A key, if imprecise, date for Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

With the lack of any substantive news about Bond 25, 007 fans are wondering if the next James Bond movie can make a 2018 release.

Here’s a key date that could tell the tale, even if it’s not a precise one.

If — and that’s a big if — a first draft script is delivered in the spring of 2017, then a 2018 release for Bond 25 could still happen.

With SPECTRE, released in the fall of 2015, scribe John Logan told Empire magazine in March 2014 that the first draft was “almost done.”

The script went through a lot of changes after that — including reworking by the likes of Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth. Still, there at least was a starting point.

The problem is nobody outside of Eon Productions knows whether anybody is actually working on a Bond 25 script at this point.

Logan’s hiring to write what would become SPECTRE was announced in November 2012. That was the same month Skyfall was released in the United States.

Originally, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer disclosed that Logan was hired to write two 007 movies, but that plan was later scrapped — in part to lure Skyfall director Sam Mendes back for SPECTRE.

No announcement has been made concerning a writer or writers for Bond 25.

With the lack of any official news, fans have looked for any tidbits, even rumors. For example, THIS REDDIT POST by someone who knows “people in London who work in the film industry” caused a buzz on some 007 message boards this week.

This is from the same Reddit user WHO HAD A POST IN JUNE that has been contradicted by the new post.

If you want to check out the two posts, feel free. The point for providing the links here is that drastically different, and unconfirmed, stories/rumors are being told.

As this blog said recently, 2016 is shaping up as a lost year for the film 007. Spring 2017, as imprecise as that may be, is a key date that could tell us much about Bond 25.

Casino Royale’s 10th: The ‘kids’ make the series their own

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

This month’s 10th anniversary of Casino Royale is best known for the debut of Daniel Craig as James Bond and the 007 film series being rebooted.

But it’s also when the “kids,” Barbara Broccoli, now 56, and Michael G. Wilson, now 74, really made the series their own.

Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon Productions, died in 1996. His wife Dana, mother to both Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, remained a behind-the-scenes presence until she passed away in 2004.

The “kids” (as some fans refer to them) were looking to make their own mark and make changes.

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Wilson told The New York Times in October 2005, recalling his thinking on the matter. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

That included the reboot, starting the series over; finally adapting Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel after acquiring the film rights after many years; informing Pierce Brosnan he no longer had the 007 role; and casting Daniel Craig (with Barbara Broccoli as his primary champion), performing a tougher interpretation of the part.

In November 2006, when Casino arrived in theaters, the movie, its new approach and its lead actor received many good reviews. It has a 95 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson

“Daniel Craig makes a superb Bond: Leaner, more taciturn, less sex-obsessed, able to be hurt in body and soul, not giving a damn if his martini is shaken or stirred,” movie critic Roger Ebert (1942-2013) wrote of the film’s star.

Of the movie itself, Ebert wrote: “With “Casino Royale,” we get to the obligatory concluding lovey-dovey on the tropical sands, and then the movie pulls a screeching U-turn and starts up again with the most sensational scene I have ever seen set in Venice, or most other places. It’s a movie that keeps on giving.”

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade did the initial adaptation, with Paul Haggis polishing up the story, with all three receiving credit. Martin Campbell came aboard as director. Campbell had helmed Brosnan’s first Bond with GoldenEye and oversaw Craig’s first 007 adventure.

Casino Royale set a high bar for the “new” series to maintain. The challenges of doing that would unfold in coming years.

The main thing in November 2006 was, after a four-year absence, Bond was back — different but still 007. And the “kids” were responsible.

Forster tells Collider he considered quitting Quantum

International poster for Quantum of Solace

International poster for Quantum of Solace

Director Marc Forster, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE COLLIDER WEBSITE, says he considered quitting Quantum of Solace before the 2008 007 film went into production.

“Ultimately at that time I wanted to pull out,” Forster told Collider’s Adam Chitwood. “Ron Howard pulled out of Angels & Demons which Sony was about to do and they sort of shut down, and at the time I thought, ‘Okay maybe I should pull out’ because we didn’t have a finished script. But everybody said, ‘No we need to make a movie, the strike will be over shortly so you can start shooting what we have and then we’ll finish everything else.’”

The director said he and star Daniel Craig essentially wrote the movie. He also described to Collider the pressure he was under doing a follow up to the well-received Casino Royale: “Then ultimately you have a follow-up with an incomplete script based on no book and you have to deliver.”

In the end, Forster told Collider he had to make a “sort of like a 70s revenge movie; very action driven, lots of cuts to hide that there’s a lot of action and a little less story.”

There’s an element here of “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” To bring this up is like saying Ranse Stoddard didn’t really shoot Liberty Valance. But here goes anyway.

In a 2008 STORY ON THE ROTTEN TOMATOES WEBSITE, Forster played down the Quantum script problems.

The Writers’ Guild strike, which began just as Quantum of Solace was gearing up for production, did not impact the production as much as the industry trade papers had speculated. “The good thing is that Paul (Haggis) and I and Daniel all worked on the script before the strike happened and got it where we were pretty happy with,” Forster said. “Then we started shooting and the only problems I had with the script we were shooting in April, May and June so as soon as the strike was over we did another polish with someone and it worked out with all this stuff coming up. So I was pretty happy with all the work we’d done in January and February so [there won’t be any need for reshoots].”

Also, it was reported during production of the movie scribe Joshua Zetumer was doing rewrites during filming. In the Rotten Tomatoes story, Forster took credit for hiring Zetumer.

Regardless, Zetumer didn’t get a credit for the movie. That went to Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

The “Forster and Craig really wrote Quantum” narrative was first offered up by Craig in 2011 interviews. And that story line has more or less taken hold since, with Zetumer’s contributions totally forgotten. Without their on-screen credit, Purvis and Wade would be in the same situation.

To be fair, one can understand Forster not wanting to play up the problems while trying to publicize the film eight years ago. The truth usually takes some time — often years — to emerge. SPECTRE was an unusual case because of the Sony hacks publicized pre-production problems on the 2015 007 film.

Still, there are elements of the “Forster-Craig” writing team narrative for Quantum that are more creative than the finished movie. The Quantum reality is likely far more complicated than that.

Print the legend, indeed.

SPECTRE’s Oscar campaign gets underway

SPECTRE LOGO

Sony Pictures has kicked off its campaign for promoting SPECTRE for Oscars.

If you CLICK HERE, you’ll see a Sony website aimed at members of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Scientists who nominate and vote on the Oscars.

Sony’s website lists “for your consideration” basically all the major SPECTRE cast and crew members. Among them: Daniel Craig for Best Actor; Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Dave Bautista and Andrew Scott for Best Supporting Actor; and Lea Seydoux, Naomie Harris and Monica Bellucci for Best Supporting Actress.

One change of note, compared with Skyfall’s Oscar campaign. Here, Sony suggests SPECTRE’s scribes of John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth as worth of “Best Original Screenplay” consideration.

Three years ago, Logan, Purvis and Wade were promoted for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for Skyfall.

Skyfall ended up with five nominations, the most for any Bond film. It won two, including Best Song.

Sony’s contract to distribute Bond movies for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expires with SPECTRE. MGM will either reach a new agreement with Sony or sign with another studio.

A shout out to “Gustav Graves” on the message board of the MI6 James Bond website for pointing out the website.

Our final SPECTRE accuracy checklist

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE has been out since Oct. 26, so we decided to do one final checklist of the accuracy of various reports about the 24th James Bond film.

Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny would be “more of a sidekick” as reported by Baz Bamigboye in the Daily Mail in September 2013.

The scribe wrote that, “Director Sam Mendes, Craig, and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are all big fans of Naomie’s and don’t want her to be too desk-bound, as other Moneypennys have been.”

In the climax of the movie, Moneypenny, M (Ralph Fiennes) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) do assist Bond and at personal risk. Sidekick is too strong a word, but Harris certainly wasn’t desk-bound. Check.

Christoph Waltz would play Blofeld.  The Mail on Sunday, a sister publication to the Daily Mail, REPORTED LATER IN NOVEMBER 2014 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.”

Waltz denied it. But it was true. Check.

–Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, not originally part of the crew, were brought back as writers. The Daily Mail’s Bamigboye reported that in JUNE 2014. It was confirmed in December 2014, at a media event where the title of the movie was disclosed. Check.

–David Bautista would play the movie’s henchman: First reported in LATINO REVIEW in October 2014. Check.

–Hoyte van Hoytema would be the director of photography: This was reported on the evening of Sept. 16, 2014, ON THE HITFIX WEBSITE and the morning of Sept. 17, 2014 at JAMES BOND MAGASINET, a Norwegian 007 publication. Check.

–Hilary Swank would be in the cast: The Independent, IN A NOVEMBER 2014 STORY</a>, 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.”  Didn’t happen.

–Monica Bellucci would be in the cast: The possibility was mentioned in passing  IN A DEC. 2, 2014 POST ON THE DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD WEBSITE</a>. Bellucci’s participation in the movie was announced two days later. Check.

For earlier examples, CLICK HERE for a Dec. 5, 2014 post on this blog.

 

The Chronicles of SPECTRE: SPECTRE (2015)

Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE

Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

SPOILERS AHEAD!
No analysis of the chronicles of SPECTRE would be complete if we didn’t examine the latest James Bond outing, SPECTRE, the fourth 007 film starring Daniel Craig and the second directed by Sam Mendes.

Back in December 2014, when the film title and cast were announced, Mendes told the press that Bond fans “knew what it was about” as the title was revealed. It indeed featured the old Bond nemesis, the organization Sean Connery and George Lazenby’s portrayals of 007 fought in the 1960s, the one lead by Ernst Stavro Blofeld with Dr. No, Emilio Largo, Rosa Klebb and Fiona Volpe as proud agents loyal to the cause.

But of course, much like the classic Bond elements and characters throughout these four Daniel Craig entries, the organization has been rebooted and adapted to the 21st century.

James Bond kills Marco Sciarra, an Italian SPECTRE agent operating in Mexico, where he planned to blow up a stadium. Bond attends Sciarra’s funeral in Rome. Bond meets Sciarra’s widow, Lucia (Monica Bellucci). The woman leads 007 to a meeting at the Palazzo Cardezza, where Sciarra’s replacement is discussed.

Harkening back to the SPECTRE board meeting in Thunderball and the Blofeld’s briefing with Rosa Klebb and Kronsteen in From Russia with Love, the organization leader joins the meeting as the members stand up in respect.

Back in 1965, SPECTRE had to steal atomic bombs or start a war to rule the world. In 2015, this new SPECTRE attempts to control the intelligence services worldwide through the Nine Eyes program championed by Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott). Denbigh is also known as C and is the leader of MI5 –- now merged with MI6 –- and a headache for M (Ralph Fiennes) and Bond.

Under the argument that the 00 section is obsolete and new technology and drones can do the same job a man can and better, C convinces the head of nine intelligence services from across the world to join the integrated network. Many of the services were “convinced” after some terrorists attempts occurred in their countries, perpetrated, of course, by SPECTRE. One of them was Sciarra’s ill-fated plan to blow a Mexican stadium during the crowded “Day of the Dead” celebration.

“World domination, the same old dream,” James Bond said when Dr. Julius No explained his plan to topple American rockets from Cape Canaveral to dominate the world.

The same old dream is back with a twist now. Worldwide domination is, this time, more subtle. It will be achieved through moles in the intelligence services and by having SPECTRE controlling everything.

It’s fair to assume the redefinition of SPECTRE for these times has been done in a brilliant way.

Guerra, a Spaniard member, offers to take up the late Sciarra’s assignment: eliminate a certain “Pale King.”

Another agent, the muscular Mr. Hinx, shows the leader he’s more suitable for the job. Hinx blinds Guerra with his thumbs and breaks his neck. At this point, 007’s cover is blown by the leader himself: Franz Oberhauser (Cristoph Waltz), his foster brother.

Later, James Bond is captured by the villain while visiting his lair inside a crater in Morocco, the control center for the Nine Eyes program. The SPECTRE chief provides 007 a painful torture taken from the pages of Kinglsey Amis’ Colonel Sun 007 continuation novel. As a white Persian cat approaches the captive secret agent, Oberhauser reveals his new name: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Cristoph Waltz’s incarnation proves to be the perfect adaptation of the mastermind for the 21st century: sinister, deadly, shadowy and creepily funny at the same time. Forty-eight years after Donald Pleasance showed his bald and scarred face to Connery’s Bond inside that volcano lair in Japan in You Only Live Twice, Waltz is equally cold-blooded and reminiscent as the iconic villain.

This time, the screenwriters (John Logan, Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth) added a twist. This Blofeld is Bond’s foster brother. This Blofeld killed his father (Hannes Oberhauser, whose connection with the young 007 can be read in Ian Fleming’s Octopussy short story) in revenge for the latter’s preference for the “orphan with the blue eyes.”

Through this series of essays we saw how, after Thunderball, Blofeld eclipsed SPECTRE as the main villain.

In this case, the new Blofeld is linked to the events of the three first Craig films with villains Le Chiffre, Dominic Greene and Raoul Silva being agents of SPECTRE. The terminally ill Mr. White was a high ranking member who disobeyed Blofeld and now he’s hiding on his Austrian retreat.

The dialogue between Bond and his old enemy exposes how threatening this new SPECTRE is.

It has no compunction in killing innocent relatives of their targets or former associates –- White’s daughter Madeleine and Sciarra’s wife Lucia, for example.

And, in the same way Telly Savalas’ Blofeld was responsible for Tracy’s death at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Waltz’s Blofeld declares himself as “the author” of all of Bond’s pain by showing his implication with the demise of Vesper Lynd and (Judi Dench’s) M.

“My wounds will heal, what about yours? Look around you James: everything you stood for, everything you believed in… are ruined,” Blofeld points out revealing a scar affecting his right eye –- Bond’s doing during his escape from his imprisonment in Morocco.

SPECTRE has been redefined in an exceptional way for this new era. The “four cornerstones of power” under the acronym weren’t mentioned, and as a matter of fact one of the script drafts linked the name to a platoon integrated by Oberhauser and Mr. White during their wartime activities.

Nevertheless, this new SPECTRE deals with counterintelligence, terrorism and revenge. The Nine Eyes is the organization’s way of infiltrating the worldwide secret services while using terrorist attacks to convince those nations undecided to join C’s network. On the other hand, its leader has a personal vendetta against 007.

To those who wondered why the previous Bond villains looked a bit weak, the answer is in the return of threatening organization and 007’s greatest nemesis of all time: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

SPECTRE attempts to blend ‘classic,’ 21st century Bond

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster


The review will have a spoiler after the ninth paragraph. There’ll be a warning before that begins.

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, attempts to blend “classic” and 21st century Bond style.

For much of the movie, the Sam Mendes-directed movie succeeds. It’s two-thirds an excellent James Bond film. During that portion it mostly mixes early Bond movie escapism, introduces more humor without going overboard and still retains the more dramatic emphasis of the Daniel Craig era.

However, the last third is more exhausting than exhilarating. Like many action movies today, it’s too long and could stand some tightening. The last third isn’t bad by any means, but it loses the momentum of the first two-thirds.

Last year’s hacking at Sony caused many details — including complete script drafts — of a hectic scripting process to become public. The final story line (credited to a tag team of John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth) is smoother than most who read that material would have guessed.

SPECTRE, though, still has rough spots. When the lead woman character, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) falls in love with Bond, it seems forced. She’s convincing when she says she’ll try to kill Bond if he comes close to her. She’s less so when she warms up to him. Swann is to supposed to be “the one” to make Bond get over Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale. For the Spy Commander, doesn’t really seem that way.

Some reviewers have criticized SPECTRE’s increased humor, saying it’s too much like a Roger Moore film. Actually, it’s more like an early Sean Connery 007 film. The humor in SPECTRE is very much in line with Connery humor (“Sergeant, make sure he doesn’t get away,” Connery/Bond says in Dr. No, referring to the dead “Mr. Jones” in a car’s back seat).

Craig doesn’t engage in overt puns but humor arises from situations. Ben Whishaw’s Q actually gets one of the best of the humorous lines when he refers to Bond’s penchant for destroying vehicles. Meanwhile, Craig’s humor content comes from situations such as when he’s being ridiculously respectful (but not jokey) to M (Ralph Fiennes) after going rogue (again) in the movie’s pre-titles sequence.

Christoph Waltz is fine as the movie’s villain (more about that in the spoiler section). Having a top-notch opponent always helps a Bond film.

Among the crew, cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema delivers big time after many fans had expressed worry when Skyfall’s Roger Deakins opted not to return. Composer Thomas Newman is adequate, but he actually recycles some of his Skyfall score. The music is reasonably effective but a Newman 007 score is like watching a man wearing clothes that aren’t his size. Action movies aren’t his forte.

Spoiler section follows. Last warning.

SPECTRE is built around the “reveal” that Waltz’s Franz Oberhauser is really …. ta DA DAAAAA….Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Seriously. A movie called SPECTRE’s “spoiler” is that the organization is headed by Blofeld. That’s like making a Sherlock Holmes movie where the villain is revealed to be Professor Moriarty. Or a Superman movie where the villain is revealed to be Lex Luthor.

Old-time Bond fans are (rightfully) going to be skeptical when the filmmakers act like this is a big secret. New Bond fans won’t really care, they just want to see a good villain.

Now, if the film had been structured so Waltz’s character was a flamboyant front man and Blofeld turned out to be someone else, that’d be fine, or at least understandable. But Mendes and his scribes spend more time on this than is necessary.

Mendes has said the audience can’t know more than the characters. Yet, in From Russia With Love the audience knew more than Connery/Bond (though not everything, of course) and that film worked just fine.

Meanwhile, there’s also the reveal that Blofeld was Bond’s foster brother (sort of). That’s very similar to the way the Hawaii Five-0 television series rebooted arch villain Wo Fat to have a personal hatred of Steve McGarrett. It also inches dangerously close to Austin Powers/Dr. Evil territory. Thankfully, it doesn’t go that far.

End spoiler section.

Whatever SPECTRE’s flaws, they can mostly be overlooked, at least until the movie is over and the viewer is headed out of the theater. The movie shows “classic” Bond still has something to offer as it is adapted to the 21st century. GRADE: B-Plus.