Bond 26 questions: The Variety interview edition

A previous Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

So, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson gave an interview to Variety. The Eon Productions duo again said James Bond won’t return to theater screens soon and they’re looking for the next actor to make a long-time commitment.

However, there were other interesting tidbits. Naturally, the blog has questions.

How many Bond films will get made during an actor’s “10-, 12-year commitment”?

That’s the kind of commitment the Eon pair said they’re looking for from a new Bond actor. But at the current rate of production, that might only be three films. The Eon series had only two entries — Skyfall and SPECTRE — during the entire decade of the 2010s.

Yes, there were external factors, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s bankruptcy in 2010 and COVID-19 in 2020. But some of the gaps were self-imposed, including putting off the development of what became No Time to Die to try and get Daniel Craig back for another movie.

Will Bond 26 with a new actor really be that much different than Craig’s run?

One passage in the Variety story suggests not.

Both Wilson and Broccoli, who is a director of the U.K. chapter of women’s advocacy org Time’s Up, have left their mark on Bond, particularly in humanizing the once-womanizing spy and ensuring more fulfilling, meatier roles for the female stars of the franchise. These are qualities that will continue in the next films, says Broccoli. (emphasis added)

What are they up to in the interim?

Barbara Broccoli is one of the producers of Till, a fact-based film about the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 and its aftermath. It’s due out next month. Wilson “has written a TV show that the duo are looking to set up,” according to Variety. And both are involved in producing an Amazon streaming show 007’s Road to a Million. That is currently in production, Variety says. Amazon also owns MGM.

How No Time to Die divided Bond fandom

No Time to Die soundtrack cover

Hindsight, it is said, is perfect. So, in hindsight, 2021’s No Time to Die was divisive in the James Bond fan base.

Some Bond fans love the 25th 007 film made by Eon Productions. Others *hate* it. James Bond is not supposed to die! But that’s what happened.

After the demise of Daniel Craig’s Bond in No Time to Die, Eon still is trying to figure out where to go next.

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, who was always pushing for Craig, now has to confront her emotions. Craig, now into his 50s, *appears* to be done. (But who really knows?)

Historical note: Between 1985 and 1987, Eon not only made a big change in direction (going to a more serious direction) but cast *two* Bond actors. (Pierce Brosnan initially, then Timothy Dalton when Brosnan couldn’t get out of a television contract.)

Broccoli has said Bond 26 won’t start filming until at least two years from now. The Eon boss has said the production company is grappling with the future direction of the franchise.

We’ll see how it goes. In the “old days,” the Bond franchise could make big changes more quickly.

Regardless, Bond fandom has become more polarized, similar to society in general.

As U.K. celebrates Bond, U.S. fans are green with envy

James Bond film gunbarrel

James Bond is a product of the U.K. The character envelops U.K. citizens from birth and is a source of national pride.

It’s understandable that the 60th anniversary of the film franchise is a big deal. The movies are being shown in U.K. theaters. And even more is planned as the anniversary date of Dr. No’s debut approaches on Oct. 5.

At one time, Bond was a big deal in the U.S. as well. The gentleman spy had a fan in a U.S. president (John F. Kennedy). A prominent publisher (Hugh Hefner of Playboy magazine) was a big promoter of the character.

As recently as a generation ago, the U.S. was the site of two official James Bond fan conventions (1994 in Los Angeles, 1995 in New York City).

Today, not so much. American fans of Bond can only marvel at the U.K. events that are unfolding.

Early next month, tickets go on sale for British Film Institute events related to the 60th anniversary.

–Sept. 30 (tickets go on sale Aug. 4): Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions will discuss “their careers and the Bond films, in a richly illustrated discussion featuring clips from their films.” Price: 15 British pounds (about $18). Program is scheduled for 90 minutes.

–Oct. 1: A program titled “James Bond behind the scenes: Stunts and VFX.” Tickets go on sale Aug. 4. Participants include Chris Corbould. Price: 15 British pounds. Program is scheduled for 80 minutes.

–Oct. 1: A program titled “The Sound of 007.” A description:

This new documentary reveals the history of seven decades of Bond music, from the genesis of 1962’s Dr. No and Monty Norman’s iconic theme song, through to 2021’s No Time to Die. The film charts the ups and downs of Bond soundtracks, combining interviews with stunning Bond archive material from the franchise’s 60-year journey.

Again, the price is 15 British pounds.

There are also a series of screenings of films made by Eon Productions.

Sept. 30: A 60th-anniversary screening of Dr. No.

Oct. 1: A 45th-anniversary screening of The Spy Who Loved Me.

–A 35th-anniversary screening of The Living Daylights.

–Oct. 2: A 10th-anniversary screening of Skyfall.

–Oct. 2: A screening of SPECTRE.

–Oct. 2: A screening of No Time to Die

‘Code Name Theory’ continues

James Bond gunbarrel logo

Nature abhors a vacuum. With the James Bond film franchise, the “code name theory” (that each James Bond actor represents a different character) continues with the ending of No Time to Die.

Here is an excerpt of a Screenrant story published July 12:

Even so, there is a strong argument that Bond 26, and whoever takes over the role, would benefit from acknowledging the death of Daniel Craig’s incarnation of James Bond. This would also potentially allow for the acceptance of the long-held theory that 007/James Bond is a codename or honorific title given to spies over the years.

Right, you mean how the Elmo Lincoln, Johnny Weissmuller, Mike Henry, Ron Ely (and a lot of other actors) versions of Tarzan had code names? Or how Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, and Robert Pattinson were supposedly playing different characters who happened to named Bruce Wayne who was also Batman?

Give it a rest.

There is no strong argument for the next Bond actor to “acknowledge” the code name theory. Bond is like other long-lasting characters. Should there be a “code name theory” for Sherlock Holmes?

No. Let it go. Stop it. Stop it now.

Meanwhile, the public accepts all these different versions of Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan and Batman. For some reason, the “code name theory” lingers for Bond.

Yes, the Bond film series has one production company. But Eon said in 2005 it was *starting over* with Casino Royale. People (and entertainment websites hungry for clicks) won’t let this go.

Skyfall’s 10th anniversary: Brief return to Bondmania

Skyfall’s poster image

Adapted from a 2017 post

Ten years ago, the James Bond film franchise reached a level — unadjusted, adjusted for inflation, or whatever measure you’d like — not achieved since the height of Bondmania in the 1960s.

That was Skyfall, the 50th anniversary 007 film. It was the first (and so far only) Bond film to reach and exceed the global $1 billion box office level.

Even taking into account ticket price inflation, the 2012 007 adventure is No. 3 in the U.S. in terms of number of tickets purchased. On that basis (or “bums in seats” as the British would say), Skyfall is  No. 3 in the U.S. market for Bond films, behind only Thunderball and Goldfinger.

Bringing the 23rd James Bond film to cinemas, however, was a more difficult undertaking than usual.

Beginnings

Initially, Eon Productions hired three writers: The team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as well as prestige film writer Peter Morgan. Morgan had been twice nominated for an Academy Award.

As it turned out, Morgan had deep doubts about the viability of the James Bond character, something he didn’t go public with until a 2010 interview. “I’m not sure it’s possible to do it,” Morgan said in 2010, after he had departed the project.

Still, Morgan’s main idea — the death of Judi Dench’s M — would be retained, even though the scribe received no screen credit.

But there was a bigger challenge. While the film was being developed, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the 007 franchise’s home studio, went into bankruptcy.

Delay

Eon Productions, on April 19, 2010, said Bond 23, as the yet-untitled film was known, had been indefinitely delayed.

MGM emerged from bankruptcy in December 2010. There was a cost, however. MGM, which had already shrunk from its glory days, was even smaller. It had no distribution operation of its own.

Skyfall teaser poster

Behind the scenes, things were happening. Eon was bringing director Sam Mendes on board. Initially, he was a “consultant” (for contract reasons). Eventually, Mendes got his preferred writer, John Logan, to rework the scripting that Purvis and Wade had performed.

Mendes also was granted his choice of composer, Thomas Newman. David Arnold’s streak of scoring five 007 films in a row was over. Roger Deakins, nominated for multiple Oscars and who had worked with Mendes before, came aboard as director of photography.

Revival

In January 2011, a short announcement was issued that Bond 23 was back on.

Mendes officially was now the director. Over the next several months, the casting of Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Berenice Marlohe leaked out, with Eon not confirming anything until a November 2011 press conference.

Even then, some specific character details remained unconfirmed. For example, Eon wouldn’t confirm that Whishaw was the new Q until July 2012, well after the actor had completed his work on the film.

Publicity Surge

Regardless, Skyfall benefited from much hype. Being the 50th anniversary Bond film got the movie additional publicity.

What’s more, London hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics. A major part of the opening ceremonies was a Danny Boyle-directed sequence featuring Daniel Craig’s Bond and Queen Elizabeth supposedly parachuting to the festivities. Years later, Boyle would be hired to direct Bond 25 (No Time to Die) before exiting the project over “creative differences.”

Mendes, a director of the auteur school, also imported his style into the movie itself. Various segments were intended to provide dramatic moments to the principal actors.

Among them: A shaky Craig/Bond seeking redemption; a theatrical entrance for Javier Bardem’s villain; a dramatic reading of a poem for Judi Dench’s M, who is under fire by U.K. politicians.

Behind the Curtain

Not everything holds up to scrutiny if you think much about it.

–Bond deserted the service, apparently upset about being shot by fellow operative Naomie Harris, while MI6 doesn’t seem to mind that at all. This was based loosely on the You Only Live Twice novel, where Bond went missing because he had amnesia. That doesn’t appear to be the case in Skyfall.

–Bond has the Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5 in storage, all gadgets still operational. Purvis and Wade originally wrote it as the left-hand drive DB5 that Bond won in 2006’s Casino Royale in a high-stakes poker game. But Mendes insisted it be the Goldfinger car.

–M blathers on. She’s fully aware — because Rory Kinnear’s Tanner told her — that Bardem’s Silva has escaped.  But that’s secondary to the poem, which gives Silva and his thugs time to arrive and shoot up the place.

Unqualified Success

None of this mattered much with movie audiences.

Every time the Spy Commander saw the movie at a theater, the audience reacted positively when the DB5 was revealed.

Some British fans rave to this day how wonderful the M poem scene is. Yet, when you break the sequence down, the doomed MI6 chief got numerous people killed by Bardem’s thugs by keeping them around instead of letting them disperse.

For all the trouble, for all the script issues, Skyfall was an unqualified hit. The movie’s release was the biggest Bond event since Thunderball’s release in 1965.

Oscar Wins

Skyfall also broke a long Oscars losing streak for the 007 film series. The movie won two Oscars (for best song and sound editing). Both Newman and Deakins had been nominated but didn’t win. The Bond film series would go on to win Best Song Oscars for SPECTRE and No Time to Die.

Barbara Broccoli

Normally, a studio or a production company would want to strike while the iron was hot.

Not so in this case. Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, in 2012 interviews, made clear she would not be hurried into the next 007 film adventure. There would be no quick attempt to follow up on Skyfall’s success.

At the same time, Mendes indicated he didn’t want to direct another Bond film. He relented and his hiring for the next Bond movie was announced in July 2013.

That movie, SPECTRE, would be released in the fall of 2015 after a soap opera all its own, including script leaks after Sony Pictures was hacked in 2014. Sony released Bond films starting with Casino Royale and running through SPECTRE.

It’s possible a bit of hubris set in. You can imagine people saying something like this: “If this movie did $1 billion at the box office, the next 007 film will surely do $1.5 billion!” Or whatever. That’s human nature after all.

Instead, the next Bond outing would run into a new set of problems. In fact, that movie performed a “retcon” (retroactive change in continuity) concerning Skyfall.

Mendes said in 2011 that Skyfall was not connected to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. With SPECTRE (and 2021’s No Time to Die), Skyfall suddenly was part of one big epic. Javier Bardem’s Silva character was now a SPECTRE operative. Mendes’ 2011 comments were no longer acknowledged.

Nevertheless, that should not distract from what Skyfall achieved (even for fans who didn’t enjoy the movie as much as others) a decade ago.

Bond 26 questions: The how long (?) edition

Not coming to a theater near you anytime soon

So Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions, says (in remarks reported by Deadline) that James Bond is about to be reinvented and that filming of Bond 26 won’t take place for at least two years.

Also, she said, there’s no actor and no script. Neither will happen until the reinvention occurs.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

So when might Bond 26 come out? The MI6 James Bond website estimates “2025, possibly later.”

That makes sense. Two years from now is 2024. The film would then go into post-production and may not be out until 2025.

Are there potential complications? Amazon, the new owner of studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, is yet to be heard from. Would Amazon try to pressure Eon to move faster? Or is the tech company satisfied with all the Bond programming Amazon Prime has?

Is this a surprise? No. Eon is not known for advanced planning.

Some Bond fans hoped it’d be different this time. No Time to Die completed filming in fall 2019. It then went on the shelf until fall 2021.

Eon had time to look to the future if it wanted to do so. But Barbara Broccoli said after No Time to Die came out she was celebrating the tenure of Daniel Craig as Bond. She didn’t sound as if she were in a hurry to deal with a post-Craig era.

What might take place because of this? No Time to Die stirred a strongly mixed reaction in the fanbase. For some, Craig/Bond’s death was a bold creative choice. Others strongly did not like it.

Now, that mixed atmosphere will linger, with at least a four-year gap between No Time to Die and Bond 26.

Anything else? It’s getting harder to imagine the likes of Idris Elba (who turns 50 in September), Henry Cavill, 39, or Tom Hardy (who turns 45 in September) being cast as Bond.

Yes, Roger Moore was in his mid-40s when he began his Bond run but that was a different era.

Yes, Craig was in his 50s when his run finally ended. But he’s a special case, given Broccoli’s strong admiration for the actor. She spoke more than once about being in denial that Craig’s time as Bond was ending.

Broccoli says Bond to be reinvented, Baz reports

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli says Bond 26 will be “a reinvention of Bond,” Baz Bamigboye of Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Broccoli said it will be at least two years before Bond 26 starts filming, according to Bamigboye. The Eon chief said there is no script and a search for the next cinematic James Bond hasn’t begun.

Bamigboye formerly worked for the Daily Mail and scored some Bond scoops that proved correct.

Broccoli made the remarks “at a star-studded private event in central London to honor Broccoli and her brother Michael G. Wilson for their BFI Fellowships.”

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

“Nobody’s in the running,” she disclosed. “We’re working out where to go with him, we’re talking that through. There isn’t a script and we can’t come up with one until we decide how we’re going to approach the next film because, really, it’s a reinvention of Bond. We’re reinventing who he is and that takes time. I’d say that filming is at least two years away.”

Last year’s No Time to Die ended Daniel Craig’s five-film run as Bond. The movie ended with the Craig version of Bond being killed. The end titles still proclaimed, “James Bond Will Return.” Craig’s first Bond, Casino Royale, started the series over.

Much of the article is a description of the event, including former Bond composer David Arnold playing the piano.

Paul Haggis arrested on sexual assault charges

Paul Haggis, who worked on two James Bond films as a writer, has been arrested in Italy on sexual assault charges, Variety reported.

Haggis was a screenwriter on 2006’s Casino Royale and 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Here is an excerpt from the Variety story:

According to multiple Italian press reports and a note from the public prosecutor of the nearby city of Brindisi, Haggis is charged with forcing a young “foreign” – meaning non-Italian – woman to undergo sexual intercourse over the course of two days in Ostuni, where he was scheduled to hold several master classes at the Allora Fest, a new film event being launched by Los Angeles-based Italian journalist Silvia Bizio and Spanish art critic Sol Costales Doulton that is set to run in Ostuni from June 21 to June 26.

When Casino Royale came out in 2006, Haggis got a lot of credit after taking over from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade in the scripting process.

Haggis’s pages referred to “James,” where most Bond scripts refer to Bond as “Bond.”

With Quantum’s final screenplay credit, Haggis got top billing over Purvis and Wade.

At one point, there were reports that Haggis supposedly contributed to the script of No Time to Die. The final credit went to Purvis and Wade, director Cary Fukunaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Haggis received no screenplay credit on No Time to Die.

NTTD’s reactions from its co-stars

No Time to Die poster

h/t to MI6.HQ.COM which compiled this.

Daniel Craig’s James Bond met his end in No Time to Die. If Craig’s co-stars are to be believed, they had no idea this was happening.

Lea Seydoux, Den of Geek: “I still can’t really believe that that’s what they decided, that he’s gone…It made me sad, actually, it made me really sad…But I hope they will find a new way to—you know they will find something else.”

Naomie Harris, Radio Times: “Because there’s so much secrecy around all of the Bond movies, I thought, ‘Is this a joke? Am I being sent, like, the wrong ending, and then they’re gonna send me a new one?’. I really thought that, because I just thought… this doesn’t happen. Bond doesn’t die. It’s sacred that Bond should never die.”

A reminder: No Time to Die’s script began development in 2017. That’s when Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine met his end in a film. Earlier, Craig and Jackman had appeared together in a play in New York.

Prior to No Time to Die, Craig’s Bond had unhappy endings. At the end of SPECTRE, he finally (or so it seemed) had a happy ending with Seydoux’s Madeline Swann. Instead, No Time to Die threw that out the window.

Observations of a No Time to Die rewatch Part II

No Time to Die poster

The family theme: James Bond traditionally wasn’t known as a family man. But No Time to Die makes a big deal about a family theme.

That’s not me talking. Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli played up that idea in a podcast interview with The Hollywood Reporter. She talked about Bond’s “MI6 family” and “his real family.”

Rewatching the movie, that comes through. Safin’s villainous scientist refers to Madeleine Swann and her daughter as “your family” to the villain. Bond (according to the closed captions for the movie) refers to them as his family.

Revisiting the SPECTRE scripts: There were some drafts of the script for SPECTRE (2015) where Bond shot Blofeld in the head. One draft (completed shortly before filming began) ended with Bond telling Madeline, “We have all the time in the world.”

Neither made it into the final film. But with No Time to Die, Eon doubled down.

In the pre-credit sequence of No Time to Die, Bond tells Madeline that, “We have all the time in the world.” Toward the end, just before Bond is blown to smithereens, Bond tells her, “You have all the time in the world.” And, of course, just before that, Bond blasts Safin away.

Scooby Gang gets to emote: It’s not just Bond (Daniel Craig) who gets a big death scene. Lea Seydoux as Madeline gets to emote. So do the Scooby Gang: Ralph Fiennes’ M, Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw’s Q, and Rory Kinnear’s Tanner.

“You promised”: Just before he dies, Bond tells Madeline he’s not going to make it. She replies: “You promised.”

At this point, Bond has apparently lost a fair amount of blood and isn’t moving around very well thanks to a few bullet wounds courtesy of Safin.

Did Bond really have to die? That’s almost irrelevant. The whole movie was designed to have Bond die. Quibbling about nanobots (couldn’t Bond’s EMP watch rid him of the nanobots?), etc., etc. doesn’t really matter. Bond was going to die. The question was how.