Bond 25: How we got to this point

No Time to Die poster

David Leigh of The James Bond Dossier and I chatted on a livestream on Feb. 19. We reviewed how No Time to Die arrived at its current point, a movie costing almost $290 million in a holding pattern.

This is mostly a summary of what we discussed. This also is my own phrasing and analysis. If you have objections, send them my way.

2016’s black hole: In 2016, there was a three-cornered game that would ensure a new James Bond movie wouldn’t happen quickly.

MGM, Bond’s home studio, was busy trying to sell itself to a Chinese buyer. That didn’t work out.

Barbara Broccoli, the leading force at Eon Productions, had other irons in the fire. Eon wanted to make movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, Nancy and The Rhythm Section. None of the three would be popular successes.

Daniel Craig, the Bond star of record, wanted to do other projects. One of them was titled Kings (Halle Berry was the co-star) and set in 1992 Los Angeles. It wasn’t a hit. Craig also did a new play based on Shakespeare’s Othello.

–Le affaire de Danny Boyle: After the principals got all that out of their system, MGM, Eon and (apparently Craig) were wowed by a pitch by director Danny Boyle and one of his writers, John Hodge.

By early 2017, Eon Productions had hired Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But the Boyle-Hodge team pitched a new idea. Supposedly this idea was so FANTASTIC, the Purvis-Wade effort was tossed aside in 2018.

In May 2018, the Boyle-Hodge effort was now the way to go. Until, a few months later, it wasn’t any more. “Creative differences” (as noted in a press release).

So long, Danny. Hello search for a new director. That would end up being Cary Fukunaga. Hello, more writers, including Fukunaga (who’d get a credit), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (ditto) and Scott Z. Burns (sorry, Scott).

Coronavirus: Some delays for No Time to Die have been due to COVID-19. But the bulk of delays stem from other reasons.

So it goes.

UPDATE (Feb. 20): Here’s a replay of most the livestream, at least after we got some technical issues out of the way.

Jinx spinoff script performs comics homages

Die Another Day poster

This week, @007inLA came across a 2003 script of a proposed Jinx spinoff from Die Another Day. The resulting tweets give a viewer the idea of what Neal Purvis and Robert Wade’s ideas ideas of what a Bond film spinoff would have looked like.

For one thing, P&W seemingly went into the comic book world. In a big way.

At one point, in a flashback sequence, Jinx’s parents are killed. This is similar to how Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered by criminals in Gotham City.

Still later, Jinx discovers her parents were spies. This is how (years after his introduction), Peter Parker’s Spider-Man discovers his long-lost parents were SHIELD agents.

The script is dated 2003. In real life, MGM canceled the Jinx project. One suspects Eon has been annoyed every since.

The P&W script also has various other complications. The thread that provide details STARTS HERE.

Halle Berry provides a Jinx footnote

Die Another Day poster

Variety is out with an interview with Halle Berry where she describes her efforts to become a director. Her debut as a director, in a film titled Bruised, is being shown at the Toronto Film Festival.

The story also provides a kind of footnote to the proposed spinoff based on her Jinx character from Die Another Day.

Here’s the key excerpt:

After the success of “Die Another Day,” “Bond” producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson lobbied for Jinx to get her own spinoff, an idea that thrilled Berry. But MGM balked at the $80 million price tag. “It was very disappointing,” Berry says. “It was ahead of its time. Nobody was ready to sink that kind of money into a Black female action star. They just weren’t sure of its value. That’s where we were then.”

At the time, Berry had appeared in X-Men (2000), a 20th Century Fox adaptation of the Marvel comic book. But that was an ensemble project and it was dominated by the debut of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Jinx, on the other hand, would have highlighted Berry. According to Variety, when the Jinx spinoff didn’t happen, that spurred Berry to star in Catwoman (2004), a movie that didn’t work out so well.

Meanwhile, this was an odd period for Eon Productions as well.

Dana Broccoli, the widow of Eon-co-founder Albert R. Broccoli and the mother of Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, died in 2004. Eventually, “the kids” decided to start the James Bond film series over with 2006’s Casino Royale. Barbara Broccoli was the force behind the casting of Daniel Craig in the series reboot.

Some 007 notes from the Toronto film festival

Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli and current 007 star Daniel Craig

Some 007-related tidbits have come out during the start of the Toronto Film Festival.

Barbara Broccoli: The boss of Eon Productions and producer of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool made a few comments.

“I have a few other lower-budget films in mind and a couple of theatre pieces, too,” Broccoli said, according to THE SCREEN DAILY WEBSITE.

“There are a lot of women working on this production [Film Stars] which pleases me very much,” Broccoli said, according to the website. “It’s incredibly important to support change in front of and behind the camera. I love working with women. It’s a different vibe.”

Daniel Craig: Kings, in which Craig stars with Halle Berry, is being shown at the festival.

Craig mostly has been talking about Kings but had a few comments about Bond 25, according to Toronto’s Globe & Mail:

“The Internet is like a noisy pub on a Saturday night,” Craig is quoted by the newspaper. “Ninety per cent of what’s being said is rubbish. There’s a perception that I’m ungrateful, and that’s so far from the truth it’s laughable. I don’t talk to the press a lot. I say things occasionally that I shouldn’t say, which is stupid of me.

“But the timing was right. I’d done [the stage production] Othello, and Steven Soderbergh’s movie [Logan Lucky, where he plays a bleached-blond safecracker named Joe Bang], and Deniz’s movie [Deniz Gamze Erguven, director of Kings], and I was incredibly creatively satisfied. The question of Bond came round, and I said, ‘Let’s have another go, and see if we can produce something wonderful.”

A bit of a reality check: Craig previously said he and director Marc Forster did most of the writing for Quantum of Solace, even though writer Joshua Zetumer was on set to do rewrites. Craig, in a joint interview with Barbara Broccoli in 2012 (search the word “liars”), denied Ben Whishaw had been hired to play Q in Skyfall.

Die Another Day’s 15th: Eon discovers CGI is hard

Die Another Day’s gunbarrel, complete with CGI bullet

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Die Another Day, the James Bond film where Eon Productions decided to go all in on computer-generated imagery.

Eon had dabbled with CGI before, including the title designs of Daniel Kleinman who had taken over for the late Maurice Binder.

But Die Another was another matter entirely. First up was a CGI bullet fired at the audience by Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in the opening gunbarrel sequence. Evidently, Bond was a better shot than anyone knew. He was able to fire a bullet into the barrel of another person’s gun.

Later, U.S. operative Jinx (Halle Berry) supposedly dives backward into the ocean from a cliff — supposedly being the operative word.

There was also an Aston Martin that could turn invisible. For Bond, it helped that the thugs of villain Gustav Graves didn’t notice the tracks the invisible car was putting in the show.

But, of course, the movie’s most famously bad use of CGI came as Brosnan/Bond parachute surfs to avoid being swallowed up by a tidal wave. Much of the sequence looks like a mediocre video game with insert shots of Brosnan gamely trying to sell the audience he’s actually concerned about the proceedings.

Director Lee Tamahori was a big enthusiast of what digital imagery would bring to the table of the 20th James Bond film.

The “manipulations” enabled by CGI “are endless and effortless,” Tamahori said. “The high-end action sequences that are done for real are still going to exist …but I think …half of them will exist for real.” The rest, he said, might move into entirely digital effects. (You can view Tamahori’s comments at the start of the first of two videos reviewing the movie at the HAPHAZARD STUFF website.)

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day

Tamahori was indeed correct that digital effects would become more prominent in future Bond movies. Safety cables for stunt performers can be hidden, for example. Also, mice can be created and rail cars can be added to trains. (For the latter two examples, CLICK HERE for a post about CGI use in 2015’s SPECTRE.)

Unfortunately for Die Another Day, the director and production company found out CGI is hard. Better execution of CGI in a Bond would movie would have to wait for another day.

Poor CGI wasn’t the movie’s only problem. For the first time, Eon decided to make a big deal about a 007 film anniversary (2002 being the series’ 40th anniversary). Tamahori & Co. opted to put all sorts of Bond film references that tended to distract from the film’s plot. Look, a set based on a Ken Adam set from Diamonds Are Forever! Look, there’s the Thunderball jet pack! Look, there’s the same electronic noise that accompanied the Dr. No gunbarrel! Look, there’s a Union Jack parachute! And on, and on, and on, and….

At the same time, Die Another Day proved to be the end of the line for Pierce Brosnan.

When the film was released, Brosnan said during talk show appearances that Eon wanted him back for a fifth Bond film and he was looking forward to it. Two years later, Brosnan got a telephone call from Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson informing the actor that his services were no longer required.

Brosnan was the last Bond chosen by Albert R. Broccoli. “The kids” were about to pick their own.

Craig’s LA riots movie to begin filming this month

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig’s movie about the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Kings, will begin late this month while the actor still is performing in an off-Broadway play, Variety reported.

Production of the film is scheduled for Dec. 27, according to Variety.

Here’s an excerpt:

Craig will portray a loner who lives in South Central Los Angeles and falls in love with (Halle) Berry’s character. When the riots erupt, he will help Berry in protecting her children from the violence.

Craig currently is playing Iago in an off-Broadway production of Othello that runs through Jan. 18.

The Variety story doesn’t specify how long Kings will be in production. Also in 2017, Craig will be filming Purity, a 20-episode television series for the Showtime pay television channel.

For 007 fans, Craig’s non-007 workload mostly is of interest whether he’ll make another James Bond film.

On Dec. 11, the New York Post reported that Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is indulging Craig (because she’s a producer of Othello) in his desire “to stretch his artistic muscles.”

According to the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, Broccoli’s plan is for Craig to “return to Bond after a hiatus of a few years” doing “more serious roles.”

Daniel Craig’s may non-007 dance card may expand again

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

UPDATE (9:15 p.m. ET): Deadline altered the wording of its original post. It now describes Craig as being “in talks to star” in Kings instead of “is set to star.” The headline of this post was altered to reflect that.

ORIGINAL POST: Daniel Craig added another non-007 project and will star with Halle Berry in a drama set against riots in 1992 in Los Angeles, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Here’s an excerpt:

 

EXCLUSIVE– Daniel Craig is set to star opposite Halle Berry in Mustang director Deniz Gamze Erguven’s eagerly-anticipated English language debut pic Kings. The project is set against a backdrop of rising tensions in L.A with the Rodney King trial in 1992. Craig will play Ollie, a loner who lives in South Central- one of its only white residents- who befriends and falls in love with Berry’s character, a tough, protective mother who looks after a group of kids. When the riots explode in the city, Craig’s character helps Berry try and track down the kids from the worst of the violence. Kings will have the same mix of lightness and tough emotion that made Mustang such a standout.

Besides King, Craig’s upcoming non-007 projects consist of:

Logan Lucky, a heist film directed by Steven Soderbergh. Filming to start this fall.

Othello, off-Broadway play, part of the 2016-2017 season at the New York Theatre Workshop.

Purity, a limited series to be televised on the Showtime premium channel. Production is to start sometime in 2017. The 20 episodes will be telecast in 2017 and 2018. Craig also is an executive producer of the project.

 

‘Jane Bond’ shows interest in women spies

Salt poster

Salt poster

This week’s buzz about whether actress Gillian Anderson should play a female version of James Bond caused a lot of fans to complain about click bait and political correctness.

But the media attention concerning “Jane Bond” may show something else — continuing interest in women spies.

There have been attempts at a woman spy movie series. Eon Productions, maker of the 007 films, tried to develop a spinoff movie featuring Halle Berry’s Jinx character from Die Another Day. But in the end, no movie occurred.

In 2010, Angelina Jolie starred in Salt, which had worldwide box office of $293.5 million. The film had an ending that left things open for a sequel but none has taken place. Sony Pictures is developing a television series version, Screen Daily said in February.

In 2015, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. included Alicia Vikander as a British spy, Gaby Teller, who wasn’t a character in the original 1964-68 television series.

Thus, Solo and Illya became Solo, Illya and Gaby. Vikander got good reviews, but the movie limped home with worldwide box office of $109.9 million, pretty much killing any chance of a sequel.

On the other hand, Jennifer Garner’s Alias television series ran more than 100 episodes from 2001-2006.

In the 007 films, women spies have been a major part of the proceedings for decades.

Bond has allied himself with women agents from the Soviet Union (The Spy Who Loved Me), United States (Moonraker), China (Tomorrow Never Dies) the U.S. again (Die Another Day) and Bolivia (Quantum of Solace) . 2012’s Skyfall provided a new take on Moneypenny, in which the Naomie Harris version is initially an MI6 agent.

In these risk-adverse days, studios may want to check out properties such as the comic strip Modesty Blaise, the subject of a 1966 movie.

Anyway, we were reminded by reader Stuart Basinger that back when the film rights to Casino Royale were first acquired (years before Eon Productions was formed), producer-director Gregory Ratoff wanted to change James Bond into a woman. Ratoff wanted to cast Susan Hayward in the role. Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. worked on the project and described it in a 2012 article in Variety.

What prompted this post was a comment from a reader, @CinemaOnFire on Twitter. So, as a shoutout, we present that tweet:

UPDATE (May 25): Alyssa Rosenberg, a pop culture blogger for The Washington Post, has weighed in with an essay titled “No, a woman shouldn’t play James Bond.”  Here’s an excerpt:

If our goal is for Hollywood to create action-oriented jobs for women that will be available for decades to come, then we need franchises that are built around women. We need roles like Bond’s, or Jack Ryan’s, or Captain Kirk’s that are designed to be occupied by a rotating series of women. Borrowing Bond’s tux might be a fun fantasy. But real power means a role we don’t have to give back to the men.

Skyfall breaks 007’s 47-year Oscar drought

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image


RECAP (11:55 p.m.): Skyfall won two Oscars, the first 007 film to win more than one. Goldfinger and Thunderball won one apiece. It broke a 47-year Oscar drought for the Bond series. The highest profile win was Best Song by Adele and Paul Epworth, finally giving the series a win after three previous Best Song nominations.

UPDATE IV (11:20 p.m.): Skyfall finally broke the 007 Best Song jinx, winning the Oscar for Adele and Paul Epworth (Best Song Oscars go to the songwriters, not the performer). Adele thanked producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

007 films had been nominated for Best Song three times with no wins: Live And Let Die, Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only. Classic Bond songs such as Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever were never nominated.

A few minutes earlier, Skyfall’s Thomas Newman lost to Life of Pi’s Mychael Danna. Skyfall ends the evening with two wins out of five categories.

UPDATE III (11:03 p.m.): Earlier Adele performed Skyfall. Reaction was mixed in our quick survey of social media. Some fans felt she nailed it, others felt there were too many backup singers or other flaws. Afterwards, two musicians with ties to the 007 series made the “In Memoriam” segment: Hal David, who wrote lyrics for the 1967 Casino Royale spoof, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and 1979’s Moonraker; and Marvin Hamlisch, who scored 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Hamlisch was nominated twice for Spy (score and for “Nobody Does It Better”) but didn’t pick up any wins that night.

UPDATE II (10:20 p.m.): Skyfall broke 007’s 47-year Oscar drought by tying with Zero Dark Thirty for sound editing. Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers picked up Oscars, though they started to get shooed off the stage as the orchestra played the theme from Jaws.

It was the first win for a Bond movie since John Stears won for special effects for 1965’s Thunderball. Just before that, film lost the sound award to Les Miserables.

UPDATE I (9:28 p.m.): Halle Berry introduced the James Bond tribute segment, comprised of clips from the movies accompanied by the James Bond Theme and an instrumental of Live And Let Die.

Immediately after, Shirley Bassey appeared and did a rendition of Goldfinger, with a very traditional sounding arrangement. It was the Bond highlight so far after Roger Deakins’s loss. Twitter lit up with users commenting about Dame Shirley’s performance.

However, Ezra Klein, a political commentator, wasn’t impressed with the 007 tribute part. He wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations, Oscars, you managed to make the Bond franchise look unexciting.”

ORIGINAL POST: Roger Deakins, nominated for his cinematography in Skyfall, lost to Life of Pi’s Claudio Moranda.

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, has been nominated for five awards, the most in the history of the Bond film series. The previous 007 record was held by The Spy Who Loved Me with three nominations (and no wins).

Still to come as of 9:12 p.m. are the best song, best score and two sound categories where Skyfall has been nominated. For now, 007’s 47-year Oscar drought continues. The last Bond movie to get an Oscar was 1965’s Thunderball for special effects. A tribute to James Bond movies is coming up.

Die Another Day’s 10th anniversary: an abrupt end

A decade ago this month, the 20th James Bond movie, Die Another Day premiered. In hindsight, what was going on behind the scenes was more interesting than the movie itself.

The film turned out to be actor Pierce Brosnan’s final turn as 007. The actor, in publicizing the movie, indicated that producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli wanted him back for a fifth appearance. The co-bosses of Eon Productions, however, may have been undergoing a creative mid-life crisis.

In interviews years after Die Another Day came out, Wilson and Broccoli described the early 2000s as personally frustrating. “I was desperately afraid, and Barbara was desperately afraid, we would go downhill,” Wilson TOLD THE NEW YORK TIMES IN OCTOBER 2005. Apparently, the duo felt at this point they were still carrying the flame for Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves,” Wilson told the Times in ’05.

In any case, Die Another Day was the end not only of Brosnan’s run but of the series that had begun 40 years earlier. When Bond next appeared onscreen, in 2006’s Casino Royale, Eon would start over with an entirely different continuity and a new Bond, Daniel Craig.

Die Another Day contained numerous references to the 007 series, including a sequence where Brosnan-Bond and Q (John Cleese) are in a storage area of gadgets, including the Thunderball jet pack. Q gives Bond a watch with a laser beam (Bond’s 20th watch, we’re told). Halle Berry as Jinx, a U.S. operative, made an entrance in a bikini, modeled after Ursula Andress’s first appearance in Dr. No.

The movie also suffers from personality disorder. The first half is more or less serious (with bits of humor) and a de facto adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Moonraker novel. The second half veers into fantasy with an invisible car and Bond barely staying ahead of a tidal wave.

At the box office, Die Another Day was a hit, with almost $432 million in worldwide ticket sales, a 19 percent jump from 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. In the U.S. and Canada, the 20th 007 film sold $167.4 million in tickets, a 27 percent increase from the previous 007 entry. But that didn’t prevent the abrupt end of the Brosnan era.