Our Bond 25 primer

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We’re almost halfway through 2017. Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding Bond 25 (whenever it comes out).

Ultimately, Eon Productions doesn’t spend its money; it spends *other people’s* money

Eon Productions doesn’t finance James Bond movies. Studios finance the films.

Eon may incur some upfront costs, such as scripts. But once a studio (or studios) approves it, Eon gets paid back.

Back in the day, Albert R. Broccoli and his then-partner Irving Allen financed The Trials of Oscar Wilde. It was a financial disaster. Broccoli never attempted that again. United Artists, later Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, later MGM and partner studios, paid the 007 bills.

You can’t distribute a movie until somebody can actually do so

Right now, there is nobody to actually distribute a James Bond movie.

MGM (which controls the 007 franchise with Eon) doesn’t have a worldwide distribution operation following its 2010 bankruptcy.

The last four Bond films have been distributed by Sony Pictures. But, at the moment, Sony has no contract to do another.

The New York Times reported two months ago that Sony and four other studios want to snag the next Bond production deal. But until a deal is actually struck that’s so much pish posh.

Movies with budgets of $200 million or more don’t get into gear with a snap of the fingers

There are 007 fans who believe (probably more as a matter of faith than fact) Eon has a crew and cast ready to go. Right now. This moment. As if a 2018 release for Bond 25 is a certainty, the same way the sun raising in the East is a certainty.

It doesn’t work that way. No matter how strong the faith.

It has been more than three months since Baz Bamigboye reported in the Daily Mail that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been signed to cook up a Bond 25 story.

Even if Purvis and Wade had a first-draft script right now things would only be starting. John Logan had a first-draft script for SPECTRE in March 2014. The movie didn’t begin filming until December 2014. And that only happened after Purvis and Wade were summoned back by Eon to revamp Logan’s script.

If you want to believe Bond 25 is just around the corner, go right ahead. Here at the blog, we’ll watch to see how things develop. If there’s a sudden surge of actual news, the blog will write about it.

A few Bond 25-related questions

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Bond 25 hasn’t been in the news lately. We have no news to offer, but we do have some questions.

Has Purity gone into production yet? That’s the 20-episode series for Showtime where Daniel Craig is a star and an executive producer.

It’s still listed as being in “pre-production” on the actor’s IMDB.COM PAGE.

If that’s the case (and IMDB.com has occasional accuracy issues) then it’s going to be a while before Craig would be available to play James Bond again.

To film 20 episodes could easily take six months (that’s a little more than a week of filming per episode). And we’re almost to the mid-point of 2017.

UPDATE (June 21): Reader Bond on the Box points to a May 23 Variety story about the Becoming Bond television show about George Lazenby as providing a sign that Purity is in production. It quotes a “a gaffer on Craig’s new Showtime series ‘Purity’” about Craig.

How’s that Bond 25 writing going? In March, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired to develop a Bond 25 story.

That was never officially verified. However, Bamigboye had a number of scoops about Skyfall and SPECTRE that were proven correct. So that March story caught the attention of a lot of fans.

More than three months have passed. Do they have a first draft? (Color this blog skeptical.) Maybe a treatment? Or are all involved still throwing out ideas to see which ones stick?

How’s that search for a Bond 25 distributor going? In April, The New York Times reported five studios were trying to cut a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to distribute Bond 25.

The five: Sony Pictures (which has released the last four 007 films),  Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox and upstart Annapurna. The latter is a movie production company that’s about to release its first film, Detroit, a drama about the 1967 race riots in that city, in August.

Since then? No word.

For now, there have been reminders of the Bond franchise’s proud past, including last month’s death of Roger Moore and this month’s 50th anniversary of You Only Live Twice. The future remains to be seen.

With WGA settlement, no excuse for Bond 25

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James Bond fans are breathing easier because it appears there won’t be another Writers Guild strike, like the 2007-2008 walkout that affected Quantum of Solace.

That strike is the default explanation for Quantum’s script issues. “If only there hadn’t been the strike the movie would have been a lot better,” goes this way of thinking.

That’s despite evidence the situation was a lot more complicated. Quantum had script issues before the stike, Still, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend and all that.

This time around, the Writers Guild of America reached a last-minute contract agreement. Members will participate in a ratification a vote.

Meanwhile, not a lot is really known about the Bond 25 scripting process. Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail has reported that longtime 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been hired for another go.

There has been no official confirmation (as usual) but given Bamigboye’s record in sniffing out scoops about Skyfall and SPECTRE, it’s practically a given among 007 fans.

In any case, if Purvis and Wade are back in Bondage, a WGA strike won’t be an excuse. And, to be fair, they’re not the only ones who should be held held responsible.

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli oversees her screenwriters. Bond 25 has no director at this point. Directors are known to throw their weight around with screenwriters. That’s a wild card no one can foresee right now.

Bond 25 has no distributor. When one is selected by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, its executives (especially if that studio helps finance the movie) will want a say on the script. Another wild card whose impact won’t be known for some time.

Some fans imagine a Bond 25 script is almost ready. Right now, that’s a matter of faith, not fact.

To sum up: The quality of Bond 25’s story remains to be seen. We just know a WGA strike will have nothing to do with it.

What’s at stake for Bond 25

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After the “lost year” of 2016, Bond 25 appears to be actually getting into gear.

The New York Times reported that five studios (four established, one a newcomer) are bidding for a one-picture deal to distribute the next 007 film from Eon Productions.

However that bidding turns out, the stakes are still high for the 25th James Bond film.

SPECTRE was OK financially but didn’t grow the franchise

2012’s Skyfall was (pardon the pun) a quantum improvement over Quantum of Solace in terms of popular and critical reaction. Skyfall almost seemed like a return to the mid-1960s when Goldfinger made 007 a “thing.”

The 007 series followed up Goldfinger with Thunderball, which was even bigger.

The series followed up Skyfall with SPECTRE, which….wasn’t as big. In the U.S. market, SPECTRE sold the fewest theater tickets (23 million) of 007 movies released since 1995 (and the advent of the home video era).

SPECTRE brought back Blofeld but made him Bond’s “foster brother.” Shades of Austin Powers.

Because of information from the Sony hacks, we know other things that could have made it into the movie. M was a traitor. Tanner was a traitor. Bond watches Tanner commit suicide. Felix Leiter calls Moneypenny a “fox lady.”

Veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned to perform triage. SPECTRE was no disaster at the box office, but it didn’t match Skyfall.

Where is this franchise going? At the end of SPECTRE, Bond (Daniel Craig) is driving off in the Aston Martin DB5 with Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux). The car was seemingly destroyed in Skyfall, but the Eon crew can’t let go.

If Craig comes back, do we go off on another revenge story (as in Quantum of Solace)? If Seydoux is killed by Blofeld (a fan favorite scenario), does Bond fall apart yet again (as in Skyfall)?

Or does Bond 25 mostly ignore SPECTRE, similar to how Diamonds Are Forever for the most part didn’t reference On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? (There are references but very slight.)

In Bond 25, after things don’t work out with Madeline Swann, 007 asks to be reinstated to MI6.

Does Bond 25 cap its production budget? Or does it double down?

 SPECTRE had examples of ridiculous spending. A $36 million car chase (really, a car drive). The “largest explosion in motion picture history” that had no drama because Bond and Swann were well away and safe when it happened.

Does Eon Productions scale back? Or does it try to keep up with the Joneses, i.e. modern movie blockbusters?

We’re a long way off from a movie being filmed. Not a whole lot can happen until there’s a studio to actually release Bond 25. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which exited bankruptcy in 2010, doesn’t have the resources to finance a big-budget Bond on its own.

Here’s the thing. As of now, the Bond series doesn’t have direction. In the 21st century, successful franchises (think Disney’s Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm Ltd.) plan things out years ahead of time.

With Bond, it’s kind of, “Let’s see how it goes.”

For 55 years, since the release of Dr. No, that has worked out. Maybe it will again. Bond 25 will tell us a lot whether that’s still the case.

Our newest Bond 25 questions

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There’s been a bit of Bond 25 news recently. Or has there?

Here are some questions intended to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Script? Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on a Bond 25 story, according to a report by the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye last month. Eon Productions never confirmed it, but typically it hasn’t confirmed other 007 scoops Bamigboye had about Skyfall and SPECTRE.

How far along are Purvis and Wade? Maybe not very far.

The duo are in the midst of adapting the novel I Am Victor, according to an April 5 story in Deadline: Hollywood.

If Deadline is accurate, the writers “are understood to be finalizing the script before it goes out to cast.” That suggests Purvis and Wade are, at best, in early days of their Bond 25 work.

Meanwhile, there’s a possibility of a Writer’s Guild strike early next month, which would adversely affect movie and television production.

What about that New York Post gossip column? Page Six says Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is close to getting Daniel Criag to coming back for Bond 25. But it doesn’t actually say it’s a done deal.

So? There’s still no Bond 25 director. There’s still no Bond 25 distributor. Sony Pictures, which distributed the last four 007 films, saw its most recent two-picture 007 deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expire with SPECTRE.

What are you trying to say? The blog is trying to say there may be more chaff than wheat at this point.

–You have a star (Craig) who hasn’t publicly committed, despite plenty of opportunity to do so.

–You have a production company (Eon) that seems in no rush to produce the next Bond movie and is keeping busy on various non-007 projects.

–You have a studio (MGM) that seems busy with other matters.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that MGM was trying to sell itself to a Chinese buyer but the deal fell apart. MGM never denied the story and at last month’s investor call, the subejct never came up.

Meanwhile, MGM agreed this week to spend $1 billion to give itself sole ownership of the Epix premium TV channel. If the Epix investment works out, that would help MGM’s finances every year. Bond movies, still one of MGM’s biggest assets, come out only so often.

MGM doesn’t have a studio partner to release Bond 25. Sony Pictures has released the last four Bonds, but Sony’s most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE.

In March 2016, MGM CEO Gary Barber had this to say about seeking a new 007 distribution deal.

“There’s no rush,” Barber said. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.”

Obviously, he was right about the “no rush” part.

Purvis & Wade line up another non-007 gig

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis. (Paul Baack illustration)

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, reported to be working on their seventh James Bond film, apparently are working on another non-007 screen writing job, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

The duo have been hired to adapt the Jo Nesbo novel I Am Victor, according to the entertainment news website.

The novel is “a thriller about a skilled but morally corrupt and narcissistic divorce attorney,” Deadline said. “When he finds himself framed for a series of brutal murders, he embarks on his own investigation to find the killer.”

The move has not been officially announced. “Purvis and Wade are understood to be finalizing the script before it goes out to cast,” Deadline said, which labeled its story an “exclusive.”

The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported last month that Purvis and Wade were hired to develop a story for Bond 25. Eon Productions hasn’t confirmed the move. But Bamigboye has a history of having 007-related scoops being proven correct.

That includes how Purvis and Wade were hired in the summer of 2014 to rewrite John Logan’s script for SPECTRE. That news wasn’t confirmed by Eon until December 2014 in a SPECTRE press release listing crew members.

Scribes juggling multiple projects isn’t new. Logan’s hiring for what would become SPECTRE was announced in November 2012. Logan also had play and television projects. He didn’t turn in a first draft for SPECTRE until March 2014.

Purvis and Wade recently adapted the novel SS-GB as a BBC television production and served as executive producers.

Bond 25: Is Broccoli about to double down?

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If the New York Post is to be believed, Daniel Craig is ever so close to committing to coming back for a fifth James Bond movie.

What’s more, if true, it’s a sign that Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is doubling down on the current direction of the long-running 007 film series.

If there’s one constant in the world, it’s Broccoli’s admiration for Craig, 49, the first film Bond she actually selected.

“Daniel Craig is Bond, forever, as far as I’m concerned,” Broccoli told the Huffington Post in 2015.

Don’t you have to replace him one day? ““I’m in denial,” Broccoli told the HuffPo at the time. “I don’t want to think about that day.”

The Craig era (2006 to present) has added journeys of self discovery to the 007 proceedings.

Bond finds, and loses, his one true love. Bond seeks revenge for losing his one true love. Bond explores his roots, going to his ancestral home. Bond explores his roots some more, finding his arch enemy, “the author of all your pain,” was his foster brother. (Sort of like Sherlock Holmes finding out Professor Moriarty was his foster brother.)

But, assuming Craig is back, that’s not the only sign of full steam ahead.

Last month, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported last month that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were retained to come up with a Bond 25 story. While that hasn’t been confirmed, Bamigboye has a record of 007 scoops since 2011 being proven correct.

One of those scoops came in the summer of 2014 that Purvis and Wade were summoned back to the 007 fold to rewrite John Logan’s work for SPECTRE. And that story was proven to be 100 percent correct.

Eon never commented until a December 2014 press release listing the movie’s writers. Sure enough, they included Purvis and Wade.

Purvis and Wade have worked on the last six Bond movies. Bringing them back is a sign that Broccoli isn’t looking for major changes as Bond 25 slowly gets into gear.

Having said all that, there is one wild card. Who does Broccoli get to direct the movie? A new director might want to shake things up or at least tweak things a bit.

Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall and SPECTRE, has said he’s done with Bond. Of course, he said that once before and came back.

The Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news website reported Tuesday that Mendes is in talks to develop “and potentially direct” My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, based on a graphic novel. So he potentially might not be available for Bond 25 regardless.

Still, at this point, aside from a long break (it doesn’t appear Bond 25 can come out before 2019), things aren’t changing that much.