Michael France, GoldenEye screenwriter, dies

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Michael France, one of the screenwriters of 1995’s GoldenEye who devised the film’s original plot, has died, according to an OBITUARY IN THE TAMPA BAY TIMES.

An excerpt:

ST. PETE BEACH — Hollywood screenwriter and Beach Theatre owner Michael France was discovered dead at his St. Pete Beach home Friday morning after an extended illness, his sister said. He was 51.

In recent years Mr. France struggled with diabetes that impaired his left arm and right leg. Nine months ago he was found comatose at his residence by his sister, who also discovered his body Friday.

We’ve written before how France’s FIRST DRAFT of GoldenEye included a planned attack on the World Trade Center in New York years before it occurred in real life. In the France draft, the villain was Augustus Trevelyan, the predecessor to the Bernard Lee/Robert Brown M, who defected to the Soviets.

France ended up with only a “story by” credit in the 1995 James Bond movie after his script was worked over by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein (credited with the screenplay) and Kevin Wade (who didn’t get a credit). It was France’s only contribution to the series but it was a key one. GoldenEye kick started the Bond franchise after a six-year hiatus and there were plenty of doubters at the time whether 007 could make a comeback. Still, of the GoldenEye writers, only Feirstein got invited back for an encore by Eon Productions.

You can read the entire Tampa Bay Times obituary by CLICKING HERE. You can also view stories by DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD and UPI.COM

The reverse Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse

Channing Tatum: one-time Solo contender, now hot Hollywood property

Channing Tatum: one-time Solo contender, now hot Hollywood property

We’ve posted before about how there’s a CURSE that seems to prevent new versions of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. from becoming reality. But there also seems to be a reverse curse — actors who get mentioned as leads in a new U.N.C.L.E. but don’t end up in the roles do really, really well.

All of this is undoubtedly coincidence but consider:

George Clooney: The actor was director Steven Soderbergh’s first choice to play Napoleon Solo for an aborted U.N.C.L.E. project. The two had worked together multiple times but Clooney took his name out of the running, in part because he wasn’t up to the physical demands of the role. He ends up picking up an Oscar as one of the producers of Argo after that 2012 film received the Best Picture Academy Award.

Bradley Cooper Cooper was supposedly offered the role of Napoleon Solo after Clooney’s exit. At the time, he was seen as the star of comedies such as The Hangover that didn’t have a lot of content. Now, he’s viewed as a Serious Actor (R) after getting a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Silver Linings Playbook.

Michael Fassbender: There were multiple stories that Soderbergh suggested Michael Fassbender to play Napoleon Solo after Clooney and Cooper faded from the scene. Supposedly, Warner Bros. vetoed the choice because Fassbender wasn’t considered a star. Now, the German-Irish actor is considered a star.

Channing Tatum: The actor, who resembles a football linebacker, also was mentioned before Soderbergh finally quit his U.N.C.L.E. project. Last year, Paramount abruptly pulled GI Joe: Retaliation from release. The story at the time was the studio needed time to add 3-D effects. But the Deadline: Hollywood Web site reported the real reason was the need to re-shoot scenes so Tatum’s character wouldn’t get killed off because the studio brass had concluded he was now a star. Studios don’t reschedule big, expensive movies lightly. (UPDATE, March 31: If there were reshoots, well, Channing’s character doesn’t exactly come out whole, but he does take up a lot of the early part of the movie. GI Joe 2 also was the top film at the U.S. box office during Easter weekend.)

Joel Kinnaman: this actor was Soderbergh’s choice at one point to play Illya Kuryakin, but got vetoed by Warner Bros. because, you guessed it, he wasn’t considered a star. Subsequently, he was cast in the lead role in an upcoming remake of RoboCop. Apparently, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which also co-owns the 007 franchise, was willing to take a chance where Warner Bros. was not. MGM, though, hedged its bet by including Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman in the cast.

11 questions about a Tom Cruise U.N.C.L.E. movie

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Warner Bros. is in early talks about Tom Cruise starring in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., according to the Deadline: Hollywood and The Hollywood Reporter Web sites. But there’s been no studio confirmation. That’s understandable if they’re in negotiations.

Still, the development raises a number of questions in our mind. So, in honor of the No. 11 badge Napoleon Solo wore at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, here are 11 of them.

1. Would Cruise play Napoleon Solo? No idea. Neither Deadline nor The Hollywood Reporter provided that information in their stories this week. When Cruise started his Mission: Impossible movies in 1996, he didn’t play a character from the original show. He played a new character, Ethan Hunt. The first movie turned Jim Phelps, the character played by Peter Graves in the original television series, into a villain.

2. He wouldn’t do that again, would he? Who knows? With Mission: Impossible, Cruise also doubled as producer. The current project is being headed up by Guy Ritchie, assigned by Warner Bros. after Steven Soderbergh bowed out of a possible U.N.C.L.E. movie in late 2011. Pulling the same trick twice, might seem tacky. Then again, Cruise might play a new character even if they don’t make Solo a villain.

3. If Cruise does play Solo, who plays Illya Kuryakin? That depends on the answer to question 1. It also depends on how big a role Kuryakin (if the character does appear) has in the movie.

4. How are long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans taking this? From our sampling, not that well, Earlier this week, we checked out the hashtag #manfromuncle on Twitter and the more vocal fans were quite annoyed, with at least one freely using swear words.

5. What are some of the fan complaints? A recurring one is that Cruise, 50, is too old. Robert Vaughn was 30 when he began filming the series pilot and celebrated his 31st birthday while the pilot was in production. Vaughn was 50 when The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie aired in April 1983, which featured an aging Solo who returns to action 15 years after leaving the international intelligence agency.

6. Is that reaction surprising? No. Fans had the same complaint when George Clooney, born a year earlier than Cruise, was first mentioned as Soderbergh’s preferred choice for Solo. Same complaint, different actor.

7. What does this week’s news tell you about this possible movie? It indicates that Warner Bros. believes U.N.C.L.E. won’t work without a big name star. Some properties work with a relative unknown. The 1978 version of Superman was a hit with unknown Christopher Reeve in the title role, though Warners hedged its bet by having Marlon Brando as Jor-El and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. The 2002 Spider-Man movie had Tobey Maguire in the title role. But Superman and Spider-Man have been continuously published for decades and the public is more aware of them than U.N.C.L.E.

8. Let’s say Cruise does play Solo, Solo stays a hero and Cruise does a good job. Would there be any fan issues then? Not initially, but it does raise the question whether you can build a multi-movie franchise with an actor in his 50s — unless, of course, he’s really playing Alexander Waverly, the U.N.C.L.E. chief played by Leo G. Carroll in the original show. But that wouldn’t seem likely.

Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo

Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo


9. Is there a bright side to this week’s news? Yes. For a day or so, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a hot topic on the Internet. On Yahoo, it was the number one topic after the two stories hit and other entertainment Web sites weighed in. The show went off the air in January 1968 and there has been no official U.N.C.L.E. production since the 1983 television movie. Suddenly, U.N.C.L.E. was a hot topic again, at least for a bit.

10. What are the odds of this becoming reality? For now, the odds are against it but only because studios release fewer movies than they did even a decade ago. Until filming begins, nothing is certain.

11. What’s your opinion? We’re trying not to think about it until there’s something to think about. There was a LONG SOAP OPERA when Soderbergh’s project was underway and we posted a lot about it. This time out (this post notwithstanding), we’d prefer to hold back until things are more certain.

Tom Cruise considering U.N.C.L.E., Deadline says

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise is considering starring in a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., ACCORDING TO A STORY ON THE DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE.

Here’s an excerpt from the story by Mike Fleming Jr.:

EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros may have finally found its The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I’m hearing that early talks with Tom Cruise to star in the film that will be directed by Sherlock Holmes helmer Guy Ritchie….Warner Bros. began quiet talks with Cruise after he completed All You Need Is Kill with director Doug Liman, which must have turned out pretty strong.

Cruise, 50, has starred in four Mission: Impossible films (though not as a character who was part of that 1966-73 television show). The fourth M:I movie, directed by Brad Bird, was arguably the one most faithful to the original. The first, in 1996, made Jim Phelps, hero M:I in the second through seventh seasons, the villain of the movie.

Warner Bros. has the rights to the 1964-68 U.N.C.L.E. show, featuring the exploits of Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn, misspelled in the Deadline story) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum). The studio was keen to have Steven Soderbergh direct a movie version but that fall apart in late 2011 AFTER A LONG SOAP OPERA. Warners assigned the project to Guy Ritchie with Soderbergh’s departure.

We’ll see. There has been A LONG HISTORY of unsuccessful attempts to revive U.N.C.L.E. The original series began with meetings in New York between producer Norman Felton and 007 author Ian Fleming in October 1962. Sam Rolfe did the heavy lifting coming up with a script for the pilot. Fleming exited the U.N.C.L.E. project in June 1963, signing away his rights for one British pound.

UPDATE (8:20 P.M.): The Hollywood Reporter HAS ITS OWN VERSION OF THE STORY. But the trade publication takes a more skeptical tone.

Guy Ritchie and his producing partner Lionel Wigram came on in December 2011 but they too had trouble finding their Solo and Kuryakin. Late last year the studio had offers out to Ben Affleck and Matt Damon to play the duo, offers that did not pan out.

Cruise just wrapped the sci-fi action movie All You Need is Kill for Warners, on which the studio is high. Sources have said that if the Cruise casting doesn’t gel, Ritchie will be forced to move on to a new movie project.

Comparing 1982 and 2013 Oscars from a 007 view

oscar

The Oscars on Oct. 24 had the biggest 007 presence since 1982. So how did the two nights compare?

For 007 fans, this year’s Oscars were a mixed bag. Skyfall won two Oscars, breaking a 47-year Oscar drought. But a promised Bond tribute seemed rushed and some fans grumbled that Skyfall should have come away with more awards.

Skyfall came away with the Oscar for Best Song after three previous 007 tries (Live And Let Die, Nobody Does it Better from The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only) as well as best sound editing in a tie with Zero Dark Thirty. But neither director of photography Roger Deakins or composer Thomas Newman scored an award, continuing their personal Oscar losing streaks.

Anyway, the 1982 and 2013 Oscars shows had one thing in common: Each had a montage of James Bond clips. In ’82, it was presented just before Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli received the Irving R. Thalberg Award, given to a producer for his or her body of work. That montage included dialogue, including different actors getting to say, “My name is Bond, James Bond.”

Thirty-one years later, there was another montage, a little snappier but clips still familiar to most 007 fans. The clips were accompanied by The James Bond Theme and an instrumental version of Live And Let Die.

The 1982 show had a big production, with Sheena Easton performing For Your Eyes Only (nominated for Best Song, but which lost) along with a Moonraker-themed dance number that included appearances by Richard Kiel as Jaws and Harold Sakata as Oddjob. In 2013, the clip montage led to Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger and drawing a standing ovation. And then….well, the 007 tribute was over. Adele performed Skyfall separately as one of the Best Song nominees.

In 1982, Roger Moore introduced Cubby Broccoli. In 2013, no Bonds appeared. Supposedly, that wasn’t the original plan, according to Nikki Finke, editor-in-chief of the Deadline entertainment news Web site. In a “LIVE SNARK” FROM THE OSCARS, she wrote:

The Academy and the show’s producers hoped to gather together all the living 007 actors. But Sean Connery refused to come because he hates the Broccoli family. Something about how he thinks they cheated him out of money he was owed. Then Pierce Brosnan refused to come because he hates the Broccoli family as well. Something about how he thinks they pulled him from the role too early. Roger Moore was dying to come because, well, he’s a sweetheart. And Daniel Craig would have come because he does what he’s told by the Broccoli family’s Eon Productions whose Bond #23 Skyfall just went through the box office global roof. So there you have it.

Finkke didn’t say how she came by this information. In mid-February, her site ran an interview with the producers of the Oscars show and that story said the six Bond film actors wouldn’t appear at the show and referred to “rampant media speculation” concerning such a joint appearance. Still, her Web site was the first to report that Sam Mendes was likely to direct Skyfall, so it can’t be disregarded completely.

In any case, the 1982 show had something not available to the producers of the Oscars show this year: Cubby Broccoli. He gave a particularly gracious speech when accepting his Thalberg award. He acknowledged both of his former partners, Irving Allen and Harry Saltzman, despite substantial differences of opinion he had with them in the past.

In the end, that speech sets the 1982 show apart from a 007 perspective despite the record two 007 wins for Skyfall. We’ve embedded it before, but here it is once more:

Oscars producer says show won’t have 6 Bond actors

oscar

One of the producers of the Feb. 24 Oscars telecast told THE DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD WEB SITE the show’s James Bond tribute won’t include the six film 007s together.

The Web site interviewed Craig Zadan and Neil Meron about their plans for the broadcast, which will be seen on ABC in the U.S. There was this excerpt:

“We certainly are going to be celebrating the nominees and winners like a regular Oscar show, but they are fitting into the design of the show that we’ve created, so there’s going to be an enormous amount of entertainment”, Zadan says, pointing to the 50 years of James Bond tribute they have announced, which won’t be a reunion of the actors who played 007 despite rampant media speculation. “It’s something else, something very unique and very exciting but no, we’re not getting the Bonds together”.

Zadan isn’t quoted about what the something else is. To view the entire story, which details planned changes in the telecast, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, you can CLICK HERE for a sampling of some stories that presented less-than-convincing evidence that a joint appearance of the six actors was going to happen.

Purvis & Wade: who loves ya, baby?

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis, going from Walther PPKs to lollipops.

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis, going from Walther PPKs to lollipops.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, having concluding a run of working on five James Bond movies, have been hired to script a Kojak film starring Vin Diesel, according to the Deadline entertainment news Web site.

Here’s an excerpt:

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures is getting serious about Kojak, hiring the scribe team of Neal Purvis & Robert Wade to script a movie around the tough-talking, smooth scalped cop played by Telly Savalas on the CBS series. Vin Diesel, who just wrapped Fast And Furious 6 for the studio, will play the chrome-domed cop in the film, which he’s producing with Samantha Vincent for their Universal-based One Race Films.

The original 1973-78 series originated with a made-for-TV movie called The Marcus-Nelson Murders that first aired in March 1973. That original project was scripted by Abby Mann, an Oscar winning screenwriter, and directed by Joseph Sargent. It gave Telly Savalas, normally cast as villains (including 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), a chance to play a sympathetic role. The story was based on the Wylie-Hoffert murders, also known as the Career Girls Murders, which led to to Miranda warnings.

Director Sargent won an Emmy and a Directors Guild of America award for The Marcus-Nelson Murders while Mann was nominated for an Emmy.

The CBS series made Savalas a big star and, for a time, a sex symbol (starting in the second season he doffed neckties a lot and didn’t button the first button or two of his dress shirts). Kojak’s catchphrase was, “Who loves ya, baby?” Kojak, trying to quit smoking, frequently sucked lollipops. The cast included the star’s brother George as one of the New York City detectives that worked with Kojak. The first season of the series included Christopher Walken and Harvey Keitel as guest stars. Richard Donner directed some episodes.

Savalas reprised the role in a some TV movies on ABC (part of a Mystery Movie revival that included Peter Falk as Columbo). There was also a brief revival series on cable television in 2005, starring Ving Rhames as Kojak.

To read the entire Deadline story, just CLICK HERE.

UPDATED: our final Skyfall accuracy checklist (spoilers)

SPOILERS: Just like the headline says this has SPOILERS. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the movie.

Here’s our final checklist concerning the accuracy of various reports about Skyfall dating back as far back as 2010. Sources varied from U.K. tabloids with a tawdry reputation to trade publications and entertainment news Web sites.

Ben Whishaw would be the new Q: Reported by the BBC in 2011, citing Whishaw’s agent. Formally announced in July 2012. Check. Daniel Craig proclaimed, “Agents are liars,” when asked about reports concerning Whishaw playing Q prior to the July announcement. Not in this case.

Skyfall is the title: First reported by the Fusible Web site before the title was confirmed in November 2011. Check.

Ralph Fiennes is in the cast: reported by the Daily Mail in February 2011 and Variety later. Check.

Albert Finney is in the cast: reported in the Daily Mail on Oct. 28, 2011. Check.

Naomie Harris is in the cast: Reported in June 2011 by the now-defunct News of the World. Check.

Berenice Marlohe is the cast: Reported Sept. 29, 2011, by a Web site called Twitch. Check.

Bond will have a beard during at least part of Skyfall: reported by the Sun newspaper in the U.K. on Oct. 21, 2011. Check.

Skyfall will have November 2012 release date: Reported by Nikke Finke’s Deadline entertainment news Web site in late 2010, before the Skyfall title was chosen. Confirmed in news release from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions in early 2011. Later release dated tweaked so that U.K. release will be in October 2012, while the November 2012 date still applies to the U.S. Check.

Javier Bardem offered a role in Skyfall: First reported by by the Deadline Web site in January 2011. Check.

Sam Mendes being considered to direct Skyfall: Reported by the Deadline Web site in January 2010. Check. Mendes denied the news in an article in The Wall Street Journal DAYS after his publicist confirmed talks were underway.

Skyfall the last appearance for Judi Dench’s M: Reported by the BEST FOR FILM WEB SITE in April 2012. Check.

Naomie Harris’s Eve turns out to be Miss Moneypenny.. This idea was pushed repeatedly by the U.K. Daily Mail newspaper. CLICK HERE for one of multiple examples. The Daily Mail was decried for pushing rubbish on fan message boards and major 007 fan sites but, in the end, was proven correct. Check

UPDATED: Skyfall U.S. box office prediction chart

UPDATE III (Nov. 10): BLOOMBERG.COM quoted Hollywood.com Box Office as estimating Skyfall’s opening U.S. and Canada could total as much as $80 million in ticket sales.

An excerpt:

The film earned $30.8 million yesterday, including $2.4 million in midnight showings, the box-office tracker said today in an e-mailed statement. Sales outside the U.S. and Canada for “Skyfall” are $347 million as of Nov. 8, Hollywood.com said.

UPDATE II: The DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE quotes “rival studios” to Sony Pictures as saying Skyfall may have sold $37 million in tickets Thursday and Friday combined and could have an $88 million opening weekend.

UPDATE: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER says Skyfall had ticket sales of $2.2 million at Imax theaters on Thursday and $2.4 million at 12:01 a.m. showings on Friday.

ORIGINAL POST: For those interested in the business side of the movies, here’s our updated chart of Skyfall U.S. box office predictions. The movie opened at Imax theaters in the U.S. yesterday and is in wide release starting today.

“I must get to the theater NOW!”


Los Angeles Times: at least $75 million opening weekend.

BOXOFFICE.COM: $230 million total U.S.; $85 million opening weekend

Exhibitors Relations, cited in THE WRAP entertainment news Web site: $230 million total U.S., more than $70 million opening weekend.

The Wrap (citing analysts and “rival” studio executives: $75 million to $85 million weekend.

DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEW WEB SITE: $215 million total U.S., described as a “guesstimate.”

BOX OFFICE MOJO: $185 million total U.S. In a STORY TODAY, the Web state is projecting an opening weekend of $78.2 million, including Thursday showings at Imax theaters.

The Nov. 9 Box Office Mojo story also says:

One thing working against Skyfall’s opening weekend figure, though, is its Thursday IMAX debut. Sony isn’t currently releasing theater count information, though the assumption is that it’s playing in at least 300 of IMAX’s over 330 domestic locations. Based on IMAX’s track record, Skyfall could earn as much as $2 million on Thursday, which is money it would have earned over the traditional three-day weekend.

Preliminary box office figures come out Sunday, Nov. 11. They will consist of actual ticket sales on Friday and Saturday with an estimate for Sunday. Final figures come out the following day.

Skyfall’s U.S. box office: how high is up?

UPDATE (Nov. 8): The Los Angeles Times in a story you read BY CLICKING HERE people who’ve seen pre-release audience surveys as estimating Skyfall’s opening weekend in the U.S. will generate at least $75 million in ticket sales. A Sony spokesman (who isn’t identified) says the studio’s estimate is $65 million to $70 million.

ORIGINAL NOV. 5 POST: Skyfall is almost halfway to being the top-grossing James Bond movie unadjusted for inflation. The question now is how high can the movie go in the U.S. market, where it opens this week.

Daniel Craig in a Skyfall publicity sill


The 23rd James Bond movie recorded $287 million in international ticket sales through Oct. 4 and $289 million in updated figures as of Oct. 5 on Box Office Mojo. It’s projected that Skyfall will also hit a U.S. record, again unadjusted for inflation. The highest U.S. sales for the 007 series was Quantum of Solace’s $168.4 million mark, which included a $67.5 million opening weekend. Casino Royale is 2006 is the top-grossing film in the series at $596.4 million.

Here’s a list of four estimates we’ve come across for Skyfall:

BOXOFFICE.COM: $230 million total U.S.; $85 million opening weekend

Exhibitors Relations, cited in THE WRAP entertainment news Web site: $230 million total U.S., more than $70 million opening weekend.

DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEW WEB SITE: $215 million total U.S., described as a “guesstimate.”

BOX OFFICE MOJO: $185 million total U.S.

Skyfall is the only major movie debuting in wide release this weekend in the U.S. (A Steven Spielberg-directed biography of Abraham Lincoln will be in limited release before its general release on Nov. 16.) Also, on Nov. 16, another movie opens that could take a lot of the U.S. box office oxygen, as described by The Wrap:

(Skyfall’s) first week in the U.S. will be crucial, as the following weekend will see the debut of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2.” Summit’s finale of the “Twilight” series has topped the pre-sales charts since tickets became available online more than a month ago, and it is projected to open in the $150 million range.

While the foreign bows weren’t intentionally set up to boost the U.S. release, Sony knew they could help. “The idea was to build worldwide momentum out of the U.K. and Western Europe,” Sony spokesman Steve Elzer told TheWrap. “We employed a similar pattern on ‘Quantum of Solace.’”

In 2008, Quantum of Solace’s ticket sales fell 60 percent because of the debut of the first Twilight movie. Sony refers to the Sony Pictures unit of Sony Corp., which is releasing Skyfall and co-financed it with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Meanwhile, many Bond fans would like to see Skyfall crash beyond the $600 million worldwide ticket sale mark and reach $1 billion. That would put the movie in the conversation as all-time 007 champ even adjusted for inflation (Thunderball is the No. 1 film on an inflation-adjusted basis). It would also put it in the same box-office class as movies such as The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.