Bond 25 questions: The SPOILER edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

If you haven’t guessed by the headline (where “SPOILER” is in all capital letters), this post has spoilers. If you’re spoiler adverse, scram. I don’t care how much shows up in the preview image on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

So, it seems pretty certain that Christoph Waltz will be in Bond 25 again playing the BROfeld version of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (i.e. Blofeld is Bond’s foster brother).

Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is this trip really necessary? Not really. But it seems as if Eon Productions and its army of screenwriters is going to double down on one of the worst aspects of 2015’s SPECTRE — namely that Waltz’s Blofeld was Bond’s foster brother and has a personal reason to torment Bond.

What would you have done? Ignore SPECTRE and move on with a new story. Instead, it would appear we will get a version of SPECTRE Part II. It won’t be called that, of course.

Are you serious? All we need now is a “reveal” that Dave Bautista’s Hinx will be back as Hinx, the lead henchman in SPECTRE. At this point, he might as well be. Remember, he appeared to be lobbying for that to happen.

It’d be natural for him to join Jeffrey Wright (last seen in a 007 film in Quantum of Solace) and Lea Seydoux (as Bond’s supposedly everlasting love). Hey, let’s have Eva Green (Vesper in Casino Royale) appear in a flashback sequence while we’re at it.

Any other thoughts? Yes. It’s perhaps time to finally dispense with the trope that the Daniel Craig Bond films are the “closest” to Ian Fleming.

Craig started out with Casino Royale, based on Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. Since then, we’ve seen the death of Mathis (not in a Fleming book).

Mathis may have been a double agent (at least that’s the implication of his Quantum of Solace death scene), which wasn’t in any Fleming book.

And, of course, we have Blofeld/BRO-feld as Bond’s foster brother in SPECTRE, which wasn’t in any Fleming book.

Even if you love all these films, they’re not what Fleming had in mind. Bond 25 may end up an entertaining film. (That’s my inner optimist speaking out). Just don’t bring Fleming into the discussion.

Any suggestions for Bond 25? Perhaps some new character could “reveal” that himself (or herself) was the real Blofeld all along and the “foster brother” nonsense was a way to mess with Bond’s mind. But I wouldn’t go banco on that.

About that buzz that Shatterhand will be B25’s title

Cover to the first-edition U.S. hardback edition of You Only Live Twice

There’s been quite a buzz this week that Shatterhand, the name of an alias adopted by Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the novel You Only Live Twice, will be the title of Bond 25.

The thing is, the idea has been applied to the as-yet unmade 25th 007 film, at various times in 2017 and 2018 as well as this month.

However, people have short memories. So here’s a recap. This week’s news isn’t exactly, well, news.

Let’s start with 2015’s SPECTRE.

There are indications Eon Productions was at least considering making the film a “soft” remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In 2014, various drafts of the film’s script got out because of the hacking at Sony Pictures.

One draft included a secondary villain named Irma Bunt, Blofeld’s assistant in both the Majesty’s novel (and film) and You Only Live Twice novel.

Another draft, which this blog wrote about, ended with Bond telling Madeline Swann, “We have all the time in the world.” That, of course, is what Bond told Tracy just before the latter was killed in both the Majesty’s novel and film.

Neither bit made it into SPECTRE. Bond and Swann just drove off.

Flash forward to summer 2017.

On July 29, 2017, The Mirror says Bond 25 will be based on a 007 continuation novel by Raymond Benson titled Never Dream of Dying. However, the story also says the working title is Shatterhand.

Benson says on social media that he was never contacted by the Mirror and that he can only assume the story was a fabrication. Well, that seems to slam things shut. Shatterhand fever is forgotten. That is until….

Flash forward to summer 2018.

On Aug. 27, 2018, The Bond Blog, citing the Production Weekly website, says Shatterhand has been registered as a title for Bond 25. The Shatterhand buzz still lives.

Flash forward to this week.

Despite the fact that Production Weekly has listed Shatterhand as a working title for Bond 25 since last year, a number of outlets discovered that fact and treated it as news.

Among them: Comicbook.com, The Guardian, Empire, The Express. and, last but not least, the BBC.

Those stories, in turn, are recycled by readers on various social media outlets. Shatterhand fever burns hot.

In December, Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga told the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye that Lea Seydoux, SPECTRE’s female lead, will be back in the new film.

So, will Bond 25 be based on the You Only Live Twice novel? Will Seydoux’s Madeline Swann be Tracy 2.0?

Who knows? However, 2012’s Skyfall adapted bits from the Twice book as well as the 1965 novel The Man With the Golden Gun. So we’ll see. Regardless, Bond 25 has gotten a ton of free publicity from the recurring Shatterhand buzz.

007 questions before Bond 25 starts filming

So how do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25?

In less than two months, Bond 25 is scheduled to start filming in time for a Feb. 14, 2020 release. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

001: How do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25? Cary Fukunaga, the director of Bond 25, has said that Bond 25 will continue a “character arc” that began with 2006’s Casino Royale.

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, it appeared the Daniel Craig 007 had retired as an Double-O agent. So how do you get from there to a new adventure?

002: How do you reconcile the various Bond 25 scripts? The current effort began with a treatment (i.e. detailed outline) by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Then, that was put off to the side because director Danny Boyle and his writer John Hodge pitched an idea that supposedly was great. Then, a few months later, Eon thought better and Boyle and Hodge walked away.

There were many stories published during 2018 (See the blog’s sister site, The Bond 25 Timeline for details).

But Eon owns all those ideas. Will the final script reflect some or all of those ideas? In some cases, ideas from submitted scripts end up in Bond films years later. Also, it was reported last week that Paul Haggis (involved with writing Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) had worked on Bond 25’s script.

We’ll see how this plays out for Bond 25.

003: How much leeway does director Fukunaga have for Bond 25? Eon Productions gave Sam Mendes a lot of leeway for Skyfall and SPECTRE, including granting Mendes his choice of composer (Thomas Newman in both movies) and director of photography (Roger Deakins in Skyfall). Does Fukunaga get that kind of love from Eon for Bond 25?

004: If the answer to 003 is not so much, does David Arnold get a chance to return to score Bond 25? Arnold, composer of five 007 scores (behind only John Barry’s 11) has been away for more than a decade. Much of that absence stemmed from Mendes’ relation with Newman. Does Arnold get a chance to come back?

005: Does Bond 25’s budget grow, stay the same, or shrink from SPECTRE’s? During the Sony hacks (hacked emails and other documents), it came out that SPECTRE’s budget was on pace to go past $300 million. Supposedly, the budget was closer to $240 million (after factoring in all the product placement and Mexico tax credits). It’s always easier to spend more — as long as a studio is willing to cut checks.

006: How energized are Bond 25’s lead producer and star? Over the extended break, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has worked on “indie-style” small films while star Daniel Craig has worked on other projects. Meanwhile, Craig said back in 2016 that “everybody’s just a bit tired.” Is everybody rested up now?

007: Does Universal’s involvement with Bond 25 change things? Sony Pictures (through its Columbia Pictures brand) released the last four 007 films (2006-2015). Now, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures will handle U.S. distribution while Universal will handle international distribution. Does Universal change things? There’s no way to tell for now.

Embrace Léa Seydoux, look forward to Madeleine Swann

Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux at the end of SPECTRE.

By Gert Waterink, Guest Writer

When Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga told the Daily Mail this week that French actress Léa Seydoux would reprise her role as Madeleine Swann, Bond fandom was instantly “menstruating” blood and fire.

I leave it to you to find this either preposterous or a sheer exaggeration. But let me first tell you that time is not treating SPECTRE nicely so far. (Look out for the big #JamesBondTOP2018 Poll to see exactly what has happened.)

Was it the SonyLeaks that immediately brand marked it as the worst Bond-film “evva”? Was it Christoph Waltz’ performance as Oberhauser/Blofeld that left Bond fans cold and bitter? Or, and that I can understand, was the writing not good enough?

Madeleine Swann: Better than we thought?
All I saw was an actress that played a wonderful blond elegant psychiatrist, who had the bad luck to be born out of a father whose sole career was crime (remember Tracy’s father in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?). In my honest opinion Léa Seydoux did magnificent acting work with the script she was given.

She showed off an Honey Ryder-esque vulnerability in the third part of the film that was credible enough to me. Her anger at the start of the film was absolutely delightful (Vesper Lynd could have learned a few lessons from her to that respect). And because of Bond’s complex background, it only made sense that, like Vesper, Bond and Madeleine fell in love.

The problem to me with regard to writing was only the rather sudden change from fierce, angry woman into a sexual passive object of desire that didn’t feel convincing. But that was mostly the case because of lackluster writing, not bad acting.

Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade simply wanted too many narrative twists and turns and character’s back stories to put in a film that should have been divided into two parts (it was Craig who eventually insisted on not doing that). The film also needed some more explanations and not leave certain important events and moments to the viewers imagination.

Let’s be old-fashioned, let’s be patient
Having sad all that, please let us trust Léa’s acting capacities. They are exquisite and above all mesmerizing and convincing. We should not write off Madeleine Swann’s character that soon.

For all we know Danny Boyle’s departure resulted in some more firm brainstorming about the story as compared to the writing process of SPECTRE. Let’s not “Facebook” and “Twitter” Léa/Madeleine to death.

There are luckily no “UniversalLeaks” this time around to strengthen all our presumptuous theories about why Madeleine Swann should not return.

Instead let’s ask ourselves how we can bring back Madeleine Swann in a wonderful way, both for short and longer screen times.

And perhaps it sounds a bit old-fashioned during this digital social media age, but for those people who can still be patient, let’s just wait and see.

If you still want to discuss the film like I do, do it in a positive-spirited, inspiring fashion. Because James Bond will return — and there are fresh new chances to make Bond 25 even better than Casino Royale and Skyfall.

Gert Waterink is the editor of the James Bond Nederland website.

Bond 25: “This time, it’s repetitive!”

Bond mourning the death of Madeline Swann in Bond 25?

With the news that Lea Seydoux, the female lead of SPECTRE, will make a return appearance in Bond 25, the “Writing’s on the Wall” where the next 007 film is heading.

Unlike the usual Bond news, this isn’t from an unidentified source. It comes from Bond 25’s director himself, Cary Fukunaga via Daily Mail scribe Baz Bamigboye.

What can we expect?

Madeleine Swann’s life expectancy won’t be very long in terms of screen time. SPECTRE was a kind-of, sort-of remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  One of the trailers even used a new recording of John Barry’s main theme for the 1969 film.

And, a draft of the script, dated one week before the start of filming, had Bond telling Swann, “We have all the time in the world.” While that didn’t make the final film, it was pretty clear that Swann was supposed to be the 2.0 version of Tracy from Majesty’s.

Thus, Swann is likely to get bumped off, perhaps in the pre-titles sequence.

“But you don’t know that!” No, I don’t. But it’s pretty pointless to bring Seydoux back for a scene where she and Bond break up. When Ian Fleming had Bond break up with Tiffany Case, it happened between the novels Diamonds Are Forever and From Russia With Love.

Meanwhile, it’d be even worse if Seydoux is dragged throughout Bond 25. In SPECTRE, Seydoux’s Swann was convincing when she hated Bond. She was less than convincing when she supposedly fell in love with him. Imagine that for an entire movie. It’ll be bad. B.A.D.

If Swann gets bumped off, Bond is out for revenge — again. Or, put another way, the series will again fall back on a trope it has used multiple times beginning with 1989’s Licence to Kill.

“But if that happens, we’ll finally get a faithful adaptation of the You Only Live Twice novel!” The thing about the novel You Only Live Twice is that Bond fell apart once. That’s what made it so special.

Eon has already cherry picked the You Only Live Twice novel (and The Man With the Golden Gun novel) for Skyfall. The 2012 film had Judi Dench’s M writing Bond’s obiituary, a la You Only Live Twice, just substituting “Turkey” for “Japan.” Bond was a broken man who has to get his mojo back.

So now, Eon gets to cherry pick the novel again, like fixing a meal from Thanksgiving leftovers. Will Daniel Craig’s 007 be a broken man again? If Swann gets killed early in Bond 25, how much screen time will Craig have of being on the edge?

“Mind you, all of this is pure guess work,” as M said in the movie You Only Live Twice. But if these guesses are at all close to what’s in store for Bond 25, the film’s advertising slogan is obvious. “This time, it’s repetitive!”

Lea Seydoux will be in Bond 25, Bamigboye says

Lea Seydoux with Daniel Craig in a SPECTRE poster.

Lea Seydoux, the female lead in 2015’s SPECTRE, will be in Bond 25, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported, citing comments from director Cary Fukunaga.

The key excerpt:

Bond star Daniel Craig wanted her back — and so did film-maker Cary Joji Fukunaga, who will be directing his first Bond picture.

Fukunaga told me exclusively that ‘Lea will be returning’; as will regulars Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris.

The news undoubtedly will revive speculation that Bond 25’s plot will be similar to the Ian Fleming novels On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice.

In the OHMSS novel, Bond marries Tracy, who is killed at the end. The 1969 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service film replicated that. In the You Only Live Twice novel, Bond has fallen apart. He’s about to be fired from the British Secret Service. He’s given a “last chance” mission that puts him on the trail of Blofeld, now in Japan having established a “garden of death” for suicide-inclined Japanese.

SPECTRE (kind-of, sort-of) was a bit of an OHMSS remake. While Seydoux’s character had a different name (Madeline Swann), she was apparently intended as Tracy 2.0. In a Dec. 1, 2014 draft of the script, Bond event tells her at the end, “We have all the time in the world.” The line was cut from the final film.

Bamigboye’s report doesn’t get into such details. The obvious question is whether Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld from SPECTRE will also return.

About that remaking OHMSS idea

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The New York Post’s Page Six gossip operation succeeded in creating a buzz with a report that Bond 25 will rework part of the plot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But is it a good idea?

Many fans enthusiastically say yes, because it means a proper adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1964 You Only Live Twice novel.

Let’s take a look at some issues involved.

–Another revenge plot? In the Twice novel, Bond is a broken man following the death of his wife Tracy. He’s given an “impossible mission” involving diplomacy instead of guns (trying to get the Japanese to share intel it gathers and decodes using its Magic 44 system).

But through a few twists and turns, it turns out Blofeld is in Japan and Bond gets to go after him.

Eon Productions did Twice first, dispensing with most of the plot while retaining key characters. Majesty’s became the next film in the series. Diamonds Are Forever didn’t make any direct references to Majesty’s. Thus, many fans say they were deprived of a classic revenge plot.

True enough. Eon, over the years, has made up for lost time revenge wise: Licence to Kill (Bond goes after the killers of Leiter’s wife, who also severely maimed Leiter); GoldenEye (Bond, betrayed by 006, goes after him); The World Is Not Enough (Bond is betrayed by Elektra King, goes after her); Die Another Day (Bond is framed and imprisoned, goes after those responsible); Quantum of Solace (Bond swears revenge for the death of Vesper in Casino Royale).

Bond films may have things in short supply, but revenge plots aren’t among them. This time it’s personal (again).

–Chemistry, or lack thereof, with the actors involved. In SPECTRE, Lea Seydoux was very convincing when her Madeline Swann said she hated Daniel Craig’s Bond. Not so much when Swann decided she was in love with Bond.

In 1969’s Majesty’s Diana Rigg as Tracy was very convincing as the character who made Bond feel she was “the one,” his true love. Seydoux wasn’t in that league, a point this blog made in a January 2016 post.

Or, as Philip Nobile Jr. of Birth. Movies. Death wrote: “Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux had absolutely no chemistry on together.”

None of this will matter to advocates of using Majesty’s and Twice as the basis for Bond 25. Blofeld Trilogy, Garden of Death and all that. We’ll have to wait for a couple of years before seeing if there’s anything to all this.