‘Jane Bond’ shows interest in women spies

Salt poster

Salt poster

This week’s buzz about whether actress Gillian Anderson should play a female version of James Bond caused a lot of fans to complain about click bait and political correctness.

But the media attention concerning “Jane Bond” may show something else — continuing interest in women spies.

There have been attempts at a woman spy movie series. Eon Productions, maker of the 007 films, tried to develop a spinoff movie featuring Halle Berry’s Jinx character from Die Another Day. But in the end, no movie occurred.

In 2010, Angelina Jolie starred in Salt, which had worldwide box office of $293.5 million. The film had an ending that left things open for a sequel but none has taken place. Sony Pictures is developing a television series version, Screen Daily said in February.

In 2015, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. included Alicia Vikander as a British spy, Gaby Teller, who wasn’t a character in the original 1964-68 television series.

Thus, Solo and Illya became Solo, Illya and Gaby. Vikander got good reviews, but the movie limped home with worldwide box office of $109.9 million, pretty much killing any chance of a sequel.

On the other hand, Jennifer Garner’s Alias television series ran more than 100 episodes from 2001-2006.

In the 007 films, women spies have been a major part of the proceedings for decades.

Bond has allied himself with women agents from the Soviet Union (The Spy Who Loved Me), United States (Moonraker), China (Tomorrow Never Dies) the U.S. again (Die Another Day) and Bolivia (Quantum of Solace) . 2012’s Skyfall provided a new take on Moneypenny, in which the Naomie Harris version is initially an MI6 agent.

In these risk-adverse days, studios may want to check out properties such as the comic strip Modesty Blaise, the subject of a 1966 movie.

Anyway, we were reminded by reader Stuart Basinger that back when the film rights to Casino Royale were first acquired (years before Eon Productions was formed), producer-director Gregory Ratoff wanted to change James Bond into a woman. Ratoff wanted to cast Susan Hayward in the role. Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. worked on the project and described it in a 2012 article in Variety.

What prompted this post was a comment from a reader, @CinemaOnFire on Twitter. So, as a shoutout, we present that tweet:

Daily Mail says Daniel Craig is out as 007

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

UPDATE (May 19): The BBC reports that “authoritative Bond sources” say Daniel Craig hasn’t made up his mind and no decision is expected soon. CLICK HERE and see the item with a time stamp of 07:56.

ORIGINAL POST: The U.K. tabloid newspaper and website the DAILY MAIL said turned down a 68 million pound ($99 million) to do two more 007 films.

In the past, the Daily Mail had a number of scoops about 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s SPECTRE that were proven to be true. The bulk of those stories were written by Baz Bamigboye, but he been writing about other entertainment subjects since late 2014.

Here’s an excerpt from the new story by Rehema Figueiredo:

Insiders said Craig turned down a £68million offer from MGM studio to return as Bond for two more films following last year’s hit Spectre. The sum included endorsements, profit shares, and a role for him working as a co-producer.

One LA film source said: ‘Daniel is done – pure and simple – he told top brass at MGM after Spectre. They threw huge amounts of money at him, but it just wasn’t what he wanted.’

There has been a lot of speculation that Craig, 48, was quitting Bondage and even more about possible replacements. Almost all of those stories cited how Craig some in some interviews shortly after SPECTRE finished filming that he would rather slit his wrists than do another Bond film.

However, the Daily Mail is the first outlet to go out on a limb and state definitively that Craig was out. Craig has done the last four films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. Craig also was a co-producer of SPECTRE.

What follows is in the for what it’s worth category (and not an endorsement of the Daily Mail story):

SPECTRE ended with Bond driving off in the Aston Martin DB5 with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux).

Just before filming began, the script had Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world,” a line originally from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, spoken by George Lazenby’s Bond, just before (and after) his wife Tracy (Diana Rigg) is killed. The finished version of SPECTRE didn’t have the line.

To read the entire Daily Mail story, CLICK HERE.

 

MGM expects to be public company in 3-5 years

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expects to be a publicly traded company within five years, Chief Executive Officer Gary Barber said during a May 12 investors presentation.

“We envision in the next three to five years, within that period, to be a public structure so that we can unlock the value of this great company,” Barber said.

Barber was asked why wait for as long as five years.

MGM chief Gary Barber

MGM chief Gary Barber

“We’re really in the early stages of our growth,” the CEO said. “We still have to go and achieve some of the growth areas…before we take ourselves into a public structure.”

Barber became CEO when MGM emerged from a 2010 bankruptcy. MGM came out of bankruptcy a smaller studio and it currently doesn’t have the resources to release its own films.

As a result, MGM strikes deals with other studios to release MGM films, such as the now-concluded two picture deal where Sony Pictures co-financed and released Skyfall and SPECTRE. MGM has yet to reach an accord with either Sony or other studios to release Bond 25.

MGM controls half the 007 franchise, along with Danjaq LLC, parent company of Eon Productions.

A 4:58 excerpt of the presentation was uploaded to MGM’s investors relations page.

The 007 film dilemma in 3 minutes

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

As the James Bond film franchise decides what to do next, it faces a bit of a dilemma:

Should it continue to seek more critical respect (Casino Royale and Skyfall) or should it embrace its roots, the way SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, did?

The last two Bond films were directed by an auteur, Sam Mendes.

In 2012, Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli told ComingSoon.Net that the franchise didn’t hire journeymen directors: “(W)e’ve never been one to hire directors for hire. We always wanted someone who was a great director in their own right and a storyteller.”

Yet, in the first four movies of the series — which generated some of the most memorable scenes for the franchise — were directed by journeymen Terence Young and Guy Hamilton. Young, in particular, dealt with cost and schedule overruns on Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

Young even had part of his Dr. No fee impounded until costs were recouped at the box office because of the overruns. Bond was a much more modest undertaking in those days.

2012 also saw something that summarizes the divide between respect and tradition.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversayr of the Bond films. So Tom Jones appeared to perform the title song to Thunderball, the fourth 007 film.

The audiences was full of artistes. Yet they seemed to be having as good a time as audiences did in 1965 when Thunderball first came out.

On some occasions, respect and tradition can coincide. Something to keep in mind as Bond 25 undergoes its journey in development. Here’s Sir Tom in 2012:

FWIW, observations about Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer talked a bit about the future of the James Bond film franchise. The studio didn’t say a lot but it was the most actual news since SPECTRE began its theatrical run last year.

So, here are some conservative observations about Bond 25 and what’s coming next.

It’s taking longer to reach a new 007 distribution deal that people initially thought:  Sony’s most recent 007 distribution contract ended with SPECTRE.

Some, including Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, which actually makes the 007 films, expected a new deal to be reached by January or February. No deal is in place and MGM CEO Gary Barber told investors last week there’s “no rush.”

Barber also said MGM has talked to many studios about a deal and he’s confident MGM will reach a good deal. But it also *suggests* other studios want better terms than the last Sony deal — 50-50 financing but Sony having to accept only 25 percent of the profits. For the first billion-dollar Bond — Skyfall — Sony only got $57 million in profits while MGM made $175 million.

More than ever, the MGM-Eon partnership is an uneasy one: When MGM was in bankruptcy in 2010, it said it planned to put Bond films on an every-other-year schedule. Barber’s remarks last week — Bond films will come out every three to four years — marked a formal surrender from that.

Eon bosses Wilson and Barbara Broccoli aren’t interested in making Bond films every other year. They have other irons in the fire, including plays and television projects. One suspects MGM would like Bond films more frequently than less frequently. But MGM relies on Eon to make Bond films and there’s only so much it can do. During’s last week investor call, Barber played up MGM’s other projects.

Also, the Eon side has lived through a lot of different MGM executive regimes ever since MGM bough United Artists in 1981. You could make the case that Wilson and Broccoli have no reason to be any closer to Barber than his various predecessors.

Take the over in over/under bets about when Bond 25 comes out: If this blog had to bet, it’d still bet on 2018 for a Bond 25 release date. But if the talks for another distribution deal drag out a few more months, a 2019 release date suddenly looks more reasonable.

As a general rule, there seem to be more reasons for a later release date than an earlier date. In 2012, Sony executives said they expected a 2014 release date for Bond 24. Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig slapped down the idea in a joint interview, saying a Sony executive was getting ahead of himself. Sure enough, Bond 24, later called SPECTRE, came out in 2015.

Bond movies to come out on a 3-4 year cycle, MGM says

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said this week that James Bond movies will come out on a “three-to-four year cycle” and it’s not hurrying to strike a new 007 distribution deal.

The disclosures were made by MGM chief Gary Barber during the question-and-answer portion of the company’s fourth-quarter and year-end earnings conference call.

Six years ago, when the studio was in bankruptcy, it produced a plan calling for Bond films to again come out on an every-other-year basis. After Skyfall came out, Barber began backpedaling during a November 2012 investor call. This week, he made clear an every-other-year 007 schedule is never going to happen.

The 007 films have “been on a cycle of every three to hour years and I anticipate it will be on that same three-to-four year cycle,” Barber said.

The executive provided no timetable for Bond 25, except to say it is “under discussions with our partners at Danjaq.” Danjaq LLC is the parent company of Eon Productions.

The CEO of MGM later cited the three-to-four year cycle as a reason why the studio isn’t hurrying to strike a new Bond distribution deal.

“There’s no rush,” Barber said. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.”

Sony Pictures has released the last four Bond films. After MGM came out of a bankruptcy, Sony struck, in hindsight, a bad deal to distribute what turned out to be Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Under that accord, Sony co-financed the two 007 films while getting only 25 percent of the profits. Sony got $57 million for Skyfall while MGM took home $175 million, according to documents that became public because of the Sony computer hacks.

Sony got even less for SPECTRE, because that movie had a higher budget and lower box office. Danjaq got more than Sony because it’s paid a percentage of the grosses of the movies.

None of this was mentioned during the conference call. Barber said this week that “every single studio” is interested in being MGM’s 007 partner.

The Guardian’s daft 007 proposal

Carmine Infantino's cover to Flash No. 123, "The Flash of Two Worlds."

The Guardian’s proposal for alternate-universe 007s sounds a lot like “The Flash of Two Worlds” story published by DC Comics in 1961.

The Guardian has come out with a story in effect saying don’t choose between Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba as the next James Bond but do movies with both — at the same time.

The British newspaper cited how, “We are, after all, living in the era of Marvel’s highly successful expanded universe of interconnected movie and TV superhero stories. Star Wars’ take on the concept is moving forward apace, and Warner Bros has 10 films based on the DC Comics back catalogue planned between now and 2020.”

That sets up the meat of the proposal:

But Bond is just as big as any of the above, and right now seems even more suited to being split into multiple strands. Elba fans reckon the Hackney-born Londoner would make the perfect 21st-century 007, while Hiddlestonians see their Eton-educated man as the epitome of traditional Flemingesque toff sophistication. So why not take the opportunity presented by Craig’s mooted departure and give both versions screen time?

Here are two reasons why the Guardian’s idea is daft.

–Expanded universes and multiple/alternate universes are not the same thing.

To use Marvel as an example, the Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man co-exists in the same fictional universe as Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Evans’ Captain America. The characters have been featured in separate films and have also been in movies together. That’s what Warner Bros. is moving toward with the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie that opens this week.

What The Guardian is calling for are movies featuring alternate universe versions of Bond. Eon Productions opened the door to this concept when it rebooted the 007 series ten years ago with Casino Royale. The production company decided to start over, but kept the popular Judi Dench as M, with the explanation that Dench is playing a different version of the character than she did previously.

The Guardian is calling for an Elba 007 set in the present time and a Hiddleston Bond set in the time of the original Ian Fleming novels. Unless the two Bonds suddenly develop super powers, like the two versions of DC Comics’ The Flash, the two Bonds can never meet because they’re in separate universes.

Still, some fans might be intrigued with watching alternate takes. So let’s look at the second reason.

–Eon has trouble enough producing one James Bond movie every three years. Do you really expect it to produce, in effect, two series at once?

Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss, has talked since at least 1999 about how exhausting it is to make Bond movies. Barbara Broccoli, the other co-boss, told the Los Angeles Times in November 2012 that she didn’t want to hurry future 007 installments.

“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Broccoli said. “But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures.”

Also, even with a three-year gap between Skyfall and 2015’s SPECTRE, the scripting process was chaotic. So imagine that situation squared as Eon produced twin Bond series. And that doesn’t take into consideration other ideas put forth by The Guardian, including a Netflix series (similar to the Netflix shows featuring other Marvel characters) featuring Moneypenny.

Finally, on top of all that, Broccoli and Wilson are interested in various non-Bond projects. In that respect, they’re more like Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman than they are the other co-found Albert R. Broccoli, who never did a non-Bond film after 1968.

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