Don’t read too much into Bond 25 director’s interview

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director for Bond 25

Cary Joji Fukunaga, the director of Bond 25, gave an interview to IndieWire where he discussed James Bond in general terms. Naturally, 007 fans are going over it. But it’s best not to read too much into it.

Among other things, Fukunaga says the first Bond film he saw was 1985’s A View To a Kill. He also says you can’t pick one favorite 007 film.

“I don’t think you can pick one though because every single one of them has brought their thing to it and its nice to have that difference, it’s nice to have the change of the character over time.”

For some context: Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall and SPECTRE, said that the first Bond film he saw was 1973’s Live And Let Die.

Of course, neither of Mendes’ 007 outings (Skyfall and SPECTRE) was remotely like the escapist tone of Live And Let Die (featuring the villain dying when he’s blown up like a balloon).

Mendes (b. 1965) would have been just shy of 8 years old when Live And Let Die came out. For that matter, Fukunaga (b. 1977) was not quite 8 years old when A View To a Kill debuted.

A Mr. Obvious observation: One’s perspective changes from childhood to adulthood. Childhood memories often mean a lot but that doesn’t mean you’re ruled by them as an adult.

At this stage, Bond fans hunger for anything about Bond 25. It’s understandable that the director’ interview would get attention. Still, it’s best not to read too much into it.

UPDATE (2:35 p.m. New York time): Some exchanges with readers on Twitter spurs me to add this. Fukunaga also says regarding Bond, “Over the years, you’ve seen a lot of different iterations not only of Bond, but of films that have mimicked it or copied it. So I think the exciting part actually is going to the original source, and being able to play in a sandbox.”

That’s intriguing, but not unique.

Marvel Studios, for example, doesn’t just copy the original comics. The first Marvel Studios film, 2008’s Iron Man, moved the origin story from Vietnam (in the first 1963 comic book story) to the Middle East. Also, the Marvel films pick and choose from decades of comics stories.

An educated guess about Bond 25: The volatile mix

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The British tabloid press is generating stories about what supposedly caused Danny Boyle to exit Bond 25. One example: a Daily Mail story (not done by Baz Bamigboye who has a record of scoops proven to be correct). The new story purports to provide behind-the-scenes detail.

The thing is, under the best of circumstances, Bond films often are tense, expensive affairs. Thunderball raced to meet a Christmas 1965 release. The script of Tomorrow Never Dies was being written on the fly extensively. SPECTRE’s production issues were explosed via the Sony hacks before filming began.

The tabloid stories have sought to sniff out specific details. But it almost doesn’t matter. Bond 25, from the outside, appears to have had an even more volatile mix than even the 007 series norm. And some of the factors go back years.

Eon’s desire for critical respect: The James Bond film franchise was built, in part, on the work of journeymen directors such as Terence Young and Guy Hamilton.

For example, Young helped to shape Sean Connery’s performance as Bond, introducing him to tailored suits and expensive dress shirts. Later, Eon would promote the likes of Peter Hunt and John Glen (who had been editors and second unit directors) to the 007 director chair.

But in the 21st century, Eon wants more respect. “(W)e’ve never been one to hire directors for hire,” Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a 2012 interview with ComingSoon.net.  “We always wanted someone who was a great director in their own right and a storyteller.”

As a result, Eon hired the likes of Marc Forster for Quantum of Solace and Sam Mendes for Skyfall and SPECTRE. So the hiring of Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting, was part of a broader pattern.

Boyle had even directed a video for the 2012 Olympics featuring Daniel Craig as Bond. A natural, right? Not so fast.

A new director who had mixed feelings: Boyle had previously said he wasn’t Bond director material.

“I’m not the guy to make Bond movies,” Boyle said in 2013. “I love watching them and I like the books…As a teenager, I read those books cover to cover many times.” He said working on lower-budget films like the ones he usually does provides more freedom. You can see for yourself in the video below, starting about the 1:56 mark.

However, Daniel Craig, returning for his fifth 007 film, really wanted Boyle as director, according to March Daily Mail story by Baz Bamigboye.

If Craig wanted it, then it was likely that Barbara Broccoli would want it, too. Broccoli made the choice of Craig in the first place in 2005 and has made it clear she wants him to stick around as long as possible.

Boyle got himself in this position by pitching an idea that would later be written into script form by John Hodge, Boyle’s screenwriter on Trainspotting.

Sure enough, on May 25, Eon announced Boyle would direct Bond 25 from an original screenplay by Hodge. Everything was rolling, right?

A 007 star with unprecedented power: With 2015’s SPECTRE, Craig added the title of co-producer. It was something no other Bond actor in the Eon series had achieved. Connery in the 1960s wanted to be an Eon partner but was turned down.

Exhibit A as an example of Craig’s power: The Aug. 21 press release announcing Boyle’s departure. “Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig today announced that due to creative differences Danny Boyle has decided to no longer direct Bond 25.”

If Boyle had any serious disagreement with Craig, chances are he wasn’t going to come out on top.

The mix: So we have an “auteur” director uncomfortable with big-budget film making, who’s used to doing things his own way. He’s working his way amid a big, expensive project. He’s working with a star who had the additional clout of a producer’s title who also has the backing of the leader of the production company that’s been making 007 films since 1962.

Shrug. Just another day at the Universal Exports office, I suppose.

Some Bond 25 article oddities

With the news that Danny Boyle is out as Bond 25 director, there have been some oddities in tabloid articles and social media postings. Here is a look at some of them.

Barbara Broccoli’s supposed anger: The Telegraph had an Aug. 22 story that included the following:

Boyle insistence on bringing an entirely new team, including his established writing partner John Hodge, infuriated Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, another industry source told the Telegraph.

This one doesn’t pass the smell test. Eon Productions indulged Sam Mendes, including giving him his choice of writer (John Logan) and composer (Thomas Newman) for Skyfall and SPECTRE. Why should Barbara Broccoli get upset now?

Admittedly, the passage quoted is a ways down in the story. (The angle higher up concerns a reported disagreement over casting the villain’s part.) But the background about Mendes, Logan and Newman is pretty well known.

Anything is possible, I suppose. Still, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that Broccoli would get angry over the same sort of thing Eon granted Mendes for two movies.

John Hodge’s status:  Hodge’s name wasn’t mentioned in the Aug. 21 announcement that Boyle exited Bond 25.

Many fans (who don’t want Bond 25 delayed) have latched onto a Facebook post this week by Gareth Owen:, who worked with Roger Moore from 2002 until the actor’s death in 2017. Owen’s Facebook post is quoted in this post by The James Bond Dossier.

Hodge, according to the Owen post, has been rewriting an earlier script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade that seemed to be put aside when Boyle and Hodge came aboard.

“There are lots of articles and Internet discussions saying the producers could revert to the Purvis and Wade script,” Owen wrote. “Well, what if I was to tell you that is the script John Hodge was rewriting. The film is still firmly set for a December start.”

Well, if that’s the case, Eon was, eh, mistaken in its May 25, 2018 press release.

“Daniel Craig returns as 007 and Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Steve Jobs) will direct from an original screenplay by Academy Award nominee John Hodge (Trainspotting)*…” (emphasis added)

Original screenplay. If Hodge were rewriting P&W at that point, they’d probably mention all three. That was way it was handled when Purvis Wade and Logan were all mentioned in the press releases for Skyfall (when Logan was rewriting Purvis and Wade) and SPECTRE (when Purvis and Wade were rewriting Logan).

Oh, and there’s this. The Mirror is a tabloid, and it’s dodgy, accuracy wise. But in an Aug. 22 story, it quotes a spokesman for Hodge as saying the scribe isn’t laboring on Bond 25 anymore. “No, he’s not working on it.”

All this just scratches the surface of oddities. Undoubtedly, there’s more to follow.

Bond 25 questions: The panic button edition

Some 007 fans reaction to the latest Bond 25 news

James Bond director Danny Boyle, we hardly knew ye. Like a comet, the possibility of the Trainspotting director helming Bond 25 lit up the sky, only to dissipate into the vacuum of space.

Boyle’s departure was the subject of a very brief announcement by Eon Productions. The blog has few answers, but as usual it loads up on the questions.

What happened? The only stated reason was “creative difference,” an often-used description when a project hits a major bump.

In some ways, Boyle was an odd match. Yes, he directed a 007-themed video with Daniel Craig for the 2012 Olympics in London. But Boyle is known for lean productions. Eon is used to mounting hugely expensive ones with long shooting schedules.

On the other hand, Eon has been enamored of “auteur” directors such as Sam Mendes and Marc Forster. Mendes, in particular, seemed to get just about everything he wanted during production of Skyfall and SPECTRE. Boyle’s hiring appeared to fit that pattern.

What happens to the script? Boyle’s hiring was just as director. He and writer John Hodge (who scripted Trainspotting) had pitched an idea. Boyle’s participation depended whether a script Hodge wrote based on that idea would be accepted by Eon.

It was. Eon tossed out a script by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

So does a new director (whenever he or she is hired) work with Hodge’s script? Does the new director want to start over? Could Purvis and Wade get called back yet again with either their rejected script or to rewrite Hodge’s work?

What about the start of Bond 25 production? It was supposed to start Dec. 3. You’d think that’s questionable. On the other hand, directors can get hired in a hurry.

Could they bring Sam Mendes to direct a third 007 film? Don’t even think it.

What about Bond 25’s release date? That likely will depend on the answer to the question about starting production.

Is Daniel Craig being promoted to producer? Craig shared the title of co-producer with two others in SPECTRE. The announcement about Boyle’s departure cited Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson as well as Craig in disclosing the development. Will Craig share the Bond 25 producer’s credit with Broccoli and Wilson?

Spy fans engage in throwing bricks from glass houses

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

Late next week, Mission: Impossible-Fallout reaches theaters. Some 007 fans aren’t happy, feeling the movie is, well, a ripoff.

Specifically, based on trailers, there are at least two segments of M:I-Fallout that seem “inspired” from previous Bond films:

–A villain appears to make an escape similar to the way Franz Sanchez did in Licence to Kill (1989).

–Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt makes a HALO (high altitude, low-opening) parachute jump, similar to how B.J. Worth did one doubling for Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

The resemblances are undeniable. In fact, the current Hawaii Five-0 series did an “homage” to the Licence to Kill sequence at the start of its third season in 2012. So Mission: Impossible-Fallout doing it wouldn’t be the first time.

On the other hand, memories may be short. So the following should be noted.

–Live And Let Die (1973) when it was released was seen as inspired by “blaxploitation” movies of the early 1970s. While Ian Fleming’s 1954 novel featured a black villain, the movie utilized a few characters but dispensed with the book’s main plot.

–The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) was seen as 007’s answer to Kung Fu movies of the 1970s. Fleming’s 1965 novel of the same name was mostly set in Jamaica and didn’t have any Kung Fu.

–Moonraker (1979) was seen as 007’s answer to Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Fleming’s 1955 novel concerned a rocket but no space travel was involved.

–Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) were said to be influenced by the Jason Bourne movies that were popular at the start of this century.

Javier Bardem’s Silva in a Joker-like moment in Skyfall

–Skyfall (2012) was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Director Sam Mendes even said so. Javier Bardem’s Silva definitely seemed influenced by Heath Ledger’s Joker.

If fans want to accuse another franchise of copying, it can be a matter of throwing bricks from a glass house.

Filmmakers do this sort of thing all the time. Directors channel their inner-Alfred Hitchcock (or Stanley Kubrick, or whoever) all the time.

Christopher Nolan, who helmed The Dark Knight, channeled 007 films in his Batman trilogy. Example: Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) giving Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) gadgets more than slightly resembled Bond-Q scenes from earlier 007 films.

Chances are, if you see a shot or sequence that reminds you of a famous movie sequence, chances are it’s not a coincidence.

The key difference is what does the director do with it? Does it work? Does it contribute to an entertaining film?

In the case of The Dark Knight, whatever you might think of it, Nolan delivered a memorable movie. With Skyfall, whatever was “borrowed” from Nolan, audiences found it an interesting take on a Bond film.

I can’t judge Mission: Impossible-Fallout. I haven’t seen it, other than the trailers.

The question is where M:I-Fallout writer-director Christopher McQuarrie and his star, Tom Cruise, have delivered a good movie. “Borrowing” happens all the time in film. We’ll see soon.

Bond 25 questions: Full speed ahead edition

Bond 25 is full speed ahead, with a director, new screenwriter and a new distribution lineup. So, it’s time for the blog’s specialty — questions.

What was that story idea (turned into a script by John Hodge) that was so good Eon Productions dropped a Neal Purvis-Robert Wade script?

Throughout the Bond 25 saga to date, this has been one of the most intriguing angles.

Eon announced 10 months ago that Purvis and Wade were back as 007 screenwriters. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a December podcast from The Hollywood Reporter that Purvis and Wade were ““busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

Not fantastic enough. Danny Boyle, now officially named as Bond 25’s director, and Hodge pitched Eon an idea. Boyle would direct if a script based on the idea were selected. (Boyle spoke about this in public, even if Eon didn’t until this week.)

Boom! Here we are.

This week’s official announcement about Boyle’s and Hodge’s participation in Bond 25 didn’t reference any plot points. The guess here is we’ll get some kind of brief synopsis when production starts in early December.

Who will compose Bond 25’s score? Some directors have a strong relationship with composers. That’s why we got Thomas Newman for Skyfall and SPECTRE, directed by Sam Mendes.

A variety of composers have worked on Boyle’s films, including David Arnold (A Life Less Ordinary), John Murphy (28 Days Later…), A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours) and Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs).

Arnold, of course, is a 007 film veteran, working on five films from 1997 through 2008. Does he get a chance at a sixth?

Will Bond 25’s budget expand or contract compared with SPECTRE?  SPECTRE’s budget was an estimated $245 million (after including tax credits in Mexico and product placement deals). A car chase scene in Rome alone cost about 24 million British pounds, or $36 million at the time. Also, Eon boasted how the movie had the biggest explosion in motion picture history.

By contrast, 2012’s Skyfall had an estimated budget of $200 million. That’s still a lot of money but there was economizing. The first unit only traveled to Turkey. Sequences set in China were filmed with a second unit, with interiors filmed either at Pinewood Studios or U.K. locations doubling for China.

Presumably, Bond 25’s budget has been taken into account by the new distribution setup: A joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (007’s home studio) and Annapurna Pictures for the U.S. and Universal for international.

The previous four 007 films were distributed by Sony Pictures. For Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony contributed 50 percent of the production budget but only got back 25 percent of the profit, while MGM kept 75 percent.

Bond 25 questions (Danny Boyle edition Part IV)

Danny Boyle

Apologies. The blog is suffering from Lt. Columbo-itis. Little things bother it. So here are some more questions about Bond 25.

Why did Danny Boyle go public with his involvement with Bond 25 now?

Without a mind reading machine, there’s no way to know for sure. But Boyle’s behavior is a lot different than his predecessor in the 007 director’s chair, Sam Mendes.

In January 2010, The Wall Street Journal interviewed Mendes mostly about other topics. But the paper asked if it was true he’d be directing the next James Bond film.

“It’s only speculation and, you know, at the moment there isn’t even a studio to make the James Bond movie, because MGM is for sale.”

The thing was, at almost the same time, Mendes’ U.K. publicist, Sara Keene, confirmed to The Guardian that Mendes was in talks about directing what would become Skyfall. “I can confirm that he has had a meeting, but Sam always has lots of projects on the table that he might direct next,”

In contrast, Boyle’s comments to Metro and other outlets were relatively straight forward. He said he planned to direct Bond 25 if a script being written by John Hodge is accepted. If that occurred, the plan would be to start production toward the end of 2018.

Just to be clear, the blog likes straight forwardness. Meanwhile, if you don’t want to comment, you say, “No comment.” That’s because when you deny things that turn out to be true (i.e. Ben Whishaw was playing Q in Skyfall, etc.) it hurts your credibility in the long run.

On the other hand, intentionally or not, Boyle may have pressured Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer a bit. If the Hodge script were rejected (and Boyle ended up not directing Bond 25), both would get questions about what happened.

Do you think Eon/MGM will turn down the script when Hodge finishes it?

Not likely. Supposedly, actor Daniel Craig is really keen on Boyle directing. For now, the blog suspects Eon boss Barbara Broccoli will move heaven and earth to keep him happy.

She’s repeatedly expressed her admiration for Craig. If Hodge delivered 110 pages of chicken tracks as a script, sure it’d be rejected. But if the Boyle-backed story is even remotely acceptable, it will get approved and off we go. At least, that’s the blog’s guess.

How does the pace of Bond 25 development compare with recent 007 films?

It’s lagging.

Bond 23 (Skyfall) was suspended because of MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy. In January 2011, there was an announcement the movie was back on, finally confirming Mendes’ involvement. Principal photography started in November 2011.

Bond 24 (SPECTRE) had a first draft script submitted in March 2014. Principal photography originally was slated to begin in October 2014, but was pushed back to December 2014.

At this point, Hodge is still writing his first draft. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had worked on a Bond 25 script for the better part of a year, but that’s been put aside for the Boyle-backed Hodge script.

Also, at the start of 2011 and 2014, it was known what studio (Sony Pictures) would be distributing Skyfall and SPECTRE respectively. No announcement has been made concerningt what what/which studio(s) will be distributing Bond 25.