SPECTRE: Welcome to the new MI6

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Minor spoilers in this post.

By Nicolás Suszczyk, guest writer

The countdown has already begun for the release of the 24th James Bond film, SPECTRE, on Nov. 6.

The movie is directed by Sam Mendes, who helmed the previous 007 film Skyfall, whose story (apparently) completed the James Bond reboot process bringing back the full MI6 team missing in the first two previous James Bond films starring Daniel Craig, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

Throughout the story, the 2012 film introduced the audiences to Miss Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris; gadget-master Q, played by Ben Whishaw; and a male M in the person of Ralph Fiennes’ Gareth Mallory.

By the end of  Skyfall, we had the MI6 team as we know it from the 1960s Bond films: M, Q and Moneypenny. The latter two were absent in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, while M was still portrayed by Judi Dench who was first cast in 1995’s GoldenEye, the first outing of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.

But is SPECTRE bringing back the old MI6? We’ll just get Bond flirting with Moneypenny, then M’s briefing followed by the Q lab scene? Probably not.

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes

In a videoblog last week, Mendes – who says he shaped Fiennes, Harris and Whishaw in their roles – pointed out that the trio “will risk their careers in order to help Bond,” a far cry from the old days where the service remained in Whitehall or Vauxhall Cross to brief Bond and wish him luck on the job.

In fact, since Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997, Judi Dench’s M has had more screen time, even going to the field to assist Bond (something that Robert Brown and Bernard Lee barely did) or being a substantial part of the plot in 1999’s The World is not Enough as well as Skyfall.

Introduced in Skyfall as the chariman of the security comittee, Gareth Mallory is set to replace the Dench’s M. A former lieutenant colonel of the British Army, he was captured by the IRA and after his retirement he turned into a bureaucrat.

Nevertheless, he gets involved  in a shootout very well as he proves during Silva’s attack during the inquiry audience, even after being wounded by one of the villain’s bullets.

In SPECTRE, M will battle political forces – in a fight where Andrew Scott’s Denbigh character probably is involved. What makes us think that Mallory won’t be going into the action this time?

More of this in Moneypenny's future in SPECTRE?

More of this in Moneypenny’s future in SPECTRE?

Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny sat at a desk of MI6 facilities in Egypt and Brazil in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, or posing as a HM Customs officer in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. But it looks as if Naomie Harris’s version will be involved in the action, as we saw during the inquiry scene in Skyfall. In February 2014, the British actress said she thinks her character “needs to be in the action,” even when she followed Bond’s advice that “field’s work is not for everyone” and took a desk job.

A big revelation may be provided by Ben Whishaw who plays Q.

Desmond Llewelyn’s Q is known for heading to the field to deliver Bond his gadgets as we could see in You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, Octopussy and most notably Licence to Kill, just to name a few examples. On the contrary, John Cleese’s Q in Die Anopther Day stuck on the MI6 underground lab proud of his invisible Aston Martin Vanquish.

Recently, German actor Detlef Bothe told the press that he’ll have a showdown with Ben Whishaw’s character on a cable car, which seems pretty logical after footage of Q entering a gondola in Austria has been released on the videoblog.

Ben Whishaw with Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Ben Whishaw with Daniel Craig in Skyfall

This probably leads to a new approach of the MI6 quartermaster, perhaps taking advantage of Whishaw’s age (34) that seems more suitable for fist-fights than the elderly Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese.

Twenty-six years ago, in Licence to Kill, the character of Q had the longest screening time appearance in the series when he decides to help Timothy Dalton’s 007 on his personal vendetta against drug lord Franz Sánchez in the field, not only as his armorer but as a field operative and integral part of the mission. He poses as Bond’s chauffeur at Isthmus City and helps the agent and the CIA’s Pam Bouvier to sneak into the Wavekrest vessel.

It’s likely that Whishaw’s Q will have a similar part in SPECTRE while going even one step further – action scenes. According to Empire Magazine, 007 visits Austria following the lead of one Dr. Madeleine Swann, Léa Seydoux character, apparently a psychiatrist or therapist working on a clinic in the Austrian Alps.

If Q is going to the clinic to assist 007 or take part into the mission, is he probably doing the same than Agent Campbell in the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Maybe he won’t face the same fate than the “sportsman” agent, who was hanged upside down by Blofeld in his Piz Gloria clinic. With that in mind,  it wouldn’t be strange that Q would play some kind of aid on the field to James Bond.

However it is done, it’ll be interesting to see Mendes’ take on the new MI6 staff, classic but redefined and modernized.

 Nicolás Suszczyk is editor of The GoldenEye Dossier.

SPECTRE stills get broader release

SPECTRE LOGO

A couple of SPECTRE stills that were in Empire magazine’s feature story about the film have gotten broader distribution via the official 007 Twitter account.

One is a picture of Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx, the main henchman in the 24th James Bond film. The other is a photo of director Sam Mendes talking to actress Lea Seydoux.

Separately, the 007 Twitter account also took note of the birthday of star Daniel Craig using a photo taken during the production of Skyfall.

A few observations about SPECTRE

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No real spoilers but spoiler sensitive fans should stay away.

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film produced by Eon Productions, has been in production for more than two months. But there’s been a bit of publicity this week. So here are a few observations:

It may be time for some new talking points: Actress Lea Seydoux, in Empire magazine, desecribed her character in SPECTRE thusly: “She’s his equal, independent and strong and smart, and she doesn’t need him or wait for him to save her.”

In other words, Seydoux’s character is like, among others, Agent Triple-X (agent who was “Bond’s equal in every way” as director Lewis Gilbert described her in The Spy Who Loved Me), Holly Goodhead (CIA agent *and* a trained shuttle rocket pilot in Moonraker), Melina (revenge driven woman who’s deadly with a crossbow in For Your Eyes Only), Pam Bouvier (CIA agent and pilot in Licence to Kill), Wai Lin (Chinese agent in Tomorrow Never Dies), Jinx (NSA agent in Tomorrow Never Dies) and Camille (another secret agent in Quantum of Solace).

Thus, the notion that a woman character is Bond’s equal isn’t unique or even unusual in the 21st century. It might be time to retire that talking point.

“It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is”: Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli told Empire that only “a very old version” of SPECTRE’s script leaked out because of the Sony hacks.

That depends on what you mean by “very old.” To the lay person, a very old script might be the first draft that John Logan turned in around March of 2014. Or it might be a draft before veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned in the summer of 2014 to rewrite Logan’s work.

The Gawker website IN A DEC. 12 POST (warning: spoilers), described a draft that existed after Logan’s story had been revised as well as memos from studio executives suggesting changes and that rewriting was happening in November, while filming began on Dec. 8.

On the other hand, if you define “very old” as something other than the version the crew has right now (dialogue if often tweaked during shooting), that would be accurate.

The Eon co-chief IN APRIL 2012 denied Ben Whishaw had been cast as Q in Skyfall and IN NOVEMBER 2012 that Logan had been hired to write two Bond movies. Both turned out to be true, though Logan’s scripting effort was judged to need rewriting.

The publicity machine is gradually revealing details: Broccoli acknowledged the title of SPECTRE refers to the organization featured in early Bond movies, but this is a new take. Normally, that’d rate a “duh,” but nobody wanted to say that much when the title was revealed in December.

Director Sam Mendes, in a video released by the official 007 website gave a bit of information about the movie. He even said that SPECTRE has more information about Bond’s childhood. Meanwhile, Whishaw’s Q was seen out in the field. Just like Desmond Llewelyn’s Q in Licence to Kill? That remains to be seen.

UPDATE (Feb. 28): Adding a question to the mix.

What was the story when Sam Mendes signed on to direct SPECTRE? Sam Mendes, in a video released by 007.com this week, says the reason he opted to direct a second 007 film, or any film, has “all to do about the story.”

But what story? Mendes’s signing as SPECTRE director was announced in JULY 2013. At that point, there even wasn’t a first draft script. John Logan didn’t deliver one until early 2014.

There had to be some kind of treatment, or detailed outline. The announcement also said the movie (then just called Bond 24) had a release date. We know through the reporting of Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail and the Sony hacking that Logan’s story was found insufficient and that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned back in the summer of 2014 to revamp the script and it greatly changed.

Mendes spoke in a promotional video intended to sell the movie. But it would be interesting the next time an entertainment journalist gets an interview to pursue questions like these: What was appealing about that initial story? Are those elements still there? Was the scripting process tougher for SPECTRE compared with Skyfall?

Mendes says SPECTRE ‘entirely driven by Bond’

No real spoilers the extremely spoiler adverse should just stop now.

Director Sam Mendes has made his first video for SPECTRE. In it, he says the 24th 007 film is “entirely driven by Bond.”

“He is on a mission from the very beginning,” Mendes says of 007, played in the movie by Daniel Craig. “He is on the hunt, on the trail, of somebody. You don’t know why, you don’t know what he’s doing there.”

Mendes also said he “initiated” Ralph Fiennes’ M, Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw’s Q in Skyfall and he came back for a second 007 go-round to develop the next stage of their stories. As for Bond, the director says, the movie concerns whether he wants to continue the life he’s chosen for himself “or not.”

The 89-second video includes a small bit of a car chase being filmed in Rome and Whishaw’s Q out in the field. The video is embedded below.

UPDATE: Mendes also says around the 28-second mark that part of SPECTRE’s story involves Bond’s childhood.

Eon vs. Marvel: the sequel

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

In April 2013, we contrasted the corporate model of movie making, as done by Marvel Studios, with the family model, as embodied by Eon Productions, which produces James Bond movies.

Since then, the differences have only gotten sharper and more defined.

Marvel, owned by Walt Disney Co., has laid out a slate of movies for the rest of the decade. It’s a movie assembly line.

Eon, controlled by the heirs of Albert R. Broccoli, isn’t so machine like. After a big hit with 2012’s Skyfall, it delayed production of SPECTRE, its current production, to ensure the participation of director Sam Mendes.

As a result, we’ve updated and expanded that 2013 post. To read the new version, CLICK HERE. It’s archived at the new SPY COMMAND FEATURE INDEX.

That site is a place to find longer feature stories written by Bill Koenig, editor of The Spy Command, that originally appeared on a now-inactive website.

First behind-the-scenes SPECTRE video released

SPECTRE LOGO

The first behind-the-scenes video for SPECTRE has been posted, mostly showing the crew preparing to film an action sequence in Austria.

One of crew members commenting in the short video is associate producer Gregg Wilson, son of Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions. The younger Wilson has been working his way up the chain of command over the past decade. He had the title of assistant producer on 2008’s Quantum of Solace and was promoted to associate producer in Skyfall.

There are also brief comments by cast members Lea Seydoux and Dave Bautista. Star Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes are briefly seen.

The video is self explanatory and doesn’t have spoilers, except for those who don’t want to see anything before the movie comes out. If you fall in that category, don’t view the video below.

Kingsman: Is the spy pendulum swinging back?

kingsman logo

Kingsman: The Secret Service, the next film up in “The Year of the Spy,” makes its U.S. debut on Feb. 13. Its importance, though, may extend beyond its opening weekend.

The movie, directed by Matthew Vaughn, may be a sign whether the pendulum of spy movies is starting to swing back from the grim and gritty that has dominated the 21st century.

Vaughn and his collaborators certainly haven’t been shy about playing up that angle. The return of the “fun” spy movie was emphasized last July at the massive San Diego comic book convention.

Vaughn’s film is based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. At San Diego, Millar was quoted by the Screen Rant website as saying, “James Bond cries in the shower now in these movies but [Kingsman star Colin Firth] gets to do cool stuff – like firing these gadgets and all this stuff. I think he got the best gig in the end.”

Millar referred to a scene in Casino Royale, Eon Productions’ first entry in the “grim and gritty” genre, in which the 007 series started over. Bond (Daniel Craig) doesn’t actually cry in the shower. But he comforts a sobbing Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) who is overcome after watching Bond in action. Regardless, the scene was an example of how Casino Royale was from the preceding 20 007 films made by Eon.

Casino, in turn, had been influenced by 2002’s The Bourne Identity. That came out in June 2002, a few months before Die Another Day, the 40th anniversary Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan. A second Bourne film, The Bourne Supremacy came out in 2004 while Eon was agonizing what to do next.

Bourne’s style — including faster paced and grimmer action sequences — weighed on the minds of executives at Eon and Sony Pictures, which began distributing Bond movies with Casino. Here’s how The New York Times described it IN AN OCTOBER 2005 STORY about Craig’s casting. The passage refers to Barbara Broccoli, Eon’s co-boss and cites executives who weren’t identified.

For both Ms. Broccoli and Sony, executives said, the model was Jason Bourne, the character Matt Damon successfully incarnated in two gritty spy movies for Universal Pictures, “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy.”

Casino turned out to be a big hit. For 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Eon doubled down on making its movies more Bourne like, including more rapid epiding and hiring Dan Bradley as second unit director. Bradley had worked on two Bourne films (The Bourne Supremacy and 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum).

Quantum roughly matched Casino’s box office. The next 007 entry, Skyfall, didn’t adhere so much to Bourne as it did to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, another dark series. Skyfall director Sam Mendes even acknowledged the influence.

No complaints at the box office. Skyfall reeled in $1.11 billion worldwide.

Still, trends don’t last forever. Even among fans, you’ll occasionally hear comments such as Skyfall “is like watching the same funeral over and over.”

So enter Kingsman. Its trailer openly mocks grim and gritty spy movies. Colin Firth at one point says current spy movies are too serious for his taste.

We’ll see how Kingsman performs with movie goers. It’s rated R — mostly because of its violence. That normally holds down ticket sales. Also, the comic book on which it’s based isn’t that well known among the general public.

Kingsman probably has more humor than The Man From U.N.C.L.E., although Henry Cavill, the star of that film, has said that movie also has a humorous element. U.N.C.L.E. won’t be out until mid-August.
SPECTRE LOGO

As for SPECTRE, the Bond film currently in production, it’s hard to tell. Sam Mendes is back as director and he’s not exactly hailed as a master of humor.

On the other hand, if you read between the lines of a spoiler-laden DEC. 12 GAWKER STORY, the movie appears to be attempting to be more like a “classic” Bond film while retaining Daniel Craig seriousness. The Gawker story was based on a draft SPECTRE script that surfaced because of the hacking at Sony.

Meanwhile, it’s too early to write off grim and gritty. Matt Damon is planning to do a fourth Bourne film that is supposed to be released in 2016.

UPDATE (Feb. 11) — Kingsman is forecast to finish a distant second to Fifty Shades of Grey this weekend, according to DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD.

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