With WGA settlement, no excuse for Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

James Bond fans are breathing easier because it appears there won’t be another Writers Guild strike, like the 2007-2008 walkout that affected Quantum of Solace.

That strike is the default explanation for Quantum’s script issues. “If only there hadn’t been the strike the movie would have been a lot better,” goes this way of thinking.

That’s despite evidence the situation was a lot more complicated. Quantum had script issues before the stike, Still, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend and all that.

This time around, the Writers Guild of America reached a last-minute contract agreement. Members will participate in a ratification a vote.

Meanwhile, not a lot is really known about the Bond 25 scripting process. Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail has reported that longtime 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been hired for another go.

There has been no official confirmation (as usual) but given Bamigboye’s record in sniffing out scoops about Skyfall and SPECTRE, it’s practically a given among 007 fans.

In any case, if Purvis and Wade are back in Bondage, a WGA strike won’t be an excuse. And, to be fair, they’re not the only ones who should be held held responsible.

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli oversees her screenwriters. Bond 25 has no director at this point. Directors are known to throw their weight around with screenwriters. That’s a wild card no one can foresee right now.

Bond 25 has no distributor. When one is selected by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, its executives (especially if that studio helps finance the movie) will want a say on the script. Another wild card whose impact won’t be known for some time.

Some fans imagine a Bond 25 script is almost ready. Right now, that’s a matter of faith, not fact.

To sum up: The quality of Bond 25’s story remains to be seen. We just know a WGA strike will have nothing to do with it.

WGA reaches tentative deal

Writers Guild West logo

The Writers Guild of America reached a tentative agreement on a new contract, the union said in a statement issued early today.

“Your Negotiating Committee is pleased to report that we have reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP that we can recommend for ratification,” the union said.

AMPTP is the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which negotiates for the studios.

One of the issues involved writer pay for short seasons for original series on streaming services, which often no more than 13 episodes (and often fewer) compared with 22 a season on broadcast networks.

“We also made unprecedented gains on the issue of short seasons in television, winning a definition (which has never before existed in our MBA) of 2.4 weeks of work for each episodic fee,” according to the statement. “Any work beyond that span will now require additional payment for hundreds of writer-producers.”

The settlement, now subject to a ratification vote, prevents a strike that could have disrupted production of TV shows and movies. Bond 25, now in early stages of pre-production, won’t be affected by a WGA walkout the way 2008’s Quantum of Solace was.

Writers Guild authorizes strike; will it affect Bond 25?

Writers Guild of America West logo

More than 96 percent of Writers Guild of America members participating voted to authorize union leaders to call a strike during current contract negotiations, according to The Hollywood Reporter and other entertainment news outlets.

The idea of a possible WGA strike makes James Bond fans uneasy. Quantum of Solace was affected by a WGA strike and 007 fans fret it could have an impact on Bond 25 as well.

First, a strike-authorization vote doesn’t guarantee a strike. A union has to conduct such a vote before a strike can happen. Some times, there is an authorization vote but a settlement occurs without a walkout.

On the other hand, if a WGA goes on strike, it could occur as early as May 2.

Quantum’s WGA strike history: The 22nd James Bond film originally had a release date of May 2, 2008. (CLICK HERE to see the text of the July 20, 2006 press release announcing the date. It came out before Casino Royale was released.)

Later, the release date was pushed back to fall 2008. However, the WGA went on strike from Nov. 5, 2007 to Feb. 12, 2008. Screenwriter Paul Haggis dropped off a draft just before the strike began. The strike is blamed for story shortcomings in Quantum, even if it doesn’t explain everything.

Bond 25’s writing history (such as it is): Nothing is official, but the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported last month that veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired to write Bond 25.

Naturally, Bond fans wonder if a new WGA strike might disrupt things.

Still there’s one key difference.

The 2007-08 strike began shortly before the beginning of Quantum filming. Bond 25 doesn’t have a director. It doesn’t have a studio to distribute it. It hasn’t cast any actors. It has no production start date.

A strike may delay Bond 25 scripting but that process isn’t anywhere near as advanced as Quantum was just before that WGA strike.

Just to be clear, this post is from the narrow perspective of Bond 25. The WGA negotiations cover serious, broader issues.

What’s at stake for Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

After the “lost year” of 2016, Bond 25 appears to be actually getting into gear.

The New York Times reported that five studios (four established, one a newcomer) are bidding for a one-picture deal to distribute the next 007 film from Eon Productions.

However that bidding turns out, the stakes are still high for the 25th James Bond film.

SPECTRE was OK financially but didn’t grow the franchise

2012’s Skyfall was (pardon the pun) a quantum improvement over Quantum of Solace in terms of popular and critical reaction. Skyfall almost seemed like a return to the mid-1960s when Goldfinger made 007 a “thing.”

The 007 series followed up Goldfinger with Thunderball, which was even bigger.

The series followed up Skyfall with SPECTRE, which….wasn’t as big. In the U.S. market, SPECTRE sold the fewest theater tickets (23 million) of 007 movies released since 1995 (and the advent of the home video era).

SPECTRE brought back Blofeld but made him Bond’s “foster brother.” Shades of Austin Powers.

Because of information from the Sony hacks, we know other things that could have made it into the movie. M was a traitor. Tanner was a traitor. Bond watches Tanner commit suicide. Felix Leiter calls Moneypenny a “fox lady.”

Veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned to perform triage. SPECTRE was no disaster at the box office, but it didn’t match Skyfall.

Where is this franchise going? At the end of SPECTRE, Bond (Daniel Craig) is driving off in the Aston Martin DB5 with Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux). The car was seemingly destroyed in Skyfall, but the Eon crew can’t let go.

If Craig comes back, do we go off on another revenge story (as in Quantum of Solace)? If Seydoux is killed by Blofeld (a fan favorite scenario), does Bond fall apart yet again (as in Skyfall)?

Or does Bond 25 mostly ignore SPECTRE, similar to how Diamonds Are Forever for the most part didn’t reference On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? (There are references but very slight.)

In Bond 25, after things don’t work out with Madeline Swann, 007 asks to be reinstated to MI6.

Does Bond 25 cap its production budget? Or does it double down?

 SPECTRE had examples of ridiculous spending. A $36 million car chase (really, a car drive). The “largest explosion in motion picture history” that had no drama because Bond and Swann were well away and safe when it happened.

Does Eon Productions scale back? Or does it try to keep up with the Joneses, i.e. modern movie blockbusters?

We’re a long way off from a movie being filmed. Not a whole lot can happen until there’s a studio to actually release Bond 25. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which exited bankruptcy in 2010, doesn’t have the resources to finance a big-budget Bond on its own.

Here’s the thing. As of now, the Bond series doesn’t have direction. In the 21st century, successful franchises (think Disney’s Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm Ltd.) plan things out years ahead of time.

With Bond, it’s kind of, “Let’s see how it goes.”

For 55 years, since the release of Dr. No, that has worked out. Maybe it will again. Bond 25 will tell us a lot whether that’s still the case.

Spanish in James Bond movies

Goldfinger poster

Goldfinger poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

SMERSH’s dossier on James Bond stipulates he is fluent in three languages: English, French and German.

However in the films, Bond and those he encounters speak a fair amount of Spanish on occasion.

 

From Russia with Love (1963)

The audience hears a few words in Spanish during the SPECTRE training sequence in the pre-title sequence.

As Red Grant terminates the fake 007 during his exercise, a few headlights are turned on and a voice in an unidentified dialect says: “Silencio, cada uno donde está”, which in English means “Silence! Everyone, stay where you are.”

Goldfinger (1964)

In the pre-title sequence of Goldfinger, James Bond breaks into a heroin-making laboratory in Latin America.

After setting up explosive charges over nitro barrels in Ramírez’ lab, Bond goes to a nearby canteen. There, a dancer named Bonita makes up a flamenco step show with people cheering.

The charges explode and as the crowd moves along, Bond talks to a man in English. It’s his contact. He warns 007 not to go back to his hotel and to take the first plane to Miami. He addresses Bond as Señor, not Mister.

Bond disregards the advice and goes to see Bonita. He is attacked by an assailant, whom he terminates with electricity in a “shocking” way. The assailant, played by stuntman Alf Joint, is wrongfully credited in publications as “Capungo” as if it were a name or a surname. In Ian Fleming’s novel, we know capungo is a Mexican slang for “thug” or “hitman.”

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

Villain Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) says a single line in Spanish when having lunch with Bond, claiming the death of 007 “mano a mano, face to face” will be all his.

FYEO U.S. Insert

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

This is the first film in the series where 007 speaks in Spanish. Roger Moore has the distinction of being the first Bond to use the language.

007 is sent to Madrid to capture and interrogate Héctor González, a Cuban hitman responsible of the death of Timothy and Iona Havelock. While spying on the González estate, Bond is captured. The agent escapes after a diversion caused by Melina, the daughter of the late Havelocks, when she shots a bolt into González’ back.

As Bond and Melina escape, we hear some words: “¡Vamos, que no se puede escapar!” (Come on, we can’t let him escape). Later, 007 and the girl try to find a way out while driving Melina’s Citroen 2 CV.

The car flips down while taking a low road and some of the natives try to help the couple. As the henchmen of González try to reach them in their more powerful Mercedes Benz, Bond asks the citizens to help them push the car: “Por favor, ¡empujen!”

Safe in his hotel, Bond reserves a flight back to London and thanks in Spanish: “Muchas gracias.”

octopussy

Octopussy (1983)

Spanish is much heard during the first ten minutes of the film, when 007 infiltrates an air base in an unknown Latin American country (probably Cuba) to sabotage a missile. We hear trough the radio phones one Colonel Alvarado is performing an equestrian show.

Bianca, a Latin American agent, helps 007 don his disguise (fake moustache included): Colonel Luis Toro. A detail to note is that the prop department wrongfully abbreviated the word “Colonel” in English (Col. Toro) when it should have used the Spanish abbreviation (Cnel. Toro).

Moore makes a good use of his double entendrés with Toro’s surname: “Toro? Sounds like a load of bull” (The English for toro is “bull”).

Bond –- posing as Toro -– infiltrates the compound and greets one of the officers working on the missile. “Coronel,” the man says.  007 replies “Continúe” (Carry on) before knocking the man unconscious and getting discovered by the real Toro.

“Interrogación”, the military orders for the impostor to be arrested and interrogated. One of the officers complies while replying: “Sí, Coronel. Métanlo al camion” (Yes, Colonel. Get him on the truck).

007 escapes with the aid of Bianca’s seductive skills and, before taking a leap on the Acrostar jet for the definitive runaway, he thanks her with a “gracias, querida” (Thank you, darling).

Licence to Kill's poster

Licence to Kill’s poster

Licence to Kill (1989)

Given the film had major locations shot in Mexico, Spanish is present in the last film with Timothy Dalton as 007.

Bond himself only uses the language by addressing the villain as “Señor Sánchez” and by translating to Leiter the villain’s statement: “Plomo o Plata” (literally translated as “Lead or Silver”).

The villain played by Robert Davi uses a handful of Spanish words: “No te preocupes” (Don’t worry) to his girlfriend Lupe before whipping her; “amigo” (friend) to Krest and Bond); and even a mouthful: “¡Este hijo de p*ta!” (son of a bitch) before shooting the dead body of double agent Kwang, who killed himself with cyanide to avoid capture.

So does Lupe Lamora –often addressed as señorita instead of Miss– mixing words in Spanish with English phrases: “You loco” and “You borracho” (loco: crazy, borracho: drunk) to Bond and Krest.

Milton Krest, one of Sànchez’ associates, says a “muy bien” (all right) while searching for Bond as he escapes his troops. We can notice Anthony Zerbe’s voice is dubbed.

More of the language is heard when Bond and Pam (Carey Lowell) arrive at Isthmus City, when a radio is playing a populist narration claiming the benefits for the people given by the president (a puppet of Sánchez): “Beneficios para el pueblo con Héctor López, su Presidente”.

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The film begins in Bilbao, Spain, while visiting a corrupt banker, Lachaise. The mission for Pierce Brosnan’s Bond is to recover Sir Robert King’s money and extract information on who eliminated a fellow agent.

Bond fights Lachaise’s thugs and manages to escape from the Spanish police trough the office window. We hear officers speculating about the crime scene and shouting warinings: “Creo que son dos o tres, están armados… se oyeron cinco disparos y una explosión… ¡Abra la puerta, Policía!” (I think there were two or three, they’re armed. We heard five shots and an explosion. Police! Open the door!).

007 calmly escapes and, as he walks through the streets close to the Guggenheim, museum, one of Lachaise’s guards is caught: “¡Quieto ahí! Levanta las manos!” (Stay right there! Hands up!).

DADposter

Die Another Day (2002)

Bond (Brosnan) visits Cuba to eliminate assassin Zao. His first stop in Havanna is Raoul’s tobacco factory, where he asks for Delectados, a kind of cigars not made anymore.

“Raoul, aquí hay un tipo que busca delectados, de Universal Exports” (Raoul, there’s a guy asking for delectados, from Universal Exports), an old man notifies via telephone. Delectados were used as an understanding code between the agents.

In the tobacco factory, a man is reading the newspaper aloud to the employees, an article about the selling of lenses and recording cameras.

As Bond and Raoul talk about Zao, he calms down the tense looking old man, holding a gun to protect his boss, given the case: “Bueno, ¡pero relájate, hombre!”

Strangely, Raoul is a French name and the Spanish version of that name should have been “Raúl.”

Enjoying a bit of the Cuban culture, Brosnan makes use of his Spanish knowledge as James Bond: “Un mojito, por favor”, he asks ordering the famous Cuban drink.

To gain access to the Álvarez Clinic in Los Órganos, where Zao a patient for DNA makeover therapy, he knocks down a grumpy patient, carries him unconscious in a wheelchair and uses his papers to transport him. Before he does, he greets the prostitute: “Buenos días” (Good morning). Then, he delivers his papers to a boat transbord agent, calling him señor, and as the man grants him permission Bond replies “gracias”.

International poster for Quantum of Solace

International poster for Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace (2008)

The 22nd film in the series is set in Latin American locations, with Panama and Chile doubling for Bolivia.

For the first time, Spanish was an important language in a Bond film and not restricted to a few words. The Spanish dialogue was so important that in most countries it was subtitled.

In Haití, Camille greets General Medrano. Before capturing her, the military, responsible for the death of her parents, tells her: “Conocí a su familia, tristemente, creo que fui el último que los vio vivos” (I met your family. Sadly, I think I was the last one who saw them alive).

As Bond (Daniel Craig) rescues Camille, the general will throw orders in Spanish: “¡Síganlos!” (Follow them!).

Following the lead to villain Dominic Greene, Bond visits La Paz with Mathis, returning to the series after Casino Royale.

Upon reaching the city, they’re joined by Fields, a British agent sent to return Bond to London but who ends up joining the quest.

Stationed in Bolivia for almost a decade, Mathis is a friend of the Police Colonel, Carlos, whom he calls as a chatterbox taxi driver complains of the poor state of the country: “Calentamiento global… llueve mucho o no llueve nada” (Global warmth, it either rains or it never rains) and of the high taxes. Mathis continuously shushes him: “Cállate, ya, ¡chito!

When Bond checks into the luxurious Grand Andean Hotel, Craig says, “Hola, somos maestros en año sabático, y nos ganamos la lotería” (We’re teachers on sabbatical, and we have just won the lottery).

The concierge replies, “Felicidades, señor. ¿Les puedo ayudar en algo?” (Congratulations. How can I help you?). The voice of the concierge was dubbed by noted Mexican director Guillermo del Toro.

There are some mistakes in the subtitles added to the film: when 007 approaches a villager asking for the DC-3 plane to escape with Camille, the man rudely asks: “Buenos días, ¡¿Qué es lo que quiere?!” Subtitled as the polite “How can I help you?”, it should have been translated as the more literal “What do you want?” given the rudeness of the voice tone of the man.

Another Mexican director, Alfonso Cuarón, provided the voice for the radio guiding the Bolivian jet planes sent by Greene to hunt Bond and Camille, with the first phrase being “Objetivo eliminado” (Target terminated).

Something rather funny happens near the end of the film, when General Medrano and the Chief of Police have a chat on the Perla de las Dunas hotel.

Both characters are Bolivian, yet Medrano is played by a Mexican actor (Joaquín Cosio) and Carlos, the Colonel is played by a Spaniard actor (Fernando Guillén Cuervo).

The different dialects show up, and there’s yet another mistake in the subtitles.

Complaining by the noise made by the fuel cells to give electricity to the complex, the Colonel says: “Maldito quebradero de cabeza, la verdad”. Subtitled as “Pain in the ass, really”, the more literal “This sound wrecks my head” would have been more appropriate.

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

SPECTRE (2015)

The movie begins in Mexico City during the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. Bond (Craig) is seen, in disguise, with a girl called Estrella, who in the hotel elevator mutters him some words in Spanish to his ears – presumably “te deseo” (I desire you) is logical since she kisses him as they both reach the room.

Not much more is heard except for the melody sang aloud by the attendants: “Los muertos vivos están, siento ya su poder, vengan todos aquí, este día llegará” (The dead are alive, I can feel their power. Let’s get all together, this day will arrive).

At around the half of the film, the SPECTRE agents are reunited in Rome to discuss the job in hand after the death of Sciarra in Bond’s hands. One of Blofeld’s assistants claims the next duty for Sciarra was the assassination of Mr. White, and offers the assignment to a Spaniard member known as Guerra.

Guerra, played by Benito Sagredo, complies by showing his loyalty to the organization in his own language: “Por supuesto. Mi lealtad a esta organización es absoluta. La protegeré hasta mi último aliento. No habrán más… aficionados. No veremos más muestras de debilidad” (“Of course. My loyalty to this organization is total. I will protect it with my last breath. There will be no more… amateurs. No more shows of weakness”).

 

Forster tells Collider he considered quitting Quantum

International poster for Quantum of Solace

International poster for Quantum of Solace

Director Marc Forster, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE COLLIDER WEBSITE, says he considered quitting Quantum of Solace before the 2008 007 film went into production.

“Ultimately at that time I wanted to pull out,” Forster told Collider’s Adam Chitwood. “Ron Howard pulled out of Angels & Demons which Sony was about to do and they sort of shut down, and at the time I thought, ‘Okay maybe I should pull out’ because we didn’t have a finished script. But everybody said, ‘No we need to make a movie, the strike will be over shortly so you can start shooting what we have and then we’ll finish everything else.’”

The director said he and star Daniel Craig essentially wrote the movie. He also described to Collider the pressure he was under doing a follow up to the well-received Casino Royale: “Then ultimately you have a follow-up with an incomplete script based on no book and you have to deliver.”

In the end, Forster told Collider he had to make a “sort of like a 70s revenge movie; very action driven, lots of cuts to hide that there’s a lot of action and a little less story.”

There’s an element here of “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” To bring this up is like saying Ranse Stoddard didn’t really shoot Liberty Valance. But here goes anyway.

In a 2008 STORY ON THE ROTTEN TOMATOES WEBSITE, Forster played down the Quantum script problems.

The Writers’ Guild strike, which began just as Quantum of Solace was gearing up for production, did not impact the production as much as the industry trade papers had speculated. “The good thing is that Paul (Haggis) and I and Daniel all worked on the script before the strike happened and got it where we were pretty happy with,” Forster said. “Then we started shooting and the only problems I had with the script we were shooting in April, May and June so as soon as the strike was over we did another polish with someone and it worked out with all this stuff coming up. So I was pretty happy with all the work we’d done in January and February so [there won’t be any need for reshoots].”

Also, it was reported during production of the movie scribe Joshua Zetumer was doing rewrites during filming. In the Rotten Tomatoes story, Forster took credit for hiring Zetumer.

Regardless, Zetumer didn’t get a credit for the movie. That went to Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

The “Forster and Craig really wrote Quantum” narrative was first offered up by Craig in 2011 interviews. And that story line has more or less taken hold since, with Zetumer’s contributions totally forgotten. Without their on-screen credit, Purvis and Wade would be in the same situation.

To be fair, one can understand Forster not wanting to play up the problems while trying to publicize the film eight years ago. The truth usually takes some time — often years — to emerge. SPECTRE was an unusual case because of the Sony hacks publicized pre-production problems on the 2015 007 film.

Still, there are elements of the “Forster-Craig” writing team narrative for Quantum that are more creative than the finished movie. The Quantum reality is likely far more complicated than that.

Print the legend, indeed.

Eon’s new normal, the sequel

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Almost three years ago, this blog had a post titled Eon’s new normal which said, “The new normal: A Bond film maybe every third year (Bond 24, the next movie is scheduled for the fall of 2015), with various other projects in-between.”

In March of this year, Gary Barber, the CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, in effect confirmed that was the case concerning Eon, the company that makes 007 films and is a partner with MGM in the Bond franchise.

The 007 films have “been on a cycle of every three to hour years and I anticipate it will be on that same three-to-four year cycle,” Barber said on a conference call with investors and analysts. (MGM reported second-quarter 2016 results on Wednesday but had no 007 news.)

Essentially, Eon can’t make Bond films without MGM and vice versa. This goes back to the early 1980s when MGM acquired United Artists. UA, in turn, had acquired Harry Saltzman’s share of the 007 franchise in the mid-1970s.

Since our 2013 post, it has become evident that Eon, and its co-boss Barbara Broccoli, do not want to be rushed into making James Bond films. Eon’s current production is Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, a drama about American actress Gloria Grahame.

In the “old days,” Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli, the Eon co-founders, pursued non-Bond projects while cranking out classic 007 films on a regular schedule.

In the second decade of the 21st century, not so much. There was a four-year gap between Die Another Day and Casino Royale (2002-2006). Quantum of Solace came just two years later. But another four-year gap followed, mostly because of an MGM bankruptcy (2008-2012) between Quantum of and Skyfall.

Skyfall was a huge hit, and the first (and so far only) Bond to crack the $1 billion club. An executive of Sony (which released the movie for MGM) said the next film would be out in two years. However, Broccoli and star Daniel Craig told Collider.com in 2012, in effect, that exec didn’t know what he was talking about.

Broccoli won out. SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, came out three years later, in 2015.

Some fans, to this day, insist that three-year gap was because Eon was waiting on Sam Mendes to direct another film. But it’s very clear that Barbara Broccoli does not want to resume an every-other-year schedule, including comments she made in a 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times.

On internet message boards, 007 fans debate whether Daniel Craig will come back or not for another Bond film. The real debate is whether Bond movies will come out three times a decade, or just twice.

A related question: Is the 007 fan base growing or static? Skyfall, in a way, was helped by its four-year gap. Fans were anxious to finally see another James Bond film. Is that the right approach for the future?

Regardless, as we said three years ago, there’s a new normal for Eon. The details are still being hammered out.