Bond 25 questions: Killing time until November edition

New (well, tweaked) No Time to Die character poster

Fans of the James Bond films have some time to kill before November. The blog has some questions.

What’s up with Bond’s new gun in a revised character poster for No Time to Time?

Previously, a series of character posters for the 25th James Bond film were released. One, naturally, featured star Daniel Craig.

A revised version went out this week. It now says “November” at the bottom instead of “April 2020,” reflecting the delay in release date.

But something else changed. The gun Craig is holding looks different, perhaps now equipped with a silencer or maybe simply a different firearm.

I’m not sure what caused the change. The MI6 James Bond website noticed the alteration, with a side-by-side comparison in THIS TWEET.

What happens to all the publicity we were going to get?

Well, Bond fans are getting some of it now. Publications such as GQ and Total Film came out with No Time to Die articles. The schedule was based on an April release of the movie. But last week’s decision to shift the movie to November came too late for the publications to change their plans.

The GQ piece was similar to Craig profiles of yesteryear (including 26 references to the f-word), how he initially hesitated to play Bond, etc.. We’re also told how “Craig introduced time to the Bond movies… Bond ages.”

This isn’t a new angle. Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall boasted in 2014 that in that film “for the first time characters were allowed to age.”

It wasn’t true then. Previous Bond films had reference to aging. Sean Connery told True magazine in 1971 that he was playing Bond older in Diamonds Are Forever than his earlier 007 films. Also, aging was part of Roger Moore’s 1980s Bond films.

Still, you could argue that the aging theme was much more pronounced in Skyfall (with its often-repeated “the old ways are the best” line). Well, whatever works for an article.

Is there a bright side to this delay?

For that, I’ll defer to the Haphazard Stuff channel on YouTube. He found 13 bright spots. One involves the infectious laugh of former No Time to Die director Danny Boyle. You can view Haphazard Stuff’s take below.

Bond 25 questions: The potpourri edition

New No Time to Die poster

We’ve had a few No Time to Die developments recently. Naturally, the blog has a couple of questions.

Will the gunbarrel be at the beginning?

Hard to say, but this week’s Cary Fukunaga video suggests it’s a strong possibility.

“The white dots on the screen…the adrenaline starts pumping,” Fukunaga’s voiceover says, accompanying the Daniel Craig gunbarrel from SPECTRE. “Settle in and get ready for a ride.”

That sounds like a description of the first 20 Bond films when the gunbarrel was at the start of the movie. Things got changed up with 2006’s Casino Royale, which began a new, rebooted timeline. The gunbarrel appeared at the end of the pre-titles sequence.

Then, for Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, the gunbarrel appeared at the end of the film. There was some pushback from fans. That generated pushback to the pushback where other fans questioned how dare fans question the artistry of the films. The comments section of this 2012 post demonstrates both sides of the argument.

The gunbarrel was back at the start of SPECTRE, although it wasn’t the best executed, including having Daniel Craig swinging his arm wildly showing he’s holding a gun.

In any case, Fukunaga at least sounds more appreciative of the gunbarrel logo than his Bond directing predecessor Sam Mendes. We’ll see.

Why didn’t Scott Z. Burns get a script credit?

Supposedly, the ace Hollywood “script doctor” in early 2019 was on his way to save No Time to Die’s script. Certainly, The Playlist website made it sound that way in a February 2019 story.

To give credit where credit is due, The Playlist was the first to report Burns participating in the writing of the film. Saving the script? Not so much. Burns ended up not getting a credit while Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, director Fukunaga and scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge did.

Ultimately, script credits are decided by the Writers Guild of America. The rules are a bit complex but in general favor the early writers over those who rewrite. There is also a cap on the number of credits available. In this case, Burns had no seat when the WGA musical chairs of writing credits ended.

A No Time to Die reality check

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Adapted, updated and expanded from previous blog posts.

Ben Whishaw, who has played Q for three James Bond films, has told Collider.com that No Time to Die will be a “summing up” of Daniel Craig’s 007 films.

There has been some fan discussion of how the Craig films will now be this five-film epic, something the series had never attempted. Under this idea, No Time to Die will conclude five Bond films, similar to how Avengers: Endgame was the conclusion of more than 20 Marvel Studios movies.

No Time to Die may be presented that way. But this is just a reminder that Craig’s tenure was never planned this way unlike Marvel.

Let’s go back some years.

Sam Mendes said Skyfall “didn’t connect” to Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace: At a November 2011 press conference, Mendes was asked whether Skyfall was related to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

“It’s its own story,” the Skyfall director said of Skyfall. “It doesn’t connect with the last two movies.”

After the fact, things changed.

The filmmakers once told us SPECTRE was passe: Here’s a quote from Barbara Broccoli in a 2012 interview with CRAVE ONLINE:

Barbara Broccoli: I mean, we’ve talked about Blofeld over the years. The thing is Blofeld was fantastic for the time but I think it’s about creating characters that are, villains that are more appropriate for the contemporary world. It’s more exciting for us to create somebody new. (emphasis added)

The filmmakers told us Quantum was better than SPECTRE: Here’s a summary by the JAMES BOND INTERNATIONAL FAN CLUB of an article that originally appeared in SPX magazine.

Interestingly, Wilson and Broccoli told SFX that they have not abandoned the Quantum organisation, but also confirmed that it is not used in ‘Skyfall’. Wilson also revealed that they have the rights to bring back Blofeld and SPECTRE. ‘We believe we can use them. They’re a little dated at the moment. We went for the Quantum organisation, which was more business oriented, trying to corner the market on scarce resources, rather than a criminal organisation that did blackmail and bank robberies
’.

But Wilson’s co-producer Barbara Broccoli added, cautiously, that they needed a little more time to pass before they could go back to ‘extortion and blackmail! The Quantunm organisation does seem far more realistic. (emphasis added)

In 2006’s Casino Royale, the mysterious organization that Bond battled didn’t have a name. In Quantum of Solace, we found out it was called Quantum. In SPECTRE, we learned there was a tie between Quantum and SPECTRE via Mr. White.

The 2013 settlement with the Kevin McClory estate that gave Eon Productions the ability to use SPECTRE was an opportunity. That changed everything,

With SPECTRE, we got a “retcon” (retroactive change in continuity).

I saw a tweet from a fan who wondered whether No Time to Die was SPECTRE Part II. Essentially, many fans are buying into the idea (seemingly voiced by Whishaw in his Collider interview) that No Time to Die is Casino Royale Part V.

None of this means No Time to Die won’t be an entertaining James Bond. Still, let’s not get carried away.

Bond 25 questions: The composer edition (again? maybe?)

No Time to Die teaser poster

On All Saints’ Day 2019, the James Bond Radio podcast raised the question whether Dan Romer may not score No Time to Die after all.

On posts on Twitter and Facebook, the fan site said it heard from a source that Romer has left the 25th James Bond film. Romer has worked with No Time to Die director Cary Fukunaga on other projects.

At this point, there’s no way to know. In the James Bond Radio post on Facebook, there was this caveat: “Our source does seem credible, but of course you never know for sure until we get an official word.”

With all that in mind, the blog has some questions:

Is Romer really gone?

There’s no way to know. Eon Productions isn’t likely to say until a replacement is lined up.

Is this sort of thing unusual?

Not really. Bernard Herrmann scored a number of films for producer-director Alfred Hitchcock. But Herrmnn delivered a score for Torn Curtain (1966). Hitchcock hated it and that was the end of the long collaboration between director and composer.

More recently, Warner Bros. superhero film Justice League (2017) started out with a score by Junkie XL. But the powers that be rejected it and Danny Elfman came in Elfman included his own theme for the 1989 Batman movie as well as John Williams’ theme for the 1978 Superman movie.

If (repeat IF) Romer is gone, who might replace him?

A lot of Bond fans would love to have five-time Bond film composer David Arnold back. Arnold hasn’t scored a Bond film since 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Arnold has a following among Bond fans, many of whom have been wishing he’d return. Director Sam Mendes insisted on Thomas Newman to compose the scores for Skyfall and SPECTRE. Then, Romer was the man for No Time to Die, presumably because he worked with Fukunaga before.

Another fan favorite is composer Michael Giacchino, who has worked in John Barry-style flourishes in a number of scores including The Incredibles (2004) and other films. His credits include one Mission: Impossible movie and a number of Marvel Studios films.

Any other thoughts?

Not really. The James Bond Radio social media posts quickly spread among fans. It remains to be seen what’s really happening. That’s not a criticism of James Bond Radio. We just don’t know what’s happening.

Ready or not, the DB5 reports for service again

A replica Aston Martin DB5 rolls off the truck in preparation for Bond 25 filming

Italian news outlet Sassilive had a story about Bond 25 getting ready for filming in Matera, Italy. The article included a photo gallery, including a picture (see above) of an Aston Martin DB5 coming off a truck.

So, ready for not, the DB5 is back. Again.

Most people won’t care that the car (actually one of several) is an expensive replica of the DB5. Carbon fiber body. BMW engine. New suspension components that were never included in the DB5s that Aston Martin made in the 1960s.

Regardless, Eon Productions is turning to one the most iconic images of its James Bond film series. The question is whether this may be one time too many.

The original DB5 was introduced in Goldfinger and made a return in Thunderball. While other Aston models showed up in various Bond films, the DB5 wasn’t seen again in a 007 outing until 1995’s GoldenEye.

In that film, the DB5 appeared to be Bond’s personal car. Ditto for 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. A left-handed drive version then appeared in 2006’s Casino Royale, something he won in a card game.

But the DB5 — an original right-hand drive version — was back in 2012’s Skyfall. This time, director Sam Mendes made sure everyone knew it was (or at least it was supposed to be) the original Goldfinger car. And, indeed, every time I saw the film in the theater, it got a rise out of the audience.

The DB5 was blown up in Skyfall, a somewhat emotional moment. But all was forgotten in 2015’s SPECTRE when Q (improbably) had it rebuilt. And Daniel Craig’s Bond appeared to drive off into the sunset at the end of the movie.

Since then, we’ve gotten expensive Lego DB5s and even more expensive replica DB5s with replica gadgets that Aston Martin is selling for more than $3 million each. That’s a lot of money, especially they’re not legal to drive in actual traffic.

Regardless, the DB5 (at least a faux version) is back for Bond 25. Daniel Craig told Prince Charles the secrets of the Bond 25 DB5s when the prince visited Pinewood Studios in June. Now the replica DB5 will soon be at work when Bond 25 begins filming in Italy in a few weeks.

I never really thought I’d say this, but I’m getting tired of the DB5.

Yes, people collect vintage cars. But does it really make sense for Bond to drive what’s supposed to be a 55-year-old (or so) car on a regular basis?

Yes, the DB5 is an iconic Bond car — or at least it was. But is it getting used too much?

Haphazard Stuff, which does very amusing, detailed videos, recently did a long look at Bond 25. He examined the DB5 issue, starting at the 33:36 mark. You can see the video below. (If I did this correctly, it’ll go to the DB5 discussion when you click.) Anyway, some food for thought.

Bond 25 questions: The half-time edition

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

Principal photography on Bond 25 has been underway for a little over three months. That’s about the halfway point.

So now’s a good time as any for some more Bond 25 questions.

“Are we there yet?! Are we there yet?!”

No kids, we’re only about halfway done.

While it’s only been a little over three months, it has seemed longer.

There are been multiple tabloid stories about how the movie is either doomed or struggling or whatever.

There has also been intense fan debate after the Mail on Sunday said July 13 that Lashana Lynch’s character would get the 007 code number after James Bond (Daniel Craig) retired at the end of 2015’s SPECTRE. That has resulted in an exhaustive, soul-sucking time.

In years past, the filming of a Bond movie was enjoyable for fans. This time out? Not so much.

What happened to the title?

Your guess is as good as the blog’s. This weekend, there were some unconfirmed possibilities courtesy of a tweet by James Bond Brasil’s Marcos Kontze. But nothing solid yet. (If you’re spoiler adverse, don’t click on that link; or if you do don’t complain here.)

What’s up next?

Apparently filming will shift to Italy this month. That’s been reported before and local Italian outlets have written about it previously.

What about the trailer?

Who knows? There was a fan theory that a Bond 25 teaser trailer would be attached to Hobbs & Shaw (released by Universal, which is handling international distribution for Bond 25)

That didn’t happen. This weekend saw a trailer for Sam Mendes’s new movie, 1917, a World War I drama. There apparently was a trailer for Christopher Nolan’s next movie (but it wasn’t available online).

The Nolan film will be released in July 2020, or more than three months after Bond 25. But no trailer for Bond 25 yet.

Family model (Eon) vs. corporate model (Marvel): Update

Avengers: Endgame poster

Chalk up one for the corporate side.

After less than two weeks, Avengers: Endgame has generated almost $2.2 billion in worldwide box office.

What’s more, the mammoth production wraps up story lines from more than 20 Marvel Studios movies going back to 2008.

The inter-connected extended fictional universe has affected how films — at least “popcorn,” escapist movies — are made.

Warner Bros., the studio that’s home to DC Comics characters, has tried to follow Marvel’s path. It has had mixed results.

Some were big successes (Wonder Woman, Aquaman). Others, such as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, had decent box office but didn’t match the success of Marvel’s four Avengers films.

Meanwhile, in Jamaica, the family-led Bond 25 began filming late last month. The franchise is coming off a hiatus. In the words of lead actor Daniel Craig in 2016 at an event sponsored by The New Yorker, “(E)verybody’s just a bit tired.”

By the time the untitled movie debuts in April 2020, more than four years will have passed since the last 007 entry, SPECTRE.

The series has embraced inter-connectivity that Marvel has popularized. Skyfall originally was to have nothing to do with Quantum, the villainous organization in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. “It’s its own story,” Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a 2011 press conference. “It doesn’t connect with the last two movies.”

Never mind. When SPECTRE was made, that was “retconned” (retroactive change in continuity).

Quantum was now SPECTRE (after the Eon side got back the rights to the organization and its leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld in 2013). Silva (Skyfall’s villain played by Javier Bardem) became part of the conspiracy. The new Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) was now “the author of all your pain” for Daniel Craig’s 007.

Director Cary Fukunaga has said that Bond 25 will continue the character arc for Bond that began with Casino Royale. Lea Seydoux, who played Dr. Madeline Swann in SPECTRE, is back. So the inter-connectivity appears to be continuing.

As the blog has stated before, both the family and the corporate model can be successful. But both are different. As Marvel moves into a new era, we’ll see next spring how Eon has adapted.

Albert Finney dies at 82

Albert Finney (1936-2019)

British actor Albert Finney has died at 82, according to obituaries published by The Guardian and the BBC.

The actor had a long career, beginning in the 1950s and concluding with 2012’s Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film. He was nominated five times for an Oscar, including for his performances in 1963’s Tom Jones and 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express.

One of his early highlights was 1960’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, a “kitchen sink” drama from producer Harry Saltzman, who a year later co-founded Eon Productions with Albert R. Broccoli.

In Skyfall, Finney played Kincade, who the actor described as “an old retainer of James Bond’s family.”

Skyfall director Sam Mendes told The Huffington Post in 2012 there had been consideration of trying to cast Sean Connery, the original film Bond, in the part. ” So, it was a very brief flirtation with that thought, but it was never going to happen, because I thought it would distract,” Mendes told the website.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in a November 2011 story that Mendes surprised the Skyfall cast during a script reading with the news that Finney was joining them.

The story, however, had one key error: “Finney, who has been in remission from cancer of the prostate for several years, will play a Foreign Office mandarin with powers over the Secret Intelligence Service, described to me as a reasonably big role and full of class.” That would turn out to be Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes. Mallory takes over as the new M following the death of the Judi Dench M at the climax of the film.

Below is a brief video with Finney in costume talking about Skyfall.

007 questions before Bond 25 starts filming

So how do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25?

In less than two months, Bond 25 is scheduled to start filming in time for a Feb. 14, 2020 release. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

001: How do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25? Cary Fukunaga, the director of Bond 25, has said that Bond 25 will continue a “character arc” that began with 2006’s Casino Royale.

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, it appeared the Daniel Craig 007 had retired as an Double-O agent. So how do you get from there to a new adventure?

002: How do you reconcile the various Bond 25 scripts? The current effort began with a treatment (i.e. detailed outline) by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Then, that was put off to the side because director Danny Boyle and his writer John Hodge pitched an idea that supposedly was great. Then, a few months later, Eon thought better and Boyle and Hodge walked away.

There were many stories published during 2018 (See the blog’s sister site, The Bond 25 Timeline for details).

But Eon owns all those ideas. Will the final script reflect some or all of those ideas? In some cases, ideas from submitted scripts end up in Bond films years later. Also, it was reported last week that Paul Haggis (involved with writing Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) had worked on Bond 25’s script.

We’ll see how this plays out for Bond 25.

003: How much leeway does director Fukunaga have for Bond 25? Eon Productions gave Sam Mendes a lot of leeway for Skyfall and SPECTRE, including granting Mendes his choice of composer (Thomas Newman in both movies) and director of photography (Roger Deakins in Skyfall). Does Fukunaga get that kind of love from Eon for Bond 25?

004: If the answer to 003 is not so much, does David Arnold get a chance to return to score Bond 25? Arnold, composer of five 007 scores (behind only John Barry’s 11) has been away for more than a decade. Much of that absence stemmed from Mendes’ relation with Newman. Does Arnold get a chance to come back?

005: Does Bond 25’s budget grow, stay the same, or shrink from SPECTRE’s? During the Sony hacks (hacked emails and other documents), it came out that SPECTRE’s budget was on pace to go past $300 million. Supposedly, the budget was closer to $240 million (after factoring in all the product placement and Mexico tax credits). It’s always easier to spend more — as long as a studio is willing to cut checks.

006: How energized are Bond 25’s lead producer and star? Over the extended break, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has worked on “indie-style” small films while star Daniel Craig has worked on other projects. Meanwhile, Craig said back in 2016 that “everybody’s just a bit tired.” Is everybody rested up now?

007: Does Universal’s involvement with Bond 25 change things? Sony Pictures (through its Columbia Pictures brand) released the last four 007 films (2006-2015). Now, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures will handle U.S. distribution while Universal will handle international distribution. Does Universal change things? There’s no way to tell for now.

Embrace LĂ©a Seydoux, look forward to Madeleine Swann

Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux at the end of SPECTRE.

By Gert Waterink, Guest Writer

When Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga told the Daily Mail this week that French actress LĂ©a Seydoux would reprise her role as Madeleine Swann, Bond fandom was instantly “menstruating” blood and fire.

I leave it to you to find this either preposterous or a sheer exaggeration. But let me first tell you that time is not treating SPECTRE nicely so far. (Look out for the big #JamesBondTOP2018 Poll to see exactly what has happened.)

Was it the SonyLeaks that immediately brand marked it as the worst Bond-film “evva”? Was it Christoph Waltz’ performance as Oberhauser/Blofeld that left Bond fans cold and bitter? Or, and that I can understand, was the writing not good enough?

Madeleine Swann: Better than we thought?
All I saw was an actress that played a wonderful blond elegant psychiatrist, who had the bad luck to be born out of a father whose sole career was crime (remember Tracy’s father in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?). In my honest opinion LĂ©a Seydoux did magnificent acting work with the script she was given.

She showed off an Honey Ryder-esque vulnerability in the third part of the film that was credible enough to me. Her anger at the start of the film was absolutely delightful (Vesper Lynd could have learned a few lessons from her to that respect). And because of Bond’s complex background, it only made sense that, like Vesper, Bond and Madeleine fell in love.

The problem to me with regard to writing was only the rather sudden change from fierce, angry woman into a sexual passive object of desire that didn’t feel convincing. But that was mostly the case because of lackluster writing, not bad acting.

Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade simply wanted too many narrative twists and turns and character’s back stories to put in a film that should have been divided into two parts (it was Craig who eventually insisted on not doing that). The film also needed some more explanations and not leave certain important events and moments to the viewers imagination.

Let’s be old-fashioned, let’s be patient
Having sad all that, please let us trust LĂ©a’s acting capacities. They are exquisite and above all mesmerizing and convincing. We should not write off Madeleine Swann’s character that soon.

For all we know Danny Boyle’s departure resulted in some more firm brainstorming about the story as compared to the writing process of SPECTRE. Let’s not “Facebook” and “Twitter” LĂ©a/Madeleine to death.

There are luckily no “UniversalLeaks” this time around to strengthen all our presumptuous theories about why Madeleine Swann should not return.

Instead let’s ask ourselves how we can bring back Madeleine Swann in a wonderful way, both for short and longer screen times.

And perhaps it sounds a bit old-fashioned during this digital social media age, but for those people who can still be patient, let’s just wait and see.

If you still want to discuss the film like I do, do it in a positive-spirited, inspiring fashion. Because James Bond will return — and there are fresh new chances to make Bond 25 even better than Casino Royale and Skyfall.

Gert Waterink is the editor of the James Bond Nederland website.