Licence to Kill: Odd opening day in 1989

Licence to Kill’s poster

Twenty-eight years ago today, Licence to Kill, the 16th James Bond film had its U.S. opening.

It didn’t go well, financially. Licence to Kill finished No. 4 at the U.S.-Canada box office that weekend, behind even Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

But even leaving that aside, it was an odd day for various reasons. This is a more personal post about that day.

I had arranged to take the day off from work. Back then, you didn’t really have the Thursday night preview showings (starting at 7 p.m.) that are common today. You’d have to show up late and the movie would begin just after midnight. It was technically a Friday showing.

Anyway, Mrs. Spy Commander and myself went to the first showing. It was after 1 p.m. Today, multiplexes start their day at 10 a.m. or earlier.

I knew ahead of time there was a scene (“He disagreed with something that ate him”) based on the Live And Let Die novel that had gone unused when the book was adapted by Eon in the early 1970s. I knew Licence to Kill was supposed to be a grittier Bond film and was more than ready to view it.

My initial reaction was the movie probably needed another draft for its script. It didn’t have the polish of previous Bond adventures. But I was also aware that a Writers Guild strike meant Richard Maibaum hadn’t fully participated in the proceedings despite the fact he shared the writer’s credit with Michael G. Wilson.

Anyway, after it was over, I asked Mrs. Spy Commander what she thought.

“It was….fine,” she replied.

Uh-oh. This was my first sign she didn’t like it. I pressed for more of a reaction.

“No, it’s OK,” she said. “They got their revenge story.”

When things really got odd was when we got home. I turned on TV and began “channel surfing.”

Suddenly, on Nickelodeon of all places, there was a Licence to Kill special. Kid anchors from the network were interviewing the principals of Licence to Kill. Clearly, the interviews had been done months before when the crew was filming in Key West, Florida.

The most unusual sequence was a joint interview of producer-screenwriter Michael G. Wilson and character actor Anthony Zerbe, who played secondary villain Milton Krest.

The kid interviewer asked about the increased violence in Licence to Kill. Wilson said something about how Bambi was emotionally intense.

Zerbe reacted by pretending he was about to cry. “I never got over Bambi,” he said.

That was the highlight of the show, such as it was. Timothy Dalton also did an interview for the Nickelodeon special, but it wasn’t nearly as memorable as Zerbe’s bit of comedy.

The thing was, I had no idea it would be more than six years before I’d have a chance to see another new James Bond film.

As Eon’s non-007 portfolio expands, what about Bond 25?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Eon Productions is going to make a spy movie without James Bond. Naturally, that raises some questions. So here goes.

Does anybody think Bond 25 is coming out in late 2018?

There are always some die-hard believers. After all, Linus believed the Great Pumpkin was coming.

Still, the evidence available to outsiders suggest 2018 is no longer operative, if it ever was.

Eon announced July 12 it would make The Rhythm Section, a spy thriller featuring a female lead played by Blake Lively. According to the announcement, filming is to begin later this year.

The last two Bond films, Skyfall (2012) and SPECTRE (2015) began filming in November and December respectively of the years before they were released.

Bond 25, with no confirmed leading man, no director and no script, doesn’t seem to be on track for 2018.

At this point, the question is whether 2019 is realistic. Eon is supposed to be producing a historical war movie starting late this year, according to the James Bond MI6 website.

So when does Bond 25 actually get into production and come out?

Who knows? We won’t get much information until at least Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer reaches a deal with another studio to release Bond 25. As of today, there’s no such deal.

What does this mean?

It means this is not your father’s (or grandfather’s) James Bond film series.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the founders of Eon, had various non-Bond film projects. But, aside from 1963’s Call Me Bwana, Broccoli and Saltzman didn’t do them through Eon. They did them through separate production companies.

Eon has a lot on its plate. Not all of its various projects have become reality. In the early 2000s, a proposed Jinx movie was junked, for example.

But, for now, things are more complicated than the days (say 1977-1989) when Cubby Broccoli produced Bond movies every two years. Maybe every three years.

Eon to produce non-Bond spy thriller

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions will produce a non-007 spy movie, The Rhythm Section, which will star Blake Lively, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Financing the film is independent studio IM Global, according to the entertainment news website. Production will begin later this year, THR reported.

Another entertainment news site, The Wrap, carried the full text of the project’s press release. Here is an excerpt:

THE RHYTHM SECTION is a contemporary adaptation of the first of British thriller writer Mark Burnell’s “Stephanie Patrick” series of four novels. Heroine, Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) is on a path of self-destruction after the death of her family in an airplane crash, a flight that she was meant to be on. After discovering that the crash was not an accident, her anger awakens a new sense of purpose and she rises to uncover the truth by adapting the identity of an assassin to track down those responsible. The new, and lethal, Stephanie Patrick is on a mission to fill the void between what she knows and what she is told. Other novels in Burnell’s popular series include “Gemini”, “The Third Woman” and “Chameleon”.

The project adds to Eon’s move to diversify its film portfolio. The film production company has been involved with dramas such as the upcoming Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. The last 007 film, SPECTRE, wrapped production two years ago and was released in the fall of 2015. Timing for the next Bond film is uncertain.

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson will be producers of The Rhythm Section while IM Global’s Stuart Ford and Greg Shapiro and Burnell, who also is adapting his novel, will be titled as executive producers, according to the statement.

Nolan tells Playboy he’s still interested in 007

Christopher Nolan

Playboy, in its July/August issue has an interview with director Christopher Nolan. In what is almost an aside, the filmmaker says he’s still interested in James Bond.

The full interview, at least at the moment, isn’t available on Playboy’s website. ACCORDING TO ADWEEK, the interview “will post online in a few weeks.”

However, A VERY SMALL PORTION of the interview has shown up via a posting on one of the message board of the MI6 James Bond website.

The main takeaway is that Nolan says he, indeed, has talked with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions at some point in the past. No specifics were offered.

“I’ve spoken to the producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson over the years,” Nolan told Playboy. “I deeply love the character, and I’m always excited to see what they do with it.”

At the same time, Nolan says the 007 film franchise would have to be on shaky ground for him to become involved. The franchise would “need renivention.”

“And they’re getting along very well,” Nolan said.

Some of the the director’s films — including The Dark Knight and Inception — contain homages to 007 movies. Meanwhile, the two Sam Mendes-directed Bond films, Skyfall and SPECTRE, contain influences of Nolan’s three Batman movies.

Nolan’s newest film, Dunkirk, a World War II drama, is coming out later this month.

007 film universe rumor and entertainment websites

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

It has been almost a week, but entertainment news websites are still following up on the rumor that Eon Productions wants a 007 film universe.

There hasn’t been anything new, but the rumor is making the rounds.

Here’s how it breaks down. The followups are not a comprehensive list. But this post does contain a shoutout to the original source and a 007 fan account on Twitter that picked up on it.

June 23: Jeff Sneider, editor-in-chief of The Tracking Board website, says in a tweet that, “I’ve heard the Broccolis have caught Universe Fever and would love to explore other corners of the Bond franchise…simultaneously.”

June 24: @Bond25Film on Twitter does a “quote tweet,” where you can see Sneider’s original tweet. @Bond25Film says (understandably) to take “this with a huge pinch of salt.”

June 24: In full disclosure, @Bond25Film’s “quote tweet” was the first time this blog heard of Sneider’s original tweet. After tracking the original tweet down, the blog did a post the same day plus a June 25 follow-up about questions raised by the rumor.

June 26: Phil Nobile Jr., a writer for Birth. Movies. Death. and a Bond fan, comes out with a post noting the Sneider rumor.

“I’m highly skeptical that this will come to pass, but as a fan of the franchise with no real Bond 25 news to report, I humbly offer these suggestions for opening up the Bondverse,” Nobile writes. His ideas include a prequel for M (the Judi Dench version).

June 28: The Express, in a story with the headline “James Bond SHOCK,” weighs in.

June 28: Esquire also comments on the rumor. “Do We…do we want this?” reads a secondary headline.

June 28: The Playlist, while citing Jeff Sneider, also says, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson “might have a contemporary way to keep that money tap open.”

June 29: The Independent, again citing Jeff Sneider, says, “It seems like there’s no franchise on the planet that’s immune from the cinematic universe fever.”

June 29: Add /Film to the list. The site adds this observation: “Also the truth: a James Bond cinematic universe would completely fit in with the series’ modus operandi of borrowing whatever is cool, hip, or popular and making it its own.”

UK film industry not diverse, says report backed by 007 boss

Barbara Broccoli

The British film industry faces a “pandemic lack of inclusion,” says a report backed by the bosses of the James Bond and Star Wars film franchises, according to The Guardian.

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions, and Kathleen Kennedy, head of Star Wars maker Lucasfilm Ltd., “are throwing their weight behind a plan, backed by £20m of national lottery money, to improve diversity in the sector,” wrote Mark Brown of The Guardian.

Both film franchises have their home bases in the United Kingdom. Lucasfilm is owned by Walt Disney Co.

Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian’s story:

The report on film employment, whether of camera operators, riggers, props or hairdressers, shows a striking lack of diversity and “significant obstacles” to people getting jobs in the first place.

Heather Carey, an associate consultant at the Work Foundation thinktank, led the data research for the report and found major barriers. “There is a culture of nepotism and a lot of the employers we spoke to just recruit via word of mouth,” she said.

“You tend to get that a bit in certain industries but in this industry it is kind of … that’s how it’s done. If you don’t have the network it is incredibly difficult to get in and progress.”

Kennedy, 64, became president of Lucasfilm when it was acquired by Disney in 2012. Previously, she was a co-founder, with Steven Spielberg, of Amblin Entertainment. Her IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 92 producer credits.

Broccoli, 57, has been producer of the last eight Bond movies, sharing the producer’s credit with her half-brother Michael G. Wilson, 75. She held other posts at Eon before that and has produced non-Bond films and plays. She is the daughter of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

Questions about that 007 film universe rumor…

Barbara Broccoli

The rumor that Eon Productions has caught “Universe Fever” referenced by Jeff Sneider, editor in chief of Tracking Board,  generates a few questions.

To be clear, this post isn’t an endorsement of the idea. The source of the rumor is vague and unclear. These are questions raised by the rumor itself.

Bond movies are coming out at irregular intervals. How do you add output of additional 007 characters?

Since 1999, Bond movies have come out at intervals of three years, four years, two years, four years and three years. Right now, it’s up in the air whether the interval between 2015’s SPECTRE and Bond 25 will be three years or four years.

Part of this has involved financial instability at 007’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. MGM went through a bankruptcy in 2010. It emerged as a smaller company, without its own film distribution operation.

However, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli has also stepped up production of non-Bond movies such as The Silent Storm and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

How would Eon add film production of, say, other 00-agents, or Felix Leiter or Moneypenny? From the outside, it appears production of Bond movies themselves are a handful.

Does MGM have the resources to produce a film universe?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (which began “Universe Fever”) is part of Walt Disney Co. The DC Extended Universe is part of Warner Bros. MGM, meanwhile, is a relative small fry.

Remember, while Eon makes Bond movies, MGM and its partners actually pay the bills.

The last four Bond movies have been released by Sony Pictures. Currently MGM has no studio partner to release Bond 25.

If a 007 film universe becomes a reality, would Eon change the way it does business?

Eon is like a big family company. To get a 007 film universe going, would it have to bring in new creative blood?

For example, would you bring in additional creative talent to help get these other movies going? Or is giving additional duties to, say, Gregg Wilson (son of Eon’s Michael G. Wilson) sufficient? Gregg Wilson was credited as assistant producer on Quantum of Solace and associate producer on Skyfall and SPECTRE.

If you were to launch a 007 film universe, do you do it before or after Daniel Craig leaves the role?

Craig, 49, was announced as the film Bond in 2005. Do you do this now or wait until he moves on?