‘Little things.’ How 007 press releases evolved

“I can’t help it, sir. Little things bother me.”

An apology in advance. This post goes very deep into the weeds.

Back on May 25, the official Eon Productions webite said that Bond 25 would be directed by Danny Boyle “from an original screenplay by Academy Award nominee John Hodge (Trainspotting).”

The phrase “original screenplay” usually means a script, not based on other media that originated with a specific screenwriter. Based on the phrasing of the May 25 release, that would seem to be John Hodge.

But this week, the James Bond MI6 website said the following about Bond 25: “The script by John Hodge, which was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade…”

The website fielded a question on Twitter and had this response:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

That’s interesting. One thing to note: The May 25 press release didn’t mention Purvis and Wade.

What’s more, the “original screenplay” phrasing is different than other Eon press releases this decade.

October 2011, Skyfall: “The screenplay is written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan.”

July 2013, the then-untitled Bond 24: “…Sam Mendes will also return to direct the screenplay written by John Logan.” The Sony hacks showed later that there wasn’t a full-fledged script at the time of the release. Logan turned in his first draft in the spring of 2014.

During the summer of 2014, Purvis and Wade were summoned to rewrite Logan’s work. So this is what was said in the press release in December 2014, SPECTRE: “Written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,”

Finally, in July 2017, Eon put out a release announcing a release date for Bond 25. It said the movie, “…will be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long time collaborators and writers on previous Bond films including CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, SKYFALL and SPECTRE.”

But by May 2018, Purvis and Wade had disappeared and the official press release was only talking about John Hodge.

So: Was the May 2018 press release written in a sloppy manner? (“Hey guys, we forgot to mention Purvis and Wade!” “Forget it, nobody will every notice!”) Back in February, Deadline: Hollywood said Hodge was writing a script totally separate from what Purvis and Wade wrote in 2017. Did that outlet make a mistake?

Or did Eon and public relations crew simply change its press release phrasing after all these years?

Oh, one more thing: Press releases are typically vetted by the principals involved as well as lawyers. The writers of press releases don’t just wing it.

These are just little things, as Lt. Columbo used to say. Little things.

UPDATE (12:50 p.m. New York time): The James Bond dossier reminded me (see comments below) of some Danny Boyle comments where it certainly sounded like he and John Hodge were working on a new story, not revising an existing script. Here’s a video of Boyle from The Associated Press in March.

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Bond 25 questions: The “Mr. Obvious” edition

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who is known for getting 007 film scoops correct, finally weighed in and said that director Danny Boyle departed Bond 25 because Eon Productions wanted to bring in a new writer to replace his man, John Hodge.

As a result, the blog has a series of “Mr. Obvious” questions.

Did Boyle and Hodge do their due diligence before signing on for Bond 25? The 007 film franchise has a history of bringing in multiple writers to massage scripts.

In the early days, Richard Maibaum replaced Johanna Harwood and Len Deighton on From Russia With Love. Paul Dehn replaced Maibaum on Goldfinger. Tom Mankiewicz replaced Maibaum on Diamonds Are Forever.

More recently? Well, this decade, John Logan replaced Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on Skyfall. Purvis and Wade were summoned to replace Logan on SPECTRE. On both films, Jez Butterworth did work (but only getting a credit on SPECTRE).

Assuming Bamigboye is correct, neither Boyle nor Hodge should have been surprised when Eon wanted a new scribe. Hell’s bells, Maibaum dealt with that sort of thing over 13 separate 007 films.

Did Eon Productions do its due diligence before bringing on Boyle and Hodge? In 2017, Eon hired Purvis and Wade do the script for Bond 25. But that work got cast aside when the possibility arose of getting Boyle as director. But Boyle wanted his man, Hodge, to write it.

Boyle has a reputation for doing unique films and Hodge is one of his main collaborators. So you’ve got to figure they have a certain way of working.

Yes, Boyle said he was a James Bond fan. Everybody (especially if they’re British) says they’re a James Bond fan when they hire on to work for Eon. But did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson really think through whether Boyle could adapt to working for Eon?

What role does Daniel Craig have in all this? Bamigboye’s story said Craig was a key figure in wanting a new writer to take over from Hodge. But is that really a big deal?

Before the cameras rolled on Goldfinger, Sean Connery objected to some of Paul Dehn’s ideas (such as ending the moving with “curtains” being drawn). The 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger goes into this in detail.

Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever, described a meeting he had with Connery. The star weighed on various issues, according to the screenwriter. So it’s not unprecedented for stars of Bond films to let their opinions be known. Granted, Craig had a co-producer title on SPECTRE, something Connery never got when he toiled for Eon.

Producers wanted to replace Hodge as B25 writer, Baz says

Bond 25 producers wanted to replace John Hodge as the film’s writer, which precipitated Danny Boyle’s exit as director, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in a column.

Boyle “quit when Daniel Craig and fellow producers insisted on replacing screenwriter John Hodge,” Bamigboye said.

Bamigboyle has a record of 007 scoops being proven as correct during the lead up to Skyfall and SPECTRE. However, the scribe was away from the action last week when Boyle’s departure for “creative differences” was announced.

The Daily Mail item didn’t identify the other producers. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions are the producers of record, Craig, star of the last four 007 films, received a co-producer credit for SPECTRE. Last week’s Boyle announcement carried all three of their names.

Boyle and Hodge pitched an idea for Bond 25 that Eon bit on. That caused the producers to set aside another script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade the duo worked on last year. Hodge then wrote a script incorporating his pitch with Boyle.

The entertainment reporter only wrote a short Bond 25 item.

Bamigboye said producers are under “a lot of pressure” to find a replacement for Boyle. The column said a replacement needs to be “prepared to be ruled over by Mr Craig.”

“Several studio sound-stages were booked for the picture,” Bamigboye also wrote. “Problem is: do they hang on to them, or give them up?”

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.

‘Hunt’ for Bond Revisited: More M:I Connections to 007

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

By the by, there are spoilers if you haven’t seen Mission: Impossible-Fallout. For that matter, there are spoilers if you’ve never seen the 007 films cited.

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has returned in Mission: Impossible – Fallout while 007’s next film is scheduled for a 2019 release.

Taking advantage of  Bond’s absence in theaters, many reviewers said Hunt has taken the place of Bond and criticized 2015’s SPECTRE.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation adapted Bond-like settings and scenes in the story. But  Mission: Impossible – Fallout is even more Bond inspired. It has, the escapist tone of the days of Pierce Brosnan, just with a little more grit.

Tom Cruise and director-screenwriter Christopher MacQuarrie redoubled their efforts and made a more spectacular film than its predecessors. The last two M:I films are similar to how Thunderball and You Only Live Twice compared with the three first Eon 007 movies, Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger.

In M:I-Fallout, Hunt again faces off against Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who — like Blofeld’s SPECTRE — is the author of his pain. Lane was the main antagonist of M:I – Rogue Nation.

‘The Girl or the Mission’

The film’s starts in Berlin, where Hunt and Benji (Simon Pegg) pose as buyers of three atomic warheads. Their cover is blown and Luther (Ving Rhames) is captured. Hunt makes a risky decision: to save his friend. That leaves the case with the plutonium unattended and stolen.

This is similar to GoldenEye, where Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) asks Bond to choose between “the girl or the mission” while General Ourumov (Gottfried John) held Natalya (Izabella Scorupco) at gunpoint. Finally, Bond saved Natalya by gunning the Russian general down.

It’s also similar to Skyfall. M orders Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to shoot Patrice (who stole a hard drive with data of infiltrated agents). Hunt makes a “judgment call” by shooting Luther to distract the man holding him at gunpoint and save his life. The “fallout” of M’s and Hunt’s action determines the principal threat of both films.

Also in the Berlin scene. we have another familiar Bond meme: a remote controlled car, a function available in the cars driven by Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day.

HALO Jump

Coming next a HALO jump as featured in Tomorrow Never Dies. Although this time, it’s a much riskier scene when Hunt and his teammate August Walker (Henry Cavill) face a storm during the operation and Walker is hit by lightning, losing consciousness.

In a similar situation to Moonraker and Quantum of Solace, Hunt has to do a little skydiving to reach Walker, reconnect his oxygen and deploy Walker’s parachute, as well as his own.

Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) returns and saves Hunt’s life after a cruel bathroom fight with one John Lark, the man he had to impersonate, warning him not to complete his mission of meeting the “White Widow” (Vanessa Kirby) to exchange the missing plutonium.

They walk across a mirrored and red-lighted room that reminds us to Die Another Day’s Álvarez Clinic in Cuba. Ilsa tells him that he’ll be a dead man if he meets the woman because Lark has a contract on him. It’s known he’s meeting the White Widow that night, so they’ll kill him on sight. In a similar context in which Bond met Severine in Skyfall, both heroes manage to beat all the assailants and escape alive.

In exchange of the plutonium spheres, the White Widow and her accomplices want Solomon Lane, who’s been transferred to a prison to another in France. Hunt forgoes the originally conceived plan (which dealt with killing every witness) and pushes the prison van into the Seine, having Luther and Benji extract Lane trough the water, the same method in which Franz Sánchez escaped in 1989’s Licence to Kill.

The breakout of Lane pits the French police against Hunt and a chase ensues through the streets of Paris, on motorbike and then on a small BMW, as he is chased by Ilsa who has been given orders from MI6 to terminate Lane.

Not only there’s a particular shot as the BMW makes a backwards spin above some steps which is very reminiscent to A View to A Kill, where Bond (Roger Moore) chased a parachuting May Day (Grace Jones) in a Renault 14, but we have Ilsa trying to do the job of any 00 agent: terminate someone who is a threat for national security.

Mole Revealed

Hunt and his team –- and the captive Lane — reunite with IMF Secretary Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) in a safe house, much as Bond did at the beginning of Quantum of Solace with Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) in Siena.

Stunt teased by Tom Cruise on Instagram earlier this year.

Walker is revealed as a mole and a shootout ensues, breaking Lane free again. As a result of this confrontation, Hunley is badly hurt by Walker and dies showing his trust to Hunt, much like M at the end of Skyfall.

Just like in the 23rd Bond movie, in pursuit of Walker, Hunt also holds from a scaffold in the bottom of the elevator his enemy is taking, as Bond did in Shanghai when chasing Patrice.

The film’s climax takes place in Kashmir, where Lane and Walker attempt to detonate a nuclear bomb using the plutonium spheres that have fallen into their hands. Ilsa and Benji fight Lane, Hunt goes for Walker.

A long helicopter chase ensues and that includes a few references to SPECTRE’s helicopter fight in Mexico, with Bond fighting Marco Sciarra and the pilot, pushing them away and taking control of the vehicle.

Just like Blofeld at the end of the same film, Hunt and Walker both survive the helicopter crash.

Showdown

This takes us to the final showdown between Hunt and Walker atop the cliff of a mountain, as the remains of the one of the helicopter’s cockpit hang loosely of a wire.

A shot of ice caps falling close to both men looks greatly inspired by Die Another Day, in the scene where a clinging Bond faced the power of the Icarus satellite beam in Iceland.

While this scene overall may be reminiscent of the confrontation between Hunt and rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) in Mission: Impossible II, but there are some links to the antenna fight between 007 and Trevelyan in GoldenEye.

In the beginning of 1995 film, Trevelyan gets half of his face burned by a chemical explosion in Arkhangelsk. In a similar way, Walker gets an acid fluid from the helicopter straight into his face, leaving him badly scarred side. At the end of GoldenEye, Bond and his former friend fight in a small platform at high altitude as both attempt to make each other fall to the vacuum.

A clapperboard from Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Finally, Bond lets Trevelyan fall and the villain, agonizing, is finally terminated when the whole antenna structure crushes him. In Walker’s case, as he’s about to get Hunt, the IMF agent forces the wire over him and the hook gets impaled into his face, making him fall to his death.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is, of all the M:I movies, the closest to a James Bond film. While some people may feel offended for the way they ripped the Bond archive in more than a way this time, I’ll recognize the great taste Mr. Cruise has and the respect he had for 007’s legacy during his interviews promoting the movie.

Spy fans engage in throwing bricks from glass houses

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

Late next week, Mission: Impossible-Fallout reaches theaters. Some 007 fans aren’t happy, feeling the movie is, well, a ripoff.

Specifically, based on trailers, there are at least two segments of M:I-Fallout that seem “inspired” from previous Bond films:

–A villain appears to make an escape similar to the way Franz Sanchez did in Licence to Kill (1989).

–Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt makes a HALO (high altitude, low-opening) parachute jump, similar to how B.J. Worth did one doubling for Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

The resemblances are undeniable. In fact, the current Hawaii Five-0 series did an “homage” to the Licence to Kill sequence at the start of its third season in 2012. So Mission: Impossible-Fallout doing it wouldn’t be the first time.

On the other hand, memories may be short. So the following should be noted.

–Live And Let Die (1973) when it was released was seen as inspired by “blaxploitation” movies of the early 1970s. While Ian Fleming’s 1954 novel featured a black villain, the movie utilized a few characters but dispensed with the book’s main plot.

–The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) was seen as 007’s answer to Kung Fu movies of the 1970s. Fleming’s 1965 novel of the same name was mostly set in Jamaica and didn’t have any Kung Fu.

–Moonraker (1979) was seen as 007’s answer to Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Fleming’s 1955 novel concerned a rocket but no space travel was involved.

–Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) were said to be influenced by the Jason Bourne movies that were popular at the start of this century.

Javier Bardem’s Silva in a Joker-like moment in Skyfall

–Skyfall (2012) was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Director Sam Mendes even said so. Javier Bardem’s Silva definitely seemed influenced by Heath Ledger’s Joker.

If fans want to accuse another franchise of copying, it can be a matter of throwing bricks from a glass house.

Filmmakers do this sort of thing all the time. Directors channel their inner-Alfred Hitchcock (or Stanley Kubrick, or whoever) all the time.

Christopher Nolan, who helmed The Dark Knight, channeled 007 films in his Batman trilogy. Example: Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) giving Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) gadgets more than slightly resembled Bond-Q scenes from earlier 007 films.

Chances are, if you see a shot or sequence that reminds you of a famous movie sequence, chances are it’s not a coincidence.

The key difference is what does the director do with it? Does it work? Does it contribute to an entertaining film?

In the case of The Dark Knight, whatever you might think of it, Nolan delivered a memorable movie. With Skyfall, whatever was “borrowed” from Nolan, audiences found it an interesting take on a Bond film.

I can’t judge Mission: Impossible-Fallout. I haven’t seen it, other than the trailers.

The question is where M:I-Fallout writer-director Christopher McQuarrie and his star, Tom Cruise, have delivered a good movie. “Borrowing” happens all the time in film. We’ll see soon.

Images of Lego Aston Martin DB5 apparently leak

One of the images of the Lego Aston Martin DB5 on Instagram

Images of packaging for the new Lego Aston Martin DB5 appeared to have leaked and are on Instagram.

The images appear on #legoleaks on Instagram.

When the blog looked this morning, there were five postings of the packaging, including special cards. One of the postings quotes a price of $169.99.

The packaging include words “Licence to Build.” The hashtag #LicenceToBuild has been used by Lego, Aston Martin and Eon Productions’ official 007 feed on Twitter to promote the project.

The companies formally haven’t identified the DB5 as the licensed product. However, in recent social media promotions, they have used quotes from Goldfinger, Skyfall and SPECTRE. Lego has scheduled an event at 10:07 a.m., July 18 at its store in London.

Thanks to .@CorneelVF on Twitter for the heads up.