Casino Royale’s 5th anniversary: a new path

“With Casino Royale, we started down a path,” Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson said last week at a London press conference, “and we’re sticking with that path.”

That path was unveiled five years ago this month. And of all the major Bond movies anniversaries in 2011, the fifth anniversary of 2006’s Casino Royale is the one that’s arguably most germane today. Not only did a new Bond (Daniel Craig) debut, but a new direction did as well, one that continues over the next year as Skyfall, Craig’s third 007 movie, is filmed, edited and — in late October in the U.K., Nov. 9, 2012 in the U.S. — is shown.

Wilson had a different message in October 2005, when Eon first announced the choice of Craig and that Casino Royale, the 21st Bond movie produced by Eon, would be a reboot, throwing out previous continuity. Here’s an account in The New York Times on Oct. 15, 2005:

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Mr. Wilson recalled saying. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

Dana Broccoli, widow of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, mother of Wilson and his half-sister Barbara Broccoli, and the last of the Eon old guard, had passed away in 2004. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli had been in charge since Cubby Broccoli’s failing health forced him to the sidelines during the production of 1995’s GoldenEye (he’s get his usual “presents” credit, but not be listed as producer). But Dana Broccoli, Cubby’s confidante, was still keeping an eye on things.

Until Casino Royale, that is. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli were truly on their own.

First, the Wilson-Barbara Broccoli duo told Pierce Brosnan, star of four 007 filmms, his services were no longer required. “If we wanted to make a deal, we would’ve made a deal with Pierce at some financially viable level,” Wilson was quoted by The Times. “This was about us trying to find new inspiration for the series.”

In Brosnan’s place, their choice was Craig, light-haired (Blond Bond soon became a label) and shorter (though hardly a runt) compared with his predecessor. The casting proved divisive within the fan base. Many loved the tougher take on 007. Others felt Craig’s version was closer to Jason Bourne than James Bond.

According to The Times, in a story written by reporter Sharon Waxman, who now oversees The Wrap entertainment Web site, Bourne did play a factor:

For both Ms. Broccoli and Sony (released Casino, Quantum of Solace and will release the upcoming Skyfall), executives said, the model was Jason Bourne, the character Matt Damon successfully incarnated in two gritty spy movies for Universal Pictures, “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy.”

But the producers and Sony are well aware that they are tinkering with one of Hollywood’s most lucrative franchises, one that has generated an estimated $4 billion in ticket sales over more than four decades. It is MGM’s most important film property and a legacy carefully guarded by Ms. Broccoli, whose father, Albert R. Broccoli, initiated the movie series, based on the books by Ian Fleming, in 1962 with “Dr. No.”

Regardless of motivation, Casino Royale was grittier than previous Bond entries. The producers had secured the rights to Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, the last Fleming original novel available to them. The novel’s torture sequence was retained. The story’s heroine, Vesper Lynd, did betray 007. Still, there were major differences. Screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis devised a new storyline that dominated the first third of the film until Fleming’s storyline kicked in. Vesper, instead of a quiet suicide, killed herself as part of a big action setpiece.

In the end, Casino Royale got both good reviews and the highest worldwide 007 box office at about $596 million. Craig still has the role, despite what will be a four-year gap between his second 007 outing, Quantum of Solace, and next year’s Skyfall. Craig, and the new “path” that Wilson referred to last week, are still spurring debate among Bond fans today. An example: a Web site whose name is self explanatory,

Skyfall cast discusses new Bond movie in ITV video

After the Nov. 3 Skyfall news conference, members of the cast gave brief interviews to ITV. The clip runs 4:39:

Among the highlights:

Judi Dench: “Nobody was allowed to say anything. It’s always like that…We do this great big news conference and body can say anything.”

Daniel Craig: “I didn’t doubt we’d get one made….We carried on as normal.” Based on the question, he was referring to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s financial troubles, which included a short stay in bankruptcy court. “If it had went, I would have been sad.”

Naomie Harris: “It’s been over three months now” that she’s had to stay quiet about getting the Skyfall role. “It’s been an amazingly long time to keep quiet about something.” Her Agent Eve character thinks she is Bond’s equal. “But she isn’t really Bond’s equivalent, she’s much more his kind of junior.”

Berenice Marlohe and Javier Bardem also appear in the video.

Our Bond 23 accuracy checklist

Over this year, James Bond fans have debated the accuracy of reports about Bond 23, which is gearing up production. Here’s a checklist of stories of the major disclosures to make it easier to determine who was right or not with the Bond 23 news conference scheduled for Nov. 3.

We’ve tried to track these down to the first media outlet to report, but if sharp-eyed readers can find earlier examples, let us know. (Also here’s a tip of the cap to the MI6 James Bond fan Web site. Its archive helped us track down some of the links.

Skyfall is the title: First reported by the Fusible Web site.

Ralph Fiennes is in the cast: reported in Variety on March 25, though that was a passing reference. This is almost virtually accepted by fans as fact, but still not officially confirmed. 007 actor Daniel Craig told MTV in September that he “hoped” Fiennes would be in the cast.

UPDATE: Actually credit would appear to go to the Daily Mail for Fiennes in a story published on Feb. 4. (Thanks to “Shrublands” on the Commander Bond message board.)

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

Naomie Harris is in the cast: This has been around so long, it’s also accepted as virtual fact. It was first reported in June by the now-defunct News of the World (closed by parent company News Corp. because of the now-infamous hacking scandal). You can CLICK HERE to see a timeline. Eon confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that Harris was under consideration. But it has never been officially confirmed she’s in the movie. The Daily Mail upped the ante in July, reporting that Harris was negotiating to be the new Miss Moneypenny.

Berenice Marlohe is the cast: first reported by a Web site called Twitch.

Bond will have a beard during at least part of Bond 23: reported by the Sun newspaper in the U.K. on Oct. 21.

Meanwhile, here’s a list of previous media reports that have been confirmed:

Bond 23 will have November 2012 release date: Reported by Nikke Finke’s Deadline entertainment news Web site in late 2010. 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.

Javier Bardem offered a role in Bond 23: First reported by by the Deadline Web site. Bardem later told ABC that he accepted the role.

Sam Mendes being considered to direct Bond 23: First reported (and this is sounding like a broken record) by the Deadline Web site in Janurary 2010. Mendes responds by claiming to the Wall Street Journal in mid-January 2010 that it was merely “speculation” he might direct Bond 23. He tells this tall tale DAYS after his publicist confirmed talks were underway. Oops. Ex-wife Kate Winslet said in a Dec. 3, 2010 Daily Mail interview that Mendes was directing Bond 23 and she was moving to London so the kids could have time with dad. MGM and Eon finally come clean in an early 2011 news release.