Tanya Roberts dies amid media circus

Tanya Roberts in a publicity still for A View to a Kill

Tanya Roberts, who appeared in A View to a Kill, the Charlie’s Angels TV series and That ’70s Show, has died at 65, The New York Times reported, citing the actress’ companion/boyfriend, Lance O’Brien.

Her death was the center of a media circus.

TMZ reported the death on Sunday night. Roberts’ publicist put out a press release. Numerous outlets picked up on it.

Then, O’Brien was taped by Inside Edition, a “TV tabloid” show for an interview on Monday. He sat in front of a green screen, the type used to create fake backgrounds on TV. During the taping, he got a call that Roberts hadn’t died yet.

Naturally, an intimate, emotional scene followed. Inside Edition also posted the segment on YouTube for its 8.44 million subscribers.

TMZ followed up with its own “she’s alive” story. The website was glib about the whole affair. “As for how this could happen … beats us.”

The Roberts publicist, Mike Pingel, said in an earlier NYT story: “It’s a human miscommunication, unfortunately…It’s a shame this happened.”

Do tell.

Anyway, many “Tanya Roberts is still alive” stories ran while the “Tanya Roberts dies” stories were taken down. (The blog ran one of each.) Some of the “she’s alive” stories noted that Roberts was not in good shape. She had been at Cedars-Sinai Hospital since Dec. 24.

On social media, Bond fans made the inevitable 007-related puns because of the bizarre turn of events, including variations on “You Only Live Twice,” such as “this is her second life.” There were also comments evoking Mark Twain saying reports of his death were extremely exaggerated.

Now, O’Brien tells the Times that Roberts did pass away Monday night. TMZ came out with its third story Tuesday morning. Fox News said it got the same information from O’Brien.

In 1985’s A View to a Kill, Roberts played Stacey Sutton, who becomes the ally of James Bond (Roger Moore in his last 007 film) to foil a plot to destroy California’s Silicon Valley.

Stacey Sutton wasn’t the favorite of some Bond fans for the way she screamed “James!” There was also a 28-year difference between Moore and Roberts, who shared a romantic scene at the end of the movie.

Roberts was in the cast of Charlie’s Angels in its final season, 1980-81. She was in That ’70s Show from 1998 to 2004.

As for the media circus that surrounded Roberts’ passing, the MI6 James Bond website had a tweet that summed it up.

Tanya Roberts still alive, reports say

Actress Tanya Roberts still is alive, less than 24 hours after she was reported dead, according to a new set of reports.

TMZ, which had the original story, pushed out a report around 5 p.m. New York time that Roberts hadn’t died. It quoted the same representative who said she was dead.

Other outlets, including the Associated Press and Variety put out stories about the development. The AP story said Roberts’ representative, Mike Pengel, on Sunday night sent out a press release reporting the death.

Meanwhile, Inside Edition, a “tabloid TV” show posted a video where it was interviewing Roberts’ boyfriend when he got a call that she was alive.

The blog will take down the obituary it posted on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, TMZ’s latest piece has a glib final line: “As for how this could happen … beats us.”

About a possible ‘in memoriam’ title card for NTTD

No Time to Die poster

For a long time, James Bond fans have debated whether No Time to Die should have some kind of “in memoriam” title card for Roger Moore (1927-2017), the first film Bond in the Eon series to pass away.

In the past year, Father Time has caught up with the 007 film series. Sean Connery, the first film Bond, died in October. Before that, actresses who played the lead female characters in the Eon series (Claudine Auger, Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg) all passed away.

And this week, news came of the death of a major contributor, art department stalwart Peter Lamont, who worked on 18 Eon-made Bond films, at age 91.

That’s just for openers. Ken Adam, whose set designs on 007 Bond films established the look of 007 movies, died in 2016 at the age of 95.

So should No Time to Die have some kind of major “in memoriam” title card?

The Bond film series doesn’t do this very often. The end titles of GoldenEye noted the passing of special effects wizard Derek Meddings, who had worked on that film. But it didn’t note the deaths of Richard Maibaum (a 13-time Bond screenwriter) or Maurice Binder, who designed many Bond main titles.

1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies noted the death of Albert R. Broccoli, who co-founded Eon.

What would a big “in memoriam” title card look like?

Here in the U.S., there was a long-running Western series titled Gunsmoke (1955-75). In 1987, there was a reunion TV movie called Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge. In the end titles, there was a mammoth “in memoriam” title card noting key crew and cast members who had died in the intervening years.

Would such a thing even be a possibility for No Time to Die? Hard to say. It hasn’t been that much of an issue until now.

John Glen: Behind the scenes of Octopussy

John Glen

MI6 Confidential is out with a new publication, John Glen: All Time High. It’s a behind the scenes look at Octopussy, the 13th James Bond film made by Eon Productions.

What was different, my from perspective, is I had the chance to work on it.

Not to give too much away, but it was a chance to get a better look at the making of an important James Bond film. Octopussy was up against a competing Bond project, Never Say Never Again. The latter had Sean Connery returning to the role of James Bond. Eon brought back Roger Moore for his sixth Bond outing with Octopussy.

The focus on the new publication was always going to be on director John Glen. He helmed all five of Eon’s 007 movies in the 1980s. A lot was riding on Octopussy.

A personal highlight, for me, was the chance to interview Glen earlier this year. It took place by phone in June. I had a detailed list of follow-up questions to an earlier session.

Interviews are as much art as science. The interviewer needs to be prepared. At the same time, a good interviewer has to press for details at certain times while backing off at other times and let the subject provide their point of view.

Because of the time differences involved, I would be calling in early in the morning my time. I was preoccupied with mechanics, making sure the interview would be recorded properly.

Also, as the interview unfolded, I had to go with the flow. I had to make sure all the questions were asked. But I didn’t want to cut the director off. This was also going to be an important interview for the publication.

It wasn’t until hours after I had completed the interview, I had a chance to reflect on the experience. Yes, I had directed a five-time Bond director. It wasn’t until then I could take a deep breath about the experience.

In any event, I was just a cog in this production. For more information, CLICK HERE. The price is 17 British pounds, $22 and 20 euros, plus shipping.

A modest proposal for a Moonraker video game

Moonraker teaser poster

On a Nov. 27 James Bond & Friends livestream, the discussion veered into the opinion of participants about which films might make a good video game.

I suggested Moonraker. It takes James Bond into outer space (a place many fans say Bond should never go). It was a big, sprawling film that lends itself to video games.

The movie also has a number of similarities to 1966’s Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die. Since you’ve gone that far, why not adapt scenes from the earlier movie and provide Sony Corp. (parent company of Columbia, which released the 1966 film) a token payment.

For example, in a Moonraker video game, you could have a level where Jaws and other Hugo Drax henchmen chase Bond to the Christ the Redeemer statue.

Bond goes inside the statue, followed by the baddies. You could have a series of fights as Bond struggles to get to the top. Finally, Bond makes it. In comes Manuela, the local Rio operative from British Intelligence, flying a helicopter with a ladder dangling from it.

Bond gets on the ladder just in time as Jaws lunges for the agent. But Jaws only gets Bond’s shoe. Bond then smiles at Jaws (the way he did in The Spy Who Loved Me and in the film Moonraker) to taunt him. Jaws shakes his fist at the escaping Bond.

Another possibility would a proper sequence at Iguazu Falls. The location figures briefly into the movie but you don’t get a sense of the majesty of the place. Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die sets its title sequence at the falls and you get a better feel for the location.

Thus, with a Moonraker video game, another level would depict Bond with a mini-adventure at the falls.

Separately, Christopher Wood’s novelization for Moonraker had Bond doing a space walk to get from one place on Drax’s space station to another. Obviously, the could make an interesting level for a Moonraker video game.

Needless to say, these suggestions won’t be going anywhere. Consider them food for thought.

Happy 90th birthday, Sean Connery

Sean Connery in a 1960s 007 publicity still

Adapted and expanded from a 2011 post.

Sean Connery celebrates his 90th birthday today. There’s little more than needs to be said about Connery’s contributions to the James Bond film series.

Terence Young, director of three of the first four Bond movies, famously said the three reasons that 007 films took off were, “Sean Connery, Sean Connery and Sean Connery.” Young also tutored Connery in the ways of Bond.

Still, the blog can’t help but wonder if Connery had even the slightest hint of what was about to happen to him after being cast as Bond.

The answer is probably not. Who could?

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were a couple of journeymen producers. Terence Young was a journeyman director. Richard Maibaum, a journeyman screenwriter and occasional producer.

Ian Fleming had written some novels that had gotten attention, including in 1961 when Life magazine listed the author’s From Russia With Love as one of then-President John F. Kennedy’s favorite novels.

Also in 1961, United Artists announced it intended to start a film series based on the novels. Connery would end up with a $16,800 paycheck for the first film, Dr. No. Hardly the makings of a phenomenon.

Life can change in an instant. That was certainly true of a Scot actor who was starting to make an impression with audiences.

Things were never quite the same after that. Connery has been retired for almost two decades. His Bond films perhaps aren’t seen with the same enthusiasm by modern audiences. So it goes.

Then again, without Connery’s Bond films, would there even be a 21st century Bond series?

Like with much of the 1960s spy craze, the Connery 007 films caught lightning in a bottle. Bond was able to remain relevant after Connery’s departure. But you can argue that Connery provided the foundation that others followed.

Broccoli is gone. Saltzman is gone. Young is gone. Maibaum is gone. Even one of Connery’s successors, Roger Moore, is gone. United Artists was bought by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1981. UA exists pretty much only on paper today.

Connery, in retirement, remains.

Happy birthday, Sir Sean.

1995: Gene Siskel really did not like GoldenEye

GoldenEye’s poster

Here in the United States, film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert enjoyed a long run on television reviewing movies. Both have long since passed, but for many their various shows remain memorable.

Thanks to THIS TWEET, the blog discovered a YouTube video of their 1995 review of GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan’s debut as James Bond.

Ebert, then the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave it a passing grade. But Siskel, the then film critic of the Chicago Tribune, had nothing good to say about the movie.

EBERT: I enjoy GoldenEye for what it was, though, and I give it thumbs up.

SISKEL: That thumbs-up comes as a surprise because I didn’t get a sense at all you enjoyed the picture. I certainly didn’t.

EBERT: I’m sorry. (NOTE: He sounded a little sarcastic there.)

(snip)

SISKEL: I think he (Pierce Bronsan) isn’t an interesting Bond. I like (Sean) Connery and everybody else has been nothing compared to Connery. Frankly, Roger Moore has a more commanding physical performance than this guy. I thought this was an average picture….I can’t recommend this picture at all.

A bit of perspective: Siskel panned every James Bond film between Thunderball (1965) and For You Eyes Only (1981).

Anyway, if you’d like to take a look at the review, here it is:

UPDATE (2:15 p.m. New York time): In 1983, Siskel and Ebert took a look back at the first 21 years of James Bond films. CLICK HERE to view the episode. You see some promos at the start before the episode proper begins.

A View To a Kill’s 35th: No more Moore

A View to a Kill's poster

A View to a Kill’s poster

Updated and expanded from a May 2015 post.

To sort of steal from Christopher Nolan, A View To a Kill isn’t the Bond ending Roger Moore deserved, but it’s the one that he got when the film debuted 35 years ago this month.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli had prevailed at the box office in 1983 against a competing James Bond film with Sean Connery, Broccoli’s former star. Broccoli’s Octopussy generated more ticket sales than Never Say Never Again (with Connery as de facto producer as well as star).

That could have been the time for Moore to call it a day. Some fans at the time expected Octopussy to be the actor’s finale. Yet, Broccoli offered him the role one more time and the actor accepted.

Obviously, he could have said no, but when you’re offered millions of dollars that’s easier said than done. There was the issue of the actor’s age. Moore would turn 57 during production in the fall of 1984.

That’s often the first thing cited by various entertainment sites over the years.

However, the problems go deeper than that. As the blog wrote in 2012, the movie veers back and forth between humor and really dark moments as if it can’t decide what it wants to be.

Typical of A View To a Kill's humor

Typical of A View To a Kill’s humor

Director John Glen and screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson constantly go from yuks and tension and back again. If the humor were better, that might be easier to accept. A typical example: In the pre-titles sequence, there’s an MI-6 submarine that’s supposed to be disguised as an iceberg but its phallic shape suggests something else.

For those Bond fans who never liked Moore, just mentioning the title of the movie will cause distress. Based strictly on anecdotal evidence over the years, some Moore admirers don’t mention it as one of his better 007 efforts.

Still, A View to a Kill has historical importance for the Bond film series. Besides being Roger Moore’s final outing, it was also the final appearance of Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny.

There’s also an in-joke for those familiar with the business side of 007. Bond, desperately holding onto a rope attached to a blimp, has his manhood imperiled by the top of the Transamerica Building in San Francisco.

That structure was home to the conglomerate that formerly owned United Artists, the studio that released Bond films. Transamerica dumped UA, selling it in 1981 to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after the movie Heaven’s Gate bombed at the box office. Things have never been the same for the 007 film series since.

Regardless whether you’re a critic of Moore as 007 or a fan, he did hold down the 007 fort through some hectic times (including the breakup of Broccoli with his 007 producing partner Harry Saltzman).

It would have been nicer to go out on a higher note than A View To a Kill. But storybook endings usually only happen in the movies.

Revisiting Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (Moonraker ’66)

American agent Kelly (Mike Connors) and British agent Susan Fleming (Dorothy Provine) compare notes in Kiss the Girls and Make The Die

Back in 2008, the blog noted the remarkable similarities between Kiss the Girls and Makes Them Die (1966) and Moonraker (1979).

This week, for the first time in a long time, I had a chance to watch the earlier movie. So here’s a more complete list of similarities.

Homages to Goldfinger and Thunderball: To be clear, Kiss the Girls takes a few cues from Goldfinger and Thunderball.

The villain, industrialist Mr. Ardonian (Raf Vallone) talks the Chinese into helping him. The Chinese supply the rocket from which Ardonian which launch a satellite that will zap the U.S. with radiation that causes men to lose interest in sex. From the Chinese standpoint, this will ensure the U.S. loses its position as the leading world superpower.

That’s similar to how Auric Goldfinger talked the Chinese into supplying him with an atomic bomb as part of his Fort Knox plan.

Except, Ardonian electrocutes a delegation of Chinese officials as part of a double-cross. That’s because Ardonian wants to expose all countries to the radiation. This evokes both Goldfinger (the villain double-crossing the gangsters who were helping him out) and Thunderball (similar to the SPECTRE board meeting where just one person was electrocuted).

There are also a number of “animated sets,” inspired by what Ken Adam designed for the two Bond films.

But there are a number of examples of where how Kiss the Girls reached territory before Bond.

Dorothy Provine’s title card in Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die

Rio: Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die’s only location shooting was in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. That meant shots of Iguazu Falls (for the main titles), Brazilian Carnival and the Christ the Redeemer statue (the latter not really utilized for Moonraker).

“Sit!”: British agent Susan Fleming, being chased by a large dog of Ardonian’s, turns and yells at him, “Sit!” The dog complies. This is similar to what James Bond (Roger Moore) did with a tiger in Octopussy.

Villain’s plot: Ardonian feels the Earth is headed toward an environmental disaster. So he plans to head off overpopulation with his plan. Meanwhile, he is putting beautiful women into suspended animation. When the time comes, he will repopulate the Earth.

This is pretty similar to Moonraker where Drax plans to kill everybody on Earth while his “orbiting stud farm” eventually repopulates the Earth.

A pair of agents: Eventually American agent Kelly (Mike Connors) and Susan Fleming (Dorothy Provine) join forces after a bit of conflict.

This is pretty similar to how British agent James Bond (Moore) joins forces with American agent Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) join forces in Moonraker after a bit of conflict.

Billboards for product placement: Susan Fleming’s tricked-out Rolls Royce, driven by her chauffeur (Terry-Thomas) has a camouflage device. Panels come out from the bottom of the car, move up to the side and extend to look like a billboard for Bulova watches.

Moonraker didn’t have a tricked-out car. But it had billboards for British Airways, Seiko 7-Up and Marlboro as part of its Rio sequence.

The canard that haunts the Bond franchise

The prototype for the “reveal” of SPECTRE (2015)

Last week, a website called The Ringer became the latest outlet to repeat the canard that the James Bond films were forced to change in tone to be more serious.

The article was called “Austin Powers Still Haunts the James Bond Franchise.” Here’s an excerpt:

But as excellent as some of (Daniel Craig’s) Bond films have been, fun probably isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind when describing Craig’s take on the character; that was a point unto itself. “Mike Myers fucked us,” Craig told the Bond fan site MI6 Confidential Magazine in 2014. “I am a huge Mike Myers fan, so don’t get me wrong—but he kind of fucked us.”

He’s referring to—what else?—the Austin Powers franchise, Myers’s iconic spoof of Bond and the larger spy genre.

The problem with this often-repeated trope is Austin Powers was hardly the first to poke fun at Bond’s expense.

As early as 1964, future Bond Roger Moore played 007 in a variety show skit.

In 1965, The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71), a wildly successful, if improbable, situation comedy, featured man-child Jethro Bodine returning from the theater after seeing Goldfinger. Jethro recites the plot to his rich uncle Jed Clampett, who has lost none of his common sense despite his sudden wealth.

After listening to Jethro, Jed has one question: “Why didn’t he just shoot him?” Jethro, who had been smiling moments before, is crestfallen.

Despite that, Jethro decides that being a “double-naught spy” is his life’s calling because double naughts engage in a lot of “fightin’ and lovin’.” Jethro takes the Clampett family truck and adds a bulletproof shield (a meta tub), defensive weapons (two rifles that can be fired when Jetro pulls on strings tied to the rifles) and an ejector seat. Naturally, the latter figures into the episode’s final gag.

In fact, Jethro’s quest to be a “double naught” became a running gag for multiple episodes. There was a follow-up story the next season as Thunderball was coming out.

The Beverly Hillbillies wasn’t the only show to poke fun at 007. It happened all the time during the 1960s. Another example: A 1966 episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show titled “The Man From My Uncle,” in which Godfrey Cambridge played a character named Harry Bond. (“Yeah. Please no jokes. I’m not 007.”)

And, of course, there was Get Smart, a parody of Bond and the spy craze that ran for five seasons (four on NBC, one on CBS).

So, the Austin Powers series, consisting of three movies, was hardly plowing new ground in making light of Bond. Indeed, the Austin Powers series ended (for now) with Austin Powers in Goldmember in 2002, the same year as Die Another Day.

The first new serious, Daniel Craig film, Casino Royale didn’t come out until 2006. Casino Royale had been influenced (in terms of a more serious tone) by the Jason Bourne films starring Matt Damon. With 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the Bond series went full Bourne, bringing in Dan Bradley as second unit director, who had the same job on the Bourne films.

By Casino Royale, and certainly by Quantum of Solace, Austin Powers was receding into memory.

Meanwhile, with 2015’s SPECTRE, the Bond series embraced one of the Austin Powers tropes. It had been revealed that Austin Powers and his arch-enemy Dr. Evil were really brothers. In SPECTRE, it was revealed that Craig/Bond and Blofeld were foster brothers. And SPECTRE came out more than a decade after Austin Powers in Goldmember.

In the words of Daniel Craig, if Austin Powers “fucked us,” it was self-inflicted.