Purvis & Wade say #MeToo didn’t affect their work

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis. (Paul Baack illustration)

Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, in an interview with The Guardian, say the #MeToo movement didn’t affect their work on No Time to Die.

“I don’t think we did anything differently because of that,” Wade told The Guardian. “We’ve never wanted to be sexist: it doesn’t look good for Bond. I’ve got daughters, and I wouldn’t want him not to be a good role model.” 

The comment was part of a broader profile of the writing duo, who have been involved writing every James Bond film since 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

The comment also is interesting because the notion that No Time to Die reflects an adjustment to #MeToo had been a talking point in publicity for the film. #MeToo, per Wikipedia, refers to “a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment where people publicize allegations of sex crimes.”

For example, there’s this excerpt from a November 2019 article in The Hollywood Reporter.

No Time to Die will be the first entry in the series to land in a #MeToo and Time’s Up world. And while the $7 billion franchise may forever be best known for its womanizing namesake agent, director Fukunaga (True Detective, Beasts of No Nation) and producer Barbara Broccoli have worked hard with both (Lashana) Lynch and (Ana) de Armas to create a new type of female Bond character who is much more fully realized than the “Bond girls” of films past.

“It’s pretty obvious that there is an evolution in the fact that Lashana is one of the main characters in the film and wears the pants — literally. I wear the gown. She wears the pants,” says de Armas.

In a September 2021 story, director Cary Fukunaga told The Hollywood Reporter that #MeToo did have an impact.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for the film was bringing its globe-trotting lothario into Hollywood’s post-#MeToo reality. After all, No Time to Die began development in 2016, before the industry embarked on a period of self-reflection in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall for predatory behavior. Though Craig’s oeuvre puts a greater emphasis on the quality of drinks than the quantity of women, the history of Bond includes casual misogyny and worse.

“Is it Thunderball or Goldfinger where, like, basically Sean Connery’s character rapes a woman?” Fukunaga asks. “She’s like ‘No, no, no,’ and he’s like, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ That wouldn’t fly today.”

In addition to directing, Fukunaga shared the screenwriting credit with the Purvis and Wade team as well as Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

In 2019, in a video interview in Jamaica, Barbara Broccoli, the boss of Eon Productions, also said #MeToo had an impact on No Time to Die, which was about to start principal photography.

“The #MeToo movement came at the right time — I mean long overdue,” Broccoli said during that interview. “It’s had a huge impact on the world…I think everything we do has to reflect that. So I think the film absolutely will incorporate that.”

Bond 25 questions: THR’s Fukunaga story edition

No Time to Die’s back story is often opaque

The Hollywood Reporter has come out with a big feature story about Cary Fukunaga, the director of No Time to Die.

But there are elements that don’t square up previous tellings of No Time To Die’s back story. Naturally, the blog has questions.

Whose idea was it to bring aboard Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a writer for the 25th James Bond movie?

According to THR, it was Fukunaga’s, of course.

At Fukunaga’s suggestion, Phoebe Waller-Bridge was brought in to work on the draft he wrote with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have worked on every Bond film since 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

Except, supposedly it was the idea of star Daniel Craig. For example, there’s this story from IndieWire in February 2020:

 The “Fleabag” creator, whose Amazon Prime Video series picked up six Primetime Emmy Award wins last year, was brought onto the film back in 2019 at the behest of star Daniel Craig.

Oh. Well, the winners get to write the history. Both Fukunaga and Waller-Bridge were among the winners of the No Time to Die saga.

How big a factor was #MeToo in No Time to Die’s development?

Apparently, a lot. We won’t really know until the movie comes out shortly. But THR’s story has some clues.

A quote in the THR story from Lashana Lynch: “Cary had big discussions with Barbara (Broccoli) and Daniel about how to give the female characters equity, how to keep them in charge of themselves, how to give them solo moments where the audience learns who they are.  It was really important to empower the female characters as stand-alones. And I think that he kept that in mind throughout the whole shoot.”

A quote from Barbara Broccoli in the new story:

“I think people are coming around — with some kicking and screaming — to accepting that stuff is no longer acceptable. Thank goodness. Bond is a character who was written in 1952 and the first film [Dr. No] came out in 1962. He’s got a long history, and the history of the past is very different to the way he is being portrayed now.”

Finally a quote from Fukunaga himself in The Hollywood Reporter:

“Is it Thunderball or Goldfinger where, like, basically Sean Connery’s character rapes a woman?” Fukunaga told THR. “She’s like ‘No, no, no,’ and he’s like, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ That wouldn’t fly today.”

Why did Bond 25 switch from Danny Boyle to Cary Fukunaga as director?

Bond 25 has a complicated history. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long-time Bond screenwriters, were hired in 2017 to develop a script. They worked on it for months. Then, in 2018, it became known than director Danny Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, made a pitch.

An announcement came out in spring 2018 that the Boyle and Hodge team were hired. The initial script was set aside.

But later that year, they were gone. Fukunaga would soon be hired.

The key excerpt from THR’s story:

With Boyle, there was a deviation of visions. His version was more tongue-in-cheek and whimsical. Broccoli and Wilson wanted something more serious for Craig’s final outing.

This leads to a lot of questions. Did Eon, which at one time loved the Boyle-Hodge pitch, not realize the tone was different? Did Eon not vet Boyle and Hodge?

We’re less than a week before the premiere of No Time to Die. Many fans don’t want to hear about this.

Still, The Hollywood Reporter raises more questions than answers

THR: Boyle’s Bond 25 was more whimsical

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of No Time to Die

Danny Boyle, the original director for Bond 25, had in mind a project that was “more tongue-in-cheek and whimsical,” The Hollywood Reporter said today in a feature story about Cary Fukunaga, who ended up helming the 25th James Bond movie.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson “wanted something more serious” for actor Daniel Craig’s final turn as Bond, according to the entertainment news outlet.

After Boyle’s departure, Fukunaga told THR, “I emailed Barbara and was like, ‘Is there a chance to talk about this?’ She responded right away, and we set up a meeting the next week. I didn’t have a pitch or anything, just asked them what they’re after and what wasn’t working.”

This raises all sorts of questions. In 2018, Eon put aside a script it had been developing after Boyle pitched a supposedly great idea that wowed Eon and executives at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In May 2018, it was announced Boyle was directing with John Hodge doing the script.

The main question is did Eon and MGM vet Boyle and Hodge and the great idea? Boyle apparently did not vet how Eon works.

In the article, Fukunaga is credited with suggesting Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a writer for No Time to Die, Bond 25’s eventual title.

About some of those Oscar ‘In Memoriam’ folks

Robert Osborne, who made an Oscars “In Memoriam,” in the pilot of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Over the weekend, the BAFTAs came out with its “In Memoriam” segment. Diana Rigg didn’t make it, apparently because the BAFTAs considered her a mere “television actor.” Meanwhile, the general public sometimes gets upset when familiar actors don’t make the cut for the “In Memoriam” segments of the BAFTAs and Ocars while insiders do.

To keep this post manageable, here are a list of Oscar “In Memoriam” entries largely unknown to the general pubic from recent Oscars telecasts.

2020 Oscars: Gerry Lewis, “marketing executive”: Lewis was “the British marketing and publicity expert who promoted such films as AlfieLove Story and The Godfather before spearheading international campaigns for Steven Spielberg efforts from Duel to Ready Player One,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

2019 Oscars: Pierre Rissent, “an important behind-the-scenes figure at the Cannes Film Festival and, as a result, an influential shaper of cinematic trends and directors’ careers for half a century,” according to The New York Times. Also, Paul Bloch, a publicist “adept at putting out fires in Hollywood,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

2018 Oscars: Robert Osborne, TCM host and earlier writer for Hollywood trade publications. He acted a bit including a small part in the pilot for The Beverly Hillbillies (a TV show, not a movie). Also, Joe Hyams, a long-time Warner Bros. publicity executive, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

Daniel Craig benefits from tech company valuations

Daniel Craig is the original Knives Out

Daniel Craig is about to get a huge post-Bond payday, in part because “tech companies” play by different rules than other businesses.

It has been reported by The Hollywood Reporter that Netflix will pay almost $470 million for two sequels to the film Knives Out. Now, Netflix resembles a studio (it makes original movies and TV shows). But it’s classified as a tech company because its productions primarily are shown on streaming, though its movies sometimes get theatrical releases.

If you’re a tech company, investors treat you differently. Your stock price often goes crazy and investors will throw money at you.

Netflix isn’t alone. Amazon is essentially a retailer but because it’s viewed as a tech company, it’s much more valuable. Ditto for Tesla, which makes electric vehicles but enjoys the tech company label, much to the consternation of established automakers.

Enter Daniel Craig, the five-time film James Bond. He starred in the original Knives Out, a 2019 mystery, as a project he squeezed in amid No Time to Die delays. Reportedly, he and Knives Out writer-director Rian Johnson may pocket $100 million each as part of the new Netflix deal.

Craig made plenty of money playing James Bond. His No Time to Die payday was a reported $25 million.

But that was under the old rules — release a movie to theaters, charge admission, then shift to home video and on-demand TV.

Netflix plays under new rules, which emphasize streaming. Others, including Walt Disney Co. and AT&T (owner of Warner Bros.) want in on that action.

The original Knives Out had a global box office of $311.4 million on a budget of $45 million. That’s nice but hardly the billion-dollar-plus blockbuster in theatrical release, which had been the industry standard. However, the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the traditional movie theater business.

Variety, in a follow-up story, described how things are changing:

Then again, the world of entertainment has changed so significantly, and the measure of success for streamers is not dependent on box office dollars but on signing up new subscribers.

“It’s a whole new equation,” as one of my sources put it.

No doubt it’s an equation to Craig’s liking.

Brosnan joins DC film universe as Dr. Fate

The Justice Society of America, including Dr. Fate (gold helmet and blue costume) in 1940

One-time film James Bond Pierce Brosnan is joining Warner Bros.’s DC film universe as Dr. Fate, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Brosnan is joining the cast of Black Adam, a Warners/DC film starring Dwayne Johnson. Chances are a lot of the general public or Bond fans) may not be familiar with Dr. Fate.

The good doctor made his debut in 1940 in More Fun Comics No. 55. The sorcerer would soon be part of the new Justice Society of America.

The character was co-created by DC writer Gardner F. Fox, who would also write racy spy novels under a pen name. Besides Dr. Fate, Fox also had a had in creating the Justice Society (and the later Justice League), the original Flash and the original Hawkman.

It makes sense that Warner Bros. is bringing Dr. Fate into the movies. Marvel Studios has featured Dr. Strange, a sorcerer character created by Steve Ditko, into its movies.

UPDATE: Dwayne Johnson confirmed the Brosnan casting in a tweet:

About that Christopher Nolan directing a Bond film thing

Christopher Nolan

There are a number of Hollywood types upset with Warner Bros.’s plans to debut its 2021 film slate simultaneously on the HBO Max streaming service as well as theaters, according to The Hollywood Reporter. And one of the most prominent is writer-producer-director Christopher Nolan.

Nolan directed a financially successful trio of Batman movies released by Warner Bros. He also shows up as a favorite among some James Bond fans to direct a Bond film at some point.

After all, he’s worked in Bond-inspired bits among his Batman films as well as 2010’s Inception and this year’s Tenet. Meanwhile, Bond films such as Skyfall (2012) and SPECTRE (2015) had Nolan influences. A marriage made in heaven, right?

In a statement to THR, Nolan made clear how unhappy he is about the HBO Max news. The streaming service will show the Warner Bros. movies for 31 days. It’s a way to boost HBO Max.

“Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak,” Nolan said. “They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense, and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction.”

So here’s the question: Does this mean that Nolan is looking for the exit from his long-standing Warner Bros. relationship?

If so, does this make it more likely he might direct a Bond movie in the future? Or does it show he’s more than willing to bite the hand that feeds him?

Nolan had a pretty good deal at Warners. Nolan’s Syncopy company produced his movies. Nolan’s wife, Emma Thomas, gets a producer credit on his films.

That’s a lot to walk away from. Bond fans who clamor for Nolan to direct Bond say he likes Bond so much he might well turn away such perks. He’d surely be happy to work for Eon Productions, so the thinking goes.

Who knows? It’s still early days of the shakeup that’s going on in the movie business. And when might Bond 26 get off the ground?

MGM update: Still a hot mess

The Hollywood Reporter is out with a story today that won’t make James Bond fans feel good about the super spy’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The article, by veteran journalist Kim Masters, focuses primarily on Mark Burnett, the reality TV guru who was brought into MGM to run its television operation. Burnett reportedly was instrumental in having CEO Gary Barber fired in 2018.

Burnett, at MGM, hasn’t duplicated the success he had earlier in his career (Survivor, The Apprentice, et. al.). But what’s of interest to Bond fans are passages about how MGM is being managed overall.

A few excerpts follow. The first describes Barber’s firing.

The company has gone without a chief executive since March 2018, when Barber — a tight-fisted, bottom-line oriented businessman who had engineered the acquisition of Burnett’s businesses in a series of deals that began in 2014 — was fired. Barber, who had breathed life into MGM after it emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, was escorted from the company’s Beverly Hills offices with only a few minutes’ notice. Just months earlier, his contract had been renewed through December 2022.

The second concerns how MGM has been managed since Barber’s departure.

With his departure, Burnett was free to roam. MGM is to some degree guided by an Office of the Chief Executive, but the company does not disclose its members. (Sources say the committee is made up in part of Burnett, COO Christopher Brearton, and the heads of divisions.) But one exec says, “Everyone does their own thing. It’s a rudderless ship.”

To be fair, the article contains comments about how everything is just fine.

MGM controls the Bond film franchise along with Danjaq LLC, parent company of Eon Productions.

Trade group chief says Bond will remain a theater product

No Time to Die poster

The head of a movie theater trade group predicted to Variety that James Bond films will remain a theatrical product first.

“The backers of the Bond movies have told us that they really want the movie to play theatrically,” John Fithian, chief of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said in an interview with the entertainment-news outlet.

“We believe that franchise will continue being a theatrical one and we look forward to selling a ton of tickets for ‘No Time to Die.'”

Fithian made the comment in response to a question concerning reports last month that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, sought bids from streaming services, including Apple Inc.’s service, for No Time to Die.

Details of the reports varied. One of the most detailed appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. THR said Oct. 27 that Apple considered an offer of $350 million to $400 million for a one-year license for No Time to Die but that wasn’t enough for MGM.

The studio has said No Time to Die isn’t for sale. Meanwhile, MGM reportedly is incurring interest expense of $1 million a month while the 25th James Bond film figuratively sits on the shelf.

No Time to Die had been scheduled to come out this month. It was delayed until April because of COVID-19.

“There’s a reason I don’t think blockbusters like Bond are going to debut on streaming services,” the trade group official told Variety. “Our challenges are dire in the short term, but in the long term we know this business is going to be healthy again. The model works best for studios and they make the most money when they release movies in theaters first.”

Fithian expressed concern in the Variety interview about the lag between Warner Bros.’s planned Christmas release of Wonder Woman 1984 and No Time to Die.

“There are a bunch of movies in January, February and March, but Bond is the next biggie” after Wonder Woman, Fithian told Variety.

“If ‘Wonder Woman’ sticks with its Christmas Day opening and people come out for that, we hope that other studios will move titles from later in 2021 into the first quarter,” he said. “That’s certainly the hope. We need movies to get back into business.”

Variety says NTTD’s budget was $301 million

Not that the blog is jumping to conclusions or anything…

No Time to Die’s “net” budget — even taking into account the value of product placement deals and tax breaks — was $301 million, Variety said.

The figure, if accurate, would make the 25th James Bond film the most expensive in the series produced by Eon Productions.

The raw spending on 2015’s SPECTRE exceeded $300 million, according to documents that became public in 2014 after Sony Corp. documents were hacked. But that was before product placement and tax breaks were factored in. The “net” figure for SPECTRE was $245 million.

For months, entertainment outlets have reported No Time to Die’s final budget at $250 million, only slightly more than SPECTRE.

The $301 million figure provides more evidence that No Time to Die may be a financial disaster for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

No Time to Die has been delayed repeatedly. The movie was set to be released in April but was delayed to November because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, the Bond film was delayed again to April 2021.

The Hollywood Reporter carried an Oct. 27 story with behind-the-scenes details of how MGM had talks with Apple Inc. about a one-year lease for No Time to Die to show on Apple’s streaming service. But Apple only offered $350 million to $400 million. MGM wanted $650 million to $750 million or more, THR said.

The THR report said the No Time to Die delay is costing MGM $1 million a month in interest costs. The Variety story carries the same figure.

In addition, according to Variety, star Daniel Craig “and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, who control the rights to the series, have generous backend and profit participation deals, limiting the amount of money MGM is able to make on the movie.”

As stated before, No Time to Die was a pre-pandemic movie financed and filmed before COVID-19. But the Bond movie is to come out in the middle of a pandemic which has reduced theater availability.

Nothing exceeds like excess. No Time to Die might be the best James Bond movie ever and still be a financial disaster for MGM.