SPECTRE by the numbers (and not just 007)

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE is starting production in Rome, for a five-week shoot, including a car chase, that will cost almost as much (if not more) than some movies.

So, here’s a breakdown of the kind of spending that’s known about the 24th James Bond film. We’ll assume a total production budget of $300 million.

According to information from hacked Sony documents, the budget was on pace to well exceed that, but there were also efforts to rein it in. We’ll assume the trends cancel themselves out so we’ll go with a nice round number with $300 million.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume a 30-week shooting schedule. Principal photography began on Dec. 8 and is supposed to run seven months. Actual total may run a week or two less than 30 weeks, but some filming was done before principal photography began. So, again, we’ll use a round number.

Cost per week, total: $10 million.

Cost per week, Rome shoot: $12 million (five weeks, $60 million, according to figures reported by Variety.com)

ESTIMATED COST OF NOTABLE JAMES BOND MOVIES (not adjusted for inflation)

Dr. No: $1 million

From Russia With Love: $2 million

Goldfinger: $3 million

You Only Live Twice: $9.5 million (Ken Adam’s volcano set alone cost more than Dr. No)

The Spy Who Loved Me: $14 million

Moonraker: $31 million to $34 million, depending on estimate (Initial plan was to keep it close to Spy’s budget but it was evident that wouldn’t hold)

Tomorrow Never Dies: $110 million (first to exceed $100 million)

Quantum of Solace: $230 million (first to exceed $200 million)

SPECTRE: $300 million (first to reach $300 million).

One week’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than You Only Live Twice, which had the one set that cost more than Dr. No.

Put another way, each day’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than Dr. No. At $10 million a week, if you shot seven days a week, equals $1.43 million daily.

ESTIMATED COST OF OTHER 2015 SPY MOVIES

Taken 3: $48 million

Kingsman: The Secret Service: $81 million

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: $75 million

To be fair, none of this takes into account 50 years of inflation. At the same time, this exercise is also a reminder that studios don’t play with Monopoly money. Studios don’t get to spend, or receive, inflation-adjusted dollars.

A few things best to forget about the first 3 007 films

Poster for a 1972 007 triple feature

Poster for a 1972 007 triple feature

After we did a post about things best to overlook about You Only Live Twice, two readers suggested earlier 007 movies deserved similar treatment.

Thunderball, the fourth Bond film, is rather notorious for a number of continuity flubs (not to mention a certain dog). So, we’ll keep this post to the first three 007 movies and things that are best to overlook to enjoy the movies.

DR. NO

Does M routinely work at 3 a.m.?: Granted, if you were running MI6 (or MI7 as Bernard Lee’s M refers to it) and one of your stations chiefs went missing, it’d be serious. But does that merit staying at the office overnight? Along with your secretary and your quartermaster?

In Dr. No, the answer appears to be yes. So you stick around. As does Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and Major Boothroyd (Peter Burton). Do Moneypenny and Boothroyd get overtime?

Why is Dr. No flushing all that water through his ventilator shafts? In the novel Dr. No, Ian Fleming depicts Bond going through an obstacle course that ends with 007 having to fight a giant squid. The first Bond movie didn’t have a budget to include that. So we get Bond (Sean Connery) going through a large ventilator shaft. It gets rather hot and a lot of water is being flushed. But why?

Bond doesn’t exactly have it easy, but eventually comes out in a room that includes radiation suits. It’s the perfect place for Bond to change to confront Dr. No in his reactor room.

Bond’s magical hair: After Bond has vanished Dr. No, he gets ready to head through a hatch. His hair is disheveled. Agent 007 runs his hands through his hair as he enters the hatch. Upon exiting, every hair is in place.

When Dr. No’s headquarters blows up — out-of-control atomic reactor and all — would that present a radiation hazard? Just wondering. The good folks at Cracked.com seemed to think it might render vast portions of the Carribean into a nuclear wasteland IN THIS 2012 POST.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

What was the purpose of the training exercise in the pre-credits sequence? Red Grants stalks a guy wearing a James Bond mask and kills him. “One minute, fifty-two seconds, that’s excellent,” one of the SPECTRE officials says. Yeah, but does this really help grant get ready to kill Bond? And why did the guy playing Bond participate? Did he volunteer? Or was he forced to? And what would have happened if he killed Grant? Then again, if they didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have an exciting pre-credits sequence, would we?

Who took away the bodies after the fight between the gypsies and the Bulgars at the gypsy camp? You’d think somebody would have noticed. Maybe there’s a deleted scene we’ll never get to see. Istanbul police chief: “Cripes, the Bulgars and the gypsies have been fighting again! What a headache!”

Who took away Rosa Klebb’s body at the Venice hotel? Bond quips that, “She’s had her kicks.” Presumably, the chap from the embassy Bond was chatting with on the phone had some connections with the Italian authorities.

GOLDFINGER

“Why didn’t he just kill him?” That’s the question that Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) asked an excited Jethro Bodine (Max Baer) in an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies concerning the plot of Goldfinger.

It’s an old joke, but still a good one. Mike Meyers managed to get three Austin Powers movies made essentially using the idea. Goldfinger screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn sweated bullets over it in separate drafts of the script. Still, the Austin Powers movies haunt the 007 franchise to this day, ACCORDING TO CURRENT 007 DANIEL CRAIG.

“Must be a double blowout!” That’s Bond’s sort-of explanation for why Tilly’s Mustang ran off the road when he used his Aston Martin DB5’s device that not only shredded her tires but put a nice, long hole in the Mustang’s body between the tires. Presumably, Tilly’s powers of observation weren’t too keen.

Why does Goldfinger have Mr. Solo’s body crushed after he’s already dead? Oddjob shoots Solo, then drives the Lincoln Continental to a junk yard, where the car — including its contents of a gangster, a note from Bond in the gangster’s pocket, Bond’s homer also in the gangster’s pocket and a million dollars worth of gold — is crushed.

When Oddjob returns the squished block of metal back to Goldfinger’s stud farm, the villain remarks, “I must arrange to separate my gold from the late Mr. Solo.” Given this is the day before the raid on Fort Knox, seems like Goldfinger has created extra work for himself on top of an already busy schedule.

How did Goldfinger take over the plane that’s supposed to be going to Washington? Granted, the villain is wearing a general’s uniform. But do you think you could get onto a major U.S. Army base and get everything you want just by wearing a general’s uniform? Best not to think about that because you’ll be distracted and miss the ending.

Watching the 007 sausage getting made

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No SPECTRE spoilers in this post.

There’s an old saying that you shouldn’t watch laws or sausage being made.

With the recent hacking at Sony Pictures, there’s been an opportunity to watch sausage production as it relates to SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions.

The CNN/Money website reported about hacked emails CONCERNING SPECTRE’S BUDGET. The Gawker website reported about hacked emails DEALING WITH ISSUES ABOUT THE MOVIE’S SCRIPT. (Warning: if you’re spoiler adverse, don’t click on either link).

Movie making can be a messy business. There are countless decisions to be made all the time. Different ideas get floated and what, to the lay person, seems like a terrible idea can even be seriously considered.

Until now, the sausage making, as it concerns Bond films, has emerged well after the movies came out. Books such as Steven Jay Rubin’s The James Bond Films, Adrian Turner’s Adrian Turner on Goldfinger and Charles Helfenstein’s The Making of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service showed how the 007 movies didn’t always go smoothly. Even studio-approved documentaries on DVDs of the films detailed problems with the productions.

Thus, fans have become familiar with stories how screenwriters wanted to dump Ian Fleming’s Dr. No character and have a villain with a pet monkey named Dr. No; how screenwriters sweated bullets to explain why Goldfinger just didn’t kill Bond when he had the chance; how screenwriter Paul Dehn turned in a draft where Goldfinger would end with “red velvet curtains” coming down as if the movie were a play; how some drafts of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service included an amphibious Aston Martin. One resource in uncovering all this has been the papers of 007 screenwriter Richard Maibaum at the University of Iowa.

With the Sony hacking, the information about the script and budget came out shortly after SPECTRE began principal photography. A seven-month shoot is scheduled, so the movie is a long way from being finished.

Meanwhile, Eon has a history of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Maibaum didn’t begin a draft that solved the storytelling problems of inserting SPECTRE into the plot of From Russia With Love until filming was underway. The screenplays of The Spy Who Loved Me and Tomorrow Never Dies had chaotic histories but things turned out all right in the end.

Thus, it’s certainly possible that SPECTRE could well turn out fine. It’s just that 21st century technology (and hazards such as the Sony hackers) makes things more anxious until there’s an actual movie to judge.

The main difference between Fleming’s two spy heroes

"I would have thought the difference was obvious," Solo said.

“The difference is obvious,” Solo said.

In 2015, there will be two movies featuring two spy characters Ian Fleming helped to create. The one with the most publicity is SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film. The other is The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a movie adaptation of the television series, coming to theaters a few months before the 007 film.

With U.N.C.L.E., Fleming’s involvement was limited (lasting from October 1962 until June 1963) and he exited the project after being bullied by 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman (whose film series was in its earliest stages) to quit.

There are some basic similarities. Both Bond and Napoleon Solo, the lead character in U.N.C.L.E., are womanizers. Both deal in espionage and death. But Solo has one major difference with Bond: The U.N.C.L.E. agent has a moral core than Bond doesn’t appear to possess.

Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson has called Bond an “antihero,” defined as “a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.” His stepfather, Eon co-founder Broccoli, used the same terms in his autobiography.

In Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale, Bond describes how he got his 00-designation, which involved killing two people. In Fleming’s fifth Bond novel, From Russia With Love it’s stated that Bond had never killed in cold blood. (Collector Gary Firuta pointed this out and we looked up our copies of the novels to verify.) But fans say Casino Royale cancels that out. Dissenting fans say in Casino Royale the two kills were described by Bond (who may or may not have been lying) while the From Russia With Love reference is in the “voice of God” (i.e. Fleming’s “narrator” description).

Napoleon Solo, meanwhile, demonstrates a moral streak periodically throughout the 1964-68 series.

In the first-season episode The Finny Foot Affair, the “innocent” is a young boy played by Kurt Russell. Russell’s character has a rough time. He witnesses an U.N.C.L.E. agent fight to the death. The agent, with his dying breath, entrusts the boy with an object that may be of assistance to Solo.

Later, on a flight to Norway, the boy describes what he saw to Solo. The U.N.C.L.E. agent attempts to deceive the boy that what he saw wasn’t as serious as it seems.

Later, the boy witnesses Solo kill some of his opponents. “Chris,” Solo tells the boy at one point, “you know now this is for real.” At the end of the episode, the Russell character decides Solo may not be the best potential mate for his “beautiful widowed mother.”

The best example of Solo’s moral streak occurs during the last episode of the series, broadcast by NBC on Jan. 15, 1968. Its one of the best scenes in the entire show for star Robert Vaughn. Solo confronts a group that plans to bring the entire world under its control, ending the “fight between good and evil” once and for all. The leader of this scheme is named Kingsley (Barry Sullivan), a former top U.N.C.L.E. official.

SOLO: You intend — you seriously intend — to make the world world act and think like you want it to?
(snip)
It’s a blasphemy. Your plan denies humanity its freedom to find its own way to better times.

At the end of the episode, there’s this exchange between Solo and his boss, Alexander Waverly.

WAVERLY: Good job, gentlemen.

SOLO: Kingsley sincerely believed history would have said the same of him, sir.”

That’s not the kind of thing that Bond stops to reflect about.

Bond 24 questions: the writers edition

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are back? There’s been no official announcement but it was reported last month by The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye that the writers were retained to rewrite John Logan’s efforts.

Bamigboye had a number of Skyfall and Bond 24 scoops proven correct. Example: he wrote that Purvis and Wade were initially not going to be back for Bond 24, while their Skyfall co-scribe John Logan would be the new 007 film’s writer. Purvis and Wade subsequently confirmed they were leaving the series. Until, it now seems, things changed.

How extensive will Purvis and Wade’s Bond 24 script work going to be? If the duo end up getting a credit, you’ll know it will have been substantial.

The Writer’s Guild has extensive guidelines on how much work a scribe (with a team of writers such as Purvis and Wade counted as a single entity) should do to get a screen credit. A writer or writing team must contribute more than 33 percent of the finished product for an adapted script, 50 percent for an original one. Bond 24 falls under the adapted category since it uses a character who originally appeared in a novel.

Getting a credit isn’t as simple as counting lines of dialogue. A credit is supposed to reflect “contributions to the screenplay as a whole,” according to the guild. It’s possible, for example, for a writer to change every line of dialogue but for the guild to determine there’s been no significant change to the screenplay.

In any case, if Bond 24’s credit reads something like, “Written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,” Purvis and Wade will have done more than revamp some dialogue or tweak a scene or two.

Is this unusual?It’s the normal method of operation for both movies in general and James Bond movies in particular. Even 007 films that had only one writing credit had contributions from other writers. For example:

–From Russia With Love had a solo screenplay credit for Richard Maibaum, but also an “adapted by” credit for Johanna Harwood, while Len Deighton did work that didn’t earn a credit.
–You Only Live Twice had a “screenplay by” credit for Roald Dahl but an “additional story material” credit for Harold Jack Bloom, the film’s first writer.
–On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had a Maibaum solo credit for the screenplay but an “additional dialogue” credit for Simon Raven, who rewrote dialogue in some scenes.
–Tomorrow Never Dies had a “written by” credit for Bruce Feirstein. Other writers took a whirl without credit between Feirstein’s first draft and his final draft.

As far as anyone knows, Live And Let Die really represented the work of only one writer (Tom Mankiewicz), and he did plenty of rewrites himself.

Is this any reason to be concerned? The Daily Mail also reported the start of Bond 24 filming was pushed back to December from October. If true, that should still be enough time for Bond 24 to meet its release date of late October 2015 in the U.K. and early November 2015 in the U.S.

What should fans look for next? The date of the press conference announcing the start of Bond 24 filming. There should also be a press release. If Purvis and Wade get a mention in that press release along with John Logan, that’ll be a sign they did a fair amount of work on the script.

Three Tom Mankiewicz 007 anecdotes

"Mankiewicz? I have some more ideas."

“Mankiewicz? I have some more ideas.”

Empire magazine’s website has A 2010 INTERVIEW with screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz about his work on James Bond films.

A couple of anecdotes may be of interest.

Connery’s contribution to the script of Diamonds Are Forever: There may been various tellings of a script meeting Mankiewicz had with star Sean Connery. This interview had additional details.

When Lana Wood appears at the crap table and says, “Hi, I’m Plenty.” Bond says, “Why, of course you are.” She says, “Plenty O’Toole.” (Connery) asked me if he could respond, “‘Named after your father perhaps?’” I said, “It’s a great line.” But the very fact that he asked me – I was (only) 27 years old – shows you the kind of way he goes about his work. He’s totally professional. Any other actor would just have tried it right in the take. I was amazed. It’s a good line, and it’s his line.

The writer’s deleted reference to From Russia With Love in The Spy Who Loved Me: Mankiewicz did an uncredited rewrite on The Spy Who Loved Me. The finished film referenced, briefly, Tracy from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It occurred in a scene where Bond and Soviet agent Triple-X verbally joust to show off how each knows the other’s dossier.

Mankiewicz wanted to insert a From Russia With Love reference in the same scene.

The Best Bond quip maybe that I ever wrote – and I wrote hundreds of them – was cut out of The Spy Who Loved Me. It’s when Roger (Moore) meets Barbara Bach at the bar. He knows that she’s a Soviet Major or something and she knows he’s 007. Anyway, he says, “I must say, you’re prettier than your pictures, Major,” and she responds, “The only picture I’ve seen of you, Mr. Bond, was taken in bed with one of our agents – a Miss Tatiana Romanova.”…Roger then said, “Was she smiling?” And Barbara Bach answers, “As I recall, her mouth was not immediately visible.” Roger retorts, “Then I was smiling.”

You can read the entire Bond-related portion of the interview by CLICKING HERE. From the same interview, you can read what Mankiewicz said about the Christopher Reeve Superman movies BY CLICKING HERE.

UPDATE: In the Superman portion of the interview, Mankiewicz provides some 1972 quotes from Connery. According to the screenwriter, he had been asked by 007 producer Albert R. Broccoli to see if Connery could be enticed to play Bond in Live And Let Die.

He said, “Listen, Boy-o, one of the things I always hear is that I owe it to the public to play Bond. I’ve done six fucking movies. When do I stop owing it to the public? It’s not a question of being kind or unkind. What, after the twelfth or fifteenth? After they stop making money anymore and people say, “What, that’s all he plays? How much do you owe after six films?” I understood completely. If he didn’t get out then, he would just be James Bond. His other films wouldn’t be taken seriously.

REVISITED: the ‘banned’ FRWL commentary

From Russia With Love's poster

From Russia With Love’s poster

We continue our revisiting of the “banned” Criterion 007 laser disk commentaries with a look at what the creators of the early James Bond films said about From Russia With Love.

Again, this is a sampling you can hear in full BY CLICKING HERE. The participants were director Terence Young, editor Peter Hunt and screenwriter Richard Maibaum. The host for the From Russia With Love commentary was author Steven Jay Rubin.

Terence Young says in the pre-credit sequence that Sean Connery wore “some kind of weird plastic makeup,” indicating this might not the real Bond. Meanwhile, during the credits, he muses the movie has “the best cast of any Bond picture.” The director also says when first approached about working on the series he was interested only in Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Thunderball. He says other Ian Fleming stories had plots that were like “Republic Studios” movies.

Young also made observations about cast members. Of Lotte Lenya: “She was screwing like mad when she was 80.” Of Robert Shaw, the director says he sent the actor to a gym “because he didn’t have a very good physique.” Young changed his mind after viewing the results of Shaw’s workouts.

Peter Hunt says he had been friends with Shaw for years prior to From Russia With Love and the actor “did a lot of screen tests with girls” auditioning for parts in films.

Hunt and Richard Maibaum also weighed in on the actress who played villain Rosa Klebb.

“This lesbian character of Lotte Lenya is very well done,” Hunt says. Screenwriter Maibaum says “Lotte Lenya was a freak” who projected “concentrated evil.”

Young also comments extensively about terminally ill Pedro Armendariz, who played Kerim Bey, who ran the British Secret Service’s Turkish station.

The director noted how Armendariz walked with a limp in some scenes. “I knew there was something was wrong with him.” The actor’s mood could change and Young suggested Armendariz “was taking morphine” during breaks. (Whether Young knew this for a fact or only suspected isn’t specified.)

Meanwhile, Sean Connery had improved as Bond from his debut in Dr. No, according to the director.

“Everything he does with such assurance,” Young says. “He looked good. He was very proficient playing the part. There’s one or two scenes in Dr. No where he goes over the top. That’s my fault.”

Young only cites one problem with the star. “Sean started to put on weight. He had to pull his gut in.”

The director also openly cites the Alfred Hitchcock influence of a later scene where a SPECTRE helicopter goes after Bond.

“This was my idea,” Young says. “It was a steal from Alfred Hitchcock, North by Northwest.”

Maibaum, in his interview, talked up the finished film. “Russia is more realistic than the others. We hadn’t gone so far to the fantastical. Real people in real situations.” Daniela Bianchi’s Tatiana “was so beautiful and so gentle and so pleasant. I liked the love story there.”

Maibaum also commented about his own contributions to the series.

“I gave it a kind of a tempo that prevailed throughout the series,” he says. An English writer “would not have the pace or the tempo I insisted on having.” He says his dialogue “is clipped and terse.”

Young and Maibaum also briefly discussed how the series changed over the years.

Young describes From Russia With Love as having more resources than Dr. No but still an efficient production. In later films, he says, “They threw money around like drunken Indians.”

Maibaum also described part of Bond’s appeal. “He was a great lay. That was part of the James Bond mystique, he could manipulate people. Women’s lib people hated that stuff and we had to do it less and less.”

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