M:I Rogue Nation’s attempted ‘fan service’

Steven Hill as Dan Briggs in a first-season episode of Mission: Impossible. The photo he’s looking at is of M:I creator Bruce Geller.

During the scripting of 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the filmmakers considered using the character of Dan Briggs, leader of the Impossible Missions Force in the first season of the M:I television series.

The source of the information: Christopher McQuarrie, the film’s writer-director himself.

Background: Steven Hill played Briggs in the 1966-67 season of the show. But he was dismissed and Peter Graves came aboard as Jim Phelps for the rest of the series.

McQuarrie relayed the following in a Jan. 12 tweet:

Fun fact: Dan Briggs was in early drafts of Rogue Nation as a long-lost IMF agent.

This concept, like most of our attempts at fan service, collapsed quickly under it’s own weight.

Vague remnants of Dan’s story informed a character that ultimately evolved into Ilsa Faust.

McQuarrie’s tweet was in response to a fan post on Twitter.

Isla Faust was the character played by Rebecca Ferguson. Both character and actress returned in 2018’s Mission: Impossible-Fallout.

McQuarrie currently is in preparation for two more M:I films that will be filmed back to back. They will be released in 2021 and 2022.

Henry Cavill on Bond, U.N.C.L.E. and Superman

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (art by Paul Baack)

Men’s Health is out with a long feature story about actor Henry Cavill. He was once up for playing James Bond (losing out to Daniel Craig), played Napoleon Solo in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and was Superman in three films.

Various entertainment outlets have chewed up the story into bite-sized pieces about various topics. Here’s a roundup.

On auditioning for Bond in Casino Royale: Cavill was in his early 20s when he tested for the role of Bond. Chances are he didn’t stand much of a chance given how Eon Productions boss was pushing for Daniel Craig. The story has this passage:

To screen-test, he had to walk out of a bathroom wrapped in a towel and reenact a scene from one of the Sean Connery–era films. “I probably could have prepared better,” Cavill says. “I remember the director, Martin Campbell, saying, ‘Looking a little chubby there, Henry.’ I didn’t know how to train or diet. And I’m glad Martin said something, because I respond well to truth. It helps me get better.”

Sounds like he was probably talking about the seduction scene of From Russia With Love, which is one of the standard Bond screen test scenes.

On The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015): The article says the movie, while not a big hit, helped Cavill’s career.

It wasn’t until the big-screen remake of the TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. that viewers got an idea of the actor’s innate playfulness. Cavill played a swanning, conning American agent named Napoleon Solo. And although it wasn’t a hit, it marked a crucial moment in his career. As Solo, he was droll, at ease, and effortlessly sexy.

Watching U.N.C.L.E., says director Christopher McQuarrie, led him to cast the actor as the evil-genius villain of Mission: Impossible—Fallout. “Something in Henry’s comic timing told me he had talents that weren’t being exploited,” says McQuarrie. “I found he had a charming sense of humor—at which point I knew he could be a villain. The best villains enjoy their work.”

Whether he’s still Superman: Cavill played Superman in Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman (2016) and Justice League (2017). There are no outward signs whether he’ll be back. An excerpt:

“I’ve not given up the role. There’s a lot I have to give for Superman yet. A lot of storytelling to do. A lot of real, true depths to the honesty of the character I want to get into. I want to reflect the comic books. That’s important to me. There’s a lot of justice to be done for Superman. The status is: You’ll see.”

Why it may be time for Eon to modernize its P.R.

Eon Productions logo

You are making a major action-adventure film. Your star injures himself. What do you do?

If you’re making Mission: Impossible-Fallout, you get ahead of the story. Your writer-director Christopher McQuarrie gives an interview to Empire magazine to explain how things are under control even though star Tom Cruise broke his ankle.

Confirming that Cruise had broken his right ankle, McQuarrie assured Empire that his star remained in good shape, in spite of his injury. “Tom is great,” McQuarrie said. “He’s in very good spirits.”

Meanwhile, if you’re Eon Productions and your star, Daniel Craig, has suffered (apparently) a lesser injury, you stay quiet.

This week, The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. tabloid, ran a story about how Craig hurt his ankle during Bond 25 filming. Other outlets summarized The Sun’s story, including Variety.

Throughout all this, there was no word from Eon, which has produced the 007 film series since 1962.

Finally, after about 24 hours, The Sun produced a follow-up story saying Craig’s injury wasn’t that bad and he’ll be back at work in a week or so.

Still, for that 24 hour period, others were dictating the Bond 25 story line to the general public.

The thing is, this is par for the course. Eon has a history of denying things that are true such as Ben Whishaw being cast as Q, Naomie Harris being cast as Moneypenny, John Logan being hired to write Bond 24 and 25 (before things changed), Christoph Waltz being cast as Blofeld and so on and so forth.

For that matter, Eon spun a fairy tale in the 1970s that Roger Moore was always the first choice (rather than Sean Connery) to play Bond. For that matter, in the 1980s, Eon’s principals said with a straight face that Pierce Brosnan had never been signed to play Bond and Timothy Dalton was always its first choice to succeed Roger Moore as 007.

We’re now almost one-fifth into the 21st century. Things change. What worked in the past, doesn’t necessarily work now.

You need a communications strategy where your viewpoint is made clear and plain at all times. If you’re making a movie that costs more than $200 million, you can’t be passive.

Truth be told, a big chunk of the 007 fan base acts as if this is still 1965 and Bond is the biggest thing on the planet. There are times that Eon appears to believe the same thing.

Whatever you believe, you can’t be passive in an age where social media helps shape the perception of your product. For one 24-hour period this week, Bond fans genuinely were wondering what was going on.

With silence from Eon, the notion that Craig suffered an injury serious enough to affect Bond 25 filming began to take hold.

This particular dust-up already is fading. But it still points to the need for a more pro-active public relations approach.

MI6 Confidential looks at Diamonds Are Forever

Diamonds Are Forever poster

The new issue of MI6 Confidential takes a look at the actors who played “the henchman and heavies” in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.

The publication includes one article about Bruce Glover, 86, and Putter Smith, 77, who played killers Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd in the seventh 007 film produced by Eon Productions.

Issue 47 also contains a separate feature about veteran character Sid Haig who had a small role in the film. (“I got a brudda” or “brotha” depending on how one cares to spell it.)

The issue also has a non-Bond article about director Christopher McQuarrie, who has directed the past two Mission: Impossible films.

For more information, CLICK HERE. The cost is 7 British pounds, $9.50 or 8.50 euros.

Bond 25 questions: Craig’s new movie edition

Time to hit the panic button yet?

So Daniel Craig has a new movie before Bond 25. A movie that will be filming the month before Bond 25’s scheduled start of production.

You know the drill. The blog, as usual, has some questions.

What are the chances of a delay in starting Bond 25 production? Given your leading man is starring in a mystery movie titled Knives Out, probably 90 percent or better.

If Knives Out were a TV movie, Craig could probably squeeze it in before Bond 25’s scheduled start date of Dec. 3. But, by all accounts, it’s a theatrical film. It may be a modest production, but it doesn’t seem likely Craig could complete Knives Out before Dec. 3.

What are the chances this pushes back Bond 25’s fall 2019 release date? That’s an entirely different question, at least for now.

Mission: Impossible-Fallout still met its July release date despite star Tom Cruise breaking an ankle. The production schedule was changed and the crew was kept on the payroll (so they wouldn’t take other jobs while Cruise recovered). The Christopher McQuarrie-directed movie was still doing work until virtually the last minute. But it still met the release date. That’s a lot of off-screen drama.

However, Bond 25 doesn’t have a director at the moment, much less a McQuarrie. Until it acquires one (after Danny Boyle resigned from the project last month), it’s difficult to say what will happen with the release date. It’s a Mr. Obvious observation, but until you have a director, you don’t have a movie.

So what is Daniel Craig thinking? The fact he accepted another movie suggests there’s no way he thinks Bond 25 will be ready to go by Dec. 3. But the blog doesn’t have a mind reading machine. Also, there’s no telling what the state of Bond 25’s script is after scribe John Hodge followed Boyle out the door.

What’s your verdict? No sense hitting the panic button yet. At the same time, if you’re wearing rose-colored glasses, you should take them off.

Henry Cavil oddities ahead of Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Henry Cavill in 2013, during filming of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Mission: Impossible-Fallout is about to reach theaters. There are a number of oddities concerning the movie’s co-star, Henry Cavill, during the publicity build-up.

Unasked questions: No entertainment reporter (as far as the blog can tell) has asked Cavill an obvious question. The previous Mission: Impossible movie (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation) helped cause one of your previous movies, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., to crash at the box office. Do you find it ironic you worked on the next M:I film?

2015’s Rogue Nation originally was due to come out at Christmas 2015. But Paramount moved the fifth M:I film up five months to get out of the way of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

As a result, Rogue Nation came out just two weeks before Cavill’s U.N.C.L.E. film. In the U.S., U.N.C.L.E. was No. 3 in its opening weekend, behind Straight Outta Compton and Rogue Nation (in its third weekend of release). The U.S. market didn’t appear interested in two spy movies the same weekend and Tom Cruise & Co. were still going strong.

It might be interesting to hear Cavill reflect on that. But it hasn’t occurred to interviewers.

But, hey, questions about Cavill playing James Bond! At least that appears to be the take Yahoo Movies UK took IN THIS STORY.

Of course, Cavill (in his early 20s) did a screen test for the role for Casino Royale before Daniel Craig (with the significant support of Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli) got the part. Since then, Cavill-Bond has been a case of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

And, after all, Craig is doing Bond 25, which doesn’t even start filming until December and won’t be out until fall 2019.

Cavill’s less-than-surprising answer: “I would love to do it of course. I think Bond would be a really fun role. It’s British, it’s cool. I think that now that I have my Mission: Impossible badge we can do real stunts and really amp it up as well…I don’t get to play a Brit very often. So yes, I would love the opportunity and if they were to ask I would say ‘yes.’”

What about an U.N.C.L.E. sequel? The 2015 U.N.C.L.E. film gets more critical love now than it did when it came out. But there have been absolutely no signs there is any real movement toward a sequel. A screenplay may have been written. But Hollywood is littered with scripts that were never filmed.

Still, that doesn’t stop the questions. Again, from the Yahoo Movies UK story:

“I don’t know when or if it will happen, I had enormous fun making that movie and it would be enormous fun playing Napoleon Solo again but I’m not too sure when that would be.”

Whatever, big guy.

Spy fans engage in throwing bricks from glass houses

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

Late next week, Mission: Impossible-Fallout reaches theaters. Some 007 fans aren’t happy, feeling the movie is, well, a ripoff.

Specifically, based on trailers, there are at least two segments of M:I-Fallout that seem “inspired” from previous Bond films:

–A villain appears to make an escape similar to the way Franz Sanchez did in Licence to Kill (1989).

–Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt makes a HALO (high altitude, low-opening) parachute jump, similar to how B.J. Worth did one doubling for Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

The resemblances are undeniable. In fact, the current Hawaii Five-0 series did an “homage” to the Licence to Kill sequence at the start of its third season in 2012. So Mission: Impossible-Fallout doing it wouldn’t be the first time.

On the other hand, memories may be short. So the following should be noted.

–Live And Let Die (1973) when it was released was seen as inspired by “blaxploitation” movies of the early 1970s. While Ian Fleming’s 1954 novel featured a black villain, the movie utilized a few characters but dispensed with the book’s main plot.

–The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) was seen as 007’s answer to Kung Fu movies of the 1970s. Fleming’s 1965 novel of the same name was mostly set in Jamaica and didn’t have any Kung Fu.

–Moonraker (1979) was seen as 007’s answer to Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Fleming’s 1955 novel concerned a rocket but no space travel was involved.

–Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) were said to be influenced by the Jason Bourne movies that were popular at the start of this century.

Javier Bardem’s Silva in a Joker-like moment in Skyfall

–Skyfall (2012) was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Director Sam Mendes even said so. Javier Bardem’s Silva definitely seemed influenced by Heath Ledger’s Joker.

If fans want to accuse another franchise of copying, it can be a matter of throwing bricks from a glass house.

Filmmakers do this sort of thing all the time. Directors channel their inner-Alfred Hitchcock (or Stanley Kubrick, or whoever) all the time.

Christopher Nolan, who helmed The Dark Knight, channeled 007 films in his Batman trilogy. Example: Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) giving Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) gadgets more than slightly resembled Bond-Q scenes from earlier 007 films.

Chances are, if you see a shot or sequence that reminds you of a famous movie sequence, chances are it’s not a coincidence.

The key difference is what does the director do with it? Does it work? Does it contribute to an entertaining film?

In the case of The Dark Knight, whatever you might think of it, Nolan delivered a memorable movie. With Skyfall, whatever was “borrowed” from Nolan, audiences found it an interesting take on a Bond film.

I can’t judge Mission: Impossible-Fallout. I haven’t seen it, other than the trailers.

The question is where M:I-Fallout writer-director Christopher McQuarrie and his star, Tom Cruise, have delivered a good movie. “Borrowing” happens all the time in film. We’ll see soon.