007 new questions about Skyfall (SPOILER)



This edition of 007 questions is based on the Skyfall news of the week that, for the record, we’ll mention is not officially confirmed but, neverthless, is the talk of James Bond fandom. (If you’ve read this far, no complaints about spoilers will be accepted.)

Judi Dench and Daniel Craig at the November press conference for Skyfall.

001. Were you really surprised by the report on the Best for Film Web site that that a certain character is getting killed off in Skyfall? We’d heard a rumor to that effect but this was the first time we’d seen it written up. Given how it went viral, it would seem that nobody else had written it until now.

002. What’s your reaction? Judi Dench is 77 and the Bond films have been produced at an erratic rate since 2002. Killing off a long-running character (the Dench version of M M debuted 17 years ago in GoldenEye) tends to be dramatic no matter how many times it has occurred in the past with other characters in other movies and television shows.. So it makes sense.

003. Until now, had there been any clues this may happen? Recall that Peter Morgan, originally hired as a “prestige” writer to work with Eon scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, had once said he had devised a “shocking” story for the then-untitled Bond 23. He later said his idea his main idea was still in the script (now with John Logan in place of Morgan). The small amount of publicity relative to previous 007 movies is consistent with trying to keep the lid on a surprise (more about that down below). Finally, the November Skyfall press release described the plot like this:

In SKYFALL, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost. (emphasis added)

004. So will it be a good or bad thing? The answer, if you’ll pardon the pun, will lay with the execution of the idea.

005. What about having Ralph Fiennes be the new M? (also part of the initial report but not discussed as much) Well, there was a clue when the Skyfall call sheets and related material were sold on eBay and hit the Internet. A cast list said Fiennes’ character was named Mallory, which evokes Admiral Sir Miles Messervy, the original M of Ian Fleming’s novels, played by the late Bernard Lee. The name of Finnes’s character hasn’t been officially disclosed.

006. What’s the fan reaction been like? Everything from, “Of course, everybody knew that,” to “Oh, no!” to “It’s about time!” One of the more interesting comments on one message board was wondering if fans who’ve been wanting the Dench M to exit the series (because she seems to get an expanding amount of screen time with each film) will still find a reason to complain now the character is being killed off.

007. How do you think they’ll do it? We’re not going to guess at this point, but there was one message board where a poster suggested it’d be great showcase for Daniel Craig if his Bond gets to kill M. That left us cold. Blunt instrument is one thing, some fans seem anxious to transform 007 into a glassy eyed sociopath. Meanwhile, yes, the literary Bond did try (unsuccessfully) to kill M in The Man With the Golden Gun, but he had been brainwashed by the KGB.

Casino Royale’s 5th anniversary: a new path

“With Casino Royale, we started down a path,” Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson said last week at a London press conference, “and we’re sticking with that path.”

That path was unveiled five years ago this month. And of all the major Bond movies anniversaries in 2011, the fifth anniversary of 2006’s Casino Royale is the one that’s arguably most germane today. Not only did a new Bond (Daniel Craig) debut, but a new direction did as well, one that continues over the next year as Skyfall, Craig’s third 007 movie, is filmed, edited and — in late October in the U.K., Nov. 9, 2012 in the U.S. — is shown.

Wilson had a different message in October 2005, when Eon first announced the choice of Craig and that Casino Royale, the 21st Bond movie produced by Eon, would be a reboot, throwing out previous continuity. Here’s an account in The New York Times on Oct. 15, 2005:

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Mr. Wilson recalled saying. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

Dana Broccoli, widow of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, mother of Wilson and his half-sister Barbara Broccoli, and the last of the Eon old guard, had passed away in 2004. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli had been in charge since Cubby Broccoli’s failing health forced him to the sidelines during the production of 1995’s GoldenEye (he’s get his usual “presents” credit, but not be listed as producer). But Dana Broccoli, Cubby’s confidante, was still keeping an eye on things.

Until Casino Royale, that is. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli were truly on their own.

First, the Wilson-Barbara Broccoli duo told Pierce Brosnan, star of four 007 filmms, his services were no longer required. “If we wanted to make a deal, we would’ve made a deal with Pierce at some financially viable level,” Wilson was quoted by The Times. “This was about us trying to find new inspiration for the series.”

In Brosnan’s place, their choice was Craig, light-haired (Blond Bond soon became a label) and shorter (though hardly a runt) compared with his predecessor. The casting proved divisive within the fan base. Many loved the tougher take on 007. Others felt Craig’s version was closer to Jason Bourne than James Bond.

According to The Times, in a story written by reporter Sharon Waxman, who now oversees The Wrap entertainment Web site, Bourne did play a factor:

For both Ms. Broccoli and Sony (released Casino, Quantum of Solace and will release the upcoming Skyfall), 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.”

But the producers and Sony are well aware that they are tinkering with one of Hollywood’s most lucrative franchises, one that has generated an estimated $4 billion in ticket sales over more than four decades. It is MGM’s most important film property and a legacy carefully guarded by Ms. Broccoli, whose father, Albert R. Broccoli, initiated the movie series, based on the books by Ian Fleming, in 1962 with “Dr. No.”

Regardless of motivation, Casino Royale was grittier than previous Bond entries. The producers had secured the rights to Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, the last Fleming original novel available to them. The novel’s torture sequence was retained. The story’s heroine, Vesper Lynd, did betray 007. Still, there were major differences. Screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis devised a new storyline that dominated the first third of the film until Fleming’s storyline kicked in. Vesper, instead of a quiet suicide, killed herself as part of a big action setpiece.

In the end, Casino Royale got both good reviews and the highest worldwide 007 box office at about $596 million. Craig still has the role, despite what will be a four-year gap between his second 007 outing, Quantum of Solace, and next year’s Skyfall. Craig, and the new “path” that Wilson referred to last week, are still spurring debate among Bond fans today. An example: a Web site whose name is self explanatory, Danielcraigisnotbond.com.

Skyfall cast discusses new Bond movie in ITV video

After the Nov. 3 Skyfall news conference, members of the cast gave brief interviews to ITV. The clip runs 4:39:

Among the highlights:

Judi Dench: “Nobody was allowed to say anything. It’s always like that…We do this great big news conference and body can say anything.”

Daniel Craig: “I didn’t doubt we’d get one made….We carried on as normal.” Based on the question, he was referring to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s financial troubles, which included a short stay in bankruptcy court. “If it had went, I would have been sad.”

Naomie Harris: “It’s been over three months now” that she’s had to stay quiet about getting the Skyfall role. “It’s been an amazingly long time to keep quiet about something.” Her Agent Eve character thinks she is Bond’s equal. “But she isn’t really Bond’s equivalent, she’s much more his kind of junior.”

Berenice Marlohe and Javier Bardem also appear in the video.

007-plus observations about the Skyfall news conference

The term “news conference” was phrased when Richard M. Nixon became president of the U.S. Until then, such gatherings were called press conferences. But, under the Nixon administration, “news conference” came into vogue. The idea was such events were for “news” to happen. By calling them “press conferences,” that implied the press had something to do with it. We were reminded of this while watching the Nov. 3 “news conference” for Skyfall. We watched this version:

001. For a news conference that lasted less than 30 minutes, reporters weren’t allowed to ask a single question until about 10:33 into the proceedings. There was a lot of gab, the official logo of Skyfall was unveiled. But no actual questions were permitted to be asked by reporters.

002. SKYFALL…007 Somebody actually got paid to design that logo? How much work was really involved in that design?

003. The principals had very little to actually say. Sam Mendes: “This is an odd press conference, as I said before…You won’t be surprised to hear me say, I can’t give much away…the movie will reveal everything. There’s lots of surprises, I will say that.” So why call a news/press conference in the first place then?

004. Star Daniel Craig has even less to say. Craig makes the startling obseration that his character in The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo is different than Bond. Really, Daniel? Well, at least he didn’t drop any f-bombs like he did in his recent Esquire interview.

005. This all seems kind of smarmy. Mendes, Craig and Dench tend to act as if they’re very superior to the scribes asking questions. Then again, given some of the lame questions being asked, perhaps that’s to be expected.

006. “All the money’s going to go on the screen.” That’s Barbara Broccoli at the 14:29 mark. Really? The fact that MGM has been in bankruptcy and Sony Corp., parent company of Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures, has been reporting losses won’t have *any* effect? Remember, MGM and Sony, not Eon, will actually finance the movie. Does that mean Skyfall has a $230 million or so budget like Quantum of Solace? Or is merely convenient to repeat an often-quoted Albert R. Broccoli remark without providing any actual details? Meanwhile at the 14:45 mark, Michael G. Wilson says, “Everything is as it was in the last two films.” Well, Casino Royale had a budget anywhere from $100 million to $150 million while Quantum of Solace had a $230 million budget. That’s quite a bit of difference.

UPDATE (1/2/12): We admittedly missed a line from Wilson around the 14:05 mark where he said the budget would be “in the same range as the last film.” He didn’t specify a figure.

007. Some of the reporters haven’t done much research. At the 14:50 mark, a reporter asks if Skyfall relates to any existing Ian Fleming story. It doesn’t. If you had done a Google search, you’d have known that.

008. Bond with a capital B. At the 16:00 mark or so, Craig says, “It was my intention to do the best Bond movie we could, Bond with a capital ‘B.'” And what does that mean, exactly? Craig doesn’t explain and nobody follows up.

009. “Every decision is mine,” Mendes says. At least that’s what he says at the 19:13 mark. Really? Are Wilson and Broccoli on board with that?

0010. Nobody asks what Skyfall means until about the 23:35 mark. The MC of the press/news conference mocks the reporters for waiting that long to ask. (“Doesn’t say much for the press corps.”) Barbara Broccoli says, “It has some, uh, emotional context, which will be revealed in the film.” Whatever that means.

0011. Daniel Craig butts in on a question asked of Sam Mendes and Barbara Broccoli. The director and co-producer were asked what they did to ensure Skyfall would be made despite financial problems at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which controls half of the Bond film franchise. “They made it happen, basically.” And did Michael G. Wilson have anything to do about it? The reporter isn’t allowed to ask a follow-up question.

0012. Wilson says the 007 team is doubling down. “With Casino Royale, we started down a path, and we’re sticking with that path.”

0013. Wilson and Broccoli are asked if they’re not revealing character names because they’d be recognized by Bond fans. Sam Mendes butts in. “That’s a very well-put question.” It’s such a good questiond that Mendes doesn’t offer an actual answer. Then again, this is the same chap who claimed that reports he was in talks to direct the Bond movie were merely “speculation” *after* his publicist confirmed he was.

Skyfall news conference shows up on YouTube

Watch for yourself (as long as it stays up on YouTube):

Thanks to multiple James Bond fans and fan groups for pointing this out on Facebook.