Halle Berry provides a Jinx footnote

Die Another Day poster

Variety is out with an interview with Halle Berry where she describes her efforts to become a director. Her debut as a director, in a film titled Bruised, is being shown at the Toronto Film Festival.

The story also provides a kind of footnote to the proposed spinoff based on her Jinx character from Die Another Day.

Here’s the key excerpt:

After the success of “Die Another Day,” “Bond” producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson lobbied for Jinx to get her own spinoff, an idea that thrilled Berry. But MGM balked at the $80 million price tag. “It was very disappointing,” Berry says. “It was ahead of its time. Nobody was ready to sink that kind of money into a Black female action star. They just weren’t sure of its value. That’s where we were then.”

At the time, Berry had appeared in X-Men (2000), a 20th Century Fox adaptation of the Marvel comic book. But that was an ensemble project and it was dominated by the debut of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Jinx, on the other hand, would have highlighted Berry. According to Variety, when the Jinx spinoff didn’t happen, that spurred Berry to star in Catwoman (2004), a movie that didn’t work out so well.

Meanwhile, this was an odd period for Eon Productions as well.

Dana Broccoli, the widow of Eon-co-founder Albert R. Broccoli and the mother of Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, died in 2004. Eventually, “the kids” decided to start the James Bond film series over with 2006’s Casino Royale. Barbara Broccoli was the force behind the casting of Daniel Craig in the series reboot.

Bond 25 questions: The trailer, soundtrack edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

The No Time to Die publicity machine got reactivated this week, including a new trailer and details about the soundtrack being released.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What’s the big takeaway?

It’s very clear that No Time to Die is back to “saving the world” territory.

The new trailer shows agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch) saying villain Safin “will kill millions.” Bond (Daniel Craig) says if his team is unsuccessful there won’t be anything left to save.

Eon Productions has shied away from such sweeping, big stakes since Craig took over as Bond. Quantum of Solace, for example, dealt with water rights.

I’m not exactly sure about the stakes of SPECTRE. Bond and his allies sought to prevent something from being deployed related to observing people. But SPECTRE already seemingly had the ability to record every single phone conversation on the planet. It wasn’t very clear how things would be any worse if SPECTRE succeeded.

Anything new catch your eye?

The No Time to Die ad that debuted during the Super Bowl showed Bond and Nomi is a plane or glider. In the new trailer, we see it can become a submarine.

That idea isn’t new. One of the earliest Gerry Anderson shows was Supercar, a craft that could fly and be a submarine. (I actually had a Supercar toy as a kid.) The 1964-68 series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea featured the Flying Sub, which flew and could travel undersea.

Still, it’s an element of fantasy that hasn’t been part of the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films.

Hey, what happened to Steve Mazzaro?

For the uninitiated, No Time to Die composer Hans Zimmer told Variety in June that he needed Steve Mazzaro’s help to do the movie’s score because of a tight deadline.

As part of that interview, Zimmer said: “Steve should really be the top name on the Bond film.”

Naturally, there was no mention of Mazzaro in the press release Eon Productions put out with the soundtrack cover.

There were quotes from the likes of Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson and director Cary Fukunaga about the genius of Hans Zimmer. Of course, Fukunaga doesn’t mention how his composer choice, Dan Romer, got fired from the project.

Does that surprise you?

No. When I read the Zimmer interview in Variety, I took his remark about how Mazzaro should get top billing as an empty compliment, not something he meant seriously.

Still, it’s another example of how studios and “artistes” count on people not remembering what has been said previously. So it goes.

Cover for NTTD soundtrack unveiled

No Time to Die soundtrack cover

The cover for the No Time to Die soundtrack was unveiled today as pre-orders were again being accepted.

The cover art is a variation of the poster that debuted on Sept. 1.

The soundtrack is being billed as “music by Hans Zimmer.” Evidently, the advice that Zimmer offered in a June interview with Variety isn’t being heeded.

At that time, Zimmer said he asked producer Barbara Broccoli “if it was okay that Steve Mazzaro, who is one of the most fabulous composers I know, could do it with me, because there was very little time. And of course she said yes. Steve should really be the top name on the Bond film.” (emphasis added)

Mazzaro, as things stand now, may be a bit of a forgotten man.

In an Eon Productions statement, a quote attributed to Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson says: “Hans and his team have delivered an exceptional and emotional score for No Time To Die. It has been a privilege to work with this legendary composer on one of the best Bond soundtracks ever.” (emphasis added)

Mazzaro also scored The Rhythm Section, Eon’s non-Bond spy film released early this year. Personal guess: He may get an “additional music” credit in the end titles.

The No Time to Die soundtrack is to be released in November.

Barbara Broccoli now No. 2 in 007 film tenure

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

The milestone took place a few years ago, but it should be noted that Barbara Broccoli is now No. 2 in 007 film tenure at 38 years.

Broccoli, 60, has worked in the franchise full-time since 1982. She graduated from college that year and soon was working on Octopussy, which began filming that summer. She received an on-screen credit of executive assistant.

Earlier, she worked part-time as a teenager, writing captions for publicity stills on The Spy Who Loved Me.

At 38 years, she trails only her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, 78, who joined Eon Productions in 1972. Wilson and Broccoli have shared the producer title on Bond films since 1995’s GoldenEye.

Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon and its parent company Danjaq, had a tenure of 35 years, from 1961 until his death in 1996.

UPDATE (July 11): To be clear, this post only concerns total tenure time on a full-time basis. Albert R. Broccoli was either co-decision maker (when Harry Saltzman was his partner) or primary decision-maker (after Saltzman departed) for almost all of his 35 years. He only yielded toward the end of that time because of health issues.

Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have spent more years involved in the franchise. But it took them some years to achieve the same decision-maker status.

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.