First behind-the-scenes SPECTRE video released

SPECTRE LOGO

The first behind-the-scenes video for SPECTRE has been posted, mostly showing the crew preparing to film an action sequence in Austria.

One of crew members commenting in the short video is associate producer Gregg Wilson, son of Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions. The younger Wilson has been working his way up the chain of command over the past decade. He had the title of assistant producer on 2008’s Quantum of Solace and was promoted to associate producer in Skyfall.

There are also brief comments by cast members Lea Seydoux and Dave Bautista. Star Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes are briefly seen.

The video is self explanatory and doesn’t have spoilers, except for those who don’t want to see anything before the movie comes out. If you fall in that category, don’t view the video below.

SPECTRE’s script: a recap of twists and turns

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers in this post

Some of the drama about SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, has concerned its script.

The computer hacking at Sony Pictures caused more attention than normal as versions of the story were among the materials posted by hackers.

What follows is how the story line — and the accompanying behind-the scenes drama — developed.

October 2012: Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming Jr. PUBLISHES A STORY saying John Logan, who had done the later drafts of Skyfall, had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25.

Fleming writes that “the franchise’s producers have quietly made a deal with John Logan to write not one but two 007 films.” (Emphasis in original.) He continues, “I’ve been told that Logan pitched an original two-movie arc to Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson while they were shooting Skyfall, and that he has already begun writing the scripts.”

November 2012: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announces on an investor call that John Logan indeed had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. By the time of the call, Skyfall is on its way to becoming the first 007 film to have worldwide box office exceeding $1 billion.

The announcement confirmed the gist of the Deadline story, although later events would call into question how far Logan had really gotten by the end of 2012. Meanwhile, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, after working on the scripts of five 007 films, later confirm they’re not returning to work on Bond 24.

February 2013: BAZ BAMIGBOYE OF THE DAILY MAIL reports the two-film story arc plan is no more and Skyfall’s Sam Mendes may return as director for Bond 24.

The scribe also reported that “Logan’s thoughts for Bond 24 are in the form of two treatment papers outlining a rough idea of the plot.” According to Bamigboye’s story, the only ones with access to the materials are Eon co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, Mendes, star Daniel Craig and “a handful” of executives at MGM and Sony.

July 11, 2013: In a PRESS RELEASE, Eon, MGM and Sony announce Mendes will indeed return “to direct the screenplay written by John Logan.”

Broccoli and Wilson are quoted as saying they’re “really excited to be working once again with Daniel Craig, Sam Mendes and John Logan.” Sony executives Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal are quoted as saying “EON, John Logan and Sam Mendes have come up with an extraordinary follow up to SKYFALL.”

At this point, there isn’t even a draft screenplay, which everyone learns in…..

March 2014: John Logan TELLS EMPIRE MAGAZINE that the first draft of Bond 24 “is almost done.”

The scribe tells the magazine he has been “working very closely” with Sam Mendes. (Emphasis in original.) He also says Daniel Craig “is very involved” in the scripting process. “It behooves no-one to write a character the lead actor doesn’t want to play.” Logan says Bond 24 “continues the themes of Skyfall.”

June 2014: Trouble in paradise. THE DAILY MAIL’S BAMIGBOYE reports writer Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are in the 007 fold once more.

Bamigboye asks “an executive associated with the Bond films” if there’s turmoil with the production “Let’s call it ‘polite turmoil,'” Bamigboye’s source (who isn’t further identified) replies. “People are getting on with their work but we have to wait for the script.” Purvis and Wade were brought in to “punch up” the script, according to the story.

July 2014: Bamigboye produces ANOTHER STORY saying Purvis and Wade have delivered a draft that’s “substantially different” than the Logan script.

“There was an awful lot of work to do,” Bamigboye quotes one of his informants as saying. “It was a big job.” Production is to begin by early December, according to the story.

November 2014: The New Yorker, IN A PROFILE OF PLAYWRIGHT JEZ BUTTERWORTH includes the tidbit that he’s been working on Bond 24’s script and had also contributed to Skyfall’s.

December 2014: A media event is held at Pinewood Studios ahead of the start of production of the film, which is now titled SPECTRE. The natural question is whether this means the film will have a rebooted version of 007 arch foe Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The PRESS RELEASE says the movie is written by “John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,” marking the first official confirmation that Purvis and Wade had returned.

Later in the month, stories are written by entertainment and news sites about SPECTRE details in hacked Sony documents. THE GAWKER WEBSITE on Dec. 12 has a post with most details of the plot of a version of the script. (If you click on the link there are many spoilers.)

According to the story, filmmakers and executives at MGM and Sony were still grappling with the last third of the story and that revisions were going on into November.

On Dec. 13, Eon put out A STATEMENT saying “an early version” of SPECTRE’s screenplay had been stolen by the Sony hackers. It says MGM and Danjaq LLC will protect their rights to the script.

Some questions for the Bond 24 press conference

Bond 24 logo

While no date has been set, it’s still expected there’ll be a news conference held for the start of production of Bond 24.

We still stand by our idea that it may be best to even take questions. But that’s not likely to happen. So, here’s our suggestions for questions to ask the producers, cast and crew.

For Sam Mendes: You said in April that you came back to direct Bond 24 because “I felt there was a way to create the second part of a two-part story.” Given that both Skyfall’s villain and M were killed, what does that mean?

A question that depends on what the press release says: Is it really true that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade worked on the script? The involvement of Purvis and Wade was reported by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail over the summer. Given Bamigboye’s record of 007 scoops being proven correct, it’s pretty assumed that is what happened.

But nothing has been said officially since MGM announced in November 2012 that John Logan would write Bond 24 and Bond 25.

It’s possible the press release that probably goes out at the same time will reference Purvis and Wade. If it does, this rephrased question could be used:

In November 2012, MGM announced John Logan was writing Bond 24 and Bond 25. What happened to change this? Why bring Messrs. Purvis and Wade back?

For Michael G. Wilson: Mr. Wilson, you’re in your early 70s now. Do you plan to continue on in your present capacity? Or might you retire?

For Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli: Skyfall did $1.11 billion in worldwide box office. Are you confident Bond 24 (or actual title if that has been released) can perform the same or better?

For Sam Mendes: Skyfall was shot digitally. Bond 24 is to be shot on film, according to your director of photography. What’s the reason for the change?

For Wilson and Broccoli: What’s the progress on your planned movie about Edward Snowden?

For Sam Mendes: Will the gunbarrel be at the start of the movie this time?

TWINE’s 15th anniversary: a transition for 007

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough, the 19th film in the 007 film series made by Eon Productions, marked a transition.

Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli hired a director, Michael Apted, with little experience in action movies. Apted was brought on because of his drama experience.

The producers also hired a new writing team, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, to develop the story. They’re still in the world of 007 15 years later.

The script development established a pattern the duo would soon be familiar with. They delivered their script, which would be reworked by other writers. In the case of The World Is Not Enough, Dana Stevens, Apted’s wife, revised the story. Another scribe, Bruce Feirstein, worked on the final drafts. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein would get a screen credit.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench’s M got expanded screen time, something that would persist through 2012’s Skyfall. The film also marked the final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q. John Cleese came aboard as Q’s understudy.

Pierce Brosnan, in his third 007 outing, was now an established film Bond. In interviews at the time, he talked up the increased emphasis on drama. In the film, Bond falls for Elektra King, whose industrialist father is killed in MI6’s own headquarters. But in a twist, Elektra (played by Sophie Marceau) proves to be the real mastermind.

The movie tried to balance the new emphasis on drama with traditional Bond bits such as quips and gadgets, such as the “Q boat” capable of diving underwater or rocketing across land. Some fans find the character of Dr. Christmas Jones, a scientist played by Denise Richards, over the top.

Sometimes, the dual tones collided. Cleese’s initial appearance was played for laughs. In the same scene, however, Q, in effect, tells Bond good-bye in what’s intended to be a touching moment. It was indeed the final good-bye. Llewelyn died later that year as the result of a traffic accident.

The movie was a financial success, with $361.8 million in worldwide box office. Broccoli and Wilson, meanwhile, would return to the idea of increased drama in later entries after recasting Bond with Daniel Craig.

REVIEW: Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar poster

Interstellar poster

Normally, this blog wouldn’t review a science fiction movie. But some James Bond fans fancy the notion of Christopher Nolan directing a 007 film (while others despite it). And Interstellar’s director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema has been tapped to photograph Bond 24, to be directed by Sam Mendes.

A number of reviews have discussed at length Interstellar being inspired by the Stanley Kubrick-directed 2001: A Space Odyssey. That influence is undeniable. But Nolan appears to have done other homages.

One is based a 1979 movie by journeyman director Gary Nelson, which more than once referenced Dante’s Inferno (Google it and the answer should be evident. Additional clue: it had a John Barry score). Another, of two small figures fighting amid a barren landscape, seems to be composed similarly to a famous shot in director William Wyler’s 1958 Western film, The Big Country.

What’s more, books also play an important role in Nolan’s film. For example, the camera lets you see a Charles Lindbergh biography, reinforcing the movie’s notion of exploration and adventure. Actually, the importance of books goes beyond that, but we won’t mention more to avoid spoilers.

All of this may be coincidence, but we’re reminded of a comment by the director Stanley Donen in a documentary that nothing in a movie is by chance. He was talking about a famous scene in the musical Singing In The Rain (and how a street stage was made to ensure puddles would form when a rainstorm was simulated). But Donen’s comment is applicable to almost any movie.

Anyway, Nolan likes a big canvas for his films. Interstellar — which takes place on Earth, the solar system and beyond (just like 2001) — is as big as you could want. The story concerns a dying Earth sometime in the future and a last, desperate attempt to ensure mankind can survive, even if it’s not on its home planet.

And yet….

Somewhere in the last third of the movie, Nolan’s story seems to get away from him. Stanley Kubrick, in 2001, made no attempt to explain the movie’s final act. You either went on the ride or you didn’t. Nolan provides striking images but some of his explanations are hard to follow even if the viewer is paying rapt attention.

Interstellar certainly is an emotional film, with a major theme of a father’s relationship to his daughter (and a woman’s relationship to her father). It’s also, technically, a well-made film. Still, there are too many twists in the 169-minute film. Interstellar is by no means a failure, but it seems as if, at some stage, a fresh eye was needed.

Which brings us to one of the reasons for this review.

At first glance, it seems unlikely Nolan will ever get his chance at directing a Bond movie. With Nolan, you have to hire his posse, including his producer-wife Emma Thomas and his screenwriting brother Jonathan Nolan. Christopher Nolan has tremendous control over his projects and it seems unlikely Eon Productions co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson would yield the complete control Nolan yields. But who knows for sure?

As for van Hoytema, he delivers interesting images. So he’ll likely do fine on Bond 24. Van Hoytema has confirmed his involvement with Bond 24, according to a STORY on the MI6 James Bond website.

Interstellar, try as it might, is not the second coming of 2001. It’s an interesting attempt to be different than usual fare studios churn out. But, this being the movie business in the 21st century, it still leaves itself open for a sequel. So it’s not that different. GRADE: B-Minus.

Octopussy’s script: ‘What happened to Vijay?’

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Note: Octopussy was always a suggestive title. Near the end of this post, there’s a stage direction in the script that’s even more suggestive.

When Eon Productions made Octopussy, the 13th film in its James Bond series and the sixth starring Roger Moore, the production company sought out George MacDonald Fraser to be its writer.

Fraser conferred with producer Albert R. Broccoli, director John Glen and executive producer Michael G. Wilson. He then commenced to turn the ideas discussed into a screenplay, whose locations included India — a place Fraser was familiar with and would be new for the series.

However, Broccoli evidently felt a veteran Bond writer was needed to take over. Thus, once again, Richard Maibaum was brought in, writing with Wilson as the paid had done on For Your Eyes Only.

Bond collector Gary Firuta supplied a copy of a June 10, 1982 draft by Maibaum and Wilson. The title page says it’s “based on a draft screenplay by George MacDonald Fraser.” It’s very similar to the finished movie but with significant differences.

The biggest: there is only one MI6 operative in India in the story, Sadruddin. In the June 10 draft, Sadruddin basically does everything that agents Vijay and Sadruddin do in the finished movie. Presumably, once tennis player/novice actor Vijay Amritraj caught producer Broccoli’s eye, the Sadruddin part got split, with Amritraj’s character becoming the “sacrificial lamb.”

When Bond meets Sadruddin in the draft script, it plays in a similar fashion to the Bond-Vijay meeting in the film. The stage directions even specify that as Bond is looking for his contact, “OVER SCENE COMES SOUND OF PIPE PLAYING JAMES BOND THEME.” The script specifies the next shot is from Bond’s point of view and he sees, “Barefoot SNAKE CHARMER in native dress sits cross-legged on mat, playing pipe as HOODED COBRA sways before him.” Thus, it’s clear the film makers early on had the idea of the contact playing The James Bond Theme.

Sadruddin occasional says “no problem,” but not as often as Vijay does in the film. For example, when Bond says, “Call me James,” Sadruddin replies, “Fine,” rather than “No problem!” In the final film, “No problem!” became a catchphrase for Vijay, coming into play when Vijay is killed.

Meanwhile, the script suggests — but not specify — a gag that many fans found irritating. During the later tiger hunt sequence, the stage directions says Bond “swings out over marshy river like Tarzan.” The Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan yell isn’t mentioned.

There are some other interesting items of note in the draft. Among them:

–Kamal Khan, the villain is described as being in “his early forties, darkly hansome and self-possessed, his body is lithe but athletic.” Eon ended up casting Louis Jourdan, 61 when Octopussy began production, for the part.

–There’s this description of how Bond has Kamal followed to the airport following an auction. “Stepping out to kerb and nodding to ZEC, MI6 undercover man, who is in driver seat of taxi parked across street. ZEC drives cab after limousine.” One of Broccoli’s friends was Donald Zec, who was ghostwriter of the producer’s autobiography.

–Not in the script is how Gobinda, Kamal’s bodyguard/thug crushes the dice used in a backgammon game after Bond outcheats Kamal. Gobinda’s feat is similar to Oddjob crushing a golf ball with his bare hands in Goldfiner.

–Instead of saying “Sit!” to a tiger during the tiger hunt sequence, Bond says, “Nice kitty–“.

–After Bond escapes the tiger hunt, a “BEAUTIFUL INDIAN MASSEUSE” gives 007 a rubdown back at MI6 Station I. Sadruddin remarks, “That should put you back in shape.” Bond tells the masseuse, “Thank you, my dear. You have an exquisite touch.” The masseuse “giggles, exit.” In the finished film, Bond would have to settle for a rubdown from Vijay.

–While talking to Sadruddin there’s this stage direction for when Bond displays his knowledge of an particular type of Octopus:

BOND
(ever The Expert)

–In the climatic fight at Kamal’s headquarters, Octopussy’s women fighters sometimes are referred to in the stage directions as “OCTOPUSSIES.” Example: “TRIBESMEN have surrendered. OCTOPUSSIES round them up.”

–Bond’s line after saving Octopussy: “I knew you were a swinger — ”

–In the final scene, the stolen Romanv Star is “nestled in Octopussy’s cleveage, it hangs from a necklace around her throat.” The stage directions say Bond’s unneeded sling, bandages and “traction contraption” can be seen tossed into the water from the Octopussy barge. “Oh, James!” Octopussy says, as in the final film.

Bond 24 press conference suggestion: don’t take questions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Bond 24 will start principal photography on Dec. 6, The Daily Mail said at the very end of a Sept. 11 story and the MI6 James Bond website wrote in more detail in a Sept. 13 article. That likely means a formal press conference in the coming months.

Here’s a suggestion for those concerned with Bond 24: just don’t take any questions.

Based on the November 2011 press conference for the start of Skyfall production, the co-bosses of Eon Productions, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, don’t really like answering a lot of questions. At that event, more than 10 minutes passed (out of less than 28 total) before reporters were even permitted to ask any.

If you did away with the question and answer part of the press conference, it would hopefully mean some clichés would go away. “The money’s all up on the screen,” or “I could tell you but I’d have to kill you,” for example. They don’t add anything.

Also, not taking questions would lessen (though not eliminate) the possibility of misleading things being said.

Director Sam Mendes, in an April PBS interview, said he cast the part of Bill Tanner in Skyfall when, in fact, actor Rory Kinnear already played the part in Quantum of Solace.

He also said Skyfall was the first James Bond film where characters were allowed to age, a statement that didn’t stand up to much scrutiny. Nor was that his first time saying questionable things. Back when he was in talks to direct Skyfall, Mendes denied it while his publicist confirmed it. Not taking questions would help avoid that.

Some fans think it’s ridiculous journalists should even expect an answer to a question (read one of the comments to THIS POST). They just want to watch the video. It’s also not like the media outlets wouldn’t show up if the movie makers didn’t take questions. They’d be there to record the various comments and get video.

For the reporters, would they miss much if not allowed to ask questions? At the 2011 press conference, the MC mocked the scribes for not asking what Skyfall meant sooner. Then, Barbara Broccoli gave the vaguest of answers.

Is it really a loss to not go through that? Most of the real information about the movie (that Skyfall would be the title, that Judi Dench’s M was being killed off, that Naomie Harris’ character was really Moneypenny, for example) came out elsewhere.

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