The faith-based James Bond movie

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

That, of course, would be Bond 25, the James Bond film without a distributor, a script, a director or even a confirmed James Bond.

More than 16 months after the release of SPECTRE, much of agent 007’s next film adventure is a matter of faith, not fact.

Example: There’s IndieWire’s March 21 story that proclaims:

For Bond fans wondering what might lure Daniel Craig back for “Bond 25,” it just might be the opportunity for 007 to metaphorically save the world from the Orwellian nightmare of Trump, Putin, Brexit, and WikiLeaks.

At least that’s the hope of long-time Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have been hired to write the script for “Bond 25.”

This passage is based on a January interview The Telegraph had with scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. In the interview, Purvis said, “Each time, you’ve got to say something about Bond’s place in the world, which is Britain’s place in the world. But things are moving so quickly now, that becomes tricky.

“With people like (U.S. President Donald) Trump, the Bond villain has become a reality. So when they do another one, it will be interesting to see how they deal with the fact that the world has become a fantasy.”

Since then, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported Purvis and Wade were hired to script Bond 25, their 007th Bond film writing effort.

So, IndieWire takes the leap of faith that Bond 25 will take on Brexit, Trump, etc., and that will entice Daniel Craig to come back for a fifth 007 film.

And as Bond co-producer, Craig would help shape the story by Purvis and Wade. So maybe, like Bond, he just needs a break before returning to active duty, putting on hold any notion of being succeeded by such leading contenders as Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Fassbender or Jack Huston.

Of course, almost all of this is conjecture. Granted, Bamigboye has a record of scoops concerning Skyfall and SPECTRE that were proven to be correct. But the Daily Mail scribe **has not** described any details of a possible Bond 25 plot.

And Purvis, in his January interview telegraph described *the difficulty* of writing a new 007 film. His comments about Brexit, Trump, etc., were not about anything concerning Bond 25’s story line — which, at best, is in early stages of development.

It shouldn’t be needed, but here’s a note of caution anyway. Weeks ago, Bond fans were going crazy over word that Eon Productions had bought an old helicopter. Surely, the fans thought, it must be for Bond 25.

It wasn’t, as noted by the MI6 James Bond website. It was for a non-007 film project.

That hasn’t stopped fans from speculating. Some still hold out hope that Bond 25 somehow, some way, will come out in 2018.

Still, it bears repeating. Almost everything about Bond 25, at this point, is faith based, not fact based.

More Bond 25 questions after P&W’s return

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

With the apparent return of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to script Bond 25, naturally there are more questions.

No Bond 25 story yet? After all this time?

According to the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, Purvis and Wade are the first writers to be hired.

Given Bamigboye’s record with scoops proven correct about Skyfall and SPECTRE, you have to take him seriously.

But the first to be hired 16 months after SPECTRE debuted? We’re not talking a first draft or a treatment (story outline). We’re talking about turning on the old word processor and confronting a blank screen.

By contrast, MGM announced in November 2012 — while Skyfall was still in theaters — that John Logan had been hired to write the next two installments. Eventually, that was changed to one, but the studio wanted everyone to know things were full speed ahead.

Purvis & Wade again? This will be their seventh (or 007th if you like puns) consecutive Bond film effort.

To put that in perspective consider this: Richard Maibaum had 13 Bond writing credits. But his longest streak was five (all 1980s Eon Productions efforts).

Also, the hiring comes less than two months after Purvis told The Telegraph, “I’m just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now.” Evidently, something came up.

To be clear, this blog has not bashed the writing duo. But their hiring for Bond 25 begs the question whether Eon casts a very wide net. Are there really so few writers suitable for the job?

On the other hand, it is a tough job as the likes of John Logan, Paul Haggis, Bruce Feirstein and others have found out over time.

John Logan and Jez Butterworth, who also worked on the last two 007 films (Logan credited both times, Butterworth only once) were brought in by director Same Mendes.

What does this say about when Bond 25 eventually comes out? 

As noted above, Logan was on board to write Bond 24 (later titled SPECTRE) in November 2012. He didn’t submit his first draft until March 2014.

If indeed Purvis and Wade are just getting started, 2019 seems a stronger possibility than 2018. Once a first draft is delivered, months of rewrites usually ensue. If, say, a script is hammered out in early 2018, there’s still casting and numerous other details.

“In any event, no camera will roll on Bond 25 until next autumn at the earliest,” Bamigboye wrote in his story.

And, for now, there’s no confirmed James Bond and no studio to distribute the movie.

John Wick 2 and Logan: Peckinpah for the 21st century

John Wick Chapter 2 poster

John Wick Chapter 2 poster

The name Sam Peckinpah (1925-1984) doesn’t come up much these days. But somewhere old Sam has to be amused that two films following in his footsteps are among the best reviewed movies of 2017.

Those movies would be John Wick Chapter 2 (with a 90 percent fresh rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website) and Logan (at 93 percent).

Peckinpah, meanwhile, became known mostly for film violence in movies such as The Wild Bunch and The Getaway. Monty Python in the 1970s did a Peckinpah parody titled “Salad Days,” where a party is the English countrywide becomes an orgy of blood and severed limbs.

Peckinpah was more than that, of course. One of his earliest films, Ride the High Country, is a mix of ode to classic Westerns with key updates in the movie’s middle section. The 1962 film also lacks the kind of violence he’d be known for later.

There’s an edge to Peckinpah’s work. In a 1956 episode of Gunsmoke scripted (but not directed) by Peckinpah titled The Guitar, citizens of Dodge City manage to lynch two villainous types. But there’s nothing Matt Dillon (James Arness) can do about it. It’s also strongly implied his assistant Chester (Dennis Weaver) was in on it.

Hugh Jackman in Logan's poster

Hugh Jackman in Logan’s poster

Also, there are a few of James Bond-related things related to Peckinpah.

Tomorrow Never Dies was directed by Roger Spottiswoode, who had an “editorial consultant” credit on Peckinpah’s The Getaway and was an editor on the director’s Straw Dogs and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.

Spottiswoode favored a slow motion technique similar to Peckinpah’s in Tomorrow Never Dies. Years later, the climax of the Sam Mendes-directed Skyfall was compared by some to Straw Dogs.

Anyway, Peckinpah’s name tends to be overshadowed by classic director such as John Ford and Howard Hawks as well as directors who started their career later, such as Steven Spielberg.

Still, in 2017, John Wick Chapter 2 and Logan seem to dip deep into Peckinpah techniques and themes.

In the two R-rated movies, the title characters kill dozens of people in messy ways. John Wick’s violence is a bit more stylized, akin to Peckinpah’s work. Both feature characters who are drawn into their situations reluctantly but don’t back down, not unlike Peckinpah’s Steve Judd (Joel McCrea) in Ride The High Country.

This isn’t to say the similarities are intentional. Logan cites a classic Western (and it’s about as subtle as a heart attack) not directed by Peckinpah (don’t click if you’re spoiler adverse).

Nevertheless, Peckinpah enthusiasts may find themselves amused if they sample either movie.

Bond 25: Why MGM has to get bigger or sell out

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

For the James Bond film franchise, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is a millstone.

MGM is not big enough to compete with other major studios by itself. Since a 2010 bankruptcy, the home studio of 007 films has needed studio partners to distribute and market Bond movies.

For the past two Bond films, 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s SPECTRE, MGM negotiated a sweet deal with Sony Pictures. Sony co-financed the movie but only got 25 percent of the profits. Sony ended up in third in line behind MGM and Eon Productions for the 007 spoils.

But good fortune like that only lasts so long.

The Sony deal expired with Skyfall. “There’s no rush,” MGM CEO Gary Barber said of reaching a new Bond distribution deal with Sony or another studio. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.”

MGM logo

That was eleven months ago. No hurry, indeed.

In reality, other studios — Sony, Warner Bros. and Paramount among them — have their own issues.

Sony’s parent company wrote down the value of its movie business by almost $1 billion, an indication that things aren’t going well. Warner Bros.’s parent company, Time Warner, is in the midst of an $85 billion acquisition by AT&T. Also, Warner Bros. is struggling with its “extended universe” of movies based on DC Comics characters. Paramount is struggling, period.

Under those circumstances, cutting a deal with MGM to distribute Bond movies might not be the top priority. Even more stable studios, such as 20th Century Fox and Universal, probably want a better deal than Sony got for Skyfall and SPECTRE.

These days, MGM mostly makes television shows while producing a few movies.

Bond, however, remains MGM’s biggest property, going back to when MGM acquired United Artists in 1981. 007, which not that long ago had his first $1 billion box office movie (Skyfall), is a major league property, or at least can be.

For that promise to be fulfilled, however, Bond needs to be at a major league studio.

MGM isn’t that. It hasn’t been for a long time.

To be a big-time studio, MGM needs to be able to release its own movies and be in more control of its destiny.

It’s fine to cut deals with other companies for financing (other studios do). Ultimately, however, Bond’s home studio needs the ability to distribute the movies.

MGM’s Barber wants the company to sell stock to the public in the next three to five years. Maybe it can become big enough to be a real studio again.

But if it can’t, the 007 franchise will suffer. From the selfish standpoint of Bond film fans, a better option might be for MGM to sell to a studio that has big league status.

Our rants about Bond 25

James Bond, feeling sad after examining his back story one more time.

James Bond, feeling sad, yet again.

Bond isn’t at the same level as other film franchises: You’ve bought an old helicopter. And we should care, why?

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie in 2015 acquired a lot of old cars. More than three years after filming began, it didn’t really matter in the movie’s ultimate success (or lack thereof), did it? Buying vehicles and props is, at the end of the day, a minor enterprise.

Real film franchises have studios that distribute them. Bond doesn’t have one.

The most recent 007 film, SPECTRE, came out in the fall of 2015. Sony Pictures released the last four Bond movies. SPECTRE concluded Sony’s most recent two-picture contract.

If Bond were a fantastically profitable film franchise, other studios would be beating down the doors of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio. But MGM hasn’t yet reached a new deal.

Of course, Sony got taken with the last two films (Skyfall and SPECTRE), providing 50 percent of the financing but only 25 percent of the profits. That might, just might, be a factor in MGM’s delays in finding a new studio partner.

Meanwhile, real film franchises actually seek publicity. Marvel Studios releases two movies a year. But it successfully gets publicity year round. Ditto for Warner Bros.’ DC Comics film universe, despite the fact it’s not as successful as Marvel.

The Bond franchise is more like the Kremlin. I know, Ian Fleming would spin in his grave at that reference.

Seriously, though, there are parallels. Both provide little tiny bits of news that require the knowledge of long-time followers to interpret. Why else, do you suppose, there has been so much attention to the purchase of a helicopter?

Carry on.

Baz Bamigboye implies Bond 25 is ‘long, long way off’

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter


File this under “S” for sketchy, but Baz Bamigboye, who used to be the go-to U.K. reporter for James Bond scoops, appeared to say on Twitter that Bond 25 is a “long, long way off.”

Bamigboye, who writes for the Daily Mail, was specifically asked, “Is it dead?” referring to Bond news. That’s when the writer made his “long, long way off” response, presumably referring to Bond 25.

Bamigboye generated a number of scoops about Skyfall and SPECTRE, such as how Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned to rewrite SPECTRE’s script in mid-2014. That was the first major tipoff that the movie had major script issues.

However, a major caveat: Bamigboye hasn’t been on the Bond beat since 2014. He’s been writing about other entertainment topics. Caveat No. 2: “long, long way off” is vague. 2019? 2020? 2022?

Still, for what it’s worth, you can view the exchange on Twitter here.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Sony writes down value of film unit by almost $1B

Sony Pictures logo

Sony Pictures logo

Sony Corp. wrote down the value of its film business by $962 million, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Essentially, Sony said its film business is worth far less than what it listed on its financial books. In accounting that’s known as a “goodwill impairment charge.”

The writedown stemmed from “a downward revision in the future profitability projection for the motion pictures business,” according to a Sony statement quoted by THR.

Sony also said its commitment to the film unit “remains unchanged.” The New York Post earlier this month said Sony “is listening to bank pitches about a potential sale of its film and TV operations.”

Sony has released the past four James Bond films. The company has said it would like to extend the relationship but it has no deal in place with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio.  Under its most recent two-picture deal, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits.

At the moment, Bond 25 has no distributor, much less a release date.