Patrick Macnee dies at 93, BBC says

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Macnee, debonair actor best known for playing John Steed on The Avengers, died today at 93, according to the BBC, WHICH CITED MACNEE’S SON RUPERT.

There was also a statement ON THE ACTOR’S WEBSITE that said Macnee “died a natural death at his home in Rancho Mirage, California…with his family at his bedside.”

Macnee enjoyed a long career, playing dozens of characters. Still, The Avengers and his character of John Steed, with his bowler and umbrella, became Macnee’s career trademark. The show first went into production in 1961. Its greatest popularity came when he was paired with Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel.

The actor saw two of his co-stars — Honor Blackman and Rigg — leave the series to take the lead female role in James Bond movies (Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). Another Majesty’s actress, Joanna Lumley, was Macnee’s co-star in a 1970s revival, The New Avengers.

Macnee finally got his turn at a Bond movie, A View to a Kill, in 1985, playing an ally of Bond (Roger Moore) who is killed by henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones). Macnee, years earlier, had played Dr. Watson to Moore’s Sherlock Holmes in a made-for-television movie. Macnee also made a properly dignified chief of U.N.C.L.E. in 1983’s The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

UPDATE: For the second time this month (Christopher Lee’s death was the other), Roger Moore bids adieu to a colleague:

Some observations, questions about Trigger Mortis

NO! It's Trigger Mortis, not Tigger Mortis!

NO! It’s Trigger Mortis, not Tigger Mortis! (With apologies to A.A. Milne)

All of a sudden, Murder on Wheels doesn’t sound so bad: When the new James Bond continuation novel was announced, a big selling point was how it was based, in part, on a treatment Ian Fleming wrote for a never-produced 1950s television series.

Murder on Wheels was the title of the treatment. Author Anthony Horowitz said on Twitter on Oct. 2 it wouldn’t be used as the novel’s title, although it would be a chapter title. So early May 28, the world was told Trigger Mortis was the novel’s title.

Is Trigger Mortis really that much better? Obviously, somebody at Ian Fleming Publications thought so. Trigger Mortis was already used for the title of a 1958 crime novel. (CLICK HERE for details via The Rap Sheet website.) Meanwhile, on social media, the title generated puns, such as the illustration seen here, which was on Facebook. (Shout out to Chris Wright who found it and put it on Facebook.)

One of the most famous Bond women returns: The main surprise that was held under wraps until the May 28 title announcement was the novel is set two weeks after the events of Goldfinger and that Pussy Galore puts in an appearance.

In Ian Fleming’s original novels, James Bond occasionally thought about the women he had met. Examples: there were references to Tiffany Case in From Russia With Love, to Vesper in Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and to Honeychile Ryder in The Man With the Golden Gun. Still, they never showed up again, so Horowitz is trying something different.

Does the villain of Trigger Mortis have a tie to Goldfinger? The PRESS RELEASE for Trigger Mortis says characters include “a brand new Bond Girl Jeopardy Lane and a sadistic, scheming Korean adversary hell-bent on vengeance Jai Seung Sin, a.k.a Jason Sin.”

Oddjob, Auric Goldfinger’s henchman, was Korean and Goldfinger employed other Koreans. Could Jai Seung Sin be seeking revenge for the events of Goldfinger? We’ll see when the novel is published in September.

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.

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