Bond 25 questions: Final box office edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film, has more or less reached the end of its theatrical release. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What are the final numbers? It’s not final, but it appears No Time to Die will come in globally at No. 2 among non-Chinese movies ($774 million) while No. 007 in the U.S. ($160.8 million), behind Spider-Man No Way Home, Shang-Chi, and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Black Widow, F9: The Fast Saga, and Eternals.

Behind the Eternals? Really? Eternals was commonly viewed as a weak entry (box office wise) since Marvel began making its own movies with 2008’s Iron Man. But, yes, Eternals came a bit ahead, in the U.S., of No Time to Die.

How do you explain the difference for No Time to Die globally vs. the U.S.?

Beats me.

Eon Productions, for years (at least since 2015), says it controls the marketing of Bond films and studios merely execute those plans.

Since at least 1997, Eon talking points include how women characters in Bond newer films are much stronger than characters in classic Bond films. (Honey Rider, Tatiana Romonva, Pussy Galore, Domino, et. al.)

By now, it’s routine for Bond actresses to proclaim their characters are much stronger than earlier Bond women characters.

In 2012, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli told The Evening Standard, ““Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over.”

More recently, No Time to Die director Cary Funkunaga said the Sean Connery version of Bond was “basically” a rapist.

Also, Daniel Craig, in the midst of a 15-year as Bond, said the character was a misogynist. (Definition: “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.”) When your star calls the character he’s playing that way, it’s hard to argue the point.

That’s especially true when Barbara Broccoli considers Craig the best Bond ever.

Is it time to revamp U.S. Bond film marketing in the U.S.?

Perhaps. Until now, nobody has ever called Eon on its U.S. marketing strategy.

Does anything change in the future?

We’ll see once Amazon completes its acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. Maybe there will be changes. Maybe not.

Author discusses her James Bond fashion book

Llewella Chapman, author of Fashioning James Bond

Film historian and academic Dr. Llewella Chapman is out with a new book, Fashioning James Bond.

For a character with a license to kill, fashion in the form of suits, dinner jackets, etc., has always been important. The new book examines the costumes and the fashions of the James Bond film franchise, starting with 1962’s Dr. No and running through 2015’s SPECTRE.

According to the book’s listing at Amazon, Fashioning James Bond “draws on original archival research, close analysis of the costumes and fashion brands featured in the Bond films, interviews with families of tailors and shirt-makers who assisted in creating the ‘look’ of James Bond, and considers marketing strategies for the films and tie-in merchandise that promoted the idea of an aspirational ‘James Bond lifestyle.'”

The blog interviewed Dr. Chapman by email. It was edited to go with “American” English rather than English English.

THE SPY COMMAND: There are various books about James Bond. What makes yours different?

LLEWELLA CHAPMAN: There are! And one of my favorites is Dressed to Kill: James Bond the Suited Hero (authored by Jay McInerney, Nick Foulkes, Neil Norman, and Nick Sullivan (1995). I also really enjoyed Peter Brooker’s and Matt Spaiser’s co-authored book From Tailors With Love: An Evolution of Menswear through the Bond Films (2021). The key difference with Fashioning James Bond is that I not only analyze Bond’s costumes but also the costumes worn by the villains, the “Bond girls,” the henchmen, and many others besides.

Hopefully, there will be something in there for everyone! Everyone has a favorite character, of course, and so I’m sorry if yours isn’t analyzed in my book. Unfortunately, I had a word limit and had to stop somewhere!

In many ways, of course, and as Julie Harris, the costume designer for Casino Royale (1967) and Live and Let Die (1973), summarized the key difference between fashion and a costume designer’s role to The Times in 1967: “fashion is the big pitfall in costume design. Not only because the time lag between drawing the designs and the film’s showing averages a year, time enough for anything to have happened in fashion … film designers have to keep a sharp and beady eye on fashion. They have to develop a flair for fashion futures, for the average time between starting designs and the actual appearance of the film can be anywhere between nine months and a year.”

In direct relation to Bond, the character’s suits evolved depending on need and not just fashion. From Sean Connery until the end of Roger Moore’s tenure, Bond wore bespoke tailored suits. From Timothy Dalton onwards, we see Bond dressed the majority of the time in made-to-measure and off-the-peg suits. The main reason for this was the sheer amount of suits needed for the films, particularly since Dalton’s, and the timescale required to make them.

TSC: As you researched your book, were there any surprises? If so, what were they?

CHAPMAN: I compiled my research for this book from many different archives, libraries, and repositories, and one of the surprises and rather fun anecdotes was discovering a connection between Bond and the multiple menswear firm Montague Burton. The company attempted to capitalize on the “Bond mania” of the mid-1960s following the release of Goldfinger in the U.K. by briefly hiring Anthony Sinclair as a consultant, and producing a small range of 007 suits.

However, Montague Burton quickly realized that ‘young people, although they may like Bond, do not want to dress like him, and middle-aged men don’t want a coat that has pockets for hand grenades, and so the range was swiftly dropped before the release of Thunderball in the U.K. You can find out more about this story in Chapter 3 of my book.

TSC: Who had the biggest influence with the style of James Bond? Anthony Sinclair and his suits? Someone else?

CHAPMAN: I think that it mainly depends on who made the decision to go with a particular tailor or menswear firm to dress Bond in his suits. With Sean Connery, Terence Young recommended his personal tailor, Anthony Sinclair, and similarly with George Lazenby, Peter Hunt elected to dress George Lazenby in Dimitrov “Dimi” Major’s suits.

Roger Moore is the first actor to play Bond who had his own agency over the way the character was dressed, owing to his interest in menswear and him being an established television star. It is somewhat appropriate that he also had three tailors dress him over the course of his Bond films: Cyril Castle, Angelo Vitucci, and Douglas Hayward.

With Timothy Dalton, he particularly influenced Bond’s style, wanting a more casual look for the films, and for Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig’s first film, Casino Royale (2006), it was Lindy Hemming, the costume designer, who elected to dress Bond in Brioni. For Quantum of Solace, costume designer Louise Frogley explained that she chose Tom Ford to provide Bond’s suits owing to “needing to solve a problem,” and from Skyfall until No Time To Die, we see Craig possess more agency over the way his Bond was dressed.

TSC: How would you characterize the James Bond style?

CHAPMAN: In three words, I think that the “James Bond style” should be: classic, elegant, and timeless. Though ultimately, Bond should be a chameleon in any situation in which he finds himself: fitting into the scene seamlessly and in order to obtain what he needs.

TSC: What do you think accounts for Bond’s continuing popularity?

CHAPMAN: Good question! I think because the films aim to not only present a fun, often humorous, and thrilling story for audiences worldwide with the money “spent on the screen,” but also because over the past 60 years the films have continuously evolved to reflect the political, social and cultural contexts during the time they were made.

Cover to Fashioning James Bond

You can order Fashioning James Bond at Amazon’s U.S. site by CLICKING HERE. Or you can order from the U.K. Amazon site by CLICKING HERE. Another option is ordering through the website of Bloomsbury (the book’s publisher) by CLICKING HERE. I’ve been advised this may be a quicker method for customers in the U.S.

Bond 26 questions: Bond’s return

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Spoiler for No Time to Die

At a recent event sponsored by the Deadline entertainment news site, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli said Eon has yet to figure out how James Bond will return after the events of No Time to Die.

By the end of the 25th Bond film, Bond has been blown to smithereens and other characters are in mourning. Yet, in the end titles, it says “James Bond Will Return.”

“We’ll figure that one out, but he will be back,” Broccoli said. “You can rest assured James Bond will be back.”

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Another reboot?

This would be the easiest route. With 2006’s Casino Royale, Eon started things over. Eon finally had its hands on the rights to Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So one continuity ended after Eon dismissed Pierce Brosnan, another began after it brought on Daniel Craig.

Having multiple continuities is not unprecedented. Look at Warner Bros. and its various Batman movies.

Four movies from 1989 through 1997 were one continuity (multiple actors played Batman but all four had the same actors as Alfred the butler and Commissioner Gordon). Films from 2005 through 2012 were another continuity. And various films with Ben Affleck as Batman comprise yet another continuity. Now, yet another continuity is in works with Robert Pattinson as Batman.

If you’re a fan of Daniel Craig’s Bond films, you can’t complain about reboots. Yes, Eon fudged things at times, primarily with the Aston Martin DB5. But a new reboot may be the way to go.

What about the “code name theory”?

That would be another way to go.

For the uninitiated, the “code name theory” is a way of explaining all the different actors who’ve played Bond in the Eon series. Under this scenario, “James Bond” is a code name assigned to different people.

Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have said there’s only one Bond, just played by different actors. Besides, 007 is Bond’s code number. Why does he need a code name on top of that?

Nevertheless the “code name theory” refuses to die. It traces its origins to the development of the 1967 Casino Royale spoof produced by Charles K. Feldman. The original James Bond (David Niven) orders all British agents to be named “James Bond” to confuse enemies. This notion may be the 1967 movie’s legacy.

You’re not serious, are you?

To be clear, I am NOT advocating for it. However, “code name theory” would be one way to retain Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q and Rory Kinnear as Tanner.

What would be the drawbacks?

A new Bond actor would be burdened by the Craig continuity. Remember, Craig’s Bond was burned out from Skyfall on. Personally, I would start fresh with a reboot. You DO NOT have to another Bond origin story. Just introduce your new Bond and go from there.

Sean Connery’s Bond never had an origin story. That worked out pretty well.

Diamonds’ 50th: Rodney Dangerfield of 007 films

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Adapted from a 2016 post.

When Diamonds Are Forever came out 50 years ago this month, it was a huge deal. Sean Connery was back! Everything was back to normal in 007 land.

Nowadays, Diamonds is more like the Rodney Dangerfield of James Bond films, not getting any respect.

Some fans complain about too much humor, about Connery not being in shape, about Blofeld (Charles Gray) dressing in drag as a disguise and about Bond’s wardrobe (his fat, pink tie in particular). Also, Jill St. John’s Tiffany Case at times seems a capable criminal, while at other times comes across as scatterbrained.

Perhaps the biggest advocate of the movie was former United Artists executive David Picker (1931-2019). In his 2013 memoir, Musts, Maybes and Nevers, he says Diamonds saved the Bond series because he got the idea of paying Connery a lot of money to return as 007.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had cast American John Gavin in the role. But UA became more hands on with the seventh film in the series compared with previous entries. UA (via Picker) didn’t want to take a chance after George Lazenby played Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Regardless, Diamonds reflected the creative team’s desire to get back to the style of Goldfinger. As a result, director Guy Hamilton returned. So did production designer Ken Adam after a one-picture absence. John Barry was on board and this time Shirley Bassey would return to perform the title song.

There was new blood, however, in the form of screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, brought in to rewrite Richard Maibaum’s early drafts. Mankiewicz would work on the next four films of the series, although without credit on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

"What does that mean, anyway?"

Q was aghast at Bond’s tie.

Mankiewicz (1942-2010), part of a family prominent in both show business and politics, still generates sharp divisions among Bond fans.

Supporters say his witty one liners enlivened the proceedings. (“At present, the satellite is over Kansas,” Blofeld muses at one point. “Well, if we destroy Kansas, the world may not hear about it for years.”) Detractors say he simply didn’t understand Bond and made things too goofy.

The writer’s initial draft actually contained more bits from Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel than would be in the final film. (This 2011 ARTICLE has more details, just scroll down to the section about the Mankiewicz draft.) Still, with Diamonds, it was now standard practice that the films need have little in common with Fleming’s novels.

The legacy of the movie is mixed. Diamonds got 007 into the 1970s. But as late as 1972, people still questioned whether the series could survive without Sean Connery. That wouldn’t be evident until after Diamonds. And the movie clearly began a lighter era for the series.

Still, Bond was Bond. The movie was a success with moviegoers. It had a worldwide box office of $116 million, an improvement from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s $82 million and You Only Live Twice’s $111.6 million.

Diamonds fell short of Goldfinger and Thunderball ($124.9 million and $141.2 million respectively). But it did well enough that Eon Productions would again try to find a successor to Connery. James Bond would return.

No Time to Die footnote edition

No Time to Die poster

No Time to Die’s theatrical rollout is well along, with only a few countries left to see the movie. With that in mind, here’s a look at various things that were either supposed to happen or people wanted to happen.

The ginormous premiere: Remember how Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions were supposed to be considering staging the movie’s world premiere “at the biggest venues in London, starting with Wembley and going down from there” ?

At least that was the tale from The Mirror on April 17. That didn’t happen. The premiere took place at Royal Albert Hall.

An “in memoriam” title card for Sean Connery and Roger Moore: James Bond fans were rooting for No Time to Die to note the passings of Sean Connery (1930-2020) and Roger Moore (1927-2017). The two actors played Bond in 13 of Eon’s 25 Bond films. That didn’t happen, either.

MGM’s push for a Best Picture Oscar nomination: Matthew Belloni, part of a digital news startup called Puck, wrote in June that he was told No Time to Die “will get a best picture push a la the final Lord of the Rings.”

This, of course, could still happen. Belloni is a former editor of The Hollywood Reporter. And some of his other items about No Time to Die have proven correct, including an August newsletter item that MGM and Eon were committed to releasing No Time to Die in late September in the U.K. and on Oct. 8 in the U.S.

The Bond series has experienced a mixed record at the Oscars. Goldfinger and Thunderball won for sound and special effects respectively. Skyfall won for best song and a sound award while SPECTRE also received a best song Oscar.

However, Bond films haven’t been nominated for acting, directing, or writing nor for best picture. Perhaps that could change if MGM and Eon make a sufficient push.

GoldenEye screenwriter talks about the 1995 movie

GoldenEye’s poster

The SpyHards podcast conducted an interview with Jeffrey Caine, one of the screenwriters on GoldenEye.

Caine was one of three writers who received some form of credit for the 1995 James Bond film that marked the return of James Bond to the big screen after a six-year hiatus. The other credited screenwriters were Michael France and Bruce Feirstein. Kevin Wade did uncredited work on the script.

Here are some of the highlights from the interview:.

Caine discusses the differences between Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli

Caine says Wilson wanted to work in stunts first and write a story around them. Caine felt you should write a story and insert stunts.

How it turned out:

“I sort of got my way because Barbara (Broccoli) took my side.”

The scribe’s view of the cinematic Bonds actors:

Caine says Daniel Craig has the toughness but not the suaveness while Roger Moore has the suaveness but not the toughness. Caine liked Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan better

About the change with M in GoldenEye:

Caine says he drafts didn’t have a woman M (who would be played by Judi Dench). That took place after writer Bruce Feirstein took over.

To listen to the entire interview on the SpyHards podcast, CLICK HERE.

Some Bond 25 notes about the official podcast

No Time to Die poster

We’re now two-thirds of the way through the episodes of the official No Time to Die podcast. What follows are some observations.

Steve Mazzaro gets a shoutout: Hans Zimmer has made it known that his work on No Time to Die was in collaboration with Steve Mazzaro.

The Eon Productions publicity campaign has not referenced either Dan Romer (the composer originally chosen by Cary Fukunaga) nor Mazzaro (who Hans Zimmer has described as a collaborator).

But in episode 4, “The Music of Bond,” Zimmer again says he worked *with Mazzaro on the score.

Zimmer said long ago it was a joint arrangement. Meanwhile, I’m puzzled why once Romer was sent away why Eon didn’t get five-time Bond composer David Arnold to fill in.

I suspect it’s because Zimmer is more of a brand name than an actual film composer these days. But, who knows?

Fukunaga says he thought about the score “early on:” This comes up in episode 4. It’s probably true but likely reflects why Dan Romer was (initially) called in.

The similarities between Never Say Never Again and No Time to Die keep multiplying: Haphazard Stuff put together an amusing video about 1983’s Never Say Never Again. Both movies feature an aging James Bond. In Sean Connery’s case, it was a last chance to stick it to Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli:

The NTTD-NSNA coincidence

h/t to reader Scott Hand to bringing this to my attention.

As almost everybody knows by now, the official U.S. release date for No Time to Die is Oct. 8. But major movies typically now have Thursday night “preview” showings. That means No Time to Die will be out the night of Oct. 7 at many U.S. theaters. (It will be out Sept. 30 in the U.K. and other countries.)

Oct. 7 also is the 38th anniversary of the U.S. release of Never Say Never Again. That was Sean Connery’s swan song as James Bond. But the movie wasn’t made by Eon Productions. Instead, it was a rival project and a remake (more or less) of Thunderball.

Never Say Never Again remains a sore point for Eon all these decades later. The 1983 movie originally was released by Warner Bros. But it’s now part of the film library of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. The last time I saw Never Say Never Again on TV, it had an Orion studio logo, which is an MGM brand.

All of this is coincidence, of course. No Time to Die has been delayed three times because of the COVID-19 pandemic and five times overall. Still, it is amusing in a way.

UPDATE: Reader Jason Kim (at The Ian Fleming Foundation page on Facebook) notes the coincidences extend further.

–Both Never Say Never Again and No Time to Die feature an aging Bond pressed back into service. Connery’s Bond is still with MI6 but at the start of the film has not been on active missions. Craig’s Bond has been away from MI6.

–Sean Connery was 53 was Never Say Never debuted. Daniel Craig will be 53 when No Time to Die debuts. (The delays with No Time to Die made that possible.)

–Both movies include M, Q, Moneypenny, Blofeld and Felix Leiter.

Neil Connery, footnote to ’60s spy craze, dies

Neil Connery in a lobby card for Operation Kid Brother

Neil Connery, younger brother of James Bond star Sean Connery and a footnote to the 1960s spy craze in his own right, has died.

His death at age 83 was reported on social media by two James Bond fan sites, 007 Magazine and From Sweden With Love. The latter site then published a detailed obituary.

Neil Connery was signed to spy in his own spy movie, Operation Kid Brother, also known as OK Connery.

The 1967 Italian production was released by United Artists, Bond’s home studio in the 1960s and ’70s. It featured five actors who had been in the Bond movie series (Daniela Bianchi, Adolfo Celi, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Anthony Dawson).

In an example of originality, Neil Connery’s character was dubbed Dr. Neil Connery. His IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 11 accting credits.

Before James Bond movies were shown on American television, Operation Kid Brother was shown in prime time on NBC. Years later, the film got the Mystery Science 3000 treatment, where a man and “robots” comment on the proceedings. Here it was called Operation Double 007.

Connery in Oscar In Memoriam

Sean Connery in From Russia With Love

Sean Connery, who died in October at the age of 90, was prominently featured in the “In Memoriam” segment of the 93rd Oscars.

The Scottish-born actor won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Untouchables. He had a long career that included being the first screen James Bond in 1962’s Dr. No. He played the character seven times, in six movies made by Eon Productions and 1983’s Never Say Never Again in 1983, which wasn’t part of the Eon series.

Connery was shown near the end of the segment in a still from Goldfinger.

Diana Rigg, who also died in 2020, was also part of the “In Memoriam” segment. Rigg was a versatile actress who appeared in films, television and the stage. Earlier this month, the U.K.’s BAFTA left Rigg out from the “In Memoriam” segment of its movie show. The organization said Rigg would be part of its television awards show later this year.

Rigg played Tracy, James Bond’s ill-fated bride in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She was also famous for playing Emma Peel on The Avengers television show in the 1960s.

Others with Bond connections featured in the segment included Yaphet Kotto (Dr. Kanaga in Live And Let Die), director Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) and production designer Peter Lamont.

Also, after Chloe Zhoa won the Oscar for best director (Nomadand), the theme from Live And Let Die (1973) played.

UPDATE: Others included in the segment were veteran actor Max Von Sydow, whose many roles included Blofeld in Never Say Never Again; stunt driver and performer Remy Julienne; actor Earl Cameron, who appeared in Thunderball; and actress Helen McCrory, who appeared in Skyfall.

However, Honor Blackman, who died in August at the age of 95, wasn’t included. She played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Also not included was actress Tanya Roberts (A View to a Kill), who died in January at age 65.

UPDATE II (April 26): Also not making the cut was French actor Michael Lonsdale, who played Drax in Moonraker.

Here is the segment: