Bond 25: The annoying Monica Bellucci edition

Monica Bellucci during filming of SPECTRE.

File this under “A” (for annoying) and under “C” (for “click bait”).

Back on Oct. 14, the Mirror tabloid ran a story saying that 007 actor Daniel Craig wants Monica Bellucci, who had a very small role in 2015’s SPECTRE, back for Bond 25.

An excerpt:

One insider told us: “He wants Monica Bellucci back, that’s for sure.”

Monica made headlines as the oldest Bond girl ever when she appeared, aged 51, as Lucia Sciarra, widow of a notorious assassin.

The problem? The Mirror earlier ran a story in July claiming Bond 25 would be based on a Raymond Benson novel, despite making no attempt to talk to the one-time 007 continuation novel author.

You’d think that would give people pause before citing the Mirror story on Bellucci. But you’d be wrong.

A site called The List ran with it, citing the Mirror. Forbes.com, citing The List, did likewise.

Earlier today, Variety got into the act.

“Bellucci’s agent told Variety on Wednesday that the actress is neither confirming nor denying rumors that she might appear in the 25th film to feature the suave super-spy, which is scheduled to hit theaters in 2019,” the trade publication said in an online story.

Variety didn’t note how this originated with the Mirror, the publication with the shaky reputation for accuracy.

According to Variety, Bellucci herself was being coy during a Tuesday night event, telling scribes,” I can’t say anything.”

Meanwhile, here’s a question nobody has been asking. If Bellucci really is in the picture for Bond 25 (not a given), would she have to play her SPECTRE character? Or could she pull a Maud Adams and play two different characters in two Bond films?

Another question: Is this a lot of hooey for a movie that, two years before its announced release date, still doesn’t have a distributor to actually get the film into theaters?

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Paul Baack, extraordinary 007 fan, dies

Paul Baack (1957-2017 ) in 2013, wearing headphones to utilize his voice-activated software.

Paul Baack, co-founder of the James bond fan site Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, died today at 60.

Paul and Tom Zielinski began the site, intended as a James Bond “e-magazine,” in 1997. HMSS, according to the founders, was the equivalent of a “toy train” for them.

It was more, of course.

From 1997 until 2011, HMSS presented magazine-length articles about James Bond and related topics. Contributors included Raymond Benson, the 007 continuation novel author from 1997 to 2002.

Benson named a character after Paul in his 1999 Bond novel High Time to Kill.

Normally an obituary refers to its subject by his or her last name. But the Spy Commander, for this obit, will refer to him by his first name.

Paul, from the beginning, designed the HMSS pages. His graphics enhanced the articles. He had a way of prodding the authors to make their contributions just a little bit better. Paul would make suggestions to improve the articles.

Those suggestions came in the form of a gentle nudge, not a dictate. HMSS, after all, was a hobby — the toy train analogy — not life or death. Nevertheless, Paul’s instincts were excellent. He was right far more than he was wrong.

Paul Baack-designed promo for the fall 2011 issue of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, the e-magazine’s last issue.

Paul led a tough life. In 2003, he was paralyzed after being struck by a car. Despite that, he carried on. He utilized voice-activated software to do his HMSS work and follow his various other interests, which included doing artwork such as THIS and THIS and THIS.

This blog was, in fact, Paul’s idea. He wanted a way for HMSS to have a presence on the internet between “issues.” The Spy Commander was among the HMSS contributors.

Eventually, I took over the blog. But I was always aware he was reading. I was always glad to receive his feedback.

HMSS had a good run. It went offline in 2014.

“Bond and Holly” by Paul Baack

Paul was one of the most memorable people I ever met. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering he endured since 2003. But he endured it with warmth, and grace and humor.

James Bond fandom is richer for what Paul and Tom Zielinski started. This blog, obviously, would not exist without Paul’s encouragement.

After HMSS went offline, the blog published THIS POST about how it was now on its own. Paul posted this comment:

“‘Upward and onward’ indeed! Heartfelt thanks to you, Bill, for keeping the flame.”

Thanks to you Paul, for lighting the flame in the first place.

The Spy Command marks its 9th anniversary

Today marks the ninth anniversary of The Spy Command.

The blog began with the name The HMSS Weblog. The first post on Oct. 8, 2008 concerned how three Raymond Benson James Bond continuation novels had been collected under the title The Union Trilogy. The post was penned by Paul Baack, who had the idea of the blog.

The Spy Commander, who has been running the blog for some time, didn’t weigh in with his first post until Oct. 19, 2008. That concerned A Man Called Sloane, the short-lived spy adventure with Robert Conrad and produced by QM Productions.

The blog began to hit its stride (and find its own voice) with a 2009 series of posts about the 45th anniversary of Goldfinger. It later had series of posts about the 50th anniversary of Dr. No and From Russia With Love as well as series about Dr. No’s script and behind-the-scenes financial issues of Dr. No. (CLICK HERE for part I.)

The blog formally was on its own in September 2014. The blog changed its name to The Spy Command in February 2015.

Assuming the blog is still around next year, we’ll have to do something more elaborate for the 10th anniversary.

Who did more to make 007 popular in U.S. — JFK or Hefner?

John F. Kennedy statue in Fort Worth, Texas

2017 has been an eventful year related to the growth of U.S. interest in James Bond. This was the centennial of the birth of President John F. Kennedy and it was the year Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died.

JFK, unquestionably, gave the literary Bond a huge boost in 1961. Kennedy — the first U.S. president born in the 20th century — listed Ian Fleming’s From Russia With Love among his 10 favorite books.

At the time, Kennedy provided a youthful image. He was the youngest elected president at the age of 43. Theodore Roosevelt was the actual youngest president (at age 42), but he assumed office with the assassination of William McKinley.

Regardless, JFK was sworn into office after the then-oldest president, Dwight Eisenhower, departed. Kennedy brought a sense of glamour. That’s why his presidency was dubbed “Camelot.”

As a result, Kennedy’s including the Fleming novel in that 10 favorite book list was an enormous boost. It occurred just as the Eon film series was getting started. Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman struck their deal with United Artists in 1961, with Dr. No beginning production in early 1962.

Still, you could make the case that Hefner’s interest in Bond had a longer-lasting impact.

Playboy published Fleming’s The Hildebrand Rarity short story in 1960, a year before the famous JFK book list. Playboy serialized Fleming 007 stories. And Playboy’s ties to Bond would be referenced in the Eon films On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever.

Hugh Hefner (1926-2017)

What’s more, Hefner’s Bond interest remained. Playboy published Bond-related pictorials for decades. In the 1990s, the magazine published short stories and serialized novels by 007 continuation author Raymond Benson.

As an aside, the Spy Commander once interviewed Benson about becoming the Bond continuation author. Benson mentioned, in passing, he was a friend of Hefner’s.

My memory is I asked him to go over that again. It was true. And one of the Benson 007 short stories (Midsummer Night’s Doom) was set at the Playboy mansion and Hefner showed up as a character.

The purpose of this post is to pose the question. The answer is up to the reader.

Hugh Hefner, who helped popularize 007, dies

George Lazenby’s 007 reading a copy of Playboy

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy and who helped popularize James Bond for American audiences, has died at 91, according to CNBC, citing a statement from Playboy Enterprises.

Playboy published the Ian Fleming short story The Hildebrand Rarity in 1960, beginning a long relationship between the magazine and the fictional secret agent.

At the time, the literary Bond has his U.S. fans but the character’s popularity was far from its peak. Things changed a year later when the new U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, listed Fleming’s From Russia With Love as one of his 10 favorite books.

As Bond’s popularity surged in the 1960s, Playboy serialized the novels You Only Live Twice and The Man With The Golden Gun.

The relationship spread into the Bond movies produced by Eon Productions. In 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond (George Lazenby) kills time looking at an issue of Playboy while a safe cracking machine works away. Two years later, in Diamonds Are Forever, the audience is shown that Bond (Sean Connery) had a membership card at a Playboy club. Also, over the years, Playboy published Bond-related pictorials.

In the 1990s, the Playboy-literary Bond connection was revived. Playboy published some 007 short stories by continuation novelist Raymond Benson, including Blast From the Past as well as serializations of Benson novels.

One of Benson’s short stories published by Playboy, Midsummer Night’s Doom, was set at the Playboy Mansion. Hefner showed up as a character.

During the 21st century, Playboy “has struggled in the face of tough competition from the available of free pornography online,” CNBC said in its obituary. The magazine experimented with no nude photos “before returning to its previous formula,” CNBC said.

Mirror says Bond 25 to be based on Benson novel

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

UPDATE (July 30): Raymond Benson today told the Commander Bond website via Twitter that, “I know nothing; haven’t spoken with any Mirror journalists, can only assume the article is fabrication. Would be wonderful if it were true.” He made similar comments on Facebook.

ORIGINAL POST (July 29): Consider this Caveat Emptor. No room for that in the headline

The tabloid Mirror said Saturday night that Bond 25 will be based on the Raymond Benson 007 continuation novel Never Dream of Dying.

According to the tabloid, the movie has a working title of Shatterhand, the alias Ernst Stavro Blofeld used in the novel You Only Live Twice.

However, the Mirror said the movie is based on “Never Dream Of Dying by US author Raymond Benson” which “sees Daniel Craig’s spy battle a blind supervillain” who is “behind an evil organisation called the Union.”

The tabloid quoted an unidentified “insider” as saying the movie may be filmed in Croatia.

Benson wrote six Bond continuation novels published from 1997 to 2002 as well as novelizations of three 007 films.

Never Dream of Dying was published in 2001 while the Mirror refers to it as a “1999 thriller.”

Eon Productions, which produces the Bond films, has avoided adapting continuation novels published by Ian Fleming Publications.

That changed with 2015’s SPECTRE, which adapted a torture sequence from Kingsley Amis’s 1968 Colonel Sun continuation novel. Amis’s estate received a special thanks credit in SPECTRE’s end titles.

Eon said July 24 that Bond 25 will have a release date of Nov. 8, 2019 in the United States and that the film is being written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The New York Times reported the same day that Craig is returning for a fifth turn as Bond.

Murder on Relationships: The story between Paris and Bond

Publicity still from Tomorrow Never Dies

Publicity still from Tomorrow Never Dies

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Hidden among the pyrotechnics in Tomorrow Never Dies, there’s a character that has a particularity among the female leads in the James Bond saga. It’s Paris Carver, one of the leading ladies from the film that will celebrates its 20th anniversary later this year.

Paris had a past with Bond — a past that involved love. It that started as a flame, was interrupted for some years, and reignited when M sent her spy to a party in Hamburg to investigate Paris’ husband, media tycoon Eliott Carver, a prime suspect on the sinking of a British vessel.

Bond doubts she’ll remember him, in the world of fame and luxury she adopted thanks to her husband. “Remind her,” M (Judi Dench) responds. “Pump her for information.”

Teri Hatcher, the Californian actress picked for the role (then popular for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) summarized her character a bit: “She has to make a choice: be loyal to her cruel and unscrupulous husband, or help her former lover. Her decision is an integral part of the movie.”

First Draft

In Bruce Feirstein’s original draft, Paris Harmsway (her surname would change to Carver) was a former interest for Bond. There were no explanations. For some reason she left him and he felt very hurt for that, to the point he slaps her as she tries to tell him, “I love you.” Her development and fate is pretty similar to the one in the finished film.

Feirstein molded Paris in the shape of a typical socialite who marries a rich and powerful man, but what could been a new variation of Andrea Anders or Lupe Lamora (from The Man With The Golden Gun and Licence to Kill) had a different twist. This girl knew –and loved– him in the past, a relationship of mutual caring. In the final film, it was Bond who left her because she was getting “too close for comfort”.

Raymond Benson’s novelization sums up her background a bit, coinciding with the screenwriter idea: Her name was Paris McKenna, she was interested in modelling and only went to university to please her parents. She met Bond in a party seven years prior to the events of Tomorrow Never Dies. Both were fascinated for each other and dated for two months (a “stormy relationship,” in Benson’s words). When the romance was at its height, he disappeared without notice.

Apparently, a model surrounded by paparazzi and cameras was incompatible with Ian Fleming’s description of James Bond as “the man who was only a silhouette” (from the end of Moonraker).

Paris then met Elliot Carver. She was attracted by his histrionic personality, his power and for being “handsome in a way.” She married him three months later and dished away her desire of being a model. It is very much implied she lived into the shadow of his husband, becoming a possession of him and not necessarily happy with it, although not daring to confront him.

Jonathan Pryce as media baron Carver

Jonathan Pryce as media baron Carver

Reunion

Things would change – drastically – when Bond and Paris meet again.

During Carver’s party in Hamburg, Bond poses as a banker. Donning his impeccable midnight blue Brioni tuxedo, he approaches her, standing alone in a balcony, dressed in a sensual Ocimar Versolato black dress.

The sighting of Paris alone while Carver was funnily talking about how he overhyped the Mad Cow disease as a beef industrialist refused to pay him a poker game winning shows a certain distance, a hatred feeling on his husband life and soul of the party antics.

“I always wondered how I’d feel if I ever saw you again,” he teels her.

The female pride incarnates in Paris’ body and she soundly slaps Bond for leaving him. She pretends to be much better now, and warns Bond that he’ll be in trouble if he tries to run down the “Emperor of the Air.” As much as Bond is playing the cover of a banker, Paris is playing another cover: Masquerading into the “I’m OK” attitude of the socialite who marries a powerful man.

Not much later, 007 will be discovered by and then subdue some Carver thugs. Bond cuts Carver (Jonathan Pryce) off the air during the inaugural speech in the process.

Later, Paris seeks out Bond. The situation would end in one of the most believable love moments in the franchise: Throwing her “happy mannequin wife” cover away, Paris reveals she has missed him ever since, wondering if she came to close for him. They share a passionate and romantic kiss, in a moment that distillates equal measures of erotism and genuine love from the duo.

Love Returns

Their long lost love comes back in that instant. She betrays her husband and informs Bond of the entrance of Carver’s pressroom. Before leaving, she says: “This job of yours, its murder for relationships,” highlighting the key reason they previously split up.

After much mayhem at the Carver facility, Bond returns his hotel room. The agent finds Paris lying dead on his bed. He kisses her lifeless body. We see a hint of guilt and sadness in Pierce Brosnan’s eyes in a brilliant portrayal of 007.

Paris Carver is one of the most drama charged relationship Bond has had.

Interestingly, Sheryl Crow’s title song seems to be a requiem for Paris, talking from the point of a “killed” woman describing Bond’s lifestyle as “murder on our love affair.”