Marvel Studios and the Cubby Broccoli playbook

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

The Wall Street Journal, in a story by Ben Fritz, takes a look at how Marvel Studios operates. While it doesn’t come up in the story, it sounds like Marvel has read the old Albert R. Broccoli playbook.

Like James Bond movies produced by Broccoli, Marvel makes big, sprawling movies. But, like the Eon Productions co-founder, Marvel doesn’t spend top dollar for everything. Here’s a key excerpt:

But no company has eschewed A-list talent as consistently and effectively in the modern age as Marvel. All but one of its 10 films released so far have been hits, a record rivaled only by Pixar Animation Studios. And none have featured a major star or established action director.

Money is a key reason, say people who have done business with Marvel. The Disney subsidiary’s chief executive, Ike Perlmutter, is notoriously frugal and doesn’t believe that the millions rivals like Warner Bros. spend to get big-name stars like Ben Affleck and Will Smith are worth it.

“They are in the business of hiring the guy who hasn’t had a big success, because they don’t have to pay that guy very much,” said Mr. Whedon, adding that he made more money on his self-produced Internet series “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” than he did directing the first “Avengers,” which cost $230 million to produce and grossed $1.5 billion world-wide.

When Broccoli (first with Harry Saltzman and then on his own) produced 007 films, a formula eventually emerged where the actor playing James Bond would be paid well but Eon didn’t usually pay for A-list actors for other roles. “Regulars” such as Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn were paid relatively modestly.

As directors, Eon would hire journeymen such as Terence Young and Guy Hamilton. Or, with John Glen, promote from within, elevating him to the director’s chair from the second unit.

Marvel isn’t exactly the same, but there are similarities. The Journal describes how Marvel’s approach to talent is to seek out actors on their way up (who don’t cost top dollar yet) or are making a comeback (such as Robert Downey Jr.). There’s a similar strategy with directors, including Joss Whedon (referenced in the excerpt above) and Joe and Anthony Russo.

As we’ve written before, Eon’s strategy has evolved since the Cubby Broccoli days. Bond movies employ more auteur directors (Sam Mendes, Marc Forster) and more expensive actors for at least some roles (Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes).  Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-leaders of Eon, have been putting their own stamp on the series.

In any case, if you want to read the entire Journal story about Marvel, CLICK HERE.

 

The rise of the ‘origin’ storyline

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Fifty, 60 years ago, with popular entertainment, you didn’t get much of an “origin” story. You usually got more-or-less fully formed heroes. A few examples:

Dr. No: James Bond is an established 00-agent and has used a Baretta for 10 years. Sean Connery was 31 when production started. If Bond is close to the actor’s age, that means he’s done intelligence work since his early 20s.

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: During the first season (1964-65), Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) has worked for U.N.C.L.E. for at least seven years (this is disclosed in two separate episodes). A fourth-season episode establishes that Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) graduated from U.N.C.L.E.’s “survival school” in 1956 and Solo two years before that.

Batman: While played for laughs, the Adam West version of Batman has been operating for an undisclosed amount of time when the first episode airs in January 1966. In the pilot, it’s established he has encountered the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) before. There’s a passing reference to how Bruce Wayne’s parents were “murdered by dastardly criminals” but that’s about it.

The FBI: When we first meet Inspector Lewis Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) in 1965, he’s established as the “top trouble shooter for the bureau” and is old enough to have a daughter in college. We’re told he’s a widower and his wife took “a bullet meant for me.” (The daughter would soon be dropped and go into television character limbo.) Still, we don’t see Young Lewis Erskine rising through the ranks of the bureau.

Get Smart: Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) was a top agent for CONTROL despite his quirks. There was no attempt to explain Max. He just was. A 2008 movie version gave Max a back story where he had once been fat.

I Spy: Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) have been partners for awhile, using a cover of a tennis bum and his trainer.

Mission: Impossible: We weren’t told much about either Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) or Jim Phelps (Peter Graves), the two team leaders of the Impossible Missions Force. A fifth-season episode was set in Phelps home town. Some episodes introduced friends of Briggs and Phelps. But not much more than that.

Mannix: We first meet Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) when he’s the top operative of private investigations firm Intertect. After Joe goes off on his own in season two, we meet some of Joe’s Korean War buddies (many of whom seem to try to kill him) and we eventually meet Mannix’s father, a California farmer. But none of this is told at the start.

Hawaii Five-O: Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) is the established head of the Hawaiian state police unit answerable only to “the governor or God and even they have trouble.” When the series was rebooted in 2010, we got an “origin” story showing McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) as a military man, the unit being formed, his first meeting with Dan Williams, etc.

And so on and so forth. This century, though, an “origin story” is the way to start.

With the Bond films, the series started over with Casino Royale, marketed as the origin of Bond (Daniel Craig). The novel, while the first Ian Fleming story, wasn’t technically an origin tale. It took place in 1951 (this date is given in the Goldfinger novel) and Bond got the two kills needed for 00-status in World War II.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Nevertheless, audience got an “origin” story. Michael G. Wilson, current co-boss of Eon Productions (along with his half-sister, Barbara Broccoli) wanted to do a Bond “origin” movie as early as 1986 after Roger Moore left the role of Bond. But his stepfather, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, vetoed the idea. With The Living Daylights in 1987, the audience got a younger, but still established, Bond (Timothy Dalton). In the 21st century, Wilson finally got his origin tale.

Some of this may be due to the rise of movies based on comic book movies. There are had been Superman serials and television series, but 1978’s Superman: The Motion Picture was the first A-movie project. It told the story of Kal-El from the start and was a big hit.

The 1989 Batman movie began with a hero (Michael Keaton) still in the early stages of his career, with the “origin” elements mentioned later. The Christopher Nolan-directed Batman Begins in 2005 started all over, again presenting an “origin” story. Marvel, which began making movies after licensing characters, scored a big hit with 2008’s Iron Man, another “origin” tale. Spider-Man’s origin has been told *twice* in 2002 and 2012 films from Sony Pictures.

Coming up in August, we’ll be getting a long-awaited movie version of U.N.C.L.E., this time with an origin storyline. In the television series, U.N.C.L.E. had started sometime shortly after World War II. In the movie, set in 1963, U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t started yet and Solo works for the CIA while Kuryakin is a KGB operative.

One supposes if there were a movie version of The FBI (don’t count on it), we’d see Erskine meet the Love of His Life, fall in love, get married, lose her and become the Most Determined Agent in the Bureau. Such is life.

Family model vs. corporate model Part II

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

We’re on the verge of the newest chapter in the family model vs. corporate model of filmmaking. Once more, some big numbers are being discussed.

Weeks before it opens, there are already box office projections for Avengers: Age of Ultron, the latest entry from Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios, representing the machine-like corporate model of predictability. A story at the DEADLINE entertainment news website says the new Avengers film is “tracking a little better than (2012’s) The Avengers at the same point in the cycle…and is expected to be one of the highest — if not the highest — opening in history.”

Marvel’s The Avengers movie in 2012 had a U.S. opening weekend of $207 million on its way to an eventual $1.5 billion worldwide box office.

The family model is represented by Eon Productions, which makes the James Bond film series. Eon is controlled by Michael G. Wilson (stepson) and Barbara Broccoli (daughter) of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

Eon’s most recent offering, 2012’s Skyfall, scored $1.11 billion at the box office.  Things were closer outside the U.S. where The Avengers had a box office of $895 million while Skyfall had at $804 million, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

The projections cited by Deadline tend to set expectations within the movie industry. If you meet or exceed the projections, you’re doing great. If you fall short, even if the numbers are still substantial, it’s seen as disappointing.

“Geez, what will Disney/Marvel do if they only open to $200M on this one?” Deadline’s Anita Busch wrote.

Eon’s newest 007 installment, SPECTRE, is due out in November. It will also have high expectations when its tracking numbers begin to appear. That’s because of Skyfall’s success as well as SPECTRE’s $300 million budget, which became known because of the computer hacks at Sony Pictures, which is releasing SPECTRE.

SPECTRE: recovery time from knee surgery

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE star Daniel Craig has had knee surgery because of an injury during filming, THE MIRROR reported. The question is how long it will take him to recover fully.

Reader Mark Henderson passed along THIS LINK from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which includes this passage:

Unless you have had a ligament reconstruction, you should be able to return to most physical activities after 6 to 8 weeks, or sometimes much sooner. Higher impact activities may need to be avoided for a longer time. You will need to talk with your doctor before returning to intense physical activities.

The website of Johns Hopkins presents similar information AT THIS LINK.

It typically takes about three weeks to recover fully for routine daily activities, but it may be two to three months before one can comfortably return to sports.

The Mirror report didn’t have a lot of medical detail about Daniel Craig. It said his injury originally occurred during location shooting in Austria and it was aggravated during an action scene at Pinewood Studios. Here’s an excerpt.

Craig’s operation was carried out last week by specialist medics in New York, where he lives with his wife Rachel Weisz, 45, in a penthouse in Manhattan’s East Village.

He was seen on Monday morning with a weekend bag, apparently ­leaving for the clinic where he was due to have surgery.

(snip)

While he recovers, studio filming and location shots in Mexico City in which he is not involved in are ­believed to have been brought forward.

The co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, recently talked to reporters in Mexico City. According to A TRANSCRIPT BY IGN, Broccoli said most of the movie’s major locations “are pretty much behind us” until a Morocco shoot in June. That’s near the end of principal photography.

In any event,  it appears Craig could do studio work relatively soon. SPECTRE is set for worldwide release on Nov. 6.

UPDATE (12:35 p.m.): The BBC QUOTES a spokeswoman it didn’t identify by name as confirming the surgery and saying Craig would be back to work on April 22 at Pinewood.

Dissecting the SPECTRE teaser trailer

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

This post originally appeared in Portuguese on the Pipoca Gigante website. People who consider trailers as spoilers should not read.

The arrival of the teaser trailer is one of the most awaited moments for James Bond fans every time a new film is produced. It’s the first actual glimpse of the upcoming film and it gives you an idea of what awaits.

On the evening of Friday, March 27, the countdown on the official James Bond site reached zero and fans from around the world got the first look at SPECTRE, set for a November release.

The tradition of the 007 teaser trailers has changed as much as the movie plots. Back in the 1960s and 1970s we had the high-sounding coming attractions shouting JAMES BOND IS BACK, showcasing much of the action sequences of the film and the name of the star, SEAN CONNERY or ROGER MOORE in big and bold capital letters, as well as many of the members of the cast being mentioned.

This tradition slowed down by the times of Pierce Brosnan, whose James Bond era started with GoldenEye in 1995. Teaser trailers were less extravagant, yet they focused in the action scenes, the witty lines and –- in a more discrete way –- the name of the actor playing Bond either had a credit or was mentioned in the narrations.

One of the key elements of the Brosnan era teaser trailers were the narrations: “Some men want to rule the world, but for one man… The World is not Enough,” claimed the trailer for the 1999 blockbuster directed by Michael Apted.

As Daniel Craig took over the role in 2006 with Casino Royale, a grittier approach was taken with shots of the film’s action sequences or Bond’s emotional reactions. 2012’s Skyfall gave little away about the film’s plot and its highlight was 007’s admission test with a therapist who provokes a stone-faced reaction of the spy when he mentions the film’s title during a word-association exercise. That, of course, led to the usual flashes of action sequences.

SPECTRE is particularly interesting because the teaser trailer breaks a tradition. There are no action scenes at all.

The focus is on the mysterious past of James Bond and a few ties with the Skyfall case: personal effects on found on the ruins of 007’s childhood residence show he had a secret. “something you can’t tell anyone, because you don’t trust anyone”, in the words of Naomie Harris’ Miss Moneypenny.

We can see 007 exploring some papers including an authorization of guardianship when he was 12 (dated January 21, 1983 – so we assume Bond was born in 1971) and a photo of him in a snowy place with an elderly man and another older stepbrother whose face isn’t clearly seen since the photo survived the lodge’s explosions.

We’re meant to believe this is also related to the film’s villain, Oberhauser, played by Cristoph Waltz. In the short story Octopussy, Ian Fleming specifies a man called Hannes Oberhauser taught James Bond to ski during his teens and as a matter of fact the secret agent is sent to settle the score with the man who apparently shot him, one Major Dexter Smythe (this is also briefly mentioned and modified in the 1983 film with the same name).

As many Bond enthusiasts know, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have always borrowed Fleming materials since they started working on the series in The World is not Enough, so it won’t be strange something of this material would make an appearance in SPECTRE.

The following shots, besides highlighting Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography, contain quite a few references to the previous Bond films.

As 007 enters an abandoned cabin two crows quickly fly next to him, a quick reminder of director John Glen’s trademark every time a dove disturbed Bond when climbing a building or a mountain (see For your eyes only and Licence to Kill). Then the spy meets an old enemy, Mr. White, the character Jesper Christensen played in two previous Daniel Craig films, Casino Royale and his follow-up Quantum of Solace.

The man, leader of the Quantum criminal organization and responsible of the suicide of Bond’s short-time girlfriend Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), is seen in the misery: beardy, tired and ragged. He’s playing chess, apparently alone, which could be considered as a reference to 1963’s From Russia with Love where SPECTRE agent Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) is a chess master and uses his intellect to plan Bond’s assassination.

“You’re a kite dancing on a hurricane, Mr. Bond”, says White as 007 shows him a more discreet version of the classic octopus ring that identified the organization the film is named after.

We understand, as many sources pointed out, that this movie would tie the stories and sub-plots started in the three previous films, such as Vesper’s death (Casino Royale), the Quantum organization (Quantum of Solace) and the passing of Judi Dench’s M (Skyfall).

The very last minutes of the teaser trailer are a clear reference to the SPECTRE meeting in Thunderball (1965), where Ernst Stavro Blofeld leads a meeting of his operatives in Paris. The image of Oberhauser, with his face hidden in the shadows, echoes the days where Blofeld’s face wasn’t seen leaving the audiences only with a shot of his hands stroking the white cat.

“Welcome, James. It’s been a long time. But finally, here we are,” Oberhauser says during an Illuminati-esque board meeting of the organization that Bond seems to infiltrate after –- or before -– attending a funeral where Monica Bellucci’s character Lucia Sciarra is seen. Curiously enough, in Thunderball Blofeld mentioned to his agents the death of another SPECTRE member, Colonel Jacques Boitier. Would be that a SPECTRE funeral, maybe?

As the countdown to the film’s release starts, producer Michael G. Wilson told reporters he aimed to construct this teaser trailer as “a puzzle”. Without doubt, he accomplished this effect with great success.

Nicolás Suszczyk is editor of The GoldenEye Dossier.

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it:

UPDATED: Wilson and Broccoli comment about SPECTRE

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

No real spoilers, although the super spoiler adverse should probably stay away just in case.

UPDATE (March 31): The COLLIDER WEBSITE quotes Michael G. Wilson differently about the script than IGN does below.

Here’s how Collider quotes Wilson about when the script originated:  “Almost three years ago, two and a half certainly. The first draft of ideas, treatments.”

That would make a lot more sense than the quote from IGN which makes it sound like the first draft was done two and a half years ago. It was first reported in fall 2012 that John Logan had been hired (which MGM confirmed in November 2012). Logan had to have submitted some material by that time. Collider’s quotes of Wilson certainly are more consistent with the known background of the development of SPECTRE’s script.

ORIGINAL POST (March 29): Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the co-bosses of Eon Productions, talked to reporters in Mexico City as part of a press junket for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

IGN HAS A TRANSCRIPT of what the SPECTRE producers said.

Wilson said SPECTRE won’t be a two-part movie. “I suppose people feel that — there’s been a lot of films now that seem to not want to stop, and yet they double themselves up to make two movies,” he’s quoted by IGN as saying. “But that’s not the case here.”

The duo were asked when they would starting “thinking about” Bond 25. Wilson deferred to Broccoli. She respoded, “Yeah, I think so much focus is on what we’re doing at the moment that the next movie seems very far away.”

Eventually, the producers were asked about SPECTRE’s script and how long it has been around.”

Wilson’s reply comes on THE SECOND PAGE OF THE STORY: “Almost three years. Two and a half, certainly — the first draft. No idea as far as treatments.”

Using Wilson’s two-and-a-half year comment, the first draft was done around September 2012, or before Skyfall was released in the fall of 2012. The hiring of John Logan, initially hired to write solo what would become SPECTRE, wasn’t even announced until November 2012 (it occurred during a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer investor call). A few days before that announcement, Broccoli, TALKING TO CRAVE ONLINE, denied that Logan had even been hired,

Logan told EMPIRE MAGAZINE IN MARCH 2014 that the first draft was “almost done.” Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired in the summer of 2014 to rewrite Logan’s work.

Also, concerning who would perform the movie’s title song, Broccoli said, “We’re still figuring that out. That’s one of the last pieces in the puzzle, but it’s one of the fun things we look forward to. So it’ll be awhile.”

In December, director Sam Mendes he already knew who the title song performer would be. The director didn’t disclose the singer’s identity.

To read the entire IGN transcript, CLICK HERE for page one, CLICK HERE for page two. Other subjects include how 1,500 extras in Mexico City will be “duplicated” to look like 10,000 people, director Sam Mendes, how Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny won’t be “desk-bound,” Idris Elba and that star Daniel Craig’s contract is “open ended.”

A SPECTRE reality check

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Since the SPECTRE teaser trailer came out on March 27, many 007 fans have gotten excited about how the 24th James Bond film may tie together the Daniel Craig era.

It may turn out that way. But it was never planned that way, based on past comments by the filmmakers.

SPECTRE was passe: Here’s a quote from Barbara Broccoli in a 2012 interview with CRAVE ONLINE:

Barbara Broccoli: I mean, we’ve talked about Blofeld over the years. The thing is Blofeld was fantastic for the time but I think it’s about creating characters that are, villains that are more appropriate for the contemporary world. It’s more exciting for us to create somebody new. (emphasis added)

Quantum was better than SPECTRE: Here’s a summary by the JAMES BOND INTERNATIONAL FAN CLUB of an article that originally appeared in SPX magazine.

Interestingly, Wilson and Broccoli told SFX that they have not abandoned the Quantum organisation, but also confirmed that it is not used in ‘Skyfall’. Wilson also revealed that they have the rights to bring back Blofeld and SPECTRE. ‘We believe we can use them. They’re a little dated at the moment. We went for the Quantum organisation, which was more business oriented, trying to corner the market on scarce resources, rather than a criminal organisation that did blackmail and bank robberies…’.

But Wilson’s co-producer Barbara Broccoli added, cautiously, that they needed a little more time to pass before they could go back to ‘extortion and blackmail! The Quantunm organisation does seem far more realistic. (emphasis added)

In 2006’s Casino Royale, the mysterious organization that Bond battled didn’t have a name. In Quantum of Solace, we found out it called, surprise, Quantum. Now, Quantum’s Mr. White is in the SPECTRE teaser trailer. This suggests there’s a tie between Quantum and SPECTRE.

As Emily Litella used to say, “Never mind!”

More seriously, the 2013 settlement with the Kevin McClory estate that gave Eon Productions the ability to use SPECTRE was an opportunity. The success of SPECTRE, the film, will depend on how well Eon seizes upon that opportunity. Still, this was never part of a grand plan. It may still be entertaining, however.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, here’s a reminder about Eon’s commitment to continuity. Michael G. Wilson said in 2008 that Quantum of Solace took place “literally an hour” after Casino Royale.

In that hour, a) Bond changed suits from a three piece to a two piece b) M redecorated her office c) Mathis went from being interrogated to moving into a villa that MI6 bought for him, complete with live-in girlfriend d) the year changed from 2006 to 2008. Not exactly much attention to detail. Do people really think Eon had a four-film plan in 2006?

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