Variety discusses MGM, Annapurna tensions about Bond 25

Annapurna logo that won’t be seen on Bond 25, according to Variety

Variety has a story today providing an update about the financial challenges facing Annapurna Pictures. It includes a passage indicating Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, partners in a joint venture that releases movies in the U.S., have had some tensions concerning Bond 25.

Quick recap: MGM exited bankruptcy in 2010 without its own distribution operation. It cut a series of deals with other, bigger studios for distribution. Annapurna, meanwhile, started distributing films. MGM and Annapurna then formed a joint venture in fall 2017 to release each other’s movies in the U.S.

In 2018, it was announced the joint venture would handle Bond 25 in North America while Universal would perform international distribution. No details were released concerning how the studios would finance the movie. The past two 007 films, Skyfall and SPECTRE, were co-financed by MGM and Sony Pictures.

Earlier this year, the joint venture was given the name United Artists Releasing.

With that background in mind, this passage in the Variety story caught the blog’s eye: “Despite dipping into Annapurna’s deep pockets to roll out the upcoming 25th installment in the James Bond spy series…Annapurna would not be allowed” to show its logo on the next 007 film. According to Variety, an MGM executive “would bark at journalists” for including a mention of Annapurna.

What’s more, according to the story, Annapurna’s movie-releasing team now, essentially works for United Artists Releasing.

First Bond 25 spoilers may have emerged

The first actual Bond 25 spoilers may have emerged. No, the blog isn’t going to say what they are. But they’re available for those fans inclined to check them out.

Over the past week, outlets in Norway have shown construction of an outdoor set that may be in Bond 25. I had taken a pass because it didn’t seem 100 percent confirmed. But ONE STORY TODAY, references applications from a production entity called B25 noting that filming will occur March 25-31.

The documents apparently also describe what happens in the scene involved. To learn more, you can click on the link above and then check out a translation. You can also check out THIS TWEET from @JBNews_mews on Twitter which quotes (in English) from the story.

Needless to say (well, it should be), if you’re spoiler adverse don’t click on either link.

To be clear, the description isn’t definitive in terms of Bond 25’s overall plot. This is far from what happened with SPECTRE (and the hacking at Sony Pictures) where entire script drafts were suddenly out there. It’s more akin to Skyfall, where bits and pieces leaked out ahead of time. Eventually, at least one significant one (that M died in the film) came out but we’re not at the point with these Bond 25 spoilers.

For those who’ve followed Bond 25 pre-production closely, some possibilities will come to mind from the latest out of Norway.

About that buzz that Shatterhand will be B25’s title

Cover to the first-edition U.S. hardback edition of You Only Live Twice

There’s been quite a buzz this week that Shatterhand, the name of an alias adopted by Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the novel You Only Live Twice, will be the title of Bond 25.

The thing is, the idea has been applied to the as-yet unmade 25th 007 film, at various times in 2017 and 2018 as well as this month.

However, people have short memories. So here’s a recap. This week’s news isn’t exactly, well, news.

Let’s start with 2015’s SPECTRE.

There are indications Eon Productions was at least considering making the film a “soft” remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In 2014, various drafts of the film’s script got out because of the hacking at Sony Pictures.

One draft included a secondary villain named Irma Bunt, Blofeld’s assistant in both the Majesty’s novel (and film) and You Only Live Twice novel.

Another draft, which this blog wrote about, ended with Bond telling Madeline Swann, “We have all the time in the world.” That, of course, is what Bond told Tracy just before the latter was killed in both the Majesty’s novel and film.

Neither bit made it into SPECTRE. Bond and Swann just drove off.

Flash forward to summer 2017.

On July 29, 2017, The Mirror says Bond 25 will be based on a 007 continuation novel by Raymond Benson titled Never Dream of Dying. However, the story also says the working title is Shatterhand.

Benson says on social media that he was never contacted by the Mirror and that he can only assume the story was a fabrication. Well, that seems to slam things shut. Shatterhand fever is forgotten. That is until….

Flash forward to summer 2018.

On Aug. 27, 2018, The Bond Blog, citing the Production Weekly website, says Shatterhand has been registered as a title for Bond 25. The Shatterhand buzz still lives.

Flash forward to this week.

Despite the fact that Production Weekly has listed Shatterhand as a working title for Bond 25 since last year, a number of outlets discovered that fact and treated it as news.

Among them: Comicbook.com, The Guardian, Empire, The Express. and, last but not least, the BBC.

Those stories, in turn, are recycled by readers on various social media outlets. Shatterhand fever burns hot.

In December, Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga told the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye that Lea Seydoux, SPECTRE’s female lead, will be back in the new film.

So, will Bond 25 be based on the You Only Live Twice novel? Will Seydoux’s Madeline Swann be Tracy 2.0?

Who knows? However, 2012’s Skyfall adapted bits from the Twice book as well as the 1965 novel The Man With the Golden Gun. So we’ll see. Regardless, Bond 25 has gotten a ton of free publicity from the recurring Shatterhand buzz.

Bond 25 questions: The glass half-full/half-empty edition

No time to panic..

So Bond 25 has been delayed again. It has now been assigned its third release date since July 2017. And the news came one day after fans had begun their one-year countdown art and memes.

As usual, the blog has questions. But the blog is switching up the format with this post.

Is this bad news?

Half-full answer: It’s not even a two-month delay. Nothing to see here. Move along. No reason to panic.

Half-empty answer: Any other shoes to drop?

What’s going on?

Half-full answer: Universal, which will distribute Bond 25 outside North America, is juggling its schedule. Fast & Furious 9 (working title) has been moved from April 10, 2020 to May 22, 2020. So it makes sense to movie Bond 25 to April 8 and get a start on the Easter weekend for 2020.

Half-empty answer: Bond 25 hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck. Some movies get moved earlier (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation by months in 2015 and Avengers: Infinity War by a week in 2018).

Let’s say this release date won’t change (really). Will it be good for Bond?

Half-full answer: People go to movies at times other than summer and the Thanksgiving-Christmas period. Batman v Superman opened big during Easter weekend 2016. Admittedly it fell off quickly, but people came to see it opening weekend. Furious 7 (part of the Fast & Furious series) had a big opening during Easter weekend 2015.

Half-empty answer: We’ll see. This is new territory for Bond.

Isn’t this weird? Three release dates?

Half-full answer: Nothing to see here. Move along. Release dates change all the time.

Half-empty answer: Of course it’s weird. Let’s face it, Bond 25 has had a development full of twists and turns.

Star Daniel Craig and producer Barbara Broccoli each take an extended break after 2015’s SPECTRE. The first release date (November 2019) was announced in July 2017 when no distributor was in place (and wouldn’t be for months). Craig finally came back but that was followed by a long director search, one director signing but leaving (Danny Boyle) followed by a quick search for a replacement, etc., etc. etc.

So for argument’s sake, assume this newest delay is strictly Universal’s doing. It still comes on top of a longer-than-usual gap. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) went bankrupt in 2010. That resulted in a four-year gap between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. The current gap already was longer with nothing as calamitous involved.

A few things to keep in mind as Bond 25 gears up

 Art by Paul Baack (1957-2017).

Before long, Bond 25 will begin principal photography. So here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Don’t expect detailed analysis from many Bond fan sites: There’s a symbiosis between major 007 fan site and Eon Productions.

Eon looks at the fan sites as an extension of its marketing efforts. Often times, the sites are more than willing to cooperate. Afterall, the proprietors can take selfies with the crew.

Don’t expect detailed analysis from Eon-approved books: Authors of some Eon-approved books don’t go too far.

One such book (which repeatedly refers to Eon’s Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli throughout as “Michael and Barbara”) punts when it comes to the contradictory stories involving the scripting of Quantum of Solace, including polishes by Joshua Zetumer during filming..

“(I)n the end it came down to Daniel Craig trashing it out with (director Marc) Forster.” This became the preferred Eon narrative, regardless of how much work Zetumer performed during filming.

Don’t expect detailed reporting from entertainment news sites: Trade pubications/websites such as The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Deadline: Hollywood are based in Hollywood. Eon is based out of London.

The U.S. sites snare the occasional scoop. But they’re tracking a lot of other news, including the impact of Walt Disney Co.’s pending acquisition of 20th Century Fox.

There are, of course, British tabloids but that’s hit or miss. The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye gets a fair number of 007 scoops but he has made some mistakes. such as his 2011 story describing the character Albert Finney would play in Skyfall.

Regardless, the next few months will be amusing for Bond fans. Let’s see what happens.

Tidbits from updated 007 book

Cover to the updated edition of Some Kind of Hero

The blog ordered the updated edition of Some Kind of Hero by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury, an extensive look at the 007 film series. What follows are some tidbits since the original 2015 edition. The book has an expanded chapter on SPECTRE, plus a new chapter about the preliminary development of Bond 25.

–The idea of releasing SPECTRE in the summer of 2015 apparently was considered for a time. The book doesn’t state this explicitly. But there’s this passage in the chapter on SPECTRE:

(Skyfall director Sam) Mendes recalled, ‘It took MGM and Eon accepting that the movie wasn’t going to come out in the summer of ’15. I said I couldn’t do it that fast’ (emphasis added)

Sony Pictures, which distributed and co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE had told movie theater executives that Bond 24 (later titled SPECTRE) would be out in 2014. Barbara Broccoli, Eon’s boss, and star Daniel Craig shot down that idea in interviews during publicity for Skyfall. After that, nobody talked about Bond 24/SPECTRE having a 2014 release.

–SPECTRE received $14 million in Mexican tax incentives. Among the conditions: The sequence filmed in Mexico had to have a Mexican Bond girl, a non-Mexican Bond villain and the target of an assassination plot had to be “a local governor and not an ambassador.” The authors, in a footnote, cited a 2015 article from http://www.taxanalysts.org as their source of the information.

–The Bond 25 chapter implies the search for a distributor delayed development. Sony’s deal expired with SPECTRE. “By late 2016, no distributor had been announced and thus no screenplay, title director or cast could have been announced.”

However, Eon and MGM announced a fall 2019 release date in July 2017 despite having no distributor in place. It wasn’t until May 2018 that it was announced a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures would release the film in the U.S. and Universal would handle international distribution. (This is referenced later in the chapter.)

Because of publication deadlines, the book’s Bond 25 chapter includes Danny Boyle being hired as director but doesn’t include his exit because of “creative differences.”  Cary Fukanaga was hired to replace Boyle, with the release date pushed back to February 2020. Obviously, there is more fodder for future editions.

The updates also include, understandably, a new Roger Moore chapter following the death of the seven-time 007 in 2017.

M:I accelerates its output amid longer 007 film gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The facts are clear. The importance is a little fuzzy.

So, producer-star Tom Cruise and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie intend to do two Mission: Impossible film back to back. The movies would come out in 2021 and 2022.

If that works out, that means there will have been four M:I films (all directed by McQuarrie) from 2015 to 2022. There will have been two 007 films (2015’s SPECTRE and 2020’s Bond 25) coming out during that same period.

The M:I development makes sense in that Cruise will turn 60 in 2022. While a fantastic physical specimen for a middle-aged guy, the clock is ticking on Cruise’s time as a movie action hero.

The two McQuarrie-directed M:I films (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible-Fallout) have been big hits. So it’s a natural studio Paramount could secure his services for two more movies. On top of everything else, McQuarrie and Cruise obviously get along.

Once upon a time, something similar was envisioned for the Bond series. John Logan was hired to write Bond 24 (later titled SPECTRE) and Bond 25. Skyfall director Sam Mendes, in a 2014 interview, said that he came back to helm SPECTRE after plans were ditched to do Bond 24 and 25 back to back. Star Daniel Craig had vetoed the idea.

Bond fans have a mixed reaction to this. There are the usual social media posts about Bond is superior, Bond is forever, Mission: Impossible will be done when Cruise is done, etc.

But there are also gibes (such as this one by the author of a Bond-related book) calling Cruise a “teeny man.” Cruise is listed at 5-foot-7 on IMDB.com while current 007 star Daniel Craig towers above him by an entire three inches, according to that same website. Craig is no runt but he’s definitely the shortest Bond in a series cast with tall actors.

(Historical note: Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon Productions, had his early successes as a producer after he and his then-partner Irving Allen signed 5-foot-6 1/4 Alan Ladd as a star.)

The M:I news hardly means the end of Bond. And nobody is seriously making that argument.

At the same time, M:I has been showing more energy (perhaps because of the aforementioned ticking clock). On the Bond side? It star, Craig, and lead producer, Barbara Broccoli, wanted to do other things after SPECTRE. “Everybody’s a bit tired,” Craig said during a 2016 appearance.

As I said at the beginning: The importance of all this is fuzzy. M:I will do what it has to do (with the “teeny man” having a BIG say). The Bond series will do what it wants to do. Unlike other franchises, Bond is not totally controlled by a studio and the one studio involved (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) a weak industry player.