Case study: How your views of 007 films evolve

Original 007 gunbarrel logo with Bob Simmons subbing for Sean Connery.

Following the release of 2006’s Casino Royale, the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website commissioned an interesting project. It asked all of its contributors to score all of the Eon 007 films plus Never Say Never Again.

The scores were then assigned points and the various films ranked. It was a very detailed effort.

While HMSS has been offline since 2014, much of it has been preserved at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine website. And that includes the survey of HMSS contributors.

For the purposes of this post, I’m not linking to the survey. Anyone else who participated in that HMSS survey can speak up for themselves if they’d like. I’m just keeping this post to my own ups and downs with the Bond films.

Still, viewing my own comments in that survey, I can appreciate how feelings about different series entries can vary over time.

So, to begin with, my harshest rating (D) and comments were for Moonraker.

Roger Moore looks like he’s sleepwalking at times (though he has a couple of good scenes). The hovercraft scene almost ruins a decent chase scene in Venice. The outer space effects are OK but not up to Lucasfilm levels. Too jokey at times…Ken Adam and John Barry are again the real stars of the film.

I still dislike elements now that I did then (pigeons doing double takes, Jaws flapping his arms when his parachute malfunctions, less-than-subtle product placement for Marlboro, British Airways and 7-Up).

At the same time, I’m more accepting of what Moonraker for what it is. The film was incredibly ambitious in terms of spectacle (and was even more so in its first-draft script). And, looking back, I was too harsh on Roger Moore, though I thought his performance in For Your Eyes Only was better.

Put simply, I’m more forgiving of the movie for its flaws, more enthusiastic about its strong points.

For what it’s worth, my grade wasn’t the lowest in that survey. There were two D-Minus grades and an F.

Speaking of For Your Eyes Only, I had the highest grade in that survey for that film, an A.

“The opening scene at the cemetery clearly shows this film is going to be different than Moonraker,” I wrote at the time. “The quick end for Blofeld didn’t bother me that much, but as many fans, the line, ‘I’ll buy you a delicatessen in stainless steel’ makes me groan.”

I saw For Your Eyes Only again in a theater in 2017, part of a tribute to Moore after his death in May of that year. Viewing it again on a movie screen with an audience pretty much reinforced how I felt. Perhaps it was because the 1981 film seemed more in line with the Bond films of the 21st century.

Finally, one more: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Over the past 20 years or so, people have made the case for why this should be considered in the top three (or so) of Bond films.

My grade was B, which lagged the pack (there were four A grades and one A-plus).  What held me back was George Lazenby’s inexperience.

Extremely faithful adaptation of one of Fleming’s best. Lazenby’s inexperience is evident. On the other hand, would Connery have cried at the end? Diana Rigg is a major plus. Telly Savalas is OK as Blofeld. Probably Richard Maibaum’s best script for the series. Ken Adam is gone but not really missed. John Barry hits on all cylinders.

If pressed, I’d probably give it a higher grade today. Still, I don’t think it’d be the greatest Bond film if Sean Connery had done it.

Had Majesty’s been done for 1967 instead of You Only Live Twice, we wouldn’t have gotten Peter Hunt as director. We now know thanks to the book The Making of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service details of various script drafts, including one that included an underwater Aston Martin.

Hunt being installed in the director’s chair after editing the first five Eon 007 films had a major impact. In a lot of ways, the 1969 version of Majesty’s was catching lightning in a bottle.

Why it may be time for Eon to modernize its P.R.

Eon Productions logo

You are making a major action-adventure film. Your star injures himself. What do you do?

If you’re making Mission: Impossible-Fallout, you get ahead of the story. Your writer-director Christopher McQuarrie gives an interview to Empire magazine to explain how things are under control even though star Tom Cruise broke his ankle.

Confirming that Cruise had broken his right ankle, McQuarrie assured Empire that his star remained in good shape, in spite of his injury. “Tom is great,” McQuarrie said. “He’s in very good spirits.”

Meanwhile, if you’re Eon Productions and your star, Daniel Craig, has suffered (apparently) a lesser injury, you stay quiet.

This week, The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. tabloid, ran a story about how Craig hurt his ankle during Bond 25 filming. Other outlets summarized The Sun’s story, including Variety.

Throughout all this, there was no word from Eon, which has produced the 007 film series since 1962.

Finally, after about 24 hours, The Sun produced a follow-up story saying Craig’s injury wasn’t that bad and he’ll be back at work in a week or so.

Still, for that 24 hour period, others were dictating the Bond 25 story line to the general public.

The thing is, this is par for the course. Eon has a history of denying things that are true such as Ben Whishaw being cast as Q, Naomie Harris being cast as Moneypenny, John Logan being hired to write Bond 24 and 25 (before things changed), Christoph Waltz being cast as Blofeld and so on and so forth.

For that matter, Eon spun a fairy tale in the 1970s that Roger Moore was always the first choice (rather than Sean Connery) to play Bond. For that matter, in the 1980s, Eon’s principals said with a straight face that Pierce Brosnan had never been signed to play Bond and Timothy Dalton was always its first choice to succeed Roger Moore as 007.

We’re now almost one-fifth into the 21st century. Things change. What worked in the past, doesn’t necessarily work now.

You need a communications strategy where your viewpoint is made clear and plain at all times. If you’re making a movie that costs more than $200 million, you can’t be passive.

Truth be told, a big chunk of the 007 fan base acts as if this is still 1965 and Bond is the biggest thing on the planet. There are times that Eon appears to believe the same thing.

Whatever you believe, you can’t be passive in an age where social media helps shape the perception of your product. For one 24-hour period this week, Bond fans genuinely were wondering what was going on.

With silence from Eon, the notion that Craig suffered an injury serious enough to affect Bond 25 filming began to take hold.

This particular dust-up already is fading. But it still points to the need for a more pro-active public relations approach.

Naomie Harris emerges as 007’s unofficial ambassador

Naomie Harris introduces the Lego Aston Martin DB5 in 2018

Naomie Harris, seven years after entering the film world of 007, may have emerged as a sort-of unofficial ambassador for the James Bond film franchise.

When Sony was the distributor of 007 films, it employed Harris as her Moneypenny character in a commercial. She retrieves Bond’s smartphone for him.

It fell to Harris to introduce the Lego Aston Martin DB5 that came out at an event in London in 2018.

Also in 2018, Harris was the headliner for the opening of 007 Elements in Austria, “a James Bond-themed installation.”

This week, she appeared at Eon Production’s “reveal” event in Jamaica. In an interview with Nine News Australia, she said she wasn’t involved in filming Bond 25 scenes there.

“I’m not, unfortunately,” she said. “I know I’m not…I wish I was.” Meanwhile, other members of the 007 “Scooby Gang” (Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear) didn’t put in an appearance in Jamaica.

For many years, Roger Moore, who starred in seven of Eon’s Bond films, filled the “ambassador” role. He publicly spoke in support of his 007 successors.

“Roger came down to set one day on ‘GoldenEye’ and wished me well,” Brosnan wrote in a 2017 tribute in Variety published after Moore’s death “I was still in awe of the man” Moore also complimented Daniel Craig’s Bond performances.

Perhaps Harris’ schedule makes her available to promote Bond more. Still, she has developed a presence that’s reaching out to audiences on behalf of the gentleman spy.

Shane Rimmer dies at 89

Shane Rimmer (1929-2019)

Shane Rimmer, a character actor who often played Americans in British-based productions and who appeared in three James Bond films, has died at 89.

His death was reported by the Official Gerry Anderson Website. Rimmer was a voice on Anderson-produced shows, including Thunderbirds. The website said his death was confirmed by his widow, Sheila Rimmer.

Shane Rimmer appeared in You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). The latter provided the actor with his biggest 007 role, that of a U.S. submarine captain who assists Roger Moore’s James Bond.

Rimmer was born in Toronto. After moving to the U.K., he became a busy actor. Besides his work for Anderson and the Bond films, his credits included Dr. Strangelove, Superman II and various television shows, including The Persuaders!

In 2016, Rimmer did an interview where he reflected on working with Anderson, Dr. Strangelove director Stanley Kubrick and screen Bonds Sean Connery and Roger Moore.

UPDATE: The official James Bond Twitter feed from Eon Productions also paid tribute to Rimmer.

 

Tidbits from updated 007 book

Cover to the updated edition of Some Kind of Hero

The blog ordered the updated edition of Some Kind of Hero by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury, an extensive look at the 007 film series. What follows are some tidbits since the original 2015 edition. The book has an expanded chapter on SPECTRE, plus a new chapter about the preliminary development of Bond 25.

–The idea of releasing SPECTRE in the summer of 2015 apparently was considered for a time. The book doesn’t state this explicitly. But there’s this passage in the chapter on SPECTRE:

(Skyfall director Sam) Mendes recalled, ‘It took MGM and Eon accepting that the movie wasn’t going to come out in the summer of ’15. I said I couldn’t do it that fast’ (emphasis added)

Sony Pictures, which distributed and co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE had told movie theater executives that Bond 24 (later titled SPECTRE) would be out in 2014. Barbara Broccoli, Eon’s boss, and star Daniel Craig shot down that idea in interviews during publicity for Skyfall. After that, nobody talked about Bond 24/SPECTRE having a 2014 release.

–SPECTRE received $14 million in Mexican tax incentives. Among the conditions: The sequence filmed in Mexico had to have a Mexican Bond girl, a non-Mexican Bond villain and the target of an assassination plot had to be “a local governor and not an ambassador.” The authors, in a footnote, cited a 2015 article from http://www.taxanalysts.org as their source of the information.

–The Bond 25 chapter implies the search for a distributor delayed development. Sony’s deal expired with SPECTRE. “By late 2016, no distributor had been announced and thus no screenplay, title director or cast could have been announced.”

However, Eon and MGM announced a fall 2019 release date in July 2017 despite having no distributor in place. It wasn’t until May 2018 that it was announced a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures would release the film in the U.S. and Universal would handle international distribution. (This is referenced later in the chapter.)

Because of publication deadlines, the book’s Bond 25 chapter includes Danny Boyle being hired as director but doesn’t include his exit because of “creative differences.”  Cary Fukanaga was hired to replace Boyle, with the release date pushed back to February 2020. Obviously, there is more fodder for future editions.

The updates also include, understandably, a new Roger Moore chapter following the death of the seven-time 007 in 2017.

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.