A few observations about SPECTRE

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No real spoilers but spoiler sensitive fans should stay away.

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, has been in production for more than two months. But there’s been a bit of publicity this week. So here are a few observations:

It may be time for some new talking points: Actress Lea Seydoux, in Empire magazine, desecribed her character in SPECTRE thusly: “She’s his equal, independent and strong and smart, and she doesn’t need him or wait for him to save her.”

In other words, Seydoux’s character is like, among others, Agent Triple-X (agent who was “Bond’s equal in every way” as director Lewis Gilbert described her in The Spy Who Loved Me), Holly Goodhead (CIA agent *and* a trained shuttle rocket pilot in Moonraker), Melina (revenge driven woman who’s deadly with a crossbow in For Your Eyes Only), Pam Bouvier (CIA agent and pilot in Licence to Kill), Wai Lin (Chinese agent in Tomorrow Never Dies), Jinx (NSA agent in Tomorrow Never Dies) and Camille (another secret agent in Quantum of Solace).

Thus, the notion that a woman character is Bond’s equal isn’t unique or even unusual in the 21st century. It might be time to retire that talking point.

“It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is”: Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli told Empire that only “a very old version” of SPECTRE’s script leaked out because of the Sony hacks.

That depends on what you mean by “very old.” To the lay person, a very old script might be the first draft that John Logan turned in around March of 2014. Or it might be a draft before veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned in the summer of 2014 to rewrite Logan’s work.

The Gawker website IN A DEC. 12 POST (warning: spoilers), described a draft that existed after Logan’s story had been revised as well as memos from studio executives suggesting changes and that rewriting was happening in November, while filming began on Dec. 8.

On the other hand, if you define “very old” as something other than the version the crew has right now (dialogue if often tweaked during shooting), that would be accurate.

The Eon co-chief IN APRIL 2012 denied Ben Whishaw had been cast as Q in Skyfall and IN NOVEMBER 2012 that Logan had been hired to write two Bond movies. Both turned out to be true, though Logan’s scripting effort was judged to need rewriting.

The publicity machine is gradually revealing details: Broccoli acknowledged the title of SPECTRE refers to the organization featured in early Bond movies, but this is a new take. Normally, that’d rate a “duh,” but nobody wanted to say that much when the title was revealed in December.

Director Sam Mendes, in a video released by the official 007 website gave a bit of information about the movie. He even said that SPECTRE has more information about Bond’s childhood. Meanwhile, Whishaw’s Q was seen out in the field. Just like Desmond Llewelyn’s Q in Licence to Kill? That remains to be seen.

UPDATE (Feb. 28): Adding a question to the mix.

What was the story when Sam Mendes signed on to direct SPECTRE? Sam Mendes, in a video released by 007.com this week, says the reason he opted to direct a second 007 film, or any film, has “all to do about the story.”

But what story? Mendes’s signing as SPECTRE director was announced in JULY 2013. At that point, there even wasn’t a first draft script. John Logan didn’t deliver one until early 2014.

There had to be some kind of treatment, or detailed outline. The announcement also said the movie (then just called Bond 24) had a release date. We know through the reporting of Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail and the Sony hacking that Logan’s story was found insufficient and that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned back in the summer of 2014 to revamp the script and it greatly changed.

Mendes spoke in a promotional video intended to sell the movie. But it would be interesting the next time an entertainment journalist gets an interview to pursue questions like these: What was appealing about that initial story? Are those elements still there? Was the scripting process tougher for SPECTRE compared with Skyfall?

SPECTRE’s script: a recap of twists and turns

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers in this post

Some of the drama about SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, has concerned its script.

The computer hacking at Sony Pictures caused more attention than normal as versions of the story were among the materials posted by hackers.

What follows is how the story line — and the accompanying behind-the scenes drama — developed.

October 2012: Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming Jr. PUBLISHES A STORY saying John Logan, who had done the later drafts of Skyfall, had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25.

Fleming writes that “the franchise’s producers have quietly made a deal with John Logan to write not one but two 007 films.” (Emphasis in original.) He continues, “I’ve been told that Logan pitched an original two-movie arc to Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson while they were shooting Skyfall, and that he has already begun writing the scripts.”

November 2012: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announces on an investor call that John Logan indeed had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. By the time of the call, Skyfall is on its way to becoming the first 007 film to have worldwide box office exceeding $1 billion.

The announcement confirmed the gist of the Deadline story, although later events would call into question how far Logan had really gotten by the end of 2012. Meanwhile, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, after working on the scripts of five 007 films, later confirm they’re not returning to work on Bond 24.

February 2013: BAZ BAMIGBOYE OF THE DAILY MAIL reports the two-film story arc plan is no more and Skyfall’s Sam Mendes may return as director for Bond 24.

The scribe also reported that “Logan’s thoughts for Bond 24 are in the form of two treatment papers outlining a rough idea of the plot.” According to Bamigboye’s story, the only ones with access to the materials are Eon co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, Mendes, star Daniel Craig and “a handful” of executives at MGM and Sony.

July 11, 2013: In a PRESS RELEASE, Eon, MGM and Sony announce Mendes will indeed return “to direct the screenplay written by John Logan.”

Broccoli and Wilson are quoted as saying they’re “really excited to be working once again with Daniel Craig, Sam Mendes and John Logan.” Sony executives Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal are quoted as saying “EON, John Logan and Sam Mendes have come up with an extraordinary follow up to SKYFALL.”

At this point, there isn’t even a draft screenplay, which everyone learns in…..

March 2014: John Logan TELLS EMPIRE MAGAZINE that the first draft of Bond 24 “is almost done.”

The scribe tells the magazine he has been “working very closely” with Sam Mendes. (Emphasis in original.) He also says Daniel Craig “is very involved” in the scripting process. “It behooves no-one to write a character the lead actor doesn’t want to play.” Logan says Bond 24 “continues the themes of Skyfall.”

June 2014: Trouble in paradise. THE DAILY MAIL’S BAMIGBOYE reports writer Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are in the 007 fold once more.

Bamigboye asks “an executive associated with the Bond films” if there’s turmoil with the production “Let’s call it ‘polite turmoil,'” Bamigboye’s source (who isn’t further identified) replies. “People are getting on with their work but we have to wait for the script.” Purvis and Wade were brought in to “punch up” the script, according to the story.

July 2014: Bamigboye produces ANOTHER STORY saying Purvis and Wade have delivered a draft that’s “substantially different” than the Logan script.

“There was an awful lot of work to do,” Bamigboye quotes one of his informants as saying. “It was a big job.” Production is to begin by early December, according to the story.

November 2014: The New Yorker, IN A PROFILE OF PLAYWRIGHT JEZ BUTTERWORTH includes the tidbit that he’s been working on Bond 24’s script and had also contributed to Skyfall’s.

December 2014: A media event is held at Pinewood Studios ahead of the start of production of the film, which is now titled SPECTRE. The natural question is whether this means the film will have a rebooted version of 007 arch foe Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The PRESS RELEASE says the movie is written by “John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,” marking the first official confirmation that Purvis and Wade had returned.

Later in the month, stories are written by entertainment and news sites about SPECTRE details in hacked Sony documents. THE GAWKER WEBSITE on Dec. 12 has a post with most details of the plot of a version of the script. (If you click on the link there are many spoilers.)

According to the story, filmmakers and executives at MGM and Sony were still grappling with the last third of the story and that revisions were going on into November.

On Dec. 13, Eon put out A STATEMENT saying “an early version” of SPECTRE’s screenplay had been stolen by the Sony hackers. It says MGM and Danjaq LLC will protect their rights to the script.

007 Magazine says SPECTRE script in ‘good shape’

SPECTRE LOGO

007 Magazine, published by Graham Rye, said in a one-sentence message that the script for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, “is in good shape and is a stirring story!”

007 Magazine only says it has the information “on good authority.” No other details were disclosed by the fan publication.

The Gawker website IN A DEC. 12 POST quoted hacked Sony emails as saying filmmakers were struggling to come up with an ending for the 007 adventure. Gawker also cited a copy of the script that hackers obtained.

Eon Productions IN A DEC. 13 STATEMENT said “an early version” of the script had been taken by the Sony hackers. Eon said it would protect its rights to the SPECTRE script.

In late 2012, MGM announced John Logan was hired to write both the then-unnamed Bond 24 as well as Bond 25. The Daily Mail reported over the summer that scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were brought back to revise Logan’s draft. Purvis and Wade’s participation was confirmed in early December just ahead of the start of principal photography.

Some questions about SPECTRE (no spoilers)

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster


No spoilers in this post.

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, has been in the news lately. Part of it is the start of principal photography and part of it is the hacking at Sony Pictures, which will release the film in November 2015.

What follows are some questions, which will likely never be answered in full.

What was John Logan’s pitch that originally got him the job to script the movie?

One version of SPECTRE’s script was sent out by hackers. But well before that, it was reported that scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned to significantly revise SPECTRE’s scrip. Playwright Jez Butterworth was also involved in altering it. So even without the hacking, you could conclude something went awry.

Likely, we won’t know the exact details of Logan’s pitch or why Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which control the 007 franchise, found it appealing. MGM executives disclosed Logan had been hired to write the movie in November 2012, the same month that Skyfall was released in the United States.

What will SPECTRE’s ultimate budget be? Again, hackers put out emails concerning the film’s budget, which indicated the 007 film could be one of the most expensive ever made. But even without the hacking, it was clear SPECTRE’s budget was likely to be higher than Skyfall’s.

Star Daniel Craig was reported in 2012 to be in line for a raise. Eon desperately wanted director Sam Mendes to return, which virtually assured he’d be due a big raise. And, as news dribbled out, it was clear SPECTRE would have more location shooting than Skyfall.

Skyfall’s estimated production budget was $200 million. So the question, which again won’t likely be known completely, is how high is up for SPECTRE?

Will Sony’s involvement with the 007 series end with SPECTRE?

MGM, after coming out of bankruptcy, emerged as a small company, with only limited movie production. So far, it has done movie-by-movie (or franchise-by-franchise) deals with other studios to release its films.

Sony cut a deal to release what would emerge as Skyfall and SPECTRE. That extended a relationship, where Sony released Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

Does MGM cut another deal with Sony? Or does the hacking at Sony encourage MGM to look for another studio to release future 007 films? There are no indications yet what that answer will be.

Our updated SPECTRE accuracy checklist

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

With the Dec. 4 announcement that Bond 24 is now titled SPECTRE, along with disclosures of the cast, the accuracy of more reporting about the 24th James Bond movie produced by Eon Productions can be evaluated.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, not originally part of the SPECTRE crew, returned as writers: Baz Bamigboye, of the U.K. Daily Mail, REPORTED IN LATE JUNE the scribes were summoned to revise John Logan’s script.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced in November 2012 that Logan had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. Purvis and Wade later said they weren’t returning to the 007 series. Never say never again, as it turns out. To quote the THE OFFICIAL SPECTRE PRESS RELEASE, the script was written “by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade.” Check.

David Bautista would play the movie’s henchman: First reported in LATINO REVIEW in October. The actor, who appeared in the Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy, was announced this week as being in SPECTRE’s case. Check.

Hoyte van Hoytema would be the director of photography: This was reported on the evening of Sept. 16 ON THE HITFIX WEBSITE and the morning of Sept. 17 at JAMES BOND MAGASINET, a Norwegian 007 publication. Van Hoytema confirmed the news in various interviews and his position with SPECTRE was announced this week. Check.

Christoph Waltz was in the cast: Reported by the Daily Mail’s Bamigboye IN NOVEMBER This was confirmed in this week’s SPECTRE announcement. Check.

Waltz will play Blofeld: The Mail on Sunday, a sister publication to the Daily Mail, REPORTED LATER IN NOVEMBER that Waltz would play Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the new movie but be announced as portraying “an unknown character called Franz Oberhauser, son of the late Hans Oberhauser, a ski instructor who acted as a father figure to Bond.:

The official 007 Twitter feed said Waltz’s character IS NAMED OBERHASER. No additional details. Half right, so far. The other half remains to be seen.

Hilary Swank would be in the cast: The Independent, IN A NOVEMBER STORY, said, “Recently, the web has spawned wild rumours that she will be the next Bond girl, starring opposite Daniel Craig in the forthcoming Sam Mendes-directed 007 film.” Nothing was mentioned about Swank during this week’s announcement. Fail, at least for now, unless she pops up unexpectedly the way Matt Damon did in Interstellar.

Monica Bellucci would be in the cast: The possibility was mentioned in passing IN A DEC. 2 POST ON THE DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD WEBSITE. Bellucci’s participation in the movie was announced two days later. Check.

Examples from earlier posts (before the announcement of the SPECTRE title) follow.

Bond 24 and Bond 25 originally were to comprise a two-part story but the plan was jettisoned: The DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD site said in October 2012 that Bond 24 and Bond 25 were to be a two-movie story arc.

Then, BAZ BAMIGBOYE OF THE DAILY MAIL WROTE in February 2013 the plan was deep sixed and they’d be stand alone movies.

SPECTRE director Sam Mendes, in an April 10 interview on the PBS Charlie Rose show confirmed pretty much all of this. The move away from the two-part approach was part of the reason why the Skyfall director agreed to come back for Bond 24, he told the host starting around the 18:00 mark of the show.

Unfortunately, Mendes was in the middle of explaining that when Rose interrupted him with a question and no more was said on the subject. Check

John Logan hired to write both Bond 24 *and* Bond 25: Reported by the Deadline Hollywood Web site on OCT. 26, 2012.

WHAT HAPPENED? Barbara Broccoli in an interview on the Crave Online Web site published NOV. 12, 2012 denied it.

Congratulations on signing John Logan for two more scripts.

Barbara Broccoli: Well, we are working on another film in the future but we actually haven’t announced that we’re going to do two. We don’t know what we’re going to be doing.

Oh, so what was the news that he had a two-story arc?

Barbara Broccoli: That was a Hollywood announcement, not from us if you notice.

However, the same week, Gary Barber, the CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, said on a conference call with investors that Logan had been hired to write the next two Bond films. Check.

Sam Mendes, after saying he wouldn’t direct Bond 24, is considering doing just that: reported by Deadline Hollywood in a story on May 28, 2013.

WHAT HAPPENED. Mendes, in an interview on the Stage News Web site published June 12, 2013 confirms that’s happening.

Mendes, whose Bond debut as director of Skyfall last year turned out to the most commercially successful of all the 007 films, grossing more than £100 million at the domestic UK box office alone and over $1 billion globally, added that he is in discussions to direct the next Bond film.

“But nothing is going to be determined until Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [now previewing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane] has opened,” he said. “I’m literally here from 8.30am to midnight every day, and it occupies every inch of my attention. So we’ll make decisions about that once Charlie has opened.”

Mendes ended up signing on for the project and an announcement of that, along with a fall 2015 release date for Bond 24 was announced last year. Check.

The Daily Mail was the first to report (also in a 2012 story linked above) that the writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were departing the Bond film series. The writers confirmed that development with on Collider.com. Check.

Bond 24 title is SPECTRE, cast includes Waltz, Bellucci

SPECTRE LOGO
Bond 24’s title is SPECTRE, director Sam Mendes announced this morning at Pinewood Studios.

The director also confirmed the casting of actors Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Dave Bautista, Lea Seydoux and Andrew Scott, all of which had been reported but not officially acknowledged until today. It was an announcement only, with no questions taken from reporters.

The title appears to indicate that villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld will return to the film series. Mendes, however, declined to comment on the significance of the title.

Blofeld and SPECTRE were part of several previous Bond films but haven’t been in Eon’s series for decades because of legal complications. Rights to the character were secured last year in a settlement with the Kevin McClory estate. Blofeld’s last film appearance was in Never Say Never Again, the 1983 non-Eon Bond film where McClory had the title of executive producer. The U.K. Mail on Sunday has reported that Waltz will play Blofeld in the film.

Scott will play a “member of the Whitehall family,” Mendes said. Batista will play Mr. Hinx. Mendes didn’t specify what Mr. Hinx does but it has been widely reported Batista would be the movie’s henchman.

Mendes and Barbara Broccoli began the announcement but the co-boss of Eon Productions let the director do all the talking.

Besides the actors, Mendes confirmed the return of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to the writing team.

Mendes only said SPECTRE has the same writing team as Skyfall, with John Logan, Purvis and Wade. The Daily Mail in the U.K. reported over the summer that Purvis and Wade were summoned to rewrite Logan’s draft. Purvis and Wade will now get a sixth Bond movie scripting credit. Only Richard Maibaum, with 13, has more.

Also coming back is Mendes’ preferred composer, Thomas Newman. Newman becomes only the third composer, after John Barry and David Arnold, to score multiple Bond films.

Daniel Craig was introduced last, with Mendes saying the movie would be “built around” Bond as all 007 movies “should be.”

Mendes also disclosed Bond will drive a new Aston Martin DB10 in the film. SPECTRE will have a seven-month shooting schedule.

UPDATE: Scott Hand of the 007 Forever page on Facebook passed along a press release that includes a plot summary:

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

UPDATE II: The Bond Lifestyle website has a copy of THE SPECTRE PRESS RELEASE.

What we may learn (or not) about Bond 24 this week

Bond 24 logo

Bond 24 is expected to formally begin production late this week. Assuming that’s indeed the case, here’s a quick look and what we may, or may not, learn about the 24th James Bond film this week.

Title: Often with Bond films, the title is known as filming begins. Die Another Day was an exception, where the title didn’t come out until after production was well underway.

With Skyfall, THE FUSIBLE WEBSITE sniffed out the title after checking domain registrations. But that trick hasn’t been duplicated so far this time out. ODDS: 3-2

Crew members: Some crew members, including director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema and special effects man Chris Corbould, have publicly confirmed their involvement. When THE NOVEMBER 2011 PRESS RELEASE for Skyfall was issued, many of crew were mentioned. One notable exception was composer Thomas Newman, who was announced later. ODDS: even money

Cast: The actors joining Daniel Craig for his fourth 007 film will likely be mentioned. Who they may play is another thing entirely. Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported that Christoph Waltz was joining the cast. Later, the Mail on Sunday, a sister publication, said Waltz would play a certain character. Bamigboye wasn’t involved with that story.

Possibility: Waltz is announced but his character isn’t. That’s what happened with actor Ben Whishaw, cast as the new Q in Skyfall. Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig denied as late as spring 2012 that Whishaw was playing Q.

Writers: The only official announcement concerning who would script Bond 24 came in November 2012. That’s when MGM, during an investor call, disclosed that John Logan would write Bond 24 and Bond 25. This summer, the Daily Mail’s Bamigboye reported that director Sam Mendes summoned Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who’d worked on five 007 scripts, to rework Logan’s Bond 24 draft.

Given Bamigboye’s record of 007 scoops being proven correct, it’s almost universally accepted this happened. But it hasn’t been confirmed officially. If a press release comes out this week, it will be interesting to see if a) Purvis and Wade are mentioned and b) if Logan’s name still is attached.

The guess here (and it’s only that) is a press release will say something like, “The screenplay is written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade.” If Logan’s name isn’t included that would indicate the Purvis & Wade rewrite was extremely extensive to the point of throwing out almost all of Logan’s material. If Purvis and Wade aren’t listed, that would make it appear they did more of a polish. For the record, Bamigboye has reported the Purvis-Wade draft was “substantially different” from Logan’s. ODDS: 3-2.

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