Rise of the ‘Scooby Gang’ in 007 films

SPECTRE publicity still featuring part of the fan-dubbed “Scooby Gang,” Tanner (Rory Kinnear), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw).

There’s a fan-generated 007 nickname that has gotten traction these days.

That would be the “Scooby Gang.” It’s shorthand for how supporting characters in the Eon Production film series join Bond out in the field. It’s based on the cartoon series Scooby-Doo, where the Scooby Gang of young people and a dog go out and solve mysteries together.

“Scooby Gang” was used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, referring to the cartoon show.

Formerly, Bond was a lone-wolf. M would give 007 the mission. Q would provide some gadgets and Moneypenny would flirt before Bond departed the office.

That’s been changing for a while. In 1989’s Licence to Kill, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) goes rogue, as Bond (Timothy Dalton) has. He not only brings along some gadgets, he acts as 007’s assistant.

After Judi Dench came aboard as M in 1995’s GoldenEye, her character’s screen time expanded. That process started with 1999’s The World Is Not Enough where M’s kidnapping is a major aspect of the plot.

Finally, with 2012’s Skyfall, we got a rebooted Moneypenny (now with a first a name, Eve) who we initially see as a field agent. Also, the Judi Dench M scores more screen time than before because she’s a mother figure for both Bond (Daniel Craig) and the villain Silva (Javier Bardem).

In 2013, there was an early indication the Scooby Gang would come together in SPECTRE.

“Naomie Harris is getting more  of the action in the next James Bond film, which starts shooting next year,” Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in a story published on Sept. 12 of that year.

Director Sam Mendes, Craig, and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are all big fans of Naomie’s and don’t want her to be too desk-bound, as other Moneypennys have been.

‘The idea formulating in Bond-land is for Naomie to be much more of a sidekick to James, and for her to get out and harm the bad guys,’ an executive close to the production told me.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench/M perished at the end of Skyfall and was succeeded by Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who has his own impressive military background.

By the end of SPECTRE, M, Moneypenny, Q (Ben Whishaw) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) are all out in the field helping Bond. And, thus, the Scooby Gang nickname was born. It has appeared on 007 message boards and elsewhere on the internet.

Now, there has been recent fan speculation/questioning whether Fiennes can return to play Mallory/M because of other acting jobs.

In the “old days,” few fans wondered about the availability of Llewelyn, Bernard Lee or Lois Maxwell. The actors only had a few days of work and the focus was on Bond. Llewelyn was absent from Live And Let Die, but most of the publicity and fan attention was on Roger Moore’s debut as 007.

We’ll see what happens next. Meanwhile, here’s an amusing tweet from Phil Nobile Jr., former writer for Birth. Movies. Death and now editor of a new incarnation of Fangoria magazine. He’s a big 007 fan and has written extensively about Bond films in the past.

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Eon’s new normal (cont.): Q’s comments analyzed

Publicity still of Ben Whishaw with Daniel Craig in Skyfall

So, this week, actor Ben Whishaw, Q in the two most recent James Bond movies, made a few comments to Metro which were deemed news about Bond 25.

“I haven’t had an update for a while. I would imagine, I think they have a release date for next year, so I think by the end of this year we have to have started filming something,” Whishaw was quoted by the website. “Although it has gone strangely quiet, but that’s often the way it goes.”

This was analyzed by Birth. Movies. Death (“Q Is Standing by for BOND 25“) and Screen Rant (“Ben Whishaw Expects Bond 25 To Begin Filming Later This Year“).

And, yes, it was news, at least of a sort. Neither Eon Productions (which makes Bond movies) nor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which controls half of the 007 franchise) have said a whole lot for months. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In the land of a news blackout, a nugget becomes news.

It’s another reminder about Eon’s new normal. The Bond franchise has franchise has transitioned from being a film series to more like occasional events not on a set schedule.

In the 1970s, even 1980s, it probably wouldn’t have been much of a story if Desmond Llewelyn, the longest-serving film Q, commented about an upcoming film.

Imagine in that time period if Llewelyn said, “I guess they’re getting ready. They have a release date. So they’d have to start filming something before too long.” That wouldn’t have been a blip.

Also, consider this line from the Screen Rant story: “Whishaw may have confirmed his involvement, but there is still no news as to whether Ralph Fiennes (M) or Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) may be joining him.”

In the 1970s, the equivalent would have been: “Llewelyn may have confirmed his involvement, but there is still no news as to whether Bernard Lee (M) or Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny) may be joining him.”

In those days, it’s not a question a lot of people would have been asking. The show was James Bond and whoever was playing him. Connery is back! (Diamonds Are Forever) Who will be the new Bond? Can Roger Moore make it as the new Bond? (Live And Let Die)

This isn’t a complaint. The world is as it is. And Eon’s new normal is what it is.

Our modest proposal for 007 Twitter quizzes

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The OFFICIAL JAMES BOND TWITTER FEED has been doing occasional quizzes about the Bond film series of late.

One such quiz was took place May 15 and the question was who played Moneypenny the most times in Bond films.

Not the most difficult quiz, given the correct answer was Lois Maxwell at 14, with Samantha Bond the next highest at four followed by Caroline Bliss at two and Naomie Harris at one (going up to two when SPECTRE comes out in November).

On June 12, there was another quiz. Compared to the Moneypenny question, the gap between No. 1 and No. 2 is narrower, but Bernard Lee is the only actor to play M with double digit appearances at 11 while Judi Dench is runner up at seven.

We mused about this on Twitter and a reader suggested these quizzes may well be aimed at those with only a passing knowledge of James Bond. So perhaps the intent is to make Bond more accessible to a broader audience.

With that in mind, here are some suggested future quizzes for the James Bond feed on Twitter:

What actor has played Q the most times in the Bond films?

a) Desmond LLewelyn b) Peter Burton c) John Cleese d) Ben Whishaw

What is James Bond’s code number?

a) 007 b) 86 c) 99 d) 008 e) $6.2 billion

James Bond has a license to do what?

a) kill b) fish c) drive d) print money at the box office

Lois Maxwell and James Bond by the numbers

The official James Bond Twitter feed offered up this quiz on May 15:

Spoiler alert: It’s Lois Maxwell (1927-2007). We have no idea how many fans got the answer wrong. Regardless, the quiz got us to thinking about a few numbers related to her long run as Moneypenny.

NUMBER OF JAMES BOND FILM APPEARANCES: 14

YEAR OF FIRST 007 APPEARANCE: 1962

YEAR OF LAST 007 APPEARANCE: 1985

PERCENTAGE OF EON-MADE MADE 007 FILMS WITH MAXWELL IN CAST: 58% (includes SPECTRE, still in production, in the calculation, or 14 divided by 24).

PERCENTAGE OF ALL 007 FILMS WITH MAXWELL IN CAST: 54% (includes 1967’s Casino Royale and 1983’s Never Say Never Again in the calculation, or 14 divided by 26).

MISCELLANEOUS TRIVIA: Maxwell will still have appeared in at least half of Eon-made Bond films until Bond 29 is produced. At a rate of one movie made every three years, that would be in 2030.

How did SPECTRE’s budget get so high?

SPECTRE LOGO

Many entertainment websites (including this blog) have written about how the Mexican government may have helped shape a sequence in SPECTRE in return for $20 million in incentives, something the TAX ANALYSTS WEBSITE REPORTED EARLIER THIS MONTH.

The Cinema Blend website in its story on the subject added a question about SPECTRE’s $300 million-plus budget: “Why is the budget that high to begin with?” Skyfall had a reported budget of $200 million.

Sam Mendes, at the Dec. 4 media event for SPECTRE said the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios was “where budgets go to die.” The comment took on a whole new meaning after hacking of internal Sony Pictures emails revealed the budget was on pace to exceed $300 million, making the 24th James Bond movie once of the most expensive of all time.

Cinema Blend poses a good question. Here’s an attempt at a partial answer. What follows is by no means definitive or comprehensive.

More locations: With 2012’s Skyfall, the first unit only went to one location: Turkey. The second unit went to Shanghai to film exteriors but the first unit used Pinewood Studios and U.K. locations in place of the Chinese business center.

With SPECTRE, the crew is traveling more. The OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE said, “The locations for SPECTRE include Pinewood London, Mexico City, Rome, Tangier and Erfoud, Morocco. Bond is also back in the snow, this time in Sölden, Austria as well as Obertilliach and Lake Altaussee.” Already, there has been filming in Rome and Austria.

Some of the principals probably got a big raise: In November 2012, as Skyfall was on its way to a worldwide box office of $1.1 billion, THE INDEPENDENT reported star Daniel Craig would be paid 31 million pounds (or almost $46 million at current exchange rates) to play 007 in Bond 24 (now SPECTRE) and Bond 25 combined.

According to that article, Craig received 1.9 million pounds for Casino Royale, 4.4 million pounds for Quantum of Solace and 10.7 million pounds for Skyfall.

Meanwhile, Skyfall director Mendes initially said the thought of directing another Bond movie made him “physically ill.”

Nevertheless, Eon Productions wanted Mendes back, to the point of being willing to push back production so the director could participate in some stage projects. With Skyfall’s box office, it’s likely he got a big raise also. Money has a way of calming upset stomachs.

Bond movies now have pricier casts: Under Albert R. Broccoli, Eon was willing to pay big money for its Bond but supporting actors — particularly those with the M, Moneypenny and Q roles — were paid modestly.

In the 21st century, the likes of Ralph Fiennes (a two-time Oscar nominee), Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw are paid better adjusted for inflation than Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn. Meanwhile, Skyfall had an Oscar winning actor (Javier Bardem as Silva) and SPECTRE has another (Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser).

All of this is, at best, a partial explanation. SPECTRE’s budget exceeds the estimated outlays of Marvel’s The Avengers ($220 million) and The Dark Knight Rises ($250 million), movies with extensive special effects.

A few things best to forget about the first 3 007 films

Poster for a 1972 007 triple feature

Poster for a 1972 007 triple feature

After we did a post about things best to overlook about You Only Live Twice, two readers suggested earlier 007 movies deserved similar treatment.

Thunderball, the fourth Bond film, is rather notorious for a number of continuity flubs (not to mention a certain dog). So, we’ll keep this post to the first three 007 movies and things that are best to overlook to enjoy the movies.

DR. NO

Does M routinely work at 3 a.m.?: Granted, if you were running MI6 (or MI7 as Bernard Lee’s M refers to it) and one of your stations chiefs went missing, it’d be serious. But does that merit staying at the office overnight? Along with your secretary and your quartermaster?

In Dr. No, the answer appears to be yes. So you stick around. As does Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and Major Boothroyd (Peter Burton). Do Moneypenny and Boothroyd get overtime?

Why is Dr. No flushing all that water through his ventilator shafts? In the novel Dr. No, Ian Fleming depicts Bond going through an obstacle course that ends with 007 having to fight a giant squid. The first Bond movie didn’t have a budget to include that. So we get Bond (Sean Connery) going through a large ventilator shaft. It gets rather hot and a lot of water is being flushed. But why?

Bond doesn’t exactly have it easy, but eventually comes out in a room that includes radiation suits. It’s the perfect place for Bond to change to confront Dr. No in his reactor room.

Bond’s magical hair: After Bond has vanished Dr. No, he gets ready to head through a hatch. His hair is disheveled. Agent 007 runs his hands through his hair as he enters the hatch. Upon exiting, every hair is in place.

When Dr. No’s headquarters blows up — out-of-control atomic reactor and all — would that present a radiation hazard? Just wondering. The good folks at Cracked.com seemed to think it might render vast portions of the Carribean into a nuclear wasteland IN THIS 2012 POST.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

What was the purpose of the training exercise in the pre-credits sequence? Red Grants stalks a guy wearing a James Bond mask and kills him. “One minute, fifty-two seconds, that’s excellent,” one of the SPECTRE officials says. Yeah, but does this really help grant get ready to kill Bond? And why did the guy playing Bond participate? Did he volunteer? Or was he forced to? And what would have happened if he killed Grant? Then again, if they didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have an exciting pre-credits sequence, would we?

Who took away the bodies after the fight between the gypsies and the Bulgars at the gypsy camp? You’d think somebody would have noticed. Maybe there’s a deleted scene we’ll never get to see. Istanbul police chief: “Cripes, the Bulgars and the gypsies have been fighting again! What a headache!”

Who took away Rosa Klebb’s body at the Venice hotel? Bond quips that, “She’s had her kicks.” Presumably, the chap from the embassy Bond was chatting with on the phone had some connections with the Italian authorities.

GOLDFINGER

“Why didn’t he just kill him?” That’s the question that Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) asked an excited Jethro Bodine (Max Baer) in an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies concerning the plot of Goldfinger.

It’s an old joke, but still a good one. Mike Meyers managed to get three Austin Powers movies made essentially using the idea. Goldfinger screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn sweated bullets over it in separate drafts of the script. Still, the Austin Powers movies haunt the 007 franchise to this day, ACCORDING TO CURRENT 007 DANIEL CRAIG.

“Must be a double blowout!” That’s Bond’s sort-of explanation for why Tilly’s Mustang ran off the road when he used his Aston Martin DB5’s device that not only shredded her tires but put a nice, long hole in the Mustang’s body between the tires. Presumably, Tilly’s powers of observation weren’t too keen.

Why does Goldfinger have Mr. Solo’s body crushed after he’s already dead? Oddjob shoots Solo, then drives the Lincoln Continental to a junk yard, where the car — including its contents of a gangster, a note from Bond in the gangster’s pocket, Bond’s homer also in the gangster’s pocket and a million dollars worth of gold — is crushed.

When Oddjob returns the squished block of metal back to Goldfinger’s stud farm, the villain remarks, “I must arrange to separate my gold from the late Mr. Solo.” Given this is the day before the raid on Fort Knox, seems like Goldfinger has created extra work for himself on top of an already busy schedule.

How did Goldfinger take over the plane that’s supposed to be going to Washington? Granted, the villain is wearing a general’s uniform. But do you think you could get onto a major U.S. Army base and get everything you want just by wearing a general’s uniform? Best not to think about that because you’ll be distracted and miss the ending.

Dr. No’s script Part II: Bond memes make their debut

Jack Lord and Sean Connery during Dr. No filming

Jack Lord and Sean Connery during Dr. No filming

Continuing our look at a January 1962 Dr. No script provided by collector Gary Firuta.

Bond, having bested Sylvia Trench (or Trenchard, depending on which page of the script you’re reading), gets ready to exit the casino. Bond invites Sylvia for golf and dinner, similar to the finished film with a few differences in dialogue.

On page 13, Bond enters the office. He says, “Hi….Moneypenny….” as he enters. There is no mention of him throwing his hat on the hat rack. The dialogue is again very close to the final version of the movie. Stage directions specify that she “takes in his appearance with mock admiration” as she says, “You never take me out look like that James….” She has a “deep sigh” and says, “You never take me out, period.”

Bond replies, “I’d take you out tomorrow, only I’d have me courtmartialled for illegal use of Government property.”

After Bond enters M’s office, there’s a description. “He is a man in his middle fifties, well-sel up, with some of the Navy about him.” M and Bond discuss the situation in Jamaica before Major Boothroyd enters to give Bond his new gun. Boothroyd “is a short, slim man, with snady (sic) hair.” When Boothroyd produces the Walther PPK he is “producing gun and shoulder holster from case with professional pride.”

As in the finished movie, Bond tries to sneak out his old Beretta from the office but M stops him. “They catch each others’ eyes. They really understand each other perfectly. BOND GOES.”

The intrepid agent goes back to his flat and gets a surprise in the form of Sylvia in Bond’s pajama tops. She is practicing chip shots “into the bowler hat which is laying on the floor by foot of bed.”

The rest of the scene plays out as in the finished film, but there’s an extra. As Bond and Sylvia make out, there’s this stage direction: “CAMERA PANS DOWN to take in his toes curling inside silk evening socks and her bare ones on tiptoe. The golf club drops onto the carpet; as his tie foins it, we….. FADE OUT.” (Note: it says “foins” rather than “joins” in case you’re wondering.)

Bond takes a BOAC flight to Jamaica, rather than PanAm, as in the film. He is met by a chauffeur, who says, “I’m Mistuh Jones, suh…chauffeur from Government House. Ah been sent to get you.” Bond even calls him “Mistuh Jones” in return.

007 calls Government House. Playdell-Smith takes the call. “Put him through, Miss Taro.” After talking with Bond, Playdell-Smith wraps up the call and says “(off-screen to SECRETARY) Thank you, Miss Taro. I’ll call when I want you.”

Meanwhile, at the Kingston airport, another figure takes in the scene: “a tall thin HATCHET-FACED MAN (FELIX LEITER).”

Bond and Jones depart the airport, followed by Leiter and a “humourous-looking, intelligent CAYMAN ISLANDER (QUARREL).”

The British agent, as in the film, loses his pursuers and gets Jones off alone to interrogate him. He still addresses him as “Mistuh Jones.” After Bond bests Jones in a fight, Jones commits suicide rather than reveal who he’s working for. Jones says, “The….hell with you….” before he dies.

With nothing else to do, Bond drives to Government House. “THE CHAUFFEUR’s body is propped up realistically in the back seat.” When he arrives, the agent utters a witticism to A UNIFORMED GUARD similar to the finished movie.

BOND
(indicating CHAUFFEUR)
Watch him. Make sure he doesn’t get away.

GUARD
(briskly)
Yes, sir.

He does a double take as he sees the DEAD MAN.

TO BE CONTINUED