Bond 26 questions: The Variety interview edition

A previous Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

So, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson gave an interview to Variety. The Eon Productions duo again said James Bond won’t return to theater screens soon and they’re looking for the next actor to make a long-time commitment.

However, there were other interesting tidbits. Naturally, the blog has questions.

How many Bond films will get made during an actor’s “10-, 12-year commitment”?

That’s the kind of commitment the Eon pair said they’re looking for from a new Bond actor. But at the current rate of production, that might only be three films. The Eon series had only two entries — Skyfall and SPECTRE — during the entire decade of the 2010s.

Yes, there were external factors, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s bankruptcy in 2010 and COVID-19 in 2020. But some of the gaps were self-imposed, including putting off the development of what became No Time to Die to try and get Daniel Craig back for another movie.

Will Bond 26 with a new actor really be that much different than Craig’s run?

One passage in the Variety story suggests not.

Both Wilson and Broccoli, who is a director of the U.K. chapter of women’s advocacy org Time’s Up, have left their mark on Bond, particularly in humanizing the once-womanizing spy and ensuring more fulfilling, meatier roles for the female stars of the franchise. These are qualities that will continue in the next films, says Broccoli. (emphasis added)

What are they up to in the interim?

Barbara Broccoli is one of the producers of Till, a fact-based film about the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 and its aftermath. It’s due out next month. Wilson “has written a TV show that the duo are looking to set up,” according to Variety. And both are involved in producing an Amazon streaming show 007’s Road to a Million. That is currently in production, Variety says. Amazon also owns MGM.

Mendes muses to Baz about Bond films

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes talked to Deadline: Hollywood’s Baz Bamigboye for a feature story that included a few musings about James Bond films.

–Making Bond films is as much being an engineer as being a director. “It’s like erecting scaffolding and building an entire world…It’s exhausting, in a different way.”

–“I don’t envy (Eon Productions boss) Barbara (Broccoli) having to follow Daniel’s [Craig] five movies. He reinvigorated the franchise but the franchise is so huge that it’s very difficult for a younger actor to step into that.”

–“I think that the actor playing Bond is going to evolve, the director has to evolve. I think it would be wonderful to see a woman directing Bond. I think it would be wonderful.”

Earlier in the story, Mendes said: “I don’t think they’d want me anymore.” He was asked if he had actually been told that. Mendes then said, “Let me rephrase that.” The comment about the director having to evolve followed.

Mendes directed Skyfall (2012) and SPECTRE (2015). Bamigboye formerly was at the Daily Mail, where he often wrote about Bond films.

As U.K. celebrates Bond, U.S. fans are green with envy

James Bond film gunbarrel

James Bond is a product of the U.K. The character envelops U.K. citizens from birth and is a source of national pride.

It’s understandable that the 60th anniversary of the film franchise is a big deal. The movies are being shown in U.K. theaters. And even more is planned as the anniversary date of Dr. No’s debut approaches on Oct. 5.

At one time, Bond was a big deal in the U.S. as well. The gentleman spy had a fan in a U.S. president (John F. Kennedy). A prominent publisher (Hugh Hefner of Playboy magazine) was a big promoter of the character.

As recently as a generation ago, the U.S. was the site of two official James Bond fan conventions (1994 in Los Angeles, 1995 in New York City).

Today, not so much. American fans of Bond can only marvel at the U.K. events that are unfolding.

Early next month, tickets go on sale for British Film Institute events related to the 60th anniversary.

–Sept. 30 (tickets go on sale Aug. 4): Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions will discuss “their careers and the Bond films, in a richly illustrated discussion featuring clips from their films.” Price: 15 British pounds (about $18). Program is scheduled for 90 minutes.

–Oct. 1: A program titled “James Bond behind the scenes: Stunts and VFX.” Tickets go on sale Aug. 4. Participants include Chris Corbould. Price: 15 British pounds. Program is scheduled for 80 minutes.

–Oct. 1: A program titled “The Sound of 007.” A description:

This new documentary reveals the history of seven decades of Bond music, from the genesis of 1962’s Dr. No and Monty Norman’s iconic theme song, through to 2021’s No Time to Die. The film charts the ups and downs of Bond soundtracks, combining interviews with stunning Bond archive material from the franchise’s 60-year journey.

Again, the price is 15 British pounds.

There are also a series of screenings of films made by Eon Productions.

Sept. 30: A 60th-anniversary screening of Dr. No.

Oct. 1: A 45th-anniversary screening of The Spy Who Loved Me.

–A 35th-anniversary screening of The Living Daylights.

–Oct. 2: A 10th-anniversary screening of Skyfall.

–Oct. 2: A screening of SPECTRE.

–Oct. 2: A screening of No Time to Die

NTTD’s reactions from its co-stars

No Time to Die poster

h/t to MI6.HQ.COM which compiled this.

Daniel Craig’s James Bond met his end in No Time to Die. If Craig’s co-stars are to be believed, they had no idea this was happening.

Lea Seydoux, Den of Geek: “I still can’t really believe that that’s what they decided, that he’s gone…It made me sad, actually, it made me really sad…But I hope they will find a new way to—you know they will find something else.”

Naomie Harris, Radio Times: “Because there’s so much secrecy around all of the Bond movies, I thought, ‘Is this a joke? Am I being sent, like, the wrong ending, and then they’re gonna send me a new one?’. I really thought that, because I just thought… this doesn’t happen. Bond doesn’t die. It’s sacred that Bond should never die.”

A reminder: No Time to Die’s script began development in 2017. That’s when Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine met his end in a film. Earlier, Craig and Jackman had appeared together in a play in New York.

Prior to No Time to Die, Craig’s Bond had unhappy endings. At the end of SPECTRE, he finally (or so it seemed) had a happy ending with Seydoux’s Madeline Swann. Instead, No Time to Die threw that out the window.

About Bond’s Oscar prospects

The 2022 Oscars show is next Sunday. No Time to Die has three nominations. What are its prospects?

The categories are Best Song, Sound and Visual Effects. A quick look at each.

Visual effects: This reminds me of the 1980 Oscars (for 1979 movies). Moonraker had a nomination but it used “old school” effects based on models and other techniques.

The 1979 007 film was up against Alien, which got the visual effects award.

No Time to Die used visual effects to alter real life. But it’s up against movies such as Dune and Spider-Man No Way Home which, essentially, created new worlds for movie audiences.

Sound: The very first Bond Oscar went to Norman Wanstall for sound with Goldfinger and Skyfall got a sound award (a tie with Zero Dark Thirty). This year, No Time to Die is up against the likes of Dune, Belfast, The Power of the Dog and Steven Spielberg’s version of West Side Story.

Best song: Bond films have been nominated in this category six times. The last two 007 movies, Skyfall and SPECTRE, won. Can No Time to Die make it a hat trick? One of the alternatives is from the animated movie Encanto and was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

We’ll see.

Bond 25 questions: The Oscars edition

No Time to Die poster

Well, the Oscar nominations are out. Good news for Bond fans: No Time to Die got three nominations. Bad news: It didn’t get any of the major ones.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What happened? Have you paid attention? The Bond film series produced by Eon Productions has won a grand total of five Oscars over 60 years. Goldfinger got a sound award, Thunderball got a special effects award. Skyfall received a sound award (tying with Zero Dark Thirty) and best song. SPECTRE won a best song award.

Meanwhile, John Barry won five Oscars by himself but wasn’t even nominated for his Bond film work.

The Oscars are not particularly friendly to the Bond series. Films like Live And Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only got nominations and walked away empty.

For the record, No Time to Die was nominated for best song, visual effects, and sound.

But I thought this was going to be different! Well, sure, there was talk some genre movies (such as No Time to Die or Spider-Man No Way Home) might sneak in and grab one of the 10 best picture nomination slots.

Sorry. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doesn’t have a category for popularity. Once upon a time, popular movies won or at least were nominated. Que sera sera. What will be, will be.

But hey, Spider-Man No Way Home only got one nomination (visual effects). If you’re a Bond fan and want to gloat, you can seize upon that.

Are there any bright spots in this? Sure. No Time to Die is only the third Bond film to receive multiple nominations. The others were The Spy Who Loved Me (three nominations, no wins) and Skyfall (five nominations, two wins).

Any lessons to be learned? Perhaps Bond’s home studio (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and producers (Eon) ought to roll back their expectations for big, expensive Oscar campaigns.

I wouldn’t go banco on that, however.

Michael G. Wilson turns 80

Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson, during publicity for 2015’s SPECTRE

Michael G. Wilson, a producer and writer who worked longer on James Bond films than anyone else, celebrated his 80th birthday today.

Wilson, who has been involved with Bond for 50 years on a full-time basis, is the stepson of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli and the half-brother of 007 producer Barbara Broccoli.

Wilson and Barbara Broccoli took command of Eon in 1994 as GoldenEye was in pre-production and Cubby Broccoli suffered from ill health. The Wilson-Barbara Broccoli combination has produced every Bond film starting with GoldenEye.

Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli died in 1996, ending 35 years with the franchise.

Wilson’s mother, Dana, married Cubby Broccoli in 1959. She had earlier been married to actor Lewis Wilson, who had played Batman in a 1943 serial. The actor was the father of Michael Wilson.

Michael Wilson’s first involvement in the 007 series was as an extra on 1964’s Goldfinger, but that was a one-off. Starting in 1972, he joined Eon and its parent company, Danjaq.

Michael G. Wilson’s first 007 on-screen credit in The Spy Who Loved Me

In those early years, Wilson, a lawyer who also had training in engineering, was involved in the separation between Eon founders Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the latter facing financial troubles. Eventually, United Artists bought out Saltzman’s interest in the 007 franchise.

Wilson’s first on-screen credit was as “special assistant to producer” on 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Wilson got a small title card, sharing the screen with other crew members. But that belied how Wilson’s influence on the series was growing following Saltzman’s departure.

A Poster Changes

CLIP TO EMBIGGIN

A preliminary version of the poster for The Spy Who Loved Me, with a credit for “Mike Wilson.”

An early poster for Spy had the credit “Assistant to the Producer Mike Wilson.” It didn’t mention other notables such as production designer Ken Adam or associate producer William P. Cartlidge. Later versions didn’t include Wilson’s credits but Adam and Cartlidge still didn’t make the final poster.

For 1979’s Moonraker, Wilson was elevated to executive producer, a title which can be a little confusing. On television series, an executive producer is supposed to be the top producer or producers. For movies, it’s a secondary title to producer. This time, Wilson was included on the posters as were Adam and Cartlidge.

With 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, Wilson doubled as a screenwriter, working in conjunction with Bond veteran Richard Maibaum. Wilson received a screenwriting credit on every 007 film made by Eon in the 1980s. Starting with 1985’s A View to a Kill, he was joint producer along with Cubby Broccoli.

While adding to his production resume, Wilson also began making cameo appearances in the Bond movies themselves. A 2015 story in the Daily Mail provided images of a few examples. The cameos varied from a quick glance (The World Is Not Enough) to getting several lines of dialogue (Tomorrow Never Dies, as a member of the board of directors working with the villain).

‘Particularly Hard’

After Cubby Broccoli’s death, Wilson in interviews began complaining about the work load of making Bond films. “It just seems that this one’s been particularly hard,” Wilson said in an interview with Richard Ashton on the former Her Majesty’s Secret Service website concerning The World Is Not Enough that’s archived at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

In an earlier Ashton interview, after production of 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, Wilson described the pressure he felt.

“There are a myriad of things every day,” Wilson told Ashton. “From the producer’s point of view they want to know the schedule, does the set need to be this big? Are we gonna shoot all this stuff in the action sequence? How much of it is going to end up on the cutting room floor? You’re putting the director under pressure to make decisions all the time – and he has a point of view he wants to put across.”

‘Desperately Afraid’

Dana Broccoli was an uncredited adviser on the Bond films during Cubby Broccoli’s reign. She became “the custodian of the James Bond franchise” after his death in 1996, according to a 2004 obituary of Dana Broccoli in The Telegraph.

With her passing, Wilson and Barbara Broccoli were truly on their own. One of their first decisions was to move on from Pierce Brosnan, the last 007 actor selected by Albert R. Broccoli, and go in a new direction with Daniel Craig.

In an October 2005 story in The New York Times, Wilson described the process.

“I was desperately afraid, and Barbara was desperately afraid, we would go downhill,” said Michael G. Wilson, the producer of the new Bond film, “Casino Royale,” with Ms. Broccoli. He even told that to Pierce Brosnan, the suave James Bond who had a successful run of four films, he said.

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

Wilson and Barbara Broccoli also began pursuing other interests, including plays as well as movies such as the drama The Silent Storm, where they were among 12 executive producers.

Wilson as P.T. Barnum

Wilson, to a degree, also was the Bond franchise’s equivalent of P.T. Barnum. In separate interviews and public appearances he said he hoped Daniel Craig would do more 007 films than Roger Moore even as the time between Bond films lengthened while later saying Bond actors shouldn’t be kept on too long.

Legal fights between Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which acquired United Artists in 1981) caused a six-year hiatus in Bond films between 1989 and 1995. When production resumed with GoldenEye, Wilson no longer was a credited screenwriter.

Cubby Broccoli had benefited from a long relationship with Richard Maibaum (1909-1991), who ended up contributing to 13 of the first 16 Bond movies. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli seemed to search for their own Maibaum.

At first, screenwriter Bruce Feirstein seemed to fit the bill. He received a writing credit on three movies, starting with GoldenEye and ending with The World Is Not Enough.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011 Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011.

Later, the producing duo seemed to settle on scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who received credits on six consecutive 007 epics. They ran began with 1999’s The World Is Not Enough and ran through 2015’s SPECTRE. They were hired in 2017 to work on a 007th film, No Time to Die, released in 2021. Director Cary Fukunaga and scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge were among the other writers on the script.

Still, it wasn’t the same. After 2012’s Skyfall, Purvis and Wade weren’t supposed to return, with writer John Logan (who’d done Skyfall’s later drafts) set to script two movies in a row.

It didn’t work out that way. With SPECTRE, the followup to Skyfall, Logan did the earlier drafts but Purvis and Wade were summoned back. Eventually, Logan, Purvis, Wade and Jez Butterworth would get a credit.

Changing Role?

Cubby Broccoli seemed to live to make James Bond movies. Wilson  not as much, as he pursued other interests, including photography. By the 2010s, it appeared to outsiders that Barbara Broccoli had become the primary force at Eon.

In December, 2014, at the announcement of the title for SPECTRE, Wilson was absent. Director Sam Mendes acted as master of ceremonies with Barbara Broccoli at his side. Wilson showed up in later months for SPECTRE-related publicity events.

Nevertheless, Wilson devoted the majority of his life to the film series.

Making movies is never easy. Wilson’s greatest accomplishment is helping — in a major way — to keeping the 007 series in production. He was not a founding father of the Bond film series. But he was one of the most important behind-the-scenes figures for the film Bond beginning in the 1970s.

“When you go around the world you see how many people are so anxious, in every country, ‘Oh, when’s the next Bond film coming out?'” Wilson told Ashton after production of Tomorrow Never Dies. “You realize that there’s a huge audience and I guess you don’t want to come out with a film that’s going to somehow disappoint them.”

Ralph Fiennes rips off a SPECTRE scab

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes caused a stir with comments on a podcast about how he successfully resisted attempts during production of SPECTRE to turn his M into a villain.

“I had to fight off an attempt by (Skyfall and SPECTRE director) Sam (Mendes) in SPECTRE…I don’t want to play M and then you turn around make M the bad guy. M is never the bad guy….I had to have some pretty intense discussions with Sam.”

The key excerpt is below:

The thing is all of this became known in 2014 with the hacking at Sony, which distributed Skyfall and SPECTRE. What makes it of interest is Fiennes talking about it. Eventually, a new character, dubbed C, became the traitor.

The 2014 hacks also revealed that, at the same time, Tanner would also be revealed to be a traitor. He would commit suicide while Bond observed. At least two SPECTRE script drafts, including one with an Irma Bunt henchwoman (a major character in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), leaked out.

Fiennes’ comments draw attention to a volatile time.

Pre-production of SPECTRE (then known as Bond 24) had been well underway when, on Nov. 15, 2013, it was announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq/Eon had reached an agreement with the estate of Kevin McClory. As a result of the pact, MGM and Danjaq/Eon now firmly held the rights to Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE.

One way to go would be to put Blofeld and SPECTRE in a drawer for use later. Instead, Blofeld and SPECTRE were shoehorned into Bond 24.

All of a sudden, everything was up for grabs. In Fiennes case, he put his foot down and the notion of M as a traitor passed.

All of this had been mostly forgotten until the actor’s recent comments. All of this reflects Eon’s “we’ll make it up as we go along” approach. Example: At a 2011 press conference, Mendes said Skyfall had nothing to do with Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

When SPECTRE rolled around, lo and behold, Skyfall villain Silva was really part of SPECTRE. It would be as if Goldfinger had been part of SPECTRE in 1964. (He wasn’t.)

So it goes.

Bond 25 questions: What’s up with the U.S.?

No Time to Die poster

No Time to Die is the No. 1 box office movie among non-Chinese-made films. Happy days are here again, right? Well, there may be one nagging concern, the (relative) gap between international and the U.S.

The U.S., even with China emerging as the world’s largest market, remains a pretty big market for movies. Yet, relatively speaking, James Bond’s support in Britain’s former colonies appears to be eroding.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What do you mean by eroding support?

Here is are the figures during the Daniel Craig era, according to Box Office Mojo:

Casino Royale, $167.4 million, 27.2 percent of the global total

Quantum of Solace, $168.4 million, 28.6 percent of the global total

Skyfall, $304.4 million, 27.5 percent of the global total

SPECTRE, $200.1 million, 22.7 percent of the global total

No Time to Die, $158.1 million, 20.9 percent of the global total.

So?

Some British fans attribute that to Brits having better taste than Americans. These same fans dismiss the importance of the American market at all.

Are you being serious?

Mostly not (though such fans as described above do exist). Rather, it raises the question whether there should be more changes for U.S. Bond marketing versus international Bond marketing.

With No Time to Time, U.S. trailers were different than international trailers. But is that enough?

Remember, Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions said in 2015 that Eon controls the marketing and that studios just execute that plan.

If anybody at Eon is disappointed with the U.S. box office — and no one has said so publicly — they should perhaps look in the mirror.

Anything else?

For better or worse, the U.S. market likes superhero movies more than international markets The No. 1 U.S. movie in 2021 is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings at $224.6 million. It’s based on a lesser-known Marvel Comics title from the 1970s.

Still, $158.1 million in the U.S. for No Time to Die, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, is nothing to sneeze at and not a flop. Many movies would love that size of box office.

Going forward, though, Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Amazon (which has agreed to buy MGM) may want to ponder Bond’s position in the U.S.

Variety suggests NTTD still is unprofitable

No Time to Die teaser poster

Variety has published a story suggesting No Time to Die still hasn’t made a profit despite becoming the No. 1 box office film in 2021 among non-Chinese productions.

Here is an excerpt:

The action-packed spy spectacle, which endured several coronavirus-related delays, has become the rare pandemic-era box office hit, which is even more impressive considering adult audiences — the core demographic for “No Time to Die” — have been reluctant to return to theaters. However, the movie cost more than $250 million to produce, at least $100 million to promote and tens of millions more to postpone over 16 months. Insiders say “No Time to Die” needs to make closer to $900 million to break even.

No Time to Die cost almost $300 million to produce, according to a U.K. regulatory filing in 2020. And there were THREE COVID-19 delays, not “several.” There were FIVE delays overall. Two were related to how Danny Boyle was replaced as director with Cary Fukunaga.

MGM, replying to Variety, issued a denial.

“Unnamed and uninformed sources suggesting the film will lose money are categorically unfounded and put more simply, not true.”

Just remember: People deny things they know to be true. MGM hasn’t provided any detailed financial information regarding No Time to Die.

According to Variety, MGM crowed about how No Time to Die passed F9: The Fast Saga. (Something that occurred this weekend.) So far, No Time to Die hasn’t matched either 2015’s SPECTRE nor 2012’s Skyfall. That latter is the only Bond film to exceed $1 billion box office in theaters.

Since the advent of COVID-19 in early 2020, the market for theatrical films has shrunk. Before the pandemic, there were 48 movies that had a box office of $1 billion or more. 2012’s Skyfall is No. 28 on that list.

With COVID-19, no movie has reached that worldwide box office level. Some Bond fans don’t like to hear that and have criticized the blog for bringing it up.

That’s how it goes.