From Russia With Love’s 60th Part III: Desmond Llewelyn

Desmond Llewelyn instructs Sean Connery

Desmond Llewelyn instructs Sean Connery

Adapted from a 2013 post

Audiences of the initial release of From Russia With Love didn’t realize it at the time, but they witnessed the start of a character actor’s 17-film, 36-year run.

Desmond Llewelyn took over the role of Major Boothroyd from Peter Burton, who played the part in Dr. No. In the initial 007 outing, Boothroyd presented Bond with his new gun, a Walther PPK. Llewelyn’s Boothroyd gave Sean Connery’s James Bond something more elaborate: a briefcase which, if not opened properly, would emit tear gas. It was also equipped with a sniper’s rifle, 50 gold pieces and a knife.

At this point, the character wasn’t referred to as Q. Llewelyn’s character is listed as Boothroyd in the end titles. M mentions “Q branch” and its “smart-looking piece of luggage.” Boothroyd doesn’t reveal much of his feelings toward Bond either.

No matter. The actor’s appearance in From Russia With Love set the stage for his long run in the part. The Guy Hamilton-directed Goldfinger established Boothroyd’s annoyance at Bond regarding the agent’s disrespect of Q-branch equipment. In the 1965 television special The Incredible World of James Bond, the character would be referred to as “the fussy Major Boothroyd.”

Eventually, Llewelyn’s character would just be called Q, though Soviet agent Triple-X reminded viewers of the Boothroyd name in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

Llewelyn would play opposite five Bond actors. In the 1990s, the question was how long would the actor continue. Bruce Feirstein’s first-draft screenplay of Tomorrow Never Dies, includes a character named Malcolm Saunders, who is “Q’s successor.”

In his first appearance in the script, Saunders is “looking like a mummy – plaster casts on his left leg, left arm; neck-brace, crutch.” Saunders explains how he received his injuries: “Q’s retirement party. I’d just put the knife into the cake, and – ” However, the retired Q shows up later in the story. In the much-revised final story, we get a standard Bond-Q scene with Llewelyn opposite Pierce Brosnan, except it takes place in Germany instead of MI6 headquarters.

In Llewelyn’s finale, 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, Q/Boothroyd is talking about retirement. Brosnan’s Bond doesn’t believe it — or doesn’t want to believe it. Q gives Bond some advice (always have an escape route) and makes his exit.

Llewelyn died in December 1999 of injuries from a car accident.

NEXT: Legacy

Bond 26 questions: The Henry Cavill edition

Henry Cavill

It turns out that Henry Cavill isn’t playing Superman anymore. The actor has quit The Witcher streaming show on Netflix. So does Cavill re-enter the picture to play James Bond in Bond 26?

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is Cavill back in the picture?

I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Much has been made how Cavill, now 39, was in contention to play Bond for Casino Royale back when he was in his early 20s.

However, we know that Eon boss Barbara Broccoli was always keen on Daniel Craig playing Bond. While there were screen tests of other actors (including Cavill), they were stalking horses to show Sony/Columbia (which would release Casino Royale) that it wasn’t a one-horse race. Except, it was a one-horse race from almost the beginning.

What about the Pierce Brosnan precedent? Eon *had* signed Brosnan in the 1980s to play Bond. But the actor’s ties to the Remington Steele TV show got in the way when NBC renewed the series at the last minute. Eon would bring Brosnan back to play Bond for GoldenEye (1995).

Eon *has never* shown that level of commitment to Cavill.

Are you skeptical that Cavill had a chance this time?

Yes.

A few years ago, the conventional wisdom was Eon wouldn’t go back to Cavill because he had played Superman and appeared in spy movies (The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in 2015 and Mission: Impossible Fallout in 2018).

Now, it could be updated by saying Cavill is damaged goods by Warner Bros. rejecting him participating in future Superman movies. And don’t forget The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie had modest box office.

Lately, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon have talked about how a future Bond actor should be younger. Then again, Daniel Craig was 37 when cast and his first Bond movie came out when he was 38.

As usual, we’ll see.

Ex-MGM executive talks about working with Eon

Michael Nathanson, an executive at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during the Pierce Brosnan era of James Bond films, discussed what it’s like working with Eon Productions, which produces the movies.

Nathanson was president and chief operating officer at the time. He was interviewed in a November episode of The San Francisco Experience podcast.

Among the highlights:

Bond was “critically important” for MGM: “The Bond franchise was critical,” Nathanson said. “There was an active and open dialogue going on” between MGM and Eon.

Nathanson came aboard as Tomorrow Never Dies was going into production. “The Bond movie is an industry onto its own in terms of product placement, cooperative advertising and merchandise. Whenever you have a movie that has all of those components, it’s all built upon a release date.”

“Our ability to move” the release date was limited because of all the corporate partners, the former MGM executive said.

Tomorrow Never Dies had a tight schedule. Principal photography didn’t begin until spring 1997, with a Christmas release date. Post-production, in particular, had a short schedule.

Eon protects Bond as the “crown jewels:” “They protect that movie like it’s the crown jewels and it is the crown jewels for the (Broccoli) family.”

After Harry Saltzman exited the series (selling his interest to United Artists), Albert R. Broccoli “became, sort of, a tyrant, with the whole thing. A lot of that rubbed off on the children.”

To be sure, Nathanson compliments both Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Selecting a Bond actor: Eon was “1,000 and 10 percent” involved in picking a Bond actor.

Selecting a Bond director: “The selection of the director was always the most challenging part.” MGM and Eon often disagreed about directors, the ex-MGM executive said.

In MGM’s view, he said, Eon choices for director were “traffic cops.”

“I always believed we could really take the Bond movie to a new height if we didn’t get a traffic cop as a director.”

In the 21st century, Eon picked an “auteur” director, Sam Mendes, who helmed Skyfall and SPECTRE.

MGM had no advanced notice that Pierce Brosnan was fired as Bond: “It was always a see-saw. Keeping Pierce happy, the Broccolis not going too far with how unreasonable he was.”

MGM believed Brosnan could do one more Bond movie. But the executive got a call from Barbara Broccoli. “I’m going to tell him (Brosnan) we’re going to make a switch.”

“I was shocked,” the ex-MGM executive said. “Pierce was shattered.”

Daniel Craig as Bond:” “He had that sort-of Steve McQueen thing about him.”

RE-POST: What 007 and Batman have in common

Adapted from a 2012 post

When following debates among James Bond fans — whether on Internet bulletin boards, Facebook or in person — people sometimes say “try reading Fleming” (or a variation thereof) as if it were a trump card that shows they’re right and the other person is wrong.

Read Fleming. That shows Bond is supposed to be a “blunt instrument.” Therefore, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace are really true to Fleming.

“Read Fleming!” = “I’m right, you’re wrong!”

Read Fleming. That shows Bond is a romantic hero, not a neurotic antihero, therefore, (INSERT BOND ACTOR HERE) was true to Fleming. Meanwhile, (INSERT BOND ACTOR HERE) meant the 007 film series had reached a nadir.

In reality, over a half-century, the Bond films have passed through multiple eras. To some, Connery can never be surpassed and Moore was a joke. Except, the Connery films have more humor than Fleming employed (on the “banned” Criterion laser disc commentaries, Terence Young chortles about how Fleming asking why the films had more humor than his novels). The Moore films, for all their humor, do have serious moments (Bond admitting to Anya he killed her KGB lover in The Spy Who Loved Me or Bond being hurt but not wanting to admit it after getting out of the centrifuge in Moonraker). Other comments heard frequently: Brosnan tried to split the difference between Connery and Moore, Craig plays the role seriously, the way it should be, etc., etc.

Lots of different opinions, all concerning the same character, dealing with different eras and the contributions of multiple directors and screenwriters. Which reminded of us another character, who’s been around even longer than the film 007: Batman, who made his debut in Detective Comics No. 27 in 1939.

Early Batman stories: definitely dark. “There is a sickening snap as the cossack’s neck breaks under the mighty pressure of the Batman’s foot,” reads a caption in Detective Comics No. 30.

Then, things lightened up after Batman picked up Robin as a sidekick. Eventually, there was Science Fiction Batman in the 1950s (during a period when superhero comics almost disappeared), followed by “New Look” Batman in 1964 (which could also be called Return of the Detective), followed by Campy Batman in 1966 (because of popularity of the Batman television show), followed by Classic Batman is Back, circa 1969 or ’70, etc., etc. All different interpretations of the same character.

In the 1990s, there was a Batman cartoon that captured all this. A group of kids are talking. Two claim to have seen Batman. The first provides a description and we see a sequence resembling Dick Sprang-drawn comics of the 1940s, with Gary Owens providing the voice of Batman. The second describes something much different, and the sequence is drawn to resemble Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns comic of the 1980s, with Michael Ironside voicing Batman.

Eventually, the group of kids gets into trouble and we see the 1990s cartoon Batman, voiced by Kevin Conroy, in a sequence that evokes elements of both visions.

With the Bond film series, something similar has occurred. In various media, you’ll see fans on different sides of an argument claiming Fleming as supporting their view. Search hard enough, and you can find bits of Fleming or Fleming-inspired elements in almost any Bond film. The thing is, the different eras aren’t the result of long-term planning. They’re based on choices, the best guess among filmmakers of what is popular at a given time, what makes a good Bond story, etc.

In effect, both the film 007 and the comic book Batman have had to adapt or die. Fans today can’t imagine a world without either character. But each has had crisis moments. For Bond, the Broccoli-Saltzman separation of the mid-1970s and the 1989-95 hiatus in Bond films raised major questions about 007’s future. Batman, meanwhile, faced the prospect of cancellation by DC Comics (one reason for the 1964 revamp that ended the science fiction era) but managed to avoid it.

None of this, of course, will stop the arguments. Truth be told, things might become dull if the debates ceased. Still things might go over better if participants looked at them as an opportunity. An opposing viewpoint that’s well argued keeps you sharp and might cause you to consider ideas you overlooked.

Off-beat ideas for Bond 26 (and beyond)

One-time image for Eon’s official James Bond Twitter feed

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen various fan suggestions for Bond 26. Among the suggestions:

Bring Pierce Brosnan back for a proper farewell: Pierce Brosnan starred in four Bond movies produced by Eon Productions.

The relationship ended abruptly after 2002’s Die Another Day. Eon had gotten the film rights for Casino Royale, the first Bond novel by Ian Fleming. Brosnan was out, Daniel Craig was in, and he enjoyed (well maybe) a 15-year run.

Still, many Bond fans wonder what could have been. The argument goes that Brosnan, now 69, could come back for a one-off adventure featuring an older Bond.

Hey, what about Henry Cavill?!: Cavill, born 1983, was runner-up when Craig was cast in 2005.

In recent months, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, have suggested they want an actor who could be in place for more than a decade. Wilson, in particular, has tossed out the idea that the next Bond actor should be in his early 30s.

Cavill now is 39. He may have aged out based on Eon’s recent comments.

Should Bond 26 be lighter? That’s a popular fan theory. And in many ways it makes sense. You’ve had five really, really serious Bond films with Craig as Bond. Maybe it’s time for a change in direction.

Personally, I wouldn’t go banco on that. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli seems pretty set in her ways. She has even suggested when Bond 26 gets to the scripting stage (whenever that happens) will begin with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

As usual, we’ll see.

Eon Bond actor No. 007: Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Over the past few days, there have been events related to the 60th anniversary of the James Bond film series produced by Eon Productions.

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have yammered about the next casting. “For Barbara and I, it’s something we keep in mind – we want to satisfy the audiences but we need to surprise them and refresh it, so that’s the challenge,” according to an account by Radio Times.

The thing is, Broccoli and Wilson have known *for a few years now* that Daniel Craig’s time as Bond was drawing to an end.

As a result, Broccoli and Wilson have known it was time for a change. But, based on their public statements, Broccoli and Wilson have talked as if nothing will happen soon. Supposedly, Bond 26 won’t start filming for at least two years.

By comparison, Albert R. Broccoli (Wilson’s stepfather, Barbara Broccoli’s father) acted quickly when a vacancy occurred with the role of Bond. Between 1985 and 1987, Eon cast *two Bond actors* (Pierce Brosnan and then Timothy Dalton).

Wednesday, Oct. 5, is Global James Bond Day. If a new Bond actor is announced that day by Eon, it will be a very cynical announcement. It wouldn’t be a matter of Eon playing fun and games. It would be the climax of a series of lies.

We’ll see how it goes.

How No Time to Die divided Bond fandom

No Time to Die soundtrack cover

Hindsight, it is said, is perfect. So, in hindsight, 2021’s No Time to Die was divisive in the James Bond fan base.

Some Bond fans love the 25th 007 film made by Eon Productions. Others *hate* it. James Bond is not supposed to die! But that’s what happened.

After the demise of Daniel Craig’s Bond in No Time to Die, Eon still is trying to figure out where to go next.

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, who was always pushing for Craig, now has to confront her emotions. Craig, now into his 50s, *appears* to be done. (But who really knows?)

Historical note: Between 1985 and 1987, Eon not only made a big change in direction (going to a more serious direction) but cast *two* Bond actors. (Pierce Brosnan initially, then Timothy Dalton when Brosnan couldn’t get out of a television contract.)

Broccoli has said Bond 26 won’t start filming until at least two years from now. The Eon boss has said the production company is grappling with the future direction of the franchise.

We’ll see how it goes. In the “old days,” the Bond franchise could make big changes more quickly.

Regardless, Bond fandom has become more polarized, similar to society in general.

Die Another Day’s 20th: Eon discovers CGI is hard

Die Another Day’s gunbarrel, complete with CGI bullet

Adapted from a 2017 post.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Die Another Day, the James Bond film where Eon Productions decided to go all-in on computer-generated imagery.

Eon had dabbled with CGI before, including the title designs of Daniel Kleinman who had taken over for the late Maurice Binder.

But Die Another Day was another matter entirely. First up was a CGI bullet fired at the audience by Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in the opening gunbarrel sequence. Evidently, Bond was a better shot than anyone knew. He was able to fire a bullet into the barrel of another person’s gun.

Later, U.S. operative Jinx (Halle Berry) supposedly dives backward into the ocean from a cliff — supposedly being the operative word.

There was also an Aston Martin that could turn invisible. For Bond, it helped that the thugs of villain Gustav Graves didn’t notice the tracks the invisible car was putting in the snow.

But, of course, the movie’s most famously bad use of CGI came as Brosnan/Bond surfs to avoid being swallowed up by a tidal wave. Much of the sequence looks like a mediocre video game with insert shots of Brosnan gamely trying to sell the audience he’s actually concerned about the proceedings.

Director Lee Tamahori was a big enthusiast of what digital imagery would bring to the table of the 20th James Bond film.

The “manipulations” enabled by CGI “are endless and effortless,” Tamahori said. “The high-end action sequences that are done for real are still going to exist.” The rest, he said, might move into entirely digital effects. These comments were once on the Haphazard Stuff website but have since been yanked.

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day

Tamahori was indeed correct that digital effects would become more prominent in future Bond movies. Safety cables for stunt performers can be hidden, for example. Also, mice can be created and rail cars can be added to trains. (For the latter two examples, CLICK HERE for a post about CGI use in 2015’s SPECTRE.)

Unfortunately for Die Another Day, the director and production company found out CGI is hard. Better execution of CGI in a Bond would movie would have to wait for another day.

Poor CGI wasn’t the movie’s only problem. For the first time, Eon decided to make a big deal about a 007 film anniversary (2002 being the series’ 40th anniversary). Tamahori & Co. opted to put all sorts of Bond film references that tended to distract from the film’s plot. Look, a set based on a Ken Adam set from Diamonds Are Forever! Look, there’s the Thunderball jet pack! Look, there’s the same electronic noise that accompanied the Dr. No gunbarrel! Look, there’s a Union Jack parachute! And on, and on, and on, and….

At the same time, Die Another Day proved to be the end of the line for Pierce Brosnan.

When the film was released, Brosnan said during talk show appearances that Eon wanted him back for a fifth Bond film and he was looking forward to it. Two years later, Brosnan got a telephone call from Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson informing the actor that his services were no longer required.

Brosnan was the last Bond chosen by Albert R. Broccoli. “The kids” were about to pick their own.

Pierce Brosnan figures into Black Adam trailer

Warner Bros./DC has released the first trailer for Black Adam, a comic book-based movie that’s a starring vehicle for Dwayne Johnson.

Pierce Brosnan, however, figures into the trailer. The former James Bond actor plays Dr. Fate, a sorcerer character who has been around since 1940.

Black Adam will be out later this year. The trailer is below.

Tomorrow Never Dies’s 25th: Jigsaw puzzle

Tomorrow Never Dies poster

Adapted from a 2017 post.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Tomorrow Never Dies, a jigsaw puzzle of a production.

Just when the pieces seemed to be coming together one way, they had to be disassembled and put together another.

That condition certainly applied to the script. Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli initially employed Donald E. Westlake. That effort was dropped.

Next up, Bruce Feirstein, who had penned the later drafts of GoldenEye, started a new storyline. Other scribes worked on the project before Feirstein returned, doing rewrites on the fly while filming was underway.

Locations ended up being a puzzle as well. Much of the story was set in Vietnam. But the Asian country abruptly revoked permission to film there. The Eon Productions crew had to quickly go to Thailand as a substitute.

The score from composer David Arnold would also be a jigsaw puzzle. The newcomer scored the movie in thirds. (He explained the process in detail in an audio interview with journalist Jon Burlingame that was released on a later expanded soundtrack release.) There would be next to no time for normal post-production work.

Principal photography didn’t begin until April 1, 1997, and production would extend into early September for a movie slated to open just before Christmas.

It was star Pierce Brosnan’s second turn as 007. In the documentary Everything or Nothing, he said his Bond films other than GoldenEye were all a blur. That blur began with this production.

Also, during the film’s buildup, the publicity machine emphasized how Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin, a Chinese agent, was Bond’s equal. This wasn’t exactly a new development. Barbara Bach’s Agent Triple-X in The Spy Who Loved Me was “his equal in every way,” according to that movie’s director, Lewis Gilbert. Nor would Tomorrow Never Dies be the last time “Bond’s equal” would come up in marketing.

In some ways, Tomorrow Never Dies was the end of an era.

It was the last opportunity to have John Barry return to score a Bond film. He declined when told he wouldn’t be permitted to write the title song. That opened up the door for Arnold, who’d score the next four 007 movies.

This would also be the final time a Bond movie was released theatrically under the United Artists banner. UA was a division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1997. Two years later, MGM decided to release The World is Not Enough under its own name.

The movie, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, generated global box office of $339.5 million. That was lower than GoldenEye’s $356.4 million. Still, it was more than ample to keep the series, and its Brosnan era, going.