Eon’s new normal: Update

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

This isn’t your father’s James Bond film franchise.

Hire a new director? Great! Except, Cary Fukunaga has to deal with a new television project at more or less the same time.

Got your leading man back on board? Great! Except he began filming a movie just a month (or so) before the latest Bond movie originally was to start filming. Thankfully (from the actor’s standpoint, anyway) the Bond film got delayed until March.

Your latest James Bond film project moving ahead? Great! Except we have to get our latest non-007 project (The Rhythm Section) out of the way first.

When Eon Productions started operations, the idea was to make 007 films every year with other project in between. That lasted as far as 1963 (Dr. No, Call Me, Bwana, From Russia With Love).

Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman went off and did non-007 films (the Harry Palmer series, Battle of Britain) on his own. Albert R. Broccoli, the other co-founder, did one more non-007 project (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) while devoting the rest of his life to the Bond film series.

Saltzman, of course, is long gone, having sold his interest in the mid 1970s. Broccoli, before he died in 1996, yielded control to his daughter (Barbara Broccoli) and stepson (Michael G. Wilson).

Now, the main figures of the Bond series juggle 007 among their various projects. Fukunaga, hired in September to direct Bond 25, is only the latest. Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have been doing it for years. Writer John Logan juggled various enterprises in 2013 and 2014 before delivering a first draft for SPECTRE.

One reader of the blog pointed out on Twitter that Marvel Studios directors Joe and Anthony Russo are cutting deals for future projects even while the untitled Avengers 4 is in post-production.

That’s true enough. Still, by 2019, the Russos will have directed four movies (Captain America: Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4) in five years for Marvel. During that same period, there will have been just one James Bond film (SPECTRE).

In the 21st century, the 007 film series is like Paul Masson wine. No wine (or film) before its time.

Bond 25 may decide Barbara Broccoli’s legacy

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

For Barbara Broccoli, Bond 25 may determine her career legacy.

Broccoli has produced a number of plays and non-Bond films. But being in the driver’s seat of the 007 film series will outweigh that.

Put another way: Her eventual obit will NOT have a headline of “Barbara Broccoli, producer of plays and dramas, dies.” It will read (more or less), “Barbara Broccoli, James Bond producer, dies.”

For the record, Broccoli, 58, is co-leader of Eon Productions with her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, 76. In official Eon press releases, Wilson’s name is first, hers second. And, since 1995’s GoldenEye, the title card reads, “Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.”

However, the Dec. 1, 2014 press event for SPECTRE made clear it was Broccoli was now in the lead position. Wilson wasn’t present. He would show up at later SPECTRE press events.

Nevertheless, the December 2014 event cemented a narrative that Broccoli, daughter of Albert R. and Dana Broccoli, was the lead figure of the franchise. For example, there’s this April 20, 2017 New York Times story that had this passage:

“…Barbara Broccoli, who runs Eon Productions. Moviemaking is a collaborative process, but Ms. Broccoli and her older half brother, Michael G. Wilson, have final say over every line of dialogue, casting decision, stunt sequence, marketing tie-in, TV ad, poster and billboard.”

Note The Times listed Broccoli first, Wilson second, the reverse of their title cards on 007 films.

However, that control doesn’t extend to financing. Eon has never financed its own movies. Others have always paid the bills. United Artists carried that responsibility in the early years. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after it acquired UA in 1981.

MGM financial problems caused the longest hiatus in the 007 film series, 1989-95. An MGM bankruptcy was a major issue in the 2008-2012 gap.

The gap between 2015’s SPECTRE and 2020’s Bond 25 will be the second-longest in the history of the franchise. This time, though, MGM financial issues aren’t a reason. Both Broccoli and her preferred leading man, Craig, wanted a break. They took one from Bond while pursuing other projects.

“There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at during an October 2016 event sponsored by The New Yorker. “The producers are just…Barbara (Broccoli) is making a movie. I’m doing (the play) Othello, Barbara’s producing that.”

Contributing to the current gap was how Eon this year pursued Danny Boyle as a director for Bond 25. This occurred after long-time 007 screenwriters delivered a Bond 25 treatment, according to multiple media reports. But Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, supposedly pitch a spectacular idea that Eon wanted. On May 25, Eon said that version was full speed ahead. On Aug. 21, Boyle was gone because of “creative differences.”

Now, a new director (and writer), Cary Joji Fukunaga, has come aboard. “We are delighted to be working with Cary,” according a quote attributed to both Wilson and Broccoli in a press release. “His versatility and innovation make him an excellent choice for our next James Bond adventure,”

(Reminder: Press release quotes are written by those charged with drafting the statement. The principals then approve the quotes or suggest/demand changes. In this case, it’s unlikely either Broccoli or Wilson actually said this. That’s not unique to Eon. It’s true of virtually every corporate press release.)

The thing is, if Bond 25 proves an outstanding entry in the series and/or is a huge financial success, none of this will matter much. Pro-Broccoli fans will say, “I told you so!” The worst-case scenario, likely, is a popular film that fans have second thoughts about (like SPECTRE).

Nevertheless, Broccoli’s legacy does have a lot riding on Bond 25. Her chosen Bond, Craig, will have an unprecedented run as Bond (albeit one with delays).

Nothing succeeds like success. A combination critical and popular success (similar to or exceeding 2013’s Skyfall) will cause most to forget the various bumps. For Barbara Broccoli, a spectacular Bond 25 would put her at the front of the line to take credit.

No pressure.

Bond 25 questions: The “Mr. Obvious” edition

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who is known for getting 007 film scoops correct, finally weighed in and said that director Danny Boyle departed Bond 25 because Eon Productions wanted to bring in a new writer to replace his man, John Hodge.

As a result, the blog has a series of “Mr. Obvious” questions.

Did Boyle and Hodge do their due diligence before signing on for Bond 25? The 007 film franchise has a history of bringing in multiple writers to massage scripts.

In the early days, Richard Maibaum replaced Johanna Harwood and Len Deighton on From Russia With Love. Paul Dehn replaced Maibaum on Goldfinger. Tom Mankiewicz replaced Maibaum on Diamonds Are Forever.

More recently? Well, this decade, John Logan replaced Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on Skyfall. Purvis and Wade were summoned to replace Logan on SPECTRE. On both films, Jez Butterworth did work (but only getting a credit on SPECTRE).

Assuming Bamigboye is correct, neither Boyle nor Hodge should have been surprised when Eon wanted a new scribe. Hell’s bells, Maibaum dealt with that sort of thing over 13 separate 007 films.

Did Eon Productions do its due diligence before bringing on Boyle and Hodge? In 2017, Eon hired Purvis and Wade do the script for Bond 25. But that work got cast aside when the possibility arose of getting Boyle as director. But Boyle wanted his man, Hodge, to write it.

Boyle has a reputation for doing unique films and Hodge is one of his main collaborators. So you’ve got to figure they have a certain way of working.

Yes, Boyle said he was a James Bond fan. Everybody (especially if they’re British) says they’re a James Bond fan when they hire on to work for Eon. But did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson really think through whether Boyle could adapt to working for Eon?

What role does Daniel Craig have in all this? Bamigboye’s story said Craig was a key figure in wanting a new writer to take over from Hodge. But is that really a big deal?

Before the cameras rolled on Goldfinger, Sean Connery objected to some of Paul Dehn’s ideas (such as ending the moving with “curtains” being drawn). The 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger goes into this in detail.

Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever, described a meeting he had with Connery. The star weighed on various issues, according to the screenwriter. So it’s not unprecedented for stars of Bond films to let their opinions be known. Granted, Craig had a co-producer title on SPECTRE, something Connery never got when he toiled for Eon.

Producers wanted to replace Hodge as B25 writer, Baz says

Bond 25 producers wanted to replace John Hodge as the film’s writer, which precipitated Danny Boyle’s exit as director, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in a column.

Boyle “quit when Daniel Craig and fellow producers insisted on replacing screenwriter John Hodge,” Bamigboye said.

Bamigboyle has a record of 007 scoops being proven as correct during the lead up to Skyfall and SPECTRE. However, the scribe was away from the action last week when Boyle’s departure for “creative differences” was announced.

The Daily Mail item didn’t identify the other producers. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions are the producers of record, Craig, star of the last four 007 films, received a co-producer credit for SPECTRE. Last week’s Boyle announcement carried all three of their names.

Boyle and Hodge pitched an idea for Bond 25 that Eon bit on. That caused the producers to set aside another script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade the duo worked on last year. Hodge then wrote a script incorporating his pitch with Boyle.

The entertainment reporter only wrote a short Bond 25 item.

Bamigboye said producers are under “a lot of pressure” to find a replacement for Boyle. The column said a replacement needs to be “prepared to be ruled over by Mr Craig.”

“Several studio sound-stages were booked for the picture,” Bamigboye also wrote. “Problem is: do they hang on to them, or give them up?”

State of the 007 film franchise summer 2018

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

The James Bond film franchise is either experiencing an unusual run of bad luck or it it’s adrift and taking in water.

Either way, there was an omen on Aug. 21. Omega released an image of tuxedo-clad 007 star Daniel Craig, mostly underwater but promoting an Omega watch. A few hours later, Eon Productions announced that director Danny Boyle had exited Bond 25 because of “creative differences.”

It was the latest in a series of whipsawing developments with the 25th James Bond film produced by Eon.

For a long time after the release of 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon was quiet amid speculation that Craig wouldn’t be back. Finally, in July 2017, it said it had retained veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to write Bond 25.

This after the duo said writing Bond films were very hard in the 21st century. “I’m just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now.” Purvis said in a January 2017 interview with The Telegraph.

In August 2017, Craig announced on CBS’s The Late Show that he was, indeed, coming back.

Yet, as 2017 ended, no real word on how things were going. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a Hollywood Reporter podcast that Purvis and Wade were hard at work.

Until, a few months later, when Danny Boyle and his screenwriter, John Hodge, became the 007 flavor of the month. The duo pitched an idea. Hodge began writing. If his script was deemed acceptable by Eon, that would be Bond 25’s new direction.

On May 25, the Eon brain trust, doing its best Jean-Luc Picard imitation, proclaimed: “Make it so!” Boyle was now the official director and Hodge the new writer. Good-bye, Purvis and Wade.

Less than three months later? No so fast. The Boyle was lanced. No word on Hodge’s script, based on the supposedly spectacular idea Boyle and Hodge pitched.

What happens next? Your guess is as good as mine. Eon seemed to love working with “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster and Sam Mendes. Boyle’s hiring (however brief) seemed a natural.

The bigger question: Does Eon really know what it wants to do with Bond?

Both Broccoli and Craig clearly wanted a break from Bondage after SPECTRE. They both went about various projects, including a stage production of Othello where Craig appeared and Broccoli was a producer.

The break is over. Aside from keeping Craig in the Bond role, what does Broccoli have in mind? Eon has burned through three writers from 2017 through the present.

Will the next installment be helmed by another “auteur” director? If so, how long does it take to find a Boyle replacement?

At the very least, Bond 25’s announced fall 2019 release date looks shaky. Eon had a bad experience trying to make Quantum of Solace on an accelerated schedule. Does Eon have the stomach to try to find a new director fast? Or should it take a deep breath and start over?

Eon, of course, has business partners it must consider. Universal now does the international distribution. A joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures is distributing the movie in the United States.

More broadly, the movie business is in the midst of great change, under pressure from streaming services such as Netflix.

Bond is a franchise that has enjoyed enormous longevity. It still generates interest worldwide.

But continued longevity isn’t automatic. At the very least, the 007 film franchise faces renewed uncertainty.

Bond 25 questions: The panic button edition

Some 007 fans reaction to the latest Bond 25 news

James Bond director Danny Boyle, we hardly knew ye. Like a comet, the possibility of the Trainspotting director helming Bond 25 lit up the sky, only to dissipate into the vacuum of space.

Boyle’s departure was the subject of a very brief announcement by Eon Productions. The blog has few answers, but as usual it loads up on the questions.

What happened? The only stated reason was “creative difference,” an often-used description when a project hits a major bump.

In some ways, Boyle was an odd match. Yes, he directed a 007-themed video with Daniel Craig for the 2012 Olympics in London. But Boyle is known for lean productions. Eon is used to mounting hugely expensive ones with long shooting schedules.

On the other hand, Eon has been enamored of “auteur” directors such as Sam Mendes and Marc Forster. Mendes, in particular, seemed to get just about everything he wanted during production of Skyfall and SPECTRE. Boyle’s hiring appeared to fit that pattern.

What happens to the script? Boyle’s hiring was just as director. He and writer John Hodge (who scripted Trainspotting) had pitched an idea. Boyle’s participation depended whether a script Hodge wrote based on that idea would be accepted by Eon.

It was. Eon tossed out a script by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

So does a new director (whenever he or she is hired) work with Hodge’s script? Does the new director want to start over? Could Purvis and Wade get called back yet again with either their rejected script or to rewrite Hodge’s work?

What about the start of Bond 25 production? It was supposed to start Dec. 3. You’d think that’s questionable. On the other hand, directors can get hired in a hurry.

Could they bring Sam Mendes to direct a third 007 film? Don’t even think it.

What about Bond 25’s release date? That likely will depend on the answer to the question about starting production.

Is Daniel Craig being promoted to producer? Craig shared the title of co-producer with two others in SPECTRE. The announcement about Boyle’s departure cited Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson as well as Craig in disclosing the development. Will Craig share the Bond 25 producer’s credit with Broccoli and Wilson?

Danny Boyle no longer directing Bond 25

Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle is no longer directing Bond 25, Eon Productions said in a very short statement:

Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig today announced that due to creative differences Danny Boyle has decided to no longer direct Bond 25.

Some things of note:

–The prominence of Daniel Craig’s name. He was one of three co-producers for 2015’s SPECTRE. Has he been promoted to share the Bond 25 producer’s credit with Broccoli and Wilson?

–No mention of how this affects the Bond 25 schedule. In late May, Eon said Bond 25 would start filming on Dec. 3.

–Creative differences has long been used in the movie business to explain away things when a production hits a major snag.