A weird week (at least on the Internet) for SPECTRE

SPECTRE LOGO

This was an unusual week for SPECTRE. The marketing effort for the 24th James Bond film zigged one way but the Internet zagged in an entirely different direction.

The week began with a video blog showing behind-the-scenes footage during SPECTRE’s shoot in Mexico City back in March.

That’s understandable. The Mexico City sequence opens the film (the filmmakers have disclosed this, so it’s not a spoiler). It’s going to be expansive, so the short video sought to give the viewer an idea of that without giving any plot details away.

The Internet, however, refused to be gently guided in that direction. Bookmaker William Hill in the U.K. decided to alter its odds for the actor succeeds Daniel Craig as Bond. Craig said back in 2012 he was contracted for two films. That would mean he’s on board through Bond 25. That would indicate, there won’t be an actual vacancy until 2018 or so.

Nevertheless, the bookmaker moved actor Damian Lewis to 3-1, generating stories in familiar trade publications such as THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and VARIETY as well as outlets such as THE TELEGRAPH and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. Even The Atlantic, which normally analyzes weighty and serious matters, DID A STORY that used the William Hill news as a news peg to also examine whether the next 007 should be black.

Referring to SPECTRE star Daniel Craig and his blonde hair and Lewis and his red hair, The Atlantic story concluded, “Ten years removed from his casting, the fuss about Craig seems ridiculous, and it’s hard to imagine a public outcry if Lewis really did sign on to the franchise. “But the same can’t be said for what could happen if the producers defied change-averse Brits to make a truly bold casting decision.”

In any case, Indiewire took the whole thing a step further. It asked readers to PARTICIPATE IN A SURVEY about who should be Craig’s successor. (Indiewire calls it a poll, but it’s not. An actual poll employs statistical methods in selecting its sample of respondents. This is just click on whoever you want to be 007.) Anyway, there were turn out the vote efforts by fans of potential future Bonds.

It’s probably safe to assume the folks at Eon Productions and their studio partners at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures are real happy about this turn of events.

MGM and Sony are ponying up $300 million or more and, no doubt, would rather have the public concentrate on the upcoming SPECTRE due out in November than the next re-casting of Bond, whenever that occurs. In the 21st Century, the Internet sometimes has a way of not cooperating with movie marketing.

Kirk Kerkorian, mogul who affected 007 films, dies

Kirk Kerkorian

Kirk Kerkorian

Kirk Kerkorian, a business mogul whose ownership of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer affected the James Bond film series, died Monday night at 98, according to obituaries in THE NEW YORK TIMES and THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.

Kerkorian bought and sold MGM three times between 1969 and 2004, according to the Journal’s obit. During his first stint as MGM’s owner, the studio acquired United Artists in 1981.

UA was the original studio that released the James Bond films produced by Eon Productions. UA ended up controlling half the franchise when Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman sold out in 1975 because of personal financial problems.

Eon’s relationship with MGM wasn’t as close as the one it enjoyed with UA. For one thing, MGM always seemed to be in the middle of financial restructurings that adversely affected the 007 film series.

Ted Turner bought MGM in the mid-1980s, a deal financed with debt, and ended up selling the studio back to Kerkorian while Turner kept MGM’s film library for his cable networks. That library ended up with Time Warner, the parent company of Warner Bros., after it acquired Turner’s company in the 1990s.

Kerkorian sold MGM again in 1990, this time to Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti. Eon in 1991 filed a lawsuit, objecting to television rights sales for the Bond films conducted under Parretti.

The lawsuit was a major reason the six-year hiatus for 007 movies between 1989 and 1995. A settlement was reached in 1993 (CLICK HERE to view a UPI.com story with details).

Still, the hiatus was a contributing factor to the end of Timothy Dalton’s two-picture reign as 007.

John Calley, a new UA executive, reportedly wanted to replace Dalton. Dalton announced he was leaving the role, paving the way for Pierce Brosnan to start a four-picture run as Bond from 1995 to 2002.

Kerkorian became MGM’s owner yet again in 1996, purchasing the studio from Credit Lyonnais, which had seized MGM from Parretti after a loan default.

Kerkorian sold MGM one last time in 2005, this time to a group that included Sony. But the group’s finances crumbled and MGM went into bankruptcy in 2010, a factor in the four-year gap between Bond movies from 2008 to 2012. This time, however, Daniel Craig remained in place as Bond after MGM exited bankruptcy and 007 production resumed with 2012’s Skyfall.

Should 007 and Batman share the same cinema universe?

NOT an actual comic book cover

NOT an actual comic book cover

It was reported this week that Warner Bros. may be in a good position to replaced Sony Pictures as the studio that releases James Bond movies. That got some fans to wonder whether 007 and Batman (and Superman and the Justice League) could share the same cinema universe.

Necessary background: 007’s home studio is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But, after emerging from bankruptcy, it’s a relatively small company and cuts deals with other studios to release its films.

Sony Pictures’ current two-picture deal with MGM for Bond expires once SPECTRE is released in November. Sony wants to strike a new deal, but the studio knows it’ll have competition for post-SPECTRE 007 projects.

Variety reported Warner Bros. is a leading contender because its executives have a good relationship with MGM’s top executive, Gary Barber.

Anyway, on THE SPY COMMAND’S FACEBOOK PAGE, a reader asked if Warners really does secure the 007 releasing deal whether Bond could be included in a planned two-part Warner Bros. Justice League movie, even if it’s just a cameo.

For the uninitiated, the Justice League is a group of DC Comics heroes, headed by Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. DC Comics has long been part of Warners’ parent company and the comic book company now is actually part of the studio. Next year’s Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice will help set up the even bigger Justice League project.

It seems like a stretch that Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-bosses of Eon Productions, would go along with such a concept. In AN INTERVIEW WITH COMING SOON.NET, Broccoli and Wilson did not warm up to the idea of Bond sharing a fictional universe with any other character.

Q: The notion of cinematic shared universes are increasingly popular in Hollywood these days. Any chance of seeing the Bond franchise go after something like that?

Broccoli: I think Bond lives in his own universe. I don’t think he wants to share it with anyone else.

Wilson: Like Bond and Mission: Impossible? I think that’s the stuff for comic books. More power to them.

Beyond the Eon leadership, there’s the question of 007 fans.

It’s hard to know how many, but — via Internet message boards and social media outlets — there are a lot of vocal 007 fans critical about “comic book movies.” For these fans, Bond is above that sort of thing. For them, “comic book movies” are glorified cartoons. Except, of course, when director Sam Mendes acknowledged that The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, INFLUENCED 2012’s SKYFALL.

Humility is not part of the 007 fan’s DNA. Bond is the best. Any other spy entertainment that has been created since 1962 is merely a “James Bond knockoff.” Bond in the same universe as Batman and Superman, even if it came via a cameo? Untold billions of brain cells around the world would explode.

Meanwhile, a note about the illustration with this post. It APPEARED ON THIS WEBSITE. The actual cover The Brave and The Bold No. 110 LOOKED LIKE THIS.

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

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