Bond 25 questions: The coronavirus delay edition

Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond

James Bond defeated the likes of Dr. No, Rosa Klebb, Auric Goldfinger, Blofeld, et. al. But even 007 had to retreat in the face of a potential pandemic with the delay of No Time to Die pushed back to November.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What happened? The coronavirus (technical name COVID-19). It surfaced in China at the end of 2019. It spread to Japan, South Korea, Italy, and other nations. There have now been deaths in the U.S. from the disease.

Why is that such a big deal? COVID-19, at this point, is very contagious. It also is more potent than normal seasonal flu.

Seasonal flu has a death rate of between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent. The new coronavirus had been estimated at 2 percent. The World Health Organization then raised it to 3.4 percent. But that’s a moving target, subject to revision as more data becomes available. The 1918 “Spanish flu” had a death rate of about 2.5 percent. It killed between 20 million and 50 million globally.

Is there a broader context? Yes. Theaters in China have been closed for weeks. Coronavirus outbreaks in Europe have had results, including the cancellation of this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Some countries are cracking down on events with mass gatherings in an effort to cut back on spread of the disease. Many major companies are eliminating travel for employees for now.

How did No Time to Die get involved? The 25th James Bond film’s Beijing premiere was canceled a while back. So was a publicity tour in China, South Korea and Japan.

Earlier this week, the MI6 James Bond website and The James Bond Dossier published an open letter urging Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (the international distributor) to delay the movie’s March 31 premiere. The letter noted that major markets for Bond films already had been affected by the coronavirus, with more impact to come.

The open letter went viral. Over the next two days, a number of outlets wrote about the open letter, beginning with The Hollywood Reporter. Others include the BBC, Variety, IndieWire, The Guardian, Daily Mail, and Uproxx among others.

Chances are Eon, MGM and Universal were already thinking about it. But the global reaction to the open letter had to be a factor.

What happens next? Presumably the publicity build-up goes on hold and we’ll come back to it later.

For what it’s worth, Bond films since 1995’s GoldenEye have been released in either November or December. No Time to Die  is back in that part of the calendar. But the delay does cement the 2015-2020 gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die as the second-longest in the history of the Eon series.

No Time to Die delayed to November because of coronavirus

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

The release of No Time to Die was delayed until November because of the coronavirus, it was announced today.

“MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, announced today that after careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace, the release of NO TIME TO DIE will be postponed until November 2020,” according to a tweet on the official Eon 007 account on Twitter.

In a follow-up tweet, it was specified the U.K. release was now Nov. 12, 2020 while the U.S. release will be on Nov. 25.

The move comes amid the spread of the disease, with governments moving to clamp down on places where large numbers of people gather.

Movie theaters in China have been closed for weeks. There have been outbreaks in Europe that resulted in the closing of the Louvre museum in Paris and the cancelation of this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

The 25th James Bond film had been set to premiere on March 31 in London, with an April 2 release. The U.S. release had been set for April 10.

Earlier this week, the MI6 James Bond website and The James Bond Dossier had published an open letter to Eon and the studios urging them to delay the film’s release. The open letter was then picked up in a number of outlets including The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, IndieWire and others.

Here’s the first tweet:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

NTTD roundup: Add to music team, running time questions

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Here’s a quick roundup of No Time to Die developments:

Music team adds a recruit: Musician Johnny Marr will work with Hans Zimmer on the No Time to Die score, NME reported, citing comments from Marr.

“Part of the legacy of the Bond films is iconic music, so I’m very happy to be bringing my guitar to No Time to Die,” Marr told NME.

Marr has worked with Zimmer on previous films, including Inception, where Marr was a guitarist and Amazing Spider-Man 2, where Marr contributed to the score along with Zimmer.

A three-hour Bond? The MI6 James Bond website examined recent developments that may (or may not) point to the 25th James Bond film having a running time of almost three hours.

@ImAFilmEditor tweeted back on Dec. 4 that No Time to Die may end up being the longest Bond film but there weren’t any details beyond that. He reminded people of that in a Jan. 16 tweet.

This week, @antovolk did some more detective work. He provided caveats that the movie is still in post production and that a final running time isn’t locked down.

Bond films during the Daniel Craig era have tended toward longer running times, except for 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which had a 106-minute running time. SPECTRE’s running time was 148 minutes, the longest so far for the film series.

Billie Eilish will perform, co-write NTTD’s title song

Billie Eilish photo that was included in Eon announcement

Billie Eilish will perform and co-write the title song for No Time to Die, Eon Productions said on its official Twitter account.

The song’s other co-writer is her brother, Finneas O’Connell, who performs under the name Finneas, according to the announcement.

Eilish’s Twitter account also had an announcement but it didn’t mention her brother’s participation in writing the song. Finneas O’Conell had his own comment on Instagram.

Prior to the announcement, Eilish had earlier posted images of Bond actresses on the story portion of her Instagram account.  The MI6 James Bond website reported Jan. 12 that Eilish, 18, would perform the song, becoming the youngest singer of a Bond title song.

Earlier in the morning, Variety ran a story concerning whether Eilish would be retained as title song performer. It included this analysis of how Eilish compares with previous Bond song performers.

If true, the choice of Eilish would be a dramatic change of direction for the legendary franchise’s long history of theme-song performers, which have progressed from Shirley Bassey to Paul McCartney and Duran Duran over the decades. More recent films have featured younger artists like Adele — who sang the smash hit “Skyfall” — and Sam Smith, both of whom, while contemporary artists in their 20s, are both British and create more adult-leaning music than Eilish: Her music is innovative and enormously popular, but her audience skews much younger than those artists’.

Eon yesterday announced that Hans Zimmer will do the score for the 25th James Bond film.

No Time to Die will continue a pattern where the title song is done separately from the score. A Bond film composer hasn’t been involved with a Bond title song since 2006’s Casino Royale, when David Arnold collaborated with Chris Cornell.

About the buzz over a Bond title song performer

John Barry (1933-2011)

Whenever a new James Bond is being made, there’s a lot of interest in who will be doing the title song. On Sunday, the MI6 James Bond website reported that American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, 18, will have the honors.

While unconfirmed, naturally fans are commenting about it. Calvin Dyson, who runs an entertaining YouTube channel centered on Bond asked the following in a tweet.

Reacting to news that Billie Eilish is likely doing the #NoTimeToDie theme do you:

A: Feel good about it
B: Acknowledge she isn’t really for you but reserve judgement until release
C: Grumble “Never heard of her” for 3 months
D: Froth at the mouth that it’s not Shirley Bassey

For me, the answer is none of the above. Just a personal reaction, but for a while now Bond title songs have been more part of the marketing but tacked on to the films themselves.

It wasn’t always that way. John Barry’s first Bond score was From Russia With Love. He didn’t write the title song (Lionel Bart did). But Barry incorporated it into his score with different arrangements, tempos and orchestrations.

Of course, once Barry started writing Bond title songs with Goldfinger, he layered them into the scores — sometimes quietly, sometimes with a loud, brassy sound. In the case of Thunderball, Barry incorporated two songs: Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (written first but rejected) and Thunderball.

Barry wasn’t around for Live And Let Die. Paul and Linda McCartney wrote the title song. George Martin, who had helped McCartney produce the song and who negotiated with producer Harry Saltzman, did the score. Martin incorporated instrumental versions of the song into his score. Other Bond composers, such as Marvin Hamlisch and Bill Conti, also worked the title songs they helped write into their scores.

In other words, the song was more than just something performed for the titles. A title song became part of the movie itself, playing a role in establishing mood and emotion.

Things change. One reason Barry finally walked away from the series for good was he would not be allowed to write the title song for Tomorrow Never Dies. He’d already been away from Bond for a decade. That was simply the last straw.

The last time a title song got the Barry treatment was “You Know My Name” for 2006’s Casino Royale. David Arnold, composer for the score, collaborated with performer Chris Cornell on writing the song.

In the 2010s, both Skyfall and “Writing’s on the Wall” from SPECTRE won Oscars for best song. Instrumental versions appear in the two movie scores but, to my ear, seem placed because that’s what’s expected.

Nothing stays the same. John Barry died in 2011. David Arnold, who updated the Barry/Bond music template, hasn’t worked on the series since 2008.

The new title song, whoever writes and performs it, may be great. It may be OK. It may be mediocre. There’s no way to know until it’s released.

But, speaking only for myself, I find hard to get excited about it. Your mileage may vary.

A look back at the blog’s other media appearances

2019 was an interesting year for the blog because of appearances on podcasts and one YouTube video. So what follows are some highlights. Thanks to all involved for having me on.

James Bond & Friends logo

James Bond & Friends podcast: This is a podcast produced by the MI6 James Bond website and MI6 Confidential magazine. It debuted in March and I was on some episodes.

Part of the format is the title of an episode is based on the often freewheeling conversation among participants. During recording, I’m often not sure what the title of an episode will be until it’s out.

I ended up contributing a few titles including these:

Episode 0012: Cai-Cai-Cairo (May 20): The episode’s main topic was how unused parts of Bond screenplays show up in later films. The title is from the pre-titles sequence of Diamonds Are Forever where the dialogue and lip movements didn’t quite match.

Episode 0013: The Peeing Dog (May 28): Somewhere in the conversation (which primarily was about how perception of Bond films can change over the years), I referenced the dog that’s urinating in the middle of a frame during Thunderball’s Junkanoo sequence.

Episode 0016: Powered by Explodium (July 3): The episode primarily explored “defending the indefensible.” But the title referred to the apparent power source for the hotel in the middle of nowhere featured in Quantum of Solace.

Other highlights for me (where I had nothing to do with the title) included Episode 0029 Survey Says, based on the game show Family Feud. I blew the climatic question that lost my team the game.

Also, Episode 0024 Freddy’s Got a Cold was pretty fun. That episode had suggestions for alternate takes on James Bond songs. The idea was to put together something similar to David Arnold’s 1990s album Shaken and Stirred.

My suggestions were offbeat: Tony Bennett singing Goldfinger (similar to the arrangement Anthony Newley once performed) and Hugh Jackman performing Thunderball.

Spybrary podcast logo

Spybrary: Spybrary is for fans of spy books and movies. Host Shane Whaley interviewed me in a July 31 episode. We discussed Bond films and novels, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Mission: Impossible and Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm novels.

I discovered what it’s like to host a podcast in a Nov. 23 episode of Spybrary that provided an overview about The Man From From U.N.C.L.E. The other participants were academic Cynthia Walker and Robert Short, a film industry professional and long-time U.N.C.L.E. fan. He has the distinction of appearing in both an U.N.C.L.E. episode and a James Bond movie (Diamonds Are Forever in an out-of-focus way).

Hosting a podcast is harder than it sounds. You have to recruit guests and then keep an eye on the clock during recording. Shane Whaley was on hand to handle production, which was a big help.

Being James Bond: The podcast hosted and produced by Joseph Darlington interviewed me for an Oct. 11 episode. We covered a lot of ground about Bond, the blog and the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website.

The Bond Experience: David Zaritsky, host of the YouTube channel, asked me to discuss how James Bond marketing has evolved. The video was posted Oct. 27 and is embedded below.

Bond 25 questions: The trailer edition

No Time to Die logo

h/t @CorneelVF for a tweet that got me thinking about this.

James Bond fans may finally get to see the first trailer for No Time to Die next week. Naturally, the blog has some questions.

Is this the teaser trailer we heard about back in August?

In August, the James Bond & Friends podcast referenced a rough cut, or preliminary version, of a teaser trailer for No Time to Die.

However, a finished version of that trailer — whatever it contained — has yet to be shown. Meanwhile, the MI6 James Bond website, which produces James Bond & Friends, reported this week the trailer will go online Dec. 4 or 5, depending on what time zone you’re in.

If that comes to be, will this be the same trailer? Or will it be different?

What makes you ask that?

In August, there was still a lot to be be filmed. In late August, filming began in Matera, Italy, involving replica Aston Martin DB5s and other vehicles in a car chase. That got a lot of exposure thanks to tourists taking smartphone videos.

What’s more, filming ended in late October. So there is a lot of footage available to update the trailer — if the filmmakers decide to do so. At this point, there’s no way to know for sure.

Do you think we’ll really see a trailer (updated or not)?

Walt Disney Television, which owns ABC, put out a press release about guests who will be appearing on Good Morning America next week.

On Dec. 4, No Time to Die’s Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Lea Seydoux and director Cary Fukunaga are listed as scheduled guests. It would appear to be a natural their appearance would come at the same time as the trailer.

Also, in late April, there was a segment about the movie on Good Morning America. Anyway, we’ll see how it plays out next week.