IndieWire claims Bond 25 will be Craig’s FRWL

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

IndieWire, without saying how it obtained the information, claims that Bond 25 will be Daniel Craig’s version of From Russia With Love. Here’s the opening of the article:

What Daniel Craig wants, Daniel Craig gets. And what he wants is to make his own version of “From Russia with Love” (1963), arguably the best of the James Bond movies and Sean Connery’s favorite. And now, with the signing of Cary Fukunaga as director, it looks like Craig’s going to pull it off for his fifth and final outing as 007.

All of this is presented with the certainty that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Journalists like Bob Woodward get away with this sort of thing because of a long track record.

Also, in Woodward’s case, it’s known he has recordings of all his interviews and lots of documents. People will speak to Woodward (even if it’s not with their name attached) to make sure they come across as good as possible.

IndieWire is a long-standing entertainment news website and clearly aspires to be more than British tabloids. But its latest story on Bond 25 calls on the reader to take a lot on faith without providing any information how the information was obtained.

The article says Craig has been seeking a From Russia With Love-like vehicle for almost a decade, going back to when Peter Morgan was hired to work with Nearl Purvis and Robert Wade on what eventually would be Skyfall.

IndieWire says Craig approached Morgan “to write a ‘From Russia with Love’-inspired treatment. Morgan delivered ‘Once Upon a Spy,’ in which Judi Dench’s M is blackmailed by a ghost from her Cold War past, exposing a secret love affair with a Soviet spy, which threatens to topple MI6, forcing Bond to kill his boss and maternal figure.”

Morgan’s misadventure in 007 screenwriting (he left the project) has been covered in the book Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of The James Bond Films by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury.

Is IndieWire summarizing the book? Or does IndieWire claim original reporting about this? There’s no way for the reader to know. IndieWire wrote about the Field-Chowdhury book and Morgan in a 2015 story. In turn, that article was a summary of a Digital Spy article about the book.

There’s not much more to tell. If IndieWire is correct, it’s interesting for a number of reasons. The most important is Craig’s power — unprecedented among Bond actors working for Eon Productions —  to determine the course of the 007 film franchise. We’ll see how it goes.

New Bond 25 observations after Variety’s story

Daniel Craig in a 2000s publicity still

UPDATE (Feb. 21): Post updated to note that Variety removed mention of Annapurna Pictures from its story.

Variety is reporting that Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are keen to have Danny Boyle direct Bond 25.

A few observations:

Eon’s auteur director phase may continue: Beginning with 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Eon has been enamored with “auteur” directors: Marc Forster (Quantum) and Sam Mendes (Skyfall and SPECTRE).

Employing the services of Boyle, director of Slumdog Millionaire, would continue that streak.

Over the past decade, Eon has sought more prestige for the long running Bond film series. It hired writer Peter Morgan in the early stages of pre-production of Skyfall.

Morgan had an enviable resume, including writing Frost/Nixon. But, in a 2010 interview, he seemed ambivalent about writing for Bond. ““I’m not sure it’s possible to do it.” He cited the lack of ” social reality” in Bond films Morgan exited the project but apparently he had the idea of Judi Dench’s M being killed.

Bond 25 may still be unsettled: According to Variety, when it was first posted, Boyle surfaced as a candidate after Annapurna Pictures emerged as a piece of the movie’s distribution puzzle.

In late October, MGM and Annapurna announced they were forming a joint venture to release each other’s movies. However, Bond 25 was not part of the deal.

In November, Deadline: Hollywood reported that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to securing the U.S. distribution rights to Bond 25. But MGM hasn’t confirmed that and hasn’t commented publicly at all about Bond 25 distribution.

In this week’s Variety story, there was this passage:

“Sources tell Variety that ‘White Boy Rick’ director Yann Demange was considered a top choice for the job, but after Annapurna won the distribution rights, there’s been one last push to go after a more well-known name.”

Later, Variety removed any mention of Annapurna from the story. That passage was changed to read: “Sources tell Variety that “White Boy Rick” director Yann Demange was considered a top choice for the job, but there’s been one last push to go after a more well-known name.”

The story then had this passage at the end: “UPDATED: Domestic distribution rights are currently held by MGM.”

Bond 25 financing is still a big question: With Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony Pictures was the distributor and supplied half of the production budget. However, Sony only got 25 percent of the profits while MGM got 75 percent.

It would appear that things have changed with Bond 25. But how so remains unknown.

Is MGM more like a “big boy” studio now and actually financing Bond 25 on its own? Is MGM splitting the budget with Annapurna (assuming Annapurna becomes involved)? Will yet another studio take on the international distribution (and perhaps a portion of the production budget)?

Nobody knows. Until the financing is nailed down, Bond 25 still has a long way to go.

Skyfall’s 5th anniversary: Brief return to Bondmania

Skyfall’s poster image

Five 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.

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 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.

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.

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

Paul Greengrass says Broccoli talked to him about 007

Paul Greengrass

Paul Greengrass

In what should be a surprise to absolutely nobody, three-time Bourne film director Paul Greengrass says he was approached by Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli about directing a James Bond film, according to the LONDON EVENING STANDARD.

Greengrass has directed three Bourne films, including the newest, Jason Bourne, due out later this month. Here’s what he had to say on the matter.

When asked if he would consider taking on the project during an interview on Radio 4, Greengrass said:

“Honesty and truly no. I mean I know (Bond producer) Barbara Broccoli and we’ve discussed it.

“It’s a bit like your football team, you can’t… I’m a Bourne man, I like Bourne.

(snip)

“Speaking personally as a filmmaker I think encoded in Bond are a series of values about Britain, about the world, about masculinity, about power, about the empire that I don’t share,” he said.

“Quite the reverse. Whereas in Bourne I think encoded is much more scepticism. There’s an us and a them and Bourne is an us, whereas Bond is working for them.

Since at least the fall of 2005, it has been written that the Bond franchise was being affected by the success of Bourne films in the 2000s. The New York Times reported in October 2005 that the Bourne series was one factor in recasting the 007 role with Daniel Craig.

For both Ms. Broccoli and Sony, 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.”

After that story came out, another Bourne film, The Bourne Ultimatum, came out in 2007. The most Bourne-like 007 film, Quantum of Solace, was released in the fall of 2008. That film’s crew included a Bourne veteran, Dan Bradley as second unit director.

It should be noted that the Bourne folks don’t seem to be big 007 fans. Besides Greengrass, Bourne star Matt Damon has frequently criticized the Bond character.

A recent example occurred ahead of the newest Bourne film. Here’s what the 45-year-old actor told GQ Australia.

“I like Bourne better than Bond. Bourne has today’s values; Bond has the values of the 1960s. Daniel’s (Daniel Craig) Bond has upgraded him and brought him more into the present, but, classically, that character is a misogynist who likes swilling martinis and killing people and not giving a shit….And Bourne would obviously win in a fight.”

Over the past week, some Bond fans we know have been really annoyed about Damon’s recent remarks. But those comments are consistent (almost word-for-word) for what he said about 007 in the 2000s.

Here’s food for thought. Actors say all sorts of things while promoting their movies. What bears closer watching is how the trustees of the Bond franchise react.

For a time, Eon hired screenwriter Peter Morgan, who didn’t seem like he cared for 007, to write what would become Skyfall. Now, Paul Greengrass has verified Eon was interested in his services, even though he makes clear he’s not a “Bond guy.”

Eon shouldn’t necessarily hire fans. After all, hiring a non-fan could lead to a new perspective. But should they hire, or seek to recruit, people who don’t care for Bond?

Who knows? Something to think about.

Questions about a (possible) Nolan-directed 007 film

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan's production company

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company

WARNING: This is very much putting the cart before the horse. Nobody has said Christopher Nolan *will* direct Bond 24. The U.K. Daily Mail has reported only that the director has been *approached* about the job. Bear all that in mind before reading the following.

This week, the Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K. reported that Christopher Nolan, director of three Batman movies from 2005 through 2012, had been “approached” about directing Bond 24.

The writer, Baz Bagimboye, had a number of scoops about Skyfall, the most recent 007 movie, that proved to be correct. So, it got the attention of a lot of fans. If Nolan eventually signs on the dotted line, it raises a number of questions about Bond 24. Among them:

1. What happens to writer John Logan? Logan was brought in by director Sam Mendes to rewrite Skyfall. Eon Productions originally announced that Peter Morgan would collaborate with scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Eventually, Morgan left without getting a screen credit. But Logan evidently impressed somebody because he was hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25 while Purvis and Wade departed the series.

But things can change, as Morgan can attest. Christopher Nolan is fond of writing his own movies, either by himself (Inception) or collaborating with his brother Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer (the three Batman movies or the upcoming Man of Steel, which was produced by Nolan). If Nolan comes aboard, will Logan stay or go?

2. Do other members of Nolan’s posse also participate? Nolan has a production company, Syncopy. That logo ended up being featured at the start of the third Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, along with the logos of Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. Ditto for Man of Steel. The Syncopy group includes Emma Thomas, a producer who’s married to Nolan, and Charles Roven, another producer. Also, Nolan frequently collaborates with Wally Pfister as director of photography. Pfister is directing Transcendence a movie scheduled for a 2014 release.

While Eon may be interested in Nolan’s services as a director, would it also hire Nolan-affiliated producers such as Thomas and Roven? Eon, led by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, has its own group of supporting producers, including Gregg Wilson, the son of Michael. On the other hand, Eon has probably would be open to hiring Pfister. That would be similar to Skyfall, where Roger Deakins was brought on as director of photography because Mendes wanted him.

3. Would Hans Zimmer be the newest 007 composer? Zimmer also works frequently with Nolan. Again, that’s a situation similar to Skyfall, where Thomas Newman was hired as composer because of his relationship with Mendes. A Zimmer-scored Bond 24 might be similar to Skyfall in other ways. Mendes said that Nolan’s The Dark Knight from 2008 influenced the 2012 007 movie. Some tracks of Newman’s score (particularly the Shanghai sequences and the action sequences at the Macao casino) sounded similar to Zimmer’s music for Nolan’s Batman films.

4. What would the running time of a Nolan-directed Bond 24 be? Probably not short. Batman Begins was 140 minutes, The Dark Knight was 152 minutes, Inception was 148 minutes and The Dark Knight Rises was a whopping 165 minutes.

UPDATE (May 22): The Latinos Post Web site has a short article about actresses Nolan has cast in various movies and whether they could become part of the cast of a Nolan-directed Bond 24.

Some unanswered questions about Bond 24

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

It has been more than six months since Skyfall debuted in the U.K. and the 23rd James Bond film is now a home video staple. So is there anything up with the next film, Bond 24?

Probably but mostly there are unanswered questions. Such as:

How’s that director searching going, anyway? Your guess is as good as ours. Skyfall’s Sam Mendes said thanks, but no thanks for an encore.

At this point, the principals of Eon Productions, which produce the Bond films, aren’t tipping their hand, mostly talking about how Skyfall will be a tough act to follow. Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli GAVE AN INTERVIEW TO THE TIMES OF LONDON. It’s mostly behind a paywall, but the MI6 Web site HAS A SUMMARY. One excerpt:

Asked about how they can top the incredible record-breaking $1.1 billion worldwide haul from ‘Skyfall’, Broccoli agreed it will be a tough challenge. “Yeah, it will be very difficult to compete with that film. It’ll be tough. But we’ll try.”

By contrast, when things were developing with Quantum of Solace, word leaked out that Roger Michell had been approached about directing but turned it down. Mendes’s involvement with Skyfall was reported long before it was officially announced. Nothing like that has happened — at least not yet — with Bond 24.

When will Bond 24 come out? Educated guess: Probably not until 2015. If a 2014 release were in the cards, there might be more publicity. But without a director in sight, chances are things aren’t yet that far along. Mendes was officially announced as Skyfall director IN JANUARY 2011 and filming didn’t start until November 2011.

How’s John Logan doing writing the Bond 24 script? There have been some feature stories about a play he has written but, naturally, he’s not commenting in detail about Bond 24. Something to remember: Logan was brought into Skyfall by Mendes, who won’t be around for Bond 24.

What do you mean by that? Well, when Marc Forster was hired to direct Quantum of Solace he wasn’t wowed by the script work that had taken place until then. That doesn’t mean the same thing will happen with Logan and Bond 24. But until a director is hired, fans shouldn’t assume Logan will see Bond 24 through to the end, even if Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer confirmed that Logan was hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25.

Put another way: anybody remember how Eon announced that Peter Morgan was hired to write what would become Skyfall? The man who brought Logan into the world of 007, Mendes, is gone. Things can change quickly in the movie business.

Will Michael G. Wilson, the other Eon co-boss, cut back his workload? Wilson, stepson of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli and half-brother to Barbara Broccoli, is in his early 70s. He has worked on the Bond film series longer than anyone else, even his stepfather. Wilson has commented at various times going back to 1997 about how exhausting making 007 movies can be. We’ll see.

007 new questions about Skyfall (SPOILER)

IF YOU’RE ONE OF THOSE WHO’VE MANAGED TO AVOID THIS WEEK’S SKYFALL SPOILER STOP READING NOW

WE REALLY MEAN IT

This edition of 007 questions is based on the Skyfall news of the week that, for the record, we’ll mention is not officially confirmed but, neverthless, is the talk of James Bond fandom. (If you’ve read this far, no complaints about spoilers will be accepted.)

Judi Dench and Daniel Craig at the November press conference for Skyfall.


001. Were you really surprised by the report on the Best for Film Web site that that a certain character is getting killed off in Skyfall? We’d heard a rumor to that effect but this was the first time we’d seen it written up. Given how it went viral, it would seem that nobody else had written it until now.

002. What’s your reaction? Judi Dench is 77 and the Bond films have been produced at an erratic rate since 2002. Killing off a long-running character (the Dench version of M M debuted 17 years ago in GoldenEye) tends to be dramatic no matter how many times it has occurred in the past with other characters in other movies and television shows.. So it makes sense.

003. Until now, had there been any clues this may happen? Recall that Peter Morgan, originally hired as a “prestige” writer to work with Eon scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, had once said he had devised a “shocking” story for the then-untitled Bond 23. He later said his idea his main idea was still in the script (now with John Logan in place of Morgan). The small amount of publicity relative to previous 007 movies is consistent with trying to keep the lid on a surprise (more about that down below). Finally, the November Skyfall press release described the plot like this:

In SKYFALL, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost. (emphasis added)

004. So will it be a good or bad thing? The answer, if you’ll pardon the pun, will lay with the execution of the idea.

005. What about having Ralph Fiennes be the new M? (also part of the initial report but not discussed as much) Well, there was a clue when the Skyfall call sheets and related material were sold on eBay and hit the Internet. A cast list said Fiennes’ character was named Mallory, which evokes Admiral Sir Miles Messervy, the original M of Ian Fleming’s novels, played by the late Bernard Lee. The name of Finnes’s character hasn’t been officially disclosed.

006. What’s the fan reaction been like? Everything from, “Of course, everybody knew that,” to “Oh, no!” to “It’s about time!” One of the more interesting comments on one message board was wondering if fans who’ve been wanting the Dench M to exit the series (because she seems to get an expanding amount of screen time with each film) will still find a reason to complain now the character is being killed off.

007. How do you think they’ll do it? We’re not going to guess at this point, but there was one message board where a poster suggested it’d be great showcase for Daniel Craig if his Bond gets to kill M. That left us cold. Blunt instrument is one thing, some fans seem anxious to transform 007 into a glassy eyed sociopath. Meanwhile, yes, the literary Bond did try (unsuccessfully) to kill M in The Man With the Golden Gun, but he had been brainwashed by the KGB.