SPECTRE: What could have been

SPECTRE LOGO

No plot spoilers for the actual movie. If you think nothing should be written based on the Sony hack, stop reading now. No further warnings.

Now that WikiLeaks has set up a searchable index of hacked Sony documents, pretty much anybody with patience and an Internet connection can check out the pre-production of SPECTRE.

The Bleeding Cool website PUBLISHED A LONG POST based on the WiliLeaks material that contained a lot of spoilers and ideas considered, but rejected, for the movie. There have been other stories, SUCH AS THIS ONE concerning details of product placement deals.

The following doesn’t concern what’s in the movie — but could have had things gone differently.

October 2013, a SPECTRE outline arrives: Sony executives are mostly enthusiastic. There are multiple references to “love” this or “great hook” are among the responses.

“Love the idea that their is a mole in MI-6 and it turns out to be Tanner,” reads one of the reactions from the Sony camp.

Hard-core Bond fans — especially those who like Ian Fleming’s novels — might beg to differ. Bill Tanner, M’s chief of staff, was a friend to Bond in Fleming’s novels. In The Man With The Golden Gun book, Tanner asks M if he plans to bring charges against a brainwashed Bond for trying to kill him.

In the Golden Gun novel, when M informs Tanner he plans to send Bond on a suicide mission — to take out the novel’s title character — the chief of staff responds, “You coldhearted bastard!”

March 2014, first draft is delivered: There’s a more mixed reaction. Executives comment at events on various pages, while some visuals get praised.

Tanner is still a traitor. The villain, at this point, is an African, Joseph Ki-Embu, who uses a familiar Bond villain name as an alias. Felix Leiter, Bond’s CIA agent friend, also is in the mix.

May 2014: Amy Pascal, at the time one of Sony’s top movie executives, types up some reactions, including page-by-page notes.

Highlights: Bond is “rejected by two women by page 30.” Bond lets Tanner commit suicide on page 91. On page 122, Leiter calls Moneypenny a “foxy lady.”

Late June 2014: BAZ BAMIGBOYE OF THE DAILY MAIL reports that veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been brought back to rewrite the script by John Logan.

Jonathan Glickman, an executive of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which controls half of the 007 franchise, sends an e-mail to Sony executives. “Who spills the beans on this? P and W’s agents?” He’s also not happy with some John Cleese quotes in the Daily Mail story.

August 2014: There’s a debate because SPECTRE director “Sam Mendes is thinking about shooting 3 sequences in IMAX, a la (director Christopher) Nolan on Batman and Interstellar.” This will add $7 million to the movie’s budget. The same month, it’s decided that won’t happen. The three sequences will be shot “with full aperture, spherical lenses v. the rest of the pic which is anamorphic.”

The spoiler debate: the sequel

"I understand Rhett Butler doesn't give a damn."

“I understand Rhett Butler doesn’t give a damn.”

On March 6, we ran a post ABOUT DEBATES AMONG FANS WHAT CONSTITUTES A SPOILER. It turns out some fans are even more sensitive than we described.

We had a spoiler-free post (as in no plot details were disclosed) about the implications related to Eon Production, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures trying to maximize filming incentives from a government for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

The post included what government — Mexico — was involved. The disclosure that SPECTRE was going to film in Mexico was MADE IN THE DEC. 4 PRESS RELEASE JUST AHEAD OF THE START OF FILMING. An excerpt:

The 007 production will be based at Pinewood Studios, and on location in London, Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Bond will return to the snow once again, this time in Sölden, along with other Austrian locations, Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee.

On Facebook, we got a complaint that “having read it on that basis I now know the name of a country associated with the movie I didn’t know before…”

Here’s the deal. This blog really does try to be reasonable about spoilers. Potential spoilers are labeled as such. If anything, this blog errs on the side of the spoiler adverse when it comes to warnings.

But, when the spoiler adverse complain about information already disclosed in an official press release, that’s too much. If you’re that spoiler adverse, you should not just stay away from this blog. You should stay off the Internet.

SPECTRE: newest twist on 007 product placement

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers.

James Bond movies have never been shy about product placement. SPECTRE may just be a twist on a long-standing tradition.

For decades, the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions has cut deals with companies pitching their wares. Goldfinger did deals with Ford Motor Co. and Gillette. With Thunderball, not only did Ford provide vehicles but then-CEO Henry Ford II appeared as an extra. Moonraker had deals with Marlboro, 7 Up and British Airways.

By the time Pierce Brosnan was 007 (1995-2002), writer Bruce Feirstein, in his FIRST DRAFT for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, didn’t even specify a car model for 007’s vehicle. It just said “(Insert name).”

What’s different about SPECTRE is it may amount to being product placement for a country — Mexico, to be specific — than a series of companies.

The Tax Analysts website, which is targeted at tax professionals, PUBLISHED A MARCH 3 ARTICLE detailing how SPECTRE’s script was altered to take advantage of as much as $20 million in Mexican incentives. (If you click on the link, there are spoilers.)

The incentives are intended to make Mexico look as good as possible in movies, according to the website. The country has reason to do so, according to AN ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST. Here’s an excerpt:

The Mexican government’s sensitivities to its violent reputation are no secret. When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012, he tried to minimize the focus on the drug war while emphasizing economic and political reforms. But ongoing high-profile violence, including battles in Michoacan and the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, has undercut that message.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. For blockbuster movies, access to the vast Chinese market is a must. The 2013 movie Iron Man 3 was a co-production with China. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn turned the villains into North Koreans instead of Chinese.

With SPECTRE, according to Tax Analysts, it was more of a direct subsidy. SPECTRE’s budget may exceed $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made.

Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that owns half the Bond franchise, emerged from bankruptcy only a few years ago. It doesn’t even release its own movies, cutting deals with Sony Pictures (including the 007 films) or Warner Bros. (the now-completed Hobbit series). For MGM, $300 million is a huge bet, even for a 007 film and even though the most recent Bond movie (Skyfall) had a worldwide box office of $1.1 billion.

Put another way, $300 million is real money. Some Bond fans may get annoyed with product placement but they don’t have to sign the checks. As a result, it’s understandable why MGM would be willing to change SPECTRE’s story in return for millions of dollars.

Blast from the past: The Spy Who Loved Me (1975)

Bond collector Gary Firuta forwarded the following trade advertisement dated May 1975 in a publication called Cinema TV Today. It’s for The Spy Who Loved Me.

Of interest is that Harry Saltzman is still onboard at Eon Productions along with Albert R. Broccoli. Both are listed as presenting the movie. Also, at the time of the advertisement, Guy Hamilton was still slated to be director — with a 1976 release date.

Finally, in the 1975 ad, it says, “Ian Fleming’s The Spy Who Loved Me.” In the film, it said Roger Moore was playing “Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 in The Spy Who Loved Me.” The final film with “Ian Fleming’s” affixed to the title was Moonraker.

There would be many twists and turns between this advertisement and the release of the movie in the summer of 1977. The biggest twist would be Saltzman’s exit from Eon, selling out his interest to United Artists, a development that still affects the franchise today. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer picked up UA’s interest in 007 when it acquired UA in 1981. Hamilton would also exit the project, to be replaced by Lewis Gilbert.

UPDATE: Back in September 2011, we had a post about THE ORIGINAL POSTER for The Spy Who Loved Me and how it differed from the final version.

SPY - AD CINEMA 1975

Amy Pascal steps down at Sony

sonylogo

Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment, is leaving the studio to be a producer at the studio, THE HUFFINGTON POST REPORTED, citing a Sony statement.

Pascal will take her new position in May, the website reported.

Confidential e-mails by Pascal and other documents — including a draft of the script of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film — were made public last year by hackers. Some of the emails included Pascal making critical comments of actors and racially insensitive remarks about U.S. President Barack Obama.

Sony has released 007 films since 2006’s Casino Royale. Pascal has worked closely with Eon Productions, which makes the Bond films, and has been viewed as an ally of Barbara Broccoli, Eon’s co-boss.

In some of the hacked emails, Pascal sides with Broccoli about SPECTRE’s $300 million-plus budget, the CNN/Money website reported last year. Separately, the Daily Beast last year reported that Pascal suggested Idris Elba be the next Bond after Daniel Craig.

Sony’s contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to release Bond movies ends with SPECTRE.

UPDATE: The announcement confirmed a DAILY MAIL STORY that was posted earlier today.

Idris Elba praises Daniel Craig as 007

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

Ever since computer hacks at Sony Pictures turned up an executive’s memo saying Idris Elba should be the next film 007, the actor keeps getting asked about it. Elba keeps trying to play it down.

For example, there’s THIS JAN. 28 BLOOMBERG STORY, which contains this excerpt:

“It’s really just a rumor—and it’s not even my rumor!” he says via phone from Germany. He has called me, an auto journalist, because the luxury brand Jaguar recently hired him to drive from London to Berlin in its new XE diesel sedan, the one that gets 75 miles per gallon. He drove it to DJ a Jaguar-sponsored party the night of his arrival in Berlin.

It was a well-timed publicity stunt. While it is true that Elba has long followed car culture—his father worked for years at Ford, and Land Rovers and a Jaguar XJR are his current cars of choice—the drive comes right after revelations from the Sony hack revealed that Elba was being considered for the title role in the next 007 flick.

For the moment, Elba says he is focusing on his life as a DJ.

“I appreciate you saying that I’d be a good James Bond, but Daniel Craig is doing a great job with it right now,” he says. 
”I love working with music, making people dance.”

The Sony executive involved was Amy Pascal. “Idris should be the next bond (sic),” she wrote in a Jan. 4, 2014 email, reported by The Daily Beast website. She’s dealt with Bond since Sony released 2006’s Casino Royale. Sony’s current agreement with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expires after the release of SPECTRE, coming out this fall. Meanwhile, Craig is under contract through Bond 25.

1984: Kevin McClory’s SPECTRE

Kevin McClory ad in Variety in 1984.

Kevin McClory ad in Variety in 1984.

In 1984, a year after Never Say Never Again had arrived in theaters, Kevin McClory was already trying to kick start another James Bond film project not affiliated with Eon Productions.

Bond collector Gary Firuta sent us along the accompanying ad from Variety, the entertainment trade publication.

It says that Paradise Film Productions III had acquired “to license or sell certain James Bond film properties including S.P.E.C.T.R.E.” The ad goes on to say, “Bids will be considered shortly.”

McClory had an executive producer credit on 1983’s Never Say Never Again. He and producer Jack Schwartzman shared the “presents” vanity credit, similar to the Eon’s 007 series where producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman “presented” the film (with Broccoli the sole presenter after Saltzman sold off his interest in the enterprise).

Never Say Never Again got made because Sean Connery, who had starred in six Eon 007 films, was willing to come back to play Bond. But that was a one-time deal.

Still, McClory wasn’t done with Bond and would spend more than a decade trying to launch yet another Bond film adventure. Eventually, Eon (and Danjaq LLC) would best McClory in court. In 2013, Eon, Danjaq and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would settle with McClory’s estate to get back the rights to SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The current Eon 007 film, SPECTRE, is now in production.

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