Bond 25: The week the optics changed

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

The Royal family this week, intentionally or not, gave 007 an assist with the optics of Bond 25’s production.

Prince Charles on Thursday showed up at Pinewood Studios and chatted with the likes of Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and director Cary Fukunaga on Bond 25 sets.

As is often the case, there were many media members in attendance, with video and stills being taken.

It wasn’t the prince’s first turn at doing this sort of thing, In the 1980s, he and his then-wife, Princess Diana, toured Pinewood during production of The Living Daylights.

Such visits are arranged well in advance. It’s not like Prince Charles would just show up at Pinewood.

Still, for one day at least, the images and stories generated from the visit washed away a lot of previously Bond 25 publicity concerning star injuries, script rewrites, the departure of Danny Boyle as director, an explosion that damaged the famous 007 Stage and tales of other problems.

The timing may have been coincidental. But for Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (the latter handling international distribution of Bond 25), the prince’s visit could not have come soon enough.

For those who wanted more, a video by 5 News provided some Bond 25 tidbits as the prince asked questions of the Bond 25 cast and crew.

To be sure, Bond 25 has a lot of filming to go. About a third has been completed. Also, making large, big-budget movies rarely is an easy endeavor.

Still, the topic of Bond 25 conversation has been changed, at least for a while.

007 poll shows the devil is in the details

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Earlier this month, the Morning Consult and the Hollywood Reporter conducted a poll of almost 2,100 Americans about James Bond films. Here are two greatly different headlines summarizing the results.

Morning Consult’s report: “007 Poll Shows Scant Support for Diversifying Bonds.”

The Express, U.K. tabloid: “James Bond: Most Americans support a black 007 – Idris Elba BACKED to replace Daniel Craig.”

They’re both right but you have to dig into the data to see why.

According to Morning Consult, 51 percent of adult respondents said “the James Bond series was a classic and nothing about it should be changed, a 17-percentage-point edge over those who said they’d prefer to see the film adapt to the times and have a more diverse cast and lead.”

However, those polled were then asked additional groups about different groups and individuals.

Among groups, 52 percent of adults said they support the idea of a black James Bond, with 20 percent having no opinion and 29 percent opposing.

Also, 39 percent support a Hispanic Bond, 37 percent support an Asian Bond, 37 percent supported a female Bond and 28 percent support a gay Bond.

Meanwhile, when asked specifically about Idris Elba, 63 percent said  they wanted to see him play Bond, with only 21 percent opposed.

Meanwhile, Morning Consult had more details about how respondents feel about agent 007.

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of the adults polled said they’d at least watched some of the series. And with a net favorability of 62 points, only “Back to the Future” (74 points) and “Indiana Jones” (72 points) were more popular among films made before the 1990s. (“Toy Story” was the most popular movie franchise out of 34 series tested, while “Back to the Future” was second.)

The poll also tackled the issue of who is the most popular actor to play Bond in the Eon Productions series.

Most popular 007 film and Bond actor among Americans polled: Goldfinger and Sean Connery. 

Sean Connery was No. 1 at 82 percent, with Pierce Brosnan right behind at 81 percent. Roger Moore, who made 007 entries in the Eon series, was No. 3 at 74 percent, followed by current Bond Daniel Craig at 71 percent. The least popular Bond actors were Timothy Dalton at 49 percent and George Lazenby at 31 percent.

There’s also the question of favorite 007 films of Americans. Morning Consult again sued a “net favorability” number. On that basis, the top five were: Goldfinger (plus 69), From Russia With Love (plus 66), Live And Let Die (plus 66), Diamonds Are Forever (plus 65) and For Your Eyes Only (plus 64).

The highest Daniel Craig 007 film was his debut, Casino Royale, at No. 6 (plus 63), tied with You Only Live Twice.

The bottom? The Living Daylights, Dalton’s debut, (plus 48). SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, was next at plus 49.

The Living Daylights script: Writing for a new Bond

Timothy Dalton’s gunbarrel for The Living Daylights

In 1986, writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson were working on a new chapter for the cinematic James Bond.

Roger Moore’s era had ended. The choice of the next film 007 film actor would be unsettled. For a time, it was Pierce Brosnan. But when NBC and MTM Productions wanted him back for additional episodes of Remington Steele, Timothy Dalton seized the prize.

By the time Maibaum and Wilson were writing their second-draft script, much of the basic story had been settled. The story line and major set pieces in this script would, more or less, appear as they would in the final 1987 film.

Still, there were significant differences. Some scenes play differently. Also, the Maibaum and Wilson team appeared to be unaware of the basics of firearms.

Pre-credits sequence

The second-draft script (which doesn’t have a date on its title page) has a pre-credits sequence very similar to the finished product.

One major difference: This script begins at the London offices of Universal Exports (the MI6 front).  Nevertheless, the script wants to have a little suspense before the audience can see the new James Bond.

After an establishing shot, the script takes the reader to Moneypenny’s office. We’re told “as door opens” that “BOND’S HAND, holding hat, appears in doorway and poises to throw it toward COSTUMER in B.G.  TWO HATS already on pegs.”

As Bond tosses yet another hat on a peg, Moneypenny tells him that M wants to see him.

Inside M’s office, Bond joins two other Double-O agents and the stage directions specify none of the men’s faces can be seen by the camera.

M explains the assignment (an exercise to see if the Double-O operatives can penetrate the Rock of Gibraltar’s defenses). But in this script, M has a voice over of Gibraltar images.

When this script depicts the mission, the agents are only identified as first, second and third “DOUBLE-O MAN.”

They parachute down to Gibraltar. The first Double-O man is described as “a rugged, lantern jawed young man, but obviously not James Bond.” The second 00-agent “too, could not be James Bond.”

When the first “Double-O man” is killed by an imposter, we’re given a description of third.

THIRD DOUBLE-O MAN ON RIDGE
strapping on PARACHUTE CONTAINER. He turns INTO CAMERA. We now see his face. James Bond at last!

What follows is similar to the final film. Bond escapes while the imposter is killed in an explosion. Bond parachutes his way to a luxury yacht where he meets a woman named Linda. She is described as “impressed, amused and interested” after Bond lands.

The Defection

After the main titles, the primary plot of the movie unfolds. While similar to the final film, there are some major differences.

Bond, instead of attending a concert, 007 goes to a book store. He briefly encounters Halas an “elderly, book-wormy proprietor.”

007 provides some code words. “Have you a Czech first edition of Karl Marx ‘Das Kapital’?” Halas closes the book store.

This, however, is a prelude to Bond having his first meeting with Saunders, head of Station V, Vienna. Bond prepares to take out a Soviet-bloc assassin so that Soviet General Koskov can successfully defect.

As in the final film, Bond suspects something is up and doesn’t kill the supposed sniper. He takes over command of Koskov’s defection and tells Saunders to meet him at the border.

Halas (!) resurfaces, helping Bond and Koskov work their away around the grounds of the Soviet pipeline that’s bringing natural gas to Western Europe. Halas even says, “It is good to work with you again, Mr. Bond.”

Based on this script, Bond’s double cross of Saunders is even more elaborate than we’d see in the movie.

Still, this is all preliminary to Bond meeting up with Rosika Miklos, “a huge but attractive young woman.” Bond and Rosika arrange for Koskov to be taken pass the border in a “pig” via the pipeline.

General Gogol (?!)

After Koskov has made it to the U.K., he says he has defected because General Gogol of the KGB has gone mad.

“I tell you why I defect,” Koskov says. “General Gogol is why.”

Gogol (Water Gotell) had made appearances in Bond movies starting with 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. He had a significant role in that film, while showing up in Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View To a Kill. (Gotell had also appeared as a SPECTRE villain in 1963’s From Russia With Love.)

In the final movie version of The Living Daylights, Gogol had joined the Soviet diplomatic service. He was replaced by Gen. Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies). Thus, Gotell received a cameo in his final appearance in the 007 film series.

On some James Bond message boards, fans argue there should be no attempts at continuity among movies. This script is not like the inter-connected movies made by Marvel Studios. But it is similar to the continuity of early 007 films, such as the references in From Russia With Love to Dr. No.

No Aston Martin (!)

After Koskov’s seeming defecting, Bond drives a Bentley to the MI6 safehouse where Koskov is being debriefed.

Later, when Bond gets Kara Milovy away from the KGB, the agent steals a KGB car and isn’t driving a gadget-laden Aston Martin. As a result, the sequence gets Bond onto a frozen lake much quicker than the completed film.

As the action unfolds on the frozen lake, an “ice yacht” happens by. The yachtsman helps rescue Czech policemen. This leads to an extended action sequence where Bond and Kara, more or less, end up in the same spot in the movie.

Finale 

The final film had a relatively romantic movie. This script? Not so much.

BEHIND SCREEN KARA BOND

his shirt already unbuttoned, awaits her. She gives startled gasp.

BOND
You didn’t think I would miss this performance did you?

She laughs delightedly, takes off his shirt.

Firearms

When Bond puts the squeeze on Gogol in Tangiers, this appears in the stage directions:

BOND slips a silencers out of his jacket pocket, then affixes it to his revolver as he moves behind GOGOL.

The problem with this is that silencers, generally speaking, don’t work as well on revolvers as they do on semi-automatic pistols. TV Guide, in the 1970s, mentioned silencers on revolvers as among TV-generated myths. (Another was how getting wounded in the shoulder in real life is very bad, while on TV shows, it’s like a flesh wound.)

THIS 2013 VIDEO explains some of the science involved. Some revolvers can be noise suppressed but they’re not common, the silencers are very large and they aren’t as quiet as depicted in movies and TV shows.

Broccoli says major B25 decisions to be made in 2018

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, in a long interview with the THR Awards Chatter podcast, said major Bond 25 decisions won’t occur until sometime in early 2018.

Given it’s mid-December of 2017, that’s not terribly surprising. But the podcast is a chance for fans to hear things for themselves.

Asked if “we know” Bond 25’s title or director, she replied: “I don’t. It’s still to be determined.”

Asked about who will distribute the movie, she said, “It’s exciting to be courted. We’ll hopefully be making that decision early next year.”

Gary Barber, CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, “is leading this whole crusade,” Broccoli said, referring to the distributor issue.

MGM is home studio to the Bond franchise. The last four 007 films were released by Sony Pictures. With Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony also co-financed but only got 25 percent of the profits.

MGM is getting back into distribution seven years after exiting bankruptcy. It formed a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies. But, for now at least, that joint venture isn’t involved with Bond 25.

Broccoli was asked whether Bond 25’s distribution may be split between the U.S. and internationally. “That’s all to be decided in the future,” she said.

Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are “busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

The producer went into more detail about how went to work for Eon, co-founded by her father, Albert R. Broccoli. Broccoli, 57, doesn’t do a lot of interviews and this one is longer than most. Among the highlights:

Working in her teens on The Spy Who Loved Me: “My job was captioning stills.” She had to do through a lot of film and “you’d have to come up with captions.

Working on Octopussy as an assistant director: “I was basically a runner. I was a third assistant (director).” One of her responsibilities was dealing with a large group of young actresses. “I was responsible for herding them and get them around.”

Associate producer Tom Pevsner was “a mentor to me.” Broccoli said she learned the art of production scheduling from Pevsner. “He taught me about breaking down scripts…He was an incredible man.”

Pevsner joined the series with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. With 1987’s The Living Daylights and 1989’s Licence to Kill both Broccoli and Pevsner had the title of associate producer. Pevsner’s final Bond film was 1995’s GoldenEye, where he had the title of executive producer. Pevsner died in 2014.

On her working style with half-brother Michael G. Wilson: “Michael and I are very different. Strangely enough, when it comes to Bond, we always agree.”

On 007 actor Daniel Craig: “He brought humanity to the character…making Bond relevant to today.”

Broccoli said she first saw Craig in the 1998 film Elizabeth. “He has the most incredible presence on the screen,” she said of Craig. “He’s lit from within. I remember thinking, ‘What a force.’ I just watched everything he did.”

Craig announced in August he’d return for a fifth film as Bond. Before that announcement, Broccoli said, “My heart was breaking.”

To check out the podcast, CLICK HERE. The Broccoli interview begins at the 40:36 mark and lasts almost an hour. She also discusses her non-Bond movie, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, in detail as well as talking Bond.

Evolution of the United Artists logo on 007 films

United Artists logo from 1983

United Artists is a forgotten studio today despite an illustrious history. It was founded in 1919 by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith.

For James Bond fans, it was the studio that gave life to the cinematic 007. In 1961, UA, by then led by Arthur Krim, bought into the pitch by independent producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. For two decades, UA financed the 007 movies.

Under Krim’s leadership, UA invested in other film properties, including The Magnificent Seven, West Side Story, In the Heat of the Night and movies starring The Beatles. Under Krim, UA acted more like a bank than a true studio, financing various independent producers. UA didn’t have actual studio facilities.

For first-generation 007 film fans, the UA logo (or lack thereof) was part of the theater experience. What follows is a look at what theater goers would see. Still other UA logos were devised for home video and television showings.

1962-1965: For the first four 007 films (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball), there was no UA logo. Just a black screen before the gunbarrel logo. Some fans look on those days fondly. Without a logo, it build up the anticipation for the gunnbarrel.

1967: Transamerica, an insurance and financial conglomerate, bought UA in 1967 while keeping Krim and his crew in charge.

The first Bond film with a UA logo was You Only Live Twice, the fifth entry in the Eon series. United Artists was identified as “a Transamerica company.” There was no music with the logo.

1969-1979: Tranamerica devised a stylized “T” logo that was incorporated with the United Artists logo.

Long-running UA logo under Transamerica ownership.

Theater goers would see the “T” logo come together, followed by the words, “United Artists, Entertainment From Transamerica Corporation.” There was still no music accompanying the logo.

This logo would run a full decade as far as the 007 series was concerned, beginning with 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and running through 1979’s Moonraker.

However, behind the scenes, UA was undergoing challenges. Krim and his executives exited UA in the late 1970s, starting a new operation, Orion Pictures.

Various executives were promoted to replace them. That group (financially, at least) made a bet on director Michael Cimino and his movie Heaven’s Gate. It was a huge bomb. Would lead to….

UA logo, 1981

1981: Transamerica had enough with the unpredictable film business. The company sold off UA. The buyer was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a studio weaker than its glory days of the 1930s-1950s.

When For Your Eyes Only came out, there was a UA logo without mention of Transamerica. Just “United Artists,” with white letters on a black background.

1980s MGM/UA logo

In 1983, MGM was now billing itself as MGM/UA Entertainment Co. That year, UA-branded films (including the 007 adventure Octopussy). were followed by “United Artists Presents.”

With A View To a Kill, things were simplified, with just the MGM/UA logo.

UA logo, late 1980s

However, toward the latter part of the 1980s, a new stylized UA logo following a new MGM/UA logo (without MGM’s Leo the Lion in it).

Music accompanied the MGM/UA logo. When it switched to the UA logo there would be a “swoosh” sound effect.

This would be seen in 1987’s The Living Daylights and 1989’s Licence to Kill. What’s more, it shows up on some television versions of 007 films.

However, another shakeup was in store.

MGM in the early 1990s was in financial turmoil after it changed hands and called itself MGM-Pathe. French bank Credit Lyonnais took over MGM in 1991. Danjaq, the parent company of Eon Productions, also sued MGM following an MGM sale of television rights to the 007 film series that Danjaq/Eon felt undervalued the movies.

UA logo in 1995

It wouldn’t be until 1995 things were sorted out where the Bond film series could resume with GoldenEye. (The bank would eventually sell MGM to Kirk Kerkorian, a previous owner of the studio.)

A new United Artists logo debuted with the words, “United Artists Pictures Inc.” Lights came together to form the words “United Artists.”

UA logo 1997

When 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies was released, the logo was tweaked slightly to say, “United Artists, An MGM Company.”

What’s more, versions of this logo were also used in home video releases of Bond films in the late 1990s. They were attached to the early 007 movies without logo and replaced UA-Transamerica logos in other movies.

And then, as far as Bond was concerned, it was over.

MGM 1999 logo used with The World Is Not Enough

Starting with 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, Bond movies were now marketed under the main MGM brand name. That film included a version of the familiar MGM logo noting the studio’s 75th anniversary with the words, “A legacy of excellence.”

From this point forward, the only reminder of the UA days for Bond would be deep in the titles in the copyright notice where United Artists Corp. would be listed as one of the copyright holders.

Footnote: MGM revived the United Artists brand, cutting a 2006 deal with Tom Cruise’s production company. That resulted in the 2008 movie Valkyrie.

Footnote II: Orion Pictures, the outfit founded by the former UA executives, is part of MGM.

Website says 007 cinematography of Craig era improved

Apparently pre-Craig era 007 cinematography, like this Alec Mills shot from The Living Daylights, was the work of hacks.

The Film School Rejects website, in a post last month, said the cinematography of James Bond films during the Daniel Craig era was noticeably better than its predecessors.

An excerpt:

All the earlier efforts were, with due respect, vehicles for action sequences, there was little to nothing dynamic about their cinematography otherwise, and even the action sequences were more dazzling for their production design than for the way they were shot.

But with Casino Royale, directed by Martin Campbell and shot by Phil Mehuex, the cinematography of the franchise leapt forward, becoming every bit as slick, stark, daring, and as fluidly brutal as the character whose adventures it captured. It was a pattern that continued through Quantum of Solace (dir. Marc Forster, DP Roberto Schaefer), Skyfall (dir. Sam Mendes, DP Roger Deakins), and Spectre (dir. Mendes, DP Hoyte Van Hoytema) and as a result the Craig-Bond-era has been uniquely successful for the historic franchise. (emphasis added)

A few things:

— Mehuex also photographed 1995’s GoldenEye (which was also directed by Campbell). Was Meheux a hack during GoldenEye who became an artist 11 years later? Was his photography in Casino Royale that much better than his work in GoldenEye?

–Pre-Craig 007 directors of photography weren’t exactly slouches. Ted Moore, the original DOP, won an Oscar for 1966’s A Man For All Seasons. Freddie Young, who photographed 1967’s You Only Live Twice, won three Oscars and was described by director Lewis Gilbert as one of the great artists of British cinema.

Oswald Morris, co-DOP of The Man With The Golden Gun, won an Oscar and had two nominations. (With Golden Gun, he took over for Ted Moore, who fell ill, and photographed interior sequences. Both Moore and Oswald shared the DOP credit.) Claude Renior, who photographed The Spy Who Loved Me, was highly regarded.

–Other 007 DOPs had their moments. Alec Mills, who had been promoted up the ranks until photographing 1987’s The Living Daylights, had a striking shot during that movie’s Afghanistan sequence.

The Film School Rejects’ post includes a video with a sort of “best of” video of shots from the Craig era. See for yourself.

007 by the numbers: Films per decade

An exchange with a fellow James Bond fan got us to thinking about the output of James Bond fans by decade.

There has been a long-term trend of fewer movies. Some say it’s because making films has gotten more complicated.

Anyway, without further analysis, here’s how it breaks down by decade.

1960s: 007 films. This was the decade of Bondmania so, naturally, it’s when output reached its zenith. There were six entries in the Eon Productions series, plus the Casino Royale spoof produced by Charles K. Feldman with fifth credited directors including John Huston.

1970s: 005 films. The Eon series began the decade by bringing back its original leading man (Sean Connery) while spending the rest of the ’70s with Roger Moore.

1980s: 006 films. The Eon series was like clockwork, with a movie every other year. Also, there was Connery’s final Bond film, Never Say Never Again, the non-Eon production that came out in 1983, the same year as Eon’s Octopussy.

Timothy Dalton replaced Moore with 1987’s The Living Daylights (after Pierce Brosnan had been signed but couldn’t get out a contract with NBC). Eon didn’t miss a beat. That would be the last time such a statement would be uttered, though fans didn’t realize it at the time.

1990s: 003 films. A big legal fight between Eon and studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer shut down production at the start of the decade. Bond didn’t return until 1995’s GoldenEye. But the (by now) tradition every-other-year production schedule still resulted in three entries for star Pierce Brosnan.

2000s: 003 films. MGM gave Eon an extra year to put out Die Another Day in 2002. It was Brosnan’s finale, though he didn’t know it at the time. Eon then went into a period of self-reflection. It got the rights to Casino Royale, opted to ditch Brosnan and hire Daniel Craig as a replacement.

Quantum of Solace in 2008 proved to be the final 007 film produced on an every-other-year schedule. But nobody knew it at the time.

2010s: 003 films (scheduled). The decade began with MGM going into bankruptcy and emerging as a smaller company. Craig, though, stayed onboard with 2012’s Skyfall, followed by 2015’s SPECTRE.

“Everybody’s just a little bit tired,” Daniel Craig said in 2016.

Then, another self-imposed break took hold.

“There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at a New Yorker magazine event in fall 2016, referring to the next Bond film. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli stepped up her involvement with non-Bond films as well as plays, including a production of Othello with Craig.

Craig said last month on CBS’s The Late Show he would be back for Bond 25. “I needed a break,” he told host Stephen Colbert.

Eon has announced a U.S. release date of November 2019 for Bond 25. But, for now, it’s not known what studio will actually distribute the film. MGM doesn’t have a distribution operation and cuts deals with other studios.