Unanswered 007 questions as 2018 draws to a close

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

2018 is about to end. So here are some questions that have gone unanswered — and likely will remain so — as the year concludes.

Whatever happened to the notion that the Broccoli-Wilson family might sell out its interest in the Bond franchise after Bond 25? 

In July 2017, Phil Nobile Jr., then a writer for Movies. Birth. Death., had a story with this passage:

“I  have read thoughts from someone I believe to be close wth the production that the Broccolis are looking to do one more Bond then sell the franchise off, a la George Lucas/Star Wars/Disney.”

In reaction, the James Bond MI website wrote the following on Twitter:

would love to say there’s nothing to this but we can’t.”

Since then? Nada. Neither was a definitive “this is going to happen.” And neither has followed up that the blog is aware of. For that matter, neither have British tabloids (who’ll write stories at the drop of a hat when British bookies adjust their odds on future Bonds). Neither have major entertainment news outlets.

Was there never anything to it? Is there something to it, but we won’t know until 2020, when Bond 25 is scheduled to come out?

Who knows? But it’s one of the most intriguing questions during long hiatus between SPECTRE and Bond 25.

Whatever happened to the idea that Apple and Amazon were “racing” to lock up 007 film rights?

That’s was what The Hollywood Reporter reported in a story labeled “exclusive” in September 2017. The story was so exclusive that THR rivals Deadline: Hollywood and Variety never got around to matching it. Neither did The New York Times nor The Wall Street Journal, both of which follow Apple and Amazon closely. And THR itself never appeared to have done a follow-up.

Were Apple and Amazon really making a concerted effort but came up short? Or was the story so much hot air? Eventually, in 2018, it was announced that Bond 25 would be released in the U.S. by an MGM-Annapurna joint venture, with international distribution by Universal.

Does Eon-Danjaq still have its heart in doing Bond films? 

The hiatus between 2015’s SPECTRE and Bond 25 will be the second-longest in the history of the Eon-produced series.

Moreover, it’s the first such hiatus that occurred simply because the principals (Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and star Daniel Craig) simply didn’t feel like making one for a while. A long while. There have been no legal fights (the 1989-95 hiatus) or studio bankruptcies (1989-95 *and* 2008-2012) in the mix.

Some fans will shout, “Of course they do!” Maybe yes, maybe no. We’ll see.

‘Little things.’ How 007 press releases evolved

“I can’t help it, sir. Little things bother me.”

An apology in advance. This post goes very deep into the weeds.

Back on May 25, the official Eon Productions webite said that Bond 25 would be directed by Danny Boyle “from an original screenplay by Academy Award nominee John Hodge (Trainspotting).”

The phrase “original screenplay” usually means a script, not based on other media that originated with a specific screenwriter. Based on the phrasing of the May 25 release, that would seem to be John Hodge.

But this week, the James Bond MI6 website said the following about Bond 25: “The script by John Hodge, which was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade…”

The website fielded a question on Twitter and had this response:

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That’s interesting. One thing to note: The May 25 press release didn’t mention Purvis and Wade.

What’s more, the “original screenplay” phrasing is different than other Eon press releases this decade.

October 2011, Skyfall: “The screenplay is written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan.”

July 2013, the then-untitled Bond 24: “…Sam Mendes will also return to direct the screenplay written by John Logan.” The Sony hacks showed later that there wasn’t a full-fledged script at the time of the release. Logan turned in his first draft in the spring of 2014.

During the summer of 2014, Purvis and Wade were summoned to rewrite Logan’s work. So this is what was said in the press release in December 2014, SPECTRE: “Written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,”

Finally, in July 2017, Eon put out a release announcing a release date for Bond 25. It said the movie, “…will be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long time collaborators and writers on previous Bond films including CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, SKYFALL and SPECTRE.”

But by May 2018, Purvis and Wade had disappeared and the official press release was only talking about John Hodge.

So: Was the May 2018 press release written in a sloppy manner? (“Hey guys, we forgot to mention Purvis and Wade!” “Forget it, nobody will every notice!”) Back in February, Deadline: Hollywood said Hodge was writing a script totally separate from what Purvis and Wade wrote in 2017. Did that outlet make a mistake?

Or did Eon and public relations crew simply change its press release phrasing after all these years?

Oh, one more thing: Press releases are typically vetted by the principals involved as well as lawyers. The writers of press releases don’t just wing it.

These are just little things, as Lt. Columbo used to say. Little things.

UPDATE (12:50 p.m. New York time): The James Bond dossier reminded me (see comments below) of some Danny Boyle comments where it certainly sounded like he and John Hodge were working on a new story, not revising an existing script. Here’s a video of Boyle from The Associated Press in March.

Bond 25 work continues amid director search, MI6 site says

Bond 25 keeping its head above water, MI6 James Bond website says.

Work is continuing on Bond 25 with the intent of meeting its original schedule amid the search for a new director, the MI6 James Bond website said.

Sets are still under construction at Pinewood Studios in accordance with “the original timetable and plans,” the MI6 site said.

Danny Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, departed the project last month.

MI6 also said Hodge’s Bond 25 script “was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.” The script “is being touched up again” to reflect concerns of star Daniel Craig and producers, according to MI6.

Deadline: Hollywood said in a Feb. 21 story that Boyle and Hodge had pitched an idea that Hodge was writing at that point. Deadline said that effort was separate from a Purvis and Wade script written last year.

A May 25 announcement that included that Boyle would direct said the project had “an original screenplay” by Hodge. There was no mention of Purvis and Wade.

MI6 did not mention who is revising the Bond 25 script currently.

Bond 25 has an announced release date of fall 2019. The May 25 announcement said filming would start on Dec. 3. Craig is scheduled to film a mystery movies, Knives Out, during November.

The MI6 website has a relationship with Eon Productions. Disclosure: The blog proprietor has done two articles for MI6 Confidential, a magazine published by the website.

UPDATE (7:05 p.m. New York time): On Twitter, the MI6 website said this about Hodge and the “original screenplay” of the May 25 announcement:

 

Bond 25: The Lt. Columbo edition

We’ve mentioned before how, like Lt. Columbo, “little things” bother the blog.

Like the good lieutenant those little things can prevent you from sleeping soundly at night.

Well, whatever. These aren’t necessarily new, but these little things aren’t getting resolved.

Why hasn’t a distributor been selected yet? We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of SPECTRE’s world premiere. With SPECTRE, Sony Pictures’ most recent two-movie contract to release 007 films would expire.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer knew it. Sony knew it. Other studios knew it. Supposedly, there were talks started not long after SPECTRE came out.

Yet no decision was made in 2016. The Wall Street Journal reported in early 2017 that MGM spent much of the year negotiating to sell itself to a Chinese buyer but no deal resulted.

By September 2017, The Hollywood Reporter said tech giants Apple and Amazon were looking to get the Bond 25 distribution rights — and possibly snatch all the 007 film rights.

Yet, more than a month later, NOTHING has been announced. Major news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, which normally cover Apple and Amazon closely, didn’t even mention the story. You’d think the Journal and Times would find this a juicy story worthy of their time. But no, evidently.

How secure is that announced November 2019 release date? In July, Eon Productions and MGM made separate announcements that Bond 25 would have a November 2019 U.S. release date, with a U.K. release before that.

But neither Eon nor MGM can release a movie. MGM cuts deals with other studios (on a film-by-film basis) to distribute its movies.

Many entertainment news websites take that November 2019 date as a given. But at this point, there isn’t an entity that can actually get the movie into theaters.

Most of the Bond 25 media buzz consists of whether Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve will helm Bond 25. But until a distributor is in place, the movie’s financing (i.e. who will cut the checks) isn’t settled.

With the last two Bond films, distributor Sony financed half of the production. That’s an important detail nobody seems interested in talking about.

What about that Eon might want to sell (after Bond 25) buzz? That idea was raised (sort of) in July by a Birth.Movies.Death writer and (sort of) seconded by the MI6 James Bond website, albeit with caveats. Yet, other major entertainment websites apparently have not pursued that question.

As the blog noted earlier this month, it’s all somewhat peculiar.

Caveat Emptor: 007 sale rumor surfaces

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Amid the announcement that Bond 25 has a release date, the Birth.Movies.Death website dropped the idea that the Broccoli-Wilson clan might sell out its interest in the 007 enterprise in a few years.

The post, by Philip Nobile Jr., mostly looks at why the fall 2019 release date was announced without saying whether actor Daniel Craig will be back as Bond.

After going through some possibilities, Nobile concluded with this:

On the less official front, I have read thoughts from someone I believe to be close wth the production that the Broccolis are looking to do one more Bond then sell the franchise off, a la George Lucas/Star Wars/Disney. If that comes to pass, it will be interesting times indeed for Ian Fleming’s gentleman spy.

Read thoughts? Interesting phrasing. But, on Twitter, Nobile’s post drew a response from the James Bond MI6 website, which previously disclosed that a helicopter Eon purchased wasn’t for Bond 25.

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Putting the Caveat Emptor on this one because Birth.Movies.Death isn’t explicitly reporting it as well as the unusual phrasing of the post and the exchange on Twitter.

Eon and its parent company, Danjaq, jointly control the Bond franchise with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Disclosure: This blog’s webmaster has written two articles for MI6 Confiential, which is published by the James Bond MI6 website.

Separately, the BBC said it “understands” that Craig “has not yet signed a contract” for Bond 25. The New York Times reported Monday that Craig’s return is “a done deal.”