Actor Rod Taylor dies

Rod Taylor from the main titles of the Masquerade television series.

Rod Taylor from the main titles of Masquerade.

Rod Taylor, who often had leading man parts in 1960s and ’70s films and dabbled in spy roles, has died at 84, according to an obituary in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

The Australian-born Taylor actually had a varied career, including the lead role in 1960’s The Time Machine and Hitchcock’s The Birds as well as his voiceover work in 101 Dalmatians.

But spy-related entertainment was also part of his resume.

He played Boysie Oakes in 1965’s The Liquidator, based on a novel by John Gardner, who’d later write James Bond continuation novels.

In 1983, Taylor played mysterious spymaster Lavender in Masquerade, a Glen Larson-created series. In each episode, Lavender would recruit a team of “innocents” to take on the KGB and other menances. For helping out, each participant in a mission would be paid one year’s salary. The show didn’t catch on and lasted only 13 episodes on ABC.

In later years, Taylor took on character roles. His last role was Winston Churchill in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds.

NYT’s Upshot blog breaks down 007 by the numbers

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

The New York Times, IN AN ENTRY IN ITS UPSHOT BLOG, performs a bit of numerical analysis on James Bond.

The Upshot used this week’s 50th anniversary of the death of 007 creator Ian Fleming to examine Bond. The Upshot stresses data-based reporting. The newspaper started the blog after Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN purchased the FiveThirtyEight blog, which used to appear on the NYT’s website, from journalist-statistician Nate Silver, who now works for ESPN and its sister company ABC News. Silver gained fame for using data to project the winners of political races.

The Upshot describes itself as providing “news, analysis and graphics about politics, policy and everyday life.” (For more information, you can CLICK HERE.)

The Bond post by Alan Flippen includes graphics about which authors wrote how many 007 novels (Fleming being in a tie with John Gardner at 14 each) and how many 007 movie titles are derived from Fleming. To read the entire post, CLICK HERE.

In addition, you can read the newspaper’s 1964 obituary on Fleming BY CLICKING HERE. If you want to see the obituary in its original form, you can find information on purchasing a copy, or getting a Times digital subscription BY CLICKING HERE.

What’s the future of 007 continuation novels?

007 continuation novel authors William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks and friend.

007 authors William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks and friend.

Another James Bond novel has been published. So where does the series go from here? Ian Fleming Publictions (formerly Glidrose) has been all over the place.

From 1981 until 2002, continuation novels by John Gardner followed by Raymond Benson were published pretty much on a regular basis.

A new regime then took control of the literary 007 and that changed. The literary secret agent went on hiatus while novels featuring a young James Bond and The Moneypenny Diaries were published.

Since 2008, and the return of an adult Bond, Ian Fleming Publications has veered from period piece (Devil May Care) to total reboot (Carte Blanche) back to period piece (Solo).

The only thing the novels have in common is name authors: Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver and William Boyd.

The question is whether that strategy is working. There were reports (such as THIS ONE ON THE MI6 JAMES BOND FAN WEBSITE) that sales have tailed off in the U.K. since Faulks’s Devil May Care, published the same year as the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s birth.

Novels written by John Gardner and Raymond Benson attempted to maintain a sense of continuity, with stories playing upon one another. The current IFP management seems to prefer one-off adventures that have no connection to each other.

Part of that stems from the choice of employing big-name authors — their James Bond will only live once.

“They find it fun and enjoyable but they’ve got their own books to write.” Corinne Turner, Corinne Turner, managing director of IFP, told The New York Times in a story PUBLISHED THIS MONTH.

Strictly a guess, but don’t expect another adult James Bond continuation novel soon. IFP has announced a new Young Bond series, with Steve Cole taking over from Charlie Higson. So IFP will be busy.

Also, based on The New York Times story, IFP doesn’t sound like it intends to change direction for the literary adult 007. So, if IFP opts to keep going for big-name writers, perhaps it will keep 007 off the market for a while to let demand build back up.

For the moment, there’s no incentive to make a major change. Eon Productions has made clear it has no interest in using continuation novels as the basis of 007 movies.

Eon co-boss Michael G. Wilson criticized the Gardner novels in the 1980s and ’90s. Meanwhile, John Logan, one of Skyfall’s screenwriters, was hired to write the next two movies, the first of which won’t be out until two years from now.

So the next time you read about a 007 author saying his story has “been sent to Eon,” the best-case scenario was the novel was placed on a shelf.

RE-POST: a modest proposal for the post-Skyfall 007 series

Originally posted Feb. 19, 2012. Re-posted because, well, subsequent events make this post look even more interesting in hindsight. While it’s not official Bond 24 will be delayed so that Sam Mendes can direct, another four-year gap is looking like a possibility. The days of an every-other-year production schedule clearly seem to be in the past. Every third year looks like a stretch at this point. Perhaps the “Bond market” can only bear a movie every fourth year or so.

So what happens after Skyfall? The 23rd James Bond film is still filming, of course, but we got to thinking what happens in the future.

Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which co-owns the franchise with the Broccoli-Wilson family, wants the series to get back to an every-other-year schedule, something it said as part of its 2010 bankruptcy filing.

But MGM relies on Eon Productions to actually produce the films. Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon along with his half-sister Barbara Broccoli, has talked about how wearying making Bond movies are, including in 2009, (“Filming Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace back to back took a lot out of time and energy so at the moment we are all just recharging our batteries.”) in 2005, (“We are running out of energy, mental energy…We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”) one in 2004 or 2005 (“It doesn’t give me a problem to do one in three years instead of two. The studio may feel different, but these are very hard to put together. They take over your life. When we’re working on the script and production, my wife will say, ‘Do you realize you’ve been working seven days a week?’ So I don’t mind doing something else; to me it’s fine.”) and in 1999 (“We don’t have any ideas at this point…It just seems that this one’s [The World Is Not Enough] been particularly hard.”).

So maybe it really is time to give up on the idea of James Bond films coming out at regular intervals.

To maintain an every-other-year schedule, around the time you have one filming coming out, the story for the next should at least be taking shape. MGM’s bankruptcy gets most of the blame for what will be a four-year gap between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. But there are signs the scripting of Skyfall has been a drawn-out affair regardless of MGM’s financial ills. For example:

–In January 2011, when it was announced that Bond 23 would be a go after MGM exited bankrupctcy, the script wasn’t done. John Logan, hired to rewrite drafts by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, said in a Feb. 17 interview with the BBC that he’s been working on Skyfall for “over a year.” That means he would have begun work on Skyfall around the time of the January 2011 announcement.

–Earlier, in August 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported the movie’s script “isn’t ready” and, at that point, not even sent to MGM for review. This, after Eon announced in June 2009, more than six months after Quantum of Solace debuted, that Purvis, Wade and Peter Morgan had been hired to write Bond 23. But the release also noted that Morgan wouldn’t start writing until he completed other scrips.

Eon has mined all of Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories. Wilson has ruled out, on multiple occasions, basing a film on any of the Bond continuation novels. (CLICK HERE FOR ONE EXAMPLE.) So Eon is pretty much on its own to develop stories.

Wilson’s stepfather, Albert R. Broccoli, lived to make 007 films and, after ending his partnership with Harry Saltzman in the mid-1970s, cranked out Bond films on an every-other-year schedule from 1977 through 1989. Wilson isn’t Broccoli. We take him at his word that he finds it a grind; he has said it for too long and on too many occasions to doubt it. He’s either 69 or 70 (different reference sources place his birth year as 1942 or 1943) and he’s been involved with the film series longer than Cubby Broccoli was.

So, maybe, Eon should follow the lead of Ian Fleming Publications. Starting in 1981, IFP (previously known as Glidrose) published 007 continuation novels mostly on an annual basis, first with John Gardner, later with Raymond Benson. That ended in 2002 as new management took over. Since then, IFP has come out with other projects such as the “Young Bond” novels. Meanwhile, its last two regular continuation novels, 2008’s Devil May Care and 2011’s Carte Blanche, were done more as “events” rather than part of a regularly published series. Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks was done as a period piece, Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver featured a rebooted 21st Century Bond, who would have been born around 1980.

Perhaps Eon should view its Bond films as “events,” with a gap of four years, maybe more, between movies, each a stand alone. Studio marketers have hyped “the return of Bond!” before after a hiatus (1995’s GoldenEye and 2006’s Casino Royale).

In any event it’s clear Wilson & Co. aren’t enthusiastic about an every-other-year schedule. Skyfall had scripting delays that had nothing to do with MGM’s financial problems. As long as Eon controls half the 007 franchise, it’s going to be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole for MGM to have Eon come out with 007 adventures every other year.

ADDENDUM (Feb. 20, 2012): Just to be clear, as a matter of personal preference, we’d like Bond movies to come out more often than called for above. We call this a “modest” proposal because it calls for no changes in the cast of characters.

To get Bond movies more often, one of the following is going to have to happen: 1) Eon agrees to use continuation novels (because you’d at least have a starting point, something that would save time in story development); 2) Michael G. Wilson retires (though that alone doesn’t guarantee it); 3) MGM, or Sony or somebody else buys out the Broccoli-Wilson family (something that would be unpopular with much of the fan base), causing a jump start in the frequency (again not guaranteed).

Something has to got to give in the MGM/Eon dynamic: either MGM backs off an every-other-year schedule or Eon accelerates the pace of movie development or some combination of both. Maybe every third year, but *no* backsliding (Casino Royale was originally supposed to be released in 2005, but was delayed a year). The modest proposal above is a compromise that could occur without taking more far-reaching steps. Essentially the “modest proposal” is more or less the status quo of the past decade, simply recognizing it for what it is.

John Logan to write Bond 24 AND Bond 25, Deadline says

Skyfall co-scripter John Logan

First, the Daily Mail says John Logan, co-writer of Skyfall, has signed to write Bond 24. Now, the Deadline entertainment news Web site says Logan has a deal TO WRITE THE NEXT TWO 007 MOVIES.

An excerpt:

EXCLUSIVE: As buzz builds for the 23rd James Bond film Skyfall, the franchise’s producers have quietly made a deal with John Logan to write not one but two 007 films. I’m told that Logan pitched an original two-movie arc to Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson while they were shooting Skyfall, and that he has already begun writing the scripts. If plans work out, this would be the first Bond film with a storyline to be played out over multiple films, and it certainly makes it feasible that the pictures could be shot back-to-back.

The “I’m” refers to Deadline’s Mike Fleming, who has trumped Baz Bagimpoye of the U.K. Daily Mail, who was the first to report that Logan would script the next Bond movie.

If the Deadline report is true, it would mark a departure for Eon Productions.

In the early 1990s, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli put the company up for sale. No deal resulted. Then, there was talk that Eon was stockpiling scripts so it could get off to a running start once a legal dispute between Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was resolved. But even after the legal fight ended, no multi-movie scheme occurred. Instead, everything went back to square one, which resulted in 1995’s GoldenEye.

The background of all this: MGM wants to get Bond movies back on an every-other-year schedule (MGM said this as part of it s2010 bankruptcy). Sony wants the next Bond movie out in 2014 (making an announcement to theater executives earlier this year that would happen). The one piece of the puzzle: Eon itself, where co-boss Barbara Broccoli hasn’t publicly committed to such a schedule.

As Lt. Colubmo once said, “Just one more thing.” Eon has long said it doesn’t like any of the continuation novels commissioned by Glidrose/Ian Fleming Publications after the death of Ian Fleming. Eon co-boss Michael G. Wilson, at a 1995 fan convention in New York, indicated he didn’t like any of the John Gardner continuation novels. So, if John Logan really has a two-picture writing deal, it will probably be a new story and not based on any continuation novel.

Also, to date, Eon hasn’t demonstrated the kind of long range planning that the Marvel Studios unit of Walt Disney Co. has.

UPDATE (Oct. 27): The Hollywood Reporter has a STORY ON THIS which adds Logan’s two screenplays will tell an original story and aren’t based on anything by Ian Fleming.

IFP hires writer for new 007 novel, Book Bond Says

Ian Fleming Publications has hired William Boyd to write a new James Bond novel, to be set in the 1960s, according to A POST on The Book Bond Web Site.

Here’s an excerpt, including part of an IFP statement:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012WILLIAM BOYD TO WRITE THE NEXT JAMES BOND NOVEL

Huge news today! Ian Fleming Publications has announced that William Boyd will write the next James Bond novel. Boyd’s yet untitled novel will take Bond back to the 1960s and will be published in Fall 2013 by Jonathan Cape in the UK and HarperCollins in the U.S and Canada. Here is the full press release:

William Boyd to write new James Bond novel
Boyd takes Bond back to the Sixties with all the style and flair of Ian Fleming

William Boyd, the award-winning and bestselling author of Restless and Any Human Heart, is to write the next James Bond novel.

The novel, which is yet to be titled, will be published in the UK and Commonwealth in autumn 2013 by Jonathan Cape – Ian Fleming’s original publisher and an imprint of Vintage Publishing – and simultaneously by HarperCollins Publishers in USA & Canada. Rights were sold in the English language by Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown, on behalf of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.

William Boyd is the third author in recent years to be invited by the Ian Fleming estate to write an official Bond novel, following in the footsteps of the American thriller writer Jeffery Deaver, who wrote Carte Blanche in 2011, and Sebastian Faulks, whose Devil May Care was published to mark Ian Fleming’s centenary in 2008.

The key phrase is “in recent years.” IFP, formerly known as Glidrose, “invited” Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, Christopher Wood and Raymond Benson to write either new 007 novels or novelizations of James Bond films between 1968 and 2002. IFP changed management about a decade ago and, not uncommon a phenomenon, the current regime tends not to recognize the work of its predecessors.

The last new “adult” Bond novel was Jeffery Deaver’s Carte Blanche, published last year, which rebooted the literary 007 to the 21st Century, just like the film 007’s reboot starting with 2006’s Casino Royale with Daniel Craig. Now, IFP has switched gears back to going with the period piece approach the way it did with Sebastian Faulks’s Devil May Care in 2008.

Our speculation: it may be a sign that IFP has realized there’s no way Eon Productions will ever opt to use a continuation novel as the basis of a movie. Or maybe not.

As of 10 p.m. New York time, there was no press release on the official IFP Web site. So credit John Cox, who runs The Book Bond site, with a scoop (at least among the fan Web sites).

UPDATE: The BBC in A STORY on its Web site, quotes the new 007 author as saying his story will be set in 1969. It also says first-week sales of Deaver’s Carte Blanche novels were a fraction of Faulks’s Devil May Care.

No Skyfall novelization, Book Bond Web site says

There won’t be a novelization of Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, the BOOK BOND WEB SITE REPORTED, citing Ian Fleming Publications.

Raymond Benson's Die Another Day remains the most recent 007 film novelization. Photo copyright © Paul Baack

Raymond Benson, most recent 007 novelization author


There was no statement on the Ian Fleming Publications Web site as of 3 p.m. Eastern Time on March 18. On the Book Bond site, webmaster John Cox said he didn’t press for the reasons why there won’t be a novelization.

One possibility (our own speculation): director Sam Mendes has had a penchant for secrecy for all matters Skyfall, even to the point of denying in early 2010 he was in talks to direct the film even after his own publicist had confirmed such talks were, in fact, underway. A novelization is typically available before a film’s release and is the ultimate spoiler. One exception: Max Allan Collins, in his novelization for Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy movie, awkwardly told the reader Tracy was surprised who the mystery was without revealing the identity.

IFP controls the literary Bond. Novelizations were published for the four Pierce Brosnan films: GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. John Gardner did the GoldenEye novelization in 1995 and Raymond Benson the others, beginning in 1997. In 2002, Benson’s final Bond continuation novel had been published but he was the logical choice to do Die Another Day’s novelization published in the fall of that year.

With 2006’s Casino Royale, IFP re-issued Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel of the same name, and with 2008’s Quantum of Solace, IFP put out two Fleming short stories, including Quantum of Solace, which had nothing to do with the film.

Going further back, Christopher Wood penned novelizations for The Spy Who Loved Me (“James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me”) and Moonraker (“James Bond and Moonraker”) in 1977 and 1979 respectively. Gardner also wrote the novelization for 1989’s Licence to Kill.

IFP has no “regular” Bond continuation novel author. Sebastian Faulks and Jeffery Deaver were hired to do one-offs (Devil May Care for Faulks where he was “writing as Ian Fleming” and Carte Blanche for Deaver). Interestingly, based on spoilers that have leaked out, Skyfall has a plot element similar to Carte Blanche. (We referenced that spoiler in a March 17 post, so we won’t mention it here).