Marvel, Sony snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster from 2017

Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures entered in a partnership which included, among other things, the highest-grossing (unadjusted) film Sony history while Marvel featured its best known character in its own movies.

What next? Perhaps end the partnership.

That’s apparently what’s happening. This week saw numerous reports about the split. (See THIS STORY from Variety, THIS STORY from The Hollywood Reporter and THIS STORY from The Wrap, among others.)

Essentially, Marvel film boss Kevin Feige produced two Spider-Man movies for Sony while Marvel got to use the Tom Holland version of Spidey in three Marvel films (Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame).

All of the films were enormously successful. Spider-Man: Far From Home, released earlier this year, passed Skyfall in unadjusted worldwide box office for Sony. Still, things apparently not successful enough.

Marvel, owned by Walt Disney Co., reportedly wanted to co-finance Sony’s solo Spider-Man films. Sony issued a statement on Twitter that Feige is getting overextended because of the studio’s “newly added Marvel properties.”

Marvel has gotten control of the X-Men and Fantastic Four as a result of Disney acquiring most of the assets of 20th Century Fox. It’s also launching new TV series on Disney’s new Disney + streaming service.

Whatever the specifics, Sony is saying in effect it doesn’t need Marvel’s Feige to make successful films. Marvel seems to be signaling it still wants a better deal regardless of past success.

We’ll see what happens. The collaboration with Marvel was a shot in the arm for Sony’s Spider-Man franchise. Having Spider-Man in Marvel films was a boost for Marvel.

What’s more, Holland’s Spider-Man had been in position to be the “the face” of future Marvel films with the departure of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America. Nothing last forever, but this partnership may have reached a premature end.

Bond 25 questions: The Universal edition

Universal logo

With Bond 25, one of the biggest changes was how Universal, part of Comcast, would be in charge of international distribution.

For the past four 007 films, Sony’s Columbia Pictures handled all the distribution. With Bond 25, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna, through the United Artists Releasing joint venture, would handle the U.S. and Canada. Universal would deal with international distribution, which is the biggest piece of a Bond film.

With that in mind, the blog has a few questions.

Hey, what about that Bond 25 teaser trailer?

A favorite Bond fan theory was that a Bond 25 teaser trailer might be attached to Universal’s Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw, a spinoff from the studio’s successful Fast and the Furious franchise.

Well, Hobbs & Shaw is being released this week. There’s no sign of a Bond 25 trailer. Perhaps it will still happen. Still, these days, trailers debut online days before they show up in theaters. Time is running out for a Bond 25 teaser trailer to be part of Hobbs & Shaw.

What does Universal mean for Bond 25 otherwise?

It may mean the situation is more complicated. Or, as Napoleon Solo once said in an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., “It’s a three-cornered game.”

For the last four Bond films, Columbia managed marketing and releasing. MGM was the home studio for the Bond franchise but it lacked its own distribution operation.

Now, with United Artists Releasing, MGM and Annapurna are involved in addition to Universal. There’s no single distribution/marketing point.

So?

Recall that the late April “reveal” event in Jamaica didn’t have a title for Bond 25. The MI6 James Bond website has reported there was a title (A Reason to Die) ready to go but Eon Productions and its studio partners opted to hold off. The film still has no title three months later.

Essentially, there are more parties who need to be kept in the loop. United Artists Releasing is a proxy for two different (financially struggling) studios while Universal is a Bond newbie.

Anything else?

Back in 2015, Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions said Eon really does the marketing for Bond films, its studio partners merely execute the plan.

But is that really the case this time? Or would Universal like to have a say? Perhaps we’ll see.

SPECTRE’s script: Sibling (sort of) rivalry

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, had more scrutiny than most James Bond films. Thanks to the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures, at least two versions of the script and many related e-mails ended up going out ahead of filming that began in December 2014.

By the time of a 129-page, Dec. 1, 2014 draft — one week before the start of principal photography — the story was mostly locked down. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had rewritten earlier drafts by John Logan.

However, there would still be changes made before the final film.

The Dec. 1 draft, referring to the gunbarrel sequence, said: “IRIS OPENS on the eye-socket of a SKULL.

“It’s the Day of the Dead.”

The official James Bond Twitter feed in early 2015 teased this idea as part of its series of clapperboard photos.

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

However, in the final film, the gunbarrel (or iris) didn’t open up on anything. The image of Bond having shot his gun went black and the words, “The dead are live” appeared. Then an image of the Day of the Dead parade (including a skull float) appeared.

The stage directions establish what audiences would see in the fall of 2015.

In this sea of RED and BLACK we pick up a MAN IN A WHITE SUIT AND BLACK MASK moving against the stream…

This is MARCO SCIARRA. An assassin.

Now the man bumps into someone — and, as he continues on, WE FOLLOW THE MAN HE BUMPED INTO…

It’s JAMES BOND. Also an assassin.

What follows is very similar to the final film. Bond is with a woman named Estrella, who he eventually ditches to go after Sciarra. However, there’s a brief exchange later that wouldn’t be part of the final film.

BACK TO BOND. Steely as he looks over Mexico. His cell phone rings.

ESTRELLA (O.S)
I thought you said you wouldn’t be long…

BOND
Something came up.

An aerial shot of the helicopter flying over the city into the setting sun.

ESTRELLA (O.S.)
Well – I hope you found what you were looking for.

He looks down…at the small ring he now holds in his palm.

BOND
It’s a start.

After the titles, Bond goes to see M. The stage directions indicate 007’s actions in Mexico are the talk of the office. “As he strides down the corridor, people fall silent. Analysts whisper.” Bond also notices new cameras being installed.

Poster for SPECTRE

In the final film, after the title things began directly with Bond’s meeting with M. In the script, the cameras would be referenced when Bond meets C.

“…cameras. You put up all the cameras,” Bond says.

“Well, you’ve nothing to hide, have you Bond?” C replies.

Judi Dench’s Return

Later, when Bond shows Moneypenny the video message he received from the former M (Judi Dench), the stage directions list the character as “M (Judi).” Her lines are in italic type.

The Moneypenny-Bond scene is a bit longer than the final film, but not substantially different. It does turn out there’s a woman in Bond’s bedroom. “James? I’m lonely…Come back to bed…” After Moneypenny departs, the woman asks Bond who was just there.

Bond goes to Rome and infiltrates a SPECTRE meeting. The script briefly introduces the movie’s villain but there are no clues yet to his real identity.

As in the final film, Bond makes his getaway in the Aston Martin he took from MI6 while SPECTRE’s Hinx follows in a Jaguar. The stage directions specify that “Dusty Springfield’s ‘SPOOKY'” come out of the Aston’s Martin’s speakers at one point.

Skipping ahead, Bond meets up with Mr. White, more or less as he did in the final film. After White kills himself, Bond is trying to meet up with his daughter Madeline Swann.

When he tracks her down, the script has a few more details. Bond says he was 11 when his parents died.

By page 61, Bond has put it together than Franz Oberhauser is behind all the villainy. “He was older than me,” Bond tells Q. “We barely spoke. But he knows me. Check his name. And check for multiple identities.”

“And what’s your plan exactly?” Q asks.

“Find him,” Bond replies. “And kill him.”

Big Reveal

Bond gives Q the ring he took from Sciarra back in Mexico City. Q begins working with his laptop. The stage directions emphasize how the previous Daniel Craig 007 films are now interlocked.

“On Q’s LAPTOP, the connections are starting to accumulate. THE IMAGE OF LE CHIFFRE IS JOINED BY VESPER LYND, DOMINIC GREENE AND THEN … RAOUL SILVA.”

Meanwhile, as in the film, C shows off to M how all of MI6 personnel are under surveillance. The script, though, has a scene where M confronts Moneypenny for aiding Bond without his knowledge.

“I do hope it wasn’t for love,” M says. “If so — you’ve been made a fool.”

“This sears into her,” according to the stage directions. “And in recoiling from that pain, she learns her answer.”

Moneypenny’s reply: “It wasn’t love. It was loyalty.”

“Conspiculously not loyalty to M,” the stage directions read. “Painful to him.”

More back and forth takes place when Moneypenny says Bond was following orders.

“Who from?” M asks.

“Your predecessor, sir.” This, of course, shakes M up.

Dad Always Liked You Best!

Bond and Madeline eventually head out to find Oberhauser. There’s a final confrontation between Bond and Hinx. The script makes it sound like Hinx dies (the script says he is “sucked under the wheel”). Also, in this script, M manages to get a telegram message to Bond. “DOUBLE-0 SECTION FINISHED — STOP GOOD LUCK — STOP M.”

SPECTRE teaser image

On page 97, Bond and Oberhauser finally meet. Their exchange goes on for a few pages. On page 102, we cut to the chase.

“Me, I was not a well child,” Oberhauser says. “But I had loving, doting parents. Then one day, they brought another boy into our home. This boy was an orphan. His parents had died in a climbing accident.”

Of course, the boy was Bond.

“I would sit in my room alone listening to my father hour after hour playing cards with this boy.”

Translation: Dad always liked you best!

Oberhauser goes on to describe the time he played poker with Bond, using hazelnuts as chips.

OBERHAUSER (CONT’D)
And the next hand I was dealt All Hearts to the King. A flush! And I pushed all my hazelnuts into the middle. And cuckoo looked at me. And he did the same. Then he reached to his wrist, and he took off his big silver watch his own dead father had given him, and he placed it on the table. And suddenly…I panicked.

Yes, young Bond bluffed young Oberhauser. Bond had a pair of threes. This was the inspiration for Oberhauser to become a super villain.

This continues on to page 106, where Bond reveals to Oberhauser the latter was really adopted. “Your name, your real name …is Ernest Serban.”

Oberhauser remains frozen. Bond leans in.

BOND (CONT’D)
Who’s the cuckoo now?

Let’s skip to the ending. Bond shoots Oberhauser three times but doesn’t kill him.

“KILL ME you coward! KILL ME!!” Oberhauser says.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Bond replies.

According to the stage direction, it’s a week later when Bond shows up and talks to Q.

As in the final film, Bond and Madeline are in the Aston Martin DB5. But there’s some addditional dialogue in the scrip.

MADELINE
Where will we go, James?

BOND
I have a few ideas. After all…
(He smiles at her.)
We have all the time in the world.

The final stage directions say the DB5 roars away “TAKING THEM SOMEWHERE…ANYWHERE….TOGETHER.”

Bond 25 to be delayed, THR reports

Daniel Craig

Bond 25 will not meet its fall 2019 release date, The Hollywood Reporter said, citing sources it didn’t identify.

“With the abrupt exit of director Danny Boyle, the next installment in the James Bond film franchise — the untitled Bond 25 — will miss its Nov. 8, 2019 release date in North American theaters, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter,” according to a story by Pamela McClintock.

Eon Productions announced Aug. 21 that Boyle was exiting the project due to “creative differences.” The development came less than three months after Eon announced the hiring of the director.

THR didn’t provide a precise replacement date.

“It’s possible Bond 25 may not hit theaters until late 2020, according to sources,” McClintock wrote. “No recent Bond film has ever opened in summer. Even before Boyle departed, there was talk of pushing the movie’s release to early 2020.”

The last Bond film to have a summer release was 1989’s Licence to Kill, the second and final 007 film starring Timothy Dalton. Since 1995’s GoldenEye, Bond films have had a U.S. release date of either November or December.

For a time, Bond 22, later titled Quantum of Solace, was slated for May 2, 2008. But Sony Pictures, its distributor, delayed until fall 2008. Iron Man, the first Marvel Studios film, grabbed the May 2 date, launching a powerhouse franchise.

For Bond 25, a joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures will distribute in the U.S. while Universal will handle international distribution.

UPDATE (5:25 p.m. New York time): Variety also has a story. The sourcing isn’t very precise. “Word around town is that it’s back to the drawing board for the creators of the new 007 adventure after Boyle and his co-writer, John Hodge, delivered a draft of the script that didn’t meet the approval of producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, as well as star Daniel Craig.”

Variety adds this tidbit: MGM and Eon “are not simply eyeing a director for hire, which signals that a major rewrite will have to be undertaken. It is also telling that the producers seem more eager to find a screenwriter than a person willing to slide behind the camera.”

If accurate, does this mean a search for yet another “auteur” director? The Bond franchise was built on the shoulders of journeymen directors such as Terence Young and Guy Hamilton.

UPDATE (6:10 p.m. New York time): Deadline: Hollywood gets into the act with a counter-story.  “(Bond 25) hasn’t abdicated its November 8, 2019 release date, not yet at least. It is possible that if a replacement director is named within the next 60 days, Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007 can keep its date, sources said.”

Deadline: Hollywood was the same outlet that said last fall that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to announcing it had secured the Bond 25 domestic distribution deal. While that happened, it didn’t occur until May 2018.

Bond 25: Dave Bautista joins the parade of shiny objects


Actor Dave Bautista caused a stir on Instagram this week. He posted a photo of himself, apparently with a SPECTRE logo tattoo on his middle finger.

Naturally, fans asked whether this was “confirmation” that he’ll be back for Bond 25 after playing henchman Hinx in SPECTRE.

Welcome to the Bond 25 parade of bright, shiny objects.

Bond 25, at the moment, is a movie without a way to actually get to theaters (i.e. no distributor). There are options, of course, but none has actually been taken.

Bond 25’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, may be trying to sell itself. If that’s the case, unless a sale is executed soon, it might have an impact on Bond 25.

Bond 25’s financing may not be settled until there’s a distributor. Sony Pictures, under its most recent deal to distribute Skyfall and SPECTRE, kicked in half of the production budget. You can only afford to shoot what you have to spend.

Image of Dave Bautista ‘s Instagram post.

But, of course, those kind of issues are no fun. Hence, there are bright, shiny objects to distract everyone from the mundane. The Bautista post may be the latest example.

A cynical view? Not really. Consider:

–Actor Jeffrey Wright, on April 9, 2017, posted a still of himself as Felix Leiter in Quantum of Solace. “Eh, who’s that brother?” read the caption.

Based on that meager evidence, The Independent did an entire story with the headline “Bond 25: Westworld’s Jeffrey Wright teases his return as Felix Leiter.”

The Screen Rant website also bit, with a post titled, “Bond 25: Jeffrey Wright Teases His Return to the Franchise.

This was an entire month after the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported that veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired to write the Bond 25 script. But, when the fact becomes legend, print the legend as the old saying goes.

–And let us not forget how Eon Productions and MGM each announced on July 24, 2017, that Bond 25 would have a U.S. release date of Nov. 8, 2019. At the time, there was no distributor but that appeared to be a mere formality. Fan countdown clocks went online.

Of course, there’s still no distributor all this time later.

At some point, Bond 25 will come out. But this blog would prefer solid news, not bright, shiny objects.

Bond 25: Annoying stories edition

Daniel Craig

This week, Daniel Craig talked (very, very) briefly about Bond 25. He didn’t say much, except to say (again) he’d be doing the movie. However, that didn’t stop a number of stories with very annoying passages. Here’s a look at some.

VANITY FAIR, APRIL 11: “Bond 25 Is Coming Sooner Than You Think,” the magazine proclaimed in a headline on its website. In the first paragraph, it said, “Break out your martinis and Omega watches, because Bond 25 is upon us.”

No, no it’s not. Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said last year the movie would have a U.S. release date of November 2019. MGM, last month on an investor call, said Bond would return in 2019. Bond 25 is not upon us.

In other words, nothing has changed. The only people who are surprised are the scribes and editors at Vanity Fair who, from a 007 perspective, have been in a slumber to rival that of Rip Van Winkle’s.

DEN OF GEEK!, APRIL 11: The entertainment news website examines the release slate of Sony Pictures and ponders whether Sony might end up distributing Bond 25.

“We’ve learned that indie outfit Annapurna Pictures will team with MGM and EON Productions for US distribution, but last we heard, the international rights are up for grabs,” Den of Geek! said.

Well: 1) Eon Productions isn’t involved in distribution. It may or may not have a say, but distribution is an MGM decision. 2) Clearly, Den of Geek! has fallen behind in its reading, including last week’s STORY BY THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER that no Bond 25 distribution decision has been made and that MGM is using its Bond rights to attract buyers.

To be sure, MGM and Annapurna last year formed a joint venture to distribute each other’s movies in the United States. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal. Deadline: Hollywood reported in November that joint venture was close to getting the U.S. Bond 25 deal. But hasn’t happened yet.

Note to Den of Geek!: There’s this site affiliated with the blog called the Bond 25 Timeline. You might want to check it first before doing your next article on Bond 25. h/t to reader @CorneelVf on Twitter for pointing out the Den of Geek! story.

OBSERVER, APRIL 10: The story isn’t bad for the most part. It notes for example, the lack of a distributor for Bond 25. But there is one line that was annoying.

“We can only assume that franchise producer Barbara Broccoli is paying Craig handsomely for his fifth and final Bond installment,” the Observer said.

Ultimately, Barbara Broccoli doesn’t pay the bills. The studio (or studios with co-financing deals) handles that chore. Eon has never financed Bond movies. Whatever money it has fronted has been returned once a studio (beginning with United Artists in the early 1960s, MGM after it acquired UA in the 1980s) OK’s the movie and started paying.

VARIETY, APRIL 10: The entertainment publication/website essentially summarized an Associated Press video of what Craig said this week. So far, so good. Then, there was this passage:

“At one point  (Craig) said he would ‘rather slash my wrists’ than play Bond again and said he would only do another film ‘for the money.’ Apparently, the studio paid him handsomely.”

At least Variety understands the studio foots the bills. However, this falls into the annoying category because Variety ignored the scoop of its rival (The Hollywood Reporter) about MGM seeking to be acquired and putting off a Bond 25 distribution deal.

I’m sure Craig is in line for a big pay day if Bond 25 is made. But it won’t get made unless it is financed (something at least somewhat in doubt until the distribution situation is ironed out). It might have been a better use of time for Variety to find out what really is going on than to write a snarky line.

MGM may sell, Bond 25 distribution still up in air, THR says

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer may be getting ready for a sale while the distribution of Bond 25 — both in the U.S. and internationally — is still unresolved, The Hollywood Reporter said.

The two issues are related, according to the entertainment news outlet.

MGM is holding off on making a Bond 25 distribution deal “because it is using the Bond rights as a carrot for whoever wants to buy the studio,” THR reported, citing “a knowledgable source.”

MGM controls half of the Bond franchise, going back to when it acquired United Artists in 1981. The other half is controlled by Eon Productions and its parent company, Danjaq.

One possible MGM buyer is Sony Corp., THR said. The company’s Sony Pictures (and its Columbia Pictures brand) have distributed the last four Bond films, going back to 2006’s Casino Royale. Under its most recent two-film deal, Sony contributed half of the production costs but only took home 25 percent of the profit.

“Sony is said to be interested in buying the studio and has the cash on hand to pounce,” THR said. The entertainment news outlet says MGM’s price tag may exceed $6 billion, including the 007 rights.

MGM exited bankruptcy in 2010 and had no distribution operation. The studio last year formed a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s films in the U.S. However, Bond 25 was not part of the deal. The first MGM film distributed by the joint venture was the recent Death Wish remake.

In November, Deadline: Hollywood reported the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to securing the U.S. distribution for Bond 25. Since then, various stories have been published assuming it was a done deal. But, as this blog has pointed out, there never was an actual announcement.

The THR story, meanwhile, has an almost throwaway line in the final paragraph that director Danny Boyle’s deal for Bond 25 has been completed.

“One thing is for certain, with the Bond 25 release date looming and director Danny Boyle’s deal done, according to a source, MGM will have to make some kind of move soon,” THR said.

Boyle said last month he will direct the movie if a script being written by his collaborator John Hodge is accepted. MGM declined to comment to THR.