Sam Smith performs SPECTRE’s title song


Sam Smith performs the title song to SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, according to an announcement at THE OFFICIAL JAMES BOND WEBSITE.

Here’s an excerpt from the announcement:

The theme song for SPECTRE will be performed by Sam Smith it was officially announced today. The track, ‘Writing’s On The Wall’, was co-written by Smith and fellow GRAMMY© Award winner Jimmy Napes and it’s the first James Bond theme song recorded by a British male solo artist since 1965.

Commenting on the announcement, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the producers of SPECTRE, said, “Sam and Jimmy have written the most inspirational song for Spectre and with Sam’s extraordinary vocal performance, ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ will surely be considered one of the greatest Bond songs of all time.”

Smith previously denied he was doing the SPECTRE song.

“That’s not me,” he told BBC Radio 2 when asked if he would be singing the song as noted in a story IN VARIETY. “That’s definitely not me. I’ve still got loads to do.”

In today’s announcement, Smith said: ““This is one of the highlights of my career. I am honored to finally announce that I will be singing the next Bond theme song.”

The song will debut on Sept. 25, according to the announcement.

UPDATE: According to a story on the DARK HORIZONS WEBSITE (spotted by the Commander Bond website Twitter feed), Smith recorded the song back in January.

Idris Elba: the 007 debate that’s not going away

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

The debate whether black actor Idris Elba should be the next James Bond isn’t going away, even though there’s no official vacancy for the role.

One of the latest examinations of the topic occurred Friday on Friday during NPR’s Morning Edition program. The story included comments from  Bill Desowitz and Bruce Scivally, who’ve written books about 007 films.

Earlier, a controversy erupted over comments by Anthony Horowitz, author of the new Bond continuation novel Trigger Mortis.

Horowitz told the U.K. Daily Mail in a story POSTED AUG. 29 that Elba was “too street” to play Bond.  Here’s the key excerpt from the story:

Neither is Horowitz impressed with the favourite to take over from Daniel Craig.

‘Idris Elba is a terrific actor, but I can think of other black actors who would do it better.’

He names Adrian Lester, star of Hustle.

‘For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a colour issue. I think he is probably a bit too “street” for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.’

After the story ran, Horowitz took to Twitter on Sept. 1.

Horowitz’s novel was commissioned by Ian Fleming Publications, which has no ties to the Bond films, which are produced by Eon Productions.

Many fans of the original Ian Fleming novels say there shouldn’t be a debate at all. They say Fleming described him as half-Scot, half-Swiss.

More casual fans who like the idea of an Elba Bond say the actor, who turns 43 on Sept. 6, is suave, good looking and could do the role justice.

Earlier this year, while the new 007 film SPECTRE was in production, Michael G. Wilson, co-chief of Eon, said Elba would “make a great Bond.”

At the moment, there isn’t a vacancy for the role. Daniel Craig, 47, has completed SPECTRE, his fourth 007 film, which comes out this fall. But the debate doesn’t appear to be going away soon.

Quick recap of Eon non-007 projects

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions

It’s not easy to get a movie made. Studios make fewer and more expensive films.

Even when producers with a good box office record aren’t guaranteed of seeing their projects become reality. That includes Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the co-chiefs of Eon Productions, which makes James Bond films.

The Eon leaders have been working on a number of film projects away from the world of James Bond, even as it continued work on the 007 film series.

Here’s a list of Eon projects that have been formally announced but are still in development.

Remake of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Referenced in this APRIL 2009 PRESS RELEASE issued by Sony Pictures.

The 1968 film musical, based on an Ian Fleming novel for children, was the final non-007 movie produced by Albert R. Broccoli co-founder of Eon Productions. Technically, it wasn’t made by Eon Productions but another Broccoli production company, Warfield. The movie’s crew included a number of 007 film series veterans.

Dana Broccoli, widow of Albert R. Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli produced a London stage production that opened in 2002. A Broadway production opened in 2005.

So, Sony, following the release of 2008’s Quantum of Solace, announced that the studio was developing a new film musical to be produced by Eon.

Film adaptation of REMOTE CONTROL NOVEL: The main subject of the same APRIL 2009 PRESS RELEASE. 

Here’s how the press release began:

CULVER CITY, Calif., April 14 /PRNewswire/ — Building on their successful collaboration on the two most recent and highest grossing James Bond adventures in the history of the franchise, Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired the motion picture rights to REMOTE CONTROL, a thriller novel by Mark Burnell, to be produced as a feature film by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli’s Eon Productions, it was announced today by Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach, presidents of Columbia Pictures. Ileen Maisel will join Wilson and Broccoli in producing the project. Burnell will adapt his novel into the screenplay.

Edward Snowden movie: Announced in May 2014 and reported widely, including this REUTERS STORY that appeared in The Huffington Post.

Sony acquired the film rights to a book by journalist Glenn Greenwald. The studio said Eon Productions would produce the movie, and that Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli would be producers.

A competing Snowden movie, simply titled Snowden and directed by Oliver Stone, and is scheduled to be released on Dec. 25. The Stone movie is based on two other books.

Eon has worked with Sony for the past decade. Sony’s Columbia Pictures has released the last four Bond films, including SPECTRE, due out this fall. Sony’s contract to release the 007 series expires with SPECTRE. Also, Sony executive Amy Pascal was forced out of her job earlier this year following controversies related to last year’s hacking at Sony. Whether any of that affects these projects isn’t clear.


“Retcon”: For Your Eyes Only now official SPECTRE movie

Blofeld (apparently we can actually call him that now) menaces 007 at the start of For Your Eyes Only

Blofeld (apparently we can actually call him that now) menaces 007 at the start of For Your Eyes Only

The James Bond film series has done what’s known in comic books as a “retcon” — or retroactive change in continuity. It appears 1981’s For Your Eyes Only is now officially considered a SPECTRE-related movie.

When did this happen? Today when the official 007 site today announced A HOME VIDEO RELEASE in connection with the 24th James Bond film.

Here’s the start of the press release:

As fans prepare for the November 6th release of SPECTRE, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM) and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release an all-new line-up of special edition Blu-rays, DVDs and box-sets on September 15th.

Two never-before-seen featurettes are included with interviews from Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. “The Shadow of SPECTRE” will recount the fictional history of the global criminal syndicate and terrorist organization, “The Story So Far” will provide an overview of Daniel Craig’s first three Bond movies.

Six films featuring the SPECTRE organization (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY) and the three recent Daniel Craig titles (CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, SKYFALL) will each get a limited edition Blu-ray Steelbook release, their cover designs inspired by each film’s opening title sequence. (emphasis added)

Interestingly, at the time of its release, 1981’s For Your Eyes Only wasn’t considered a SPECTRE related film. Its pre-titles sequence features a wheelchair-bound villain who looked like Ernst Stavro Blofeld but wasn’t identified as such.

The script, by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, had a line where the villain notes this is the 10th anniversary of his last encounter with Bond. That would appear to be a veiled reference to 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The line was cut from the movie but appears in the Marvel Comics adaptation.

At the time, Kevin McClory still held the film rights to Thunderball and he claimed ownership of the Blofeld character.

Presumably, with Danjaq LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 2013 obtaining all of the 007 rights held by McClory’s estate, all of that is moot now. Voila, For Your Eyes Only’s story has been changed.

One other note: Dr. No, the first 007 film, was also SPECTRE related because Dr. No was a member of the criminal organization. However, Blofeld didn’t put in an appearance, probably explaining why it’s not listed as part of this package.

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.

Marvel Studios and the Cubby Broccoli playbook

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

The Wall Street Journal, in a story by Ben Fritz, takes a look at how Marvel Studios operates. While it doesn’t come up in the story, it sounds like Marvel has read the old Albert R. Broccoli playbook.

Like James Bond movies produced by Broccoli, Marvel makes big, sprawling movies. But, like the Eon Productions co-founder, Marvel doesn’t spend top dollar for everything. Here’s a key excerpt:

But no company has eschewed A-list talent as consistently and effectively in the modern age as Marvel. All but one of its 10 films released so far have been hits, a record rivaled only by Pixar Animation Studios. And none have featured a major star or established action director.

Money is a key reason, say people who have done business with Marvel. The Disney subsidiary’s chief executive, Ike Perlmutter, is notoriously frugal and doesn’t believe that the millions rivals like Warner Bros. spend to get big-name stars like Ben Affleck and Will Smith are worth it.

“They are in the business of hiring the guy who hasn’t had a big success, because they don’t have to pay that guy very much,” said Mr. Whedon, adding that he made more money on his self-produced Internet series “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” than he did directing the first “Avengers,” which cost $230 million to produce and grossed $1.5 billion world-wide.

When Broccoli (first with Harry Saltzman and then on his own) produced 007 films, a formula eventually emerged where the actor playing James Bond would be paid well but Eon didn’t usually pay for A-list actors for other roles. “Regulars” such as Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn were paid relatively modestly.

As directors, Eon would hire journeymen such as Terence Young and Guy Hamilton. Or, with John Glen, promote from within, elevating him to the director’s chair from the second unit.

Marvel isn’t exactly the same, but there are similarities. The Journal describes how Marvel’s approach to talent is to seek out actors on their way up (who don’t cost top dollar yet) or are making a comeback (such as Robert Downey Jr.). There’s a similar strategy with directors, including Joss Whedon (referenced in the excerpt above) and Joe and Anthony Russo.

As we’ve written before, Eon’s strategy has evolved since the Cubby Broccoli days. Bond movies employ more auteur directors (Sam Mendes, Marc Forster) and more expensive actors for at least some roles (Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes).  Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-leaders of Eon, have been putting their own stamp on the series.

In any case, if you want to read the entire Journal story about Marvel, CLICK HERE.


The rise of the ‘origin’ storyline

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Fifty, 60 years ago, with popular entertainment, you didn’t get much of an “origin” story. You usually got more-or-less fully formed heroes. A few examples:

Dr. No: James Bond is an established 00-agent and has used a Baretta for 10 years. Sean Connery was 31 when production started. If Bond is close to the actor’s age, that means he’s done intelligence work since his early 20s.

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: During the first season (1964-65), Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) has worked for U.N.C.L.E. for at least seven years (this is disclosed in two separate episodes). A fourth-season episode establishes that Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) graduated from U.N.C.L.E.’s “survival school” in 1956 and Solo two years before that.

Batman: While played for laughs, the Adam West version of Batman has been operating for an undisclosed amount of time when the first episode airs in January 1966. In the pilot, it’s established he has encountered the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) before. There’s a passing reference to how Bruce Wayne’s parents were “murdered by dastardly criminals” but that’s about it.

The FBI: When we first meet Inspector Lewis Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) in 1965, he’s established as the “top trouble shooter for the bureau” and is old enough to have a daughter in college. We’re told he’s a widower and his wife took “a bullet meant for me.” (The daughter would soon be dropped and go into television character limbo.) Still, we don’t see Young Lewis Erskine rising through the ranks of the bureau.

Get Smart: Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) was a top agent for CONTROL despite his quirks. There was no attempt to explain Max. He just was. A 2008 movie version gave Max a back story where he had once been fat.

I Spy: Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) have been partners for awhile, using a cover of a tennis bum and his trainer.

Mission: Impossible: We weren’t told much about either Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) or Jim Phelps (Peter Graves), the two team leaders of the Impossible Missions Force. A fifth-season episode was set in Phelps home town. Some episodes introduced friends of Briggs and Phelps. But not much more than that.

Mannix: We first meet Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) when he’s the top operative of private investigations firm Intertect. After Joe goes off on his own in season two, we meet some of Joe’s Korean War buddies (many of whom seem to try to kill him) and we eventually meet Mannix’s father, a California farmer. But none of this is told at the start.

Hawaii Five-O: Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) is the established head of the Hawaiian state police unit answerable only to “the governor or God and even they have trouble.” When the series was rebooted in 2010, we got an “origin” story showing McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) as a military man, the unit being formed, his first meeting with Dan Williams, etc.

And so on and so forth. This century, though, an “origin story” is the way to start.

With the Bond films, the series started over with Casino Royale, marketed as the origin of Bond (Daniel Craig). The novel, while the first Ian Fleming story, wasn’t technically an origin tale. It took place in 1951 (this date is given in the Goldfinger novel) and Bond got the two kills needed for 00-status in World War II.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Nevertheless, audience got an “origin” story. Michael G. Wilson, current co-boss of Eon Productions (along with his half-sister, Barbara Broccoli) wanted to do a Bond “origin” movie as early as 1986 after Roger Moore left the role of Bond. But his stepfather, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, vetoed the idea. With The Living Daylights in 1987, the audience got a younger, but still established, Bond (Timothy Dalton). In the 21st century, Wilson finally got his origin tale.

Some of this may be due to the rise of movies based on comic book movies. There are had been Superman serials and television series, but 1978’s Superman: The Motion Picture was the first A-movie project. It told the story of Kal-El from the start and was a big hit.

The 1989 Batman movie began with a hero (Michael Keaton) still in the early stages of his career, with the “origin” elements mentioned later. The Christopher Nolan-directed Batman Begins in 2005 started all over, again presenting an “origin” story. Marvel, which began making movies after licensing characters, scored a big hit with 2008’s Iron Man, another “origin” tale. Spider-Man’s origin has been told *twice* in 2002 and 2012 films from Sony Pictures.

Coming up in August, we’ll be getting a long-awaited movie version of U.N.C.L.E., this time with an origin storyline. In the television series, U.N.C.L.E. had started sometime shortly after World War II. In the movie, set in 1963, U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t started yet and Solo works for the CIA while Kuryakin is a KGB operative.

One supposes if there were a movie version of The FBI (don’t count on it), we’d see Erskine meet the Love of His Life, fall in love, get married, lose her and become the Most Determined Agent in the Bureau. Such is life.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 207 other followers