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.

Octopussy’s 35th: Battle of the Bonds, round 1

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Poster with a suggestive tagline.

Adapted from a May 2013 post with an epilogue added at the end..

Thirty-five years ago, there was the much-hyped “Battle of the Bonds.” Competing 007 movies, the 13th Eon Productions entry with Roger Moore and a non-Eon film with Sean Connery, were supposed to square off in the summer.

Things didn’t quite work out that way. In June 1983, Eon’s Octopussy debuted while Never Say Never Again got pushed back to the fall.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli was taking no chances. He re-signed Moore, 54 at the start of production in the summer of 1982, for the actor’s sixth turn as Bond. It had seemed Moore might have exited the series after 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. Broccoli had considered American James Brolin, and Brolin’s screen tests surfaced at a 1994 007 fan convention in Los Angeles. But with Never Say Never Again, a competing 007 adventure starring Connery, the original screen Bond, the producer opted to stay with Moore.

Also back was composer John Barry, who been away from the world of 007 since 1979’s Moonraker. Octopussy would be the start of three consecutive 007 scoring assignments, with A View To a Kill and The Living Daylights to follow. The three films would prove to be his final 007 work.

Barry opted to use The James Bond Theme more than normal in Octopussy’s score, presumably to remind the audience this was the part of the established film series.

Meanwhile, Broccoli kept in place many members of his team from For Your Eyes Only: production designer Peter Lamont, director John Glen, director of photography Alan Hume and associate producer Tom Pevsner. Even in casting the female lead, Broccoli stayed with the familiar, hiring Maud Adams, who had previously been the second female lead in The Man With the Golden Gun.

Behind the cameras, perhaps the main new face was writer George MacDonald Fraser, who penned the early versions of the script. Fraser’s knowledge of India, where much of the story takes place, would prove important. Richard Maibaum and Broccoli stepson Michael G. Wilson took over to rewrite. The final credit had all three names, with Fraser getting top billing.

As we’ve WRITTEN BEFORE, scenes set in India have more humor than scenes set in East and West Germany. Some times, the humor is over the top (a Tarzan yell during a sequence where Bond is being hunted in India by villain Kamal Khan). At other times, the movie is serious (the death of “sacrificial lamb” Vijay).

In any event, Octopussy’s ticket sales did better in the U.S. ($67.9 million) compared with For Your Eyes Only’s $54.8 million. Worldwide, Octopussy scored slightly less, $187.5 million compared with Eyes’s $195.3 million. For Broccoli & Co., that was enough to ensure the series stayed in production.

Hype about the Battle of the Bonds would gear back up when Never Say Never premiered a few months later. But the veteran producer, 74 years old at the time of Octopussy’s release, had stood his ground. Now, all he could do was sit back and watch what his former star, Sean Connery, who had heavy say over creative matters, would come up with a few months later.

2018 epilogue: Over the past five years, Octopussy has continued to generate mixed reaction.

One example was an article posted this month the Den of Geek website. 

While the site said Octopussy deserves another chance with fans, it also levied some criticisms.

It’s a funny old film, Octopussy, one used as evidence by both Moore’s prosecution and his defense. Haters cite the befuddled plot, an older Moore, some truly silly moments (Tarzan yell, anyone?), a Racist’s Guide to India, and the painfully metaphorical sight of a 56 year-old clown trying to disarm a nuclear bomb (rivalled only by Jaws’ Moonraker plunge into a circus tent on the “Spot the Unintentional Subtext” scale.)

At the same time, Den of Geek also compliments aspects of the movie, including its leading man.

Moore also submits a very good performance, arguably his strongest. Easy to treat him as a joke but the man really can act. Sometimes through eyebrows alone.

Thirty-five years later, Octopussy still has the power to enthrall some and to generate salvos from its critics.

I know someone, now in his 40s, who says it’s his favorite James Bond film. I have a friend who refuses to buy a home video copy of it (and every other Roger Moore 007 film) on the grounds that none of the Moore entries are true James Bond films. So it goes.

Live And Let Die’s 45th: The post-Connery era truly begins

Live And Let Die's poster

Live And Let Die’s poster

Adapted from a June 2013 post with appropriate updates.

For the eighth James Bond film, star Sean Connery wasn’t coming back. Three key members of the 007 creative team, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, production designer Ken Adam and composer John Barry, weren’t going to participate. And producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were mostly working separately, with this movie to be overseen primarily by Saltzman.

The result? Live And Let Die, which debuted 45 years ago this month, would prove to be, financially, the highest-grossing movie in the series to date.

Things probably didn’t seem that way for Eon Productions and United Artists as work began. They had no Bond. Broccoli and Saltzman didn’t want Connery back for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The studio didn’t want to take a chance and made the original screen 007 an offer he couldn’t refuse. But that was a one-film deal. Now, Eon and UA were starting from scratch.

Eon and UA had one non-Connery film under their belts, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They had tried the inexperienced George Lazenby, who bolted after one movie. For the second 007 film in the series not to star Connery, Eon and UA opted for a more-experienced choice: Roger Moore, former star of The Saint television series. Older than Connery, Moore would eventually employ a lighter touch.

Behind the camera, Saltzman largely depended on director Guy Hamilton, back for his third turn in the 007 director chair, and writer Tom Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz would be the sole writer from beginning to end, rewriting scenes as necessary during filming. In a commentary on the film’s DVD, Mankiewicz acknowledged it was highly unusual.

Perhaps the biggest creative change was with the film’s music. Barry had composed the scores for six Bond films in a row. George Martin, former producer for the Beatles, would take over. Martin had helped sell Saltzman on using a title song written by Paul and Linda McCartney. The ex-Beatle knew his song would be compared to the 007 classic title songs Barry had helped write. McCartney was determined to make his mark.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Saltzman liked the song, but inquired whether a woman singer would be more appropriate. Martin, in an interview for a 2006 special on U.K. television, said he informed Saltzman if Eon didn’t accept McCartney as performer, the producer wouldn’t get the song. Saltzman accepted both. The song eventually received an Oscar nomination.

Live And Let Die wasn’t the greatest James Bond film, despite an impressive boat chase sequence that was a highlight. The demise of its villain (Yaphet Kotto) still induces groans among long-time 007 fans as he pops like a balloon via an unimpressive special effect. Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), up to that time, was probably the most over-the-top comedic supporting character in the series. (“What are you?! Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?!”)

For Clifton James, the role was just one of many over a long career. But he made a huge impression. When the actor died in April 2017 at the age of 96, the part of J.W. Pepper was mentioned prominently in obituaries, such as those appearing in The New York TimesThe Guardian, The Associated Press and Variety.

Live And Let Die is one of the most important films in the series. As late as 1972, the question was whether James Bond could possibly continue without Sean Connery. With $161.8 million in worldwide ticket sales, it was the first Bond film to exceed the gross for 1965’s Thunderball. In the U.S., its $35.4 million box office take trailed the $43.8 million for Diamonds Are Forever.

Bumpy days still lay ahead for Eon. The Man With the Golden Gun’s box office would tail off and relations between Broccoli and Saltzman would get worse. Still, for the first time, the idea took hold that the cinema 007 could move on from Connery.

Many editors at the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website criticized the movie and its star in a survey many years ago. But the film has its fans.

“I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me,” Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a November 2011 news conference. Whatever one’s opinions about the movie, Live And Let Die ensured there’d be 007 employment for the likes of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

MI6 Confidential publishes a new Roger Moore issue

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

MI6 Confidential has come out with another special Roger Moore issue.

The publication came out with two issues last year about the seven-time 007 film star following his death at age 89.

The new issue, titled Remembering Roger Moore, was written by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury, authors of the book Some Kind of Hero.

MI6 Confidential said many of Moore’s co-stars from his 007 film run were interviewed by Field and Chowdhury for the new issue. Remembering Roger Moore has 100 pages.

The issue can be ordered for 17 British pounds, $22 or 20 euros. MI6 Confidential said the special issue is also part of its deluxe subscription plan.

For more information, CLICK HERE.

 

James Bond: The tired franchise?

Daniel Craig

Happy 50th birthday, Daniel Craig. You’re only the second cinematic James Bond to make it to 50, after Roger Moore, while in the employ of Eon Productions.

(Sean Connery had passed his 50th birthday when he did Never Say Never Again, but that 1983 007 film was not part of the Eon series.)

Still, the blog can’t help but remember Craig’s remarks in October 2016 during an event sponsored by The New Yorker magazine.

“There’s no conversation going on (about Bond 25) because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at that time.

When Craig said that, he had worked on the movie Logan Lucky, was getting ready to do a stage production of Othello and had other projects. Barbara Broccoli, the boss of Eon Productions, was producing that Othello stage production, was planning the film Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. And she had other projects in the pipeline.

Physically tired? No.

Tired of making James Bond movies?

That’s the question.

Bond 25, in its early stages, didn’t seem to be making major changes.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, writers on six 007 films, were hired for a seventh. This was confirmed in a July 24, 2017 press release that said the movie would be released in November 2019 in the United States. This was weeks before Craig, confirmed in August 2017 he was coming back to Bondage.

At this point, Bond 25 is mostly murky. There is no announced distributor and no announced director,

Supposedly, Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer want prestige director Danny Boyle to helm the movie, according to stories last month in Variety and Deadline: Hollywood. If that happens, the choice of Boyle would follow the selections of “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) and Sam Mendes (Skyfall and SPECTRE).

The Deadline story said Boyle would direct if a new story he devised with John Hodge is used. Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter said March 1 that Boyle may direct another film as early as this summer.

Much of Bond 25 is unresolved. What’s also unresolved is how enthusiastic Eon is regarding the film future of 007.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool has been described as a dream project of Barbara Broccoli. It’s not a big box office hit. But it wasn’t intended to be.

As the sixth film Bond celebrates his half century, there’s still a lot to be determined in the film world of 007. One of the most important questions is what does “everybody’s just a bit tired” really mean.

Lewis Gilbert, an appreciation

Lewis Gilbert (right) with Albert R. Broccoli, Roger Moore and Lois Chiles during filming of Moonraker

Lewis Gilbert, coming off producing and directing Alfie (1966), was not the most obvious candidate to direct a James Bond movie.

Alfie was a comedy-drama about the emptiness and consequences from pursuing a lifestyle purely for your own enjoyment. It was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture.

You Only Live Twice, the 1967 007 film Gilbert signed on for, by contrast was a huge, sprawling film. It teased the possibility of sending James Bond (Sean Connery) into space. It featured a SPECTRE headquarters inside a volcano, with a squad of Japanese Secret Service ninjas squaring off against the minions of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Subtle, it wasn’t.

Yet, Gilbert, with a varied resume of films, was up to the challenge. The movie did away with the plot of Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel. In its place was a thrill ride.

You Only Live Twice promotional art, which provides an idea of the movie’s spectacle

“Well, I was a bit dubious at first,” Gilbert said on an installment of Whicker’s World, the BBC documentary series while the movie was in production in Japan.

“I must say in this case the two of them (producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman), they’ve been wonderful. They’ve let me come in with any ideas that could improve the Bond.

“I don’t think there’s anything on this picture that I could ask for that hasn’t been given,” the director continued. “I said today, ‘Look, I want 5,000 people flown in from Tokyo, I’m sure they would be flown in.”

You Only Live Twice, the fifth film in the series, was a success despite how the 1960s spy craze was starting to wane. A decade later, Broccoli — his partnership with Saltzman now dissolved — came calling again.

This time, the project was The Spy Who Loved Me, the third 007 film with Roger Moore. The franchise was at a crossroads. The previous entry, The Man With the Golden Gun, had a falloff in the box office compared with Moore’s Bond debut, Live And Let Die.

Gilbert brought something of a fresh set of eyes having been away from Bond for so long. He decided Spy should play to Moore’s strengths and not have the actor try to copy Sean Connery.

Again, the movie would be epic: A tanker swallowed British, Soviet and U.S. submarines. A megalomaniac villain (Curt Jurgens) was out to end civilization and start over. Subtle it wasn’t.

At the same time, there was a moment of drama when Bond’s Moore admits to Soviet agent Anya (Barabara Bach) that he killed her lover while on a mission. It was a scene that caught a viewer’s attention amid the spectacle.

Spy was a huge success, revitalizing the series. So it was natural that Broccoli brought Gilbert back to direct Moonraker. The showman producer intended the film would be extravagant.

This time, a Bond film would complete was had been teased in Twice — Bond would go into space for a final showdown with another megalomaniac villain, Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale).

The plot of Gilbert’s three Bond adventures are undeniably similar. But the spectacle overwhelms such concerns during viewing. It’s only until the films are over that fans debate such concerns.

When Gilbert emerged from Bondage, he continued directing, working into his 80s.

When news of his death emerged on Tuesday (he had died late last week at the age of 97), a new generation of directors expressed admiration for his work.

“RIP Lewis Gilbert, the great British director who, among his 40 plus credits, directed ‘Alfie’, ‘Educating Rita’, ‘Reach For The Sky’, ‘Shirley Valentine’ and one of my very favourite Bond films: ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’,” Edgar Wright, the director of Baby Driver, wrote on Twitter. ‘”Why’d you have to be so good?”‘

“Lewis Gilbert, director of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER, has passed away,” Peyton Reed, the director of 2015’s Ant-Man wrote, also in a Twitter post. “SPY was the first Bond film I saw in the theater. (And I have a tiny homage to MOONRAKER in ANT-MAN AND THE WASP.) Rest in Peace.”