A View To a Kill’s 35th: No more Moore

A View to a Kill's poster

A View to a Kill’s poster

Updated and expanded from a May 2015 post.

To sort of steal from Christopher Nolan, A View To a Kill isn’t the Bond ending Roger Moore deserved, but it’s the one that he got when the film debuted 35 years ago this month.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli had prevailed at the box office in 1983 against a competing James Bond film with Sean Connery, Broccoli’s former star. Broccoli’s Octopussy generated more ticket sales than Never Say Never Again (with Connery as de facto producer as well as star).

That could have been the time for Moore to call it a day. Some fans at the time expected Octopussy to be the actor’s finale. Yet, Broccoli offered him the role one more time and the actor accepted.

Obviously, he could have said no, but when you’re offered millions of dollars that’s easier said than done. There was the issue of the actor’s age. Moore would turn 57 during production in the fall of 1984.

That’s often the first thing cited by various entertainment sites over the years.

However, the problems go deeper than that. As the blog wrote in 2012, the movie veers back and forth between humor and really dark moments as if it can’t decide what it wants to be.

Typical of A View To a Kill's humor

Typical of A View To a Kill’s humor

Director John Glen and screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson constantly go from yuks and tension and back again. If the humor were better, that might be easier to accept. A typical example: In the pre-titles sequence, there’s an MI-6 submarine that’s supposed to be disguised as an iceberg but its phallic shape suggests something else.

For those Bond fans who never liked Moore, just mentioning the title of the movie will cause distress. Based strictly on anecdotal evidence over the years, some Moore admirers don’t mention it as one of his better 007 efforts.

Still, A View to a Kill has historical importance for the Bond film series. Besides being Roger Moore’s final outing, it was also the final appearance of Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny.

There’s also an in-joke for those familiar with the business side of 007. Bond, desperately holding onto a rope attached to a blimp, has his manhood imperiled by the top of the Transamerica Building in San Francisco.

That structure was home to the conglomerate that formerly owned United Artists, the studio that released Bond films. Transamerica dumped UA, selling it in 1981 to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after the movie Heaven’s Gate bombed at the box office. Things have never been the same for the 007 film series since.

Regardless whether you’re a critic of Moore as 007 or a fan, he did hold down the 007 fort through some hectic times (including the breakup of Broccoli with his 007 producing partner Harry Saltzman).

It would have been nicer to go out on a higher note than A View To a Kill. But storybook endings usually only happen in the movies.

Hindsight: Boyle-directed Bond 25

Danny Boyle

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20-20.

So, if Danny Boyle and Eon Productions hadn’t parted ways in August 2018, Bond 25 presumably would have made its original November 2019 release date.

Of course, it didn’t play out that way. Cary Fukunaga was hired as Boyle’s replacement.

Once that occurred, Bond 25 (later No Time to Die) was scheduled to come out Feb. 14, 2020. But that didn’t work out and the release was pushed back to April 2020 — this month.

That’s the comfort of hindsight. Maybe Bond 25 would have been handicapped by an Odd Couple relationship between Boyle and Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions.

There’s no way to know for now. All fans know is Boyle exited because of “creative differences” between himself and Eon Productions.

The best evidence of a better alternative is the Fukunaga-directed No Time to Die, currently being stored where ever it may be. Fukunaga says the movie is locked down and won’t be tweaked until its current release date of November.

Movies evolve. Directors and writers come and go. For Bond fans spending their time at home because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), they can only wonder what could have been — and anticipate what is to come.

From the producers of The Rhythm Section…

Eon Productions logo

Eon Productions is getting involved in another non-Bond spy movie.

Here’s an excerpt from a story by the Deadline: Hollywood website.

The upcoming EFM just got a shot in the arm with the launch of Gerard Butler action-thriller Remote Control from Hyde Park, STX, G-Base and James Bond producers Eon.

STX will distribute in the U.S. and launch international sales this week in Berlin on the movie which will follow Michael Rafter (Butler), a former war correspondent turned corporate security consultant, whose life is overturned when he receives a mysterious phone call from an unknown source.

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson will be executive producers on the movie. “Ashok Amritraj will produce through Hyde Park Entertainment Group alongside Butler and Alan Siegel through their G-Base Entertainment banner,” according to Deadline.

Eon’s most recent attempt at a non-Bond espionage film, The Rhythm Section, flopped. It grossed $5.4 million in the U.S., $434,400 in the U.K. and $5,419 in Asia as of today, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie had a production budget of $50 million.

Remote Control, like The Rhythm Section, is based on a novel by Mark Burnell. Burnell did the screenplay for both projects. Remote Control is to be directed by John Mathieson, an experienced cinematographer.

A No Time to Die reality check

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Adapted, updated and expanded from previous blog posts.

Ben Whishaw, who has played Q for three James Bond films, has told Collider.com that No Time to Die will be a “summing up” of Daniel Craig’s 007 films.

There has been some fan discussion of how the Craig films will now be this five-film epic, something the series had never attempted. Under this idea, No Time to Die will conclude five Bond films, similar to how Avengers: Endgame was the conclusion of more than 20 Marvel Studios movies.

No Time to Die may be presented that way. But this is just a reminder that Craig’s tenure was never planned this way unlike Marvel.

Let’s go back some years.

Sam Mendes said Skyfall “didn’t connect” to Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace: At a November 2011 press conference, Mendes was asked whether Skyfall was related to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

“It’s its own story,” the Skyfall director said of Skyfall. “It doesn’t connect with the last two movies.”

After the fact, things changed.

The filmmakers once told us 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)

The filmmakers told us 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 was called Quantum. In SPECTRE, we learned there was a tie between Quantum and SPECTRE via Mr. White.

The 2013 settlement with the Kevin McClory estate that gave Eon Productions the ability to use SPECTRE was an opportunity. That changed everything,

With SPECTRE, we got a “retcon” (retroactive change in continuity).

I saw a tweet from a fan who wondered whether No Time to Die was SPECTRE Part II. Essentially, many fans are buying into the idea (seemingly voiced by Whishaw in his Collider interview) that No Time to Die is Casino Royale Part V.

None of this means No Time to Die won’t be an entertaining James Bond. Still, let’s not get carried away.

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.