M:I accelerates its output amid longer 007 film gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The facts are clear. The importance is a little fuzzy.

So, producer-star Tom Cruise and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie intend to do two Mission: Impossible film back to back. The movies would come out in 2021 and 2022.

If that works out, that means there will have been four M:I films (all directed by McQuarrie) from 2015 to 2022. There will have been two 007 films (2015’s SPECTRE and 2020’s Bond 25) coming out during that same period.

The M:I development makes sense in that Cruise will turn 60 in 2022. While a fantastic physical specimen for a middle-aged guy, the clock is ticking on Cruise’s time as a movie action hero.

The two McQuarrie-directed M:I films (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible-Fallout) have been big hits. So it’s a natural studio Paramount could secure his services for two more movies. On top of everything else, McQuarrie and Cruise obviously get along.

Once upon a time, something similar was envisioned for the Bond series. John Logan was hired to write Bond 24 (later titled SPECTRE) and Bond 25. Skyfall director Sam Mendes, in a 2014 interview, said that he came back to helm SPECTRE after plans were ditched to do Bond 24 and 25 back to back. Star Daniel Craig had vetoed the idea.

Bond fans have a mixed reaction to this. There are the usual social media posts about Bond is superior, Bond is forever, Mission: Impossible will be done when Cruise is done, etc.

But there are also gibes (such as this one by the author of a Bond-related book) calling Cruise a “teeny man.” Cruise is listed at 5-foot-7 on IMDB.com while current 007 star Daniel Craig towers above him by an entire three inches, according to that same website. Craig is no runt but he’s definitely the shortest Bond in a series cast with tall actors.

(Historical note: Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon Productions, had his early successes as a producer after he and his then-partner Irving Allen signed 5-foot-6 1/4 Alan Ladd as a star.)

The M:I news hardly means the end of Bond. And nobody is seriously making that argument.

At the same time, M:I has been showing more energy (perhaps because of the aforementioned ticking clock). On the Bond side? It star, Craig, and lead producer, Barbara Broccoli, wanted to do other things after SPECTRE. “Everybody’s a bit tired,” Craig said during a 2016 appearance.

As I said at the beginning: The importance of all this is fuzzy. M:I will do what it has to do (with the “teeny man” having a BIG say). The Bond series will do what it wants to do. Unlike other franchises, Bond is not totally controlled by a studio and the one studio involved (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) a weak industry player.

McQuarrie to direct 2 M:I films back to back, Variety says

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Christopher McQuarrie has agreed to direct two more Mission: Impossible movies for Paramount, Variety reported and film them back to back,  citing people familiar with the situation it didn’t identify.

McQuarrie wrote and directed the last two installments in the Tom Cruise series, 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossibl-Fallout. Both were hits, with the latter addressing loose ends from previous M:I adventures.

The decision to film two films at once, with McQuarrie again writing and directing is  “to take advantage of the popularity of the series,” wrote Variety’s Justin Kroll. The first would be out in 2021, the second the following year, Variety said.

Cruise, who turns 57 in July, also is committed to the two movies, according to Variety.

In 2012, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced John Logan had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. The announcement occurred after the release of Skyfall, the first 007 film to generate $1 billion in global box office.

Star Daniel Craig vetoed the idea of making two Bond films back to back. Bond 24, later titled SPECTRE, came out in the fall of 2015. Bond 25 is scheduled to be released in February 2020.

Other franchises, though, have done back to back productions. Marvel Studios took that approach with Avengers: Infinity War, released in 2018, and Avengers: Endgame, scheduled for release this spring.

UPDATE Jan. 15: Both McQuarrie and Cruise confirmed the news on social media.

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Epilogue: Why MGM dumped its CEO

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

One of the oddities of the long hiatus between SPECTRE and Bond 25 was how Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer extended the contract of CEO Gary Barber in October 2017 and then got rid of him in early 2018.

MGM, of course, has been the home studio of the 007 film series since the company acquired United Artists in 1981.

The New Yorker on Dec. 27 came out with a lengthy profile of Mark Burnett. Formerly, he was a reality TV mogul whose company made Survivor and The Apprentice. The latter featured now-U.S. President Donald Trump and helped shape his image in the 21st century. (That’s the primary reason for the Burnett profile.)

MGM acquired Burnett’s company in 2015 to bolster its TV operations. Burnett now oversees those operations, both reality programs and scripted dramas such as The Handmaid’s Tale.

According to the profile, Burnett worked with Kevin Ulrich, MGM’s chairman, to have Barber “kicked off the island.”

Barber was interested in selling the studio—a move that Ulrich opposed. According to several sources, Burnett began cultivating Ulrich, inviting him to events and introducing him to celebrities. Then, last March, M-G-M’s board informed Barber that he had been fired; he had just signed a contract extension, so the studio would pay him two hundred and sixty million dollars to leave. Despite this payment, he was incensed.

The disagreement about strategy between Barber and Ulrich was reported earlier this year by The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Deadline: Hollywood. The New Yorker article provides some additional color.

“People who know Ulrich describe him as someone who relishes the flashy perquisites of Hollywood moguldom,” according to The New Yorker. “Whereas Barber liked to spend weekends quietly tending to the racehorses he owns, Ulrich liked going to parties and premières.”

MGM has yet to hire a replacement for Barber. Since Barber’s ouster, MGM has been run by a committee of executives. On the studio’s website, there’s a page featuring three key executives. One is Burnett. Another is his wife, Roma Downey,

There’s no business like show business.

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.

007 in New York: Bond exhibition announced

Skyfall’s poster image

A James Bond exhibition will be held in New York City some time in early 2019, according to an announcement posted on Eon Productions’ official 007 website.

The exhibition is being organized by Spyscape, a New York spy museum, Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. An excerpt from the short announcement:

The exhibition will be held at SPYSCAPE’s 60,000 square foot HQ in midtown. SPYSCAPE is open every day for would be secret agents to discover their Spy Role and receive their own personalised Spy Profile developed by top psychologists and a former Head of Training for British Intelligence.

Spyscape describes itself as providing “a fun and fascinating outing for friends and families…SPYSCAPE was developed by a world-class team of curators, designers, gamers, hackers, intelligence professionals, investigative journalists and psychologists – who all want to inspire you!”

Spyscape has set up a registration page “for early access to information and tickets for our new 007 exhibition & experience.” No information, for now, on precise dates.

UPDATE (1:50 p.m. New York time): Reader (and sometimes guest writer) Gert Waterink posted on Facebook there have been previous 007 exhibitions in New York. His example: A 1987 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art featuring donations from Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

UPDATE II (2:30 p.m. New York time): The Bond experience produced a video about Spyscape in April. Here it is.

MGM briefly mentions Bond 25 on investor call

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, during an investor call this week, briefly referenced Bond 25, mostly about the hiring of Cary Fukunaga as director.

“We wouldn’t be more excited about the creative direction of our next installment of our treasured evergreen franchise, Bond 25,” Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer, said in prepared remarks. MGM is “thrilled to add Cary’s versatility and innovation to the next James Bond adventure.”

Fukunaga’s hiring was announced in September. He got the job after Danny Boyle departed in August in the midst of Bond 25 pre-production. Fukunaga has directed both streaming television series and feature films. Brearton also referenced Bond 25’s release date being delayed to February 2020.

Other MGM subjects weren’t discussed. The company has been run by a committee of executives since Gary Barber was fired as CEO in March. There were no comments whether he’ll be replaced or not.

Also, MGM’s partner in a U.S. film distribution joint venture, Annapurna Pictures, has been hit with financial troubles. But Annapurna’s name didn’t come up. The joint venture is scheduled to release Bond 25 in the U.S. while Universal will distribute the film internationally.

There were no questions from investors on the call.

h/t @CorneelVf on Twitter for the heads up.

Epilogue: About that whole Danny Boyle thing

Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

In the 21st century, news cycles go faster than ever. So it is with the infatuation of Eon Productions with director Danny Boyle.

For much of 2018, the idea that Boyle may/would/wasn’t going to after all direct Bond 25 was big news among James Bond fans.

Now? Hardly anyone remembers all that. Danny who? Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

Despite that, Eon’s infatuation has had a huge impact on Bond 25.

In 2017, Eon had spent months developing a story by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But, as first reported by Deadline: Hollywood in February, Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge made a pitch that intrigued Eon.

Suddenly, the Pruvis & Wade story seemed expendable.

Three months later, Eon announced that Boyle was onboard and Hodge was writing the movie. Another three months later, Boyle is gone. So is Hodge.

That’s at least at least six months (if not more) of wasted effort. Fans were told in September 2018 that a new director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, had been hired.

Since then, Boyle has become as forgotten as Peter Morgan (hired to write what would eventually be Skyfall), or John Landis, Cary Bates and Anthony Burgess (among the scribes hired to write stories for what would become The Spy Who Loved Me).

As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, “What’s up with that?”

At the very least, it suggests Eon and its studio partners Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (who knows how long Annapurna Pictures will be part of the equation?) still care about prestige. Such as when Eon hired Morgan.

Nevertheless, with 20-20 hindsight, it’s clear that the le affaire de Boyle delayed the development of Bond 25.

Is this important? Actually, yes. With hindsight, the Boyle Affair provides insight to the state of the 007 film franchise. Will it all work out? We won’t know until February 2020.