About all those ‘Who will be the next 007?’ articles

Over the last two or three years there have been more “who will be the next James Bond?” articles than the blog can count. The latest example: A Jan. 7 article on the U.K, edition of Esquire’s website.

Esquire goes through a number of the usual suspects — Tom Hardy, Henry Cavill, Idris Elba and Tom Hiddelston, among them.

Meanwhile, hard-core Bond fans ask why? After all there’s no vacancy for the part. Daniel Craig has been announced to star in Bond 25. And he apparently has more clout than other 007 actors, with his name mentioned in the same breath (in press releases) as Eon Productions principals Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Here’s one guess.

The general public, over almost 60 years of Eon’s film series, has been conditioned to having a new Bond actor emerge every decade or so. Sometimes, the tenure is longer (Roger Moore’s 1973-85 run), sometimes less (George Lazenby’s single film, Timothy Dalton’s two). But overall, a decade or so has emerged as the expected run.

After 10 years? The entertainment media starts getting antsy. Moore seemed to be done after 1981’s For Eyes Only yet came back for two more movies. But by that point, Moore was signing up for one movie at a time.

Daniel Craig has been the Bond of record since October 2005, when he was announced as the star of 2006’s Casino Royale. During Craig’s run, there have been one four-year break (between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall) and one of longer than four years (between SPECTRE and the February 2020 release date for Bond 25).

Craig, to date, has only equaled the number of 007 films by Pierce Brosnan. No matter. There’s an element of the fan base, not to mention the entertainment media, that wants to know what’s new?

Essentially Craig is going through what Roger Moore experienced between 1981 and 1985. Roger’s coming back. Great. But who’s the new guy going to be? Craig turns 51 on March 2. Moore turned 58 the fall after A View to a Kill came out.

Bond 25 is scheduled to start production in early March. So maybe this will die down for a while. Still, don’t be surprised if the “who’s going to be the next Bond?” fervor doesn’t reignite sooner than later.

Forever and a Day: Mixing 1950 with 2018

U.K. cover image for Forever and a Day, Anthony Horwitz’s second James Bond continuation novel.

Yes, there are spoilers. Stop reading if you don’t want to see them.

Art reflects the time when it was produced. So it is with Forever and a Day, the second James Bond continuation novel by Anthony Horowitz. The story mixes a 1950 setting with 2018 sensibilities.

When the novel was announced, Ian Fleming Publications emphasized how it would be a prequel to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. (Horowitz’s first Bond novel, 2015’s Trigger Mortis, was set in 1957 after the events of Goldfinger.)

Specifically, IFP’s marketing emphasized how the new novel would show Bond being promoted to the Double-O section and depict his first mission with the code number 007.

Horowitz’s story emphasizes the time period. It’s just five years after World War II ended and there’s plenty of uncertainty. The reader is treated to a bit of M’s philosophy in managing the Double-O section and how it reflects what’s occurring in 1950.

At the same time, there is a 2018 mind-set present.

The female lead, Joanne Brochet, aka Sixtine, aka Madame 16, is introduced as a mysterious character. Before the novel ends, she’s like a more subtle version (at least in personal style) of Jinx from the Eon 007 film Die Another Day. Just to be clear, Sixtine is a much more developed character than Jinx. But they’re comparable in their abilities to inflict death.

By the time I finished the novel, I imagined what it would be like if Sixtine were a character in an Eon 007 movie. She’s Bond’s equal in every way. She takes her destiny in her own hands. She’s not passive.

In Forever and a Day, it turns out Sixtine is even better at killing than Bond is. She makes clear to Bond they will only make love on her terms. And she’s older than Bond.

Bond himself changes because of their relationship. When he first meets Sixtine, there’s this passage: “She was about ten years older than him and, for Bond, that made her at least fifteen years too old to be truly desirable.” The agent feels considerably differently when they part ways.

Horowitz utilizes two villains. With one, Horowitz describes Fleming-style physical characteristics. It’s a Horowitz take on a classic trope. The other villain, however, reflects current-day U.S. politics despite the 1950 setting This occurs when this character gives his “big villain speech.”

Just to be clear, I enjoy big villain speeches when done well. The one Horowitz writes keeps you reading. But I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to what’s happening in 2018 with talk (via the villain) of why the U.S. should be more isolationist.

One other note: Whether intentional or not (my guess is not), the plot of the villains has a strong resemblance to a villain’s plot in a certain Roger Moore 007 film. The dynamics aren’t identical. The movie villain expects to get even richer; Horowitz’s villain expects the opposite but is doing it for a far different reason.

This, of course, doesn’t figure into the theme of 2018 creeping into Horowitz’s 1950 tale. But it is there.

Christmas themed spy-related entertainment

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service poster

The holidays are fast approaching. With that in mind, the blog is reminded of some Christmas-themed spy-related entertainment.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): The sixth James Bond film produced by Eon Productions may not be an “official” Christmas film but it’ll do.

James Bond (George Lazenby) is hunting for Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) while also falling in love with Tracy (Diana Rigg).

This time out, Blofeld has brainwashed his “angels of death,” who will spread “virus Omega” at the villain’s command. If that happens, that will wipe out all sorts of crops and livestock.

Bond manages to go undercover at Blofeld’s lair in Switzerland but is discovered. Blofeld sends out his latest batch of “angels” on Christmas Eve. Bond manages to escape, meets up with Tracy.

Bond proposes to Tracy, but she gets captured by Blofeld, setting up a big climatic sequence.

It was the first Bond film to end unhappily when Tracy is killed on her honeymoon with Bond. It’s arguably the most faithful adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel and an epic film in its own right. And, for what it’s worth, there are many reminders of Christmas during the Switzerland sequences.

Teaser trailer for Diamonds Are Forever: Diamonds Are Forever was released for the Christmas move season of 1971. The teaser trailer played up the Christmas angle.

The movie also marked Sean Connery’s return as Bond after a four-year absence. But the teaser trailer had a gunbarrel without Connery (but still wearing a hat).

Teaser trailer for The Man With the Golden Gun: The teaser trailer for Roger Moore’s second 007 film utilized a similar Christmas theme.

On top of that, the trailer had a scene between Bond and Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) that didn’t make it into the final film.

Chairman Koz makes a point to Solo and Illya in The Jingle Bells Affair

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Jingle Bells Affair (first broadcast Dec. 23, 1966): The story begins in New York during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (the start of the Christmas shopping season). U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin (the latter, after all, a Russian) are acting as bodyguards for a Soviet leader, Chairman Koz (Akim Tamiroff).

Why Soviet? In one scene in Act III, Koz slams a shoe down on a desk, a la Nikita Khrushchev.

At one point, Koz gets separated from the U.N.C.L.E. agents and dresses as Santa Claus and interacts with children. Koz, dressed as Santa, helps to save the life of a sick kid. In the end, East and West call a truce and wish everyone Merry Christmas.

This was a third-season episode when the series went in a campy direction. The Spy Commander’s review on the third-season page of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide doesn’t give it a high grade.

The FBI: Dark Christmas (first broadcast Dec. 24, 1972): FBI Inspector (Erskine) and Special Agent Colby (William Reynolds) are on the trail of a hit man (Don Gordon). The hit man’s target is a family man who once was involved in a criminal organization but got out.

The case reaches a climax on Christmas Eve. The family man is coming home from a job but doesn’t know the hit man is waiting for him at his home. Colby and other FBI agents get the man’s children to safety. Erskine then confronts and apprehends the hit man. Until Act IV, the episode is a basic procedural show. The Christmas themes are mostly in the final act and epilogue.

While The FBI wasn’t a spy show per se, it had a lot of espionage-related stories. Also, it’s the subject of another website of the Spy Commander, The FBI episode guide. This episode gets a relatively high grade on the eight-season page.

Note: This was an early credit for Sondra Locke (1944-2018), who plays a spinster-like character who falls for Gordon’s character.

A modest proposal for Bond 26 and beyond

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 is in pre-production and is scheduled for a February 2020 release. What happens after that?

Here’s a modest proposal: What if the 007 film series becomes a series of one-offs — a series of anthology movies, not a continuing series, per se.

Every time a new Bond actor is cast, the assumption is they have to be around for a decade or longer. But what if that were no longer the case?

Consider this: Eon Productions is taking longer and longer to make 007 film installments. In previous decades, there were stretches when the series went into hiatus. But that was because of legal conflicts or studio financial problems (1974-1977, 1989-1995, 2008-2012).

With the 2015 and counting gap, there is no such external factor. This gap is a matter of Eon’s choice. It has enabled Eon boss Barbara Broccoli to make small-scale, intimate dramas such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool ($1 million U.S. box office) and Nancy ($80,000 U.S. box office).

At the current rate of production, there may be two, maybe three, 007 films a decade. Thus, the question arises whether it’s necessary for a Bond actor to commit to a decade-long stint.

If the one-off model were adopted, new possibilities arise. Perhaps you could do a one-off with Idris Elba to satisfy the market who’d like to see him play Bond. He’d be around 50 when such a movie would be made, but it’s only one and the Eon series has had actors (Roger Moore and now Daniel Craig) in the same age range.

Also, with a one-off model, you could try out a period Bond. a film set in the 1950s or ’60s, when Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories were published. You’d at least see how it plays out. And if it doesn’t work out? Well, you change the format the next film, no problem.

Is this going to happen? Not likely. But it’s worth thinking about given the current reality of the 007 film series.

007 poll shows the devil is in the details

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Earlier this month, the Morning Consult and the Hollywood Reporter conducted a poll of almost 2,100 Americans about James Bond films. Here are two greatly different headlines summarizing the results.

Morning Consult’s report: “007 Poll Shows Scant Support for Diversifying Bonds.”

The Express, U.K. tabloid: “James Bond: Most Americans support a black 007 – Idris Elba BACKED to replace Daniel Craig.”

They’re both right but you have to dig into the data to see why.

According to Morning Consult, 51 percent of adult respondents said “the James Bond series was a classic and nothing about it should be changed, a 17-percentage-point edge over those who said they’d prefer to see the film adapt to the times and have a more diverse cast and lead.”

However, those polled were then asked additional groups about different groups and individuals.

Among groups, 52 percent of adults said they support the idea of a black James Bond, with 20 percent having no opinion and 29 percent opposing.

Also, 39 percent support a Hispanic Bond, 37 percent support an Asian Bond, 37 percent supported a female Bond and 28 percent support a gay Bond.

Meanwhile, when asked specifically about Idris Elba, 63 percent said  they wanted to see him play Bond, with only 21 percent opposed.

Meanwhile, Morning Consult had more details about how respondents feel about agent 007.

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of the adults polled said they’d at least watched some of the series. And with a net favorability of 62 points, only “Back to the Future” (74 points) and “Indiana Jones” (72 points) were more popular among films made before the 1990s. (“Toy Story” was the most popular movie franchise out of 34 series tested, while “Back to the Future” was second.)

The poll also tackled the issue of who is the most popular actor to play Bond in the Eon Productions series.

Most popular 007 film and Bond actor among Americans polled: Goldfinger and Sean Connery. 

Sean Connery was No. 1 at 82 percent, with Pierce Brosnan right behind at 81 percent. Roger Moore, who made 007 entries in the Eon series, was No. 3 at 74 percent, followed by current Bond Daniel Craig at 71 percent. The least popular Bond actors were Timothy Dalton at 49 percent and George Lazenby at 31 percent.

There’s also the question of favorite 007 films of Americans. Morning Consult again sued a “net favorability” number. On that basis, the top five were: Goldfinger (plus 69), From Russia With Love (plus 66), Live And Let Die (plus 66), Diamonds Are Forever (plus 65) and For Your Eyes Only (plus 64).

The highest Daniel Craig 007 film was his debut, Casino Royale, at No. 6 (plus 63), tied with You Only Live Twice.

The bottom? The Living Daylights, Dalton’s debut, (plus 48). SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, was next at plus 49.

Burt Reynolds dies at 82

Burt Reynolds and the cast of Hooper in the film’s final scene

Burt Reynolds, who had a long career and was a big movie star in the 1970s and ’80s, has died at 82, according to The Hollywood Reporter, citing his manager.

In the ’70s, Reynolds’ name came up as a possible James Bond. Director Guy Hamilton was keen on the idea after seeing the actor on television. But nothing came of it.

Reynolds had acting credits extending back to the late 1950s. He was half-Comanche Quint Asper, a sidekick to James Arness’ Marshal Matt Dillon in 50 episodes of Gunsmoke from 1962 to 1965. He also was the star of a short-lived police series, Hawk, in 1966.

Burt Reynolds in the main titles to Dan August (1970-71)

Another police drama, Dan August, paved the way for Reynolds to be a star. Not because the show was a hit (it only lasted one season, 1970-71).

Instead, as noted in the book Quinn Martin, Producer, Reynolds used the show’s blooper reel during appearances on talk shows. For the first time, according to author Jonathan Etter, audiences had an opportunity to witness the actor’s sense of humor.

In the ’70s, Reynolds broke out and became a film star. He was helped by doing a centerfold-style photo shoot for Cosmopolitan, though he’d later say he regretted doing it.

His 1970s credits included the likes of Deliverance, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing and The Longest Yard (he’d play a different part in a 2005 remake starring Adam Sandler) and, most memorably, Smokey and the Bandit.

Dean Martin, Roger Moore and Burt Reynolds in The Cannonball Run.

Reynolds also had a chance to (sort of) revisit 007 territory in 1978’s Hooper, directed by former stuntman Hal Needham, who had directed Smokey and the Bandit.

In Hooper, the actor played the film’s title character, an aging stunt man working on a James Bond-type film being directed by an “auteur” style director, Roger Deal (Robert Klein). It almost predicted the 21st century 007 films Skyfall and SPECTRE, directed by Sam Mendes.

Another Reynolds comedy, 1981’s The Cannonball Run, included Roger Moore as Seymour, who thinks he’s Roger Moore.

Reynolds’ stardom faded, but he plugged away into the new century. He also extended into directing and producing (including the 1990s television series Evening Shade, where he starred).

007 Magazine defends Golden Gun film

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

007 Magazine is coming out with a new issue that includes an article titled “In Defence of The Man With the Golden Gun.”

The magazine’s website doesn’t have many details. However, the 1974 James Bond film, the second starring Roger Moore, often gets criticism from critics and fans. So in that regard, 007 Magazine apparently is going to give the ninth Bond film from Eon Productions some fan love.

Also in issue 56 is an interview with Daniel Kleinman, who has designed the titles for seven Bond films, starting with GoldenEye and running through SPECTRE. (Quantum of Solace’s titles were produced by MK12.)

There is also an article about George Leech and his career as a British stuntman and stunt arranger.

For more information, CLICK HERE. The price is 9.99 British pounds, $15.99 and 11.99 euros.