Bond 25 questions: The “Mr. Obvious” edition

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who is known for getting 007 film scoops correct, finally weighed in and said that director Danny Boyle departed Bond 25 because Eon Productions wanted to bring in a new writer to replace his man, John Hodge.

As a result, the blog has a series of “Mr. Obvious” questions.

Did Boyle and Hodge do their due diligence before signing on for Bond 25? The 007 film franchise has a history of bringing in multiple writers to massage scripts.

In the early days, Richard Maibaum replaced Johanna Harwood and Len Deighton on From Russia With Love. Paul Dehn replaced Maibaum on Goldfinger. Tom Mankiewicz replaced Maibaum on Diamonds Are Forever.

More recently? Well, this decade, John Logan replaced Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on Skyfall. Purvis and Wade were summoned to replace Logan on SPECTRE. On both films, Jez Butterworth did work (but only getting a credit on SPECTRE).

Assuming Bamigboye is correct, neither Boyle nor Hodge should have been surprised when Eon wanted a new scribe. Hell’s bells, Maibaum dealt with that sort of thing over 13 separate 007 films.

Did Eon Productions do its due diligence before bringing on Boyle and Hodge? In 2017, Eon hired Purvis and Wade do the script for Bond 25. But that work got cast aside when the possibility arose of getting Boyle as director. But Boyle wanted his man, Hodge, to write it.

Boyle has a reputation for doing unique films and Hodge is one of his main collaborators. So you’ve got to figure they have a certain way of working.

Yes, Boyle said he was a James Bond fan. Everybody (especially if they’re British) says they’re a James Bond fan when they hire on to work for Eon. But did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson really think through whether Boyle could adapt to working for Eon?

What role does Daniel Craig have in all this? Bamigboye’s story said Craig was a key figure in wanting a new writer to take over from Hodge. But is that really a big deal?

Before the cameras rolled on Goldfinger, Sean Connery objected to some of Paul Dehn’s ideas (such as ending the moving with “curtains” being drawn). The 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger goes into this in detail.

Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever, described a meeting he had with Connery. The star weighed on various issues, according to the screenwriter. So it’s not unprecedented for stars of Bond films to let their opinions be known. Granted, Craig had a co-producer title on SPECTRE, something Connery never got when he toiled for Eon.

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Producers wanted to replace Hodge as B25 writer, Baz says

Bond 25 producers wanted to replace John Hodge as the film’s writer, which precipitated Danny Boyle’s exit as director, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in a column.

Boyle “quit when Daniel Craig and fellow producers insisted on replacing screenwriter John Hodge,” Bamigboye said.

Bamigboyle has a record of 007 scoops being proven as correct during the lead up to Skyfall and SPECTRE. However, the scribe was away from the action last week when Boyle’s departure for “creative differences” was announced.

The Daily Mail item didn’t identify the other producers. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions are the producers of record, Craig, star of the last four 007 films, received a co-producer credit for SPECTRE. Last week’s Boyle announcement carried all three of their names.

Boyle and Hodge pitched an idea for Bond 25 that Eon bit on. That caused the producers to set aside another script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade the duo worked on last year. Hodge then wrote a script incorporating his pitch with Boyle.

The entertainment reporter only wrote a short Bond 25 item.

Bamigboye said producers are under “a lot of pressure” to find a replacement for Boyle. The column said a replacement needs to be “prepared to be ruled over by Mr Craig.”

“Several studio sound-stages were booked for the picture,” Bamigboye also wrote. “Problem is: do they hang on to them, or give them up?”

State of the 007 film franchise summer 2018

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

The James Bond film franchise is either experiencing an unusual run of bad luck or it it’s adrift and taking in water.

Either way, there was an omen on Aug. 21. Omega released an image of tuxedo-clad 007 star Daniel Craig, mostly underwater but promoting an Omega watch. A few hours later, Eon Productions announced that director Danny Boyle had exited Bond 25 because of “creative differences.”

It was the latest in a series of whipsawing developments with the 25th James Bond film produced by Eon.

For a long time after the release of 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon was quiet amid speculation that Craig wouldn’t be back. Finally, in July 2017, it said it had retained veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to write Bond 25.

This after the duo said writing Bond films were very hard in the 21st century. “I’m just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now.” Purvis said in a January 2017 interview with The Telegraph.

In August 2017, Craig announced on CBS’s The Late Show that he was, indeed, coming back.

Yet, as 2017 ended, no real word on how things were going. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a Hollywood Reporter podcast that Purvis and Wade were hard at work.

Until, a few months later, when Danny Boyle and his screenwriter, John Hodge, became the 007 flavor of the month. The duo pitched an idea. Hodge began writing. If his script was deemed acceptable by Eon, that would be Bond 25’s new direction.

On May 25, the Eon brain trust, doing its best Jean-Luc Picard imitation, proclaimed: “Make it so!” Boyle was now the official director and Hodge the new writer. Good-bye, Purvis and Wade.

Less than three months later? No so fast. The Boyle was lanced. No word on Hodge’s script, based on the supposedly spectacular idea Boyle and Hodge pitched.

What happens next? Your guess is as good as mine. Eon seemed to love working with “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster and Sam Mendes. Boyle’s hiring (however brief) seemed a natural.

The bigger question: Does Eon really know what it wants to do with Bond?

Both Broccoli and Craig clearly wanted a break from Bondage after SPECTRE. They both went about various projects, including a stage production of Othello where Craig appeared and Broccoli was a producer.

The break is over. Aside from keeping Craig in the Bond role, what does Broccoli have in mind? Eon has burned through three writers from 2017 through the present.

Will the next installment be helmed by another “auteur” director? If so, how long does it take to find a Boyle replacement?

At the very least, Bond 25’s announced fall 2019 release date looks shaky. Eon had a bad experience trying to make Quantum of Solace on an accelerated schedule. Does Eon have the stomach to try to find a new director fast? Or should it take a deep breath and start over?

Eon, of course, has business partners it must consider. Universal now does the international distribution. A joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures is distributing the movie in the United States.

More broadly, the movie business is in the midst of great change, under pressure from streaming services such as Netflix.

Bond is a franchise that has enjoyed enormous longevity. It still generates interest worldwide.

But continued longevity isn’t automatic. At the very least, the 007 film franchise faces renewed uncertainty.

Bond 25 questions: The panic button edition

Some 007 fans reaction to the latest Bond 25 news

James Bond director Danny Boyle, we hardly knew ye. Like a comet, the possibility of the Trainspotting director helming Bond 25 lit up the sky, only to dissipate into the vacuum of space.

Boyle’s departure was the subject of a very brief announcement by Eon Productions. The blog has few answers, but as usual it loads up on the questions.

What happened? The only stated reason was “creative difference,” an often-used description when a project hits a major bump.

In some ways, Boyle was an odd match. Yes, he directed a 007-themed video with Daniel Craig for the 2012 Olympics in London. But Boyle is known for lean productions. Eon is used to mounting hugely expensive ones with long shooting schedules.

On the other hand, Eon has been enamored of “auteur” directors such as Sam Mendes and Marc Forster. Mendes, in particular, seemed to get just about everything he wanted during production of Skyfall and SPECTRE. Boyle’s hiring appeared to fit that pattern.

What happens to the script? Boyle’s hiring was just as director. He and writer John Hodge (who scripted Trainspotting) had pitched an idea. Boyle’s participation depended whether a script Hodge wrote based on that idea would be accepted by Eon.

It was. Eon tossed out a script by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

So does a new director (whenever he or she is hired) work with Hodge’s script? Does the new director want to start over? Could Purvis and Wade get called back yet again with either their rejected script or to rewrite Hodge’s work?

What about the start of Bond 25 production? It was supposed to start Dec. 3. You’d think that’s questionable. On the other hand, directors can get hired in a hurry.

Could they bring Sam Mendes to direct a third 007 film? Don’t even think it.

What about Bond 25’s release date? That likely will depend on the answer to the question about starting production.

Is Daniel Craig being promoted to producer? Craig shared the title of co-producer with two others in SPECTRE. The announcement about Boyle’s departure cited Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson as well as Craig in disclosing the development. Will Craig share the Bond 25 producer’s credit with Broccoli and Wilson?

Danny Boyle no longer directing Bond 25

Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle is no longer directing Bond 25, Eon Productions said in a very short statement:

Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig today announced that due to creative differences Danny Boyle has decided to no longer direct Bond 25.

Some things of note:

–The prominence of Daniel Craig’s name. He was one of three co-producers for 2015’s SPECTRE. Has he been promoted to share the Bond 25 producer’s credit with Broccoli and Wilson?

–No mention of how this affects the Bond 25 schedule. In late May, Eon said Bond 25 would start filming on Dec. 3.

–Creative differences has long been used in the movie business to explain away things when a production hits a major snag.

 

Octopussy’s 35th: Battle of the Bonds, round 1

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Poster with a suggestive tagline.

Adapted from a May 2013 post with an epilogue added at the end..

Thirty-five years ago, there was the much-hyped “Battle of the Bonds.” Competing 007 movies, the 13th Eon Productions entry with Roger Moore and a non-Eon film with Sean Connery, were supposed to square off in the summer.

Things didn’t quite work out that way. In June 1983, Eon’s Octopussy debuted while Never Say Never Again got pushed back to the fall.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli was taking no chances. He re-signed Moore, 54 at the start of production in the summer of 1982, for the actor’s sixth turn as Bond. It had seemed Moore might have exited the series after 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. Broccoli had considered American James Brolin, and Brolin’s screen tests surfaced at a 1994 007 fan convention in Los Angeles. But with Never Say Never Again, a competing 007 adventure starring Connery, the original screen Bond, the producer opted to stay with Moore.

Also back was composer John Barry, who been away from the world of 007 since 1979’s Moonraker. Octopussy would be the start of three consecutive 007 scoring assignments, with A View To a Kill and The Living Daylights to follow. The three films would prove to be his final 007 work.

Barry opted to use The James Bond Theme more than normal in Octopussy’s score, presumably to remind the audience this was the part of the established film series.

Meanwhile, Broccoli kept in place many members of his team from For Your Eyes Only: production designer Peter Lamont, director John Glen, director of photography Alan Hume and associate producer Tom Pevsner. Even in casting the female lead, Broccoli stayed with the familiar, hiring Maud Adams, who had previously been the second female lead in The Man With the Golden Gun.

Behind the cameras, perhaps the main new face was writer George MacDonald Fraser, who penned the early versions of the script. Fraser’s knowledge of India, where much of the story takes place, would prove important. Richard Maibaum and Broccoli stepson Michael G. Wilson took over to rewrite. The final credit had all three names, with Fraser getting top billing.

As we’ve WRITTEN BEFORE, scenes set in India have more humor than scenes set in East and West Germany. Some times, the humor is over the top (a Tarzan yell during a sequence where Bond is being hunted in India by villain Kamal Khan). At other times, the movie is serious (the death of “sacrificial lamb” Vijay).

In any event, Octopussy’s ticket sales did better in the U.S. ($67.9 million) compared with For Your Eyes Only’s $54.8 million. Worldwide, Octopussy scored slightly less, $187.5 million compared with Eyes’s $195.3 million. For Broccoli & Co., that was enough to ensure the series stayed in production.

Hype about the Battle of the Bonds would gear back up when Never Say Never premiered a few months later. But the veteran producer, 74 years old at the time of Octopussy’s release, had stood his ground. Now, all he could do was sit back and watch what his former star, Sean Connery, who had heavy say over creative matters, would come up with a few months later.

2018 epilogue: Over the past five years, Octopussy has continued to generate mixed reaction.

One example was an article posted this month the Den of Geek website. 

While the site said Octopussy deserves another chance with fans, it also levied some criticisms.

It’s a funny old film, Octopussy, one used as evidence by both Moore’s prosecution and his defense. Haters cite the befuddled plot, an older Moore, some truly silly moments (Tarzan yell, anyone?), a Racist’s Guide to India, and the painfully metaphorical sight of a 56 year-old clown trying to disarm a nuclear bomb (rivalled only by Jaws’ Moonraker plunge into a circus tent on the “Spot the Unintentional Subtext” scale.)

At the same time, Den of Geek also compliments aspects of the movie, including its leading man.

Moore also submits a very good performance, arguably his strongest. Easy to treat him as a joke but the man really can act. Sometimes through eyebrows alone.

Thirty-five years later, Octopussy still has the power to enthrall some and to generate salvos from its critics.

I know someone, now in his 40s, who says it’s his favorite James Bond film. I have a friend who refuses to buy a home video copy of it (and every other Roger Moore 007 film) on the grounds that none of the Moore entries are true James Bond films. So it goes.

Bond 25 announcements confirm director, distribution

Daniel Craig

Official announcements about Bond 25 being directed by Danny Boyle and its distribution were issued early Friday.

Versions were on the official James Bond website and official James Bond feed on Twitter.

They followed a story late Thursday by Deadline: Hollywood that Universal would distribute the movie internationally while a joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures would distribute it in the United States. The story also said Boyle was confirmed as director.

The announcements also confirmed a Feb. 21 story in Deadline about how  Boyle would direct is a script by John Hodge were accepted. Boyle said as such in subsequent public appearances but that hadn’t been part of official announcements until now.

A March 8 story by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who has had a number of 007 scoops confirmed in the past, said star Daniel Craig was “pulling out all the stops” to have Boyle direct the new Bond film.

The announcements reference Hodge working on Bond 25’s script. A July 24, 2017 announcement said veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were writing Bond 25.

Excerpt from the announcement issued early today:

Daniel Craig returns as 007 and Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Steve Jobs) will direct from an original screenplay by Academy Award nominee John Hodge (Trainspotting) with production set to begin on 3 December 2018. Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures will release the film theatrically in the US on 8 November 2019 through its new joint venture for domestic theatrical distribution with Annapurna Pictures, and Universal Pictures will release internationally commencing with the traditional earlier release in the UK on 25 October 2019.

Here is what the Twitter version looked like:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js