Blofeld: Why the character deserves fan admiration

Spoiler adverse should stop reading now.

Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE

By Gert Waterink, Guest Writer
Last week, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported that Christoph Waltz, who played Blofeld in SPECTRE, would reprise the role in Bond 25.

I support Waltz’s return. Yes, SPECTRE wasn’t a masterpiece of a Bond film. Far from it. The foster brother plot element was far fetched and perceived as a forced effort to bring back a new kind of Blofeld.

Most Bond fans and general movie audiences didn’t buy it. Nor did they buy the rather convoluted scheme from SPECTRE to sell large amounts of intelligence data packed in a new intelligence IT system to its highest bidder: the British intelligence community.

Execution, Smart Writing
Still, Blofeld is alive and Bond’s links to that man and his heritage have compromised the British Secret Service.

The history of Daniel Craig’s Bond (young bloke in Casino Royale while being an orphan from Scotland in Skyfall) is in place. Some sense needs to be made out of that.

By completely ignoring those elements, you risk producing an adventure that doesn’t do justice to Bond as a a fully rounded character.

Turning Bond 25 into an action flick reminiscent of the last 007 films of Roger Moore and Sean Connery doesn’t work.

I find it plot wise more logical to do something with the radical (and badly executed) fact that a legendary Bond villain (Waltz’s Blofeld)  has been left alive with a broken leg and a bloody scar on his face.

Only now it must be executed better.  Blofeld’s return will admittedly be a precarious affair..

Anthony Dawson (with Eric Pohlman dubbing the voice)  played puppet master Blofeld in From Russia With Love and Thunderball.

His uncredited Blofeld managed to have a tiny amount of screen time, while at the same time being a pivotal plot device to the overall villainous scheme and infusing some much needed horror and scare to movie audiences.

Add to that James himself, who after retiring from M6 isn’t aware about Blofeld shaking and stirring a new and much better executed villain’s plot. A return of Blofeld can become more palatable for even the most orthodox Bond fan.

Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux at the end of SPECTRE.

Respect for an Antagonist
Apart from bringing back Blofeld, some fans should also try and find some love for a character that was, indeed, (co-)devised by Ian Fleming himself.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the books was the head of SPECTRE, but he introduced the character foremost to get out of too much political waters (an antagonist not bound to any nation has got its advantages).

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman found that admirable. They changed the plot of the cinematic adaptation of From Russia With Love in such a way that Russia wouldn’t be the prime aggressor.

Instead, it was Blofeld all along! He was, together with Kronsteen, the author of all that humiliation to James Bond! Ian Fleming eventually was very pleased with the film.

Blofeld: A ‘Push the Buttons’ Villain
There is also a larger-than-life quality to Blofeld that makes his actions more defensible than many fans would like to see.

Blofeld has weird psychotic traits. Blofeld is much more the man who acts out of sheer psychotic…..fun. Just revisit The Garden Of Death in Fleming’s novel You Only Live Twice, and we are back with both feet on the ground: the world of Bond isn’t that logical sometimes!

Even in the first Bond films, Blofeld was the man who took great pleasure in torturing and killing his adversaries in an all too theatrical way. Pressing a button here, drilling a little hole in Bond’s skull there: that’s Blofeld. But it was fun, entertaining and, admittedly, slightly gory. And Fleming knew that aspect too.

More Logic, Better Explanations
Yes, I think it’s pivotal to get rid of that bit of foster brother backstory. It turned Blofeld and Bond into two brotherly losers who could not stay professional within their own organisations: MI6 and SPECTRE.

Yet, I think it’s not a big problem to simply ignore that aspect while at the same time let Blofeld return with some of the aforementioned brilliance.

Let us also not forget that the prime villain of Bond 25 will be played by Rami Malek. So we should also not panic like headless chickens now Christoph Waltz has been seen at Pinewood Studios.

It is Rami Malek who gets more screen time in Bond 25. It is his role who probably devises an ingenious plot, which, rumour has it is about genetic warfare.

Such a scheme, and a hopefully rich performance by Rami Malek, will probably leave not too much space for more complicated revelations about Bond and Blofeld’s failed childhood.

Patience, Please
In any case, ignoring SPECTRE is one way to create a more critically acclaimed Bond film in cinemas as of next year. But there are more ways to Rome, more ways to produce a masterpiece of a Bond film.

So patience is a virtue too. Perhaps the Bond fan community should look into that a bit more often, so that we don’t write off a film before it’s even released.

Bond 25 questions: The SPOILER edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

If you haven’t guessed by the headline (where “SPOILER” is in all capital letters), this post has spoilers. If you’re spoiler adverse, scram. I don’t care how much shows up in the preview image on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

So, it seems pretty certain that Christoph Waltz will be in Bond 25 again playing the BROfeld version of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (i.e. Blofeld is Bond’s foster brother).

Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is this trip really necessary? Not really. But it seems as if Eon Productions and its army of screenwriters is going to double down on one of the worst aspects of 2015’s SPECTRE — namely that Waltz’s Blofeld was Bond’s foster brother and has a personal reason to torment Bond.

What would you have done? Ignore SPECTRE and move on with a new story. Instead, it would appear we will get a version of SPECTRE Part II. It won’t be called that, of course.

Are you serious? All we need now is a “reveal” that Dave Bautista’s Hinx will be back as Hinx, the lead henchman in SPECTRE. At this point, he might as well be. Remember, he appeared to be lobbying for that to happen.

It’d be natural for him to join Jeffrey Wright (last seen in a 007 film in Quantum of Solace) and Lea Seydoux (as Bond’s supposedly everlasting love). Hey, let’s have Eva Green (Vesper in Casino Royale) appear in a flashback sequence while we’re at it.

Any other thoughts? Yes. It’s perhaps time to finally dispense with the trope that the Daniel Craig Bond films are the “closest” to Ian Fleming.

Craig started out with Casino Royale, based on Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. Since then, we’ve seen the death of Mathis (not in a Fleming book).

Mathis may have been a double agent (at least that’s the implication of his Quantum of Solace death scene), which wasn’t in any Fleming book.

And, of course, we have Blofeld/BRO-feld as Bond’s foster brother in SPECTRE, which wasn’t in any Fleming book.

Even if you love all these films, they’re not what Fleming had in mind. Bond 25 may end up an entertaining film. (That’s my inner optimist speaking out). Just don’t bring Fleming into the discussion.

Any suggestions for Bond 25? Perhaps some new character could “reveal” that himself (or herself) was the real Blofeld all along and the “foster brother” nonsense was a way to mess with Bond’s mind. But I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Familiar face to return for Bond 25, Baz says

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

If you haven’t guessed, this is a spoiler. I even wrote the headline to not give it away. So scram if you don’t like spoilers.

SPACE….OK….

Christoph Waltz will again play Blofeld in Bond 25, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye said on Twitter.

Waltz played Blofeld in 2015’s SPECTRE.

Exclusive:Hello Mr Waltz… we’ve been expecting you.#ChristophWaltz is back as #Blofeld in ⁦@007 #Bond25 , shooting scenes at Pinewood studios,” Bamigboye wrote . “When a visitor spotted him , Waltz insisted , ‘You haven’t seen me.'”

Bamigboye had a number of scoops proven correct on Skyfall and SPECTRE. He has been relatively quiet on Bond 25.

Bamigboye also is not the first scribe to say Waltz was returning as Blofeld. Rodrigo Perez, editor of The Playlist, said as such in an April 25 tweet.

Perez was the first to report that Scott Z. Burns had been employed as a Bond 25 screenwriter. That was confirmed in the late April “reveal” event Eon Productions had in late April.

Waltz said in 2017 he wouldn’t be back as Blofeld. Then again, he originally said he wasn’t playing Blofeld in SPECTRE.

As I write this, Bamigboye only has his tweet out. The post will be updated if and when the Mail posts a story.

Here’s Bamigboye’s tweet:

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UPDATE (8:20 p.m. New York time): Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist does a victory lap.

There was more and something I revealed on The Words Are Not Enough podcast ‏—a 007 podcast run by Playlister Griffin Schiller and pal Brody Serravalli—back in April: Christoph Waltz would be returning to the series and reprising his role as Blofeld. Tonight that’s been confirmed by trusted U.K. writer Baz Bamigboye.

Personally, I find it odd that Perez wrote about Waltz on Twitter and mentioned it on a podcast but never got around to doing a story. “Twitter scoop I shoulda posted as a story long ago, but life got in the way and I’m way too exhausted now,” he wrote in that April 25 tweet linked above.

Anyway, since we’re in spoiler territory, Perez adds this in tonight’s story.

” I’ve heard that Blofeld returns in a kind of “Silence Of The Lambs”-like appearance; Clarice Starling (in this case Lea Seydoux), visiting him in prison and trying to mine him for information about (Rami) Malek’s sadistic character.”

“I’ve heard” isn’t the strongest attribution. Heard according to people associated with the production? You can still provide an idea of how strong your information is without identifying your sources. But all the story provides is “I’ve heard.”

UPDATE II (10:15 p.m.): Bamigboye’s story was posted by the Daily Mail earlier in the evening.  Here’s an excerpt:

Waltz’s involvement as Blofeld has been kept top secret . . . until now. When visitors to the set spotted him, the Austrian-born star put a finger to his lips and in hushed tones told them: ‘You haven’t seen me. I’m not here.’

An executive on the film told me: ‘There’s unfinished business between Bond and Blofeld. If I told you any more, I’d have to kill you.’ That may not even have been a joke.

As noted above, it hasn’t been top secret “until now.” And once again, we get a variation on the “I can’t tell you or I’d have to kill you” cliche. Whatever.

The scribe did add one tidbit: “Extra post-production technicians and other experts have been drafted in to ensure that Bond 25 makes its scheduled April 3 release date next year.”

Dan Romer to compose Bond 25’s score, IndieWire says

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

Dan Romer, who has previously worked with Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga, will compose the score for Bond 25, IndieWire reported. The entertainment website didn’t specify how it obtained the information.

Romer previously composed the score for Maniac, a 10-episode television mini-series directed by Fukunaga. Romer also scored Beasts of No Nation, a 2015 film directed, written and photographed by Fukunaga.

“Romer excels at finding the appropriate vibe with quirky, eclectic unpredictability,” wrote IndieWire’s Bill Desowitz.

On June 25, Eon Productions released a Bond 25 promotional video featuring behind the scenes shots filmed in Jamaica. Romer’s style, according to IndieWire is “in sync with Fukunaga’s reel, which was luscious, dark, and frenetic.”

If the IndieWire report pans out, it will continue a 007 trend begun under Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall and SPECTRE. Thomas Newman, who scored both films, was Mendes’ choice.

In the 1960s, beginning with From Russia With Love, John Barry was the to-go composer for the series regardless of director. Barry had arranged the final version of The James Bond Theme in Dr. No. Once in the composer’s chair, he established the Bond musical template.

Barry did six consecutive Bond films from 1963 through 1971. He eventually did 11 007 scores, ending with 1987’s The Living Daylights.

David Arnold, who followed the Barry template while trying to update it, did five consecutive Bond scores from 1997 through 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Some fans had hoped that Arnold would return for Bond 25.

h/t @CorneelVf on Twitter

UPDATE: Dan Romer put out a tweet related to the news.

 

Bond 25: Tabloid spoiler, new clapperboard shot

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

Like it says in the headline, spoiler. So scram if you’re spoiler adverse.

After a short respite, the tabloids are back, this time with the Mirror saying it knows part of the Bond 25 plot.

James Bond will return with a tear-jerking storyline – as his new wife is murdered and he struggles to cope with depression and grief.

New writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge – hired to refresh the script after her huge hit with Killing Eve – is said to be exploring the spy’s mental health for the franchise’s 25th instalment.

“There have been a lot of changes with the script but one angle they want to pursue is showing Bond’s more emotional side,” an insider revealed.

First things first. The Mirror has had a rocky record with accuracy. In 2017, for example, it claimed Bond 25 was based on the 007 continuation novel Never Dream of Dying by Raymond Benson. The author said on Twitter he was never contacted by the Mirror and “can only assume that article is fabrication. Would be wonderful if it were true.”

Even if the basic premise is correct, I suspect you can’t give Waller-Bridge the sole responsibility.

Eon has been at least flirting with the idea going back to the later script drafts of SPECTRE. A draft dated Dec. 1, 2014 — one week before filming began — ended with Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world.”

That, of course, was the line Bond (George Lazenby) says after marrying Tracy (Diana Rigg) in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where the Tracy ends up dead.

It was taken from the end of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel. The line was snipped from the final version of SPECTRE. However, the notion of turning Ley Seydoux into Tracy 2.0 has been there for a while.

Also, in the 1964 novel You Only Live Twice, Bond goes to pieces. Bond also went to pieces in 2012’s Skyfall but that was seven years ago. So even though it was just two Bond movies ago, it wouldn’t be a shock for Eon to follow that path once more.

One more thing: In May, Seydoux told Variety she hadn’t started work on Bond 25 and was working on another movie. Presumably, that means she’s not part of the sequences filmed in Jamaica during May.

We’ll see.

Meanwhile, Eon’s official social media accounts put out a clapperboard shot. It was for a sequence in London that takes a while into the movie based on the scene number (152).

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UPDATE (5:45 p.m.): Eon’s official Twitter account posted this photo, which some fans comment is the best Bond 25 promotional still they’ve seen.

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Bond 25 questions: The British tabloids edition

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

It has been about six weeks since principal photography on Bond 25 began. Of all the media outlets out there, Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid The Sun seems to be driving the media conversation.

Six months ago, even three months ago, that didn’t appear to be the case. With that in mind, here are some questions from the blog.

The Sun? Really? 

During pre-production and production of Skyfall and SPECTRE, the Daily Mail, via Baz Bamigboye, was the go-to tabloid.

Yes, Bamigboye’s stories had the smell of clickbait. But many of his stories were confirmed. Examples: Albert Finney was part of Skyfall’s cast. Yes, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned to rewrite SPECTRE. Yes, Purvis and Wade were hired to start the Bond 25 scripting process.

As a result, over time, Bamigboye had to be taken seriously even if the Daily Mail had a well-deserved reputation for bad journalism.

But, for some reason, The Sun has been driving much of the Bond 25 storyline. The Sun came out with a story about the June 4 explosion at the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. That spurred Eon Productions to quickly get out a statement.

The Sun’s latest story came out June 9. The Murdoch tabloid declared actor Rami Malek “has other filming commitments which will have started by the time” Daniel Craig is ready to resume filming following an injury.

With the tabloids, caution always is called for. Still, The Sun and its scribes have been more active than Bamigboye.

Here’s an excerpt from the newest story from The Sun. Caveat Emptor.

A Bond insider said: “Filming was supposed to finish in September but the cast and crew have been told it’s been pushed back to late October, possible early November due to Daniel’s injury and the set explosion.

“But they still need to find a time for Daniel and Rami to film together.”

How serious should a Bond fan take The Sun? 

Take it with a lot of caution.

The Sun has been out of the gate in declaring Bond 25 “cursed.” In its most recent story, The Sun amped things up by calling Bond 25 “doomed.”

Whoa! That’s way, way too strong a term. Even if you think The Sun has good sources, that’s overplaying your hand.

What’s more, tabloids are famous for taking shortcuts (to put it mildly).

What happens now?

Take it easy. Don’t assume things are doomed or cursed. (A curse is a man-made construct to explain various events.)

At the same time, keep an eye on how things are going. Film productions experience setbacks. Some turn out well (Jaws). Some not so much (Heaven’s Gate). Regardless, there’s no point in jumping to conclusions.

Bond 25 director says he wants to explore Swann character

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director 2.0 for Bond 25

Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga, in an interview with Japanese outlet Cinema Today, said he wants to explore the character of Madeline Swann.

According to a translation of the interview, the director said “I just knew a little about her” in SPECTRE “and I thought I had something more to say about her.”

Lea Seydoux played Swann in the 2015 007 film. She initially dislikes Bond but rides off with him at the end of the movie. Seydoux is reprising the role in Bond 25.

Fukunaga also told Cinema Today he met with Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli in 2017 about the film. Danny Boyle was hired in 2018 to helm the movie. Fukunaga was then hired after Boyle departed over “creative differences.”

The director said in the interview he’s been working on Bond 25’s story “120 percent” since September.

“It’s a very hard job,” he told the Japanese outlet. “It’s an important piece for this franchise, and especially Daniel Craig, and people’s expectations because it’s five years since the previous release.”