Footnote: Was Craig committed to Bond 25 all along?

Daniel Craig

Amid this week’s news about Daniel Craig, there’s a footnote. Was he signed to Bond 25 all along? Or not?

In 2007, then-Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer CEO Harry Sloan said Daniel Craig was signed for four more James Bond films, according to a Hollywood Reporter account. Sloan made the comment at a conference.

Casino Royale was released the year before. So four more films would take you through Bond 25.

Of course, MGM went bankrupt a few years later. So there’s the possibility any such contract got altered.

Except…

Craig told Rolling Stone  in 2012, “I’ve agreed to do a couple more, but let’s see how this one (Skyfall) does, because business is business and if the shit goes down, I’ve got a contract that somebody will happily wipe their ass with.” (emphasis added)

Two more after Skyfall gets you through Bond 25.

Except…

Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions SAID IN THIS VIDEO from November 2015 after SPECTRE (Bond 24) that Craig wasn’t under contract although he added he expected the actor to return for Bond 25.

Which, of course, Craig announced this week.

So which (if any) was it? Contracts do get renegotiated. So did it change from one point to another?

At this point, it’s academic. Just another “little thing” (like Lt. Columbo used to say) to chew over.

Nolan’s Dunkirk gets a big thumbs up from critics

Christopher Nolan

Dunkirk, the World War II drama coming out this weekend, obviously isn’t a spy film. But there is continuing fascination (admiration by some fans, disdain by others) with the idea writer-director Christopher Nolan might one day helm a James Bond film.

Also, two of Nolan’s collaborators, director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema and editor Lee Smith, worked on SPECTRE. The latest wave of Nolan mania among Bond fans occurred via a Playboy interview timed to come out shortly before Dunkirk.

So the blog decided to look at Dunkirk’s critical response.

The answer is a huge thumbs up. The Warner Bros. release currently enjoys a 97 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Here are some non-spoiler summaries of some of the reviews.

KATIE WALSH, TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE: “Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema have crafted a film that places us in this heightened reality, shooting with IMAX cameras on large format film stock. Everything about ‘Dunkirk’ is bigger, realer, in images that are equally breathtaking in their beauty and in their terror.”

BILL GOODYKOONTZ, ARIZONA REPUBLIC: “Nolan is the best example of the filmmaker who, if you asked him what time it was would tell you how the watch works — and in his case that’s a compliment, because he turns the intricacies and minutiae of time and how it’s used in stories into artistic statements. Certainly he has done that here — ‘Dunkirk’ is a great movie, both an old-time inspirational war epic and at the same time very much a Christopher Nolan movie.”

PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE: “From first frame to last, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a monumental achievement, a World War II epic of staggering visual spectacle (see it in IMAX if you can) that hits you like a shot in the heart. Leave it to a filmmaking virtuoso at the peak of his powers to break both new ground and all the rules – who else would make a triumphant war film about a crushing Allied defeat? And who but Nolan, born in London to a British father and an American mother, would tackle WWII without America in it?”

DANA STEVENS, SLATE: Nolan’s 2010 Inception “will serve as my yearly reminder never to go into a movie with preconceived ideas. The swift-moving, pulse-pounding Dunkirk reveals its filmmaker at his most nimble, supple, and simple—all adjectives that seem strange to use in connection with a movie shot in 65mm IMAX format, using practical effects and real stunts…But Dunkirk’s simplicity inheres not in its production logistics but in its storytelling.”

TODD MCCARTHY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “(T)his is a war film like few others, one that may employ a large and expensive canvas but that conveys the whole through isolated, brilliantly realized, often private moments more than via sheer spectacle, although that is here, too….In Dunkirk, Nolan has gotten everything just right.”

A few questions about Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

As SPECTRE continues its theatrical run, questions emerge about Bond 25.

In November 2012, after the release of Skyfall, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced that John Logan had been signed to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. So far, nothing nearly that specific has emerged. Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH 20 MINUTEN from Nov. 16 (text is in German) talked about work on Bond resuming “in the spring.”

With that in mind, here are some questions.

What happened to Daniel Craig being signed for Bond 25? Three years ago, the ACTOR TOLD ROLLING STONE, “I’ve agreed to do a couple more, but let’s see how this one (Skyfall) does, because business is business and if the shit goes down, I’ve got a contract that somebody will happily wipe their ass with.” (emphasis added)

Fans at the time read that as meaning Craig had a contract for two more films. In interviews done days after SPECTRE completed production, the storyline was different.

Craig told TIME OUT LONDON and ESQUIRE he didn’t know if he’d do another Bond film after SPECTRE.  Meanwhile, Michael G. Wilson, the other Eon co-chief, SAID IN THIS VIDEO that Craig isn’t under contract although he expects the actor to return for Bond 25.

Will any John Logan story elements be used in Bond 25? Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall and SPECTRE, said in an April 2014 interview with U.S. television host Charlie Rose that the story originally was envisioned as a two-movie arc.

But Mendes said a condition of his return to SPECTRE was the story had to be self contained. That confirmed a FEBRUARY 2013 STORY by Baz Bamigboye in the Daily Mail that the two-part movie idea had been eliminated.

It’s not known how much work, if any, Logan did on Bond 25 after the change in plan. Wilson, in the same video where he commented on Craig’s status, said Eon doesn’t have a script, an idea or even a title for Bond 25.

Who will direct Bond 25? Sam Mendes said after Skyfall he wouldn’t return. He recanted and did SPECTRE. He made the following comment IN AN INTERVIEW WITH DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD, that people have interpreted as he’s really, really not coming back to Bond again.

The pronouncements after the last movie were taken seriously and I then had to undo them when I agreed to make this movie. Without giving too much away, the difference here for me is, this movie (SPECTRE) draws together all four of Daniel’s movies into one final story, and he completes a journey. That wasn’t the case last time. There is a sense of completeness that wasn’t there at the end of Skyfall, and that’s what makes this feel different. It feels like there’s a rightness to it, that I have finished a journey.

If that’s really the case, who fills the Bond 25 director’s chair? Some fans would like two-time director Martin Campbell, 72, to return for an encore. He’s done TV work since the 2011 superhero movie Green Lantern, according to his IMDB.COM ENTRY. Meanwhile, Barbara Broccoli has said Eon doesn’t hire “journeymen” directors. So will another “auteur” like Mendes get the job?

SPECTRE: U.S. reviews keep rolling in

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE reviews from U.S. film critics roll in ahead of Friday’s “official” opening (regular U.S. showings begin Thursday night).

So, with the movie about to come out here in the States, we present our final review excerpts. The 24th James Bond film has a 67 PERCENT “FRESH” RATING on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

As usual, plot details are being kept out of these excepts, but one man’s careful presentation is another’s thoughtless spoiler.

TONY HICKS, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: “(D)espite having the countenance of a wolf about to strike, (Daniel) Craig finally looks like he’s having fun this time — and not in a Roger Moore, self-spoofing kind of way. Director Sam Mendes gives him rein to indulge himself as the womanizing, violent, always-in-action, quip-dropping Bond like never before….one thing is clear: The 007 franchise is in a much better place than when Craig first appeared as Bond in 2006.”

KENNETH TURAN, LOS ANGELES TIMES: “But like a baseball team leaving its starting pitcher in a World Series game too long (no names, please), the folks at Eon went to the well once too often with both Craig (“Spectre” is his fourth Bond) and director Sam Mendes, doing his second.

“When Craig took on the role in 2006’s ‘Casino Royale,’ his rougher-edged, less-flippant Bond felt like a breath of fresh air, but almost a decade later it’s gone stale. Craig’s expression is so unchanging it might as well be chiseled out of stone, and his emotionally uninvolved performance is similarly lacking in nuance.”

PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE:If there is such a thing as ‘James Bond’s Greatest Hits,’ then Spectre is it. The 25th movie about the British MI6 agent with a license to kill is party time for Bond fans, a fierce, funny, gorgeously produced valentine to the longest-running franchise in movies.

Spectre carries on Craig’s reinvention of Bond, blowing a reported $250 million budget on spectacular action without losing what’s personal. Skyfall director Sam Mendes is back to keep things real, but the plot cooked up by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth is a 148-minute minefield of distractions. Ah, but what distractions. Apologies to The Spy Who Loved Me, but the Bond series has never had a more drop-dead dazzler of an opener than this one.”

LAWRENCE TOPPMAN, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: “Daniel Craig debuted in the gripping ‘Casino Royale,’ stumbled through the gibberish of ‘Quantum of Solace,’ then topped himself with the terrific ‘Skyfall.’ Now, in ‘Spectre,’ he presides impassively over 2 1/2 hours of mediocrity. He and almost everyone else seem to be fulfilling an obligation so they can make films they care about.”

JAKE COYLE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: “‘Spectre’ is Craig’s fourth Bond movie and his muscular tenure has been defined not just by his full embodiment of the character, but his overall stewardship. His ability to attract top-notch talent, in front and behind the camera, and to imbue the spy series with a seriousness of purpose reads in every frame. His Bond may still sip martinis, but he’s stone-cold sober.”

CHRIS VOGNAR, DALLAS MORNING NEWS:  “Spectre’s quest for seriousness yields mixed results. One big plus: the pedigreed cast, from world-class actors including (Christoph) Waltz and (Ralph) Fiennes to the bit players to the rising French star Léa Seydoux, who still gets saddled with some unfortunate Bond Girl lines.

One big demerit: the excessive running time. If there’s a reason why a James Bond movie needs to last 148 minutes, Spectre does not provide it. A big, dry narrative lull rests at the movie’s core, which lifts only when Waltz makes his grand entry with about an hour left, purring evil as only he can.”

UPDATE: The New York Times, the leading U.S. newspaper, had not published a SPECTRE review as of Wednesday night. As it turns out, the newspaper had a Nov. 4 Times Talks event in New York, where you had to buy tickets to attend, featuring Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes. It began at 7 p.m. New York Times and was webcast while it was underway.

Here are some tweets the newspaper sent out from the event:

11 new questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill, right, and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

The past month has seen a few disclosures about a planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to be directed by Guy Ritchie. But each new bit of information, well, just generates more questions.

In honor of Napoleon Solo’s No. 11 U.N.C.L.E. badge, here are 11 of them:

1. Like Dude, don’t some of Armie Hammer’s comments bother you? Hammer, while promoting The Lone Ranger movie, has made some comments that made long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans nervous. Hammer, who is to play Illya Kuryakin, has talked about how funny the script is. That makes fans who feel the movie might be a big-screen version of THE ORIGINAL SHOW’S THIRD SEASON where the delicate drama-humor balance got out of whack.

In the end, however, movies can only be judged by the final product. A certain James Bond actor is known for dropping f-bombs and telling off-color jokes in interviews involving grandmothers and oysters. That didn’t really affect Skyfall, the most recent 007 film.

2. What about what Henry Cavill has said about the U.N.C.L.E. movie? Cavill, slated to play Napoleon Solo, has been more circumspect. He has said the film will have “dry humor” but he’s not a slapstick guy. That tends to be reassuring to fans but the same thing applies — these are interviews and it remains to be seen what the movie will be like.

3. Who else is going to be in the movie? That’s one of the biggest unanswered questions. The only other name to surface is Alicia Vikander, a Swedish actress who’s supposed to play a British agent. One key role that hasn’t been talked about publicly is Alexander Waverly, the Number One of U.N.C.L.E.’s section, a sort of first-among-equals of the international’s brain trust. Leo G. Carroll had the role in the original 1964-68 series. Not having a Waverly would be like a James Bond movie without an M.

4. What will this movie have the original show didn’t have? Since it’s a period piece set in the ’60s, it’s likely to have multiple references to the Cold War.

5. But the original show was made in the ’60s. How could it not have such references? They were there but way toned down. Occasionally, David McCallum’s Kuryakin would say things like, “I suddenly feel very Russian,” when near rich capitalists (The Love Affair in the show’s FIRST SEASON.) In The Project Strigas Affair, that same season, Kuryakin wore a disguise that made him resemble a young Leon Trotsky.

Still, the whole idea of U.N.C.L.E. was that it was a multi-national organization that fought threats transcended political boundries. Also, NBC executives were always wary of being too controversial. So you didn’t get a lot of direct, “ripped from headlines” Cold War references.

6. Why do you think there will be all these Cold War references? Hammer, in some of his interviews, has described Kuryakin as “a KGB spy.” Cavill, in another, said the movie is about “the Cold War and how American and Russian super spies join teams to fight international terrorism.”

7. Any other speculation? Look for some kind of “origin” storyline. These kinds of movies often take that route. Michael G. Wilson wanted to do an “origin of James Bond” movie in the 1980s when Roger Moore left the role and was replaced by Timothy Dalton. Wilson’s stepfather, Albert R. Broccoli, vetoed that idea but Wilson got his wish with 2006’s Casino Royale.

Finally, Hammer said this in AN INTERVIEW AT AIN’T IT COOL NEWS:

Capone: Will there be some humor tucked away in there?

AH: It’s Guy Ritchie, so it’s going to have that great aspect to it of getting dark, but also “I like watching these two guys hate each other,” and “I like watching these two guys hang out.”

That suggests at least the possibility of the “heroes meet, heroes don’t initially like each other, heroes get over their differences” story construction.

8. What about the crew besides Guy Ritchie? Again, very little information. Hammer has said the movie starts filming in August, other reports have said September. But you’d think some announcements might have been made by now.

9. Any we should look for in particular? The composer. Music is always important for a movie. Unfortunately, Jerry Goldsmith, who wrote the show’s distinctive theme, died in 2004.

Goldsmith only did three scores for the series but his music was constantly recycled in first-season episodes without an original score. That season is viewed by many fans as the best of the four and so Goldsmith’s contributions take on a bigger role that you’d guess.

Also, in the fourth season, Goldsmith’s scores were re-recorded and used partially in about half of the episodes. One episode, The Deadly Quest Affair consisted of almost all re-recorded Goldsmith music. So Goldsmith created the U.N.C.L.E. sound even if he didn’t work that much on the show.

10. Any guesses on who the composer could be? One possibility: Hans Zimmer did the scores for the two Sherlock Holemes movies starring Robert Downey Jr. that Ritchie directed. Zimmer has been busy of late. He scored 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises and this year’s Man of Steel (starring Cavill) and The Lone Ranger (with Hammer playing the title character but playing second fiddle to Johnny Depp’s Tonto).

11. The big question — is this movie a good thing or a bad thing? For fans who don’t want a movie, nothing will convince them otherwise. For fans who are intrigued, or at least hoping for the best, it remains to be seen. From the selfish standpoint of the HMSS Weblog, it provides something to write about because it doesn’t look like Bond 24 will become reality anytime soon. Plus, Ian Fleming co-created Napoleon Solo with Norman Felton.