About that SPECTRE budget

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

As Eon Productions decide what to do next with the 007 franchise, one issue is whether the series can sustain SPECTRE-sized budgets.

In early December 2014, director Sam Mendes joked that Pinewood Studios’ 007 Stage was, “The stage where budgets go to die.”

Not long after, the humor faded as the hacking at Sony Pictures revealed a memo by a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive saying the SPECTRE budget was heading well above $300 million, various outlets reported, including CNN Money. Efforts were underway to reduce the budget and gain, among other things, incentives from Mexico to help defray costs.

Before the movie came out in fall 2015, reports (citing studio representatives who weren’t identified) had the budget down to $240 million or so. Regardless, the movie was expensive, putting it in the neighborhood of comic book-based movies such as Marvel Studios’ two Avengers films and Warner Bros.’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

There were, no doubt, lots of reasons for the outlay. But two scenes spring to mind.

One was a Rome car chase, which cost 24 million British pounds (around $36 million at the time). Eon seemed rather proud of the spending, giving the Mail on Sunday  lots of access to describe how it was filmed.

The thing was, the chase was mostly plot exposition. During much of the chase, Bond (Daniel Craig) is on the phone to Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) asking her to check out the supposedly dead Franz Oberhauser. It wasn’t exactly in the class of 1968’s Bullitt or a more recent film such as 1998’s Ronin.

The other scene came near the end of Bond’s escape from a SPECTRE lair. The agent blows it up. In November 2015, after the movie’s U.S. release, the Bond team uploaded a YouTube video saying the explosion was a world’s record:

 

 

“Largest explosion in the history of movies,” a pleased Mendes says in the video.

Except, was it that dramatic a moment? Bond and Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) already had made their escape. Obviously, blowing up SPECTRE headquarters would require a big explosion. But did the extra cost of making it a world’s record actually add to the story? Was the extra spending an artistic choice or ego?

Just to remind everyone, this blog had a favorable review of SPECTRE. At the same time, in some respects SPECTRE indicates that Eon should at least review its spending.

Put another way, would SPECTRE have been harmed if, say, only 12 million pounds had been spent on the car chase? Would artistic integrity been compromised if the SPECTRE lair explosion not been a world’s record?

What’s more, the series on occasion has dialed back — most famously with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only which followed 1979’s Moonraker.

It’s going to be a long while before Bond 25 comes out. Consider this post food for thought.

 

Our updated SPECTRE accuracy checklist

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

With the Dec. 4 announcement that Bond 24 is now titled SPECTRE, along with disclosures of the cast, the accuracy of more reporting about the 24th James Bond movie produced by Eon Productions can be evaluated.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, not originally part of the SPECTRE crew, returned as writers: Baz Bamigboye, of the U.K. Daily Mail, REPORTED IN LATE JUNE the scribes were summoned to revise John Logan’s script.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced in November 2012 that Logan had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. Purvis and Wade later said they weren’t returning to the 007 series. Never say never again, as it turns out. To quote the THE OFFICIAL SPECTRE PRESS RELEASE, the script was written “by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade.” Check.

David Bautista would play the movie’s henchman: First reported in LATINO REVIEW in October. The actor, who appeared in the Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy, was announced this week as being in SPECTRE’s case. Check.

Hoyte van Hoytema would be the director of photography: This was reported on the evening of Sept. 16 ON THE HITFIX WEBSITE and the morning of Sept. 17 at JAMES BOND MAGASINET, a Norwegian 007 publication. Van Hoytema confirmed the news in various interviews and his position with SPECTRE was announced this week. Check.

Christoph Waltz was in the cast: Reported by the Daily Mail’s Bamigboye IN NOVEMBER This was confirmed in this week’s SPECTRE announcement. Check.

Waltz will play Blofeld: The Mail on Sunday, a sister publication to the Daily Mail, REPORTED LATER IN NOVEMBER that Waltz would play Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the new movie but be announced as portraying “an unknown character called Franz Oberhauser, son of the late Hans Oberhauser, a ski instructor who acted as a father figure to Bond.:

The official 007 Twitter feed said Waltz’s character IS NAMED OBERHASER. No additional details. Half right, so far. The other half remains to be seen.

Hilary Swank would be in the cast: The Independent, IN A NOVEMBER STORY, said, “Recently, the web has spawned wild rumours that she will be the next Bond girl, starring opposite Daniel Craig in the forthcoming Sam Mendes-directed 007 film.” Nothing was mentioned about Swank during this week’s announcement. Fail, at least for now, unless she pops up unexpectedly the way Matt Damon did in Interstellar.

Monica Bellucci would be in the cast: The possibility was mentioned in passing IN A DEC. 2 POST ON THE DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD WEBSITE. Bellucci’s participation in the movie was announced two days later. Check.

Examples from earlier posts (before the announcement of the SPECTRE title) follow.

Bond 24 and Bond 25 originally were to comprise a two-part story but the plan was jettisoned: The DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD site said in October 2012 that Bond 24 and Bond 25 were to be a two-movie story arc.

Then, BAZ BAMIGBOYE OF THE DAILY MAIL WROTE in February 2013 the plan was deep sixed and they’d be stand alone movies.

SPECTRE director Sam Mendes, in an April 10 interview on the PBS Charlie Rose show confirmed pretty much all of this. The move away from the two-part approach was part of the reason why the Skyfall director agreed to come back for Bond 24, he told the host starting around the 18:00 mark of the show.

Unfortunately, Mendes was in the middle of explaining that when Rose interrupted him with a question and no more was said on the subject. Check

John Logan hired to write both Bond 24 *and* Bond 25: Reported by the Deadline Hollywood Web site on OCT. 26, 2012.

WHAT HAPPENED? Barbara Broccoli in an interview on the Crave Online Web site published NOV. 12, 2012 denied it.

Congratulations on signing John Logan for two more scripts.

Barbara Broccoli: Well, we are working on another film in the future but we actually haven’t announced that we’re going to do two. We don’t know what we’re going to be doing.

Oh, so what was the news that he had a two-story arc?

Barbara Broccoli: That was a Hollywood announcement, not from us if you notice.

However, the same week, Gary Barber, the CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, said on a conference call with investors that Logan had been hired to write the next two Bond films. Check.

Sam Mendes, after saying he wouldn’t direct Bond 24, is considering doing just that: reported by Deadline Hollywood in a story on May 28, 2013.

WHAT HAPPENED. Mendes, in an interview on the Stage News Web site published June 12, 2013 confirms that’s happening.

Mendes, whose Bond debut as director of Skyfall last year turned out to the most commercially successful of all the 007 films, grossing more than £100 million at the domestic UK box office alone and over $1 billion globally, added that he is in discussions to direct the next Bond film.

“But nothing is going to be determined until Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [now previewing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane] has opened,” he said. “I’m literally here from 8.30am to midnight every day, and it occupies every inch of my attention. So we’ll make decisions about that once Charlie has opened.”

Mendes ended up signing on for the project and an announcement of that, along with a fall 2015 release date for Bond 24 was announced last year. Check.

The Daily Mail was the first to report (also in a 2012 story linked above) that the writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were departing the Bond film series. The writers confirmed that development with on Collider.com. Check.