Footnote: Was Craig committed to Bond 25 all along?

Daniel Craig

Amid this week’s news about Daniel Craig, there’s a footnote. Was he signed to Bond 25 all along? Or not?

In 2007, then-Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer CEO Harry Sloan said Daniel Craig was signed for four more James Bond films, according to a Hollywood Reporter account. Sloan made the comment at a conference.

Casino Royale was released the year before. So four more films would take you through Bond 25.

Of course, MGM went bankrupt a few years later. So there’s the possibility any such contract got altered.

Except…

Craig told Rolling Stone  in 2012, “I’ve agreed to do a couple more, but let’s see how this one (Skyfall) does, because business is business and if the shit goes down, I’ve got a contract that somebody will happily wipe their ass with.” (emphasis added)

Two more after Skyfall gets you through Bond 25.

Except…

Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions SAID IN THIS VIDEO from November 2015 after SPECTRE (Bond 24) that Craig wasn’t under contract although he added he expected the actor to return for Bond 25.

Which, of course, Craig announced this week.

So which (if any) was it? Contracts do get renegotiated. So did it change from one point to another?

At this point, it’s academic. Just another “little thing” (like Lt. Columbo used to say) to chew over.

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Bond 25: ‘Mind you, all of this is pure guesswork…”

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Alert: What follows is just for fun. The blog wanted to make that clear following last weekend’s fiasco in The Mirror.

So, Bond 25 has some momentum following last week’s announcement of a 2019 release date.

That announcement left a number of issues unresolved. Channeling M in You Only Live Twice (“Mind you, all of this is pure guesswork, but the PM wants us to play it with everything we’ve got.”), here’s a quick look with more than a little guesswork.

Status of the story: The release date announcement also said Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were working on Bond 25’s story. That confirmed a March story by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail. Thus, that story now becomes “news that hadn’t been announced yet” from the rumor category.

But how far along are Purvis and Wade? It depends on how long ago they were hired. It has been almost five months since Bamigboye’s story.

Guess: They’ve had enough time to come up with a treatment, perhaps even a full first draft script. If it’s the latter, that’s just the start. But it’s certainly a possibility.

Status of Bond 25’s distributor: Sony Pictures has distributed the last four 007 films. But its most recent two-picture deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, can’t distribute films on its own. Unless, of course, MGM is feeling bolder seven years after existing bankruptcy.

With that in mind, it’s a natural question whether a Bond 25 distributor has already been selected.

Eon Production made the most recent announcement. But it has no distribution operation. It doesn’t finance its movies. The fact Eon made a release date announcement suggests a deal is in hand. We’ll see.

Status of Daniel Craig as James Bond: Craig is 49. Here’s the precedent involving actors in their late 40s/early 50s playing James Bond.

–Roger Moore was 49 when The Spy Who Loved Me was released. He came back for four more movies. Sometimes the negotiations went down to the wire (and potential replacements auditioned). But he was 58 when his final 007 film, A View to a Kill, was released.

–Pierce Brosnan was 49 when Die Another Day came out. He said on talk shows he had an offer for a fifth Bond outing. It didn’t happen that way and Daniel Craig replaced him.

The thing is, Brosnan was the final Bond selected by Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. Craig was the first Bond selected by Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Sometimes, it’s hard to let go. That’s true even if it contradicts your previous public statements.

The prestige media is mixed. The New York Times has reported Craig will be back. The BBC has said it “understands the actor has not yet signed a contract.”

The guess: Craig stays for Bond 25.

Status of the director: This is one category the blog won’t guess. It really depends on what Eon boss Barbara Broccoli is thinking.

Should Roger Moore get a shoutout in Bond 25?

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

On Twitter, the MI6 James Bond website raised an interesting question: Should Bond 25, coming out in 2019, be “dedicated to the memory of Roger Moore’, like TND was for Cubby Broccoli?”

Eon Productions, which produces the 007 films series, has been a bit inconsistent when it comes to on-screen acknowledgements of those who helped make the series what it is.

When GoldenEye came out, following a six-year hiatus, there was no mention of 13-time screenwriter Richard Maibaum or long-time titles designer Maurice Binder.

Maibaum and Binder both died in 1991, during the long stretch when the Bond film franchise lay dormant.

However, special effects and miniatures guru Derek Meddings was mentioned in the end titles. (“To the memory of DEREK MEDDINGS”). This was his first Bond film since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only and he passed away about two months before GoldenEye was released.

The release of 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies occurred after the 1996 death of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, the father of Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and the stepfather of Eon’s Michael G. Wilson. Understandably, this was acknowledged in the end titles (“In loving memory of ALBERT R. “CUBBY’ BROCCOLI”).

Bond 25 is scheduled for a U.S. release of November 2019 (even though, as this is being written, no distribution agreement has been announced). It will be the first 007 film to come out after one of the James Bonds of Eon’s series has passed away.

This may be a relatively minor point. But it remains to be seen whether Roger Moore, who played Bond more than any actor in the Eon series, is acknowledged in the next film adventure.

Some unimportant questions about Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Following this week’s announcement of a 2019 release date for Bond 25 here are some unimportant questions about 007’s next film adventure.

Why make this announcement now? The announcement came the Monday after last weekend’s San Diego Comic Con. That event saw November’s Thor: Ragnarok film, this November’s Justice League movie and next year’s Avengers: Infinity War film grab a lot of publicity. Perhaps it’s a chance to remind audiences that James Bond is yet to be heard from?

Why announce a release date without a star, distributor or a director? We don’t really know. See answer (such as it is) to the previous question for a possible explanation.

What do you mean by that? The San Diego Comic Con has become a publicity launching pad for movies and television shows. 007 has been mostly a no-show at the San Diego Con. Although, to be fair, there were some 007-licensed dolls that were part of this year’s comic con festivities.

Why not announce more? Short answer: The principals aren’t ready to say more right now.

Of course, the short announcement on Monday wasn’t the last word.

The New York Times reported the same day that Daniel Craig’s return as Bond was a “done deal.” Deadline: Hollywood said there were three finalists to direct. And Variety said one of said finalists, Frenchman Yann Demange, is the front runner.

Could it be this is part of a marketing master plan by Eon Productions?

Well, if:

–Eon and Craig got together as SPECTRE wrapped production in July 2015 and knowing Craig was scheduled to do some interviews which would be embargoed until October, Eon publicists encouraged Craig to say he’d rather slash his wrists than play Bond again.

–When the interviews came out in October, the plan was this would create some uncertainty whether Craig would and create extra buzz as SPECTRE was being released.

–That Eon’s Michael G. Wilson, in an interview in November 2015, would say Craig wasn’t signed to a contract, to deliberately further stoke up the uncertainty and buzz.

–That Eon (or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) deliberately planted stories like a September 2016 one in Vanity Fair saying that MGM CEO Gary Barber contacted Craig “to express his frustration in no uncertain terms” with the actor because of the “slash my wrists” interviews.

So, if all that happened, then, yeah, events of the past two years may have been part of a well-oiled plan worthy of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Or maybe not.

Questions after Bond 25 release date announcement

Is this guy coming back?

The official announcement that Bond 25 will be out in fall 2019 no doubt is spurring Bondologists to read it line by line for clues.

That’s because while being the first bit of hard news since SPECTRE came out in 2015, the announcement raises question. A number of questions.

And since questions is a specialty of the blog….

Why make this announcement now? After no hard news during 2016 and the first half of 2017, why say this in the last week of July?

Calling dibs on the release date (Nov. 8, 2019 in the U.S.)? Big movie franchises, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe announce release dates years into the future, even if they just say “untitled.”

Regardless, there is a reason. This could have been done last week. It could have been done next week. We’ll see if the reason surfaces.

Is Daniel Craig coming back? The four-time 007 actor was conspicuously absent from the announcement. Is he coming back for his fifth go-round as 007? Or not?

Craig has a movie, Logan Lucky, coming out next month. You’d think he’d be asked about Bond regardless. If there aren’t additional announcements between now and the movie’s release, the Bond 25 announcement news ensures he’ll be asked about it during Logan Lucky publicity events.

Who’s going to distribute Bond 25? No word on that in the release date announcement. The New York Times reported in April that five studios (Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures plus upstart Annpurna) were bidding to distribute the movie.

Bond’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, came out of bankruptcy in 2010 and can’t release its own films. It negotiates distribution deals with other studios. Sony has released the last four 007 films.

Does Eon Productions announcing a release date mean the distributor has either been chosen or will be chosen soon? Michael G. Wilson of Eon said in November 2015 he expected MGM to make a decision by early 2016. It obviously didn’t happen.

Who’s going to direct? There have been occasional stories speculating about a new director. But there has been no hard news.

Nolan 007 mania continues

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan is busy promoting his World War II drama Dunkirk but that hasn’t stopped people from wondering if 007 might be in the director’s future.

Nolan was a guest on a podcast by MTV. It lasts 39 minutes and the Bond portion comes in about 24 minutes into it. However, if you’re busy, @Bond25Film on Twitter posted a transcript about the James Bond part of the discussion.

Among other things, in response to a question, Nolan said actor Tom Hardy would “be amazing. I mean, he really would” playing Bond.

Essentially, it’s the reverse of a Daily Beast interview early this year where Hardy said “it would be so cool” to play Bond while being directed by Nolan.

Hardy has been in a number of Nolan films, including Dunkirk and The Dark Knight Rises. Clearly, the actor and director comprise a mutual admiration society.

In the MTV podcast, Nolan provided a caveat. He said Barbara Brocccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions are “such incredible producers, they do greatly on their own.” Also, Nolan says, “I’m not saying anything” about how he’d do a Bond film.

Remembering that 1989-95 007 hiatus

GoldenEye’s poster

Our post the other day about the anniversary of Licence to Kill’s release got the blog to thinking about what followed: The six-year hiatus in James Bond film production.

Like the earlier post, this is more of a personal take on the events.

The thing is, in those pre-internet days, the news was much slower in getting around. During much of this period, I saw a number of items in The Wall Street Journal. I had a subscription at the time.

Also, the extent of what was going on wasn’t immediately evident.

There were reports in the trade press that director John Glen and screenwriter Richard Maibaum wouldn’t be returning to the series. This was the first indication (at least to me) that a big makeover, rather than minor tweaks, was in store.

There were occasional stories about potential new directors and screenwriters. Things got more serious when it was announced that Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions, was putting itself up for sale. Eventually, no sale occurred, but seeing the original announcement was an eye-opener.

What’s more, the soap opera at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, went into overdrive. MGM was bought and sold again, with a bank (Credit Lyonnais) taking over the operation. Bond fans now needed to read the business pages of newspapers just to keep things straight.

Also, Danjaq/Eon filed a lawsuit related to what was going on with MGM. It was clear the next James Bond film wouldn’t be made soon. Even when the lawsuit was settled (I had a chance to read the press release at my office), it still wasn’t clear when production would resume.

Timothy Dalton

During this period, there were questions about what would happen with the incumbent 007, Timothy Dalton. Geraldo Rivera had a syndicated U.S. television show at the time and one broadcast was devoted to Bond. Some Bond experts participated. Rivera asked if Dalton would be back. The experts said they expected him to return.

Finally came the announcement that Dalton was gone. What was going to happen next?

Attention turned to Pierce Brosnan, who lost out on his chance to play Bond in 1986, when Dalton got the nod.

Eon maintained in a 1987 television interview that Dalton was always its No. 1 choice. In that interview, Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson said Brosnan had never been signed to play Bond.

Brosnan had been signed (and it’s detailed in the Inside The Living Daylights documentary that’s part of home video release), but NBC reacted by ordering more episodes of Remington Steele. That, of course, was what gave Dalton his opportunity to play Bond.

In 1994, shortly before the casting decision was announced, The Wall Street Journal weighed in with a long front-page story about the Bond search and that it was not a clear-cut choice.

Regardless, Brosnan got the nod. Many fans, no doubt, thought, “Finally!”

Advertisement for 1994 James Bond convention

Still, Bond had been away from theater screens for quite a while. Eon did something it had never done — having an official James Bond fan conventions in the fall of 1994 and 1995 (the latter days before the premiere of GoldenEye).

That was part of an effort to revive interest in Bond. For hard-core fans, they were anxiously waiting all along. Still, both conventions were interesting to attend. For some fans, it was a chance to meet like-minded people they had never had a chance to encounter before.

In the end, Bond resumed production. 007 even maintained an every-other-year schedule until the end of the 1990s.

Still, looking back at the hiatus, it’s a reminder that film franchises — for fans, for productions companies, for studios — can’t be taken for granted.