Why Sam Mendes directing Bond 25 isn’t a good idea

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

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.”

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 won’t probably won’t happen if Mendes is back as director.

What is Wilson’s role in the 007 franchise?

Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson

Over the past year, a narrative has taken hold that it’s Barbara Broccoli who calls the shots for the James Bond franchise. Period. Full stop.

Perhaps the person most responsible for shaping that narrative is Sam Mendes, director of the past two 007 films, Skyfall and SPECTRE.

“It’s not the X Factor, it’s not the EU referendum, it’s not a public vote,” Mendes said in May at an event sponsored by The Telegraph, which ran a story about the director’s remarks. “Barbara Broccoli chooses who’s going to be the next Bond: end of story.”

The comments were picked up by the likes of Vanity Fair and the BBC, among others.

As a result, there’s the perception that Broccoli, 56, is the driving force of 007 land. Meanwhile, her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, 74, doesn’t get mentioned much, even though the half-siblings are supposed to be the co-bosses of Eon.

In December 2014, when it was announced SPECTRE would be the title of Bond 24, Broccoli was present with Mendes but Wilson wasn’t. However, when the production shifted to Mexico in early 2015, Wilson was involved in publicity.

This weekend, the tabloid Mirror ran a story saying Guy Ritchie was in talks with Eon to direct Bond 24. One element that caught the blog’s eye was how the Mirror said Ritchie supposedly was meeting with Wilson, rather than Broccoli. (Note: we slapped the Caveat Emptor label on it.)

It’s hard to tell how accurate, or significant, the Mirror story is. It’s simply interesting that Wilson is being depicted as a major decision maker after the way Mendes made it sound as if nobody’s opinion except Broccoli’s matters.

Of late, stories about the 007 franchise discuss Broccoli but don’t get around to Wilson.

Wilson, since the 1990s, have periodically complained about the grind of making James Bond movies. That’s something his step father, Albert R. Broccoli, never said publicly.

Wilson has spent longer than anybody else working on the 007 franchise, even co-founder Cubby Broccoli. If Wilson were to retire tomorrow, nobody could argue that he wasn’t a major figure in 007 movies.

Neither Wilson nor Barbara Broccoli revel in publicizing Bond movies the way Cubby Broccoli did. Eon is a very private outfit, not wanting to open the curtain very much on its operations.

Still, the Mirror story (whether it was accurate or not) was a reminder that Wilson is a big wheel in the 007 franchise. It would be interesting to know whether Mendes is indeed correct about Barbara Broccoli’s 007 status or if reality is more complicated.

About that SPECTRE budget

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

As Eon Productions decide what to do next with the 007 franchise, one issue is whether the series can sustain SPECTRE-sized budgets.

In early December 2014, director Sam Mendes joked that Pinewood Studios’ 007 Stage was, “The stage where budgets go to die.”

Not long after, the humor faded as the hacking at Sony Pictures revealed a memo by a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive saying the SPECTRE budget was heading well above $300 million, various outlets reported, including CNN Money. Efforts were underway to reduce the budget and gain, among other things, incentives from Mexico to help defray costs.

Before the movie came out in fall 2015, reports (citing studio representatives who weren’t identified) had the budget down to $240 million or so. Regardless, the movie was expensive, putting it in the neighborhood of comic book-based movies such as Marvel Studios’ two Avengers films and Warner Bros.’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

There were, no doubt, lots of reasons for the outlay. But two scenes spring to mind.

One was a Rome car chase, which cost 24 million British pounds (around $36 million at the time). Eon seemed rather proud of the spending, giving the Mail on Sunday  lots of access to describe how it was filmed.

The thing was, the chase was mostly plot exposition. During much of the chase, Bond (Daniel Craig) is on the phone to Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) asking her to check out the supposedly dead Franz Oberhauser. It wasn’t exactly in the class of 1968’s Bullitt or a more recent film such as 1998’s Ronin.

The other scene came near the end of Bond’s escape from a SPECTRE lair. The agent blows it up. In November 2015, after the movie’s U.S. release, the Bond team uploaded a YouTube video saying the explosion was a world’s record:

 

 

“Largest explosion in the history of movies,” a pleased Mendes says in the video.

Except, was it that dramatic a moment? Bond and Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) already had made their escape. Obviously, blowing up SPECTRE headquarters would require a big explosion. But did the extra cost of making it a world’s record actually add to the story? Was the extra spending an artistic choice or ego?

Just to remind everyone, this blog had a favorable review of SPECTRE. At the same time, in some respects SPECTRE indicates that Eon should at least review its spending.

Put another way, would SPECTRE have been harmed if, say, only 12 million pounds had been spent on the car chase? Would artistic integrity been compromised if the SPECTRE lair explosion not been a world’s record?

What’s more, the series on occasion has dialed back — most famously with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only which followed 1979’s Moonraker.

It’s going to be a long while before Bond 25 comes out. Consider this post food for thought.

 

Susanne Bier on Bond 25 director ‘shortlist,’ website says

Susanne Bier

Susanne Bier

Susanne Bier, who helmed the television miniseries The Night Manager, is among a “handful” of directors “making up producer Barbara Broccoli’s shortlist” for Bond 25, the RadioTimes website said.

The story cited “sources close to Bond producers Eon,” without being more specific.

Until now, Bond 25 speculation has centered on whether incumbent 007 actor Daniel Craig would return and, if not, who might succeed him. One of those actors is Tom Hiddleston, the star of The Night Manager.

The RadioTimes story is the first report concerning who might direct Bond 25. Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall and SPECTRE, said again over the weekend that he’s not coming back to the world of 007.

RadioTimes also spends much of its story evaluating whether Bier, 56, being considered would increase Hiddleston’s chances of getting the Bond role.

Here’s an excerpt:

If Bier gets the job it would make her the first woman ever to helm a James Bond movie – and would also vastly increase the chances of the already hotly-tipped Hiddleston getting the role of Bond thanks to the pair’s previous working relationship.

Bier directed Hiddleston in acclaimed espionage drama series The Night Manager, which aired earlier this year on BBC1, and has spoken of her huge admiration for the star.

At this stage, fans may want to exercise caution. RadioTimes doesn’t say just how many directors are being considered by Eon Productions co-boss Broccoli.

Also, for the moment, Bond 25 can’t get a release date until Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer selects a studio partner to co-finance and distribute the movie. MGM’s contract with Sony Pictures expired with SPECTRE and MGM doesn’t have the resources to release a film itself.

Our modest proposals for Bond 25 Part II

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Despite all the unknowns (leading man, distributor, script, etc.) about Bond 25, Eon Productions is getting plenty of advice about the cinema future of James Bond.

Variety, for example, suggested Kathryn Bigelow or Quentin Tarantino would be good candidates to succeed Sam Mendes as director.

We’ve already done this act once, so here’s our sequel:

Select an up-and-coming director to helm Bond 25: Over at Marvel Studios, executives have a knack for signing up-and-coming directors such as James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Joe and Anthony Russo (the past two Captain America movies) with good results.

Taking such an approach may: 1) Provide a fresh set of eyes on 007 movie making and 2) Help with the budget because you’re signing people before they reach peak earnings power.

Bond 25 after the Sam Mendes-directed SPECTRE and, yet again, homages to past films could use the former. Or, put another way: The DB5, again after it was blown up in Skyfall? Really? Daniel Craig has driven it more than Sean Connery ever did.

Sign your own version of Kevin Feige:  Kevin Feige runs the Marvel movie operation and he’s credited as producer of each Marvel-made film. By all accounts, he’s enthusiastic about his job and has never publicly complained about the stresses of making big movies.

Both Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-bosses of Eon Production, have interests in non-007 projects.

A Feige-like deputy could keep an eye on things while Broccoli and Wilson are involved with plays, non-007 films and the like. Such a person could perhaps have kept a closer eye on SPECTRE’s script development while Broccoli and Wilson were involved with The Silent Storm.

The key thing would be to hire a sufficiently talented individual who the Eon co-bosses could trust. Not necessarily an easy task, but one worth considering.

Develop a succession plan if you haven’t already: Michael G. Wilson, at 74, has already spent a majority of his life in Bondage, longer than anybody else associated with the franchise. Over the past 20 years, he has commented more than once about the strains of the job.

Only Wilson knows if he’s up for doing it yet again for Bond 25. But whether it’s Bond 25, 26, 27, etc., nobody lives forever.

Sam Mendes said at a public appearance  that Barbara Broccoli alone will select the next actor to play James Bond. If he’s correct, perhaps there already has been some kind of transition. We’ll see.

Meanwhile Wilson’s son, Gregg, was assistant producer on Quantum of Solace and associate producer on Skyfall and SPECTRE.

 

Mendes says, again, he won’t direct another 007 film

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes, who helmed Skyfall and SPECTRE, said, according to The Associated Press, that he won’t be directing Bond 25.

Here’s an excerpt with the key details:

“It was an incredible adventure, I loved every second of it,” Mendes said of his five years working on the thriller franchise. “But I think it’s time for somebody else.”

Mendes revealed his plans to step down from the series to an audience at the Hay Festival of literature in Wales. A former theatre director whose films include the Oscar-winner “American Beauty” and the somber “Revolutionary Road,” Mendes said he hoped the next Bond director would come from an “unexpected direction,” just as he had.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Mendes has made such comments.

In 2013, he said the idea of directing a sequel to 2012’s Skyfall made him feel “physically ill,” but he directed the next Bond movie, SPECTRE, anyway. Pay raises have a way of calming the stomach.

In July 2015, he told the BBC he “probably” would not direct another 007 film.

Regardless, Mendes’ latest comments are worth noting given how the Bond film series is in flux.

Bond 25, as of now, has no leading man (Daniel Craig hasn’t said if he’s coming back or not), no director, no script and no distributor.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, following its 2010 bankruptcy, doesn’t have the resources to release a Bond movie on its own. Sony Pictures, which released the last four 007 films, saw its contract with MGM expire after SPECTRE.

And, for now, the world goes round and round, albeit without a firm schedule for the return of agent 007.

UPDATE: The AP story has this passage, which raises questions.

Mendes said lobbying by fans is pointless because the decision will be made solely by the series’ producer, Barbara Broccoli.

“It’s not a democracy … Barbara Broccoli decides who is going to be the next Bond, end of story,” he said.

Does Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, not have a say?

Yikes! Even the NYT gets into 007 sweepstakes stories

Tom Hiddleston's expression here is close to our reaction to the NYT story

Tom Hiddleston’s expression here is close to our reaction to the NYT story

Say it isn’t so, Gray Lady.

The New York Times, considered one of the best newspapers, if not the best newspaper, in the world couldn’t resist doing a James Bond story based on the activities of U.K. bookies who don’t actually know what’s going on.

Over the past few days, British bookmaker Coral stopped taking bets on who the next James Bond will be. That’s because there were a surge of bets in favor of British actor Tom Hiddleston.

The surge, in turn, occurred because of U.K. tabloid stories that Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall and SPECTRE director Sam Mendes had a late-night dinner recently with the 35-year-old actor.

This is what bookies do. They adjust odds based on bets. And if there are too many bets for one candidate, they stop making bets because they won’t make money.

Various U.K. tabloids have written up the Coral action. So has the BBC.  But The Times evidently felt it was now a matter for its attention.

The Times doesn’t actually bring any reporting to the issue. The story mostly cites other outlets. You know,  the way, blogs like ours (that are way, way down the media food chain), do.

Imagine the reaction when there’s actual news to report.