007 questions about Bond 24

The past month has seen a blitz of stories on entertainment Web sites, U.K. newspapers and other outlets about Skyfall. The stories spurred us to think ahead about where the 007 film series goes from here.

“Questions about Bond 24? We’re still filming this one!”

001. Is Sam Mendes coming back to direct Bond 24? You could rephrase the question, “Is (NAME HERE) coming back to direct Bond (XX)?” The series hasn’t had a director do consecutive movies since John Glen did five in a row in the 1980s. Since Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli assumed control, only Martin Campbell has directed two and they were separated by more than a decade (GoldenEye and Casino Royale). The others were all one and done.

002. If not Mendes, then who? Most likely a “prestige” director. Here’s a quote from Barbara Broccoli IN AN INTERVIEW IN COMINGSOON.NET

We’ve always wanted a director that would put a stamp on the movie, so we’ve never been one to hire directors for hire.

It wasn’t always that way with the Bond series. Terence Young, who helmed three of the first four 007 films, and Guy Hamilton (four in total) were directors for hire. Peter Hunt was a rookie director as was John Glen, both promoted from being second unit directors. But that was Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon, not the current version.

003. Come on. Isn’t this an upgrade in quality? Check back with us after Skyfall. Marc Forster was a prestige hire. In our view that hire didn’t work out so well. (To read an opposing view, CLICK HERE to read an essay by Paul Rowlands.) “Directors for hire” turned out Bond movies such as From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Pedigree doesn’t guarantee a great movie.

004. Is Daniel Craig coming back? Michael G. Wilson has talked about trying to get Craig to do eight movies eventually. If someone were dealing tarot cards, we’d guess they’d indicate Craig would be back for at least one more film. Whether Craig makes it to eight depends in part on another question….

005. Will Bond 24 really come out in 2014? Sony (which is releasing Skyfall and Bond 24 in a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) says yes. MGM is counting on an every-other-year for Bond movies. Eon hasn’t been heard from and Sony and MGM need Eon to actually produce the movies. Plus, there are some scenarios we see where Bond 24 would come out later than 2014.

006. Such as? Hypothetical situation: Sam Mendes does come back as director. The Collider Web site ran a transcript of a group interview Mendes gave about Skyfall. Here’s a quote that caught our eye:

But, it’s fair to say that there’s no screenplay that wouldn’t be improved by having a year more to work on it. There’s always trying to find ways, different interesting ways of telling a story.

That doesn’t sound like a guy who’d rush things to meet an every-other-year schedule. Plus, one of the most consistent talking points from Skyfall principals is how the four-year gap between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall turned out well because there was more time to work on the script. Two years sounds like a lot of time until you consider principal photography alone takes six months or more.

007. Do you like playing spoil sport? No, and that’s not the purpose here. We’re just pointing out there’s a lot of uncertainty despite public announcements (i.e. Sony saying Bond 24 will be out in two years). And we’d rather have this type of uncertainty compared with 2010 when MGM was having financial troubles and going into bankruptcy court.

Bond 24 in 2014? Here’s a caveat

Michael G. Wilson: the agony and ecstasy

Earlier this week, Sony Corp. representatives said at a CinemaCon event in Las Vegas that it plans to release Bond 24, the next 007 film after Skyfall, in 2014. (See THIS MI6 007 FAN WEB SITE STORY which was the basis of posts on various Web sites)

The announcement about a year-and-a-half after Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, which controls half of the 007 franchise, said in a bankruptcy filing it wanted to restore 007 movies to an every-other-year schedule starting in 2012 as part of its reorganization plan. Both this year’s Skyfall and Bond 24 call for Sony to release the Bond films in a deal with MGM.

So, Bond fans can count on another 007 films two years after Skyfall comes out this fall, right? Hang on a minute.

We have yet to hear Eon Productions, which controls the other half of the 007 franchise, weigh in on the subject. Sony can’t release a Bond film unless Eon makes one. This is the same Eon Productions whose co-boss, Michael G. Wilson, has complained for years about the rigors of makes James Bond films.

Is Eon on board with making Bond 24 in time for a 2014 release? Maybe it is, but nobody knows at this point.

Wilson’s step-father, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, lived for making Bond movies. Wilson, his successor (along with half-sister Barbara Broccoli) seems a lot more reserved.

Don’t get us wrong. This is not a predition that it won’t happen. But until Eon makes known it concurs with the desires of Sony and MGM to resume an every-other-year schedule, it’s not a sure thing.

MGM watch: Craig’s `Dragon Tatoo’ loses money, LA Times says

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, trying to comeback from bankruptcy, had a setback, according to the Company Town blog of the Los Angeles Times: The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, starring Daniel Craig, ended up a money loser.

Here’s an excerpt:

Returns of $231 million in worldwide box office wasn’t enough to turn a profit on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer disclosed in financial results released this week that it is booking what Co-Chief Executive Gary Barber called a “modest loss” on the film. On a conference call with shareholders, he said the independent studio, which covered 20% of the approximately $100-million production budget for the movie co-financed and distributed by Sony Pictures, needed “Dragon Tattoo” to collect about 10% more revenue in order to break even.

You can read the entire story BY CLICKING HERE. According to the Los Angeles Times, MGM is in talks with Sony to reduce the budget for any future installments.

We reference this story for a couple of reasons: 1) MGM owns half of the James Bond franchise along with Eon Productions and “Dragon Tatoo” was one of its first big projects since exiting bankruptcy; 2) Daniel Craig, the current cinema 007, was the movie’s star. When MGM was coping with its financial ills, there was speculation whether Craig would cease playing 007 while starring in “Dragon Tatoo” sequels. Whether any such sequels materialize remains to be seen.

MGM and Sony, meanwhile, are co-financing Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film and the two have committed to collaborate on Bond 24. MGM, as part of its bankruptcy plan, said it wants to get Bond films back on an every-other-year schedule, with Bond 24 coming out in 2014. That, too, remains to be seen.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times, in a SEPARATE STORY says MGM has regained control of the United Artists brand from Tom Cruise. UA, when it was actually a studio and not just a label, released the first dozen 007 films produced by Eon Productions. UA got absorbed by MGM after Transamerica Corp. dumped it. The UA name was last on a Bond film with 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies.

The art of the press release

Writing press releases is a discipline, one with its own rules and conventions. Take, for example, two press releases related to Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film.

Here’s a passage from the November press release where Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Corp. officially announced the new 007 film would be called Skyfall:

“We’re so delighted to have Sam Mendes direct SKYFALL and be working once again with Daniel Craig. We’ve a great script, an extraordinary cast and an incredibly talented creative team for this latest James Bond adventure,” said (Michael G.) Wilson and (Barbara) Broccoli.

And here’s the Feb. 8 press release where Heineken International announced a product-placement deal with Skyfall:

Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the SKYFALL producers added: “The level of collaboration with Heineken® is unprecedented. We are excited by the global reach and the creativity that the Heineken® team is able to deliver.”

If you interpreted these quotes literally, then Wilson and Broccoli would be speaking the identical words, either simulaneously or in turn. Either way, it would be a surreal experience to watch.

HEINEKEN REPRESENTATIVE: What do you think, Mr. Wilson?

WILSON: The level of collaboration with Heineken® is unprecedented. We are excited by the global reach and the creativity that the Heineken® team is able to deliver.

HEINEKEN REPRESENTATIVE: And what are your thoughts, Ms. Broccoli?

BROCCOLI: The level of collaboration with Heineken® is unprecedented. We are excited by the global reach and the creativity that the Heineken® team is able to deliver.

Chances are, it probably didn’t happen that way.

With many press releases, the actual quote is drafted by the writer of the press release. The press release is then circulated to those whose names are cited whether they like the quote or not. If they do, it goes out as written. If not, it’s altered until they do approve.

In this case, Wilson and Broccoli are co-heads of Eon Productions, and both the official Skyfall and Heineken release wants to present them as equals. Also, does anyone think the producers actually talk this way?

John Calley, studio exec involved with 007 re-launch, dies

John Calley, a one-time Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive who was involved in getting 007 back on the screen, has died at 81, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Calley worked at MGM from 1993 to 1996, where his duties included being president of MGM’s United Artists brand. When he started, the James Bond film series was in hiatus and 007 film’s future was uncertain. Calley also, by various accounts, pressed for Eon Productions, which produces the Bond fils to recast Bond to Pierce Brosnan from Timothy Dalton. Calley’s name was prominent on the 1994 press release announcing Brosnan was taking over the role in GoldenEye.

According to a 2010 article in the Hollywood Reporter, Barbara Broccoli, co-boss at Eon, wasn’t a Calley fan. This excerpt quotes an unidentified person describing a meeting between Broccoli and Sony executives when that company’s Columbia Pictures was releasing 2008’s Quantum of Solace:

“Barbara said, ‘We generally like studio executives, but we don’t like assholes like John Calley,’ ” the source said.”

Calley also held executive positions at Warner Bros. and Sony, before retiring in 2003, according to the Los Angeles Times obit.

Bond 23’s odd publicity buildup; can 007 shoot straight?

This week, there were reports that actress Naomie Harris was in talks for a part in Bond 23. One of the reports on Entertainment Weekly’s EW.com Web site said that Eon Productions confirmed such talks. However, the Eon person who made the comment wasn’t identified.

Well, that’s par for the course. The newest 007 film, to start filming late this year for release in October (in the U.K.) and November (in the U.S.) of 2012, has had an odd publicity buildup so far. Eon Productions and its studio partners, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures, have not exactly been consistent about how they spread the word. Consider:

The Peter Morgan saga: Eon puts out a press release in 2009 that Morgan, screenwriter of Frost/Nixon, would join Neal Purvis and Robert Wade in scripting Bond 23. Fans wouldn’t find out until 2010 that Morgan never even completed a treatment (essentially a detailed outline), much less a first draft of a script. Even then, that was through an interview Morgan did after he departed the Bond project. Oh, and by the way, it turned out Morgan didn’t believe in the 007 character.

OK, Morgan is a big-name screenwriter. But why publicize it so early, until you at least had some work to look at?

The Sam Mendes tease: Way back in January 2010, the Deadline Web site said Mendes had been hired as a consultant as a prelude to becoming Bond 23’s director. He couldn’t officially be designated director until MGM was ready to make a first payment for the film (and MGM was in severe financial trouble).

Later that month, Mendes was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Did he come clean? Hardly. In that interview, Mendes said it was “just speculation” that he’d direct Bond 23. That was an interesting statement, given Mendes’s own publicist told a U.K. newspaper that Mendes had indeed had talks about Bond 23 with Eon.

Oops. We, of course, know now it was hardly specualtion. Mendes’s own ex-wife, actress Kate Winslet, spilled the beans in a December 2010 interview that Mendes was directing. She was even moving to London so Mendes could be with his kids. Maybe he’s a good father, but it would seem he needs to work on his honesty in press interviews.

Hey! Don’t forget about me!: Eon apparently has decided to leave it up to some cast and crew members to make their own Bond 23 announcements. Eon and MGM said in January of this year that the film was finally on. That press release mentioned Mendes (finally), star Daniel Craig and the new screenwriting team of Purvis, Wade and John Logan.

Left out? Dame Judi Dench, who has played M in the 007 films since 1995, wasn’t mentioned. So, in late January, Dame Judi told the BBC she was indeed going to reprise the role.

Meanwhile, a big name behind the camera, director of photography Roger Deakins, told anybody who could find his Web site in a May 1 posting that he’d photograph the film. Deakins is considered one of the best directors of photography in the industry but that news was handled as an afterthought.

Clearly, Eon bosses Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have work to do and seem to like their privacy. Also, MGM’s quick trip to bankruptcy court last year complicated matters. But in the early 21st Century, big movies are marketed long before their release dates.

Warner Bros. already is using the Internet to publicize its next Batman film due out in the summer of 2012. Daniel Craig made a trip to last year’s San Diego comic book convention — which studios use to publicize upcoming films — to promote his Cowboys and Aliens movie coming out this summer. By contrast, Bond 23’s marketing and distribution of news has been much more haphazard.

2005: a new 007 is cast; past is prologue

Seems hard to believe but it has been more than five years since Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond. While researching something else, we came across how The New York Times reported the story. There were a few things that caught our eye.

First, there was a comment from producer Michael G. Wilson, yet another refrain by Wilson of something he has been saying since the 1990s:

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

Yes, Wilson could not let the announcement pass without complaining about how tired he was. We’ve written before about Wilson’s complaints about how exhausting it is to make James Bond movies, as close as a movie producer can be to having a guaranteed sale. So add this to the list.

Next, then-NYT reporter Sharon Waxman (now editor-in-chief of The Wrap, an entertainment-news Web site) quoted studio executives she didn’t identify concerning the new direction the 007 film series would take now that it had a new leading man:

For both Ms. (Barbara) Broccoli and Sony, 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.”

Note, this was published in Ocotober of 2005, months before cameras would start rolling on Casino Royale. There wasn’t a public hint that Eon Productions was even thinking about emulating the Bourne films, something that reached its peak in the first 20 minutes or so of 2008’s Quantum of Solace. In that film, the Eon team even hired Dan Bradley, second unit director of the Bourne movies. After Casino Royale, producer Broccoli said Bourne was never a consideration in interviews SUCH AS THIS ONE WITH UGO.COM and that Casino was inspired by From Russia With Love, not Jason Bourne.

Finally, there was this passage in the NYT story, citing Amy Pascal, chairman of Sony’s Columbia Pictures:

Ms. Pascal said fans would have to wait to see the movie before judging Mr. Craig. As for the online criticism, she observed: “Well, he is tall. He’s the same size as Sean Connery.”

Now, for the record, HMSS gave both Daniel Craig and Casino Royale a number of favorable reviews. So what we’re about to say isn’t a jab at Craig. It should be noted what Pascal said is demonstrably incorrect.

Connery, depending on your source, is generally listed at 6-foot-2 or so. Daniel Craig, again depending on the source, at around 5-foot-10. Now 5-foot-10 isn’t a midget by any means. But it’s a good four inches shorter than 6-foot-2. If Pascal wanted to brush off criticism of the choice, there were all sorts of other things to say. Don’t say something that doesn’t stand up to the tiniest bit of scrutiny.