Co-author discusses The James Bond Lexicon

No longer coming soon — The James Bond Lexicon is here

The James Bond Lexicon, an exhaustive examination of James Bond in his various forms — movies, books and comics — is now available for sale.

It’s a book that has been in the making for years. Co-author Alan J. Porter, who wrote the book with Gillian J. Porter, talked to blog about it via email.

THE SPY COMMAND: When you last chatted with the blog, The James Bond Lexicon was about to come out. Things didn’t work out that way. Can you give a short summary of the headwinds that came up?

ALAN J. PORTER: Yes, last time we spoke we were on track to publish the book sometime in 2016, but shortly after that interview was published, and one on James Bond Radio aired, Gillian was diagnosed with Stage 3 Gall Bladder Cancer, which hit us pretty hard. As a consequence, we decided to put everything on hold to fully focus on Gill’s surgery and treatment.

By mid-2017 things were going well enough that we decided to get back to working on the book and updating the manuscript. Unfortunately, it was around this time that one of the co-owners of the publishing company we had contracted with suddenly passed away. His business partner decided he didn’t want to continue and shuttered the company, so we were now left with a partially updated manuscript and no publisher. This was a big decision point for us, and to be honest we came very close to just shelving the project. But after some thought decided to carry on and include all Bond material through to the end of 2017 and see if we could find another publisher.

A series of conversations with my On her Majesty’s Secret Podcast co-host Van Allen Plexico in 2018 resulted in him agreeing to publish the James Bond Lexicon via his White Rocket Books imprint and we were back to updating the manuscript for the third time with the intent to cover everything up to the end of 2019 so we could include Danny Boyle’s Bond 25 (or so we thought).

TSC: How was The James Bond Lexicon affected by the long delay between SPECTRE and No Time to Die?

PORTER: Well, we didn’t get to include Bond 25 after all. Once the No Time To Die delays started to happen we had to make a decision of whether we stuck with  “everything up to the end of 2019” or keep waiting so we could include the most recent movie.

At first, we thought about waiting but as the impact of COVID started to result in multiple slip dates we decided to stay with what we had and actually work towards getting the book out. So we fixed it at covering the 271 official Bond stories released between 1953 and the end of 2019. You have to put a line in the sand somewhere on a project like this or you will never finish.

We also decided to launch a companion website (http://jamesbondlexicon.online) where we are posting new entries for material released after 2019, and hopefully, one day that will include the entries for No Time To Die.

TSC: As an author, how do you keep yourself concentrated amid various setbacks?

PORTER: As I mentioned earlier, there was a point where we almost gave up, but we both recalled a piece of writing advice from writer Neil Gaiman: “Always finish what you start.”

So we decided to knuckle down and keep working. One of the best things we did was to talk about the project on social media, especially on the @BondLexicon Twitter account, sharing entries and other items we found during our research reinforced for us that there were other people waiting for the book and encouraging us to keep going.

We also found it helpful to be working on other projects. During downtimes on the Lexicon, I’d started to sell several historical adventure stories, and as part of her recovery process, Gill had written a novel. So being able to alternate between fiction and non-fiction work helped keep us focused and stopped the Lexicon from becoming a chore.

TSC: Now that the book is out, how do you feel? Elation? Relief? A combination?

PORTER: We actually talked about this the evening of the book release. It is something of a combination, very excited to see the book on sale, which still doesn’t seem real in some ways as getting to this point is something we’ve been working towards on and off for almost a decade.

TSC: During research for The James Bond Lexicon, were there any surprises? If so, what were they?

PORTER: The first was how many different iterations of James Bond we came across. We expected there to be some, but not the 28 we cataloged. And we are sure the final number is higher than that as we didn’t cover the video games, which have several different versions of Bond in their history.

The other thing that struck us was the seemingly unnecessary minor changes to character names between the books and the movies, often by just changing a single letter. If EON had the rights to the characters from the novels why do things like change the Masterton sisters in Goldfinger to the Masterson sister in the movie? Or Honey Rider (novel) to Honey Ryder (movie)? And that’s just a couple of examples of what was a surprisingly common trait. I’m sure there’s a good reason, but it just seemed strange to us.

TSC: At this point, do you even think about what you’d like to do next? Or do you concern yourself mostly with marketing The James Bond Lexicon?

Oh yes, we are both actively thinking about what’s next. We both have novels we are working on, but nothing immediate that we’ll be working together on. Having said that we do have some ideas and there’s another Lexicon project for a different franchise sitting on the shelf with about 60% of the research done – so after a break to get the novels finished who knows.

But in many ways, the work on the Bond Lexicon continues, as you mentioned there is the marketing of the book, but also keeping the companion JamesBondLexicon.online website up to date as new material comes out. As of today, we have already added over 40 new entries covering recent Dynamite Comics releases and the 2021 Comic Relief sketch with Daniel Craig.

We’re not leaving the world of Bond behind. The Lexicon continues to be a long-term commitment to the worlds of 007.

To see Amazon’s listing for The James Bond Lexicon, CLICK HERE.

A few questions about SPECTRE

A SPECTRE poster

Back in September, the blog participated in a “watchalong” of SPECTRE for the James Bond & Friends podcast. Part I (because the movie was so long) is now out.

After listening, the blog has some new questions about the most recent James Bond film. The following is an homage to a frequently used trope in a YouTube channel from The Critical Drinker.

How does one ring have the DNA of multiple villains?

Don’t know.

Does MI6 not know where its agents go when on leave?

Don’t know.

Does Bond care about instructions from his current, living boss?

Don’t know.

Does MI6 have any security measures to ensure its agents don’t steal agency vehicles?

Don’t know.

Does Bond have any misgivings becoming romantically involved with the daughter of one of his most prominent foes (Mr. White)?

Don’t know.

Did Blofeld become Bond’s arch enemy *only* because he was jealous of his foster brother?

Don’t know.

Did MI6 employee screening totally miss the connections between Bond and Mr. White and Blofeld?

Don’t know.

About those Bond film series gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week saw another delay announced for No Time to Die. That has prompted some entertainment news websites to look back at how the gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die ranks among Bond films.

With that in mind, here’s the blog’s own list.

You Only Live Twice (1967) to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This isn’t getting the attention as the others.

But You Only Live Twice came out in June of 1967 while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service debuted in December 1969. That was about two-and-a-half years. Today? No big deal. But at the time, the Bond series delivered entries in one- or two-year intervals.

This period included the first re-casting of the Bond role, with George Lazenby taking over from Sean Connery. Also, Majesty’s was an epic shoot.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This period often is written up as the first big delay in the series made by Eon Productions.

It’s easy to understand why. The partnership between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman broke up. There were delays in beginning a new Bond film. Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct but exited, with Lewis Gilbert eventually taking over. Many scripts were written. And Eon and United Arists were coming off with a financial disappointment with Golden Gun.

Still, Golden Gun premiered in December 1974 while Spy came along in July 1977. That’s not much longer than the Twice-Majesty’s gap. For all the turmoil that occurred in the pre-production of Spy, it’s amazing the gap wasn’t longer.

Licence to Kill (1989) to GoldenEye (1995): This is the big one. Licence came out in June 1989 (it didn’t make it to the U.S. until July) while GoldenEye didn’t make it to theater screens until November 1995.

In the interim, there was a legal battle between Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which had acquired UA in 1981. MGM had been sold, went into financial trouble, and was taken over by a French bank. The legal issues were sorted out in 1993 and efforts to start a new Bond film could begin in earnest.

This period also saw the Bond role recast, with Pierce Brosnan coming in while Timothy Dalton exited. In all, almost six-and-a-half years passed between Bond film adventures.

Die Another Day (2002) to Casino Royale (2006): After the release of Die Another Day, a large, bombastic Bond adventure, Eon did a major reappraisal of the series.

Eventually, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided on major changes. Eon now had the rights to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So the duo opted to start the series over with a new actor, Daniel Craig and a more down-to-earth approach.

Quantum of Solace (2008) to Skyfall (2012): MGM had another financial setback with a 2010 bankruptcy. That delayed development of a new Bond film. Sam Mendes initially was a “consultant” because MGM’s approval was needed before he officially was named director.

Still, the gap was only four years (which today seems like nothing) from Quantum’s debt in late October 2008 to Skyfall’s debut in October 2012.

SPECTRE (2015) to No Time to Die (?): Recent delays are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But pre-production got off to a slow start below that.

MGM spent much of 2016 trying to sell itself to Chinese investors but a deal fell through. Daniel Craig wanted a break from Bond. So did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli, pursuing small independent-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy, as well as a medium-sized spy movie The Rhythm Section.

Reportedly, a script for a Bond movie didn’t start until around March 2017 with the hiring (yet again) of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The hiring was confirmed in summer 2017. Craig later in summer of 2017 said he was coming back.

Of course, one director (Danny Boyle) was hired only to depart later. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace him. More writers (Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z. Burns) arrived. The movie finally was shot in 2019.

Then, when 2020 arrived, the pandemic hit. No Time to Die currently has an October 2021 release date. We’ll see how that goes.

Daily Mail analyzes Bond tax info

The This Is Money website, part of the Daily Mail network of sites, has published an analysis of the tax side of James Bond films.

Eon Productions has “received more than £100million in tax subsidies in the UK but pay little corporation tax,” according to the story. That figure amounts to $129 million.

The story is based on information from a group called Tax Watch UK.

Here’s an excerpt. Danjaq is the parent company of U.K.-based Eon Productions.

Tax Watch alleges that Danjaq, which ultimately owns the Bond franchise and is based in Delaware and California, as well as its Hollywood partners reap the benefit of cinema ticket sales. 

To be honest, most Bond fans don’t care about such details. They just want to see a movie.

Nevertheless, tax breaks offered by different countries affect the locations used by Bond films.

With SPECTRE, for example, the Mexican government offered various tax breaks if the country were depicted in a favorable light. With the hack of SPECTRE-related memos and such, memos saw the light of day showing there was a concern from studio executives that such tax breaks be maximized.

Here’s another excerpt:

Eon Productions received £30million in tax credits in the year Spectre was made. But that was sunk into losses almost exactly equal to that amount, which meant the company only just broke even. Accounts for an Eon subsidiary, which are understood to be linked to the next in the franchise, No Time To Die, indicate the makers received another £47million last year. 

UPDATE: Danjaq LLC’s home address is in Santa Monica, California, according to Dun & Bradstreet.

@007inLA on Twitter says this is an old address and it’s now in west Los Angeles. It turns out he’s right. The new address is on part of Eon’s website.

A lot of sites still carry the Santa Monica address, including Danjaq’s own LinkedIn page. The point is Danjaq is U.S.-based. I heard from a Doubting Thomas on Facebook who seemed to think Danjaq was still a Swiss company.

At one time, Danjaq was a Swiss corporation and known as Danjaq S.A. It was still known by that name in 1989 when Licence to Kill was released. It had become Danjaq Inc. by 1995 when GoldenEye came out. It has been known as Danjaq LLC since at least 1997 when Tomorrow Never Dies was released. You can see the evolution of the name in the copyright notices of those movies.

Bond 25 questions: The trailer, soundtrack edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

The No Time to Die publicity machine got reactivated this week, including a new trailer and details about the soundtrack being released.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What’s the big takeaway?

It’s very clear that No Time to Die is back to “saving the world” territory.

The new trailer shows agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch) saying villain Safin “will kill millions.” Bond (Daniel Craig) says if his team is unsuccessful there won’t be anything left to save.

Eon Productions has shied away from such sweeping, big stakes since Craig took over as Bond. Quantum of Solace, for example, dealt with water rights.

I’m not exactly sure about the stakes of SPECTRE. Bond and his allies sought to prevent something from being deployed related to observing people. But SPECTRE already seemingly had the ability to record every single phone conversation on the planet. It wasn’t very clear how things would be any worse if SPECTRE succeeded.

Anything new catch your eye?

The No Time to Die ad that debuted during the Super Bowl showed Bond and Nomi is a plane or glider. In the new trailer, we see it can become a submarine.

That idea isn’t new. One of the earliest Gerry Anderson shows was Supercar, a craft that could fly and be a submarine. (I actually had a Supercar toy as a kid.) The 1964-68 series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea featured the Flying Sub, which flew and could travel undersea.

Still, it’s an element of fantasy that hasn’t been part of the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films.

Hey, what happened to Steve Mazzaro?

For the uninitiated, No Time to Die composer Hans Zimmer told Variety in June that he needed Steve Mazzaro’s help to do the movie’s score because of a tight deadline.

As part of that interview, Zimmer said: “Steve should really be the top name on the Bond film.”

Naturally, there was no mention of Mazzaro in the press release Eon Productions put out with the soundtrack cover.

There were quotes from the likes of Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson and director Cary Fukunaga about the genius of Hans Zimmer. Of course, Fukunaga doesn’t mention how his composer choice, Dan Romer, got fired from the project.

Does that surprise you?

No. When I read the Zimmer interview in Variety, I took his remark about how Mazzaro should get top billing as an empty compliment, not something he meant seriously.

Still, it’s another example of how studios and “artistes” count on people not remembering what has been said previously. So it goes.

The canard that haunts the Bond franchise

The prototype for the “reveal” of SPECTRE (2015)

Last week, a website called The Ringer became the latest outlet to repeat the canard that the James Bond films were forced to change in tone to be more serious.

The article was called “Austin Powers Still Haunts the James Bond Franchise.” Here’s an excerpt:

But as excellent as some of (Daniel Craig’s) Bond films have been, fun probably isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind when describing Craig’s take on the character; that was a point unto itself. “Mike Myers fucked us,” Craig told the Bond fan site MI6 Confidential Magazine in 2014. “I am a huge Mike Myers fan, so don’t get me wrong—but he kind of fucked us.”

He’s referring to—what else?—the Austin Powers franchise, Myers’s iconic spoof of Bond and the larger spy genre.

The problem with this often-repeated trope is Austin Powers was hardly the first to poke fun at Bond’s expense.

As early as 1964, future Bond Roger Moore played 007 in a variety show skit.

In 1965, The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71), a wildly successful, if improbable, situation comedy, featured man-child Jethro Bodine returning from the theater after seeing Goldfinger. Jethro recites the plot to his rich uncle Jed Clampett, who has lost none of his common sense despite his sudden wealth.

After listening to Jethro, Jed has one question: “Why didn’t he just shoot him?” Jethro, who had been smiling moments before, is crestfallen.

Despite that, Jethro decides that being a “double-naught spy” is his life’s calling because double naughts engage in a lot of “fightin’ and lovin’.” Jethro takes the Clampett family truck and adds a bulletproof shield (a meta tub), defensive weapons (two rifles that can be fired when Jetro pulls on strings tied to the rifles) and an ejector seat. Naturally, the latter figures into the episode’s final gag.

In fact, Jethro’s quest to be a “double naught” became a running gag for multiple episodes. There was a follow-up story the next season as Thunderball was coming out.

The Beverly Hillbillies wasn’t the only show to poke fun at 007. It happened all the time during the 1960s. Another example: A 1966 episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show titled “The Man From My Uncle,” in which Godfrey Cambridge played a character named Harry Bond. (“Yeah. Please no jokes. I’m not 007.”)

And, of course, there was Get Smart, a parody of Bond and the spy craze that ran for five seasons (four on NBC, one on CBS).

So, the Austin Powers series, consisting of three movies, was hardly plowing new ground in making light of Bond. Indeed, the Austin Powers series ended (for now) with Austin Powers in Goldmember in 2002, the same year as Die Another Day.

The first new serious, Daniel Craig film, Casino Royale didn’t come out until 2006. Casino Royale had been influenced (in terms of a more serious tone) by the Jason Bourne films starring Matt Damon. With 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the Bond series went full Bourne, bringing in Dan Bradley as second unit director, who had the same job on the Bourne films.

By Casino Royale, and certainly by Quantum of Solace, Austin Powers was receding into memory.

Meanwhile, with 2015’s SPECTRE, the Bond series embraced one of the Austin Powers tropes. It had been revealed that Austin Powers and his arch-enemy Dr. Evil were really brothers. In SPECTRE, it was revealed that Craig/Bond and Blofeld were foster brothers. And SPECTRE came out more than a decade after Austin Powers in Goldmember.

In the words of Daniel Craig, if Austin Powers “fucked us,” it was self-inflicted.

Hawaii Five-0 completes its ‘Brofeld’ arc

Original cast of the 2010-20 Hawaii Five-0

Hawaii Five-0, the 2010-20 reboot of the original series ended its 10-season run on Friday night. The show ended by finishing its version of “Brofeld” — a new version of a classic villain with a personal reason to get the hero.

In this case, the villain was Wo Fat. Wo Fat 2.0 was killed back in 2014. But Mrs. Wo Fat (?!) was still around to get even.

Back in 2015, the blog examined how the rebooted Wo Fat and Ernst Stavro Blofeld from SPECTRE were similar.

Each was a new take on a classic villain. Each had a personal reason to go after the lead character. In fact, each felt they were virtually family!

The 2010-20 Five-0 actually did this first, with Wo Fat 2.0 mockingly calling McGarrett 2.0 “brother” (just before the latter finally put him down for good).

In 2015’s SPECTRE, the filmmakers decided to make Blofeld the foster brother (or whatever) of Bond.

Essentially, all of this followed the Austin Powers path where the hero discovers he’s the brother of his archvillain Dr. Evil. Except, Austin Powers was a comedy whereupon Five-0 and SPECTRE were intended to be taken seriously.

In the Five-0 finale, it was revealed that Wo Fat was mad at not getting an inheritance from McGarrett’s mother (don’t ask). And that was the catalyst for most of the events of the past 10 years. OK, whatever.

Personally, I watched the show closely the first three seasons before giving up. I’d occasionally catch an episode or two after that.

After not watching for a few years, I decided to catch an eighth-season episode. There was a subplot about McGarrett and Danno trying to start a restaurant.  I immediately changed the channel. After that, I caught episodes even less often.

Regardless, the 2010-20 Five-0 has to rank as a successful reboot from a business standpoint. It lasted about 240 episodes. It was almost as long as the original 1968-80 show.

The most satisfying aspect of the finale was how the music score incorporated quieter versions of Morton Stevens’ class theme music. In the final episode of the original series, Stevens produced a score that was the best aspect of that finale.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

MGM’s NTTD shift may cost $30M-$50M, THR says

New No Time to Die poster

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer may take a hit of $30 million to $50 million by moving No Time to Die’s release date, The Hollywood Reporter said. But not moving the date could have cost more, the outlet said, citing people it didn’t identify.

MGM, James Bond’s home studio, Eon Productions and Universal (the international distributor) said this week the 25th James Bond film is being moved to November from April.

THR said MGM “fully financed” No Time to Time, which has an estimated production budget of $250 million.

The entertainment news outlet said had MGM stuck with the April release, that would have been more costly because of markets where theaters were shut down because of the coronavirus.

Theaters in China, Japan and Italy have been closed. “That could have resulted in a minimum of 30 percent shaved off the final box-office tallies — a possible $300 million out of a likely $1 billion haul at the worldwide box office,” THR said.

Earlier this week, the MI6 James Bond website and The James Bond Dossier urged MGM, Universal and Eon Productions to delay the release because of health hazards stemming from the coronavirus. The open letter was published March 2 and the decision to delay was announced March 4.

The open letter, besides citing the health risks, said No Time to Die faced lower box office prospects because of efforts to combat coronavirus.

“Of the countries with large public gatherings banned or restricted, their combined ‘SPECTRE’ box-office was $313m, or 38% of the global haul,” the open letter said. SPECTRE, released in 2015, was the most recent Bond film.

Bond 25 questions: The coronavirus delay edition

Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond

James Bond defeated the likes of Dr. No, Rosa Klebb, Auric Goldfinger, Blofeld, et. al. But even 007 had to retreat in the face of a potential pandemic with the delay of No Time to Die pushed back to November.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What happened? The coronavirus (technical name COVID-19). It surfaced in China at the end of 2019. It spread to Japan, South Korea, Italy, and other nations. There have now been deaths in the U.S. from the disease.

Why is that such a big deal? COVID-19, at this point, is very contagious. It also is more potent than normal seasonal flu.

Seasonal flu has a death rate of between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent. The new coronavirus had been estimated at 2 percent. The World Health Organization then raised it to 3.4 percent. But that’s a moving target, subject to revision as more data becomes available. The 1918 “Spanish flu” had a death rate of about 2.5 percent. It killed between 20 million and 50 million globally.

Is there a broader context? Yes. Theaters in China have been closed for weeks. Coronavirus outbreaks in Europe have had results, including the cancellation of this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Some countries are cracking down on events with mass gatherings in an effort to cut back on spread of the disease. Many major companies are eliminating travel for employees for now.

How did No Time to Die get involved? The 25th James Bond film’s Beijing premiere was canceled a while back. So was a publicity tour in China, South Korea and Japan.

Earlier this week, the MI6 James Bond website and The James Bond Dossier published an open letter urging Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (the international distributor) to delay the movie’s March 31 premiere. The letter noted that major markets for Bond films already had been affected by the coronavirus, with more impact to come.

The open letter went viral. Over the next two days, a number of outlets wrote about the open letter, beginning with The Hollywood Reporter. Others include the BBC, Variety, IndieWire, The Guardian, Daily Mail, and Uproxx among others.

Chances are Eon, MGM and Universal were already thinking about it. But the global reaction to the open letter had to be a factor.

What happens next? Presumably the publicity build-up goes on hold and we’ll come back to it later.

For what it’s worth, Bond films since 1995’s GoldenEye have been released in either November or December. No Time to Die  is back in that part of the calendar. But the delay does cement the 2015-2020 gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die as the second-longest in the history of the Eon series.

Documentary about Craig 007 films in the offing

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

A documentary about the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films has been produced, it was announced at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

MoMA held an event where the documentary was referenced.

Marcos Kontze, webmaster of the James Bond Brasil website, published a post on Twitter that included a short video.

According to that post, the documentary titled Being James Bond would include Craig’s screen test for 2006’s Casino Royale, the first of his five Bond films. The Arts Commented blog had another post on Twitter that said the event included a short clip from the documentary.

There were no details how soon the documentary would be available.