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.

Bond 25 questions: The potpourri edition

New No Time to Die poster

We’ve had a few No Time to Die developments recently. Naturally, the blog has a couple of questions.

Will the gunbarrel be at the beginning?

Hard to say, but this week’s Cary Fukunaga video suggests it’s a strong possibility.

“The white dots on the screen…the adrenaline starts pumping,” Fukunaga’s voiceover says, accompanying the Daniel Craig gunbarrel from SPECTRE. “Settle in and get ready for a ride.”

That sounds like a description of the first 20 Bond films when the gunbarrel was at the start of the movie. Things got changed up with 2006’s Casino Royale, which began a new, rebooted timeline. The gunbarrel appeared at the end of the pre-titles sequence.

Then, for Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, the gunbarrel appeared at the end of the film. There was some pushback from fans. That generated pushback to the pushback where other fans questioned how dare fans question the artistry of the films. The comments section of this 2012 post demonstrates both sides of the argument.

The gunbarrel was back at the start of SPECTRE, although it wasn’t the best executed, including having Daniel Craig swinging his arm wildly showing he’s holding a gun.

In any case, Fukunaga at least sounds more appreciative of the gunbarrel logo than his Bond directing predecessor Sam Mendes. We’ll see.

Why didn’t Scott Z. Burns get a script credit?

Supposedly, the ace Hollywood “script doctor” in early 2019 was on his way to save No Time to Die’s script. Certainly, The Playlist website made it sound that way in a February 2019 story.

To give credit where credit is due, The Playlist was the first to report Burns participating in the writing of the film. Saving the script? Not so much. Burns ended up not getting a credit while Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, director Fukunaga and scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge did.

Ultimately, script credits are decided by the Writers Guild of America. The rules are a bit complex but in general favor the early writers over those who rewrite. There is also a cap on the number of credits available. In this case, Burns had no seat when the WGA musical chairs of writing credits ended.

A No Time to Die reality check

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Adapted, updated and expanded from previous blog posts.

Ben Whishaw, who has played Q for three James Bond films, has told Collider.com that No Time to Die will be a “summing up” of Daniel Craig’s 007 films.

There has been some fan discussion of how the Craig films will now be this five-film epic, something the series had never attempted. Under this idea, No Time to Die will conclude five Bond films, similar to how Avengers: Endgame was the conclusion of more than 20 Marvel Studios movies.

No Time to Die may be presented that way. But this is just a reminder that Craig’s tenure was never planned this way unlike Marvel.

Let’s go back some years.

Sam Mendes said Skyfall “didn’t connect” to Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace: At a November 2011 press conference, Mendes was asked whether Skyfall was related to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

“It’s its own story,” the Skyfall director said of Skyfall. “It doesn’t connect with the last two movies.”

After the fact, things changed.

The filmmakers once told us SPECTRE was passe: Here’s a quote from Barbara Broccoli in a 2012 interview with CRAVE ONLINE:

Barbara Broccoli: I mean, we’ve talked about Blofeld over the years. The thing is Blofeld was fantastic for the time but I think it’s about creating characters that are, villains that are more appropriate for the contemporary world. It’s more exciting for us to create somebody new. (emphasis added)

The filmmakers told us Quantum was better than SPECTRE: Here’s a summary by the JAMES BOND INTERNATIONAL FAN CLUB of an article that originally appeared in SPX magazine.

Interestingly, Wilson and Broccoli told SFX that they have not abandoned the Quantum organisation, but also confirmed that it is not used in ‘Skyfall’. Wilson also revealed that they have the rights to bring back Blofeld and SPECTRE. ‘We believe we can use them. They’re a little dated at the moment. We went for the Quantum organisation, which was more business oriented, trying to corner the market on scarce resources, rather than a criminal organisation that did blackmail and bank robberies
’.

But Wilson’s co-producer Barbara Broccoli added, cautiously, that they needed a little more time to pass before they could go back to ‘extortion and blackmail! The Quantunm organisation does seem far more realistic. (emphasis added)

In 2006’s Casino Royale, the mysterious organization that Bond battled didn’t have a name. In Quantum of Solace, we found out it was called Quantum. In SPECTRE, we learned there was a tie between Quantum and SPECTRE via Mr. White.

The 2013 settlement with the Kevin McClory estate that gave Eon Productions the ability to use SPECTRE was an opportunity. That changed everything,

With SPECTRE, we got a “retcon” (retroactive change in continuity).

I saw a tweet from a fan who wondered whether No Time to Die was SPECTRE Part II. Essentially, many fans are buying into the idea (seemingly voiced by Whishaw in his Collider interview) that No Time to Die is Casino Royale Part V.

None of this means No Time to Die won’t be an entertaining James Bond. Still, let’s not get carried away.

No Time to Die world premiere set for March 31

No Time to Die teaser poster

No Time to Die’s world premiere will be March 31 in London, Eon Productions announced today.

The premiere showing will be at Royal Albert Hall, according to the announcement.

The 25th James Bond film will have its U.K. release two days later on April 2. It won’t arrive in the U.S. until an official release of April 10 (although there will be likely “preview showings” on the night of April 9.)

Royal Albert Hall previously hosted the world premieres of Skyfall and SPECTRE.

No Time to Die finished principal photography in October, with some pickup shots being filmed since then.

The movie is in post-production. Last week, it was announced that Hans Zimmer is scoring the movie and that Billie Eilish is co-writing and performing the title song.

The MI6 James Bond website reported Jan. 7 that recording sessions for the score were underway. The website was the first to report that Eilish would perform the title song.

NTTD roundup: Add to music team, running time questions

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Here’s a quick roundup of No Time to Die developments:

Music team adds a recruit: Musician Johnny Marr will work with Hans Zimmer on the No Time to Die score, NME reported, citing comments from Marr.

“Part of the legacy of the Bond films is iconic music, so I’m very happy to be bringing my guitar to No Time to Die,” Marr told NME.

Marr has worked with Zimmer on previous films, including Inception, where Marr was a guitarist and Amazing Spider-Man 2, where Marr contributed to the score along with Zimmer.

A three-hour Bond? The MI6 James Bond website examined recent developments that may (or may not) point to the 25th James Bond film having a running time of almost three hours.

@ImAFilmEditor tweeted back on Dec. 4 that No Time to Die may end up being the longest Bond film but there weren’t any details beyond that. He reminded people of that in a Jan. 16 tweet.

This week, @antovolk did some more detective work. He provided caveats that the movie is still in post production and that a final running time isn’t locked down.

Bond films during the Daniel Craig era have tended toward longer running times, except for 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which had a 106-minute running time. SPECTRE’s running time was 148 minutes, the longest so far for the film series.

Bond 25 questions: The composer edition

Hans Zimmer title card from Inception (2010),

Thanks to Variety (but still not announced), the word is out that Hans Zimmer is working on the score for No Time to Die. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is it Zimmer or Hans Zimmer & Co.?

Hans Zimmer runs a company called Remote Control Productions. It has more than 60 affiliated composers. On a number of films (Dunkirk, Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises and Inception), Zimmer gets sole “music by” credit while of the Remote Control Productions composers get an “additional music” credit.

Those other composers have included Lorne Balfe and Junkie XL. The number of additional music composers varies from project to project.

On other occasions, including Blade Runner 2049 and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zimmer has shared the main “music by” credit with another one of the Remote Control Productions composers. Benjamin Wallifisch shared the credit with Zimmer on Blade Runner 2049 while Junkie XL shared the Batman v Superman music credit.

How long has Zimmer been working on No Time to Die?

The MI6 James Bond website, in a story early today, said it “understands that orchestral sessions are currently being recorded” for the new Bond film. Mr. Obvious observation: That sounds like the score has been written, or at least partly written.

What happened to Dan Romer?

The Variety story said “creative differences” without providing more details. News that Romer was initially hired to score No Time to Die surfaced last year. He was listed in the crew in an August press release issued primarily because of the title reveal.

Presumably, Romer’s work didn’t please Eon Productions in some way. Meanwhile, Eon has been working with Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions for its upcoming non-Bond spy film The Rhythm Section. Zimmer is listed as executive music producer.

Why don’t they bring David Arnold back?

Arnold composed scores for five Bond films and is a fan favorite. But starting with Skyfall, Eon Productions has — at least initially — hired a composer chosen by the director.

Sam Mendes wanted Thomas Newman and got him. Romer had worked on some previous projects of No Time to Die director Cary Fukunaga.

In the end, any composer is a hired hand when it comes to the family-run Bond films. Marvin Hamlisch got two Oscar nominations for The Spy Who Loved Me but was never asked back into Bondage.