Quantum’s 10th: Impact still felt on 007 franchise

International poster for Quantum of Solace

This fall marks the 10th anniversary of Quantum of Solace, the 22nd 007 film made by Eon Productions. It’s a production that still reverberates with the franchise.

It was the last time the makers of James Bond films tried to come out with an entry just two years after the previous installment. And it’s possible it will remain the last.

As Casino Royale was ending production, Sony Pictures put out a July 20, 2006 release saying it intended to release Bond 22 (as it was then known) quickly — May 2, 2008.

“As we wrap production on CASINO ROYALE we couldn’t be more excited about the direction the franchise is heading with Daniel Craig. Daniel has taken the origins of Ian Fleming’s James Bond portraying, with emotional complexity, a darker and edgier 007,” Eon’s Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli were quoted in the press release.

Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, with three Bond films under their belt, were aboard to come up with a story for what Eon would later describe as the series’ first “direct sequel.”

There were soon signs the pace was causing some strains.

‘Very Nervous’
Director Roger Michell opted not to helm the movie because he felt the story wasn’t developed enough. In 2007, Michell gave an interview to The Times. The original link to the interview is broken, but the Commander Bond website’s summary includes some of Michell’s comments.

“‘Well, I did give up directing the Bond film,” Michell told The Times, according to the Commander Bond summary. “It was because in the end I didn’t feel comfortable with the Bond process, and I was very nervous that there was a start date but really no script at all. And I like to be very well prepared as a director.”

Eventually, Quantum was pushed back to a fall 2008 release. But there were still time pressures. The Writers Guild of America was in labor talks and a strike deadline was looming. The union went on strike from November 2007 to February 2008, with the Bond movie starting production in early 2008.

There are conflicting versions of the movie’s story process.

Marc Forster

The director hired for the movie, Marc Forster, said in an April 2008 Rotten Tomatoes story, said there was a reset after he arrived.

‘From Scratch’
“Once I signed on to do it we pretty much developed the script from scratch because I felt that it wasn’t the movie I wanted to make and we started with Paul Haggis from scratch,” Forster said in the story. Haggis was the writer who did the final drafts of Casino Royale.

“And I said to him these are the topics I am interested in this is what I would like to say, what’s important to me,” the director said. “And we developed it from there together. Then Barbara and Michael said they liked where we were going and they liked the script.”

In this interview, Forster said everything worked out fine.

““The good thing is that Paul and I and Daniel all worked on the script before the strike happened and got it where we were pretty happy with,” the director 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.”

The writer doing that polish, Forster said, was Joshua Zetumer. The scribe’s involvement with the film was noted in other stories written during the production.

More Complicated
Forster, in a Nov. 3, 2008 story on the Vulture culture blog of New York magazine, indicated things were more complicated.

“Haggis had an idea they weren’t fond of, and I didn’t know if it would work or not,” Forster told Vulture. “The idea was that Vesper in the last movie, maybe she had a kid, and there would be an orphan out there.”

Eventually, with the clocking ticking to a WGA strike, the idea of Bond searching for Vesper’s child was rejected. Haggis, though, delivered a script ahead of the WGA walkout.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

In 2011, as Skyfall was preparing production, a new scenario was unveiled.

Daniel Craig in an interview with Time Out London, said he and Forster were forced to rewrite the script as Quantum was being filmed.

The actor described what they had as a “bare bones of a script.” Because of the WGA strike, “We couldn’t employ a writer to finish it.”

This tale has emerged as the now-accepted version, with Joshua Zetumer the movie’s forgotten man.

(Note: The original Time out link is still up but when I called it up, I got a warning about a “malicious link” from my computer. This SUMMARY OF THE INTERVIEW ON INDIEWIRE has the same Craig quotes with no malicious link” warnings.)

The movie did fine at the box office, with $586 million globally. But Quantum’s biggest effect may be that Eon doesn’t want to rush things if it can help it.

External Pressures’
“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Eon’s Barbara Broccoli told the Los Angeles Times in 2012.

Barbara Broccoli

“But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures,” the Eon boss told the newspaper.

She didn’t mention either Sony or Quantum of Solace. But it’s not much of a stretch to wonder if both were on her mind during the interview.

What’s more, a Sony executive told theater executives in 2012 that Bond 24 (eventually titled SPECTRE) would be out in 2014. Broccoli and Craig, in a May 1, 2012 interview with Collider, shut down such talk.

Broccoli: He was getting a little overexcited (laughs). We’re just actually focusing on this movie. One hopes that in the future we’ll be announcing other films, but no one’s officially announced it.

Craig: No one’s announced anything. He got a little ahead of himself (laughs). It’s very nice that he has the confidence to be able to do that, but we haven’t finished this movie yet.

SPECTRE, of course, came out in 2015, not 2014.

Today, Quantum occupies an odd space. Despite its financial success, it wasn’t discussed much in the 2012 documentary Everything Or Nothing. But many fans feel it’s more than a worthy entry in series.

Regardless of how you feel about the movie, though, it had an impact on the franchise. Trying to make a James Bond film within two years is now unthinkable.

Some unanswered questions about Bond 24

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

It has been more than six months since Skyfall debuted in the U.K. and the 23rd James Bond film is now a home video staple. So is there anything up with the next film, Bond 24?

Probably but mostly there are unanswered questions. Such as:

How’s that director searching going, anyway? Your guess is as good as ours. Skyfall’s Sam Mendes said thanks, but no thanks for an encore.

At this point, the principals of Eon Productions, which produce the Bond films, aren’t tipping their hand, mostly talking about how Skyfall will be a tough act to follow. Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli GAVE AN INTERVIEW TO THE TIMES OF LONDON. It’s mostly behind a paywall, but the MI6 Web site HAS A SUMMARY. One excerpt:

Asked about how they can top the incredible record-breaking $1.1 billion worldwide haul from ‘Skyfall’, Broccoli agreed it will be a tough challenge. “Yeah, it will be very difficult to compete with that film. It’ll be tough. But we’ll try.”

By contrast, when things were developing with Quantum of Solace, word leaked out that Roger Michell had been approached about directing but turned it down. Mendes’s involvement with Skyfall was reported long before it was officially announced. Nothing like that has happened — at least not yet — with Bond 24.

When will Bond 24 come out? Educated guess: Probably not until 2015. If a 2014 release were in the cards, there might be more publicity. But without a director in sight, chances are things aren’t yet that far along. Mendes was officially announced as Skyfall director IN JANUARY 2011 and filming didn’t start until November 2011.

How’s John Logan doing writing the Bond 24 script? There have been some feature stories about a play he has written but, naturally, he’s not commenting in detail about Bond 24. Something to remember: Logan was brought into Skyfall by Mendes, who won’t be around for Bond 24.

What do you mean by that? Well, when Marc Forster was hired to direct Quantum of Solace he wasn’t wowed by the script work that had taken place until then. That doesn’t mean the same thing will happen with Logan and Bond 24. But until a director is hired, fans shouldn’t assume Logan will see Bond 24 through to the end, even if Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer confirmed that Logan was hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25.

Put another way: anybody remember how Eon announced that Peter Morgan was hired to write what would become Skyfall? The man who brought Logan into the world of 007, Mendes, is gone. Things can change quickly in the movie business.

Will Michael G. Wilson, the other Eon co-boss, cut back his workload? Wilson, stepson of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli and half-brother to Barbara Broccoli, is in his early 70s. He has worked on the Bond film series longer than anyone else, even his stepfather. Wilson has commented at various times going back to 1997 about how exhausting making 007 movies can be. We’ll see.

Two thoughts about Bond 24

Not directing Bond 24

Not directing Bond 24

At this point, we know more about what’s not happening with Bond 24 than what will.

It won’t be directed by Sam Mendes (because he took his name out of the running), Christopher Nolan (who had a conflicting engagement directing a science fiction movie due out in November 2014) or Danny Boyle (because, according to TYHER PLAYLIST WEB SITE he told an audience he’s not interested in that type of movie).

But there have been some items published recently that spur a couple of thoughts:

Sam Mendes declining to have a go at Bond 24 might not be that bad a thing. Many fans are disappointed that the director of Skyfall won’t be back for Bond 24. So is the co-boss of Eon Proudctions, Barbara Broccoli, who in stories SUCH AS THIS ONE described herself as devastated by Mendes’s decision.

Still, stop and think about it. Directing Bond 24 will involve six or seven months of production and months of preparation and pre-production work and additional time in post-production. If somebody doesn’t want to do something, or simply isn’t sure, they probably shouldn’t take on such a huge task until they’re ready.

Had Mendes, after a couple of months off from the Skyfall post-production grind, decided he really, really wanted to do Bond 24, that’d be one thing. But based on the director’s comments, he doesn’t seem to be at that point. With a huge endeavor such as Bond 24 is likely to be, it’s perhaps best to let somebody who’s more geared up to try.

Maybe John Logan should get a chance to write more before a director is chosen. Nobody really knows, except a precious few people at Eon, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures, how far along the co-scripter of Skyfall is in crafting a Bond 24 story.

Some directors like to see a developed story before committing to a major project. For example, Roger Michell was approached about directing what would become 2008’s Quantum of Solace. There were various stories (such as THIS ONE ON THE MI6 007 FAN WEB SITE) where Michell was quoted as saying the script was developed enough for him to take the job.

Whatever the status of Logan’s work on Bond 24’s story, perhaps Logan should have sufficient time before worrying too much about who will direct the next 007 film.