Dr. No’s 55th: A peculiar anniversary

Dr. No poster

This week, the James Bond film franchise celebrates the 55th anniversary of its first entry, Dr. No. However, it’s a bit of peculiar milestone.

Five years ago, for the 50th anniversary, it was a time of celebration. The golden anniversary of Dr. No was marked with the knowledge that a new Bond film, Skyfall, would be out soon.

For Bond fans, it was a “win-win.” They could celebrate the franchise’s past while looking forward to the near future

For the 55th, not as much.

Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in July announced a November 2019 release date for Bond 25. But, as of this writing, there isn’t an actual distributor to get the movie into theaters. Such a distributor likely would provide a significant chunk of the funding for the project.

The incumbent 007, Daniel Craig, said in August he’s coming back for a fifth outing. However, besides the lack of a distributor, there’s no director in place, either.

Veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on Bond 25 story, according to that July announcement.

But until a director is on the job — and directors are known for bringing in their own writers to re-work a script — things can only proceed so far. One of the reported contenders, Denis Villeneuve, confirmed to The Montreal Gazette, that he has been in talks with Craig and Eon boss Barbara Broccoli. But Villeneuve, coming off Blade Runner 2049, is in demand for other projects.

What’s more, there have been fuzzy, imprecise vibes that Eon Productions might sell off its interest in 007 after Bond 25. Nobody has actually said this will happen but people have said it might happen.

Finally, tech giants Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are looking to get the Bond 25 distribution rights or perhaps acquire the whole thing, according to a Sept. 6 story by The Hollywood Reporter. Yet, major news outlets that follow both Apple and Amazon closely (think The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal) have ignored the story.

Is there anything to The Hollywood Reporter’s story or not? Who knows?

All this uncertainty overshadows Dr. No.’s anniversary. The first 007 film included Sean Connery introducing the line, “Bond, James Bond. It was a project the followed the unusual circumstances that brought Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman together.

While a modestly budgeted production, the work of production designer Ken Adam made Dr. No look more expensive than it was. And actress Ursula Andress made an impression on audiences. Director Terence Young, not the first choice of either the producers or distributor United Artists, got the series off to a rousing start.

Some Bond fans fans are sure a major announcement about Bond 25 is coming on Oct. 5, Global James Bond Day and also the anniversary of Dr. No’s premiere. Maybe they’re right. We’ll see.

In any case, the 55th anniversary of Dr. No has an uncertainty that the 50th anniversary didn’t.

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NY Post says Bond 25 reworks OHMSS plot

Daniel Craig

The Page Six gossip operation of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post said Bond 25 may rework the plot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

“A Hollywood insider tells us that in the film that’s so far been dubbed ‘Bond 25’: ‘Bond quits the secret service, and he’s in love and gets married,'” Page Six said. “The source continues that ‘his wife then gets killed,’ bringing Bond back into action.”

“’The film’s like ‘Taken’ with Bond,’ says the source, who adds the suave spy is trying to avenge his wife’s murder.”

Page Six adds this caveat: “It’s unclear if the writers will rework the plot after the leak.”

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, Bond (Daniel Craig) is driving off in the rebuilt Aston Martin DB5 with Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux).

A Dec. 1, 2014 draft of the script had Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world.” But that line isn’t in the film.

That’s the same line Bond (George Lazenby) tells Tracy (Diana Rigg) in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel. Tracy is killed shortly thereafter.

Earlier drafts of SPECTRE included a henchwoman named Irma Bunt, also the name of a major character in Majesty’s. But that character got dropped.

None of this background was mentioned by Page Six. The Page Six item also said Neal Purvis and Robert Wade “reportedly boarded” Bond 25. The duo’s return was referenced in a July 24 announcement by Eon Productions that Bond 25 will have a November 2019 release date.

The Post is the U.S. equivalent of British tabloids in its gaudy tone. Page Six said in April that Craig was “ready to sign on to return as 007.” Craig announced he was coming back for Bond 25 last month.

Bond 25: ‘Mind you, all of this is pure guesswork…”

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Alert: What follows is just for fun. The blog wanted to make that clear following last weekend’s fiasco in The Mirror.

So, Bond 25 has some momentum following last week’s announcement of a 2019 release date.

That announcement left a number of issues unresolved. Channeling M in You Only Live Twice (“Mind you, all of this is pure guesswork, but the PM wants us to play it with everything we’ve got.”), here’s a quick look with more than a little guesswork.

Status of the story: The release date announcement also said Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were working on Bond 25’s story. That confirmed a March story by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail. Thus, that story now becomes “news that hadn’t been announced yet” from the rumor category.

But how far along are Purvis and Wade? It depends on how long ago they were hired. It has been almost five months since Bamigboye’s story.

Guess: They’ve had enough time to come up with a treatment, perhaps even a full first draft script. If it’s the latter, that’s just the start. But it’s certainly a possibility.

Status of Bond 25’s distributor: Sony Pictures has distributed the last four 007 films. But its most recent two-picture deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, can’t distribute films on its own. Unless, of course, MGM is feeling bolder seven years after existing bankruptcy.

With that in mind, it’s a natural question whether a Bond 25 distributor has already been selected.

Eon Production made the most recent announcement. But it has no distribution operation. It doesn’t finance its movies. The fact Eon made a release date announcement suggests a deal is in hand. We’ll see.

Status of Daniel Craig as James Bond: Craig is 49. Here’s the precedent involving actors in their late 40s/early 50s playing James Bond.

–Roger Moore was 49 when The Spy Who Loved Me was released. He came back for four more movies. Sometimes the negotiations went down to the wire (and potential replacements auditioned). But he was 58 when his final 007 film, A View to a Kill, was released.

–Pierce Brosnan was 49 when Die Another Day came out. He said on talk shows he had an offer for a fifth Bond outing. It didn’t happen that way and Daniel Craig replaced him.

The thing is, Brosnan was the final Bond selected by Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. Craig was the first Bond selected by Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Sometimes, it’s hard to let go. That’s true even if it contradicts your previous public statements.

The prestige media is mixed. The New York Times has reported Craig will be back. The BBC has said it “understands the actor has not yet signed a contract.”

The guess: Craig stays for Bond 25.

Status of the director: This is one category the blog won’t guess. It really depends on what Eon boss Barbara Broccoli is thinking.

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.

Bond 25 to get 2019 release; no word on 007 actor

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 will come out in fall 2019, Eon Productions said in a short announcement on the official 007 website.

“James Bond will return to US cinemas on November 8, 2019 with a traditional earlier release in the UK and the rest of the world,” according to the announcement.

The only specific details were the movie is being written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and will be produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

For Purvis and Wade, it’s their seventh Bond screenwriting assignment, continuing a streak that began with 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. The news confirmed a March story by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail

However, there was no word about a distributor, whether actor Daniel Craig will return for a fifth outing as James Bond or a director. Such matters “will be announced at a later date,” according to Eon.

 

How not to write a Bond 25 story

Poster for SPECTRE

Like a cancer metastasizing throughout the body, The Mirror’s July 8 story saying Daniel Craig is definitely returning as James Bond is spreading through the media.

Various outlets, including the Los Angeles Times,  Fox News and Esquire have summarized the Mirror story.

However, The Mirror’s original and the stories based on it have mostly overlooked some key facts. Very important facts. Here are some of them.

There’s nobody to pay Daniel Craig — yet. The Mirror & Co. depict Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli as having a firm lock on his services.

Problem: Eon doesn’t pay the bills of a Bond movie. The studio or studios involved do.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is Bond’s home studio. But it can’t release its own movies. It needs a studio partner to co-finance and distribute MGM films. And, for the moment, there is no Bond 25 distributor.

Maybe MGM reaches an agreement later this year. Maybe a commitment from Craig (even a verbal commitment) helps that process. But until it happens, nobody is available to actually pay Daniel Craig if he, indeed, is coming back.

There’s no director yet. You can’t have a movie without a director calling the shots. Maybe Bond 25 will get a director later this year. But until it does, not much is going to happen.

There’s no script yet. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired to come up with a story, according to the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, who has had a number of 007 scripts proven correct this decade.

The duo have had more than four months (and perhaps longer) to work up a story. But until a director comes on board, things can only go so far. Directors love to tweak story elements, etc. And that process can’t begin until you have a director, etc.

What’s this John Logan reference? The Mirror says John Logan, who worked on Skyfall and SPECTRE, is working on Bond 25. There’s no evidence that’s the case.

If it really is true, that would be a big turnaround. Thanks to the Sony hacks of 2014 (Sony Pictures released the last four 007 films), it’s known that Eon was unhappy with Logan’s first draft for SPECTRE, something that eventually led to the return of Purvis and Wade.

If (and that’s a HUGE if) Logan really is involved with Bond 25 that’s a major change. But, of course, you’d have to be familiar with the history to make note of that.

Has anything changed the past three months? In April, Page Six, the gossip operation of the New York Post also said Barbara Broccoli pretty much had Daniel Craig committed.

Has something actually changed since that report? The Page Six story got nowhere near the attention the Mirror has. Regardless, it’s a notable piece of background.

Our latest Bond 25 questions

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

It’s summer. Instead of going to the beach the blog came up with some new Bond question after this weekend’s story by the U.K. tabloid Mirror saying Daniel Craig would play 007 for a fifth time.

Here goes.

What’s the difference between the July 8 Mirror story and an April 3 Page Six column

Not that much on the main point.

“Daniel Craig has changed his mind and is set to sign up for his fifth Bond movie,” The Mirror said.

“Multiple sources tell Page Six that Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli has ‘just about persuaded Daniel Craig to do one more Bond movie,'” Page Six said more than three months earlier.

How solid is this newest story?

Reading the Mirror story is like trying to read quicksand — mushy and opaque.

The Mirror’s story begins by making like Craig’s return is a done deal. “But Bond producer Barbara Broccoli is said to have secured Craig – and we can reveal she is ‘determined’ that superstar singer Adele will record the theme tune.”

To support this notion, the story presents a quote from a person it didn’t identify.

“It’s taken time but Daniel has come round and the strong consensus in the Bond offices is that Mr Craig is 007 again.” (Emphasis added.)

Whoa! Consensus? Bond offices? Did the office personnel at Eon take a vote? Isn’t Barbara Broccoli the one who decides everything? At least that’s what Sam Mendes has said.

The Mirror’s first paragraph said he’s set to sign on the dotted line. What’s this about a consensus? Is there some doubt, even a tiny bit? What gives?

Anything give you pause?

Adele has injured her vocal chords and canceled the last two stops of a tour. That’s a potentially serious situation for a professional singer.

Despite that, the Mirror says, “Although Adele had to cancel the final two shows of her world tour because of damaged vocal chords, Barbara is said to be ‘talking the singer round’.”

Is this really the time to make a hard to Adele to sell to sing a Bond song — for a movie with no director or release date?

Also, the Mirror says, “Skyfall and Spectre scriptwriter John Logan is also said to be involved in the project.”

That’s interesting because Logan’s first draft for SPECTRE was judged to need extensive reworking. So much so, that veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were brought back to revise Logan’s work. The extent of SPECTRE’s scripting difficulties became public as a result of the 2014 hacking at Sony Pictures.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported in March that Purvis and Wade were hired to start work on a Bond 25 story.

That’s not been officially confirmed but Bamigboye has a good track record of 007 scoops that prove to be correct.

Now, out of the blue, the Mirror brings Logan into the conversation. This is perhaps the shakiest aspect of the Mirror story.