Eon questions: The odds and ends edition

Eon Productions logo

Eon Productions has one spy film (No Time to Die) in production and another (The Rhythm Section) scheduled for a January release. As usual, the blog has a few questions.

When will the teaser trailer for No Time to Die come out?

A recent edition of the James Bond & Friends podcast indicated a rough cut existed. But since then, no word on when the final version will be out.

On Sept. 19, Paramount put out a first trailer for The Rhythm Section, Eon’s non-Bond spy film. So it makes sense not to put out a No Time to Die trailer out the same week. The question now is how quickly will the Bond teaser trailer go online.

Will we get an Eon Productions logo on the No Time to Die trailer?

It’s present on The Rhythm Section trailer. But, an Eon logo usually isn’t part of Bond trailers. For example, this SPECTRE trailer that had logos for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures’ Columbia brand.

Will No Time to Die change this? We’ll see.

Why no producer credits on The Rhythm Section Trailer?

While The Rhythm Section’s teaser trailer had the Eon Productions logo, there was no credit for Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. The teaser trailer only had screenplay and director credits. Presumably, there will be more crew credits in later trailers.

Bond 25 questions: The lead character edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

With less than nine months before the 25th installment of the James Bond film series, the blog had a few basic questions about James Bond, agent 007 (?, at least where Bond 25 is concerned).

Is Bond a hero or anti-hero?

This is a subject the blog has explored before and the answers remain murky.

Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions, maker of the Bond film series, said seven years ago that Bond was an antihero.

Barbara Broccoli, Wilson’s half-sister, said the same year that Bond is “a classical hero, but he’s very human.”

That makes for a split vote by the two principals of Eon.

An anti-hero is defined as “a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.”

Is Bond a misogynist or a male chauvinist?

A misogynist is defined as “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.” Woman hater is a synonym.

A male chauvinist is defined as ” a male who patronizes, disparages, or otherwise denigrates females in the belief that they are inferior to males and thus deserving of less than equal treatment or benefit.”

Since 1995, the Bond film series has gone with misogynist. In Judi Dench’s debut as M in GoldenEye, she calls Bond (Pierce Brosnan) a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur.

Brosnan’s successor, Daniel Craig, said in 2015 that Bond is “actually a misogynist.”

Well, that would seem to settle the issue, wouldn’t it? If the guy who plays the character calls the character a misogynist that would seem to trump what a fan thinks.

How smart is Bond?

Bond doesn’t always show signs of being a strategic thinker.

In Dr. No, Bond (Sean Connery) brings Quarrel with him to Crab Key to see what happens. He brings along a Walther PPK.

In the novel From Russia With Love, Bond knows a trap has been set. But he decides to stay on the train to see what happens.

In The Man With the Golden Gun film, his plan (such as it is) is to fly to Scaramanga’s isolated island and see what happens.

In Quantum of Solace, he brings along his trusty Walther to take on Dominic Greene and his many thugs at the hotel powered by fuel cells (apparently filled with Explodium). He’ll see what happens.

In Skyfall, Bond takes M (Dench again) from London (where she has been guarded ineffectively) to stately Skyfall manor (which has no security, though Bond & Co. manage to cobble together some traps). Bond is able to kill Silva (Javier Bardem) moments before M dies.

Bond’s special relationship: Broccoli and Craig

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and current James Bond star Daniel Craig

However Bond 25 turns out — and there’s a lot of filming yet to go — the movie may wrap up a noteworthy era: the relationship between Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli and star Daniel Craig.

The two have a closer producer-star relationship than any other in Bond film history.

Don’t take the blog’s word for it. Statements and actions made over the years demonstrate it.

2006: During production of Craig’s debut Bond film, Casino Royale, the Eon boss commented during an interview about Craig in historic terms.

Well, he’s a phenomenal actor. I think he’s the actor that defines his generation of actors.

Generation is an imprecise term. Still, it’s probably fair to say the generation of Craig (b. 1968) includes George Clooney (b. 1961), Brad Pitt (b. 1963), Matt Damon (b. 1970), Ben Affleck (b. 1972), Idris Elba (b. 1972) and Leonardo DiCaprio (b. 1974).

2015: SPECTRE poster reveals that Daniel Craig is one of three co-producers. It’s the first time that a Bond actor has received any type of producing credit.

2015: With SPECTRE, Craig’s fourth film as James Bond about to come out, Barbara Broccoli says in a Huffington Post story she’s in denial about a Craig-less James Bond future.

“I just don’t want to think about it,” Barbara tells HuffPostUK on the subject of 007’s eventual replacement. “I’m in denial. I don’t want to think about that day. Daniel Craig is Bond, forever, as far as I’m concerned.”

2017: With Daniel Craig secured for Bond 25, Barbara Broccoli describes her feelings to a podcast by The Hollywood Reporter.

Until Craig announced in August 2017 he’d be back, Broccoli said: “My heart was breaking.” In response to a question, she says all the Bond actors have been good but Craig is the best Bond. “He is particularly incredible.”

2018: A number of Bond 25 press releases (SUCH AS THIS ONE and THIS ONE) list Daniel Craig along with Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson at the beginning as if Craig was right there in making the decision. That’s new territory for the Bond film series.

2019: During a livestream about Bond 25, the host, sitting with Barbara Broccoli says, “Let’s have a little reminder of how he took on this iconic character and truly made it his own.” A montage of clips from Craig’s James Bond films follows.

2019: Barbara Broccoli says in an interview she hasn’t given up on the idea that Daniel Craig may return after Bond 25.  “He’s so much a part of the whole process, we’ll make a great movie and then see what happens.”

Licence to Kill’s 30th anniversary: 007 falters in the U.S.

Licence to Kill's poster

Licence to Kill’s poster

Adapted and updated from a 2014 post.

Licence to Kill, which had its world premiere 30 years ago today, is mostly known for a series of “lasts” but also for a first.

–It was the last of five 007 films directed by John Glen, the most prolific director in the series.

–The last of 13 Bond films where Richard Maibaum (1909-1991) participated in the writing

–It was the last with Albert R. Broccoli getting a producer’s credit (he would only “present” 1995’s GoldenEye).

–It was the last 007 movie with a title sequence designed by Maurice Binder, who would die in 1990.

–And the it was last 007 film where Pan Am was the unofficial airline of the James Bond series (it went out of business before GoldenEye).

It was also the first to falter badly in the U.S. market.

Economy Class

Bond wasn’t on Poverty Row when Licence to Kill began production in 1988. But neither did 007 travel entirely first class.

Under financial pressure from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which acquired half the franchise after buying United Artists earlier in the decade), Eon Productions moved the home base of the production to Mexico from Pinewood Studios.

Joining Timothy Dalton in his second (and last) outing as Bond was a cast mostly known for appearing on U.S. television, including Anthony Zerbe, Don Stroud, David Hedison (his second appearance as Felix Leiter), Pricilla Barnes, Rafer Johnson, Frank McRae as well as Las Vegas performer Wayne Newton.

Meanwhile, character actor Robert Davi snared the role of the film’s villain, with Carey Lowell and Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto as competing Bond women.

Wilson’s Role

Michael G. Wilson, Broccoli’s stepson and co-producer, took the role as lead writer because a 1988 Writers Guild strike made Richard Maibaum unavailable. Maibaum’s participation didn’t extend beyond the plotting stage. The teaser trailer billed Wilson as the sole writer but Maibaum received co-writer billing in the final credits.

Wilson opted for a darker take, up to a point. He included Leiter having a leg chewed off by a shark from the Live And Let Die novel. He also upped the number of swear words compared with previous 007 entries. But Wilson hedged his bets with jokes, such as Newton’s fake preacher and a scene where Q shows off gadgets to Bond.

Licence would be the first Bond film where “this time it’s personal.” Bond goes rogue to avenge Leiter. Since then, it has been frequently been personal for 007. Because of budget restrictions, filming was kept primarily to Florida and Mexico.

The end product didn’t go over well in the U.S. Other studios had given the 16th 007 film a wide berth for its U.S. opening weekend. The only “new” movie that weekend was a re-release of Walt Disney Co.’s Peter Pan.

Nevertheless, Licence finished an anemic No. 4 during the July 14-16 weekend coming in behind Lethal Weapon 2 (in its second weekend), Batman (in its fourth weekend) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (also fourth weekend).

Glen and Maibaum were done with Bond, the latter being part of the 007 series since its inception.

Bond 17’s Fembot

Initial pre-production of the next 007 film proceeded without the two series veterans. Wilson wrote a treatment in 1990 for Bond 17 with Alfonse Ruggiero that included a deadly fembot. Scripts with other scribes were then written based on that treatment. But that story was never made.

That’s because Broccoli would enter into a legal fight with MGM that meant Bond wouldn’t return to movie screens until 1995. By the time production resumed, Eon started over, using a story by Michael France as a beginning point for what would become GoldenEye. Maibaum, meanwhile, died in early 1991.

Today, some fans like to blame MGM’s marketing campaign or other major summer 1989 movies such as Batman or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But Licence came out weeks after either of those blockbusters.

And, it needs to be repeated, Bond couldn’t best Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which also came out weeks earlier.

In the end, the U.S. audience didn’t care for Licence. The movie’s total U.S. box office of $34.7 million didn’t match Batman’s U.S. opening weekend of $40.5 million. Licence’s U.S. box office was almost a third less than its 007 predecessor, The Living Daylights. Licence to Kill sold the fewest tickets in the U.S. among James Bond films.

Licence to Kill did much better in other markets. Still, Licence’s in worldwide ticket sales represented an 18 percent decline from The Living Daylights.

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

Some 007 fans blame a lackluster U.S. advertising campaign. However, Michael G. Wilson said in 2015 that Eon “really run the marketing ourselves” and the and the studios involved “execute it.” Did that apply to Licence to Kill? Or was Licence somehow an exception?

For Dalton, Glen, Maibaum and even Broccoli (he yielded the producer’s duties on GoldenEye because of ill health), it was the end of the road.

Michael G. Wilson, despite his enormous impact on Licence to Kill, remained in place. Blood (even adopted blood), after all, is thicker than water — or even box office receipts.

A Bond 25 possibility

Rami Malek

No actual spoilers unless you consider a plot summary from a press release to be a spoiler. If so, move on.

So we don’t know a whole lot about Bond 25. Actor Rami Malek said he was going to be the villain but not much else. There was also a plot summary in a press release last week. One portion of that summary read:

The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

What follows is strictly speculation. But it’s well known that Eon Production never throws anything away.

One of its unused story lines was a 1990 treatment co-written by Eon’s Michael G. Wilson for Bond 17, which would eventually become 1995’s GoldenEye.

That treatment also featured technology as a McGuffin, specifically robots.

“The robotic devices refered (sic) to in this outline are complex and exotic machines designed for specific tasks and environments,” according to the treatment. “They are to be designed especially for the film for maximum dramatic and visual impact.”

One robot even masqueraded as a woman. “Nan is a lethal security robot!” is an actual line in the treatment.

Now, in the case of the Bond 17 treatment, the villain’s main plot was to take over Hong Kong from the British and Chinese. The British gave Hong Kong back to the Chinese in 1997, so that’s pretty much off the table.

Collaborative robots work in close proximity with humans.

However, robots have gotten ever more sophisticated since the Bond 17 treatment was written. New, so-called “collaborative” robots (known as cobots) are designed to work in close proximity with humans.

Today’s factory floors, besides having robots, have  artificial intelligence, “connected” devices that communicate with each other and tons of automation.

So there are a lot of possibilities if you want to make robots and other automation systems as part of some menace. Warning: I’d still avoid putting in a fembot into the plot.

Again, strictly speculation. That is all.

UPDATE, May 2: I should cited this example before. Boston Dynamics is developing four-legged robots capable of performing many tasks. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how they could be misused by a criminal mastermind.

Jamaican government confirms Bond 25 talks

The government of Jamaica on March 29 confirmed it’s in “advanced” talks about having Bond 25 shooting on the island nation.

The Jamaica Information Service published a story saying that government officials are scheduled to meet with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Government will be meeting with the producers of the 25th James Bond movie in England next week, with a view to having some parts filmed in Jamaica.

Speaking to JIS News, Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, confirmed that he and Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, will be travelling to Pinewood Studios to meet with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

The studios have been the base for a number of productions over the years and are well-known as the home of the James Bond franchise.

Minister Bartlett explained that the discussions with the producers are very advanced.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail had a two-paragraph Bond 25 item on March 7 saying the movie will be photographed in Jamaica. It didn’t offer many details.

Both Dr. No (1962) and Live And Let Die (1973) were filmed in Jamaica (it doubled for the fictional San Monique in the latter movie). Ian Fleming also wrote the first drafts for his 007 stories while in Jamaica during the winter.

A few things to keep in mind as Bond 25 gears up

 Art by Paul Baack (1957-2017).

Before long, Bond 25 will begin principal photography. So here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Don’t expect detailed analysis from many Bond fan sites: There’s a symbiosis between major 007 fan site and Eon Productions.

Eon looks at the fan sites as an extension of its marketing efforts. Often times, the sites are more than willing to cooperate. Afterall, the proprietors can take selfies with the crew.

Don’t expect detailed analysis from Eon-approved books: Authors of some Eon-approved books don’t go too far.

One such book (which repeatedly refers to Eon’s Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli throughout as “Michael and Barbara”) punts when it comes to the contradictory stories involving the scripting of Quantum of Solace, including polishes by Joshua Zetumer during filming..

“(I)n the end it came down to Daniel Craig trashing it out with (director Marc) Forster.” This became the preferred Eon narrative, regardless of how much work Zetumer performed during filming.

Don’t expect detailed reporting from entertainment news sites: Trade pubications/websites such as The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Deadline: Hollywood are based in Hollywood. Eon is based out of London.

The U.S. sites snare the occasional scoop. But they’re tracking a lot of other news, including the impact of Walt Disney Co.’s pending acquisition of 20th Century Fox.

There are, of course, British tabloids but that’s hit or miss. The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye gets a fair number of 007 scoops but he has made some mistakes. such as his 2011 story describing the character Albert Finney would play in Skyfall.

Regardless, the next few months will be amusing for Bond fans. Let’s see what happens.