Bond 25 questions: The NTTD script edition

No Time to Die poster

United Artists Releasing, as part of its push to get No Time to Die as many awards as possible. had posted online a PDF of the movie’s final script.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What was the name of Bond’s boat in Jamaica?

Happenstance. That would appear to evoke a passage from the Goldfinger novel.

Goldfinger said, ‘Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago. “Once is Happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”‘

Admittedly, it slipped by me that Bond’s boat was named Happenstance. Did No Time to Die have boats named Coincidence and Enemy Action?

How does the script describe Bond’s life in Jamaica?

Here’s how:

EXT. DECK – BOND’S HOUSE -DAY

He visibly relaxed, walking at an island pace. A Bond we’ve never seen before.

How does the script introduce Paloma (Ana De Armas)?

Like this:

Bond sees a woman in an elegant BLUE DRESS leaning against the counter sipping a drink: PALOMA

Bond approaches, ready for flirtatious banter. She looks up —

BOND

Paloma?

PALOMA

You’re late. Vamos

How does the script describe Bond’s death?

EXT. ROOF OF OLD CONTROL ROOM

Bond arrives at the roof. He has a view to the water and Madeline’s island in the distance. INTERCUT with Madeline.

BOND

Madeline. You have made the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. She’s perfect because she came from you.

MADELINE

Oh God! The vial. You’ve been poisoned?

(snip)

Long contrails of smoke streak from the distance to dozens of white points of light, moving faster and faster toward him.

The missiles break into clusters as they spread for maximum effect. Bond knows he has only milliseconds. He seems to find peace. Breathes in deeply, finding some quiet before —

A massive wave of explosions ripple towards Bond in a strobing and flashing cloud of light.

United Artists Releasing makes a NTTD script available

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis. (Paul Baack illustration)

United Artists Releasing, which distributed No Time to Die in the U.S., has made a version of the movie’s script available as part of a push to get awards for the Bond film.

UAR has put a PDF of the script online. It’s described as a final script. That suggests it reflects the final version of the movie seen in theaters, pay-per-view, and home video.

As a result, there are likely no clues as to which writers (the credited Neal Purvis and Robert Wade team, director Cary Fukunaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as well as the uncredited Scott Z. Burns) contributed what.

Still, for those who collect Bond scripts, there are interesting tidbits in the stage directions.

For example, there is this passage when the movie switches from a young Madeline Swann to an adult one.

EXT. GROTTO ON THE SEA, ITALY – DAY

SOUNDS OF OCEAN WAVES CRASHING

Madeline breaks the surface of the water as if Safin was pulling her out –

She gasps but is frozen — opens her eyes, he is gone. It was just a vision.

BOND stands like Adonis on a lido overlooking the sea. She turns, feeling his eyes on her.

BOND

You okay?

Madeline smiles, burying the past trauma. She’s been dealing with this for years.

United Artists Releasing is a joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, and Annapurna Pictures.

Footnote to Fleming’s involvement with U.N.C.L.E.

Last week, an artifact of Ian Fleming’s involvement in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. showed up on social media.

It was a copy of a November 1964 article in the Daily Mail with a headline of “FLEMING’S LAST CASE: The Man From UNCLE versus The Girl From THRUSH.”

An excerpt:

Mr. (Napoleon) Solo was the last creation of Ian Fleming before he died. You will see Napoleon Solo when a new TV series called The Man From UNCLE comes to Britain next year. Mr. Solo, I predict, will soon have a following. Not perhaps quite as large as Agent 007 but satisfying enough. I like him.

What’s interesting about the article is how earlier in 1964, attorneys for Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman sent a cease and desist letter to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (where the U.N.C.L.E series was produced).

That led to legal negotiations. The result was the TV series being retitled The Man From U.N.C.L.E. instead of Solo (also the name of one of the gangsters in Goldfinger), as originally planned. At one point, MGM issued a press release saying Ian Fleming had nothing to do with the TV show. The text of both the cease-and-desist letter and the MGM press release can be FOUND HERE.

The Daily Mail story contains an amusing gaffe. It identifies the “Girl From THRUSH” as actress Anne Francis. It was really actress Janine Gray (b. 1940). The Daily Mail also used a severely cropped image of Gray from her appearance in an U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Deadly Games Affair. Here’s the full image:

Broccoli: No steps toward selecting new Bond

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli spoke to The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast in an episode posted this week. The Eon Productions boss celebrated Daniel Craig’s long run as James Bond and again said she’s not in a hurry to pick his sucessor.

“To be honest, we’re not looking right now. We’re not in the conversation right now,” she said toward the end of a 30-minute interview. “We are living in the present moment and it’s a joyful moment, it’s a celebratory moment. We’re celebrating Daniel’s extraordinary achievement over 16 years.”

“We want to live in this moment for as long as possible and really applaud Daniel and really enjoy it. At some point later, we’ll sit down and think about the future. Right now, I want to live in the present and it’s a very happy place to be right now.”

The podcast also featured an interview with Craig of about an hour.

No Time to Die was released last year following five delays, three related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 25th Bond film made by Eon had a global theatrical run of $774 million and is now available on home video.

Bond’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, last year agreed to be acquired by Amazon for $8.45 billion. That deal hasn’t closed yet. It’s uncertain whether Amazon will make major changes at MGM. Broccoli has repeatedly said she’s not interested in streaming show spinoffs related to Bond.

Bond 25 questions: Final box office edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film, has more or less reached the end of its theatrical release. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What are the final numbers? It’s not final, but it appears No Time to Die will come in globally at No. 2 among non-Chinese movies ($774 million) while No. 007 in the U.S. ($160.8 million), behind Spider-Man No Way Home, Shang-Chi, and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Black Widow, F9: The Fast Saga, and Eternals.

Behind the Eternals? Really? Eternals was commonly viewed as a weak entry (box office wise) since Marvel began making its own movies with 2008’s Iron Man. But, yes, Eternals came a bit ahead, in the U.S., of No Time to Die.

How do you explain the difference for No Time to Die globally vs. the U.S.?

Beats me.

Eon Productions, for years (at least since 2015), says it controls the marketing of Bond films and studios merely execute those plans.

Since at least 1997, Eon talking points include how women characters in Bond newer films are much stronger than characters in classic Bond films. (Honey Rider, Tatiana Romonva, Pussy Galore, Domino, et. al.)

By now, it’s routine for Bond actresses to proclaim their characters are much stronger than earlier Bond women characters.

In 2012, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli told The Evening Standard, ““Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over.”

More recently, No Time to Die director Cary Funkunaga said the Sean Connery version of Bond was “basically” a rapist.

Also, Daniel Craig, in the midst of a 15-year as Bond, said the character was a misogynist. (Definition: “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.”) When your star calls the character he’s playing that way, it’s hard to argue the point.

That’s especially true when Barbara Broccoli considers Craig the best Bond ever.

Is it time to revamp U.S. Bond film marketing in the U.S.?

Perhaps. Until now, nobody has ever called Eon on its U.S. marketing strategy.

Does anything change in the future?

We’ll see once Amazon completes its acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. Maybe there will be changes. Maybe not.

About genre movies fighting for Oscars love

No Time to Die poster

Studios are in the midst of their blitz to get some love from the Oscars. And that includes lobbying efforts for genre movies to gain some recognition.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, has been lobbying for No Time to Die to get awards while the ultimate goal is the Oscars. Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios are moving to get Spider-Man No Way Home some Oscar love.

Once upon a time, popular movies did pretty well at the Oscars. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), a Cecil B. DeMille schlockfest *won* the Best Picture Oscar. I like Greatest Show but there’s no denying the schlock factor.

Star Wars (1977) was nominated for Best Picture. The movie won Oscars for art direction and score among other awards but fell short of actually winning Best Picture.

In more recent decades, it’s been hard for genre movies to get a lot of Oscar recognition outside of technical awards. There were some exceptions such as Best Actor awards for The Dark Knight (2008) and The Joker (2019). Ironically, both actors involved (Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix) played different versions of the same character.

It’s kind of tough to get Oscar love for playing a hero in a genre movie.

One big exception was Black Panther (2018), a Marvel film that was a big hit while highlighting a Black cast. It got a Best Picture nomination and won a few Oscars, including best score.

All of which brings us to the current situation. MGM is pushing a bit of everything, including star Daniel Craig, director Cary Fukunaga, the writing team and, of course, Best Picture.

Meanwhile, Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman (who said he hates Spider-Man No Way Home) presented a somewhat cynical reason why the academy should nominate the comic book movie anyway.

 If you want an Academy Awards telecast that wins more eyeballs than it loses, you’re going to have to nominate some of the movies that win eyeballs. I don’t disagree with that argument, and in a sense it’s the one I’m making. But this isn’t simply about numbers. It’s about a perception that drives the numbers. Sure, if “No Way Home” gets nominated, a swath of its vast fan base might tune into the Oscars that wouldn’t have otherwise. But what I’m really talking about is the essential idea that movies are, and always have been, a populist art form. If that dimension of cinema isn’t respected, something has gone wrong.

We’ll see how this turns out. The Bond films went almost 50 years between Oscars wins (special effects for Thunderball and two awards for Skyfall). Skyfall got five nominations and won two. But the Bond series has never been nominated for acting or directing.

As for Spider-Man No Way Home? Who knows? Actors and directors love to dump on comic book-based movies but a number of stars have signed on comic book-based movies.

Bond questions: The New Year edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Happy New Year! You would think things would be quiet on the James Bond front at least in early 2022. But there are signs things might not be that quiet.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What’s the top priority for the Bond film franchise?

Seeing whether Amazon’s $8.45 billion acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is completed.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions. have been lobbying on behalf of two current MGM film executives, Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy. The fate of De Luca and Abdy likely won’t be known until Amazon finishes the deal.

What’s more, the Eon duo has repeatedly said they’re not interested in Bond streaming spinoffs.

Former Bond Daniel Craig joined in the public lobbying via an interview with The Sun.

Once Amazon takes possession of MGM, we go from hypothetical to the very real. Amazon runs Amazon Prime, one of the leading streaming services. It also has Amazon Studios. Does Amazon merge MGM into Amazon Studios? Or does Amazon maintain MGM as a separate operation like Marvel and Pixar at Walt Disney Co.?

Finally, the search for a new actor to replace Daniel Craig can’t really get very far until the issues above are addressed.

What happens if regulators don’t permit the Amazon acquisition to go through?

MGM possibly goes into crisis mode. Bond’s home studio had been working toward a sale for years. For MGM, everything goes back to square one. That type of uncertainty isn’t good for the orderly development of Bond 26.

What happens if the Amazon deal gets completed?

Wilson and Broccoli familiarize themselves, yet again, with a new set of executives. Eon has done this for 40 years, ever since MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio.

Much of the public lobbying Wilson and Broccoli have done is laying the groundwork for subsequent behind-closed-doors meetings. That’s where many issues will be hashed out.

Things like the 60th anniversary of the Bond film franchise will probably have to wait.

Ralph Fiennes rips off a SPECTRE scab

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes caused a stir with comments on a podcast about how he successfully resisted attempts during production of SPECTRE to turn his M into a villain.

“I had to fight off an attempt by (Skyfall and SPECTRE director) Sam (Mendes) in SPECTRE…I don’t want to play M and then you turn around make M the bad guy. M is never the bad guy….I had to have some pretty intense discussions with Sam.”

The key excerpt is below:

The thing is all of this became known in 2014 with the hacking at Sony, which distributed Skyfall and SPECTRE. What makes it of interest is Fiennes talking about it. Eventually, a new character, dubbed C, became the traitor.

The 2014 hacks also revealed that, at the same time, Tanner would also be revealed to be a traitor. He would commit suicide while Bond observed. At least two SPECTRE script drafts, including one with an Irma Bunt henchwoman (a major character in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), leaked out.

Fiennes’ comments draw attention to a volatile time.

Pre-production of SPECTRE (then known as Bond 24) had been well underway when, on Nov. 15, 2013, it was announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq/Eon had reached an agreement with the estate of Kevin McClory. As a result of the pact, MGM and Danjaq/Eon now firmly held the rights to Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE.

One way to go would be to put Blofeld and SPECTRE in a drawer for use later. Instead, Blofeld and SPECTRE were shoehorned into Bond 24.

All of a sudden, everything was up for grabs. In Fiennes case, he put his foot down and the notion of M as a traitor passed.

All of this had been mostly forgotten until the actor’s recent comments. All of this reflects Eon’s “we’ll make it up as we go along” approach. Example: At a 2011 press conference, Mendes said Skyfall had nothing to do with Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

When SPECTRE rolled around, lo and behold, Skyfall villain Silva was really part of SPECTRE. It would be as if Goldfinger had been part of SPECTRE in 1964. (He wasn’t.)

So it goes.

Bond questions: 2022 (and beyond?)

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There are still a few weeks before the end of the year. Still, the natural temptation is to shut things down sooner than later.

Questions about the future of the James Bond film franchise remain. Of course, the blog has questions.

When will we know the next Bond film actor?

Fans tend to expect major announcements on Oct. 5 (when Dr. No debuted in 1962). Sometimes it works out that way, sometimes not. Don’t assume one way or the other.

What should we look out for?

Amazon agreed earlier this year to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. That deal hasn’t closed yet. Assuming it passes regulatory review, the acquisition might change things.

How?

That remains to be seen. Amazon has agreed to spend $8.45 billion (cash and assumption of MGM debt). You don’t spend that kind of money to leave things exactly as they’ve been.

Any signs of tension?

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has done multiple interviews where she and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson say they aren’t interested in Bond spinoffs. (Even though Wilson was deeply involved in the 1990s James Bond Jr. cartoon show.)

It appears to have to look of Eon drawing a line in the sand. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Still, on the surface, something seems to be up.

Anything else?

Eon has said repeatedly that 2021 was the year of celebrating the end of Daniel’s Craig’s 15-year run as Bond.

However, Craig’s theatrical run is ending. We’re into the No Time to Die digital release. We’re within days of DVD/Blu Ray/other physical media release.

A new era of Bond is on the horizon. It will begin sooner than later.

Broccoli & Wilson say (yet again) no Bond spinoffs

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions have, yet again, said they’re not interested in television spinoffs of the James Bond film franchise.

The half-siblings spoke to the entertainment news website, The Wrap.

“From our point of view, we try to focus on making good James Bond pictures and that takes a lot of time and thought — it takes a couple of years working on the script with a director,” Wilson told The Wrap. “If we had to make a TV series on top of that and put that same amount of energy into 10 or 20 hours of content, that’s a big commitment. So, we’d have to delegate. And we’ve been very reluctant to delegate.”

“We’re not a factory,” Barbara Broccoli told the website. “Our movies are all hand-made. We’ve always been a family business and it will remain a family business, so long as we keep breathing.”

Eon previously was involved with the syndicated cartoon series James Bond Jr. in the 1990s. Wilson shared a “developed by” credit on that show. The cartoon featured Bond’s nephew who encountered classic Bond villains as well as new adversaries. It was produced during the 1989-1995 hiatus in Eon’s film series.

The home studio of the Bond series is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It has agreed to be acquired by Amazon for $8.45 billion. The deal still is under regulatory review.