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.

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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

Deadline says Bond 25 distribution settled

Bond 25’s distribution has been settled, Deadline: Hollywood reported. with Universal taking over the international distribution.

Universal will also handle home video distribution, the entertainment website, citing sources it didn’t identify.

U.S. distribution will be through a joint venture that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures formed last year, Deadline said.

That joint venture was announced on Oct. 31. Deadline reported in November that the joint venture was “thisclose” to securing U.S. distribution rights but no formal announcement has been made.

Deadline also said the movie will debut in the U.K. on Oct. 25, 2019, with a U.S. release on Nov. 8, 2019. The U.S. release date was announced by Eon Productions and MGM on July 24, 2017.

Bond 25 will begin production on Dec. 3 of this year, Deadline said.

UPDATE (11:55 p.m.): Deadline says the studios involved confirmed the news. Danny Boyle also  is now confirmed as director, the website said.

“We are delighted to announce that the exceptionally talented Danny Boyle will be directing Daniel Craig in his fifth outing as James Bond in the 25th installment of the franchise,” Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson said in a statement quoted by Deadline.

“We will begin shooting Bond 25 at Pinewood Studios in December with our partners at MGM and thrilled that Universal will be our international distributor.” the duo said in the statement.

The distribution deal was put together more than 300 days after the release date was announced.

 

Is it Eon or EON?

Image from the 2012 documentary Everything Or Nothing

On Facebook, the blog caught a debate whether it should be Eon Productions or EON Productions.

EON would indicate an acronym. In 1983, an updated version of Steven Jay Rubin’s The James Bond Films was published. “I’ve also discovered that Eon Productions stands for Everything or Nothing Productions, an appropriate tag,” Rubin wrote in the introduction for the update.

In the late 1990s, the officially sanctioned documentary Inside Dr. No seemed to try to debunk that idea.

NARRATOR (Patrick Macnee): For many years, some speculate the (Eon) name stands for everything or nothing.

MICHAEL G. WILSON: Cubby (Broccoli) was always…when I said to him does it mean “Everything Or Nothing,” he said, “I’ve never heard of that.”

OK. Also, eon is a word defined as “an indefinite and very long period of time, often a period exaggerated for humorous or rhetorical effect.”

Except….flash forward to the 2012 documentary Everything Or Nothing.

BARBARA BROCCOLI: Cubby and Harry (Saltzman) formed a company called Eon, everything or nothing.

Accompanying Barbara Broccoli’s quote is image of Eon business cards, where it’s spelled Eon, rather than EON.

So, over a period of years, you had the two leaders of Eon (or EON) Productions telling different versions of the company’s origin. Meanwhile, there was an officially licensed video game titled James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing.

Regardless, there are differences in English-English and American-English about how you treat acronyms. The term “public limited company” is usually abbreviated PLC in the U.S., while in the U.K., it is abbreviated as “Plc.”

Beyond that, companies love to bend the rules of English (on either side of the Atlantic Ocean). Time magazine refers to itself as TIME, even if nobody else does so. Boeing is formally The Boeing Company but The Associated Press and other news organizations simply refer to it as Boeing Co.

Going back to Eon, the company that produces James Bond films, its key figures don’t agree whether the name is an acronym or not.

On Eon’s website, the name is spelled EON. However, the company’s films, such as DR. NO, CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, SKYFALL and SPECTRE are spelled with all capital letters. So that’s not very definitive, either.

Ultimate answer: It’s up to you. The available information is, at best, conflicting.

The Living Daylights script: Writing for a new Bond

Timothy Dalton’s gunbarrel for The Living Daylights

In 1986, writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson were working on a new chapter for the cinematic James Bond.

Roger Moore’s era had ended. The choice of the next film 007 film actor would be unsettled. For a time, it was Pierce Brosnan. But when NBC and MTM Productions wanted him back for additional episodes of Remington Steele, Timothy Dalton seized the prize.

By the time Maibaum and Wilson were writing their second-draft script, much of the basic story had been settled. The story line and major set pieces in this script would, more or less, appear as they would in the final 1987 film.

Still, there were significant differences. Some scenes play differently. Also, the Maibaum and Wilson team appeared to be unaware of the basics of firearms.

Pre-credits sequence

The second-draft script (which doesn’t have a date on its title page) has a pre-credits sequence very similar to the finished product.

One major difference: This script begins at the London offices of Universal Exports (the MI6 front).  Nevertheless, the script wants to have a little suspense before the audience can see the new James Bond.

After an establishing shot, the script takes the reader to Moneypenny’s office. We’re told “as door opens” that “BOND’S HAND, holding hat, appears in doorway and poises to throw it toward COSTUMER in B.G.  TWO HATS already on pegs.”

As Bond tosses yet another hat on a peg, Moneypenny tells him that M wants to see him.

Inside M’s office, Bond joins two other Double-O agents and the stage directions specify none of the men’s faces can be seen by the camera.

M explains the assignment (an exercise to see if the Double-O operatives can penetrate the Rock of Gibraltar’s defenses). But in this script, M has a voice over of Gibraltar images.

When this script depicts the mission, the agents are only identified as first, second and third “DOUBLE-O MAN.”

They parachute down to Gibraltar. The first Double-O man is described as “a rugged, lantern jawed young man, but obviously not James Bond.” The second 00-agent “too, could not be James Bond.”

When the first “Double-O man” is killed by an imposter, we’re given a description of third.

THIRD DOUBLE-O MAN ON RIDGE
strapping on PARACHUTE CONTAINER. He turns INTO CAMERA. We now see his face. James Bond at last!

What follows is similar to the final film. Bond escapes while the imposter is killed in an explosion. Bond parachutes his way to a luxury yacht where he meets a woman named Linda. She is described as “impressed, amused and interested” after Bond lands.

The Defection

After the main titles, the primary plot of the movie unfolds. While similar to the final film, there are some major differences.

Bond, instead of attending a concert, 007 goes to a book store. He briefly encounters Halas an “elderly, book-wormy proprietor.”

007 provides some code words. “Have you a Czech first edition of Karl Marx ‘Das Kapital’?” Halas closes the book store.

This, however, is a prelude to Bond having his first meeting with Saunders, head of Station V, Vienna. Bond prepares to take out a Soviet-bloc assassin so that Soviet General Koskov can successfully defect.

As in the final film, Bond suspects something is up and doesn’t kill the supposed sniper. He takes over command of Koskov’s defection and tells Saunders to meet him at the border.

Halas (!) resurfaces, helping Bond and Koskov work their away around the grounds of the Soviet pipeline that’s bringing natural gas to Western Europe. Halas even says, “It is good to work with you again, Mr. Bond.”

Based on this script, Bond’s double cross of Saunders is even more elaborate than we’d see in the movie.

Still, this is all preliminary to Bond meeting up with Rosika Miklos, “a huge but attractive young woman.” Bond and Rosika arrange for Koskov to be taken pass the border in a “pig” via the pipeline.

General Gogol (?!)

After Koskov has made it to the U.K., he says he has defected because General Gogol of the KGB has gone mad.

“I tell you why I defect,” Koskov says. “General Gogol is why.”

Gogol (Water Gotell) had made appearances in Bond movies starting with 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. He had a significant role in that film, while showing up in Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View To a Kill. (Gotell had also appeared as a SPECTRE villain in 1963’s From Russia With Love.)

In the final movie version of The Living Daylights, Gogol had joined the Soviet diplomatic service. He was replaced by Gen. Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies). Thus, Gotell received a cameo in his final appearance in the 007 film series.

On some James Bond message boards, fans argue there should be no attempts at continuity among movies. This script is not like the inter-connected movies made by Marvel Studios. But it is similar to the continuity of early 007 films, such as the references in From Russia With Love to Dr. No.

No Aston Martin (!)

After Koskov’s seeming defecting, Bond drives a Bentley to the MI6 safehouse where Koskov is being debriefed.

Later, when Bond gets Kara Milovy away from the KGB, the agent steals a KGB car and isn’t driving a gadget-laden Aston Martin. As a result, the sequence gets Bond onto a frozen lake much quicker than the completed film.

As the action unfolds on the frozen lake, an “ice yacht” happens by. The yachtsman helps rescue Czech policemen. This leads to an extended action sequence where Bond and Kara, more or less, end up in the same spot in the movie.

Finale 

The final film had a relatively romantic movie. This script? Not so much.

BEHIND SCREEN KARA BOND

his shirt already unbuttoned, awaits her. She gives startled gasp.

BOND
You didn’t think I would miss this performance did you?

She laughs delightedly, takes off his shirt.

Firearms

When Bond puts the squeeze on Gogol in Tangiers, this appears in the stage directions:

BOND slips a silencers out of his jacket pocket, then affixes it to his revolver as he moves behind GOGOL.

The problem with this is that silencers, generally speaking, don’t work as well on revolvers as they do on semi-automatic pistols. TV Guide, in the 1970s, mentioned silencers on revolvers as among TV-generated myths. (Another was how getting wounded in the shoulder in real life is very bad, while on TV shows, it’s like a flesh wound.)

THIS 2013 VIDEO explains some of the science involved. Some revolvers can be noise suppressed but they’re not common, the silencers are very large and they aren’t as quiet as depicted in movies and TV shows.

THR says Broccoli & Wilson had rift with deposed MGM chief

Barbara Broccoli

The Hollywood Reporter, as part of a followup story about the firing of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer chief Gary Barber, said Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions also had major differences with Barber.

“(I)nsiders say a rift had also developed between (Barber) and 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson,” according to the story by THR’s Paul Bond. ‘“There was a revolt,’ says an insider who claims the Broccoli camp ultimately refused to work with Barber.”

The THR story  was posted this morning. Variety and Deadline: Hollywood had new or updated stories Tuesday night. All three outlets described how Barber and board chairman Kevin Ulrich disagreed over strategy. Ulrich, according to the accounts, wants MGM to get bigger amid changes in media.

Variety said MGM’s board “had doubts about whether Barber had the right strategic vision and willingness to take big risks.”

Deadline said: “Ulrich saw an opportunity for MGM to remake itself into a digital powerhouse by renaming Epix with the MGM brand and making it a subscription streaming service that could line up favorably along the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Disney’s new service, Hulu and others that come along. The idea would be to include the upcoming James Bond film’s pay window as part of this.”

The upcoming film, of course, is Bond 25, which has an official U.S. release date of November 2019. Ulrich heads a New York investment company, Anchorage Capital Group, a major shareholder in MGM.

UPDATE (2:35 p.m.): The Wall Street Journal weighed in with an MGM story I can’t access because it’s behind a paywall. However, one of the reporters, Ben Fritz, sent out this tweet quoting from a Broccoli-Wilson statement that’s not referenced in the story.

 

Bond 25: The passionless 007?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 is progressing. Nobody knows how quickly. Nobody outside Eon Productions know exactly what’s happening..

Despite questions this blog has raised (including how nobody knows the distributor who will actually get the movie to theaters) , chances are the next James Bond film will still come out in the fall of 2019.

Why? Well, somebody is likely to step up even if Skyfall and SPECTRE generated small profits for Sony Pictures, the distributor for those two 007 films. Bond, at least for now, still generates a lot of global attention.

Bond still is a way to promote other, more profitable movies for studios that may become involved in Bond 25’s distribution.

The question remains whether Bond 25 will generate passion for global movie audiences.

Marvel Studios’s Black Panther, the newest member of the billion-dollar movie club, generated passion. It was viewed as a breakthrough for a vast audience that finally got to see sympathetic movie characters who looked like them.

That’s passion.

James Bond movies, of course, have been around for more than 55 years. There have been a half-dozen actors who’ve played Bond in the films.

Yet, the lack of Bond passion goes beyond familiarity.

The two custodians of the 007 franchise (Barbara Broccoli, 57, and Michael G. Wilson, 76) have spent the bulk of their lives in Bondage. That’s both a tremendous achievement (keeping such a franchise going) and, one suspects, a tremendous burden.

Broccoli and Wilson operated for years under the watchful eye of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli (1909-1996) and his wife Dana Broccoli (1922-2004).

Since then, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have pursued non-Bond projects for many years now. Bond is lucrative. The other projects have provided variety. Maybe even provided passion.

In the coming months, there likely will be many stories generated about Bond 25.

But the larger question is whether Bond 25 will generate passion — for Broccoli and Wilson as well as the larger 007 audience.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. But it’s something to keep in mind as the Bond 25 story unfolds.