Broccoli, Wilson receive British medals

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson today received Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) medals at Buckingham Palace.

According to a U.K. website, the medal is for “a conspicuous leading role in regional affairs through achievement or service to the community, or a highly distinguished, innovative contribution in his or her area of activity.”

The Eon producers received the Order of the British Empire in 2008, according to the Daily Mail. They have been in charge of the James Bond film franchise starting with 1995’s GoldenEye.

Here was the announcement from Eon’s James Bond feed on Twitter.

Broccoli, Wilson to receive BFI award

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions “are set to receive the BFI Fellowship, the top honor from the British Film Institute,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

An excerpt from the article:

The BFI said it was recognizing the pair’s “extraordinary achievements and enormous contribution to cinema, with arguably the best loved and most enduring film franchise in the world — James Bond — celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.” The two will receive the fellowship at the BFI Chair’s Dinner, hosted by BFI Chair Tim Richards, on June 28 in London.

Wilson turned 80 earlier this year. He has spent the past 50 years in full-time service in the Bond film franchise.

Broccoli, who turns 62 on June 18, has spent 40 years in full-time service for the Bond film franchise. Barbara Broccoli worked part-time in the 1970s writing captions for publicity stills for The Spy Who Loved Me.

Die Another Day’s 20th: Eon discovers CGI is hard

Die Another Day’s gunbarrel, complete with CGI bullet

Adapted from a 2017 post.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Die Another Day, the James Bond film where Eon Productions decided to go all-in on computer-generated imagery.

Eon had dabbled with CGI before, including the title designs of Daniel Kleinman who had taken over for the late Maurice Binder.

But Die Another Day was another matter entirely. First up was a CGI bullet fired at the audience by Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in the opening gunbarrel sequence. Evidently, Bond was a better shot than anyone knew. He was able to fire a bullet into the barrel of another person’s gun.

Later, U.S. operative Jinx (Halle Berry) supposedly dives backward into the ocean from a cliff — supposedly being the operative word.

There was also an Aston Martin that could turn invisible. For Bond, it helped that the thugs of villain Gustav Graves didn’t notice the tracks the invisible car was putting in the snow.

But, of course, the movie’s most famously bad use of CGI came as Brosnan/Bond surfs to avoid being swallowed up by a tidal wave. Much of the sequence looks like a mediocre video game with insert shots of Brosnan gamely trying to sell the audience he’s actually concerned about the proceedings.

Director Lee Tamahori was a big enthusiast of what digital imagery would bring to the table of the 20th James Bond film.

The “manipulations” enabled by CGI “are endless and effortless,” Tamahori said. “The high-end action sequences that are done for real are still going to exist.” The rest, he said, might move into entirely digital effects. These comments were once on the Haphazard Stuff website but have since been yanked.

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day

Tamahori was indeed correct that digital effects would become more prominent in future Bond movies. Safety cables for stunt performers can be hidden, for example. Also, mice can be created and rail cars can be added to trains. (For the latter two examples, CLICK HERE for a post about CGI use in 2015’s SPECTRE.)

Unfortunately for Die Another Day, the director and production company found out CGI is hard. Better execution of CGI in a Bond would movie would have to wait for another day.

Poor CGI wasn’t the movie’s only problem. For the first time, Eon decided to make a big deal about a 007 film anniversary (2002 being the series’ 40th anniversary). Tamahori & Co. opted to put all sorts of Bond film references that tended to distract from the film’s plot. Look, a set based on a Ken Adam set from Diamonds Are Forever! Look, there’s the Thunderball jet pack! Look, there’s the same electronic noise that accompanied the Dr. No gunbarrel! Look, there’s a Union Jack parachute! And on, and on, and on, and….

At the same time, Die Another Day proved to be the end of the line for Pierce Brosnan.

When the film was released, Brosnan said during talk show appearances that Eon wanted him back for a fifth Bond film and he was looking forward to it. Two years later, Brosnan got a telephone call from Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson informing the actor that his services were no longer required.

Brosnan was the last Bond chosen by Albert R. Broccoli. “The kids” were about to pick their own.

Tomorrow Never Dies’s 25th: Jigsaw puzzle

Tomorrow Never Dies poster

Adapted from a 2017 post.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Tomorrow Never Dies, a jigsaw puzzle of a production.

Just when the pieces seemed to be coming together one way, they had to be disassembled and put together another.

That condition certainly applied to the script. Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli initially employed Donald E. Westlake. That effort was dropped.

Next up, Bruce Feirstein, who had penned the later drafts of GoldenEye, started a new storyline. Other scribes worked on the project before Feirstein returned, doing rewrites on the fly while filming was underway.

Locations ended up being a puzzle as well. Much of the story was set in Vietnam. But the Asian country abruptly revoked permission to film there. The Eon Productions crew had to quickly go to Thailand as a substitute.

The score from composer David Arnold would also be a jigsaw puzzle. The newcomer scored the movie in thirds. (He explained the process in detail in an audio interview with journalist Jon Burlingame that was released on a later expanded soundtrack release.) There would be next to no time for normal post-production work.

Principal photography didn’t begin until April 1, 1997, and production would extend into early September for a movie slated to open just before Christmas.

It was star Pierce Brosnan’s second turn as 007. In the documentary Everything or Nothing, he said his Bond films other than GoldenEye were all a blur. That blur began with this production.

Also, during the film’s buildup, the publicity machine emphasized how Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin, a Chinese agent, was Bond’s equal. This wasn’t exactly a new development. Barbara Bach’s Agent Triple-X in The Spy Who Loved Me was “his equal in every way,” according to that movie’s director, Lewis Gilbert. Nor would Tomorrow Never Dies be the last time “Bond’s equal” would come up in marketing.

In some ways, Tomorrow Never Dies was the end of an era.

It was the last opportunity to have John Barry return to score a Bond film. He declined when told he wouldn’t be permitted to write the title song. That opened up the door for Arnold, who’d score the next four 007 movies.

This would also be the final time a Bond movie was released theatrically under the United Artists banner. UA was a division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1997. Two years later, MGM decided to release The World is Not Enough under its own name.

The movie, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, generated global box office of $339.5 million. That was lower than GoldenEye’s $356.4 million. Still, it was more than ample to keep the series, and its Brosnan era, going.

The Spy Who Loved Me’s 45th: 007 rolls with the punches

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

Adapted from a 2017 post.

The Spy Who Loved Me, which debuted 45 years ago, showed the cinema 007 was more than capable of rolling with the punches.

Global box office for the previous series entry, The Man With the Golden Gun, plunged almost 40 percent from Live And Let Die, the debut for star Roger Moore. For a time, things got worse from there.

The partnership between 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, unsteady for years, ruptured. Eventually, Saltzman was bought out by United Artists, leaving Broccoli in command. But that was hardly the end of difficulties.

Kevin McClory re-entered the picture. He had agreed not to make a Bond movie with his Thunderball rights for a decade. That period expired and McClory wanted to get back into the Bond market. Eventually, court fights permitted Broccoli’s effort for the 10th James Bond movie to proceed while McClory couldn’t mount a competing effort.

But that still wasn’t the end of it. Numerous writers (among them, Anthony Burgess; Cary Bates, then a writer for Superman comic books; future Animal House director John Landis; and Stirling Silliphant) tried their hand at crafting a new 007 tale.

Finally, a script credited to Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum, with uncredited rewriting by Tom Mankiewicz, emerged.

Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct his fifth Bond movie but left the project. That paved the way for the return of Lewis Gilbert, who helmed You Only Live Twice a decade earlier. It was Gilbert who brought Christopher Wood to work on the script.

The final film would resemble Twice. Spy had a tanker that swallowed up submarines where Twice had an “intruder missile” that swallowed up U.S. and Soviet spacecraft.

With Saltzman gone, Cubby made his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, a key player in the production. Wilson was already on the Eon Productions payroll and was involved in the negotiations that saw Saltzman’s departure.

For Spy, Wilson’s official credit was “special assistant to producer” and it was in small type in the main titles. However, that downplayed Wilson’s role. An early version of Spy’s movie poster listed Wilson, but not production designer Ken Adam, whose name had been included in the posters for Twice and Diamonds Are Forever.

UA, now in possession of Saltzman’s former stake in the franchise, doubled down, almost doubling the $7 million budget of Golden Gun.

In the end, it all worked. Bond shrugged off all the blows.

Spy generated $185.4 million in worldwide box office in the summer of 1977, the highest-grossing 007 film up to that point. (Although its $46.8 million in U.S. ticket sales still trailed Thunderball’s $63.6 million.)

Roger Moore, making his third Bond movie, would later (in Inside The Spy Who Loved Me documentary) call Spy his favorite 007 film.

The movie also received three Oscar nominations: for sets (designed by Adam, aided by art director Peter Lamont), its score (Marvin Hamlisch) and its title song, “Nobody Does It Better” (by Hamilsch and Carole Bayer Sager). None, however, won.

The Living Daylights at 35: A short-lived new era

The Living Daylights poster

The Living Daylights poster

Adapted from a 2017 post

The Living Daylights, the 15th James Bond film made by Eon Productions, was going to be the start of a new era for the series.

With hindsight, it’s now evident the new era was doomed to be short-lived. But nobody envisioned that when the movie came out in the summer of 1987.

Roger Moore hung up his shoulder holster following 1985’s A View to a Kill. There was going to be a new film James Bond. The question was who would it be.

Sam Neill was screen tested. He had supporters among the production team, but didn’t have the vote of producer Albert R. Broccoli, according to the documentary Inside The Living Daylights.

Pierce Brosnan tested for the role (including playing scenes from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). He even signed a contract, with a photo taken of the event.

But all that went askew when NBC renewed his Remington Steele series. Broccoli had second thoughts.

Broccoli and his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, later denied in a television interview that Brosnan had even been signed.

The ultimate choice was Timothy Dalton. Broccoli said Dalton was the first choice all along.

“We wanted to get Timothy,” Broccoli said. “We had standing by the possibility of Pierce Brosnan. We liked Pierce. But we did really feel Timothy was the man we wanted.” Even if NBC hadn’t renewed Remington Steele, the producer said, “We liked Timothy very much.”

After the bumpy start, Daylights got into gear. Dalton, 40 at the time filming began, was almost 20 years younger than Moore. The actor also was more than willing to do some of his own stunts. This tendency showed up in the pre-titles sequence when Bond is on the top of a military truck at the Rock of Gibraltar.

Dalton, though, brought more than (relative) youth to the role. His Bond was more conflicted and more grounded in the original Ian Fleming novels and short stories.

Early in the film, Bond disobeys orders when he suspects a supposed sniper (Maryam d’Abo) isn’t genuine. He shoots her rifle instead of her.

Later, Saunders, another MI6 agent, says he’s going to report Bond to M. Dalton’s Bond isn’t fazed. “If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.”

Richard Maibaum was on board for his 12th Bond film as screenwriter, collaborating with Wilson. The Maibaum-Wilson team built their story out from a sequence in Ian Fleming’s short story of the same title.

Initially, the duo had an “origin” storyline that Broccoli vetoed. Instead, Dalton’s Bond would again be depicted as a veteran agent.

The Living Daylights generated worldwide box office of $191.2 million, an improvement over A View to a Kill’s $152.6 million.

In the U.S. market, however, Daylights’ $51.2 million wasn’t much better than View’s $50.3 million. For whatever reasons, American audiences never warmed to Dalton the way international audiences did.

Still, Daylights seemed to represent a fresh start for the Bond film series. What nobody knew at the time was that audiences had already consumed half of the Dalton Bond films.

What’s more, Daylights was the end of an era for the series. It had John Barry’s final 007 score. For his final Bond film, the composer would make a brief on-screen appearance.

Daylights also would be the last time that Maibaum would fully participate in the writing.

The veteran scribe (1909-1991) would help plot 1989’s Licence to Kill. But the actual script was written by Wilson, with Maibaum sidelined by a Writers Guild of America strike.

Bond 26 questions: The MGM shakeup edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Well, the first shoe has fallen after Amazon bought Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.45 billion. MGM’s top two film executives are leaving after Eon Productions said it wanted the duo to stay.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is this really unexpected?

No. Companies rarely spend billions of dollars to buy a company and just say, “We’re not going to make any changes.” Acquirers simply don’t do that. Ask the staff of CNN + after new owners pulled the plug on the new streaming service just a few weeks after completing the deal.

Are the departing MGM executives angry?

You couldn’t tell it by the statement that Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy put out to their staff. Variety got a copy. It began thusly:

A little over two years ago we came to MGM to help restore its vibrancy among the storied studios of the last century and we are proud to say, thanks to all of you and your efforts, it is mission accomplished.

Are you a little skeptical?

In these situations, departing executives often get a buyout as long as they stay quiet or say nice things. Executives who get in trouble with a company’s board of directors suddenly find they have a hankering to retire, etc.

What does this mean for James Bond movies?

Hard to say for now. But Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson last year gave a statement to The New York Times that they really, really wanted De Luca and Abdy to stay. Presumably, they’re not happy this week with this development.

What should Bond fans watch out for?

Bond is one of MGM’s main assets. Amazon surely knows this. There is a Bond-themed reality show in the works (a sort of Bond version of The Amazing Race). Will there be other attempts to expand the franchise? We’ll see.

MGM film execs favored by Eon to depart studio, Variety says

MGM logo

Two Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film executives favored by Eon Productions are departing the studio, Variety reported.

Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, the top two executives in MGM’s film division, “have both been let go of the company,” the entertainment news outlet said. An excerpt:

De Luca had recently made overtures to David Zaslav about coming to Warner Bros. Discovery, according to an insider. The rumor mill has been swirling in recent weeks about the executives long-term future, with many predicting that he would be headed for the exit soon.

In July 2021, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson issued a statement to The New York Times after Amazon agreed to buy MGM. “Mike and Pam understand that we are at a critical juncture and that the continuing success of the James Bond series is dependent on us getting the next iteration right and will give us the support we need to do this.”

The statement quoted the Eon duo as saying, “Amazon has assured us that Bond will continue to debut” in movie theaters, according to the Times. “Our hope is that they will empower Mike and Pam to continue to run MGM unencumbered.” 

De Luca’s title was chairman of MGM’s motion picture group while Abdy was his deputy. Amazon already had its own film operation.

Executive changes are common after corporate acquisitions. Amazon’s $8.45 billion deal for MGM was announced last year and became final in March.

For Eon, the departure of De Luca and Abdy means the company that produces James Bond films will have yet another MGM executive team to deal with. It remains to be seen how this will affect the development of Bond 26. Actor Daniel Craig has exited the role of Bond after five movies from 2006 through 2021.

Broccoli & Wilson to receive award

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions are scheduled to receive the 2022 Pioneers of the Year award by the Will Rogers Motion Pictures Pioneers Foundation.

The 2022 Pioneer of the Year Dinner is set for Sept. 21, according to the foundation’s website. Eon’s official James Bond feed on Twitter also put out an announcement.

Wilson, 80, has been involved with the Bond franchise full-time for 50 years while Broccoli’s full-time involvement goes back 40 years. Both had Bond-related experience before joining Eon full-time.

Wilson is the stepson of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. Barbara Broccoli is Albert R. Broccoli’s daughter. Barbara Broccoli turns 62 in June.

Here is a description from the Deadline: Hollywood site:

The Pioneer of the Year Award honors leaders in the movie industry whose career achievements and commitment to philanthropy is exemplary. The award, handed out for more than 70 years, is part of a gala to support the foundation’s Pioneers Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance to individuals in need in the distribution and exhibition community.

Here is the Eon tweet:

Bond questions: The reality show (?!) edition

James Bond is about the join the ranks of Survivor and The Masked Singer when it comes to reality shows. Well, if a March 25 story by Variety is to be believed, that may be in the cards.

Eon Productions, which makes the Bond films, has repeatedly said it’s not interested in 007 spinoffs. However, Variety says Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are backing this project.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

WTF? Over the years, various ideas have been floated for alternatives for Eon’s film series.

For example, you could have low-key, faithful adaptations on TV of Ian Fleming’s original novels while still making the bigger, more expensive movies.

Eon has been consistent — no!

However, based on the description in the Variety story, Broccoli and Wilson have signed on to a crappy, obnoxious reality show. (Are there any other versions of a reality show?)

Did Broccoli and Wilson change their minds? Money has a way of causing people to reconsider.

Where do we go from here? On Jan. 1, 2021, the blog provided “unlikely” Bond spinoffs. The Adventures of Bill Tanner. Cooking With May. Golfing With Hawker.

Excuse me while I run down to the copyright office.