RE-POST: Why Mendes shouldn’t direct Bond 25

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A year ago, a Sam Mendes film project went up in smoke. That got Bond fans talking whether he might return to direct Bond 25. Then, Mendes was attached to a Disney live-action adaption of Pinocchio.

But now, Mendes is no longer attached to that project. So, again, there’s talk such as THIS STORY in the Express) wondering whether Mendes might direct Bond 25 after all.

Originally the blog was going to ignore it. But, just in case, what follows is the text of a November 2016 post. All points still apply.

A major non-007 Sam Mendes project, a movie adaptation of The Voyeur’s Hotel, has evaporated, according to the Deadline: Hollywood website. That’s because of a documentary coming out concerning the person who is the the same subject as the non-fiction book.

That has gotten some James Bond fans wondering if Mendes could be available to direct Bond 25 (whenever it gets made) after helming Skyfall and SPECTRE.

To quote a retired comic, “Oh, I hope not.” Here are some reasons why.

He’s never sounded enthusiastic about directing a third Bond film: In July 2015, he told the BBC that, “I don’t think I could go down that road again. You do have to put everything else on hold.”

In May 2016, according to a story by The Associated Press, he said: “I’m a storyteller. And at the end of the day, I want to make stories with new characters.”

(That AP link has been broken. However, here’s a Deadline: Hollywood story about the same event with the same quote.)

Directing a Bond film is a big undertaking. If he has even the slightest doubt (and it sounds he has big doubts), he shouldn’t attempt it.

Enough with the homages: Skyfall had homages to past Bond films, including bringing back the Goldfinger version of the Aston Martin DB5.

That continued with SPECTRE. The DB5, despite being blown to smithereens in Skyfall, is miraculously put back together in SPECTRE. A fight between Bond (Daniel Craig) and Hinx (Dave Bautista) seemed modeled after a similar scene in From Russia With Love. The Independent published a story listing other homages.

Mendes can’t help himself. The next movie, when ever it may come out, needs a break from homages.

No more boasting:  In an April 2014 interview on The Charlie Rose Show, Mendes said he cast all the major supporting characters, including Tanner.

Problem: Tanner was played by Rory Kinnear, who first portrayed the character in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, a film Mendes had nothing to do with.

Mendes also claimed that in Skyfall “for the first time characters were allowed to age.” Problem: He’s wrong, it happened a number of times in Bond films.

Enough already.

If Mendes comes back, that means Thomas Newman comes back as composer: Newman is Mendes’ guy. Fans have mixed opinions about Newman’s work on Skyfall. He did get an Oscar nomination but didn’t win.

However, with SPECTRE, it was clear that Newman had run out of ideas. He recycled a number of Skyfall music bits in SPECTRE. That’s true not just of the compositions, but the sound and orchestration.

John Barry used the 007 theme in five Bond films (From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker). But it had different arrangements and orchestration each time. The repeated music in SPECTRE sounds the same as it did in Skyfall.

What’s more, based on his other work, it’s clear that smaller-scale dramas (such as Bridge of Spies) are more in Newman’s wheelhouse. He’s a talented composer with such films. Bond films just aren’t his strength.

Let someone else have a try on Bond 25. But that probably won’t happen if Mendes is back as director.

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Caveat Emptor: Tabloid claims to have reason Craig is back

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

The blog read this so you don’t have to.

Rupert Murdoch’s Sun tabloid claimed on Saturday night to know why Daniel Craig is coming back for Bond 25 — because director Sam Mendes isn’t.

“The U-turn came shortly after Sam quit the franchise,” according to the tabloid.

“And now I can reveal creative differences threatened to ruin their friendship during filming of 2015 outing Spectre,” the story says. “My sources tell me that as tensions built up, the atmosphere on set got chilly. And they claim Daniel will be delighted that Sam is no longer in the director’s chair.”

The only official Bond 25 announcement was that the movie is being written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and will have a U.S. release date of November 2019. There’s been no word about cast, distributor or crew.

The New York Times reported last month that Craig is coming back for Bond 25. The Deadline: Hollywood website said last month there are three Bond 25 director finalists, none of them Mendes.

Nolan tells Playboy he’s still interested in 007

Christopher Nolan

Playboy, in its July/August issue has an interview with director Christopher Nolan. In what is almost an aside, the filmmaker says he’s still interested in James Bond.

The full interview, at least at the moment, isn’t available on Playboy’s website. ACCORDING TO ADWEEK, the interview “will post online in a few weeks.”

However, A VERY SMALL PORTION of the interview has shown up via a posting on one of the message board of the MI6 James Bond website.

The main takeaway is that Nolan says he, indeed, has talked with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions at some point in the past. No specifics were offered.

“I’ve spoken to the producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson over the years,” Nolan told Playboy. “I deeply love the character, and I’m always excited to see what they do with it.”

At the same time, Nolan says the 007 film franchise would have to be on shaky ground for him to become involved. The franchise would “need renivention.”

“And they’re getting along very well,” Nolan said.

Some of the the director’s films — including The Dark Knight and Inception — contain homages to 007 movies. Meanwhile, the two Sam Mendes-directed Bond films, Skyfall and SPECTRE, contain influences of Nolan’s three Batman movies.

Nolan’s newest film, Dunkirk, a World War II drama, is coming out later this month.

A sign Mendes (hopefully) won’t direct Bond 25

Sam Mendes

Director Sam Mendes is in talks to direct a live-action version of Pinocchio, the Deadline: Hollywood website reported.

An excerpt:

EXCLUSIVE: Sam Mendes is in early talks to direct Disney’s live-action Pinocchio. The move would push forward yet another live-action reboot of the old tried and true animated classic for the studio.

Walt Disney Co. relies on its Marvel Studios and Lucastfilm Ltd. units much of its movie output. Outside of those brands, Disney has been investing in live-action versions of its classic cartoons.

Mendes has directed the last two Bond films, Skyfall and SPECTRE. This blog has argued that having Mendes back for a third 007 effort would not be a good idea.

That’s because, in the blog’s view, another examination of Bond’s past would be akin to a proctology exam.

Anyway, we’ll see.

 

Bond 25: Is Broccoli about to double down?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

If the New York Post is to be believed, Daniel Craig is ever so close to committing to coming back for a fifth James Bond movie.

What’s more, if true, it’s a sign that Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is doubling down on the current direction of the long-running 007 film series.

If there’s one constant in the world, it’s Broccoli’s admiration for Craig, 49, the first film Bond she actually selected.

“Daniel Craig is Bond, forever, as far as I’m concerned,” Broccoli told the Huffington Post in 2015.

Don’t you have to replace him one day? ““I’m in denial,” Broccoli told the HuffPo at the time. “I don’t want to think about that day.”

The Craig era (2006 to present) has added journeys of self discovery to the 007 proceedings.

Bond finds, and loses, his one true love. Bond seeks revenge for losing his one true love. Bond explores his roots, going to his ancestral home. Bond explores his roots some more, finding his arch enemy, “the author of all your pain,” was his foster brother. (Sort of like Sherlock Holmes finding out Professor Moriarty was his foster brother.)

But, assuming Craig is back, that’s not the only sign of full steam ahead.

Last month, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported last month that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were retained to come up with a Bond 25 story. While that hasn’t been confirmed, Bamigboye has a record of 007 scoops since 2011 being proven correct.

One of those scoops came in the summer of 2014 that Purvis and Wade were summoned back to the 007 fold to rewrite John Logan’s work for SPECTRE. And that story was proven to be 100 percent correct.

Eon never commented until a December 2014 press release listing the movie’s writers. Sure enough, they included Purvis and Wade.

Purvis and Wade have worked on the last six Bond movies. Bringing them back is a sign that Broccoli isn’t looking for major changes as Bond 25 slowly gets into gear.

Having said all that, there is one wild card. Who does Broccoli get to direct the movie? A new director might want to shake things up or at least tweak things a bit.

Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall and SPECTRE, has said he’s done with Bond. Of course, he said that once before and came back.

The Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news website reported Tuesday that Mendes is in talks to develop “and potentially direct” My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, based on a graphic novel. So he potentially might not be available for Bond 25 regardless.

Still, at this point, aside from a long break (it doesn’t appear Bond 25 can come out before 2019), things aren’t changing that much.

Skyfall’s 5th anniversary: Brief return to Bondmania

Skyfall’s poster image

Five years ago, the James Bond film franchise reached a level — unadjusted, adjusted for inflation, or whatever measure you’d like — not achieved since the height of Bondmania in the 1960s.

That was Skyfall, the 50th anniversary 007 film. It was the first (and so far only) Bond film to reach and exceed the global $1 billion box office level.

Even taking into account ticket price inflation, the 2012 007 adventure is No. 3 in the U.S. in terms of number of tickets purchased. On that basis (or “bums in seats” as the British would say), Skyfall is  No. 3 in the U.S. market for Bond films, behind only Thunderball and Goldfinger.

Bringing the 23rd James Bond film to cinemas, however, was a more difficult undertaking than usual.

Beginnings

Initially, Eon Productions hired three writers: The team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as well as prestige film writer Peter Morgan. Morgan had been twice nominated for an Academy Award.

As it turned out, Morgan had deep doubts about the viability of the James Bond character, something he didn’t go public with until a 2010 interview. “I’m not sure it’s possible to do it,” Morgan said in 2010, after he had departed the project.

Still, Morgan’s main idea — the death of Judi Dench’s M — would be retained, even though the scribe received no screen credit.

But there was a bigger challenge. While the film was being developed, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the 007 franchise’s home studio, went into bankruptcy.

Delay

Eon Productions, on April 19, 2010, said Bond 23, as the yet-untitled film was known, had been indefinitely delayed.

MGM emerged from bankruptcy in December 2010. There was a cost, however. MGM, which had already shrunk from its glory days, was even smaller. It had no distribution operation of its own.

Skyfall teaser poster

Behind the scenes, things were happening. Eon was bringing director Sam Mendes on board. Initially, he was a “consultant” (for contract reasons). Eventually, Mendes got his preferred writer, John Logan, to rework the scripting that Purvis and Wade had performed.

Mendes also was granted his choice of composer, Thomas Newman. David Arnold’s streak of scoring five 007 films in a row was over. Roger Deakins, nominated for multiple Oscars and who had worked with Mendes before, came aboard as director of photography.

Revival

In January 2011, a short announcement was issued that Bond 23 was back on.

Mendes officially was now the director. Over the next several months, the casting of Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Berenice Marlohe leaked out, with Eon not confirming anything until a November 2011 press conference.

Even then, some specific character details remained unconfirmed. For example, Eon wouldn’t confirm that Whishaw was the new Q until July 2012, well after the actor had completed his work on the film.

Publicity surge

Regardless, Skyfall benefited from much hype. Being the 50th anniversary Bond film got the movie additional publicity.

What’s more, London hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics. A major part of the opening ceremonies was a Danny Boyle-directed sequence featuring Daniel Craig’s Bond and Queen Elizabeth supposedly parachuting to the festivities.

Mendes, a director of the auteur school, also imported his style into the movie itself. Various segments were intended to provide dramatic moments to the principal actors.

Among them: A shaky Craig/Bond seeking redemption; a theatrical entrance for Javier Bardem’s villain; a dramatic reading of a poem for Judi Dench’s M, who is under fire by U.K. politicians.

Behind the curtain

Not everything holds up to scrutiny if you think much about it.

–Bond deserted the service, apparently upset about being shot by fellow operative Naomie Harris, while MI6 doesn’t seem to mind that at all. This was based loosely on the You Only Live Twice novel, where Bond went missing because he had amnesia. That doesn’t appear to be the case in Skyfall.

–Bond has the Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5 in storage, all gadgets still operational. Purvis and Wade originally wrote it as the left-hand drive DB5 that Bond won in Casino Royale in a high-stakes poker game. But Mendes insisted it be the Goldfinger car.

–M blathers on. She’s fully aware — because Rory Kinnear’s Tanner told her — that Bardem’s Silva has escaped.  But that’s secondary to the poem, which gives Silva and his thugs time to arrive and shoot up the place.

Unqualified success

None of this mattered much with movie audiences.

Every time the Spy Commander saw the movie at a theater, the audience reacted positively when the DB5 was revealed.

Some British fans rave to this day how wonderful the M poem scene is. Yet, when you break the sequence down, the doomed MI6 chief got numerous people killed by Bardem’s thugs by keeping them around instead of letting them disperse.

For all the trouble, for all the script issues, Skyfall was an unqualified hit. The movie’s release was the biggest Bond event since Thunderball’s release in 1965.

Oscar wins

Skyfall also broke a long Oscars losing streak for the 007 film series. The movie won two Oscars (for best song and sound editing). Both Newman and Deakins had been nominated but didn’t win.

Barbara Broccoli

Normally, a studio or a production company would want to strike while the iron was hot.

Not so in this case. Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, in 2012 interviews, made clear she would not be hurried into the next 007 film adventure. There would be no quick attempt to follow up on Skyfall’s success.

At the same time, Mendes indicated he didn’t want to direct another Bond film. He relented and his hiring for the next Bond movie was announced in July 2013.

It’s possible a bit of hubris set in. You can imagine people saying something like this: “If this movie did $1 billion at the box office, the next 007 film will surely do $1.5 billion!” Or whatever. That’s human nature after all.

Instead, the next Bond outing would run into a new set of problems. Nevertheless, that should not distract from what Skyfall achieved (even for fans who didn’t enjoy the movie as much as others) five years ago.

John Wick 2 and Logan: Peckinpah for the 21st century

John Wick Chapter 2 poster

John Wick Chapter 2 poster

The name Sam Peckinpah (1925-1984) doesn’t come up much these days. But somewhere old Sam has to be amused that two films following in his footsteps are among the best reviewed movies of 2017.

Those movies would be John Wick Chapter 2 (with a 90 percent fresh rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website) and Logan (at 93 percent).

Peckinpah, meanwhile, became known mostly for film violence in movies such as The Wild Bunch and The Getaway. Monty Python in the 1970s did a Peckinpah parody titled “Salad Days,” where a party is the English countrywide becomes an orgy of blood and severed limbs.

Peckinpah was more than that, of course. One of his earliest films, Ride the High Country, is a mix of ode to classic Westerns with key updates in the movie’s middle section. The 1962 film also lacks the kind of violence he’d be known for later.

There’s an edge to Peckinpah’s work. In a 1956 episode of Gunsmoke scripted (but not directed) by Peckinpah titled The Guitar, citizens of Dodge City manage to lynch two villainous types. But there’s nothing Matt Dillon (James Arness) can do about it. It’s also strongly implied his assistant Chester (Dennis Weaver) was in on it.

Hugh Jackman in Logan's poster

Hugh Jackman in Logan’s poster

Also, there are a few of James Bond-related things related to Peckinpah.

Tomorrow Never Dies was directed by Roger Spottiswoode, who had an “editorial consultant” credit on Peckinpah’s The Getaway and was an editor on the director’s Straw Dogs and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.

Spottiswoode favored a slow motion technique similar to Peckinpah’s in Tomorrow Never Dies. Years later, the climax of the Sam Mendes-directed Skyfall was compared by some to Straw Dogs.

Anyway, Peckinpah’s name tends to be overshadowed by classic director such as John Ford and Howard Hawks as well as directors who started their career later, such as Steven Spielberg.

Still, in 2017, John Wick Chapter 2 and Logan seem to dip deep into Peckinpah techniques and themes.

In the two R-rated movies, the title characters kill dozens of people in messy ways. John Wick’s violence is a bit more stylized, akin to Peckinpah’s work. Both feature characters who are drawn into their situations reluctantly but don’t back down, not unlike Peckinpah’s Steve Judd (Joel McCrea) in Ride The High Country.

This isn’t to say the similarities are intentional. Logan cites a classic Western (and it’s about as subtle as a heart attack) not directed by Peckinpah (don’t click if you’re spoiler adverse).

Nevertheless, Peckinpah enthusiasts may find themselves amused if they sample either movie.