Bond 25 questions: The marketing gears up (again) edition

A slightly tweaked No Time to Die poster

A (not-so-new) 30-second promotional No Time to Die video surfaced online on July 26. So this would seem to be a sign that, once more, the marketing for the 25th James Bond film is starting to gear up.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is this a surprise? Not really. If a movie really is coming out for a Sept. 30 release in the U.K. and October elsewhere, it figures it would be starting up around now.

Prior to this week’s video, Bond fans have taken selfies in front of No Time to Die standees at their local theaters. And a tweaked poster emerged recently saying “Only in Theaters October” along with a new MGM font that’s part of a makeover of the company’s Leo the Lion logo.

Is there much new? A 30-second promo doesn’t give you a lot of time. I did see some eagle-eyed analysis by @ShotsBond saying some shots of the DB5 replicas are new. Also, @marketto spotted how a Maserati logo was removed digitally from a henchman’s car compared with previous trailers. (Maserati not being among the car companies involved with the Bond film.)

Is this something to be excited about? Many fans definitely are. But when a movie has been delayed five times (twice related to hiring and then departure of original director Danny Boyle, three times because of COVID-19), there is a natural hesitancy for some. With COVID, there are vaccines but there are also new variants.

Either way, it is something new Bond-related to talk about until the film’s marketing gears up further.

Here’s the video:

A pedantic observation about No Time to Die

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1, 2020

While glancing at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s website, I noticed the copyright notice for No Time to Die. It read:

© 2020 Danjaq, LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In recent years, Bond films have had copyright notices citing Danjaq and United Artists Corporation (an MGM owned brand and the name of the original studio that released Bond films). Examples include Die Another Day and The World Is Not Enough.

The first four films of the Daniel Craig era were released by Sony under its Columbia brand. So, for example, the copyright notice for Casino Royale listed Danjaq, United Artists and Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. The same thing happened with Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Sony wasn’t involved with No Time to Die so naturally it’s not part of the new copyright notice. Why was United Artists dropped? Perhaps because the UA name was revived for United Artists Releasing, MGM’s joint venture with Annapurna Pictures, which will distribute No Time to Die in the U.S.

‘Intrigue’ at Amazon, MGM over NYT article, newsletter says

MGM logo

A New York Times story on July 6 has created “intrigue” at Amazon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, according to a newsletter by a former editor at The Hollywood Reporter.

The article about MGM film chiefs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy generated some “serious eye-rolling at Amazon Studios this week,” wrote Matthew Belloni.

De Luca runs MGM’s film division and Abdy is his deputy. An excerpt from the newsletter:

I’m told Amazon’s famously press-averse executives were “concerned” about the story, mostly because De Luca and Abdy focused on MGM’s theatrical release plans and their strategy of “original ideas and original authorship,” possibly leaving the impression that there will be internal conflict with what Jeff Bezos cited as the primary reason for buying MGM: To “reimagine and redevelop” the studio’s existing I.P. The story also suggested the town might be rooting for De Luca to wrest control of Amazon’s film output from Jen Salke, the current head of Amazon Studios. 

Amazon last month agreed to acquire MGM for $8.45 billion. But the deal is subject to regulatory approval, a process that may take months.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, in a statement to the Times made clear they’re rooting for De Luca and Abdy.

Referring to Amazon, they said in the statement: “Our hope is that they will empower Mike and Pam to continue to run MGM unencumbered,” MGM is James Bond’s home studio. Eon controls creative matters with Bond while MGM finances the films.

Belloni’s newsletter said the Times story didn’t go over well with Amazon.

“Amazon and the tech companies that run Hollywood these days absolutely hate this posturing crap,” Belloni wrote. MGM and De Luca declined to comment to the newsletter.

No Time to Die, Eon’s 25th James Bond film, is scheduled to be released Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S. The Amazon acquisition isn’t likely to be completed before then.

Bond 26 questions: The ‘next iteration’ edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

No Time to Die still isn’t out but there has been some news related to Bond 26. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What do you make of recent Broccoli-Wilson comments?

In a July 6 story in The New York Times, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions spoke up in support of two current Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film executives.

“Mike and Pam understand that we are at a critical juncture and that the continuing success of the James Bond series is dependent on us getting the next iteration right and will give us the support we need to do this,” the Eon duo said in a statement of Michael De Luca, chairman of MGM’s Motion PIcture Group, and his deputy, Pamela Abdy. (emphasis added)

Until late September 2020, Broccoli wouldn’t publicly acknowledge that No Time to Die would be Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie. ““It is the fifth and final one that Daniel Craig is going to be doing,” Broccoli said on an episode of the official No Time to Die podcast that would soon go into hiatus because the movie got delayed.

Evidently, Eon likes how De Luca and Abdy are managing MGM’s film unit. But their future is uncertain with Amazon’s pending $8.45 billion acquisition of James Bond’s home studio.

Eon controls creative matters related to the cinema Bond. The Broccoli-Wilson statement looks like a strong suggestion to Amazon to not shake up MGM’s film operation when the Bond franchise is on the verge of another transition and yet another new film Bond.

Did the list of possible new film Bond actors just go down by one?

Over the past few years, entertainment outlets and websites have speculated about who might take over Craig’s shoulder holster. One name that comes up a lot is British actor Henry Cavill.

However, this week, it came out that Cavill will be in a new Matthew Vaughn-directed spy film, Argylle.

Once upon a time, when Cavill was in his early 20s, he tested for Bond. He came in behind Craig.

Since then, Cavill’s ability to anchor film franchises has been a so-so affair. He was in one solo Superman movie and appeared as the Man of Steel in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. But his future as Superman looks dicey. Cavill starred in 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but that movie didn’t resonate with audiences and no additional U.N.C.L.E. films followed.

Cavill was a supporting player in a Mission: Impossible movie and has starred in a popular streaming show, The Witcher.

The actor is now 38, the same age Craig was when he was cast as Bond. But Cavill’s chances of being cast as Bond may be running out — assuming he ever had a chance in the first place. Would Eon want to cast a Bond actor who has been in two different spy movies? I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Eon endorses 2 current MGM execs amid Amazon deal

MGM logo

Eon Productions has endorsed the efforts of two current Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film executives in the wake of Amazon’s pending $8.45 billion acquisition of James Bond’s home studio.

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson issued a statement for a story today in The New York Times. They spoke up in support of Michael De Luca, chairman of MGM’s Motion PIcture Group, and his deputy, Pamela Abdy.

“Mike and Pam understand that we are at a critical juncture and that the continuing success of the James Bond series is dependent on us getting the next iteration right and will give us the support we need to do this,” Broccoli and Wilson said in the statement to the Times.

The tenure of Daniel Craig, the current cinema Bond, is coming to an end with the upcoming No Time to Die.

“Amazon has assured us that Bond” films will come out first in movie theaters, Broccoli and Wilson added. “Our hope is that they will empower Mike and Pam to continue to run MGM unencumbered.” 

De Luca has been in his post since early 2020.

The Times story primarily concerns efforts by De Luca and Abdy to reinvigorate MGM’s film efforts. The studio emerged from bankruptcy in 2010. Since then, it has attempted to build up its film slate under the MGM and Orion brands.

Amazon has a major streaming service. Purchasing MGM secures Amazon a large film library and programming source.

The Times also details how Amazon also has purchased films from studios “looking to offload their movies because theaters were largely closed” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major executive changes often take place following an acquisition. “

“There are some in Hollywood’s film community who are hopeful that Mr. De Luca and Ms. Abdy will oversee Amazon’s movie business once the merger is complete,” the Times said.

Amazon’s purchase of MGM is subject to regulatory approval.

No Time to Die, Eon’s 25th Bond film, is scheduled to be released Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S. It’s uncertain whether Amazon’s deal with MGM will be completed before then.

U.S. FTC to probe Amazon’s purchase of MGM, WSJ says

MGM logo

For blog subscribers: This had the correct headline.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission plans to investigate Amazon’s planned $8.45 billion acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Amazon has said it plans to acquire MGM, which controls half of the James Bond film franchise as well as thousands of other film titles and TV properties.

The FTC and U.S. Justice Department split U.S. regulatory review for large deals, the Journal said.

“During recent interagency negotiations, the FTC secured the right to review the Amazon-MGM deal, the people familiar with the matter said,” according to the Journal.

Amazon’s deal to acquire MGM may provide financial security for the Bond franchise — if approved by regulators. The Bond series has been subject to financial insecurity since MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio, in 1981.

U.S. FTC to probe Amazon’s purchase of MGM, WSJ says

MGM logo

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission plans to investigate Amazon’s planned $8.45 billion acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Amazon has said it plans to acquire MGM, which controls half of the James Bond film franchise as well as thousands of other film titles and TV properties.

The FTC and U.S. Justice Department split U.S. regulatory review for large deals, the Journal said.

“During recent interagency negotiations, the FTC secured the right to review the Amazon-MGM deal, the people familiar with the matter said,” according to the Journal.

Amazon’s deal to acquire MGM may provide financial security for the Bond franchise — if approved by regulators. The Bond series has been subject to financial insecurity since MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio, in 1981.

Broccoli celebrates birthday amid interesting 007 times

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli today celebrates her 61st birthday. Some birthdays are more memorable than others. As the boss of Danjaq LLC and its Eon Productions unit, Broccoli’s birthday comes amid a lot of developments.

In recent years, Broccoli — the daughter of Danjaq/Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli — has emerged as the dominant management voice of the James Bond film franchise. And with this year’s birthday, there’s a lot happening on the Bond front.

Amazon has agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. That means, relatively soon, Broccoli and her colleagues will be dealing with a new studio regime — again. This has occurred quite a bit since 1981 when MGM first acquired United Artists.

No Time to Die, the 25th Bond film made by Eon, has been on hold, partly because of creative disagreements (director Danny Boyle’s departure from the project), partly because of a global pandemic.

Bond fans around the globe are hoping No Time to Die finally comes out this fall. Broccoli and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, have said they want Bond to continue as a big-screen experience, not as a streaming one.

In other words, Barbara Broccoli has a lot on her plate amid her latest birthday.

Broccoli has spent 39 years on a full-time basis in service of the Bond franchise. Even before that, as a teenager, she wrote captions for publicity stills for 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

So happy birthday, Ms. Broccoli. The blog hopes it’s a good one.

MGM may push for a Best Picture nom for NTTD

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer may promote a Best Picture Oscar nomination for No Time to Die, according to a newsletter by a former editor of The Hollywood Reporter.

An edition of the newsletter this week outlines various MGM Oscar hopefuls. “And don’t forget No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s last Bond movie, which I’m told will get a best picture push a la the final Lord of the Rings,” wrote Matthew Belloni, who left THR last year. He is now part of a digital media startup.

A screen capture from the newsletter showed up on the James Bond Facebook group alt.fan.james-bond. Belloni verified on Twitter he had written on the subject of MGM’s Oscar hopefuls.

The Bond series has won five Oscars: sound (Goldfinger), special effects (Thunderball) another sound-related award (Skyfall in a tie with Zero Dark Thirty) and two for best song (Skyfall and SPECTRE). It has had other nominations, including for best song (multiple times), cinematography (Skyfall), art direction (The Spy Who Loved Me) and best score (The Spy Who Loved Me and Skyfall).

Starting with 2009-released films, the Oscars permitted as many as 10 Best Picture nominees, up from five previously. The idea was to make it easier for popular films to be among the nominated movies.

MGM is in the process of being purchased by Amazon.

John Logan provides a peek behind the 007 film curtain

John Logan

John Logan, co-screenwriter of Skyfall and SPECTRE, provided a glimpse behind the James Bond film curtain in a guest essay for The New York Times.

Logan’s article primarily is a plea for Amazon, which last week agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the $8.45 billion deal is subject to regulatory review) to leave the cinematic Bond alone. MGM is Bond’s home studio but it only has half of the Bond franchise, with the Broccoli-Wilson family having the other half.

Where Logan raises the curtain (some) is in describing how the making of Bond films works. One example:

Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are the champions of James Bond. They keep the corporate and commercial pressures outside the door. Nor are they motivated by them. That’s why we don’t have a mammoth Bond Cinematic Universe, with endless anemic variations of 007 sprouting up on TV or streaming or in spinoff movies. The Bond movies are truly the most bespoke and handmade films I’ve ever worked on.

Logan’s specific example concerns Skyfall where Bond finally meets Silva, the film’s villain.

Sam Mendes, the director, and I marched into Barbara and Michael’s office, sat at the family table and pitched the first scene between Bond and the villain, Raoul Silva. Now, the moment 007 first encounters his archnemesis is often the iconic moment in a Bond movie, the scene around which you build a lot of the narrative and cinematic rhythms. (Think about Bond first meeting Dr. No or Goldfinger or Blofeld, all classic scenes in the franchise.) Well, Sam and I boldly announced we wanted to do this pivotal scene as a homoerotic seduction. Barbara and Michael didn’t need to poll a focus group. They didn’t need to vet this radical idea with any studio or corporation — they loved it instantly. They knew it was fresh and new, provocative in a way that keeps the franchise contemporary. 

Now, this is an opinion piece and Logan is certainly entitled to his opinion. But the scribe overlooks a few things.

When Skyfall began production, Mendes declared the movie was not connected to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, the first two films starring Daniel Craig.

That didn’t last long. SPECTRE, where Logan was the first screenwriter, decided that Silva wasn’t an independent menace but rather was a part of Quantum/SPECTRE. And SPECTRE, after the fact, opted to make all of the Craig films one big arch.

In short, Bond was following the Marvel Cinematic Universe route that Logan appears to decry in his New York Times essay. And Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have doubled down on Marvel-style continuity that with No Time to Die, directed and co-written by Cary Fukunaga.

What’s more, it’s not like Bond has ignored popular trends prior to this. Albert R. Broccoli (father of Barbara Broccoli and stepfather of Michael G. Wilson) was involved with 007 films that referenced blaxploitation films (Live And Let Die), kung fu movies (The Man With the Golden Gun) and Star Wars and science fiction (Moonraker).

And it was under Cubby Broccoli’s watch that Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan yell (originally recorded for a 1930s Tarzan movie) showed up in Octopussy.

Logan’s essay is worth reading for Bond fans. But it should be read amid a larger context.