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.

About that fuss over Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

The fuss about writer-actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge working on No Time to Die’s script isn’t going away. In part that’s because it’s getting hyped by various parties.

Case in point: The Sunday Times this week published an interview with star Daniel Craig. The actor said Waller-Brige is a great writer and there’s no reason she shouldn’t be on the project.

“Look, we’re having a conversation about Phoebe’s gender here, which is f****** ridiculous,” Craig told the newspaper.

The online entertainment site IndieWire decided to add some drama to the proceedings.

The IndieWire story ran with the headline, “Daniel Craig Shuts Down Reporter for Asking if Phoebe Waller-Bridge was a Bond Diversity Hire.”

A headline on Entertainment Tonight’s website boosted the hype a bit more. “Daniel Craig Claps Back At Reporter’s ‘F***ing Ridiculous’ Question About Whether Phoebe Waller-Bridge Was A Diversity Hire.”

That was an interesting take, especially given that the scribe for The Sunday Times didn’t feel shut down after Craig’s comments about Waller-Bridge.

It was then that I realised the more Craig shouts at you, the better things are going. He enjoys this sort of debate and, by virtue of the energetic rate he punches out words, nothing comes across as rude as it seems on the page. He is, instead, brusque and open. Just a really big fan of ironing things out and, like a friend in a pub during a fourth pint argument, any bad blood will be forgotten by the journey home.

Hence, we got a little drama where it perhaps really didn’t exist.

In a perfect world, Waller-Bridge’s gender would have nothing to do with her work on No Time to Die. But that’s not going to happen for a variety of reasons.

First, not that many women writers have worked on Bond films until now and only Johanna Harwood received a credit (Dr. No and From Russia With Love).

Second, Waller-Bridge is also a performer as well a scribe and has more visibility than most writers, female or male.

Finally, Waller-Bridge’s participation in No Time to Die may become a talking point for the movie.

The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye had a September story quoting an unidentified executive (described as being close to the production) as saying Waller-Bridge’s “great” contribution to the script was “the savior of Bond, really.”

If Bamigboye’s source really is “close to the production,” then expect to hear more of this sort of thing.

Meanwhile, the notion of Waller-Bridge as No Time to Die’s savior is amusing given how another entertainment website, The Playlist, earlier this year essentially hyped another No Time to Die screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, as saving the movie.

Who knew Bond needed so much saving?

For her part, Waller-Bridge hasn’t said much about No Time to Die. She said in a Deadline: Hollywood interview that Bond doesn’t have to change but the movies need to treat women better

In any case, expect more fuss related to Waller-Bridge between now and April when No Time to Die comes out.

Craig talks loving Bond films, Waller-Bridge as writer

Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace.

In a new interview, Daniel Craig talks about he loves making James Bond films, the contributions of Phoebe Waller-Bridge to No Time to Die and denies being grumpy.

Craig talked to The Sunday Times in a story published today. It’s behind a paywall but there are ways to view it if you register for the site (two free articles a month) or get a subscription.

The Mr. Obvious takeaway is that Craig, 51, wants to set a different tone from SPECTRE. In 2015, he gave at least two interviews immediately after a long shoot that apparently were embargoed until just before the movie came out. One had a famous (or infamous) quote that all fans know so I won’t repeat it here.

With that in mind, some of the Bond-related highlights:

He loves being James Bond: “This may be hard to believe, but I love the fact I’m Bond. We’re in rare air, making Bond movies. It is one of the most intense, fulfilling things I’ve ever done, but it takes a lot of energy and I’m getting old. I’m getting creaky. And so what I do outside of that has got to be really good.”

On Phoebe Waller-Bridge: Craig was asked if it was his idea to recruit her to work on the script. “Yeah.”

He dodges a question about what specifically the writer-actress brought to No Time to Die before making more general comments.

“But she’s just brilliant. I had my eye on her ever since the first Fleabag [TV series], and then I saw Killing Eve and what she did with that and just wanted her voice. It is so unique — we are very privileged to have her on board.”

He also said there’s been too much attention paid to Waller-Bridge’s gender.

“Look, we’re having a conversation about Phoebe’s gender here, which is f****** ridiculous. She’s a great writer. Why shouldn’t we get Phoebe onto Bond? That’s the answer to that. I know where you’re going, but I don’t actually want to have that conversation. I know what you’re trying to do, but it’s wrong. It’s absolutely wrong. She’s a f****** great writer. One of the best English writers around. I said, ‘Can we get her on the film?’ That’s where I came from.”

He says he’s not grumpy: Craig acknowledges his reputation for being grumpy. “But then I don’t do much to dispel it, because I’d just be chasing my tail to prove that I’m not the person people think I am.

“But I’m not grumpy. Genuinely, I’m not. I hope you can tell. I love what I do. I love this business, and I don’t mind talking to journalists. I mean, I don’t love it. Yet I don’t mind talking about stuff I love.”

The article also discusses in detail Knives Out, his newest non-Bond project which comes out later this month.

Bond 25 questions: The Empire magazine edition

No Time to Die teaser poster

A (short) Empire magazine article is due out on Oct. 31. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Will this movie be different from other Daniel Craig Bond films?

Perhaps not.

The Empire article has this quote from Barbara Broccoli, the boss of Eon Productions:

“We always like to have a very personal trial for him emotionally, put him up against something that he finds difficult to deal with emotionally.”

So, if this quote is accurate, No Time to Die will have the same tone that began with 2006’s Casino Royale and which extended into 2015’s SPECTRE.

No differences at all?

Not necessarily. Director Cary Fukunaga may come up with visual differences. Screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge may contribute some bits. Already, Daily Mail scribe Baz Bamigboye has floated a story saying Waller-Bridge’s contributions to the script have saved the movie.

At this point, Waller-Bridge saving the movie is about to become a talking point in the marketing.  We will also hear about how Daniel Craig is the best and/or favorite James Bond performer.

Any conclusions?

If you love Daniel Craig versions of James Bond films, you’ll love this one. If you’re indifferent to Daniel Craig versions of James Bond films, you’ll probably be indifferent to this one. If you hate Daniel Craig versions of James Bond films, you’ll hate this one (most likely).

Really?

It’s possible director Cary Fukunaga comes up with some visual/style changes. There may be surprises audiences can’t anticipate.

We’ll see.