RE-POST: Why Bond 25 didn’t economize

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Updated from an April 3 post.

NEW INTRODUCTION: This past week, The Hollywood Reporter had a feature story about No Time to Die cast members Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas that had a passing reference that the film’s budget was $250 million.

On Nov. 9, the Daily Mail had a story with a passing reference that the budget was 200 million British pounds ($257 million or so, depending on the conversion rate).

Regular readers of this blog were probably not surprised. In April, the blog had a post about why it was not likely the 25th James Bond film didn’t do much economizing.

Since that post was published, it became public knowledge that writer-actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge also worked on the movie’s script. Her reported fee (via The Hollywood Reporter) was $2 million. Thus, there’s even more evidence that spending on the movie continued on the high side.

Over the past few days, other outlets have picked up on the $250 million budget figure for No Time to Die. SPECTRE had a $245 million figure (after tax breaks, product placement and other incentives were factored in).

What follows in the text of the blog’s original post on the subject.

ORIGINAL APRIL POST: Bond 25 production got underway last week with some filming in Norway. There’s a lot we don’t know (including a title). But there are some signs that the film isn’t traveling in Economy Class.

Delays in production: Eon Productions began renting space at Pinewood Studios last year. But filming there has been delayed at least five months.

Eon couldn’t just give up that space. Demand for space at Pinewood is high. So that’s a few months without any footage actually being shot. That makes it harder to economize.

An expensive script doctor: Scott Z. Burns recently spent four weeks working on Bond 25’s script. He’s a well-regarded scribe and he’s moving into directing. His services are in demand. It’s likely his Bond 25 services didn’t come cheap. (UPDATE: Burns’s involvement was confirmed in late April at the “reveal” event in Jamaica.)

The star may have gotten a raise: Variety last year reported that Daniel Craig will receive $25 million for his fifth 007 film. The truth is known to Craig, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, Craig’s agent and the various studios backing Bond 25. Still, it’s unlikely Craig’s services are receiving discounted rates.

The Mission: Impossible franchise means now isn’t the time to economize: This is a favorite fan theory/speculation. During the 2010s, the Mission: Impossible films starring and produced by Tom Cruise have cranked out three entries while Eon’s 007 series will have two.

Moreover, the M:I films have gotten a lot of attention for their stunts, big set pieces and international intrigue — things the 007 films are known for.

Paramount recently announced the Cruise M:I series will produce two more entries back-to-back, coming out in 2021 and 2022. By the time the latter entry is out, Cruise will be 60 and Christopher McQuarrie will have written and directed four films.

Sid Haig dies at 80

Sid Haig as the hood who had “a bruddah” in Diamonds Are Forever

Sid Haig, an actor who made it big in horror movies but also had his moments in spy-fi, died Sept. 21 at age 80, according to Yahoo Movies UK.

Haig starred in films such as House of 1000 Corpses,  The Devil’s Rejects and other films directed by Rob Zombie.

Before becoming a horror star, Haig was a busy character actor, including a lot of work on television. That included appearances in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible and Get Smart.

Haig also made an impression with a small role in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. He’s part of the “brain trust” (Felix Leiter’s words) of hoods waiting on Sean Connery’s Bond (posing as Peter Franks) to take the body of the real Franks to Slumber Inc.

On the way to the mortuary, there’s a brief exchange of dialogue where the leader of the group (Marc Lawrence asks, “The stiff, uh, deceased back there. Your brother, Mr. Franks?”

“Yes, it was,” Bond replies.

Haig’s character perks up. “I got a bruddah!”

“Small world,” Bond says.

Happy 100th to a familiar, often villainous, face

Nehemiah Persoff in Mission: Impossible

Aug. 2 is the 100th birthday for Nehemiah Persoff, a character actor who excelled at playing villains.

Persoff, over a career lasting from the late 1940s to the early 2000s, played:

–A Blofeld-like villain in the 1961 John Wayne Western The Comancheros;

–A secondary Thrush villain out to kill his former mentor Mandor (Jack Lord) in The Master’s Touch Affair in the final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.;

–Three episodes of The Wild Wild West, including the show’s 1965 pilot;

–Two episodes of I Spy, three episodes of Mission: Impossible, an episode of It Takes a Thief, and seven episodes of Hawaii Five-O.

Persoff could play heavies in comedies as well as dramas.

For example, Persoff played gangster Little Bonaparte in 1959’s Some Like It Hot. The mobster was hearing impaired, wearing hearing aids. Little Bonaparte has fellow gangster Spats Columbo (George Raft) and his men gunned down at a party, with the killer coming out of a large cake.

A lawman played by Pat O’Brien enters asking what happened.

“There was something in that cake that didn’t agree with them,” Little Bonaparte replies.

Authorities arrest suspect in killing of Barry Crane

Barry Crane (1927-1985)

Federal and Los Angeles authorities have arrested a suspect in the 1985 murder of Barry Crane, a veteran TV director and producer, The Hollywood Reporter said.

An excerpt from the story:

Federal and local authorities on Thursday arrested a man they believe brutally killed TV producer Barry Crane back in 1985, Los Angeles police confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

Edwin Hiatt, now 52, was taken into custody in North Carolina by the FBI Fugitive Task Force after detectives with LAPD said they identified him as Crane’s killer through DNA evidence.

Crane earned a reputation as Mission: Impossible’s “human computer,” capable of quickly breaking down complex scripts into filming schedules.

“To make it simple, he was a walking computer,” the late Stanley Kallis, one of M:I’s producers, told author Patrick J. White in 1991’s The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. “He had perfect recall and could juggle in his mind eighty facts at any moment.”

Crane’s title on that series was associate producer. He also was associate producer on Mannix. Both series were overseen by executive producer Bruce Geller. Crane became producer for the final season of Mission: Impossible.

After M:I wrapped production, Crane worked primarily as a TV director. Throughout this period, Crane was a noted player of Bridge. Before his tenure on M:I and Mannix, Crane was a production manager at series such as Burke’s Law made at Four Star Productions.

UPDATE (May 10): The New York Times published a story with additional details. Among other things, “Mr. Hiatt’s DNA matched cigarette butts recovered from the ashtray of Mr. Crane’s stolen car,” The Times said, citing court documents.

Barry Crane title card for an episode of Mannix

McQuarrie talks about M:I 7-8

Poster for Mission: Impossible-Fallout, directed by Christopher McQuarrie.

Christopher McQuarrie, writer-director of the last two Mission: Impossible movies, was interviewed by Empire magazine, which published an excerpt.

Now, McQuarrie will be helming two M:I movies to be filmed back-to-back and released in 2021 and 2022. Cruise will be 60 when the latter comes out.

“I pitched the idea of making two movies, and now I have to justify why it’s two movies,” Empire quotes McQuarrie as saying. “You’ve got to earn that. You’ve got to make something that swallows the last three movies whole. I’m freaked out now. We’ve talked ourselves into something.”

The M:I film series began in 1996. It has had long gaps in between installments. But this decade, the series, produced by star Tom Cruise, has been accelerating its schedule. In the 2010s, it had movies come out in 2011, 2015 and 2018.

The 007 had entries in 2012 and 2015. Bond 25, now in production, is scheduled for release in April 2020.

McQuarrie also tweeted about the Empire interview.

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Noah Keen, character actor, dies at 98

Noah Keen, right, with James Gregory and Jack Lord in the pilot to Hawaii Five-O

Noah Keen, a veteran character actor whose career ran from the late 1950s into the 2000s, died last month at 98, according to a Los Angeles Times obituary.

Keen’s parts included a doctor who programs Steve McGarrett to impart false information under an unusual torture in the pilot to Hawaii Five-O. As a result, Chinese spy Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh) takes the false information with him back to his government.

When Keen’s character meets McGarrett (Jack Lord), he reads from a dossier that indicates the lawman, during his days in the military was “an organizational misfit,” received some presidential citations and “flies by the seat of his pants.”

His other TV series credits included Have Gun-Will Travel, The FBI, The Twilight Zone, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, It Takes a Thief and Mission: Impossible. The final credit listed in his IMDB.COM ENTRY was a 2006 episode of The Sopranos.

Television writer Henry Sharp dies at 106

Henry Sharp title card from a fourth-season episode of The Wild Wild West

Television writer Henry Sharp, whose credits included The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., died Jan. 9 at 106, according to a Twitter post by the Writers Guild West.

Sharp’s entry on IMDB.com lists credits across various genres going back to the late 1950s. Many of his initial credits were for situation comedies, including The Donna Reed Show and McHale’s Navy.

The writer shifted to spy-fi in the mid 1960s as the spy genre became popular. Sharp was brought in to rewrite a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Neptune Affair, about a group of scientists trying to start World War III. Sharp shared the teleplay credit with John W. Bloch, who plotted the story.

Sharp’s biggest mark was on The Wild Wild West, which mixed cowboys and espionage.

Sharp wrote four first-season episodes. Early in the second season, he was brought aboard as story editor (formal title: story consultant), where he helped supervise and revise scripts. He had a total of 10 writing credits on the series.

One of his best was early in the second season, The Night of the Golden Cobra, which featured Boris Karloff as the guest adversary for Secret Service agents James West and Artemus Gordon (Robert Conrad and Ross Martin).

Here’s the tweet announcing Sharp’s death:

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Michele Carey dies at 75

Michele Carey in an episode of The Wild Wild West

Michele Carey, an actress active from the 1960s into the 1980s, has died at 75, according to an announcement on her Facebook page.

Carey died on Nov. 21. The announcement described her death as a ” sudden and unexpected passing.”

One of her most prominent roles was in the Howard Hawks-directed western El Dorado, starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum.

She played Josephine “Joey” MacDonald, a tomboy-like character. She shoots Wayne’s Cole Thornton early in the film. While the wound isn’t fatal, it causes plot complications because Thornton becomes impaired later in the story.

Carey was active in spy-related television shows. Among them: a small role on The Double Affair episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; three episodes of The Wild Wild West, including the only two-part story of the series; as well as episodes of It Takes a Thief, Mission: Impossible and Amos Burke, Secret Agent.

The actress was also the voice of Effie the computer in the short-lived 1979 series A Man Called Sloane starring Robert Conrad.

While not a spy story, Carey also was a guest star in a 1969 episode of The FBI titled Tug-Of-War. One of her co-stars was Barry Nelson, the first actor to play James Bond. The episode was plotted by Anthony Spinner, who was the fourth-season producer of U.N.C.L.E.

Expanded TWINE soundtrack coming Nov. 27

Cover to the original soundtrack release of The World Is Not Enough

An expanded two-disc soundtrack to 1999’s The World Is Not Enough will be available Nov. 27, La-La Land Records announced on Twitter and Facebook.

La-La Land’s Facebook post has a track list. The first disc has almost 74 minutes of material, while the second dis has more than 67 minutes.

The World Is Not Enough was the second of five 007 scores composed by David Arnold. La-La Land previously released an expanded soundtrack for 2002’s Die Another Day, also featuring an Arnold score.

The company also has released limited-edition soundtracks for the Mission: Impossible television series, Jonny Quest and The Wild Wild West.

The Spy Command marks its 10th anniversary

Today marks the 10th anniversary of The Spy Command.

It has been a long journey. Initially, the blog was a spinoff of a website (Her Majesty’s Secret Servant) that’s no longer online.

It took a few months for the blog to find its own voice, its own point of view.

Yet it did. The blog’s main reason for being has been to apply some journalistic principles to a fan endeavor.

The blog is a hobby. But it also keeps track of what has been said and revisits whether that’s occurred.

Some James Bond fans don’t like that. They want to celebrate all things 007. If there have been inconsistencies, they don’t care.

That’s fine. There are plenty of sites on the internet.

But here, the basic idea is to keep track of what is happening now while providing context of how it compares with the past.

One example: What really happened with the script of Quantum of Solace? which examined various contradictory accounts of how the 22nd James Bond film came together.

In hindsight, a better title would have been “Whatever happened to Joshua Zetumer?”

Zetumer was the scribe who was doing rewrites during filming. His contributions were noted in stories published while the movie was in production. Examples include a story on the Rotten Tomatoes website as well as pieces on the MI6 James Bond website and the Commander Bond website.

However, Zetumer’s is a forgotten man these days. That’s because of  later stories quoting Daniel Craig how he and Quantum director Marc Forster rewrote the movie during production. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend, I suppose.

Another example: A 2015 post, A SPECTRE reality check, noted how, in 2012, Eon said the SPECTRE organization was passe and that Quantum was much better than SPECTRE in the 21st century. All that changed, of course, once the rights to SPECTRE were secured from the Kevin McClory estate in 2013.

Finally, more recently, the blog documented (so far) the writing process of Bond 25 complete with various contradictions.

Paul Baack (1957-2017) and the Spy Commander in 2013.

Origins

The blog was the idea of Paul Baack (1957-2017), one of the co-founders of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant. He wanted HMSS to have a presence in between issues of the “e-magazine,” which specialized in producing magazine-length stories on James Bond and related topics.

Paul informed HMSS contributors about the blog and said it was all of theirs.

I was the one who took him up on it.

Initially, I was skeptical. But, after a few posts, I got hooked. It was an outlet that quickly became one of my main hobbies.

Over time, I took it over. By 2009, I was the primary contributor. By 2011, the blog established its own voice separate from HMSS. By 2014, the blog was totally on its own after HMSS went offline. On Feb. 8, 2015, the blog took the new name, The Spy Command.

So much different. Yet so much the same.

Since its debut, there have been three James Bond films released (Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and SPECTRE); three Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible films; and a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (which I long thought would never happen).

Blog Highlights

The blog tries on occasion to get into the business side of the entertainment industry. One of my personal favorite series of posts was a three-part series about the involvement of Film Finances Inc. with Dr. No.

Film Finances supplies “completion” bonds to ensure movies can finish production. The company ended up taking control of Dr. No during post production.

It’s an episode that hasn’t been written much outside of a book Film Finances published about its work with Dr. No, which reproduced many documents. One example was a memo showing Dr. No fell a half-day behind schedule on its first day.

Photocopy of the title page of Richard Maibaum’s 1961 draft of Thunderball

Some other personal favorite posts include those about scripts for Bond movies. In some cases, like this 2015 post about You Only Live Twice, dealt with drafts similar to the final film with a few significant differences. Others, like this 2017 post about a Bond 17 treatment dealt with stories that never saw the light of day.

Perhaps the most enjoyable was an examination of three Thunderball scripts, including Jack Whittingham’s first draft in 1960 and Richard Maibaum’s first try in 1961.

On this 10th anniversary, my thoughts keep going back to Paul Baack, who died last year. Last month was what would have been his 61st birthday. He gave me the chance to contribute. After I had taken over, he always provided encouragement.

If there is an after life, I hope Paul is pleased with the result.

I’d also like to thank, one more time, J. Kingston Pierce’s Rap Sheet blog. The Rap Sheet had some kind words in 2009 about a series this blog did about Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary. That, and other feedback, indicated there was interest in what this blog was doing.

Finally, two replies to posts were particularly satisfying.

In 2013, the blog had a post about how the current Hawaii Five-0 series was remaking an episode of the original series titled Hookman. The post noted how a CBS press release left off the names of the original writers, Glen Olson and Rod Baker. The post raised the question whether they’d get a credit.

Baker wrote a reply. “Thank you for pointing out that Glen Olson’s name and my name were left out of the CBS press release as the writers of the original Hawaii Five-0 ‘Hookman’ episode.. The Writer’s Guild contacted CBS today and that omission was corrected immediately.”

In July, the blog wrote about Adrian Samish, who had been an ABC executive and later one of producer Quinn Martin’s key lieutenants. It’s part of a series dubbed “unsung figures of television.”

The post got this reply: “There are two sides to every story… I am Adrian Samish’s granddaughter and it’s been nice to read some kinder comments about him, especially since he isn’t here to defend himself or tell his side of the story. Thank you for writing this.”

Well, enough sentiment. Bond 25 and other spy entertainment topics are present to be analyzed and written about.