‘Jane Bond’ shows interest in women spies

Salt poster

Salt poster

This week’s buzz about whether actress Gillian Anderson should play a female version of James Bond caused a lot of fans to complain about click bait and political correctness.

But the media attention concerning “Jane Bond” may show something else — continuing interest in women spies.

There have been attempts at a woman spy movie series. Eon Productions, maker of the 007 films, tried to develop a spinoff movie featuring Halle Berry’s Jinx character from Die Another Day. But in the end, no movie occurred.

In 2010, Angelina Jolie starred in Salt, which had worldwide box office of $293.5 million. The film had an ending that left things open for a sequel but none has taken place. Sony Pictures is developing a television series version, Screen Daily said in February.

In 2015, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. included Alicia Vikander as a British spy, Gaby Teller, who wasn’t a character in the original 1964-68 television series.

Thus, Solo and Illya became Solo, Illya and Gaby. Vikander got good reviews, but the movie limped home with worldwide box office of $109.9 million, pretty much killing any chance of a sequel.

On the other hand, Jennifer Garner’s Alias television series ran more than 100 episodes from 2001-2006.

In the 007 films, women spies have been a major part of the proceedings for decades.

Bond has allied himself with women agents from the Soviet Union (The Spy Who Loved Me), United States (Moonraker), China (Tomorrow Never Dies) the U.S. again (Die Another Day) and Bolivia (Quantum of Solace) . 2012’s Skyfall provided a new take on Moneypenny, in which the Naomie Harris version is initially an MI6 agent.

In these risk-adverse days, studios may want to check out properties such as the comic strip Modesty Blaise, the subject of a 1966 movie.

Anyway, we were reminded by reader Stuart Basinger that back when the film rights to Casino Royale were first acquired (years before Eon Productions was formed), producer-director Gregory Ratoff wanted to change James Bond into a woman. Ratoff wanted to cast Susan Hayward in the role. Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. worked on the project and described it in a 2012 article in Variety.

What prompted this post was a comment from a reader, @CinemaOnFire on Twitter. So, as a shoutout, we present that tweet:

Footnote: 8th anniversary of a fateful event

Facebook image Marvel put on Facebook

Facebook image Marvel put on Facebook

Today, May 2, is the eighth anniversary of the release of Iron Man. Things haven’t been quite the same since.

Originally, Quantum of Solace, the 22nd James Bond film, had that release date. That was always going to be ambitious, given that Casino Royale came out in the late fall of 2006.

Eventually, Sony Pictures, Quantum’s distributor, decided it couldn’t be met. The 007 film would be released in the fall. Truth be told, given the issues Quantum had as it was, shooting for a May 2008 release likely would have made things worse.

Nevertheless, that move opened up the May 2 slot for Iron Man, the first movie Marvel would produce itself instead of leasing characters to other studios.

Marvel had an ambitious plan — starting a movie “universe” of connected characters. To make it work, though, Iron Man needed to be a hit. Marvel was taking a chance on star Robert Downey Jr., a talented actor, but one who had a history of personal problems.

The gamble paid off. Iron Man was a hit. Walt Disney Co. later bought Marvel because of its movies and characters.

Eight years later, Downey Jr. is still the biggest star in the Marvel movie universe. He’s a major presence in Captain America: Civil War, which makes its U.S. debut this week.

Meanwhile, Civil War is the start of Marvel’s Phase III of films. Until Iron Man came out, nobody talked about “phases” of movies. Happy anniversary.

SPECTRE leads Skyfall in one U.S. box office category

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

We took a deeper look at the U.S.-Canada box office numbers for SPECTRE, comparing them to Skyfall. There is one surprise. All figures via Box Office Mojo.

DAYS IN RELEASE: 129 (and counting), for SPECTRE, 108 for Skyfall.

Or, put another way, the 24th James Bond film has been in U.S.-Canadian theaters three weeks longer than the 23rd.

Since Friday, SPECTRE has been available on 16 screens in the region. Skyfall, in its last weekend in release (Feb. 22-24, 2013) was on 184 screens.

BOX OFFICE TOTALS: $304.4 million for Skyfall. $199,954,501 (estimated as of Sunday) for SPECTRE. The latter includes an estimated $47,000 for the March 11-13 weekend. SPECTRE’s global box office now stands at an estimated $880.4 million.

NUMBER OF TICKETS SOLD U.S.-Canada:  37.842,000 for Skyfall,  22,983,300 for SPECTRE.

Given the box office, that’s not a surprise. This may be: SPECTRE has sold fewer tickets than 2008’s Quantum of Solace, 23,449,600.

 

SPECTRE finally passes M:I in U.S.-Canada box office

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE on Dec. 23 finally passed Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation in U.S.-Canada box office, making as the 24th James Bond film the highest-grossing 2015 spy film in the region.

SPECTRE had estimated box office of $385,000 in the region on Dec. 23, ACCORDING TO BOX OFFICE MOJO. That put SPECTRE’s total U.S.-Canada box office at an estimated $195,059,955, edging past M:I Rogue Nation’s $195,042,377. SPECTRE now is No. 10 for the U.S. and Canada among all films for 2015.

SPECTRE had passed the fifth Tom Cruise M:I movie some time ago globally. The Bond film is at No. 6 worldwide at about $838 million as of today while M:I Rogue Nation is No. 8 at $682.3 million, according to BOX OFFICE MOJO.

SPECTRE is winding down its U.S. theatrical run. It was on more than 1,000 screens this past week. That figure will go down on Christmas Day, when a number of new movies open.

SPECTRE has sold an estimated 22.7 million tickets in the U.S. and Canada. It trails Quantum of Solace’s estimated 23.5 million.

2012’s Skyfall’s worldwide box office was $1.11 billion. That included $304.4 million in the U.S. and Canada, where an estimated 37.8 million tickets were sold.

Bond 25 news to watch for in 2016

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

July 2013As SPECTRE winds down its run in theaters, here’s a look at some events related to Bond 25 that may take place in 2016.

MGM selects its studio partner for Bond 25: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s deal with Sony Pictures to distribute 007 movies is expiring. A lot of people expect the decision whether to continue with Sony or to go with another studio to occur early in the year.

Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, said during an appearance this year, that he expected the decision in “probably in January, February.”

Under the now-expiring Sony deal, it co-financed Bond films with MGM and paid for advertising costs in return for 25 percent of profits. With 2012’s Skyfall, which had worldwide box office of $1.11 billion, Sony got a profit of $57 million, according to an Oct. 30 story in The Wall Street Journal, citing an internal document that surfaced in the Sony hacks.  MGM received $175 million and Danjaq, holding company for Eon, got $109 million, the Journal said, citing the document.

Sony’s profit for SPECTRE will be smaller because the box office will be less (almost $837 million through Sunday) and its budget was bigger.

In any case, there’s not much that can happen until the decision is made. You need a distributor to set a release date. MGM, which emerged as a much smaller company after exiting bankruptcy, doesn’t have a distribution arm. And it needs a partner to shoulder Bond movie production budgets.

Daniel Craig decides whether he’s coming back or not: Wilson has said Craig isn’t under contract for Bond 25. The actor, in a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone had made it sound like he was under contract through Bond 25.

Wilson has said he’s optimistic Craig will return. The actor isn’t necessarily in a hurry. Still, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise there’s some kind of announcement about Craig and Bond 25 after the studio partner question has been dealt with.

Bond 25’s release date is revealed: Eon, MGM and Sony jointly announced the release date of the then-Bond 24 in July 2013. The studio partner question might slow things up this time. Still, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if MGM and whatever studio partner it selects sometime next year stake out a release date for Bond 25. (Our guess is that date will be sometime in 2018, but that’s a subject for another time.)

Bond 25’s director is revealed: If a Bond 25 release date actually is announced, it’d be good public relations to have a director signed. The July 2013 announcement was a double dip, providing the Bond 24 release date and the news that Skyfall director Sam Mendes would return for another film.

Of course, things don’t have to play out that way. The original Bond 22 release date release ARCHIVED AT THE JAMES BOND DOSSIER  didn’t have a director’s name and said the movie would come out on May 2, 2008. The release date was later changed to fall 2008.

 

007 movies listed by number of tickets sold, 1995-present

Skyfall teaser poster

Skyfall teaser poster

The BOX OFFICE MOJO website has tools that let you look beyond unadjusted movie box office. You can also, for example, get a listing (for the U.S. and Canada, at least) of the estimated number of tickets sold.

There are various formulas for adjusting box office figures for inflation. But tickets sold is basic. So we decided to take a look back at the number of tickets sold for the eight 007 films of the past 20 years. Home video was firmly established, as opposed to the early years of the Bond series, where it didn’t exist and movies could get re-released.

Using this measure, 2012’s Skyfall, by far, sold the most tickets among 007 films in the region. After that, there’s less difference that the unadjusted box office figures might suggest.

What follows is each movie’s total U.S.-Canada tickets sold, with the number in parenthesis the number for its opening weekend. The average ticket price for each year is also listed. The total figure for SPECTRE is through Nov. 23.

GoldenEye (1995): 24,403,900 (6,024,100); average ticket price, $4.35

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): 26,911,200 (5,477,800); average ticket price, $4.59

The World Is Not Enough (1999): 24,853,800 (6,991,900); average ticket price, $5.08

Die Another Day (2002): 27,584,000 (8,101,900); average ticket price, $5.81

Casino Royale (2006): 25,428,700 (6,234,100); average ticket price, $6.55

Quantum of Solace (2008): 23,449,600 (9,405,100); average ticket price, $7.18

Skyfall (2012): 37,842,000 (10,977,000); average ticket price, $7.96

SPECTRE (2015): 18,085,500, through Nov. 23, (8,176,900); average ticket price, $8.34. UPDATED FIGURE: 22,996,5000 through March 27, 2016.

UPDATE: Out of curiosity, we went back to the earliest days of the series. Remember, these movies had re-releases, in some cases several re-releases. But in the cases of Goldfinger and Thunderball, you get an idea that Bond was a *very* big thing in the U.S. in the mid-1960s. Also, there was a big decline, relatively speaking, when You Only Live Twice came out. At the same time, Twice sold almost as many tickets in the U.S. and Canada as Skyfall did. Anyway, here’s a sampling:

Thunderball (1965): 74,800,000 (no opening weekend figure available)

Goldfinger (1964): 66,300,000

You Only Live Twice (1967): 35,904,000

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): 16,038,400

Diamonds Are Forever (1971): 26,557,300

Live And Let Die (1973): 19,987,500

Moonraker (1979): 28,011,200 (2,832,000 opening weekend)

Octopussy (1983): 21,553,500 (2,826,200)

Licence to Kill (1989): 8,732, 200 (2,210,300)

UPDATE II: To give that Thunderball figure some perspective, the top box office movie in the U.S. and Canada so far this year has been Jurassic World. It sold about 79 million tickets, according to Box Office Mojo. While comparisons that far apart are dicey, it’s fair to say Thunderball was in the same general league in its day. But before Bond fans brag too much, The Sound of Music (released the same year as Thunderball and also re-released several times), sold more than 142 million tickets.

The Chronicles of SPECTRE: SPECTRE (2015)

Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE

Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

SPOILERS AHEAD!
No analysis of the chronicles of SPECTRE would be complete if we didn’t examine the latest James Bond outing, SPECTRE, the fourth 007 film starring Daniel Craig and the second directed by Sam Mendes.

Back in December 2014, when the film title and cast were announced, Mendes told the press that Bond fans “knew what it was about” as the title was revealed. It indeed featured the old Bond nemesis, the organization Sean Connery and George Lazenby’s portrayals of 007 fought in the 1960s, the one lead by Ernst Stavro Blofeld with Dr. No, Emilio Largo, Rosa Klebb and Fiona Volpe as proud agents loyal to the cause.

But of course, much like the classic Bond elements and characters throughout these four Daniel Craig entries, the organization has been rebooted and adapted to the 21st century.

James Bond kills Marco Sciarra, an Italian SPECTRE agent operating in Mexico, where he planned to blow up a stadium. Bond attends Sciarra’s funeral in Rome. Bond meets Sciarra’s widow, Lucia (Monica Bellucci). The woman leads 007 to a meeting at the Palazzo Cardezza, where Sciarra’s replacement is discussed.

Harkening back to the SPECTRE board meeting in Thunderball and the Blofeld’s briefing with Rosa Klebb and Kronsteen in From Russia with Love, the organization leader joins the meeting as the members stand up in respect.

Back in 1965, SPECTRE had to steal atomic bombs or start a war to rule the world. In 2015, this new SPECTRE attempts to control the intelligence services worldwide through the Nine Eyes program championed by Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott). Denbigh is also known as C and is the leader of MI5 –- now merged with MI6 –- and a headache for M (Ralph Fiennes) and Bond.

Under the argument that the 00 section is obsolete and new technology and drones can do the same job a man can and better, C convinces the head of nine intelligence services from across the world to join the integrated network. Many of the services were “convinced” after some terrorists attempts occurred in their countries, perpetrated, of course, by SPECTRE. One of them was Sciarra’s ill-fated plan to blow a Mexican stadium during the crowded “Day of the Dead” celebration.

“World domination, the same old dream,” James Bond said when Dr. Julius No explained his plan to topple American rockets from Cape Canaveral to dominate the world.

The same old dream is back with a twist now. Worldwide domination is, this time, more subtle. It will be achieved through moles in the intelligence services and by having SPECTRE controlling everything.

It’s fair to assume the redefinition of SPECTRE for these times has been done in a brilliant way.

Guerra, a Spaniard member, offers to take up the late Sciarra’s assignment: eliminate a certain “Pale King.”

Another agent, the muscular Mr. Hinx, shows the leader he’s more suitable for the job. Hinx blinds Guerra with his thumbs and breaks his neck. At this point, 007’s cover is blown by the leader himself: Franz Oberhauser (Cristoph Waltz), his foster brother.

Later, James Bond is captured by the villain while visiting his lair inside a crater in Morocco, the control center for the Nine Eyes program. The SPECTRE chief provides 007 a painful torture taken from the pages of Kinglsey Amis’ Colonel Sun 007 continuation novel. As a white Persian cat approaches the captive secret agent, Oberhauser reveals his new name: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Cristoph Waltz’s incarnation proves to be the perfect adaptation of the mastermind for the 21st century: sinister, deadly, shadowy and creepily funny at the same time. Forty-eight years after Donald Pleasance showed his bald and scarred face to Connery’s Bond inside that volcano lair in Japan in You Only Live Twice, Waltz is equally cold-blooded and reminiscent as the iconic villain.

This time, the screenwriters (John Logan, Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth) added a twist. This Blofeld is Bond’s foster brother. This Blofeld killed his father (Hannes Oberhauser, whose connection with the young 007 can be read in Ian Fleming’s Octopussy short story) in revenge for the latter’s preference for the “orphan with the blue eyes.”

Through this series of essays we saw how, after Thunderball, Blofeld eclipsed SPECTRE as the main villain.

In this case, the new Blofeld is linked to the events of the three first Craig films with villains Le Chiffre, Dominic Greene and Raoul Silva being agents of SPECTRE. The terminally ill Mr. White was a high ranking member who disobeyed Blofeld and now he’s hiding on his Austrian retreat.

The dialogue between Bond and his old enemy exposes how threatening this new SPECTRE is.

It has no compunction in killing innocent relatives of their targets or former associates –- White’s daughter Madeleine and Sciarra’s wife Lucia, for example.

And, in the same way Telly Savalas’ Blofeld was responsible for Tracy’s death at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Waltz’s Blofeld declares himself as “the author” of all of Bond’s pain by showing his implication with the demise of Vesper Lynd and (Judi Dench’s) M.

“My wounds will heal, what about yours? Look around you James: everything you stood for, everything you believed in… are ruined,” Blofeld points out revealing a scar affecting his right eye –- Bond’s doing during his escape from his imprisonment in Morocco.

SPECTRE has been redefined in an exceptional way for this new era. The “four cornerstones of power” under the acronym weren’t mentioned, and as a matter of fact one of the script drafts linked the name to a platoon integrated by Oberhauser and Mr. White during their wartime activities.

Nevertheless, this new SPECTRE deals with counterintelligence, terrorism and revenge. The Nine Eyes is the organization’s way of infiltrating the worldwide secret services while using terrorist attacks to convince those nations undecided to join C’s network. On the other hand, its leader has a personal vendetta against 007.

To those who wondered why the previous Bond villains looked a bit weak, the answer is in the return of threatening organization and 007’s greatest nemesis of all time: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

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