The longevity of comedy spies

Cast of Get Smart on a TV Guide cover

A reader said the following on Twitter: “If Rowan Atkinson can play Johnny English at 63 surely Craig can continue for several more films.”

The reader is referring, of course, to 007 star Daniel Craig, 50. He has said Bond 25 will be his final Bond effort. But The Mirror had a story last week saying Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli hasn’t given up on luring him for future installments.

First, to what the reader pointed out. Rowan Atkinson has been in Johnny English (2003), when he was 48; Johnny English Reborn (2011), when he was 56; and Johnny English Strikes Again, coming out this fall.

The blog’s guess: Audience expectations are different for comedy spies than for other fictional spies. Comedy spies may have fight scenes, but that’s not why an audience seeks them out.

Consider Don Adams’ Maxwell Smart in Get Smart. Adams served in the military during World War II and became a comic after the war. Get Smart originally was developed with comic actor Tom Poston in mind for the role. But ABC took a pass.

NBC expressed because it had Adams under contract. Writers Mel Brooks and Buck Henry retooled their script to work in Adams comedy bits (“Would you believe?….”).

Adams already was 42 when Get Smart began. It ran for five seasons (four on NBC, one on CBS). Then, Smart returned in the 1980 theatrical film The Nude Bomb, when Adams was 57. Then there was the 1989 TV movie Get Smart, Again! when he was 66. Finally, there was a brief Get Smart series revival (seven episodes) in 1995 with Max now the Chief. The series ran its course a couple of months before Adams turned 72.

Over that 30-year span, Adams was Maxwell Smart in the mind of many viewers. Get Smart began as a James Bond parody. But it was so popular, the Western comedy series F-Troop had an episode with actor Pat Harrington doing a Maxwell Smart parody named B Wise. In other words, it was a parody of a parody.

A 2008 film version with Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart did OK business, but no sequel was ordered up.

Some Bond 25 article oddities

With the news that Danny Boyle is out as Bond 25 director, there have been some oddities in tabloid articles and social media postings. Here is a look at some of them.

Barbara Broccoli’s supposed anger: The Telegraph had an Aug. 22 story that included the following:

Boyle insistence on bringing an entirely new team, including his established writing partner John Hodge, infuriated Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, another industry source told the Telegraph.

This one doesn’t pass the smell test. Eon Productions indulged Sam Mendes, including giving him his choice of writer (John Logan) and composer (Thomas Newman) for Skyfall and SPECTRE. Why should Barbara Broccoli get upset now?

Admittedly, the passage quoted is a ways down in the story. (The angle higher up concerns a reported disagreement over casting the villain’s part.) But the background about Mendes, Logan and Newman is pretty well known.

Anything is possible, I suppose. Still, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that Broccoli would get angry over the same sort of thing Eon granted Mendes for two movies.

John Hodge’s status:  Hodge’s name wasn’t mentioned in the Aug. 21 announcement that Boyle exited Bond 25.

Many fans (who don’t want Bond 25 delayed) have latched onto a Facebook post this week by Gareth Owen:, who worked with Roger Moore from 2002 until the actor’s death in 2017. Owen’s Facebook post is quoted in this post by The James Bond Dossier.

Hodge, according to the Owen post, has been rewriting an earlier script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade that seemed to be put aside when Boyle and Hodge came aboard.

“There are lots of articles and Internet discussions saying the producers could revert to the Purvis and Wade script,” Owen wrote. “Well, what if I was to tell you that is the script John Hodge was rewriting. The film is still firmly set for a December start.”

Well, if that’s the case, Eon was, eh, mistaken in its May 25, 2018 press release.

“Daniel Craig returns as 007 and Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Steve Jobs) will direct from an original screenplay by Academy Award nominee John Hodge (Trainspotting)*…” (emphasis added)

Original screenplay. If Hodge were rewriting P&W at that point, they’d probably mention all three. That was way it was handled when Purvis Wade and Logan were all mentioned in the press releases for Skyfall (when Logan was rewriting Purvis and Wade) and SPECTRE (when Purvis and Wade were rewriting Logan).

Oh, and there’s this. The Mirror is a tabloid, and it’s dodgy, accuracy wise. But in an Aug. 22 story, it quotes a spokesman for Hodge as saying the scribe isn’t laboring on Bond 25 anymore. “No, he’s not working on it.”

All this just scratches the surface of oddities. Undoubtedly, there’s more to follow.

An early Bond 25 accuracy scorecard

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 has a star (Daniel Craig), a release date (November 2019 in the U.S.) and confirmed writers (Neal Purvis and Robert Wade).

While there’s more than two years before the next Bond film adventure, here’s a look at the accuracy of some major stories written about the movie.

News before it was announced: By that, the stories were accurate before there was a formal announcement.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in March that Purvis and Wade, who’ve worked on the 007 film series since the late 1990s, were hired to write Bond 25’s story. That was confirmed in a July 24 announcement on the official 007 website.

Emily Smith of Page Six/New York Post wrote in April and Brook Barnes of The York Times wrote in July that Daniel Craig would be back for a fifth outing as 007.

The Page Six item, being a gossip column, ragged on Tom Hiddleston being determined by Eon Productions to be too smug. That’s certainly not proven.

But the key phrase was “Multiple sources tell Page Six that Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli has ‘just about persuaded Daniel Craig to do one more Bond movie.'”

The Times’ story, published the same day as the Eon announcement about the 2019 release date said, “Daniel Craig will play James Bond in at least one more film,” In any event, Craig confirmed he’s coming back on the Aug. 15 telecast of The Late Show on CBS.

Looking shaky: Radar Online in September 2016 said Sony Pictures offered Craig $150 million to do two more Bond movies. At the time, there was no distribution deal for Bond 25 and one still hasn’t been announced.

Then, as now, nobody knows if Sony will even be involved with Bond 25. Given a release date has been announced, you’d think a distributor is in place but nobody outside of Eon actually knows.

The Mirror, a U.K. tabloid, said last month that Bond 25 will be titled Shatterhand and be based on a 007 continuation novel by Raymond Benson. Benson, however, went public and said nobody at the Mirror even contacted him and said he “can only assume the article is fabrication.”

The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. tabloid, said earlier this month Craig was “on the verge of signing for not one but two more installments” in the 007 film series.

Craig told CBS, “I think this is it,” referring to Bond 25. But people have been known to change their minds. We’ll see.

How not to write a Bond 25 story

Poster for SPECTRE

Like a cancer metastasizing throughout the body, The Mirror’s July 8 story saying Daniel Craig is definitely returning as James Bond is spreading through the media.

Various outlets, including the Los Angeles Times,  Fox News and Esquire have summarized the Mirror story.

However, The Mirror’s original and the stories based on it have mostly overlooked some key facts. Very important facts. Here are some of them.

There’s nobody to pay Daniel Craig — yet. The Mirror & Co. depict Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli as having a firm lock on his services.

Problem: Eon doesn’t pay the bills of a Bond movie. The studio or studios involved do.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is Bond’s home studio. But it can’t release its own movies. It needs a studio partner to co-finance and distribute MGM films. And, for the moment, there is no Bond 25 distributor.

Maybe MGM reaches an agreement later this year. Maybe a commitment from Craig (even a verbal commitment) helps that process. But until it happens, nobody is available to actually pay Daniel Craig if he, indeed, is coming back.

There’s no director yet. You can’t have a movie without a director calling the shots. Maybe Bond 25 will get a director later this year. But until it does, not much is going to happen.

There’s no script yet. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired to come up with a story, according to the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, who has had a number of 007 scripts proven correct this decade.

The duo have had more than four months (and perhaps longer) to work up a story. But until a director comes on board, things can only go so far. Directors love to tweak story elements, etc. And that process can’t begin until you have a director, etc.

What’s this John Logan reference? The Mirror says John Logan, who worked on Skyfall and SPECTRE, is working on Bond 25. There’s no evidence that’s the case.

If it really is true, that would be a big turnaround. Thanks to the Sony hacks of 2014 (Sony Pictures released the last four 007 films), it’s known that Eon was unhappy with Logan’s first draft for SPECTRE, something that eventually led to the return of Purvis and Wade.

If (and that’s a HUGE if) Logan really is involved with Bond 25 that’s a major change. But, of course, you’d have to be familiar with the history to make note of that.

Has anything changed the past three months? In April, Page Six, the gossip operation of the New York Post also said Barbara Broccoli pretty much had Daniel Craig committed.

Has something actually changed since that report? The Page Six story got nowhere near the attention the Mirror has. Regardless, it’s a notable piece of background.

Caveat Emptor: Mirror says Craig will return as 007

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig will play James Bond for a fifth time, The Mirror said.

“Bond producer Barbara Broccoli is said to have secured Craig – and we can reveal she is ‘determined’ that superstar singer Adele will record the theme tune,” the tabloid said.

The story quotes someone it doesn’t identify as saying: “It’s taken time but Daniel has come round and the strong con–sensus in the Bond offices is that Mr Craig is 007 again. As for Adele, she’s more of an unknown quantity but loved being part of Bond, so the signs are positive.”

A couple of reasons for the Caveat Emptor label:

–The story also says, “Skyfall and Spectre scriptwriter John Logan is also said to be involved in the project.”

The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported in March that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired to devise a Bond 25 story. Bamigboye has a track record of stories being proven correct.

Moreover, Purvis and Wade were brought back to revise SPECTRE drafts Logan and written. The Mirrror is the first outlet to say Logan is involved with Bond 25.

–Adele injured her vocal cords and canceled the last two shows on a world tour. Is this the best time to entice her to sing a Bond title song?

–There’s still no distributor for Bond 25 yet.

–Minor point but the story lists Craig’s age as 48 when it’s 49.

What is Wilson’s role in the 007 franchise?

Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson

Over the past year, a narrative has taken hold that it’s Barbara Broccoli who calls the shots for the James Bond franchise. Period. Full stop.

Perhaps the person most responsible for shaping that narrative is Sam Mendes, director of the past two 007 films, Skyfall and SPECTRE.

“It’s not the X Factor, it’s not the EU referendum, it’s not a public vote,” Mendes said in May at an event sponsored by The Telegraph, which ran a story about the director’s remarks. “Barbara Broccoli chooses who’s going to be the next Bond: end of story.”

The comments were picked up by the likes of Vanity Fair and the BBC, among others.

As a result, there’s the perception that Broccoli, 56, is the driving force of 007 land. Meanwhile, her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, 74, doesn’t get mentioned much, even though the half-siblings are supposed to be the co-bosses of Eon.

In December 2014, when it was announced SPECTRE would be the title of Bond 24, Broccoli was present with Mendes but Wilson wasn’t. However, when the production shifted to Mexico in early 2015, Wilson was involved in publicity.

This weekend, the tabloid Mirror ran a story saying Guy Ritchie was in talks with Eon to direct Bond 24. One element that caught the blog’s eye was how the Mirror said Ritchie supposedly was meeting with Wilson, rather than Broccoli. (Note: we slapped the Caveat Emptor label on it.)

It’s hard to tell how accurate, or significant, the Mirror story is. It’s simply interesting that Wilson is being depicted as a major decision maker after the way Mendes made it sound as if nobody’s opinion except Broccoli’s matters.

Of late, stories about the 007 franchise discuss Broccoli but don’t get around to Wilson.

Wilson, since the 1990s, have periodically complained about the grind of making James Bond movies. That’s something his step father, Albert R. Broccoli, never said publicly.

Wilson has spent longer than anybody else working on the 007 franchise, even co-founder Cubby Broccoli. If Wilson were to retire tomorrow, nobody could argue that he wasn’t a major figure in 007 movies.

Neither Wilson nor Barbara Broccoli revel in publicizing Bond movies the way Cubby Broccoli did. Eon is a very private outfit, not wanting to open the curtain very much on its operations.

Still, the Mirror story (whether it was accurate or not) was a reminder that Wilson is a big wheel in the 007 franchise. It would be interesting to know whether Mendes is indeed correct about Barbara Broccoli’s 007 status or if reality is more complicated.

Caveat Emptor: Tabloid says Ritchie may direct Bond 25

Armie Hammer with U.N.C.L.E. movie director Guy Ritchie in 2013

Armie Hammer with U.N.C.L.E. movie director Guy Ritchie in 2013

Guy Ritchie is in talks to direct Bond 25, the tabloid Mirror said in a story this weekend.

The director purportedly had meetings with Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, according to the tabloid.

As you might expect, the only person quoted isn’t identified.

“Guy has moved up the shortlist and is now the front runner,” the Mirror quoted an unidentified source as saying. “He’s meeting Michael (Wilson) this week to try to do a deal and see if they can agree on a shared vision for the film.”

The Mirror first raised the notion of Ritchie directing Bond 25 in a December story.

Reasons for the Caveat Emptor label concerning this newest story:

–The Mirror says, “Following on from the success of last year’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Guy caught the attention of the Bond team.”

What success? The $75 million production had worldwide box office of less than $110 million. Does Eon check out directors of flops as future Bond directors?

This blog had a positive review of the U.N.C.L.E. movie. But it was still a flop at the box office.

–The story depicts Michael G. Wilson as being actively involved. Given his status at Eon, that should be expected. However, over the past year, Barbara Broccoli has been depicted (by Sam Mendes, among others) as the driving force at Eon. Wilson hardly gets mentioned any more.

The Mirror story is a deviation from a story line that has taken hold for some time now. Wilson is concerned with the vision of Bond 25? Again, that shouldn’t be a surprise. However, supposedly, Barbara Broccoli deals with vision and is the only one who selects Bond actors.