Aston Martin’s bumpy ride

Iconic publicity still for Goldfinger with Sean Connery leaning against the Aston Martin DB5. But more recently, Aston has had a bumpy ride.

Thanks to the James Bond movies, the cars of Aston Martin are seen as a fantasy. In reality, the company has had a bumpy ride for a while.

Aston Martin’s financial results aren’t pretty. Business Matters via Barclays spells it out.

“The company said it made a £92.3m pre-tax loss for the first nine months of 2019 – £13.5m of that was recorded in the third quarter to 30 September. It had achieved profits of £24m in the same nine month period in 2018.

“Aston Martin said revenues fell 11% to £250m in the last quarter – led by a 16% decline in wholesale volumes.”

From 1987 until 2007, Aston Martin was part of a larger automaker, Ford Motor Co. But Ford, facing a financial mess, sold the luxury-car maker to a group of investors.

Ford later sold off other European luxury brands (Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo) while it got its financial house in order. Land Rover and Jaguar, under their current owners, India’s Tata, also supply vehicles to Bond films.

Aston Martin still is going it alone. One of its intangible assets is its image thanks to the Bond films. But that only goes so far.

In 2014, Adweek wrote about how Bond doesn’t translate directly into sales. In 2016, Aston executives told MarketingWeek the company was relying too much on Bond and needed to diversify.

Now, it’s 2019 and things haven’t changed much. Aston Martin is building 25 DB5 replicas with gadgets for $3.5 million each (or so). The company is tethered to Bond more than ever.

Multiple Aston models — past and present — will be included in No Time to Die. One will be the DB5 that was first seen in 1964’s Goldfinger. Except, it’s not a real DB5. It’s a replica with a carbon fiber body and a BMW engine.

Real life has a way of intruding on the fantasy.

Scott Z. Burns says Bond is other side of coin from Bourne

Scott Z. Burns

Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, in a new interview with The Express, says writing for James Bond is the other side of coin of writing for Jason Bourne.

“It’s fun for me because a few years ago I got to write a Jason Bourne movie and they’re definitely opposite sides of the same coin,” the writer told The Express.

“So I’m thrilled to have had a chance to contribute to the other side of the coin,” he said.

Burns was a screenwriter on 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. Since then, Burns has moved into directing but is also a well-known “script doctor.”

The writer said No Time to Die’s script “was in a completely reasonable shape” when he joined the project early this year.

The Playlist reported in February that Burns was working on the No Time to Die script. The hiring was confirmed in late April during a “reveal” event in Jamaica that also disclosed various casting movies. Burns was hired to work for four weeks, The Playlist said in its story.

In the Express interview, Burns also talked up star Daniel Craig. “I think Daniel has been an incredible custodian of that character and I think for the people who like the direction he has taken it, they are going to really love what happens next.”

Lynch’s Nomi may be 001 instead of 007, tabloid says

Lashana Lynch publicity still released during April “reveal” event in Jamaica

The tabloids never sleep. The Mail on Sunday (Sunday edition of The Daily Mail) is out with a story saying that Lashana Lynch’s character in No Time to Die may have a code number of 001 instead of 007.

Here’s the key excerpt:

However, plans for her (Lynch) to become the first black, female 007 – taking over the codename from (Daniel) Craig’s Bond after he retires – could be scrapped after a social-media backlash. Sources say she is now likely to get another agent number, 001.

This possibility has caused a lot of angst on social media among Bond fans. As recently as a Nov. 6 Hollywood Reporter feature story on Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas said Nomi having the 007 code number was still the plan.

There’s a lot of the usual tabloid stuff with the new story. For example, the headline says declares No Time to Die is the “wokest” James Bond film.

RE-POST: Why Bond 25 didn’t economize

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Updated from an April 3 post.

NEW INTRODUCTION: This past week, The Hollywood Reporter had a feature story about No Time to Die cast members Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas that had a passing reference that the film’s budget was $250 million.

On Nov. 9, the Daily Mail had a story with a passing reference that the budget was 200 million British pounds ($257 million or so, depending on the conversion rate).

Regular readers of this blog were probably not surprised. In April, the blog had a post about why it was not likely the 25th James Bond film didn’t do much economizing.

Since that post was published, it became public knowledge that writer-actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge also worked on the movie’s script. Her reported fee (via The Hollywood Reporter) was $2 million. Thus, there’s even more evidence that spending on the movie continued on the high side.

Over the past few days, other outlets have picked up on the $250 million budget figure for No Time to Die. SPECTRE had a $245 million figure (after tax breaks, product placement and other incentives were factored in).

What follows in the text of the blog’s original post on the subject.

ORIGINAL APRIL POST: Bond 25 production got underway last week with some filming in Norway. There’s a lot we don’t know (including a title). But there are some signs that the film isn’t traveling in Economy Class.

Delays in production: Eon Productions began renting space at Pinewood Studios last year. But filming there has been delayed at least five months.

Eon couldn’t just give up that space. Demand for space at Pinewood is high. So that’s a few months without any footage actually being shot. That makes it harder to economize.

An expensive script doctor: Scott Z. Burns recently spent four weeks working on Bond 25’s script. He’s a well-regarded scribe and he’s moving into directing. His services are in demand. It’s likely his Bond 25 services didn’t come cheap. (UPDATE: Burns’s involvement was confirmed in late April at the “reveal” event in Jamaica.)

The star may have gotten a raise: Variety last year reported that Daniel Craig will receive $25 million for his fifth 007 film. The truth is known to Craig, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, Craig’s agent and the various studios backing Bond 25. Still, it’s unlikely Craig’s services are receiving discounted rates.

The Mission: Impossible franchise means now isn’t the time to economize: This is a favorite fan theory/speculation. During the 2010s, the Mission: Impossible films starring and produced by Tom Cruise have cranked out three entries while Eon’s 007 series will have two.

Moreover, the M:I films have gotten a lot of attention for their stunts, big set pieces and international intrigue — things the 007 films are known for.

Paramount recently announced the Cruise M:I series will produce two more entries back-to-back, coming out in 2021 and 2022. By the time the latter entry is out, Cruise will be 60 and Christopher McQuarrie will have written and directed four films.

Bond 25 questions: The marketing edition

No Time to Die teaser poster

There may be no teaser trailer yet but it’s clear the marketing for No Time to Die is underway.

Since Sunday, The Sunday Times published an interview with star Daniel Craig; The Hollywood Reporter did a feature story on actresses Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas; and the BBC interviewed screenwriter (and multi-Emmy winner) Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

These interviews didn’t just happen and were likely coordinated to begin drawing attention to the 25th James Bond film, which will debut in April 2020.

Of course, the blog has a few question.

Any trends you see?

Yes. Among them:

–Eon Productions is determined not to repeat P.R. problems from SPECTRE.

Daniel Craig did interviews shortly after SPECTRE finished filming but didn’t run until shortly before the movie came out. Those were likely embargoed until a certain date.

The problem? Craig’s (in)famous “slash by wrists” quote (likely made while just starting to decompress) from one interview went viral. People wondered whether Craig had enough playing Bond.

This time out, Craig talked plenty about he loves playing James Bond and he’s really, really not grumpy.

–Expect #MeToo and the Bond’s adjustment to that movement to be a talking point.

Many long-time fans complain that, in reality, Bond actually had strong women characters. Pussy Galore was a pilot who didn’t take guff from Bond. Fiona Volpe went to bed with Bond but was still determined to kill him. Soviet agent Triple-X was the first in a line of women agents who were Bond’s equal.

#MeToo still is a significant movement. No Time to Die is the first Bond to come out since that movement began. Some kind of acknowledgment was likely to happen.

–Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s involvement is going to be mentioned prominently.

Waller-Bridge is a hot property, both for her acting and writing. The general public is more than aware of her. She has hosted Saturday Night Live. She has won Emmys for Fleabag, the streaming series she created.

When you have a hot property, you make it part of marketing.

Anything else catch your eye?

The Lynch-de Armas interviews were a new take on an old theme. For decades, Bond actresses have said how they’re characters are different (or better) than previous female characters in the series.

In The Hollywood Reporter story, neither Lynch nor de Armas criticized previous female characters. Instead, there was talk of the effort being made to make their characters more rounded. At the very least, their comments were more subtle than previous Eon marketing efforts on this front.

What’s next?

A trailer (teaser or otherwise) will be out sooner than later. When that happens, we’ll get a better idea of the themes that will be emphasized.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge talks to BBC about No Time to Die

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Phoebe Waller-Bridge downplayed the extent of her script work for No Time to Die in an interview with the BBC.

“They were just looking for tweaks across a few of the characters and a few of the storylines,” Waller-Bridge told the BBC.

The writer-actress said her hiring by itself didn’t represent a big change in the way women are depicted in the Bond film series.

“They were already doing that themselves,” the BBC quoted her as saying.

“They’re having that conversation with themselves the whole time. It (her involvement) was much more practical. Just, ‘You’re a writer, we need some help with these scenes. And you come up with some dialogue for these characters’.”

Waller-Bridge was one of a number of writers who worked on the 25th James Bond film. Others include series veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as well as “script doctor” Scott Z. Burns.

However, Waller-Bridge has a higher profile because she starred in Fleabag, a streaming series she created. She recently walked off with three Fleabag-related Emmy awards.

What’s more, some outlets have played up her contributions as critical. The Daily Mail, in a September story, quoted an executive it didn’t identify as saying she was “the savior of Bond, really.”

In the BBC interview, Waller-Bridge said she was first approached by Bond producer Barbara Broccoli.

“We met for coffee and then a few months later we met again,” Waller-Bridge told the BBC. “And then I met the director Cary Joji Fukunaga and then I met Daniel (Craig) after that. But I know Daniel and Barbara had been talking about it for while.”

THR features Lynch, de Armas and evolving Bond women

Lashana Lynch publicity still released during April “reveal” event in Jamaica

The Hollywood Reporter is out with a feature story about Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas and how they’re part of efforts “about bringing James Bond into the #MeToo age” in No Time to Die.

Lynch and de Armas have worked with director Cary Fukunaga and producer Barbara Broccoli “to create a new type of female Bond character who is much more fully realized than the ‘Bond girls’ of films past,” writes Rebecca Ford of THR.

“It’s pretty obvious that there is an evolution in the fact that Lashana is one of the main characters in the film and wears the pants — literally,” de Armas told the entertainment news outlet.

Referring to her character, Nomi, Lynch told THR: “Everyone was really responsive to having her be what I wanted. You’re given a fresh perspective on a brand-new black woman in the Bond world.”

Lynch confirmed Nomi is a British agent. She did not comment whether that character has the 007 code number after Bond departed MI6. Ford wrote that “sources close to the film tell THR that it’s accurate.”

The Lynch character joins a series of women agents in the Bond film series, including Soviet Agent Triple-X in The Spy Who Loved Me; CIA agent and astronaut Holly Goodhead in Moonraker; Chinese operative Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies; and NSA agent Jinx in Die Another Day.

De Armas, meanwhile, provided a bit of detail about her character, Paloma.

Paloma “is a character that is very irresponsible,” the actress told THR. “She’s got this bubbliness of someone who is excited to be on a mission, but she plays with this ambiguity — you don’t really know if she’s like a really trained, prepared partner for Bond.”

This is not the first time the franchise has said it’s improving the way women are treated in Bond films. In 2012, Broccoli told the Evening Standard: “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over.”

However, No Time to Die is the first Bond film since the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and sexual harassment.

In 2018, The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine shared a Pulitizer Prize “for their revelations of sexual harassment and abuse that had gone on, unheeded and unpunished, in the spheres of Hollywood, politics, the media and Silicon Valley,” The Times said in its account of the awards.

Other highlights from the article:

–THR says the movie’s budget is $250 million. This is the first estimate I’ve seen. That is probably after tax breaks, incentives and product placement deals have been factored in.

–Both actresses compliment screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge. “I very literally squealed when I first heard her name,” Lynch said to THR. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, British girl just like me. She’s going to know how to actually take care of women onscreen.’ ”

–De Armas told THR that reports that an “intimacy coach” being hired for her scenes with Daniel Craig were false.

To view the entire article, CLICK HERE.