Blofeld: Why the character deserves fan admiration

Spoiler adverse should stop reading now.

Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE

By Gert Waterink, Guest Writer
Last week, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported that Christoph Waltz, who played Blofeld in SPECTRE, would reprise the role in Bond 25.

I support Waltz’s return. Yes, SPECTRE wasn’t a masterpiece of a Bond film. Far from it. The foster brother plot element was far fetched and perceived as a forced effort to bring back a new kind of Blofeld.

Most Bond fans and general movie audiences didn’t buy it. Nor did they buy the rather convoluted scheme from SPECTRE to sell large amounts of intelligence data packed in a new intelligence IT system to its highest bidder: the British intelligence community.

Execution, Smart Writing
Still, Blofeld is alive and Bond’s links to that man and his heritage have compromised the British Secret Service.

The history of Daniel Craig’s Bond (young bloke in Casino Royale while being an orphan from Scotland in Skyfall) is in place. Some sense needs to be made out of that.

By completely ignoring those elements, you risk producing an adventure that doesn’t do justice to Bond as a a fully rounded character.

Turning Bond 25 into an action flick reminiscent of the last 007 films of Roger Moore and Sean Connery doesn’t work.

I find it plot wise more logical to do something with the radical (and badly executed) fact that a legendary Bond villain (Waltz’s Blofeld)  has been left alive with a broken leg and a bloody scar on his face.

Only now it must be executed better.  Blofeld’s return will admittedly be a precarious affair..

Anthony Dawson (with Eric Pohlman dubbing the voice)  played puppet master Blofeld in From Russia With Love and Thunderball.

His uncredited Blofeld managed to have a tiny amount of screen time, while at the same time being a pivotal plot device to the overall villainous scheme and infusing some much needed horror and scare to movie audiences.

Add to that James himself, who after retiring from M6 isn’t aware about Blofeld shaking and stirring a new and much better executed villain’s plot. A return of Blofeld can become more palatable for even the most orthodox Bond fan.

Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux at the end of SPECTRE.

Respect for an Antagonist
Apart from bringing back Blofeld, some fans should also try and find some love for a character that was, indeed, (co-)devised by Ian Fleming himself.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the books was the head of SPECTRE, but he introduced the character foremost to get out of too much political waters (an antagonist not bound to any nation has got its advantages).

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman found that admirable. They changed the plot of the cinematic adaptation of From Russia With Love in such a way that Russia wouldn’t be the prime aggressor.

Instead, it was Blofeld all along! He was, together with Kronsteen, the author of all that humiliation to James Bond! Ian Fleming eventually was very pleased with the film.

Blofeld: A ‘Push the Buttons’ Villain
There is also a larger-than-life quality to Blofeld that makes his actions more defensible than many fans would like to see.

Blofeld has weird psychotic traits. Blofeld is much more the man who acts out of sheer psychotic…..fun. Just revisit The Garden Of Death in Fleming’s novel You Only Live Twice, and we are back with both feet on the ground: the world of Bond isn’t that logical sometimes!

Even in the first Bond films, Blofeld was the man who took great pleasure in torturing and killing his adversaries in an all too theatrical way. Pressing a button here, drilling a little hole in Bond’s skull there: that’s Blofeld. But it was fun, entertaining and, admittedly, slightly gory. And Fleming knew that aspect too.

More Logic, Better Explanations
Yes, I think it’s pivotal to get rid of that bit of foster brother backstory. It turned Blofeld and Bond into two brotherly losers who could not stay professional within their own organisations: MI6 and SPECTRE.

Yet, I think it’s not a big problem to simply ignore that aspect while at the same time let Blofeld return with some of the aforementioned brilliance.

Let us also not forget that the prime villain of Bond 25 will be played by Rami Malek. So we should also not panic like headless chickens now Christoph Waltz has been seen at Pinewood Studios.

It is Rami Malek who gets more screen time in Bond 25. It is his role who probably devises an ingenious plot, which, rumour has it is about genetic warfare.

Such a scheme, and a hopefully rich performance by Rami Malek, will probably leave not too much space for more complicated revelations about Bond and Blofeld’s failed childhood.

Patience, Please
In any case, ignoring SPECTRE is one way to create a more critically acclaimed Bond film in cinemas as of next year. But there are more ways to Rome, more ways to produce a masterpiece of a Bond film.

So patience is a virtue too. Perhaps the Bond fan community should look into that a bit more often, so that we don’t write off a film before it’s even released.

Bond 25 questions: The British tabloids edition

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

It has been about six weeks since principal photography on Bond 25 began. Of all the media outlets out there, Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid The Sun seems to be driving the media conversation.

Six months ago, even three months ago, that didn’t appear to be the case. With that in mind, here are some questions from the blog.

The Sun? Really? 

During pre-production and production of Skyfall and SPECTRE, the Daily Mail, via Baz Bamigboye, was the go-to tabloid.

Yes, Bamigboye’s stories had the smell of clickbait. But many of his stories were confirmed. Examples: Albert Finney was part of Skyfall’s cast. Yes, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned to rewrite SPECTRE. Yes, Purvis and Wade were hired to start the Bond 25 scripting process.

As a result, over time, Bamigboye had to be taken seriously even if the Daily Mail had a well-deserved reputation for bad journalism.

But, for some reason, The Sun has been driving much of the Bond 25 storyline. The Sun came out with a story about the June 4 explosion at the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. That spurred Eon Productions to quickly get out a statement.

The Sun’s latest story came out June 9. The Murdoch tabloid declared actor Rami Malek “has other filming commitments which will have started by the time” Daniel Craig is ready to resume filming following an injury.

With the tabloids, caution always is called for. Still, The Sun and its scribes have been more active than Bamigboye.

Here’s an excerpt from the newest story from The Sun. Caveat Emptor.

A Bond insider said: “Filming was supposed to finish in September but the cast and crew have been told it’s been pushed back to late October, possible early November due to Daniel’s injury and the set explosion.

“But they still need to find a time for Daniel and Rami to film together.”

How serious should a Bond fan take The Sun? 

Take it with a lot of caution.

The Sun has been out of the gate in declaring Bond 25 “cursed.” In its most recent story, The Sun amped things up by calling Bond 25 “doomed.”

Whoa! That’s way, way too strong a term. Even if you think The Sun has good sources, that’s overplaying your hand.

What’s more, tabloids are famous for taking shortcuts (to put it mildly).

What happens now?

Take it easy. Don’t assume things are doomed or cursed. (A curse is a man-made construct to explain various events.)

At the same time, keep an eye on how things are going. Film productions experience setbacks. Some turn out well (Jaws). Some not so much (Heaven’s Gate). Regardless, there’s no point in jumping to conclusions.

A Bond 25 possibility

Rami Malek

No actual spoilers unless you consider a plot summary from a press release to be a spoiler. If so, move on.

So we don’t know a whole lot about Bond 25. Actor Rami Malek said he was going to be the villain but not much else. There was also a plot summary in a press release last week. One portion of that summary read:

The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

What follows is strictly speculation. But it’s well known that Eon Production never throws anything away.

One of its unused story lines was a 1990 treatment co-written by Eon’s Michael G. Wilson for Bond 17, which would eventually become 1995’s GoldenEye.

That treatment also featured technology as a McGuffin, specifically robots.

“The robotic devices refered (sic) to in this outline are complex and exotic machines designed for specific tasks and environments,” according to the treatment. “They are to be designed especially for the film for maximum dramatic and visual impact.”

One robot even masqueraded as a woman. “Nan is a lethal security robot!” is an actual line in the treatment.

Now, in the case of the Bond 17 treatment, the villain’s main plot was to take over Hong Kong from the British and Chinese. The British gave Hong Kong back to the Chinese in 1997, so that’s pretty much off the table.

Collaborative robots work in close proximity with humans.

However, robots have gotten ever more sophisticated since the Bond 17 treatment was written. New, so-called “collaborative” robots (known as cobots) are designed to work in close proximity with humans.

Today’s factory floors, besides having robots, have  artificial intelligence, “connected” devices that communicate with each other and tons of automation.

So there are a lot of possibilities if you want to make robots and other automation systems as part of some menace. Warning: I’d still avoid putting in a fembot into the plot.

Again, strictly speculation. That is all.

UPDATE, May 2: I should cited this example before. Boston Dynamics is developing four-legged robots capable of performing many tasks. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how they could be misused by a criminal mastermind.

Bond 25 gets a cast but no title yet

Daniel Craig in Skyfall.

Eon Productions today introduced the Bond 25 cast during an event in Jamaica today. But the 25th 007 film still lacks a title.

Cast members include Rami Malek, who spoke remotely from New York, where he’s filming Mr. Robot. He also did a separate interview on ABC’s Good Morning America. The actor essentially confirmed he’s the movie’s villain, saying he’ll make life difficult for Daniel Craig’s James Bond.

Also on board are Lea Seydoux, continuing as Madeline Swann. Meanwhile, making a return after more than a decade is Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter. That means he’ll set a record in the Eon series, breaking a tie with David Hedison, who appeared twice as Leiter.

The MI6 “Scooby Gang” (Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear) also will be back in force. To see the other members of the cast, go to Eon’s official 007 Twitter feed.

Barbara Broccoli said during the event that Bond won’t be on active service at the start of the film and “his journey starts here,” referring to Jamaica. No other plot points were discussed.

Listed writers are Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Scott Z. Burns and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

However, there was no word on Christoph Waltz making a return engagement as Blofeld following SPECTRE. Rodrigo Perez, editor of The Playlist, wrote on Twitter early today that Waltz will be back unless the script was drastically altered. Perez was the scribe who originally broke the story that Scott Z. Burns was rewriting Bond 25’s script.

If you’ve ever attended the media days of a car show, that’s how the event came off. Pretty much people are saying things that have been worked out and reinforce talking points. Director Cary Fukunaga, for example, declared Daniel Craig is his favorite Bond actor.

UPDATE: The MI6 James Bond website, in its story about today’s event, presented a more detailed synopsis than occurred during the presentation. Don’t read ahead if you’re spoiler adverse.

Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

UPDATE II: The James Bond Dossier posts a copy of a Bond 25 press release. It lists director Cary Fukunaga as one of the writers in addition to the four aforementioned scribes. It also contradicts THIS TWEET from Eon’s official 007 Twitter feed, which didn’t mention Fukunaga as a writer. This suggests the final writing credit won’t be settled until after a Writer’s Guild arbitration.

Reports heat up saying Malek will play B25’s villain

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Just days after picking up an Oscar, Rami Malek is again the focus of stories saying he’ll play the villain in Bond 25.

Variety weighed in with a story saying Billy Magnussen is the top choice to play a CIA agent role while there’s “renewed interest” in Malek as the villain.

Not to be outdone, Collider published a story saying Rami Malek is in final talks to play Bond 25’s villain. It cites “well-placed sources” as the basis of its information. Colllder also says Malek’s representatives have negotiated so the now-Oscar winning actor can do both Bond 25 and a new season of Mr. Robot.

Malek won the best actor Oscar on Sunday for his work on the film Bohemian Rhapsody. He has previously been mentioned in reports as a contender to play the villain’s role.

Each story has additional Bond 25 tidbits.

Variety also said director Cary Fukunaga “turned in” a script draft around the start of 2019. “(W)hile reports surfaced that major rewrite work was done to the script, sources say no significant changes were made, and the producers and Craig were excited with what Fukunaga had delivered.”

The story contained no mention of scribes Neal Purvis, Robert Wade or Scott Z. Burns. The Playlist reported earlier this month that Burns was doing a significant rewrite and was working out of London for four weeks. Purvis and Wade originally were hired in 2017 to work on Bond 25.

“There aren’t really any character details available, though the villain has been rumored to be a blind man,” according to the Collider story about Malek.”

No word whether that rumor stems from the discredited (or at least seemingly discredited) 2017 report in the Mirror that Bond 25 was somehow based on a Raymond Benson James Bond continuation novel. One of Benson’s 007 stories featured a blind villain. The author has said on social media he was never contacted by the Mirror and assumed the 2017 story was a fabrication.

The Collider story references Scott Z. Burns as a writer, but no has mention of Purvis and Wade.