Octopussy (1983): After the main titles, a 00-agent disguised as a clown flees from a circus. He’s fatally wounded by twin assassins who are also circus performers.

Toward the climax of the film, Bond (Roger Moore) is disguised as a clown — the same getup as his doomed predecessor — and manages to deactivate an atomic bomb just in the nick of the time.

Caveat: Octopussy began as a script with an effort by George Macdonald Fraser, which was later rewritten by Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson.

No time to drive: Price appreciation of 007 cars

Iconic publicity still for Goldfinger with Sean Connery leaning against the Aston Martin DB5.

A study by 1st Move International looked at how prices have appreciated for various cars that appeared in James Bond movies.

At the top, not surprisingly, was the Aston Martin DB5, which was originally priced at 4,175 British pounds ($11,690 at the 1960s exchange rate of $2.80 to the pound), which now fetches 687,696 pounds (more than $883,786 at current exchange rates.

What follows is  sampling of other cars of note in British pounds. The data is as of Sept. 20.

Toyota 2000 GT (You Only Live Twice): 6,379 pounds originally, now 530,111 pounds.

Aston Martin DBS (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service): 4,473 pounds originally, now 214,950 pounds.

Lincoln Continental Convertible (Thunderball): 475 pounds originally, now 20,336 pounds

Chevrolet Impala Convertible (Live And Let Die): Almost 2,084 pounds originally, now 23,906 pounds.

Bentley Mark IV (From Russia With Love): 2.997 pounds originally, 29,500 pounds now.

Ford Mustang Mach 1 (Diamonds Are Forever): 2,883 pounds originally, 20,000 pounds now.

Sunbeam Alpine Series II (Dr. No): 985 pounds originally, 6,771 pounds now. 

Lincoln Mark VII (Licence to Kill) 8,041 pounds originally, 43,499 pounds now.

Lotus Esprit S1 (The Spy Who Loved Me): 10,791 pounds originally, 39,999 pounds now. 

Aston Martin V8 Vantage Voltaire (The Living Daylights): 54,685 pounds originally, 150,000 pounds now. 

The study also analyzed car appreciation place by actor. Sean Connery cars, for example, averaged an appreciation of 7,134 percent. Timothy Dalton was at the low end at 208 percent. Daniel Craig films weigh in at 1,193 percent, which includes use of the DB5.

For more about the 1st Move International study, CLICK HERE.

Bond 25 questions: The lead character edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

With less than nine months before the 25th installment of the James Bond film series, the blog had a few basic questions about James Bond, agent 007 (?, at least where Bond 25 is concerned).

Is Bond a hero or anti-hero?

This is a subject the blog has explored before and the answers remain murky.

Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions, maker of the Bond film series, said seven years ago that Bond was an antihero.

Barbara Broccoli, Wilson’s half-sister, said the same year that Bond is “a classical hero, but he’s very human.”

That makes for a split vote by the two principals of Eon.

An anti-hero is defined as “a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.”

Is Bond a misogynist or a male chauvinist?

A misogynist is defined as “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.” Woman hater is a synonym.

A male chauvinist is defined as ” a male who patronizes, disparages, or otherwise denigrates females in the belief that they are inferior to males and thus deserving of less than equal treatment or benefit.”

Since 1995, the Bond film series has gone with misogynist. In Judi Dench’s debut as M in GoldenEye, she calls Bond (Pierce Brosnan) a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur.

Brosnan’s successor, Daniel Craig, said in 2015 that Bond is “actually a misogynist.”

Well, that would seem to settle the issue, wouldn’t it? If the guy who plays the character calls the character a misogynist that would seem to trump what a fan thinks.

How smart is Bond?

Bond doesn’t always show signs of being a strategic thinker.

In Dr. No, Bond (Sean Connery) brings Quarrel with him to Crab Key to see what happens. He brings along a Walther PPK.

In the novel From Russia With Love, Bond knows a trap has been set. But he decides to stay on the train to see what happens.

In The Man With the Golden Gun film, his plan (such as it is) is to fly to Scaramanga’s isolated island and see what happens.

In Quantum of Solace, he brings along his trusty Walther to take on Dominic Greene and his many thugs at the hotel powered by fuel cells (apparently filled with Explodium). He’ll see what happens.

In Skyfall, Bond takes M (Dench again) from London (where she has been guarded ineffectively) to stately Skyfall manor (which has no security, though Bond & Co. manage to cobble together some traps). Bond is able to kill Silva (Javier Bardem) moments before M dies.

Tarantino’s LA theater to show five 1960s 007 films

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Actor-director Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles will show five 1960s James Bond films in July.

The movies are scheduled for 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday afternoons as part of the theater’s “Afternoon Classics” series.

The theater is showing IB Tech prints of each film. The term refers to a process for making color movie prints that allows for use of more stable dyes.

The schedule is as follows:

July 3: From Russia With Love.

July 10: Goldfinger

July 17: Thunderball

July 24: You Only Live Twice

July 31: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

UPDATE: Plaza Atlanta, which describes itself as Atlanta’s oldest movie theater, plans to show 25 James Bond films in July — the 24 (to date) produced by Eon Productions plus 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

A Facebook post by the theater has the schedule. They will be shown in order, with Dr. No leading off on July 1.

A letter to 007 fans: Chill

Original James Bond film gunbarrel

To: James Bond fans
From: The Spy Command

Take it’s easy. Relax.

The 25th entry in the Eon 007 film series is being filmed. But, viewing various comments on social media, a number of fans seem to be uptight.

What follows is a summary of Bond social media comments.

There is a serious movement to trash Bond 25 before it’s released.

As the blog has noted, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. and U.S. tabloids have run critical articles. That’s interesting, but keep this in mind: THEY ARE TABLOIDS. They traffic in sensationalism. They always have, they always will. Don’t get too worried about it.

Why are people criticizing Daniel Craig?

The last time Bond fans were, more or less unified behind a Bond actor was Sean Connery in the 1960s.

George Lazenby? Some fans argued he was too stiff, too raw.

Roger Moore? Too lightweight! (This sentiment was particularly concentrated in the U.S. where some fans looked at old Moore publicity stills from the 1950s and said he wasn’t manly enough.) Not worthy of the role that Connery originated!

Timothy Dalton? Some fans thought he was too theatrical.

Pierce Brosnan? He was trying to split the difference between Connery and Moore and not being his own man.

It goes with the territory. If you like Craig’s interpretation of Bond, just let it go. You’re going to get a fifth movie and who knows? He may still come back for Bond 26.

“You’ll be sorry — you rats!” 

Some James Bonds don’t have much of a sense of humor. When they see other fans kid around, they say things like those other fans will be sorry when Bond 25 turns out to be the best Bond film in years!

Well, when Bond films come out every four or five years, that’s not a huge accomplishment. Of course, it’ll be the best Bond film in years

If you want to be a smart alec, at that pace, a new entry is guaranteed to be the worst Bond film in years. The blog prefers to take a realistic approach overall.

If you’re a true Bond fan, you shouldn’t criticize the movie!

The blog’s general rule is you shouldn’t criticize something before it comes out. So, yes, you shouldn’t say Bond 25 sucks before, well, there’s a Bond 25 to view.

At the same time, Bond 25 has had more than its share of odd developments. There have been various delays, including a director (Danny Boyle) coming aboard and then departing. Those are all legitimate topics of fan conversation.

A final cautionary note

The Bond franchise has a history of tense moments. Dr. No was a troubled production. So was From Russia With Love. The Spy Who Loved Me. Tomorrow Never Dies.

In the end, all of those films turned out well.

Yet, you can never assume success. The Flying Wallendas were a spectacular high-wire act. But some of their members died when things went wrong despite numerous successful performances.

Bond 25, of course, is just a movie. But success is never guaranteed, no matter how long the winning streak is.

To sum up: Don’t get bent out of shape about tabloid articles. Relax while filming progresses. Still, keep everything in mind. Just keep it in the proper perspective.

Bond 25 questions: The script edition

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Bond 25 filming is underway. Work has wrapped up in Jamaica. Things should be moving along nicely, right?

Not according to tabloid newspapers, specifically The Sun and Daily Mail in the U.K. and the New York Post in the U.S. And a lot of the hubbub has to do with the film’s script.

Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is there really “no script”?

From the time the first draft is submitted, there’s a script. The question is whether there’s a script everyone is happy with.

Still, at any time, there’s a document that exceeds 100 pages and says “The End” at the end. The first draft is replaced by a second draft and so on and so forth.

Nevertheless, the tabloids say differently. The Post in an April 25 story quotes a person it didn’t identify as saying, “They don’t have a script.”

The Sun in an April 26 story said “there is no script.”

Not to be outdone, the Daily Mail began a May 9 story thusly: “The joke on the Bond 25 set is the script’s under wraps. And the response is: ‘What script?’” The story said the story is being rewritten “endlessly.”

So what’s really going on?

Clearly, a number of writers have worked on the project at one time or another. Among them: the team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade; John Hodge when Danny Boyle was attached as director; and Scott Z. Burns and Phoebe Waller-Bridge since Cary Fukunaga (who also writes scripts) replaced Boyle.

In the past week, Waller-Bridge has gotten a lot of attention. She’s both a performer and writer and worked on various high-profile projects.

Waller-Bridge was interviewed on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast. That mostly concerned her career generally but included a few minutes about Bond 25 at the end. She was also the subject of a separate Daily Mail feature story.

In both instances, Waller-Bridge made it sound as if Bond 25’s scripting is under control.

“We have a script and we’re continuing to work on it, all of us floating ideas around and creating characters together,” she said in the Daily Mail story.

Anything else catch your eye?

The Daily Mail’s May 9 story about the “endless” rewriting of Bond 25’s script said it was being revised by Waller-Bridge, director Fukunaga and star Daniel Craig.

Back in 2011, Craig said how he and director Marc Forster supposedly rewrote Quantum of Solace on the set. “A writer I am not,” Craig said then.

If the Daily Mail is correct (something I am not assuming), did Craig change his mind?

Is there context we should keep in mind?

At various times in the 57-year history of the 007 film franchise, there’s been frantic rewriting: From Russia With Love, The Spy Who Loved Me and Tomorrow Never Dies come to mind. Things turned out well at the end.

Still, past performance isn’t a guarantee of future success. You can’t take success for granted.

That’s something to keep in mind. But not something to lose sleep over, at least not at this stage in the proceedings.

UPDATE: A Japanese outlet, Cinema Today, posted a story dated May 12 but is based on an April interview with Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. According to a translation, the duo say that director Cary Fukunaga recruited Scott Z. Burns as a writer while they brought in Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Wilson said work on the script “struggled for a while” but they have a story “with a lot of twists and surprises.”

If Twitter existed in the early days of 007 films

Twitter logo

Twitter, founded in 2006, drives a lot of the conversation on social media.

When it comes to movies and TV shows, Twitter often is a medium for fans to express themselves about movies and TV shows. It’s also a way for various media outlets to blast out headlines before publishing stories.

With that in mind, here are some of the tweets that could have been posted in the earliest days of the James Bond film franchise.

Sean Connery’s casting as James Bond is announced.

–They cast WHO? The guy is balding and he has bad teeth!

Production on Dr. No begins

–Dr. No is a half-day behind schedule after its first day of filming! This movie is doomed!

–I hear the reason for the delay was Jack Lord was late. Bloody American!

–Rumor has it the fourth day of shooting was almost a total loss. Does this production know what it’s doing?

–The Dragon keeps breaking down! Lousiest machine I’ve had to work on!

Things get serious when the movie goes to post-production.

–Film Finances, the company that provided the completion bond for Dr. No, has taken over control. This production is doomed!

–Word is Film Finances has impounded a big chunk of Terence Young’s salary until it gets its money back. What a messed up production this is!

The movie comes out

–Felix Leiter?! He wasn’t in the book!

–Hey! They changed the ending! What happened to Dr. No being buried under guano?!

Eon makes From Russia With Love as the second film in the series

–Call Me Bwana? It was Niagara in the book! And it was Marilyn Monroe, not Anita Ekberg!

–I must say Lotte Lenya is far too glamorous to play Rosa Klebb!

–Pedro Armendariz just committed suicide. How tragic! I wonder if they got all the Darko Kerim footage they needed.

–Terence Young was almost killed in a helicopter accident! Is this production jinxed?

–There’s a rumor that they set off explosions for what was intended as run-through. Do these jokers know what they’re doing?

–Hey! They changed the ending! Bond went all the way to Paris in the book!

–I still don’t know about this Connery guy.

Bond 25 questions: The new writer edition

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

One of the later questions deal with a possible Bond 25 story line, so consider that a spoiler.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a writer and performer, has come aboard Bond 25 as the newest screenwriter. The story was broken by the Mail on Sunday while The Observer had its own, later story with additional details.

Not surprisingly, the blog has some questions.

What is Waller-Bridge’s background?

She was born in 1985 and acts, writes and directs. One of her prominent credits is the BBC comedy Fleabag.

Why is she being brought on Bond 25?

According to The Guardian’s story, actor Daniel Craig requested her services. An excerpt:

Sources close to the film in the US said that while in the country she discussed with Craig how to improve the script of Bond 25, which the 007 actor felt needed some “polishing”, by introducing more humour and the offbeat style of writing she is best known for.

What’s the significance of this move?

Eon Production recently hired “script doctor” Scott Z. Burns for a four-week stint going over the script. If The Guardian is to be believed, the powers that be felt yet more work was needed.

The Mail on Sunday hyped Waller-Bridge’s hiring as “a comprehensive makeover for the MeToo era.” The Guardian’s story makes it sound like more of a tweaking.

Any plot hints? (here’s the spoiler for the spoiler adverse)

The Mail on Sunday story said one plot “being considered” has a retired Bond while a woman agent now has the 007 code number.

If accurate, that’s the flip side of an idea in Anthony Horowitz’s Forever and a Day 007 continuation novel. It’s set in 1950. Bond gets promoted to the 00 section and opts to take the 007 number, which had been assigned to a murdered agent.

Is it a big deal to hire a woman screenwriter for a Bond film?

It shouldn’t but it probably will be because there have been so few.

Johanna Harwood (b. 1930) worked on the first two films in the Eon series. She shared the Dr. No screenplay credit with Richard Maibaum and Berkely Mather. On From Russia With Love, she received an “adapted by” credit while Maibaum got the screenplay credit.

Dana Stevens took over from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who had done the initial drafts of The World Is Not Enough. Bruce Feirstein subsequently took over from her. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein shared in the screenplay credit while Stevens went uncredited.