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 Léa 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 Léa 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 Léa 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 Léa’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” Léa/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.

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.