Tom Hiddleston as 007? Let’s ask the Hulk

British actor Tom Hiddleston is the latest name to get publicity as a potential new James Bond. Even the august Guardian decided THIS WAS A SUBJECT WORTH WRITING ABOUT after U.K. bookies put Hiddleston as No. 6 in the 007 sweepstakes.

If The Guardian — no tabloid here — has weighed in, then it’s time to do a serious examination. Time to explore the serious subject with the gravitas it deserves.

So let’s get the opinion of the Hulk.

Hmmmm. Sounds like a “no” vote. The Bond sweepstakes continues. Perhaps one day soon we’ll have real news to discuss.

Christopher Lee dies at 93

Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun

Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun

Christopher Lee, who enjoyed a long film career in character roles, died June 7, according to AN OBITUARY IN THE GUARDIAN.

Lee, 93, was well known for playing Dracula. As a change of pace, he played the title character in 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun. Lee transformed the thuggish Scaramanga of Ian Fleming’s final James Bond novel into a sophisticated villain with psychological issues.

Golden Gun is viewed by many fans a weaker entry in the Bond film series though Lee’s performance usually isn’t cited as a factor. Also, Lee was a distant relative of Fleming and had experience in intelligence work during World War II, according to the documentary Inside The Man With the Golden Gun.

In addition to the obituary, The Guardian posted an appreciation of Lee’s career. Here’s an excerpt from the commentary by Peter Bradshaw, referring to the actor’s first appearance as Dracula:

(W)hen Lee’s Count Dracula first walked down to the stairs to greet his visitors in the first Hammer movie version it was a revelation. He was tall (six foot five), handsome and well-built, with an easy athleticism and a frank, direct manner. His deep, melodious voice completed the effect: commanding. There was nothing unwholesome-looking about this vampire, not at first: he looked more like a British or at any rate Central European version of Gary Cooper….Christopher Lee was Dracula; he had taken over the character as clearly as Sean Connery took over James Bond.

To view a list of Lee’s acting credits on IMDB.com, CLICK HERE. To view The New York Times’s obituary for Lee, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE (9:30 a.m., New York time): Roger Moore, who played Bond opposite Lee, commented on Twitter:

UPDATE II (11 a.m., New York time): Also, via Twitter, here’s a chart showing how Christopher Lee and Ian Fleming were related:

The race to do an Edward Snowden movie

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

There’s a race to see who can do an Edward Snowden movie first.

In one corner is Sony Pictures and 007 producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. In the other, according to various stories (including THIS ONE BY THE GUARDIAN) is director Oliver Stone.

Each project is based on separate books about Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of NSA surveillance programs to reporters. The Sony-Eon Productions project is based on a book by Glenn Greenwald. The Stone project on a book by Luke Harding.

Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian about Stone’s project. The newspaper may have a bit of a rooting interest.

Stone’s thriller will focus on the experiences of the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency who leaked thousands of classified documents to the former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald back in June 2013. The film is to be produced by Stone’s regular business partner Moritz Borman, with Harding and other Guardian journalists serving as production and story consultants.

“This is one of the greatest stories of our time,” Stone, 67, said in a statement. “A real challenge. I’m glad to have the Guardian working with us.” Stone’s previous films include Platoon, JFK and W. The director has also made documentaries on Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, together with a 2012 TV series, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States.

The Sony-Eon project was announced in May. Greenwald’s work for The Guardian about Snowden earned that newspaper a Pulitzer Prize for public service, which it shared with The Washington Post. The public service Pulitzer is given only to publications, not to particular individuals. Greenwald left The Guardian to start a website called The Intercept.

For now, the question is which project reaches theater screens first. Wilson and Broccoli have been involved in a number of non-Bond movie projects but haven’t had one become reality yet. Separately, Broccoli has been involved as a producer of a documentary (Stolen Childhoods), a made-for-television movie (Crime of the Century) and a public service short film (James Bond Supports International Women’s Day). Broccoli and Wilson together have also been involved in stage productions.

Wilson and Broccoli also have Bond 24, scheduled to start filming this fall for a 2015 release. Can they handle they handle that and get their Snowden project to theaters ahead of Oliver Stone? We’ll see. The Stone movie is supposed to start filming before the end of 2014.

A sampling of Solo reviews

William Boyd

William Boyd

Solo, the James Bond continuation novel by William Boyd, has been out for a couple of weeks in the U.K. and went on sale in the U.S. this past week.

Reviewers have come forward with their evaluations and here’s a sample of a few that caught this blog’s eye.

The Rap Sheet’s J. Kingston Pierce thought highly of the novel, set in 1969 and featuring a 45-year-old Bond.

“Solo is a consuming work, and William Boyd has made Bond his own,” Pierce writes. “I wouldn’t be at all disappointed if Ian Fleming Publications begged him for a sequel.” Among the novel’s strengths: “It doesn’t seek to imitate Fleming’s voice or to play it too safe with his protagonist. Neither, though, does it ignore the tropes and traditions of the famous espionage series.”

The Book Bond’s John Cox calls Boyd’s version of Bond “the thinking man’s 007.”

Boyd “goes solo into the juggernaut that is ‘James Bond OO7’ and fearlessly does his own thing. Not since the very first continuation novel, Colonel Sun, has there been a Bond book less concerned with the industry that is James Bond. Boyd simply tells a riveting story of espionage, geopolitics, and a British secret agent in 1969.”

Bakewell Today’s Martin Hutchinson proclaims that “Boyd has picked up the Bond baton very well; his attention to detail is very like Ian Fleming, who revelled in such fine detail.”

The review, though, isn’t as strong on detail. Hutchinson writes that, “Up until now, all the novels featuring James Bond have been set in the present day.” Actually, Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks was a period piece set in 1967.

Olen Steinhauer in The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review writes a review that doubles as an essay on the Bond novels, both by Ian Fleming and the various continuation novels.

“In the beginning, his appeal in the postwar world of rations, gray English skies and declining empire was easy to determine: he offered Britons a glimpse into a privileged world beyond their means, a world of first-class flights to foreign casinos and sybaritic holidays at exclusive Caribbean retreats,” novelist Steinhauer wrties. “Bond also told them, again and again, that Britain still mattered. Yet 60 years have passed, and people all over the world are still buying into the James Bond fantasy. Perhaps the reason can be gleaned from William Boyd’s ‘Solo,’ the latest official Bond novel.”

Steinhauer suggests Boyd’s 007 surpasses Fleming’s original. “The truth is that Fleming’s Bond was only rarely a fully fleshed character. More often, he was a catalog of likes and dislikes, and it’s this very hollowness that has allowed later generations to imbue him with their own sensibilities.

“Boyd has, by the novel’s close, injected a weary disgust into his central character as the full ramifications of realpolitik — the policies that can lead to starved children hiding from the light — become clearer and clearer…I doubt his creator could have done it better.”

Richard Williams in The Guardian writes, “all things considered, Boyd’s attempt entertains far more than it exasperates. His approach, he has said, was to write his own novel using Fleming’s characters, and his gift for sustaining narrative momentum is the key to its success.” Meanwhile, he lists the continuation authors, yet omits Raymond Benson.

British GQ’s Olivia Cole is also high on the book.

“Boyd’s great skill in Solo is to have written a compulsively readable thriller, replicating the cocktail of ingredients that got Fleming’s readers hooked – from the women to the clothes and the cars (in this case an extremely good looking Jenson Interceptor) and yet to let the cracks in the fantasy figure show through. Whether you go to Solo for Boyd or for Bond, you are in for a thoroughly rewarding, entertaining and ultimately thought provoking fix.”

Meanwhile, Cole mentions some of Fleming’s novels and lists On His Majesty’s Secret Service.

Blog says it has `true low down’ on Bond 23; author dubbed ‘world’s worst film critic’ by U.K.’s Guardian

Now that Bond 23 is officially back on, with a 2012 release date, the rumor mill is starting to crank it up. The Pittsburgh Film Industry Examiner says it has the “true low down” on Bond 23, including an effort to replace Daniel Craig as agent 007 before it was announced this week he’d star in his third James Bond movie. Before anyone accepts the blog post as gospel, however, the term caveat emptor — let the buyer beware — comes to mind.

The Web blog post by Fiore Mastracci has this passage:

The first battle staged over BOND 23 had to do with its star, Daniel Craig. There was a concerted effort to oust Craig as Bond and insert Clive Owen. Owen has coveted the role for some time and was on the original short list of possible Bonds before Craig was selected. Craig fell out of favor with (Barbara) Broccoli and MGM with two ill timed incidents.

The reasons Mastracci cites get into National Enquirer territory. If you want to check it out, feel free to click the above link to Mastracci’s post. It should be also noted that Barbara Broccoli, co-chief of Eon Productions with her half-brother Michael G. Wilson, has previously declared that Craig is the best James Bond ever.

More reason to be wary: Mastracci doesn’t enjoy universal respect. The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. ran a article in 2009 calling Mastracci the world’s worst film critic. The Guardian article has this passage:

This guy had his own cable show in Pittsburgh. He was – God help us – a teacher on the subject of film. The reviews on his blog – Fiore Mastracci’s Outtakes – actually counted towards the rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Mastracci says the other Bond 23 battle is a competition between Paramount and Sony’s Columbia Pictures to be the studio to distribute the 2012 007 film for Metro-Goldway-Mayer. The Hollywood Reporter has already reported Paramount’s interest. Columbia distributed Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, so it’s hardly a stretch the Sony-owned studio would be interested.

UPDATE: BBC America, on its Web page, has a post about rumored Bond 23 casting, including a return of Judi Dench as M and what we thought was an old rumor, Michael Sheen being considered as Blofeld. You can read it by CLICKING HERE.

ITN calls Bond 23 `cancelled’

ITN, on its Web site, has a video dated July 4 that refers to Bond 23 as being “cancelled,” saying it may be “several years” before another 007 movie hits the screen. “It’s goodbye, Mr. Bond, as time has been called on the latest installment of the 007 series,” it begins.

You can view the video by CLICKING HERE.

(July 10 modification of this post) OR: ITN uploaded the video on YouTube, so we can embed it below:

A few caveats:

ITN doesn’t cite how it learned this. The report just says “the money situation” at MGM (which isn’t named, just referred to as “the studio”) hasn’t improved so “the plug has been pulled indefinitely.”

ITN doesn’t cite a July 2 report in the U.K. newspaper Daily Mirror that kicked off this latest round of media reports saying the Bond 23 delay announced in April had become more serious. The Daily Mirror cited a “glum insider” it didn’t name. Thus, by implication, ITN is passing this off as their own reporting while not being very transparent about the details.

Finally, ITN presents no evidence it actually sought either MGM or Eon Productions out for comment before sending out the video.

In short, fans convinced this is all tabloid rubbish (as some are doing on message boads of 007 fan Web sites), probably won’t be convinced otherwise by this.

UPDATE: The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. is now getting into the act. In an entry in the newspaper’s FILM BLOG, WHICH YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE, the Guardian provides pros and cons whether the 007 film series should even continue or not.

The start of that blog entry writes of Bond 23 being cancelled as a given while providing no hard information:

Bond 23 – the Sam Mendes Bond, the Peter Morgan Bond, the Bond that was going to right all the wrongs of Quantum of Solace – is no more. Although its status had been set to “indefinitely delayed” since April, the continuing financial mess at MGM means that the film has now been cancelled altogether. It also means that we’re back in a situation where the next 007 movie could feasibly be several years away.

We’ll give a shoutout to “danslittlefinger,” who posted the link on the MI6 fan Web site message board.

The return of Ernst Stavro Blofeld?

The new face of Blofeld?

The new face of Blofeld?

As the Bond 23 silly season progresses, now we hear from the Guardian that 007’s betê noir, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, will be back to bedevil our hero in the next — and as yet, unscripted — James Bond movie. And, this time, in the personage of British actor Michael Sheen ( Frost/Nixon, Underworld, etc.)

According to an “unnamed source” (cough, cough) talking to the Daily Express newspaper,

Michael is hot property right now and it’s felt that he’s the right man to bring Blofeld back to life. [He] was a Bond fan in his youth, so this would be a dream role for him.

Seasoned Bond fans can observe for themselves from the accompanying picture how Sheen can capture the implacable menace that was the essence of Ian Fleming’s greatest villain creation.

Read all about it RIGHT HERE!