GoldenEye’s 20th anniversary: 007 begins anew

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

GoldenEye, the 17th James Bond film, had a lot riding on it, not the least of which was the future of the 007 franchise.

It had been six years since the previous Bond film, Licence to Kill. A legal fight between Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had kept 007 out of movie theaters. In 1990, Danjaq, the holding company for Eon, was put up for sale, although it never changed hands.

After the dispute was settled came the business of trying kick start production.

Timothy Dalton ended up exiting the Bond role so a search for a replacement began. Eon boss Albert R. Broccoli selected Pierce Brosnan — originally chosen for The Living Daylights but who lost the part when NBC ordered additional episodes of the Remington Steele series the network had canceled.

Brosnan’s selection would be one of Broccoli’s last major moves. The producer, well into his 80s, underwent heart surgery in the summer of 1994 and turned over the producing duties to his daughter and stepson, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli himself would only take a presenting credit in the final film.

Various writers were considered. The production team opted to begin pre-production on a story devised by Michael France.

His 1994 first draft was considerably different than the final film. France’s villain was Augustus Trevelyan, former head of MI6 who had defected to the Soviet Union years earlier. Bond also had a personal grudge against Trevelyan.

Other writers — Jeffrey Caine, Kevin Wade and Bruce Feirstein — were called in to rework the story.  The villain became Alec Trevelyan, formerly 006 and now head of the Janus crime syndicate in the post-Cold War Russia. In addition, the final script included a new M (Judi Dench), giving Bond a woman superior. Caine and Feirstein would get the screenplay credit while France only received a “story by” credit.

In the 21st century, many Bond fans assume 007 will always be a financial success. In the mid 1990s, those working behind the scenes didn’t take success for granted.

“Wilson and (Barbara) Broccoli already knew that GoldenEye was a one-shot chance to reintroduce Bond,” John Cork and Bruce Scivally wrote in the 2002 book James Bond: The Legacy. “After Cubby’s operation, they also knew the fate of the film — and James Bond — rested on their shoulders.”

GoldenEye’s crew had  new faces to the 007 series. Martin Campbell assumed duties as the movie’s director. Daniel Kleinman became the new title designer. His predecessor, Maurice Binder, had died in 1991. Eric Serra was brought on as composer, delivering a score unlike the John Barry style.

One familiar face, special effects and miniatures expert Derek Meddings, returned. He hadn’t worked on a Bond since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. GoldenEye would be his last 007 contribution. He died in September 1995, before the film’s release.

In the end, GoldenEye came through, delivering worldwide box office of $352.2 million. Bruce Feirstein, who had done the final rewrites of the script, was hired to write the next installment. Bond was back.


‘Writing’s on the Wall’ is the new ‘Only Myself to Blame’

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Sam Smith’s awaited main title song for SPECTRE, titled “Writing’s On the Wall,” was finally released last Friday.

As expected, the Bond fandom was divided between those who called it “an instant classic” and the ones who opened a petition drive to banish it to the end credits.

Still, even when Smith’s voice may not be the most appropriate, the orchestration and lyrics excel in examining James Bond’s feelings and emotions, something only given before by a discarded end title song, Scott Walker’s “Only Myself to Blame,” put away from 1999’s The World Is Not Enough in favor of the triumphant James Bond Theme.

“I walked way past midnight, I’ve driven for days I tried to forget in so many ways,” the vocalist sang Don Black’s lyrics. “From city to city, I still see your face… it follows me ‘round, all over the place. I shouldn’t look back, but I do just the same. And I’ve only myself to blame,” the song continues.

The composition, still available on track 19 of David Arnold’s soundtrack, was the first song to narrate the misfortune of a heartbroken Bond, far away of the “Nobody does it Better” or “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” fanfares.

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

As a vocal version of Elektra’s Theme (Black told composer Arnold “there was a song” hidden in it), it laments the ill-fated romance between James Bond and the young oil tycoon played by Sophie Marceau: an innocent girl, corrupted after being kidnapped, turning into a criminal mastermind capable to use both Bond (Pierce Brosnan) and her former kidnapper/lover Renard (Robert Carlyle) as fools.

As we know, the story ended with the cold shot of a 007 who “never misses,” but also takes a minute to caress her dead body.

Much like “Only Myself to Blame,” Sam Smith’s song “Writing’s On the Wall” tears miles away of the triumphalist conception of James Bond and dives into his biggest weakness: his inability to enjoy a lasting relationship due to the hazards of his violent job.

Times had been tough for Daniel Craig’s version of 007: in Casino Royale, his love interest Vesper Lynd commits suicide. That leads him, in Quantum of Solace, to Mr. White and subsequently to ecologist Dominic Greene to unravel a secret criminal organization while seeking the help of the vengeful Camille, who barely kisses him before walking away after the mission is over.

In Skyfall, all this story arc seems put away but Bond still has to face another challenge to his emotions: Judi Dench’s M dies on his arms after being wounded during the attack led by former agent Silva.

“I’ve been there before, but I always hit the floor,” Smith sings, evoking these fateful events between 2006 and 2015: the deaths of a love interest and a mother figure, facts that are supposed to come back with a vengeance in SPECTRE.

“If I risk it all… would you break my fall?” Smith powerfully sings, referring to Bond’s relationship with Madeleine Swann, apparently the first character to aim to his emotions and “analyze” him for the first time since Vesper told him that “because he’s done something doesn’t mean he has to keep doing it.”

Back at the beginning of September, Smith described his song for the film as “a love song,” a category that could very well fit older pieces such as “From Russia with Love”, “You Only Live Twice” or “We Have all the Time in The World”. Yet, Jimmy Napes’ lyrics go one step further by revealing the inner feelings of 007 facing the possibility of putting his heart at stake once more.

More than a love song, “Writing’s On the Wall” proves to be a declaration of love. The song goes: “But I feel like a storm is coming if I’m gonna make it through the day. Then there’s no use in running, this is something I gotta face.” Is it insinuating that, even if a disaster occurs again, he can’t run away of his feelings?

The title sentence seems to confirm it: “For you, I have to risk it all… ‘cause the writing’s on the wall.”

The expression “writing’s on the wall” refers to an imminent disaster coming, but it looks like, even if this disaster occurs, he’s willing to go all in. Compared to “Only Myself to Blame,” Bond (or the performer getting inside his inner thoughts) isn’t offering a retrospective reflection, and despite the negative connotation of the song’s title the vibe of Smith’s song proves to be more positive than Walker’s: “When all hope begins to shatter, know that I won’t be afraid.”

There’s almost a month to wait until we see if, this time, Daniel Craig’s Bond will have a happy ending with Léa Seydoux’s character. So far, it’s interesting to see “Writing’s On the Wall” as the comeback of an idea put away from a 1999 Bond film, a nostalgic song that wouldn’t have fitted the victorious ending of that story and would have raised the eyebrows of the fans, in a historical context where Pierce Brosnan’s 007 was meant to win.

Now, as Daniel Craig’s 007 ran away of many emotional battles that didn’t seem to be healed, an introspective Bond song will get the main titles treatment. We don’t know if this will turn out to be good or bad, but interesting for sure.

MI6 Confiential looks at GoldenEye

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

MI6 Confidential is out with a new issue looking at GoldenEye, the 1995 007 that jump started the franchise after a six-year absence.

The issue has several articles on the movie, including an interview with director Martin Campbell.

GoldenEye was the first 007 film since 1989’s Licence to Kill. The hiatus had been marked by a legal fight and a financial reorganization at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Eventually after multiple script rewrites, a new Bond film finally went into production.

The film was Pierce Brosnan’s debut as James Bond, the start of a four-movie run in the role. It was also Judi Dench’s debut as M.

For more information about the issue’s contents and ordering information, CLICK HERE.

The issue costs 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros, plus postage and handling.

Kirk Kerkorian, mogul who affected 007 films, dies

Kirk Kerkorian

Kirk Kerkorian

Kirk Kerkorian, a business mogul whose ownership of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer affected the James Bond film series, died Monday night at 98, according to obituaries in THE NEW YORK TIMES and THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.

Kerkorian bought and sold MGM three times between 1969 and 2004, according to the Journal’s obit. During his first stint as MGM’s owner, the studio acquired United Artists in 1981.

UA was the original studio that released the James Bond films produced by Eon Productions. UA ended up controlling half the franchise when Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman sold out in 1975 because of personal financial problems.

Eon’s relationship with MGM wasn’t as close as the one it enjoyed with UA. For one thing, MGM always seemed to be in the middle of financial restructurings that adversely affected the 007 film series.

Ted Turner bought MGM in the mid-1980s, a deal financed with debt, and ended up selling the studio back to Kerkorian while Turner kept MGM’s film library for his cable networks. That library ended up with Time Warner, the parent company of Warner Bros., after it acquired Turner’s company in the 1990s.

Kerkorian sold MGM again in 1990, this time to Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti. Eon in 1991 filed a lawsuit, objecting to television rights sales for the Bond films conducted under Parretti.

The lawsuit was a major reason the six-year hiatus for 007 movies between 1989 and 1995. A settlement was reached in 1993 (CLICK HERE to view a story with details).

Still, the hiatus was a contributing factor to the end of Timothy Dalton’s two-picture reign as 007.

John Calley, a new UA executive, reportedly wanted to replace Dalton. Dalton announced he was leaving the role, paving the way for Pierce Brosnan to start a four-picture run as Bond from 1995 to 2002.

Kerkorian became MGM’s owner yet again in 1996, purchasing the studio from Credit Lyonnais, which had seized MGM from Parretti after a loan default.

Kerkorian sold MGM one last time in 2005, this time to a group that included Sony. But the group’s finances crumbled and MGM went into bankruptcy in 2010, a factor in the four-year gap between Bond movies from 2008 to 2012. This time, however, Daniel Craig remained in place as Bond after MGM exited bankruptcy and 007 production resumed with 2012’s Skyfall.

David Letterman’s 007 moments

David Letterman, after 33 years on late-night U.S. television (11 years on NBC, 22 on CBS), is retiring after his May 20 telecast.

One of Letterman’s most memorable moments occurred shortly after his switch to CBS. He interviewed Sean Connery in a segment that opened with an homage to Thunderball.

The 1993 appearance had its ups and downs but is still, after all these years, a Letterman highlight. Connery was on the mend from a serious throat condition so the laughs had an undertone of seriousness.

Take a look:

Two years later, Letterman hosted in show from London. One of those installments included interviewing Pierce Brosnan as filming of GoldenEye was wrapping up.

How well do Americans like 007?

Sean Connery, as 007, circa 1963

Sean Connery, as 007, circa 1963

A market research company called YouGov surveyed 999 Americans on Dec. 4-5 about James Bond. The survey occurred just before SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, began principal photography.

According to YouGov’s polling results:

–20 percent of Americans said they thought they had seen every James Bond movie. That included 24 percent of men, 16 percent of women.

Breaking down the numbers further, 18 percent of whites thought they’d seen every 007 film, 31 percent of blacks and 18 percent of Hispanics. By age, it broke down to 18 percent 18-29, 21 percent 30-44, 20 percent 45-64 and 20 percent 65 and older. By family income: 17 percent below $40,000, 22 percent $40,000 to $80,000 and 29 percent $80,000 and above.

–27 percent liked 007 films “a lot,” while 29 percent liked them “somewhat,” 20 percent “a little” and 18 percent “not at all.” Another 6 percent were “not sure.”

–50 percent said Sean Connery was their favorite screen Bond, with Pierce Brosnan at 19 percent, Roger Moore at 17 percent, Daniel Craig at 11 percent, Timothy Dalton at 2 percent and George Lazenby at 1 percent.

When Bond fans are broken down by age, things changed. In the 18-29 category, Connery was still No. 1 at 33 percent but Craig was a close second at 26 percent. Pierce Brosnan stood at 21 percent, with Roger Moore at 13 percent, 4 percent for Dalton and 3 percent for Lazenby.

Connery was No. 1 with 42 percent 30-44, 54 percent 45-64 and a whopping 72 percent 65 and older.

Want a break down by political affiliation? Connery was No. 1 with 51 percent among both Democrats and Republicans, and 48 percent among independents.

Regional breakdown? Connery was tops in all regions: Northeast (53 percent), Midwest (54 percent), South (46 percent) and West (49 percent).

To see the YouGov tables, CLICK HERE.

YouGov, IN A DEC. 10 STORY ON ITS WEBSITE also says it asked respondents an “open ended question” who should be the next screen 007 after Daniel Craig. YouGov said the most popular choice was actor Idris Elba but the story didn’t provide a detailed breakdown. YouGov also said Benedict Cumberbatch and Jason Statham “were also particularly popular.”

The visual impact of GoldenEye

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer
The gunbarrel opens on a plane that flies over a dam leaving the audience with a breath-taking visual of the landscape. We see a mysterious man running across the dam. More close ups shots follow of the man adjusting a bungee cord.

He jumps. There’s silence as he plunges more than 640 feet.

We are on Arkhangelsk, USSR. The man is trying to gain access to a chemical facility.

We see lots of close-up and detail shots of this man’s blue eyes as well as more takes of his silhouette as he sneaks into the complex’s bathroom.

His face is revealed upside down while greeting a Russian soldier sitting on the toilette right before punching the living daylights out of him. Meet Bond, James Bond.

After a six-and-a-half-year gap in the series, GoldenEye brought James Bond back to the big screen. There were new faces, starting with the secret agent himself, played by Pierce Brosnan in the first of his four Bond films.

GoldenEye also brought to the series a visual impact missing in the five films directed by John Glen, whose basic TV style was one of the few cons of his time in the Bond director chair, in spite of succeeding in bringing the spy back to Earth after the slapstick-ish Moonraker.

Many were responsible for the visual impact of the 1995 film: Director Martin Campbell and his team included cinematographer Phil Méheux, editor Terry Rawlings, second unit director Ian Sharp and, of course, veteran production designer Peter Lamont.

GoldenEye’s visuals feature a lot of ethereal blue skies in the Monaco scenes, a warm orange palette during the beach scenes in Cuba (shot in Puerto Rico), colder blues in the snowy Severnaya and a lot of chiaroscuro techniques in the Statue Park scene where Alec Trevelyan is revealed as the movie’s villain.

Méheux does a superb team work with Rawlings, who provided beautiful editing techniques, particularly the transition between the kiss of Bond and Natalya on the Cuban beach fading into the hearth’s fire and a traveling pan to the couple on the bed inside a cottage.

No less impressive is the thrilling plane crash scene, and the subsequent reveal of Xenia Onatopp’s silhouette rappelling down against the sunlight reflected of an unconscious Bond’s forehead in the jungle.

More brilliant editing by Rawlings can be seen during the film’s many action sequences: the shootout in the St Petersburg Military Archives, i.e. the Russian soldier falling through a glass after being gunned down by a runaway Bond, or the secret agent and his girl Natalya running avoiding the bullets from Ourumov’s troops; or the fight between 007 and Xenia on the hotel’s spa, particularly the way Bond’s quick reflexes work by grabbing the girl and throwing her against the wall before the “foreplay” starts.

Another more explicit fist-fight scene, where Bond has his ultimate showdown with the treacherous Trevelyan inside the giant antenna, not only features a sharp editing that harkens back to 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Bond vs Che Che) and 1963’s From Russia with Love (Bond vs Red Grant), but also reworks the Méheux’s chiaroscuro previously seen in the statue park and the nerve gas facility.

The GoldenEye director of photography is equally skilled in choosing unusual and dramatic shots during quick moments: the supine take of Brosnan being frisked by Alec guards, the zoom-in on Bond’s desperate eyes while trying to level off the plane falling through the cliff or the reflection of the Tiger missiles on them later, or the fast shot of the severely wounded Trevelyan right before the whole antenna structure falls over him, a resort he also used effectively in The Mask of Zorro (1998) and The Legend of Zorro (2005), both directed by Martin Campbell.

Of course none of this could have been done with success if it wasn’t by the perfect tandem ofCampbell and Ian Sharp. Both the dialogue scenes and the action scenes shot by the second unit are joined together in a very effective way. The action scenes in GoldenEye from the bungee jump to the spy vs spy battle above the antenna dish look tidy and planned with intelligence, in a way every action scene has its reason to be in each particular moment.

Last but not least, we owe must credit Peter Lamont the materialization of each one of the locations described in the tale from Michael France, Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein. The interiors like the bottling-room of the Arkhangelsk facility, the Severnaya Space Weapons Center and Janus’ Base computer rooms, all of them built on the Leavesden Studios from scratch, just like the statue park with sculptures by Brian Muir and the recreation of the streets of St Petersburg, when the production was unable to shot the epic tank chase on location in Russia.

The remaining bits of the visual impact of the first Bond film of the 1990s is given by designer Daniel Kleinman, hired after his work on Gladys Knight music video for Licence to Kill. He took the freedom of giving a traditional element like the opening gunbarrel shot a sleek and dynamic digital look and he made history with the film’s opening credits: red, purple and gold are seen while lingerie-clad women destroy soviet icons and statues in synchrony with Tina Turner’s powerful main title song.

GoldenEye breathed fire into the Bond series putting a big step on a new era not only in a historical way, but also in a very sharp graphic and gorgeous way.

Nicolas Suszczyk is editor of The GoldenEye Dossier.


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