About those Bond film series gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week saw another delay announced for No Time to Die. That has prompted some entertainment news websites to look back at how the gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die ranks among Bond films.

With that in mind, here’s the blog’s own list.

You Only Live Twice (1967) to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This isn’t getting the attention as the others.

But You Only Live Twice came out in June of 1967 while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service debuted in December 1969. That was about two-and-a-half years. Today? No big deal. But at the time, the Bond series delivered entries in one- or two-year intervals.

This period included the first re-casting of the Bond role, with George Lazenby taking over from Sean Connery. Also, Majesty’s was an epic shoot.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This period often is written up as the first big delay in the series made by Eon Productions.

It’s easy to understand why. The partnership between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman broke up. There were delays in beginning a new Bond film. Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct but exited, with Lewis Gilbert eventually taking over. Many scripts were written. And Eon and United Arists were coming off with a financial disappointment with Golden Gun.

Still, Golden Gun premiered in December 1974 while Spy came along in July 1977. That’s not much longer than the Twice-Majesty’s gap. For all the turmoil that occurred in the pre-production of Spy, it’s amazing the gap wasn’t longer.

Licence to Kill (1989) to GoldenEye (1995): This is the big one. Licence came out in June 1989 (it didn’t make it to the U.S. until July) while GoldenEye didn’t make it to theater screens until November 1995.

In the interim, there was a legal battle between Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which had acquired UA in 1981. MGM had been sold, went into financial trouble, and was taken over by a French bank. The legal issues were sorted out in 1993 and efforts to start a new Bond film could begin in earnest.

This period also saw the Bond role recast, with Pierce Brosnan coming in while Timothy Dalton exited. In all, almost six-and-a-half years passed between Bond film adventures.

Die Another Day (2002) to Casino Royale (2006): After the release of Die Another Day, a large, bombastic Bond adventure, Eon did a major reappraisal of the series.

Eventually, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided on major changes. Eon now had the rights to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So the duo opted to start the series over with a new actor, Daniel Craig and a more down-to-earth approach.

Quantum of Solace (2008) to Skyfall (2012): MGM had another financial setback with a 2010 bankruptcy. That delayed development of a new Bond film. Sam Mendes initially was a “consultant” because MGM’s approval was needed before he officially was named director.

Still, the gap was only four years (which today seems like nothing) from Quantum’s debt in late October 2008 to Skyfall’s debut in October 2012.

SPECTRE (2015) to No Time to Die (?): Recent delays are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But pre-production got off to a slow start below that.

MGM spent much of 2016 trying to sell itself to Chinese investors but a deal fell through. Daniel Craig wanted a break from Bond. So did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli, pursuing small independent-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy, as well as a medium-sized spy movie The Rhythm Section.

Reportedly, a script for a Bond movie didn’t start until around March 2017 with the hiring (yet again) of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The hiring was confirmed in summer 2017. Craig later in summer of 2017 said he was coming back.

Of course, one director (Danny Boyle) was hired only to depart later. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace him. More writers (Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z. Burns) arrived. The movie finally was shot in 2019.

Then, when 2020 arrived, the pandemic hit. No Time to Die currently has an October 2021 release date. We’ll see how that goes.

Eon’s non-Bond spy film to get a box office test

A poster for The Rhythm Section

In the next week, a non-James Bond spy film made by Eon Productions will be tested by the global box office.

The Rhythm Section, starring Blake Lively, will be released by Paramount (Jan. 31 in the U.S.)

Since the early 1980s, the James Bond film series has been part of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s film portfolio. MGM acquired United Artists, Bond’s original studio home, and has been involved in the Bond film franchise ever since.

Eon has been diversifying from Bond for a number of years. It has made small, indie-style movies such as The Silent Storm (2014), Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017) and Nancy (2018).

The Rhythm Section represents a more commercial project. Once upon a time, Eon wanted to do a movie featuring Halle Berry’s Jinx character from Die Another Day (2002). But that never took place.

The Rhythm Section has had some bad luck. Blake Lively suffered a hand injury, which caused production delays. The movie originally was to have been released in early 2019. It was pushed back to the fall of 2019 and now to the end of January 2020.

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli gave an interview to the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye. While Eon is preparing to release the 25th Bond movie in April, Broccoli indicated she’s still thinking a lot about The Rhythm Section.

‘Why should women have to play men’s roles?’ Broccoli asked when I met her and Morano for tea at the Piccadilly mansion that’s the headquarters of the Eon Productions empire she runs with stepbrother Michael G. Wilson.

For the record, Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are half-siblings (same mother, Dana Broccoli, different fathers).

Regardless, we’ll soon see how The Rhythm Section performs with audiences. I have seen a number of ads for the movie on new outlets such as ads on YouTube and Twitter. We’ll see.

A modest proposal for Bond 26 and beyond

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 is in pre-production and is scheduled for a February 2020 release. What happens after that?

Here’s a modest proposal: What if the 007 film series becomes a series of one-offs — a series of anthology movies, not a continuing series, per se.

Every time a new Bond actor is cast, the assumption is they have to be around for a decade or longer. But what if that were no longer the case?

Consider this: Eon Productions is taking longer and longer to make 007 film installments. In previous decades, there were stretches when the series went into hiatus. But that was because of legal conflicts or studio financial problems (1974-1977, 1989-1995, 2008-2012).

With the 2015 and counting gap, there is no such external factor. This gap is a matter of Eon’s choice. It has enabled Eon boss Barbara Broccoli to make small-scale, intimate dramas such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool ($1 million U.S. box office) and Nancy ($80,000 U.S. box office).

At the current rate of production, there may be two, maybe three, 007 films a decade. Thus, the question arises whether it’s necessary for a Bond actor to commit to a decade-long stint.

If the one-off model were adopted, new possibilities arise. Perhaps you could do a one-off with Idris Elba to satisfy the market who’d like to see him play Bond. He’d be around 50 when such a movie would be made, but it’s only one and the Eon series has had actors (Roger Moore and now Daniel Craig) in the same age range.

Also, with a one-off model, you could try out a period Bond. a film set in the 1950s or ’60s, when Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories were published. You’d at least see how it plays out. And if it doesn’t work out? Well, you change the format the next film, no problem.

Is this going to happen? Not likely. But it’s worth thinking about given the current reality of the 007 film series.

Eon starts filming another non-007 movie

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions is involved in another non-007 film, Variety reported.

The film is titled Nancy and is a “psychological drama” starring Andrea Riseborough, according to the entertainment website.

Here’s an excerpt:

Riseborough plays a serial imposter, who becomes perilously close to losing her entire identity — and the only person who’s ever truly loved her — when her elaborate lies inevitably unravel.

Principal photography has started in upstate New York with a crew comprised of all-female department heads. The film will be produced by Amy Lo, Michelle Cameron, and Riseborough. “Nancy” is a Mental Pictures, Mother Sucker, and Eon Productions movie, in association with Gamechanger Films.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions will be among the executive producers, according to Variety.

Eon’s Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is in post-production. Barbara Broccoli is among that movie’s producers.

The production company’s most recent 007 film entry was 2015’s SPECTRE. No production details have been announced for Bond 25.