A modest proposal for Bond 26 and beyond

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 is in pre-production and is scheduled for a February 2020 release. What happens after that?

Here’s a modest proposal: What if the 007 film series becomes a series of one-offs — a series of anthology movies, not a continuing series, per se.

Every time a new Bond actor is cast, the assumption is they have to be around for a decade or longer. But what if that were no longer the case?

Consider this: Eon Productions is taking longer and longer to make 007 film installments. In previous decades, there were stretches when the series went into hiatus. But that was because of legal conflicts or studio financial problems (1974-1977, 1989-1995, 2008-2012).

With the 2015 and counting gap, there is no such external factor. This gap is a matter of Eon’s choice. It has enabled Eon boss Barbara Broccoli to make small-scale, intimate dramas such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool ($1 million U.S. box office) and Nancy ($80,000 U.S. box office).

At the current rate of production, there may be two, maybe three, 007 films a decade. Thus, the question arises whether it’s necessary for a Bond actor to commit to a decade-long stint.

If the one-off model were adopted, new possibilities arise. Perhaps you could do a one-off with Idris Elba to satisfy the market who’d like to see him play Bond. He’d be around 50 when such a movie would be made, but it’s only one and the Eon series has had actors (Roger Moore and now Daniel Craig) in the same age range.

Also, with a one-off model, you could try out a period Bond. a film set in the 1950s or ’60s, when Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories were published. You’d at least see how it plays out. And if it doesn’t work out? Well, you change the format the next film, no problem.

Is this going to happen? Not likely. But it’s worth thinking about given the current reality of the 007 film series.

007 poll shows the devil is in the details

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Earlier this month, the Morning Consult and the Hollywood Reporter conducted a poll of almost 2,100 Americans about James Bond films. Here are two greatly different headlines summarizing the results.

Morning Consult’s report: “007 Poll Shows Scant Support for Diversifying Bonds.”

The Express, U.K. tabloid: “James Bond: Most Americans support a black 007 – Idris Elba BACKED to replace Daniel Craig.”

They’re both right but you have to dig into the data to see why.

According to Morning Consult, 51 percent of adult respondents said “the James Bond series was a classic and nothing about it should be changed, a 17-percentage-point edge over those who said they’d prefer to see the film adapt to the times and have a more diverse cast and lead.”

However, those polled were then asked additional groups about different groups and individuals.

Among groups, 52 percent of adults said they support the idea of a black James Bond, with 20 percent having no opinion and 29 percent opposing.

Also, 39 percent support a Hispanic Bond, 37 percent support an Asian Bond, 37 percent supported a female Bond and 28 percent support a gay Bond.

Meanwhile, when asked specifically about Idris Elba, 63 percent said  they wanted to see him play Bond, with only 21 percent opposed.

Meanwhile, Morning Consult had more details about how respondents feel about agent 007.

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of the adults polled said they’d at least watched some of the series. And with a net favorability of 62 points, only “Back to the Future” (74 points) and “Indiana Jones” (72 points) were more popular among films made before the 1990s. (“Toy Story” was the most popular movie franchise out of 34 series tested, while “Back to the Future” was second.)

The poll also tackled the issue of who is the most popular actor to play Bond in the Eon Productions series.

Most popular 007 film and Bond actor among Americans polled: Goldfinger and Sean Connery. 

Sean Connery was No. 1 at 82 percent, with Pierce Brosnan right behind at 81 percent. Roger Moore, who made 007 entries in the Eon series, was No. 3 at 74 percent, followed by current Bond Daniel Craig at 71 percent. The least popular Bond actors were Timothy Dalton at 49 percent and George Lazenby at 31 percent.

There’s also the question of favorite 007 films of Americans. Morning Consult again sued a “net favorability” number. On that basis, the top five were: Goldfinger (plus 69), From Russia With Love (plus 66), Live And Let Die (plus 66), Diamonds Are Forever (plus 65) and For Your Eyes Only (plus 64).

The highest Daniel Craig 007 film was his debut, Casino Royale, at No. 6 (plus 63), tied with You Only Live Twice.

The bottom? The Living Daylights, Dalton’s debut, (plus 48). SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, was next at plus 49.

Idris Elba: The 2018 007 wave

Idris Elba

UPDATE (4:50 p.m., New York time): The Hollywood Reporter quotes a representative for Fuqua as saying the supposed conversation with Barbara Broccoli never happened and the Daily Star story was “all made up stuff.”

Justin Kroll, a writer for Variety, had the following:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

ORIGINAL POST (tweaked to incorporate Fuqua’s denial): Three years ago, the blog said the Idris Elba/James Bond “debate doesn’t appear to be going away soon.” Talk about an understatement.

It’s 2018 and this week the idea of Elba playing 007 was trending all over social media. It began a story in the Daily Star. The tabloid’s article said director Antoine Fuqua “chatted to Barbara (Brocccoli) about who will take over from Daniel Craig, 50, if he hangs up his gun after the next Bond film, due next year.”

Antoine, 52, revealed Barbara feels “it is time” for an ethnic minority actor to star as 007 and she is certain “it will happen eventually”.

He added: “Idris could do it if he was in shape. You need a guy with physically strong presence. Idris has that.”

There was no indication the Daily Star reached out to Eon for comment (and now we know why).

Back in December, Broccoli said the following in a Hollywood Reporter podcast.

Question: Would you ever hire a person of color or a woman to play James Bond one day?

Broccoli: Anything is possible. Right now, it’s Daniel Craig and I’m very happy with Daniel Craig.

Meanwhile, the Fuqua quote got cited in summaries produced by CNN.com (which asked Eon for comment), People, and Esquire. Almost immediately there after (but before Fuqua’s denial), fans debates ensued. Temperatures up in a thread on The Spy Command’s Facebook page.

Like the movie groundhog day, many of the same comments uttered before were stated again.

–Bond is white/it’s political correctness run amok/it’d be like casting a white guy as John Shaft. Of course, people of color have seen the opposite (“whitewashing”) occur for many decades. White guys (Olivier Welles) playing Othello, white guys playing Asians (like Mickey Rooney’s less-than-subtle performance in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s) or Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman in the title role, who was half Chinese, half German.

–Read the books! Where Bond has a scar down his cheek and Felix Leiter (played by two different black actors in a combined three movies, including two made by Eon) was a Texan with straw-colored hair.

–Elba is too old to play James Bond. Elba turns 46 on Sept. 6. Of course, last month saw the debut of Mission: Impossible-Fallout starring 56-year-old, age-defying, skydiving Tom Cruise.

–Elba is too old to spend a decade playing 007. The traditional expectation is a new Bond actor will be at it for about a decade. However, the hiatus between 007 films is growing. Eon will barely make three 007 movies in the 2010s, assuming Bond 25 meets its scheduled fall 2019 release date.

Assuming Eon doesn’t sell itself, will it mount, say, only two Bond films in the 2020s? Is the “Bond actor spends a decade in the role” model up for reappraisal? Could future Bond actors do one-offs?

Not that any of this is going to change minds. But it looks like this latest wave — goofy tabloid stories and all — is as strong as previous ones.

Limbo for the serious 007 fan awaiting real news

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

It’s a weird time to be a James Bond fan.

A typical social media day for a 007 fan consists of the following:

–The latest speculation who will be the next James Bond, whether it be (in alphabetical order) Henry Cavill, Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston, Aidan Turner and who knows who else.

This gets repackaged in various ways. When the various actors are out promoting their latest movie or television shows, they get asked about Bond and that becomes the story instead. Or, to attract clicks, an outlet will write about why some possible Bonds shouldn’t get the role. Or, British bookies adjust their odds for the next 007 and stories get generated.

Whatever. It’s not real news.

–A notification that today is either the anniversary of a birth date of a Bond actor or crew member or the annivesary of the death of a Bond actor or crew member.

–An obituary of a Bond actor or crew member, such as the passing of four-time 007 director Guy Hamilton.

There’s an odd effect to all this. For the serious fan, one can’t excited about the future Bond actor speculation. At this point, we don’t even know there’s a vacancy. Yeah, Daniel Craig talked in some interviews like he was ready to go but nobody *really knows*. And none of the speculative stories has any *actual information.*

Meanwhile, the barrage of the latter two social media postings (anniversaries and obituaries) keep pushing fans to look backward, rather than forward. It’s like “Throwback Thursday” every day.

The obituaries are important, because they recognize the accomplishments of those who can no longer speak for themselves. The anniversaries have their place but in the absence of actual news, they get more attention than they should.

In terms of Bond 25, we probably won’t get any real news until Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer either signs a new contract with Sony Pictures or selects a new studio to release the next 007 film. Afterall, you can’t have a release date until there’s a studio to release it. And MGM doesn’t have the resources to do so by itself.

So, for now, Bond fans are in for a form of limbo. The future is foggy while what little hard information is out there pulls attention backward instead of forward.

 

The Guardian’s daft 007 proposal

Carmine Infantino's cover to Flash No. 123, "The Flash of Two Worlds."

The Guardian’s proposal for alternate-universe 007s sounds a lot like “The Flash of Two Worlds” story published by DC Comics in 1961.

The Guardian has come out with a story in effect saying don’t choose between Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba as the next James Bond but do movies with both — at the same time.

The British newspaper cited how, “We are, after all, living in the era of Marvel’s highly successful expanded universe of interconnected movie and TV superhero stories. Star Wars’ take on the concept is moving forward apace, and Warner Bros has 10 films based on the DC Comics back catalogue planned between now and 2020.”

That sets up the meat of the proposal:

But Bond is just as big as any of the above, and right now seems even more suited to being split into multiple strands. Elba fans reckon the Hackney-born Londoner would make the perfect 21st-century 007, while Hiddlestonians see their Eton-educated man as the epitome of traditional Flemingesque toff sophistication. So why not take the opportunity presented by Craig’s mooted departure and give both versions screen time?

Here are two reasons why the Guardian’s idea is daft.

–Expanded universes and multiple/alternate universes are not the same thing.

To use Marvel as an example, the Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man co-exists in the same fictional universe as Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Evans’ Captain America. The characters have been featured in separate films and have also been in movies together. That’s what Warner Bros. is moving toward with the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie that opens this week.

What The Guardian is calling for are movies featuring alternate universe versions of Bond. Eon Productions opened the door to this concept when it rebooted the 007 series ten years ago with Casino Royale. The production company decided to start over, but kept the popular Judi Dench as M, with the explanation that Dench is playing a different version of the character than she did previously.

The Guardian is calling for an Elba 007 set in the present time and a Hiddleston Bond set in the time of the original Ian Fleming novels. Unless the two Bonds suddenly develop super powers, like the two versions of DC Comics’ The Flash, the two Bonds can never meet because they’re in separate universes.

Still, some fans might be intrigued with watching alternate takes. So let’s look at the second reason.

–Eon has trouble enough producing one James Bond movie every three years. Do you really expect it to produce, in effect, two series at once?

Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss, has talked since at least 1999 about how exhausting it is to make Bond movies. Barbara Broccoli, the other co-boss, told the Los Angeles Times in November 2012 that she didn’t want to hurry future 007 installments.

“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Broccoli said. “But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures.”

Also, even with a three-year gap between Skyfall and 2015’s SPECTRE, the scripting process was chaotic. So imagine that situation squared as Eon produced twin Bond series. And that doesn’t take into consideration other ideas put forth by The Guardian, including a Netflix series (similar to the Netflix shows featuring other Marvel characters) featuring Moneypenny.

Finally, on top of all that, Broccoli and Wilson are interested in various non-Bond projects. In that respect, they’re more like Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman than they are the other co-found Albert R. Broccoli, who never did a non-Bond film after 1968.

Idris Elba: the 007 debate that’s not going away

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

The debate whether black actor Idris Elba should be the next James Bond isn’t going away, even though there’s no official vacancy for the role.

One of the latest examinations of the topic occurred Friday on Friday during NPR’s Morning Edition program. The story included comments from  Bill Desowitz and Bruce Scivally, who’ve written books about 007 films.

Earlier, a controversy erupted over comments by Anthony Horowitz, author of the new Bond continuation novel Trigger Mortis.

Horowitz told the U.K. Daily Mail in a story POSTED AUG. 29 that Elba was “too street” to play Bond.  Here’s the key excerpt from the story:

Neither is Horowitz impressed with the favourite to take over from Daniel Craig.

‘Idris Elba is a terrific actor, but I can think of other black actors who would do it better.’

He names Adrian Lester, star of Hustle.

‘For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a colour issue. I think he is probably a bit too “street” for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.’

After the story ran, Horowitz took to Twitter on Sept. 1.

Horowitz’s novel was commissioned by Ian Fleming Publications, which has no ties to the Bond films, which are produced by Eon Productions.

Many fans of the original Ian Fleming novels say there shouldn’t be a debate at all. They say Fleming described him as half-Scot, half-Swiss.

More casual fans who like the idea of an Elba Bond say the actor, who turns 43 on Sept. 6, is suave, good looking and could do the role justice.

Earlier this year, while the new 007 film SPECTRE was in production, Michael G. Wilson, co-chief of Eon, said Elba would “make a great Bond.”

At the moment, there isn’t a vacancy for the role. Daniel Craig, 47, has completed SPECTRE, his fourth 007 film, which comes out this fall. But the debate doesn’t appear to be going away soon.

How well do Americans like 007?

Sean Connery, as 007, circa 1963

Sean Connery, as 007, circa 1963

A market research company called YouGov surveyed 999 Americans on Dec. 4-5 about James Bond. The survey occurred just before SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, began principal photography.

According to YouGov’s polling results:

–20 percent of Americans said they thought they had seen every James Bond movie. That included 24 percent of men, 16 percent of women.

Breaking down the numbers further, 18 percent of whites thought they’d seen every 007 film, 31 percent of blacks and 18 percent of Hispanics. By age, it broke down to 18 percent 18-29, 21 percent 30-44, 20 percent 45-64 and 20 percent 65 and older. By family income: 17 percent below $40,000, 22 percent $40,000 to $80,000 and 29 percent $80,000 and above.

–27 percent liked 007 films “a lot,” while 29 percent liked them “somewhat,” 20 percent “a little” and 18 percent “not at all.” Another 6 percent were “not sure.”

–50 percent said Sean Connery was their favorite screen Bond, with Pierce Brosnan at 19 percent, Roger Moore at 17 percent, Daniel Craig at 11 percent, Timothy Dalton at 2 percent and George Lazenby at 1 percent.

When Bond fans are broken down by age, things changed. In the 18-29 category, Connery was still No. 1 at 33 percent but Craig was a close second at 26 percent. Pierce Brosnan stood at 21 percent, with Roger Moore at 13 percent, 4 percent for Dalton and 3 percent for Lazenby.

Connery was No. 1 with 42 percent 30-44, 54 percent 45-64 and a whopping 72 percent 65 and older.

Want a break down by political affiliation? Connery was No. 1 with 51 percent among both Democrats and Republicans, and 48 percent among independents.

Regional breakdown? Connery was tops in all regions: Northeast (53 percent), Midwest (54 percent), South (46 percent) and West (49 percent).

To see the YouGov tables, CLICK HERE.

YouGov, IN A DEC. 10 STORY ON ITS WEBSITE also says it asked respondents an “open ended question” who should be the next screen 007 after Daniel Craig. YouGov said the most popular choice was actor Idris Elba but the story didn’t provide a detailed breakdown. YouGov also said Benedict Cumberbatch and Jason Statham “were also particularly popular.”