Broccoli & Wilson considered ‘shutting down’ B25: EW

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson “considered shutting down” No Time to Die “entirely” after the film’s first director, Danny Boyle departed, Entertainment Weekly said, citing comments from Broccoli during an interview for a new EW story.

The entertainment publication didn’t provide additional details. It merely says the production continued after the producers met Cary Fukunaga, who got hired as the new director.

Eon Productions makes the Bond films and controls the franchise along with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. No Time to Die is being released by United Artists Releasing, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures, in the U.S. with Universal internationally. Presumably those parties would have had to be consulted had a shutdown been ordered.

The movie originally had a fall 2019 release date. With Boyle’s departure because of “creative differences,” it was pushed back, first to February 2020 and finally to its current April 2020 release.

Some other details in the EW story:

–David Dencik plays a kidnapped scientist referenced in previously released plot summaries.

–Broccoli appears to deny that Lashana Lynch’s Nomi character received the 007 designation after Bond left MI6. “People write these theories without knowing,” Broccoli told EW. The Mail on Sunday reported in July 2019 that Nomi had been assigned the 007 code number in the film

UPDATE (4:55 p.m. New York time): Reader Jeffrey Westhoff notes that Brie Larson, star of Captain Marvel (where Lashana Lynch was a co-star) wrote a tweet in December where she believed Lynch’s character had the 007 code number.

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Some questions Variety could have asked Broccoli & Wilson

Eon Productions logo

This week, Variety published an interview with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions. What follows are some questions that could have been asked.  Maybe they were but there’s no reference in the story that they were.

–Mr. Wilson, you’re 78. You and your half-sister Barbara Broccoli have run the franchise for a quarter-century. Does Eon have a succession plan in place? If so, can you describe it? Might you retire? Or do you plan to carry on? Or  will Barbara Broccoli take full command?

–Has anyone proposed acquiring Danjaq/Eon in the last 10 years?

–Do you expect the Broccoli-Wilson family will remain in control of the Bond film franchise 10 years from now?

Michael G. Wilson

–Who proposed that “Smallville”-style TV show? (The Variety story said Broccoli and Wilson rejected a “Smallville”-style TV series with Bond at Eton as a teenager) Was it Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, your studio partner? Why did Eon reject it?

–How would have the proposed “Smallville”-style TV show differ from the “Young Bond” novels published by Ian Fleming Publications? Would it have been substantially different in tone than the James Bond Jr. animated show (which featured Bond’s nephew, rather than Bond himself) from the 1990s?

–MGM, has undergone many changes over the past 40 years. It exited bankruptcy in 2010. It hasn’t had a CEO since Gary Barber exited in March 2018. Are you satisfied with where MGM is right now?

–The entertainment industry is facing a lot of changes with streaming. What is Bond’s place amid all these changes? Stay with movies? Make some kind of adjustment?

I did a couple of tweets with a few of these questions. I got some pushback from a reader who felt the questions were rude. The thing is, all of these are legitimate questions.

Remember, Albert R. Broccoli put Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) up for sale in the early 1990s. Nothing came of that. But succession planning is common. Even family-owned companies do succession planning all the time.

Broccoli & Wilson give an interview to Variety

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions gave an interview to Variety that’s the cover story in the entertainment outlet’s print edition. Much of it consists of new variations of previous comments. Some highlights:

–Broccoli on No Time to Die being Daniel Craig’s final James Bond film: “I’m in total denial. I’ve accepted what Daniel has said, but I’m still in denial. It’s too traumatic for me.”

–Broccoli on why Craig is such a good Bond actor: “Bond in the novel is a silhouette. Daniel has given him depth and an inner life. We were looking for a 21st-century hero, and that’s what he delivered. He bleeds; he cries; he’s very contemporary.”

–Broccoli on how No Time to Die wraps up Craig’s five Bond films: “We have come to an emotionally satisfying conclusion.”

–The duo on possible future Bond actors: Wilson told Variety, “You think of him as being from Britain or the Commonwealth, but Britain is a very diverse place. Broccoli’s comment:  “He can be of any color, but he is male.”

–Broccoli and Wilson rejected “a ‘Smallville’-like television series that would have followed a teenage Bond at Eton.” Variety provided no details when this proposal was made.

–Broccoli on original No Time to Die director Danny Boyle’s departure from the project. “It was hard on both sides because we had mutual respect and admiration, but better to know [the differences] before you embark on a project. We worked together well for a number of months, but there came a point when we were discussing the kind of film that we wanted to make, and we both came to the conclusion we were not aligned.”

–Broccoli on the job replacement director Cary Fukunaga has done. “He’s brought a fresh new approach. He’s made an emotionally engaging film. It’s epic both in the emotional scale and on the landscape scale.”

–Variety says once Boyle departed, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade started on “an entirely new script with Fukunaga.” If true, that means all the work they did in 2017 got thrown out entirely. The 2017 work was put off to the side because Danny Boyle and John Hodge proposed a different, supposedly great, idea.

Odds and ends from Empire’s NTTD story

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

No real spoilers but people determined to read nothing about No Time to Die before April should skip.

Empire magazine’s February 2020 has reached subscribers and there are now scans of its entire No Time to Die story.

The issue goes on sale on Dec. 27. The blog ran one post yesterday. What follows is a summary of a few additional things:

–There are a couple of passages that partially explain scenes that are included in the movie’s trailer (Bond’s black tie scene and a seaplane).

–Director Cary Fukunaga supposedly lobbied for the Bond 25 director’s job right after SPECTRE.

–Producer Barbara Broccoli on why Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld came back (despite Waltz’s claims at one point that he wasn’t in the movie): “When you’ve got Christoph Waltz you don’t want to throw him away and you don’t want to kill him off too fast.”

–Fukunaga on Safin, the villain played by Rami Malek: “He’s someone who’s lived in the shadows. Waiting for the right moment to take the position he thinks is his rightful position: running the underworld.”

–Broccoli and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson say they haven’t thought at all about Bond 26.

Maibaum’s ‘circular’ script structure

Christopher Reeve (right) with Roger Moore during filming of Octopussy.

A few James Bond films utilize a structure that, for the purposes of this post, I am crediting to veteran screenwriter Richard Maibaum (1909-1991).

That’s the “circular” structure — the audience sees something at or near the start of the movie that is repeated (with key variations) at the climax.

With the following examples, it’s difficult to give Maibaum full credit. Other screenwriters worked on the Bond films involved. But Maibaum is the only constant. So, without further ado:

From Russia With Love (1963): The film opens with James Bond apparently being stalked — and then killed — by Red Grant (Robert Shaw). However, Grant has only killed a double as part of a training exercise.

Grant kills Bond’s double using a garrotte hidden inside a watch. Later, Grant tries to kill the real Bond (Sean Connery) with the garrotte during a fight sequence on the Orient Express. Naturally, Bond turns the tables on Grant.

Caveat: Both Johanna Harwood (who got an “adapted by” credit) and Len Deighton (uncredited) also worked on the script.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974): The film opens with a gangster (Marc Lawrence) hired to take out Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) on his home grounds, including a “fun house.”

Scaramanga has to scramble before he finally dispatches the gangster. Much later, James Bond (Roger Moore) is lured into the “fun house.” Bond loses his own Walther PPK. But he kills Scaramanga taking a PPK from a life-sized 007 figure.

Caveat:  Tom Mankiewicz was the original screenwriter, then Maibaum was brought in. Mankiewicz did the final rewrites.

Octopussy (1983): After the main titles, a 00-agent disguised as a clown flees from a circus. He’s fatally wounded by twin assassins who are also circus performers.

Toward the climax of the film, Bond (Roger Moore) is disguised as a clown — the same getup as his doomed predecessor — and manages to deactivate an atomic bomb just in the nick of the time.

Caveat: Octopussy began as a script with an effort by George Macdonald Fraser, which was later rewritten by Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson.

Bollinger marks 40th anniversary with Bond films

Eon’s Michael G. Wilson (right) at party celebrating Bollinger’s 40th anniversary with the Bond franchise.

Champagne Bollinger held an event in Paris today to mark the 40th anniversary of its association with the James Bond film franchise.

Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions, maker of the Bond films, was guest of honor at the event.

Bollinger began its association with Bond with 1979’s Moonraker.

“One of the great partnerships in cinema – 40 years and counting,” Wilson and his half-sister Barbara Broccoli said in a statement.

At the event, Bollinger launched its Moonraker Luxury Limited Edition. Naturally, it’s a 2007 vintage. Here’s a description of the package from the statement: “Crafted from pewter and wood veneer, encasing a Saint Louis crystal ice bucket” and a magnum of the champagne.

It’s limited to 407 units. Price: 4,500 British pounds ($5,760) each.

TWINE’s 20th: A transition for Bond

Cover to the original soundtrack release of The World Is Not Enough

Adapted and updated from a 2014 post.

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.

Apted also was charged with increasing the female audience for a Bond film.

“I didn’t understand why they picked me to do (The World Is Not Enough),” Apted told The Hollywood Reporter in an October 2018 interview.

“It turned out, they were trying to get more women to come and see it,” Apted said. “So, we really wanted to do a Bond with a lot of women in it. I was right person because I’d done a lot of successful films with women in them. But they didn’t tell me that until right before we started. When I found out, I finally understood.”

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 20 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.

Q’s Good-Bye

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.