Remembering that 1989-95 007 hiatus

GoldenEye’s poster

Our post the other day about the anniversary of Licence to Kill’s release got the blog to thinking about what followed: The six-year hiatus in James Bond film production.

Like the earlier post, this is more of a personal take on the events.

The thing is, in those pre-internet days, the news was much slower in getting around. During much of this period, I saw a number of items in The Wall Street Journal. I had a subscription at the time.

Also, the extent of what was going on wasn’t immediately evident.

There were reports in the trade press that director John Glen and screenwriter Richard Maibaum wouldn’t be returning to the series. This was the first indication (at least to me) that a big makeover, rather than minor tweaks, was in store.

There were occasional stories about potential new directors and screenwriters. Things got more serious when it was announced that Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions, was putting itself up for sale. Eventually, no sale occurred, but seeing the original announcement was an eye-opener.

What’s more, the soap opera at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, went into overdrive. MGM was bought and sold again, with a bank (Credit Lyonnais) taking over the operation. Bond fans now needed to read the business pages of newspapers just to keep things straight.

Also, Danjaq/Eon filed a lawsuit related to what was going on with MGM. It was clear the next James Bond film wouldn’t be made soon. Even when the lawsuit was settled (I had a chance to read the press release at my office), it still wasn’t clear when production would resume.

Timothy Dalton

During this period, there were questions about what would happen with the incumbent 007, Timothy Dalton. Geraldo Rivera had a syndicated U.S. television show at the time and one broadcast was devoted to Bond. Some Bond experts participated. Rivera asked if Dalton would be back. The experts said they expected him to return.

Finally came the announcement that Dalton was gone. What was going to happen next?

Attention turned to Pierce Brosnan, who lost out on his chance to play Bond in 1986, when Dalton got the nod.

Eon maintained in a 1987 television interview that Dalton was always its No. 1 choice. In that interview, Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson said Brosnan had never been signed to play Bond.

Brosnan had been signed (and it’s detailed in the Inside The Living Daylights documentary that’s part of home video release), but NBC reacted by ordering more episodes of Remington Steele. That, of course, was what gave Dalton his opportunity to play Bond.

In 1994, shortly before the casting decision was announced, The Wall Street Journal weighed in with a long front-page story about the Bond search and that it was not a clear-cut choice.

Regardless, Brosnan got the node. Many fans, no doubt, thought, “Finally!”

Advertisement for 1994 James Bond convention

Still, Bond had been away from theater screens for quite a while. Eon did something it had never done — having an official James Bond fan conventions in the fall of 1994 and 1995 (the latter days before the premiere of GoldenEye).

That was part of an effort to revive interest in Bond. For hard-core fans, they were anxiously waiting all along. Still, both conventions were interesting to attend. For some fans, it was a chance to meet like-minded people they had never had a chance to encounter before.

In the end, Bond resumed production. 007 even maintained an every-other-year schedule until the end of the 1990s.

Still, looking back at the hiatus, it’s a reminder that film franchises — for fans, for productions companies, for studios — can’t be taken for granted.

Four 007 films credited with saving the franchise

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

This week’s 10th anniversary of Casino Royale generated a number of stories crediting the 21st James Bond film with saving the franchise.

However, this wasn’t the first time the series, in the eyes of some, had been saved. What follows is a list of four.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971): Sean Connery returned to the Eon Productions fold for a one-off after 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman weren’t looking for Connery’s return. But United Artists executive David V. Picker was. As a result of efforts by Picker, Connery was offered, and accepted, a $1.25 million salary coupled with other financial goodies. John Gavin, who had  been signed as Bond, was paid off.

None other than Picker himself, in his 2013 memoir Musts, Maybe and Nevers,  said the moved saved the Bond series.

Hyperbole? Maybe. Still, Majesty’s box office ($82 million) slid 26.5 percent from You Only Live Twice and 42 percent from Thunderall. Those percentage change figures won’t warm a studio executive’s heart.

Diamonds rebounded to $116 million, better than Twice but still not at Thunderball levels. Nevertheless. Picker has argued his strategy of getting Connery back kept the series going.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): The 10th 007 film was made after Broccoli and Saltzman dissolved their partnership, with UA buying out Saltzman.

What’s more, the box office for the previous series entry, The Man With the Golden Gun, had plunged almost 40 percent from Roger Moore’s Bond debut, Live And Let Die.

As a result, there was anxiety associated with the production. Spy ended up re-establishing Bond, in particular the Roger Moore version. The movie produced a popular song, Nobody Does It Better, and the film received three Oscar nominations.

GoldenEye (1995): The 17th Bond adventure made its bow after a six-year hiatus, marked by legal fights. Albert R. Broccoli, at one point, put Danjaq and Eon on the market, though no sale took place.

As the movie moved toward production, health problems forced Broccoli to yield day-to-day supervision over to daughter Barbara Broccoli and stepson Michael G. Wilson.

The question was whether 007, now in the person of Pierce Brosnan, could resume being a successful series. The previous entry, Licence to Kill, didn’t do well in the U.S., finishing No. 4 in its opening weekend, even though it was the only new movie release released that weekend.

GoldenEye did fine and Bond was back.

Casino Royale (2006): This week, a website called History, Legacy & Showmanship had comments by various Bond students, including documentary maker John Cork, who is quoted as saying, “Casino Royale saved Bond.” Yahoo Movies ran a piece with the headline ‘Casino Royale’: The Movie That Saved James Bond Turns 10.

Meanwhile, GQ.com ran a article saying Casino was the best 007 film while Forbes.com aruged the movie “provides a helpful template in terms of doing the reboot just right.”

If Casino saved the franchise, it wasn’t necessarily in a financial sense. 2002’s Die Another Day was a success at the box officce. But Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson were having a creative mid-life crisis.

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Wilson told The New York Times in October 2005. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

The something new was casting Daniel Craig in a more serious version of 007 and starting the series over with a new continuity.

Casino was a hit with global box office of $594.4 million compared with Die Another Day’s $431.9 million. In the U.S. market, Casino actually sold fewer tickets than Die Another Day (25.4 million compared with 27.6 million). But, with higher ticket prices, Casino out earned Die Another Day in the market, $167.4 million to $160.9 million.

On Twitter, the blog did an informal (and very unscientific) survey whether fans thought Casino had saved the series. You can see the results below.

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1994: Bond convention held in LA to revive 007 interest

Advertisement for 1994 James Bond convention

Advertisement for 1994 James Bond convention

In the fall of 1994, James Bond hadn’t been on movie screens for more than five years. A new 007, Pierce Brosnan, had been cast. But production on GoldenEye, the new Bond film, wouldn’t begin until early 1995.

So, in October 1994, a James Bond convention was held in the Los Angeles area to help revive interest in Ian Fleming’s gentleman agent with a license to kill. Creation Entertainment, which produced Star Trek conventions, was hired to put on the show.

The blog was reminded about all this in an exchange of posts with @Stringray on Twitter. An advertisement for the event was produced saying that former screen 007s Roger Moore and George Lazenby would be present.

Before the show, Roger Moore canceled. As it turned out, he had planned to go to present the first GoldenEye Award to Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. The veteran showman, however, had health issues and would not attend.

Still, Lazenby, and other actors who had appeared in Bond films, were present. So did two stalwarts of the early 007 films: special effects man John Stars and editor Peter Hunt, who also directed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There was also a showing of Goldfinger at the Academy of Motions Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Some of the highlights:

— Peter Hunt showed a clip from Dr. No and then asked the audience to name the flaws. Hunt said something to the effect that the editor knows the mistakes of a movie better than anyone. The editor’s job, he said, is to speed the audience through this without noticing.

In this case, the clip was early in the movie when Bond is picked up at the Kingston airport by “Mr. Jones,” really an operative for Dr. No. The mistake? the color of the car’s dashboard changes in the sequence.

–George Lazenby admitted he made a mistake by not doing any Bond films after Majesty’s. His comments, as I recall them, were pretty brief. But he didn’t try to rationalize his actions.

–Two of James Brolin’s Octopussy screen tests were shown.

One was from the Octopussy script when Bond comes into the office of Penelope Smallbone on his way to see M. We’re told in the scene that Miss Moneypenny had retired and Smallbone was the new secretary.

The other was from the script of From Russia With Love that takes place in Bond’s hotel room in Istanbul. Maud Adams played Tatiana opposite Brolin’s Bond.

I had recalled reading accounts in the early 1980s that Brolin supposedly was in running to play Bond for the movie. I was skeptical. Then, Roger Moore was cast for his sixth turn in the role and I dismissed all that. The screen test footage showed there was something to it after all.

— A short video was shown about what to expect in GoldenEye. A new Aston Martin was supposed to be in the movie (it wasn’t, a BMW ended up being substituted in a product placement deal). Also supposed to be in the movie would be saws attached to helicopters (these would show up in The World Is Not Enough).

Creation Entertainment would do another Bond convention a little more than a year later, the Sunday before the U.S. premiere of GoldenEye.

UPDATE (7:25 p.m. ET): Reader Steve Oxenrider provided THIS IMAGE (or see below) of the convention schedule. Bruce Glover of Diamonds Are Forever also made an appearance as did Richard Kiel, Lynn-Holly Johnson and Gloria Hendry. Various authors about Bond, including Raymond Benson (he had not yet written his first 007 continuation story), also were there.

1994-convention-schedule

Schedule for 1994 James Bond convention

 

Craig remains first choice as 007, Eon crew member says

Daniel Craig photo opposing Brexit

Daniel Craig photo opposing Brexit

Daniel Craig is still the first choice of Eon Productions to play James Bond, a long-time crew member on the 007 films TOLD THE BBC.

“We would love Daniel to return as James Bond,” Callum McDougall said today on the BBC’s Today program.

Craig, 48, “absolutely, without question” is the top choice of Eon co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, McDougall said.

“I know they’re hoping for him to come back.”

The main significance wasn’t so much what was said as who said it. McDougall is one of the main deputies for Broccoli and Wilson.

McDougall, has been a production manager on the film series since 1995’s GoldenEye. He added the title of co-producer for 2002’s Die Another Day and executive producer starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. (In films, executive producer is a secondary producer title, while on television it’s the title for the top producer or producers.)

McDougall’s association with the series goes back to The Living Daylights where he had the title of additional assistant director. He was upgraded to second assistant director for Licence to Kill.

Craig has had the Bond role for the last four 007 films.

 

GoldenEye: How a 007 film became an icon for video games

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

By November 1995, GoldenEye proved that James Bond was still alive as a film franchise.

Almost two years later, in August 1997, GoldenEye would become something different. That title formed by two different words, that came from Ian Fleming’s house in Jamaica and a book from Carson McCullers, would have some impact withthe video game industry.

In these days there are gamers, or even Facebook pages, claiming “when I was your age, we had GoldenEye, not Call of Duty”. The game is still a legend, almost 20 years of its release.

The Rareware game made for the then popular console Nintendo 64 lead many people to GoldenEye the movie and, therefore, to James Bond. It is very unlikely that if you played the game you would ignore the movie, or vice versa.

GoldenEye 007 was first conceived as an on-rails shooter in the style of Virtua Cop, but Martin Hollis, the director of the project, was the one who went by the 3D environmental game we have now.

The developers took the job very seriously. They visited Leavesden studios to take photos of the sets and requested the blueprints used in the 1995 film to build the digital environments. Stills of the cast were also obtained to make a faithful adaptation of each character to the models of the Nintendo 64 engine.

The game meant a revolution among the Bond video games produced since 1983 and among the world of gaming. Unlike most titles of that time, you had to do much more than to kill people or reach goals unharmed. You were meant to accomplish a mission that included destroying computers, recovering documents, avoid killing civilians and meet your allies.

GoldenEye 007 had the same concept of a film. As we turn on the old console with the game cartridge inside, we see the a screen imitating the BBFC classification notice from the U.K. videotapes, right then, after the logos and before the main menu, a digitalized and polygonal version of the gunbarrel sequence welcomes the player. It’s the Bond film we are going to star in.

Funnily enough, during the game credits we get a cast list where, for example, James Bond was playing “007” and Natalya Simonova was playing the “Computer Programmer.”

The game structure is very similar to the film and most of the film scenarios are there: Arkangelsk Dam, Facility and Runway; the Severnaya plateau and the subterranean Space Weapons Control Center (this time, Bond visits it and meets Natalya there); and the Frigate in Montecarlo, the Streets of St. Petersburg (of course, you can drive the tank!), the Train and — of course — Trevelyan’s Antenna.

To please nostalgic 007 fans, the most successful players were awarded with other two missions inspired by Moonraker and Live and Let Die.

The first one (Aztec) featured Hugo Drax’s hidden launch platform and Jaws, while in the other (Egyptian) the ace players would have to recover Scaramanga’s Golden Gun from a temple before a final showdown with Baron Samedi. GoldenEye 007 was the first game to directly relive previous James Bond films.

Easter eggs and cheats were awarded by passing time trials to assure the amout of fun and the replayability: unlimited weapons, invincibility and slow or fast animation.

A nice homage is also paid by the developers to the original movie in the Bunker mission, where a CCTV tape the player (Bond) has to recover is, in fact, a VHS tape with the film’s poster as a cover.

Far from the Bond film series and the source film, GoldenEye 007 with its multiplayer mode brought some colloquial expressions to the youth such as “bitch slap” (defeating someone with your bare hands) and “No Oddjob” because the Goldfinger henchman was a character available in that mode and it was wrongfully represented as a midget (probably a confusion with Nick Nack?) making him tough to shoot at close range.

In the world of video games, GoldenEye seemed to have his own “franchise”: in 2004, Electronic Arts produced GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, where the player controlled a renegade MI6 agent that teams up with Goldfinger. More recently, in 2010, a remake of the 1997 game by Activision for Nintendo Wii was released and the story re-imagined with Daniel Craig as James Bond.

Image from the 2010 remake of the original GoldenEye video game

Image from the 2010 remake of the original GoldenEye video game

The 2004 title didn’t please people. Activision’s version was more successful, but it lacked the “sandbox” spirit of the original, that left you alone in the field (no radar, hints, etc.) and allowed you to have an unlimited amount of enjoyment and fun even if you failed the mission objectives.

GoldenEye 007 was a great way to introduce James Bond for the video game lovers and for those who had their childhood in the 1990s. It was the toys of their generation, a coveted price as Gilbert’s Aston Martin racing sets from the 1960s.

It may sound shallow to make such remarks of a video game considering the success of James Bond in the world of literature, moviemaking and music. Yet, it helped to keep the 007 flame buring after a few years where Ian Fleming’s character had almost disappeared of the map.

And it also helped to boost the popularity of Pierce Brosnan as the new James Bond, in the same year where his second Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, was about to be released.

SEQUEL: 007 movies listed by number of tickets sold

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image

Last year, this blog published a post about how the last eight James Bond movies performed in number of tickets sold in the U.S. and Canada, 1995 to present.

Since that post ran, we now have the final figures for SPECTRE. No major changes in the conclusion. Bond movies  during this period — featuring two different Bond actors, Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan — sold between 23 million and 27 million tickets each.

The one exception was Skyfall with Craig, which was much higher.

Here’s the information again, with one change. Before, we listed the movies sequentially. Here, they’re listed highest to lowest, along with the average ticket price during the year of release. The information is from the BOX OFFICE MOJO website.

Skyfall (2012): 37,842,000/average ticket price $7.96

Die Another Day (2002): 27,584,000/$5.81

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): 26,911,200/$4.59

Casino Royale (2006): 25,428,700/$6.55

The World Is Not Enough (1999): 24,853,800/$5.08

GoldenEye (1995): 24,403,900/$4.35

Quantum of Solace (2008): 23,449,600/$7.18

SPECTRE (2015): 23,001,900/$8.43

 

Remembering Cubby Broccoli’s racehorse

Brocco (foaled 1991)

Brocco (foaled 1991)

Saturday was the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby, which got us to thinking about the time James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli had a horse in the race.

That horse was Brocco, foaled in 1991. The stallion raced in the 1994 Derby, finishing fourth, or just out of the money.

Previously, Brocco had won the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 1994 Santa Anita Derby. His parents were Kris S. and Anytime Ms.

At the time, the co-founder of Eon Productions had more visibility in his horse racing endeavors. No Bond film had come out since 1989’s Licence to Kill.

Broccoli had been in a legal fight with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which in turn was mired in financial problems. The two sides eventually reached a settlement. However, a new 007 film was still some time from becoming reality when Brocco competed in the 1994 Derby.

Later than year, Eon Productions secured the services of actor Pierce Brosnan, Cubby Broccoli’s final Bond actor choice, as the new 007. Pre-production geared up on GoldenEye, which came out in the fall of 1995.

Like most racehorses, Brocco retired from racing to be a stud horse.

UPDATE: Here’s a video of the 1994 Santa Anita Derby, won by Brocco. After the win, ABC broadcaster Jim McKay notes that Albert R. Broccoli had just celebrated his 85th birthday.