Questions about that 007 film universe rumor…

Barbara Broccoli

The rumor that Eon Productions has caught “Universe Fever” referenced by Jeff Sneider, editor in chief of Tracking Board,  generates a few questions.

To be clear, this post isn’t an endorsement of the idea. The source of the rumor is vague and unclear. These are questions raised by the rumor itself.

Bond movies are coming out at irregular intervals. How do you add output of additional 007 characters?

Since 1999, Bond movies have come out at intervals of three years, four years, two years, four years and three years. Right now, it’s up in the air whether the interval between 2015’s SPECTRE and Bond 25 will be three years or four years.

Part of this has involved financial instability at 007’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. MGM went through a bankruptcy in 2010. It emerged as a smaller company, without its own film distribution operation.

However, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli has also stepped up production of non-Bond movies such as The Silent Storm and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

How would Eon add film production of, say, other 00-agents, or Felix Leiter or Moneypenny? From the outside, it appears production of Bond movies themselves are a handful.

Does MGM have the resources to produce a film universe?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (which began “Universe Fever”) is part of Walt Disney Co. The DC Extended Universe is part of Warner Bros. MGM, meanwhile, is a relative small fry.

Remember, while Eon makes Bond movies, MGM and its partners actually pay the bills.

The last four Bond movies have been released by Sony Pictures. Currently MGM has no studio partner to release Bond 25.

If a 007 film universe becomes a reality, would Eon change the way it does business?

Eon is like a big family company. To get a 007 film universe going, would it have to bring in new creative blood?

For example, would you bring in additional creative talent to help get these other movies going? Or is giving additional duties to, say, Gregg Wilson (son of Eon’s Michael G. Wilson) sufficient? Gregg Wilson was credited as assistant producer on Quantum of Solace and associate producer on Skyfall and SPECTRE.

If you were to launch a 007 film universe, do you do it before or after Daniel Craig leaves the role?

Craig, 49, was announced as the film Bond in 2005. Do you do this now or wait until he moves on?

 

Caveat Emptor: New rumor Eon wants a 007 ‘universe’

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Jeff Sneider, editor-in-chief of The Tracking Board entertainment news website, publicized a rumor that Eon Productions wants a James Bond film “universe.”

“I’ve heard the Broccolis have caught Universe Fever and would love to explore other corners of the Bond franchise… simultaneously,” Sneider wrote in a June 23 post on Twitter.

It was part of an exchange with another Twitter user.

No other details were provided in the exchange.

Previously, Eon developed a script featuring Jinx, the U.S. spy character played by Halle Berry in 2002’s Die Another Day. But nothing came of that would-be project.

Also, during the 1989-1995 James Bond film hiatus, there was a James Bond Jr. cartoon show (where James Bond Jr. was Bond’s nephew).

However, “Universe Fever” has become a thing since Marvel Studios began establishing its shared universe of characters beginning with 2008’s Iron Man.

Today, that’s formally known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warner Bros. has counted with the DC Extended Universe. Universal is using The Mummy, released earlier this month, to launch its Dark Universe of monsters.

There have been 007-related continuation novels and comic books exploring young James Bond, Moneypenny and Felix Leiter.

However, is Eon prepared to crank out a film 007 universe?

The Bond pictures, in part because of financial issues at home studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, have come out at irregular intervals. MGM needs other studios to release Bond movies and currently doesn’t have a partner for Bond 25.

Eon has branched out into other films, but they tend to be small dramas such as The Silent Storm and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

Something to ponder for the future. Meanwhile, you can view Sneider’s tweet for yourself.

 

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Our Bond 25 primer

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

We’re almost halfway through 2017. Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding Bond 25 (whenever it comes out).

Ultimately, Eon Productions doesn’t spend its money; it spends *other people’s* money

Eon Productions doesn’t finance James Bond movies. Studios finance the films.

Eon may incur some upfront costs, such as scripts. But once a studio (or studios) approves it, Eon gets paid back.

Back in the day, Albert R. Broccoli and his then-partner Irving Allen financed The Trials of Oscar Wilde. It was a financial disaster. Broccoli never attempted that again. United Artists, later Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, later MGM and partner studios, paid the 007 bills.

You can’t distribute a movie until somebody can actually do so

Right now, there is nobody to actually distribute a James Bond movie.

MGM (which controls the 007 franchise with Eon) doesn’t have a worldwide distribution operation following its 2010 bankruptcy.

The last four Bond films have been distributed by Sony Pictures. But, at the moment, Sony has no contract to do another.

The New York Times reported two months ago that Sony and four other studios want to snag the next Bond production deal. But until a deal is actually struck that’s so much pish posh.

Movies with budgets of $200 million or more don’t get into gear with a snap of the fingers

There are 007 fans who believe (probably more as a matter of faith than fact) Eon has a crew and cast ready to go. Right now. This moment. As if a 2018 release for Bond 25 is a certainty, the same way the sun raising in the East is a certainty.

It doesn’t work that way. No matter how strong the faith.

It has been more than three months since Baz Bamigboye reported in the Daily Mail that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been signed to cook up a Bond 25 story.

Even if Purvis and Wade had a first-draft script right now things would only be starting. John Logan had a first-draft script for SPECTRE in March 2014. The movie didn’t begin filming until December 2014. And that only happened after Purvis and Wade were summoned back by Eon to revamp Logan’s script.

If you want to believe Bond 25 is just around the corner, go right ahead. Here at the blog, we’ll watch to see how things develop. If there’s a sudden surge of actual news, the blog will write about it.

A few Bond 25-related questions

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 hasn’t been in the news lately. We have no news to offer, but we do have some questions.

Has Purity gone into production yet? That’s the 20-episode series for Showtime where Daniel Craig is a star and an executive producer.

It’s still listed as being in “pre-production” on the actor’s IMDB.COM PAGE.

If that’s the case (and IMDB.com has occasional accuracy issues) then it’s going to be a while before Craig would be available to play James Bond again.

To film 20 episodes could easily take six months (that’s a little more than a week of filming per episode). And we’re almost to the mid-point of 2017.

UPDATE (June 21): Reader Bond on the Box points to a May 23 Variety story about the Becoming Bond television show about George Lazenby as providing a sign that Purity is in production. It quotes a “a gaffer on Craig’s new Showtime series ‘Purity’” about Craig.

How’s that Bond 25 writing going? In March, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired to develop a Bond 25 story.

That was never officially verified. However, Bamigboye had a number of scoops about Skyfall and SPECTRE that were proven correct. So that March story caught the attention of a lot of fans.

More than three months have passed. Do they have a first draft? (Color this blog skeptical.) Maybe a treatment? Or are all involved still throwing out ideas to see which ones stick?

How’s that search for a Bond 25 distributor going? In April, The New York Times reported five studios were trying to cut a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to distribute Bond 25.

The five: Sony Pictures (which has released the last four 007 films),  Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox and upstart Annapurna. The latter is a movie production company that’s about to release its first film, Detroit, a drama about the 1967 race riots in that city, in August.

Since then? No word.

For now, there have been reminders of the Bond franchise’s proud past, including last month’s death of Roger Moore and this month’s 50th anniversary of You Only Live Twice. The future remains to be seen.

About the Roger Moore 007 double feature

Blofeld menaces 007 at the start of For Your Eyes Only

The blog went to a showing of the double feature of The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only.

The most obvious reaction was it was great to see both in a movie theater for the first time in years. Even with giant TV sets, there is something about the theater experience that can’t be matched.

A few other things:

–In Spy, there were a few shots that seemed fuzzy, almost like a picture that had been blown up too large. For example, there was a shot of Bond and Anya approaching Atlantis when Bond is posing as a marine biologist. But when the next interior shot took place, the focus was sharp.

To be clear, this was not a major problem but was noticeable now and then. This problem wasn’t in the version of For Your Eyes Only at the same theater.

–Eyes’ sound was outstanding. The movie was originally recorded in Dolby so perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. But there were cases (such as Blofeld/sort-of Blofeld electrocuting a helicopter pilot in his employ) where you could almost feel fillings in your teeth being rattled.

–Both movies began with the newest Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer logo (present since Skyfall) followed by a United Artists logo. The version of Spy seen by the blog had the original United Artists logo from 1977, referencing how UA was owned by Transamerica Corp.

The double feature showings, held today and on May 31, benefited UNICEF. Roger Moore, who died last month, was an ambassador for UNICEF since 1991.

2 Roger Moore 007 films return to theaters

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only will return to theaters starting May 31 as a tribute to star Roger Moore, who died this week.

Half of the ticket proceeds will go to UNICEF, according to a statement by Park Circus. Moore had been a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF since 1991.

Park Circus distributes titles in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer library. MGM also put out the same statement, which was posted on the official Roger Moore feed on Twitter.

Here’s an excerpt of the statement:

 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM), Park Circus and EON Productions are pleased to announce a series of special screenings in memory of Sir Roger Moore, to take place at cinemas across the world including: ODEON Cinemas (UK), AMC Theatres (U.S.) and HOYTS (Australia, New Zealand), beginning 31 May 2017. Additional locations to be announced soon.

The Spy Who Loved Me, released in 1977, re-energized the film series following the breakup of the producing team of Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. It was nominated for three Oscars.

For Your Eyes Only, released in 1981, brought Bond back to Earth following 1979’s Moonraker, an extravagant film that sent 007 into space. Eyes included substantial material from two Ian Fleming short stories.

Broken record: MGM has nothing to say about Bond 25

MGM had more to say about Steve Harvey’s Funderdome than it did about Bond 25

Yes, it does sound like a broken record. But once again, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, had nothing to say about Bond 25.

The company released its first-quarter financial results on May 16. MGM commented about completing the rest of the Epix premium channel it didn’t own. It talked about various TV projects, including Steve Havey’s Funderdome, a reality television series for MGM. And updates about various movie remakes, including Tomb Raider and Death Wish.

But no mention about Bond 25, part of the film series which once upon a time was MGM’s major financial asset.

Instead, CEO Gary Barber said the mini-studio has an “increasingly diversified base of earnings” because of the Epix deal.

“This is an exciting time for MGM,” Barber said at the conclusion of an investor call.

Last month, The New York Times said MGM was entertaining offers from five studios to release Bond 25. Barber neither addressed the story nor received any questions about Bond 25 or any related 007 topics.