SPECTRE: newest twist on 007 product placement

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers.

James Bond movies have never been shy about product placement. SPECTRE may just be a twist on a long-standing tradition.

For decades, the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions has cut deals with companies pitching their wares. Goldfinger did deals with Ford Motor Co. and Gillette. With Thunderball, not only did Ford provide vehicles but then-CEO Henry Ford II appeared as an extra. Moonraker had deals with Marlboro, 7 Up and British Airways.

By the time Pierce Brosnan was 007 (1995-2002), writer Bruce Feirstein, in his FIRST DRAFT for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, didn’t even specify a car model for 007’s vehicle. It just said “(Insert name).”

What’s different about SPECTRE is it may amount to being product placement for a country — Mexico, to be specific — than a series of companies.

The Tax Analysts website, which is targeted at tax professionals, PUBLISHED A MARCH 3 ARTICLE detailing how SPECTRE’s script was altered to take advantage of as much as $20 million in Mexican incentives. (If you click on the link, there are spoilers.)

The incentives are intended to make Mexico look as good as possible in movies, according to the website. The country has reason to do so, according to AN ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST. Here’s an excerpt:

The Mexican government’s sensitivities to its violent reputation are no secret. When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012, he tried to minimize the focus on the drug war while emphasizing economic and political reforms. But ongoing high-profile violence, including battles in Michoacan and the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, has undercut that message.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. For blockbuster movies, access to the vast Chinese market is a must. The 2013 movie Iron Man 3 was a co-production with China. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn turned the villains into North Koreans instead of Chinese.

With SPECTRE, according to Tax Analysts, it was more of a direct subsidy. SPECTRE’s budget may exceed $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made.

Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that owns half the Bond franchise, emerged from bankruptcy only a few years ago. It doesn’t even release its own movies, cutting deals with Sony Pictures (including the 007 films) or Warner Bros. (the now-completed Hobbit series). For MGM, $300 million is a huge bet, even for a 007 film and even though the most recent Bond movie (Skyfall) had a worldwide box office of $1.1 billion.

Put another way, $300 million is real money. Some Bond fans may get annoyed with product placement but they don’t have to sign the checks. As a result, it’s understandable why MGM would be willing to change SPECTRE’s story in return for millions of dollars.

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.

Brian Clemens, mastermind of The Avengers, dies

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg, arguably the best pairing in The Avengers

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg, arguably the best pairing in The Avengers

Brian Clemens, a mastermind of the television series The Avengers, has died, according to an obituary on the INQUISITR WEBSITE.

Clemens, born in 1931, had a lengthy career as a writer and producer. But he is perhaps best known for his work on The Avengers (1961-69) and The New Avengers (1976-77).

In a 2008 U.K. television interview, Clemens said The Avengers “had a curious logic all its own.” Ideas that might work elsewhere could work on The Avengers, he said. “The Avengers had unwritten rules” which were “in my head,” Clemens said.

Of suave John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee, Clemens said in 2008: “He is the manipulator of the all the girls he’s ever been associated with. He gets them into situations for his own benefit.”

Eon Productions, maker of the James Bond film series, used The Avengers as a farm club. Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale on The Avengers, was signed to play Pussy Galore in 1964’s Goldfinger. After bringing aboard Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, the series even made a joke about Mrs. Gale sending Steed a card from Fort Knox.

Rigg, of course, ended up playing Tracy, Bond’s doomed bride, in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Macnee finally made his 007 appearance in 1985’s A View to a Kill. Going the other way, Joanna Lumley, who had a small part in Majesty’s, was the female lead in The New Avengers.

Here’s the 2008 interview with Clemens:

A look at a century of Aston Martin

XCARFilms, a YouTube channel, last month put together a video about the first 100 years of Aston Martin. Naturally, a good amount of the video concerned the Aston Martin DB5, initially made famous in Goldfinger and which appeared as recently as 2012’s Skyfall.

The video provides a recap of Aston’s founding. Writer-presenter Drew Stearne obviously is a DB5 fan and takes great pleasure as he drives one around a parking structure.

Take a look for yourself below. For other XCar videos, CLICK HERE.

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 evolution of James Bond movies

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

An exchange with a former colleague prompted us to look back at how James Bond films have evolved the past decade.

Paul Baack, co-founder of the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website (and originator of this blog), made the following observation via social media. His quote is presented here with his permission.

“At their best, James Bond movies are factory-made ‘B’ pictures with…’A movie’ polish.”

Ian Fleming’s original novels had a lot of influences. Some of his novels come across as fancier versions of pulp adventure stories. At one time, pulp-like stories were “B” movie fodder while “A” films were more prestigious, adult fare.

The early Bond movies were, indeed, like “B” movies with “A” movie gloss. Even the modestly budgeted Dr. No had Ken Adam-designed sets that made it look more expensive than it really was. Back in September, we posed the questions whether Goldfinger could be considered the first “A-movie” comic book film.

And, whether you consider them a factory product, the movies were controlled by producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and later Broccoli solo. Directors had impact, but Bond films weren’t part of the auteur school of movie making.

Since 2005, when actor Daniel Craig was cast for Casino Royale, the formula changed. The Bond series, in some respects, became “A-movie” dramas with genre-movie action sequences and special effects.

Directors began to exhibit auteur tendencies. Marc Forster had scripts reshaped to fit his “classical four elements” theme of fire, water, earth and air (see HAPHAZARD STUFF’s four-part video review of the film for details). Sam Mendes, with Skyfall, emphasized drama. Example: near the end of the pre-credits sequence, when it appears Bond has been killed, it starts raining outside M’s office. Also, M (Judi Dench) gets to read a poem in a dramatic moment.

Bond directors have yet to get a vanity credit — “A Sam Mendes Film” or “A Film by Sam Mendes”. Still, they do seem to have more control than under the Brocccoli-Saltzman days. With Mendes aboard once more for SPECTRE, that doesn’t look to change.

Meanwhile, the new Bond dramas aren’t inexpensive. Documents hacked from Sony Pictures indicate the new movie’s budget may exceed $300 million, which would make it one of the most expensive movies of all time. That’s not just “A-movie” polish, that’s a warehouse full of “A-movie” polish.

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