Long-term issues confronting the 007 franchise

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Here are some long-term issues confronting the James Bond film franchise that extend beyond purchased helicopters or even the next 007 film (whenever it comes out).

MGM needs to get bigger or sell out: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, is in a no man’s land in Hollywood.

It’s not big enough to release it’s own movies. In fact, it’s more of a television production company than an actual studio. What few movies it makes annually require cutting deal with another studio to distribute. The last four 007 films were released by Sony, with other MGM projects released by other studios.

Time Warner, which includes Warner Bros., has agreed to be acquired by AT&T. If that deal receives U.S. regulatory approval (not a sure thing), other deals may result.

That leaves MGM to decide whether it’s present strategy is adequate. If a new wave of deals develops, MGM probably has to move one way or another — get bigger or sell off to a buyer.

Eon’s succession plan: Eon is a private outfit that doesn’t discuss such subjects. Maybe it has one, maybe it doesn’t. Regardless, it needs a succession plan if it doesn’t have one.

Michael G. Wilson, one of the Eon principals, turned 75 last month. His half-sister, Barbara Broccoli, is only 56. But, as the saying goes, nobody lives forever.

Perhaps Gregg Wilson, one of Wilson’s sons who has been working on recent films, is being groomed to take more responsibility once his father retires. At this point, nobody really knows.

Is it time for new marketing ideas? There are recurring themes in marketing Bond films over the past two decades.

One of the most repeated is having the lead female actor talk about his character is Bond’s equal. It was uttered most recently by actress Lea Seydoux in an interview with Empire magazine in early 2015.

We get it. Bond women are now strong and independent. Maybe it’s time to come up new marketing points. Strong women in Bond films are now a given.

Eon starts filming another non-007 movie

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions is involved in another non-007 film, Variety reported.

The film is titled Nancy and is a “psychological drama” starring Andrea Riseborough, according to the entertainment website.

Here’s an excerpt:

Riseborough plays a serial imposter, who becomes perilously close to losing her entire identity — and the only person who’s ever truly loved her — when her elaborate lies inevitably unravel.

Principal photography has started in upstate New York with a crew comprised of all-female department heads. The film will be produced by Amy Lo, Michelle Cameron, and Riseborough. “Nancy” is a Mental Pictures, Mother Sucker, and Eon Productions movie, in association with Gamechanger Films.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions will be among the executive producers, according to Variety.

Eon’s Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is in post-production. Barbara Broccoli is among that movie’s producers.

The production company’s most recent 007 film entry was 2015’s SPECTRE. No production details have been announced for Bond 25.

The Spy Who Loved Me’s 40th: 007 rolls with the punches

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me, which debuted 40 years ago this year, 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, Spy was 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. 

Some questions about Bond 25 (20XX)

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

This originally was intended as a humorous post. But, truth be told, there’s not much funny right now.

Sketchy, circumstantial evidence suggests the 007 film franchise is more or less in the same place it was from 2002 to 2006: Trying to figure out what to do next.

The franchise eventually got back into gear by adapting Ian Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale.

You could debate whether a reboot (i.e. starting the series over) or recasting the lead role (letting Pierce Brosnan go and bringing on Daniel Craig) was necessary.

Even if you disagreed with either move, the idea of seeing Eon Productions do a straight adaptation of Casino ensured fan interest. The main question fans asked was, “How will it turn out?”

In early 2017, there isn’t another Ian Fleming novel to adapt.

Eon has already partially adapted the You Only Live Twice novel (with Skyfall). That 2012 film featured a disturbed, off-kilter Bond on a variation of the “impossible mission.”

On the other hand, does Eon Productions adapt the rest of the 1964 novel with Bond 25? Have Blofeld kill SPECTRE heroine Madeline Swann, causing Bond to go off on (another) mission of revenge? Some fans would say yes, saying the “Blofeld Trilogy” would finally be fulfilled on the screen.

Does Eon finally adapt a 007 continuation novel? Over the years, Eon’s Michael G. Wilson has criticized the ones written by John Gardner.

However, Eon opened the door with SPECTRE, adapting a sequence of Kingsley Amis’ 1968 novel Colonel Sun. You had to be patient watching the end titles to catch the acknowledgment citing Amis’ estate. At this point, you don’t have to use one of Gardner’s novels. There are many to choose from.

It still comes down to nobody knows when Bond 25 is coming out. Nobody knows what studio will release it. Nobody knows for sure who will play James Bond. Many fans are sure Daniel Craig will be back. Some will tell you it’s virtually assured that Daniel Craig will be James Bond in Shatterhand (Blofeld’s alias in the You Only Live Twice novel) in 2018.

But, for now, that’s a matter of faith, not fact.

PREVIOUS POSTS: 

WHY NOBODY SHOULD BE SURPRISED THAT ‘NOTHING IS HAPPENING’

PURVIS & WADE DISCUSS WRITING 007 FILMS

 

Happy 75th birthday, Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson

Today, Jan. 21, is the 75th birthday of Michael G. Wilson, stepson of Albert R. Broccoli.

He has been involved with the James Bond film franchise full-time since the early-1970s, excluding a brief appearance as an extra in 1964’s Goldfinger.

As a result, Wilson has been involved with the franchise longer than anyone, including his step-father, Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon Productions and its parent company, Danjaq LLC.

Cubby Broccoli invested the last 35 years (1961-1996) of his life in Bondage. Wilson’s tenure is longer.

This blog has published critical posts about Wilson over time. But we always give Wilson his due. Spending more than four decades on a full-time basis on a single movie franchise should be noted.

Happy birthday, Mr. Wilson.

 

A look at B25 Ltd.’s paperwork

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

Corrects date of original incorporation to 2015.

There was something Bond 25 related that actually happened in 2016: some filings concerning the updating of B25 Ltd., a production-related company.

During production of Skyfall and SPECTRE, similar entities were formed, B23 for Skyfall, B24 for SPECTRE.

B25 Ltd. was incorporated on May 6, 2015, according to documents filed with the U.K. It was incorporated as a private limited company. (CLICK HERE for a definition.)

B25 has 100 shares, all of which are held by Eon Productions.

There were some filings with 2016 dates updating information on directors, although the changes took place in 2015.

The company has five directors, led by Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

The other directors are David Pope (who has titles such as production executive and co-producer on recent Bond films), John Roebuck (who has received accountant credits) and Andrew Noakes (who has had credits including associate producer and co-producer).

Thanks to reader Matthew Miner for the heads up.

As 007’s lost year ends, will Eon follow its own advice?

James Bond, feeling sad after examining his back story one more time.

James Bond, feeling sad after examining his back story one more time.

As 2016 draws to a close, the future of the film James Bond is a little up in the air.

It’s been a bit of a lost year. No progress toward a finding a studio to release Bond 25. No public announcement about a writer or director. No hint about a release date.

With that in mind, will Eon Productions follow its own advice about how to carry on a film franchise?

On July 31, 2012, Eon’s Michael G. Wilson gave an address about the subject. Among his recommendations:

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a “formula for complacency”

 “It’s important to change things, to get ahead of the curve before things taper off,” Wilson said.

In the last week, tabloids in the U.S. and U.K. have come out with studios saying that Eon or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are determined that Daniel Craig’s decade-long reign as 007 continue.

The Page Six feature of the New York Post said Eon boss Barbara Broccoli is producing the off-Broadway play Othello, where Craig plays Iago, to eventually get the actor back for Bond 25. The U.K. Mirror said MGM was “panicked” after not hearing anything from Craig.

If there’s any truth to either (which remains to be seen), it doesn’t appear as if anyone is looking to make a major change.

“Believe in your brand. Cubby Broccoli used to say Bond is the star”

“That means that Bond is bigger than any actor who portrays him,” Wilson said, “and no writer, director or producer is indispensable.”

“It all boils down to don’t be afraid of change”

“The Bond films have been recast six times and each time the series was re-evented,” Wilson said. “Each actor brought out different aspects of the character.”

“We believe story is not an element, the story is a key to a good film.”

The last two Bond films, Skyfall and SPECTRE, included Bond confronting his backstory. They sold a lot of tickets in theaters.

Eon could continue down that path. Perhaps Bond could discover his father wasn’t his actual father. The agent could confront, yet again, a major personal crisis. That could yield many dramatic moments.

Or the filmmakers could change yet again.

If you want to watch Wilson make his comments, the quotes cited here begin after the 11:00 mark: