NYT column casts Putin as 007 villain

Vladimir Putin, head of Russia

U.S. President Donald Trump has been in Europe and the U.K. the past few days for a NATO summit and a visit to the U.K. Much has been written but one column in The New York Times is evoking James Bond films.

Columnist Michelle Goldberg, writing from Berlin, interviewed Cem Özdemir, described as “a member of the German Bundestag from the center-left Green Party.” He commented about Trump and Vladimir Putin, president of Russia.

Özdemir, the first politician of Turkish descent to serve in Germany’s parliament, according to the column. He brought James Bond films into the conversation.

“It reminds me of a James Bond movie,” he said. “You have a guy” — Putin — “who has a clear plan. Step 1, Step 2. It’s Brexit, it’s President Trump, it’s having Europe stumbling, it’s having authoritarian regimes getting stronger on a daily basis, it’s an escalation in Syria. He gets everything he wants.” But while the world seems to be ruled by Bond villains, he said, there is “no James Bond.”

Disclaimer: I know readers of the blog have differing opinions about Brexit and Trump. This post is to draw the comment to your attention. Any way, at least there was no From Russia With Love pun in the column.

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1991: A NYT writer revisits the literary 007

The Ian Fleming Publications 007 logo

While researching another topic, the blog stumbled on a 1991 New York Times Magazine article, “Demigods Aren’t Forever.”

The writer, William Grimes, was born in 1950 and discovered Bond in the early 1960s when Ian Fleming’s novels became a big deal in the U.S. thanks to President John F. Kennedy.

As it turns out, the article is part of the “James Bond is washed up” genre. Grimes also writes about Cambridge (a film reference), rather than Eton and Fettes College.

Still some passages caught the blog’s eye.

Discovering 007

For me, 1963 was the year of Bond. The timing was perfect. I was 13, and Ian Fleming’s slender thrillers had become a national sensation after J.F.K. pronounced “From Russia, With Love” one of his 10 favorite books. On top of that, Sean Connery had just made his first appearance as the British spy in “Dr. No,” and more films were on the way. This cultural ferment helped redefine my goals. Before 1963, I wanted to be my father. After 1963, I wanted to be Bond.

Preference for the literary Bond over the cinema 007

Bond moved easily and masterfully through all situations because he knew things. That was the appeal. Even at 13, the sexual repartee so prominent in the Bond movies seemed a little bogus to me. …In my mind, Bond was a suave intellectual who could slice through life’s difficulties with the ruthless efficiency of Oddjob’s hat.

Living like Bond is harder than it looks

On a pleasant spring evening (during a trip to France), I entered a bistro and, although the place was empty, was immediately shown to the worst table in the place. Fine, all part of the game — advantage France. As Bond Man, I would watch the waiter’s contumely shade into dismay at my effortless French, grudging respect at my daring yet perfect menu selections and frank admiration at my handling of the wine list.

None of this came to pass. Tension caused my French to falter. The waiter merely shrugged at the food order, as though to say, it’s your money, do what you want with it. Ditto the wine.

Disillusionment

Recently I reread most of the Bond books. The casino action held up pretty well. And so did the driving, which I could now, as an actual driver, analyze with a critical eye. But Bond — the Bond of the books much more than the movies — turned out to be not quite as smooth as I remembered. His taste in food runs to enormous slabs of steak and giant lobsters… On wine matters, he patently bluffs. He apparently knows nothing about literature, music or art. The Bond bookshelf contains nothing weightier than Ben Hogan’s “Modern Fundamentals of Golf…The superspy had gotten old, stale. He was no longer up to the job. The time had come to retire 007.

Obviously, your mileage (especially if you’re busy reading the newest 007 continuation novel, Forever and a Day) may vary.

Bond 25: The distributor edition (aka TOLDJA)

Bond 25: Still in search of a distributor

Remember all the posts this blog had when it kept asking why there wasn’t a distributor yet for Bond 25? And how some readers felt it was overkill?

Except, apparently, it wasn’t. The Hollywood Reporter on April 4 reported that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hasn’t yet selected either a U.S. or international distributor. According to the entertainment news outlet, MGM may be setting itself up for a sale and its 007 film rights are a big part of the marketing.

MGM and Eon Productions said back on July 24, 2017, that Bond 25 would have a U.S. release date of Nov. 8, 2019. The blog asked that day, “Who’s going to distribute Bond 25? The blog either asked the question again or discussed the issue on Aug. 29, Oct. 6 and Oct. 20.

As a 007 fan wrote to the blog on Twitter: “I think you need to chill about the distributor. It’s going to happen don’t you think.”

Separately, some fans participating on 007 message boards felt it was all lined up, it was merely a well-kept secret. After all, the thinking went, there’s no way they’d announce a release date without a distributor lined up.

Except, apparently, MGM and Eon did just that. Perhaps it was to call dibs on the November 2019 date. It doesn’t really matter. The announcement went out without having secured a way for the movie to make it to theaters. That was the case then. It’s still the case now apparently.

Almost a year ago, The New York Times reported how five studios were trying to cut a deal with MGM to distribute Bond 25.  Since then, the parent company of one of the contenders, 20th Century Fox, agreed to sell that studio to Walt Disney Co.

Another, Annapurna Pictures, formed a joint venture with MGM to distribute each other’s movies in the U.S. However, Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

Deadline: Hollywood reported in November, in a story labeled “EXCLUSIVE,” that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to getting the Bond 25 U.S. distribution deal. Some outlets have subsequently written as if it were a done deal.

Except, apparently, it wasn’t.

Neither the Times nor Deadline ever felt a need to revisit their previous stories. It wasn’t until this week when The Hollywood Reporter finally got around to it. It would seem if something is “thisclose” to happening but it hasn’t occurred months later, it might be time to make new inquiries.

What critics are saying about Villeneuve

Blade Runner 2049 poster

Denis Villeneuve, a potential Bond 25 director, is getting a lot of attention in reviews for Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to Blade Runner that he helmed.

007 fans are playing a game of “will he or won’t he” regarding Villeneuve, He’s acknowledged being in talks about the next James Bond film while also having other projects on his plate. The Blade Runner 2049 reviews may further boost the interest of Bond fans in Villeneuve.

Blade Runner 2049 currently has a 94 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website that collects reviews.

With that in mind, here are non-spoiler excerpts (focused on Villeneuve) from some reviews.

CHRIS KLIMEK, NPR: “I’m severely restrained in my ability to tell you very much, as the publicity team read to the critics at the screening I attended an appeal from Villeneuve: an exhaustive list of specific characters and plot developments he has kindly asked that we not discuss. I’m complying because he has made a superb movie, one that really is stocked with revelations and counterrevelations worth preserving intact.”

A.O. SCOTT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Like any great movie, Mr. (Ridley) Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ cannot be spoiled. It repays repeated viewing because its mysteries are too deep to be solved and don’t depend on the sequence of events. Mr. Villeneuve’s film, by contrast, is a carefully engineered narrative puzzle, and its power dissipates as the pieces snap into place. As sumptuous and surprising as it is from one scene to the next, it lacks the creative excess, the intriguing opacity and the haunting residue of its predecessor.”

MICHAEL O’SULLIVAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: “‘Blade Runner 2049,’ the superb new sequel by Denis Villeneuve (‘Arrival’), doesn’t just honor that (Blade Runner) legacy, but, arguably, surpasses it, with a smart, grimly lyrical script (by [Hampton] Fancher and Michael Green of the top-notch ‘Logan’); bleakly beautiful cinematography (by Roger Deakins); and an even deeper dive into questions of the soul.”

DAVID JENKINS, LITTLE WHITE LIES: “What Villeneuve had presumed in his lightly passive-aggressive memo (asking critics to not include spoilers) is that there would be material in his film that viewers would possess a natural urge to spoil. And yet, to these eyes, there was nothing. This film is little more than a bauble: shiny, hollow and shatters under the slightest pressure. Maybe it’ll be good news for the spoilerphobic among us, but there is little in the film that is actually worth spoiling – at least not without reams of fiddly context and turgid backstory.”

DANA STEVENS, SLATE: “Denis Villeneuve, who made Arrival, Sicario, and Enemy, is a director who enjoys not-fully-solved enigmas, and 2049’s twisty, misdirection-filled story alternates between suspenseful and tediously murky. But Villeneuve is working with the legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose mobile yet stately camera provides stunning bird’s-eye perspectives on the bleak urban habitat where these humans and replicants live.”

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.

Caveat Emptor: Tabloid claims to have reason Craig is back

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

The blog read this so you don’t have to.

Rupert Murdoch’s Sun tabloid claimed on Saturday night to know why Daniel Craig is coming back for Bond 25 — because director Sam Mendes isn’t.

“The U-turn came shortly after Sam quit the franchise,” according to the tabloid.

“And now I can reveal creative differences threatened to ruin their friendship during filming of 2015 outing Spectre,” the story says. “My sources tell me that as tensions built up, the atmosphere on set got chilly. And they claim Daniel will be delighted that Sam is no longer in the director’s chair.”

The only official Bond 25 announcement was that the movie is being written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and will have a U.S. release date of November 2019. There’s been no word about cast, distributor or crew.

The New York Times reported last month that Craig is coming back for Bond 25. The Deadline: Hollywood website said last month there are three Bond 25 director finalists, none of them Mendes.

Bond 25: ‘Mind you, all of this is pure guesswork…”

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Alert: What follows is just for fun. The blog wanted to make that clear following last weekend’s fiasco in The Mirror.

So, Bond 25 has some momentum following last week’s announcement of a 2019 release date.

That announcement left a number of issues unresolved. Channeling M in You Only Live Twice (“Mind you, all of this is pure guesswork, but the PM wants us to play it with everything we’ve got.”), here’s a quick look with more than a little guesswork.

Status of the story: The release date announcement also said Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were working on Bond 25’s story. That confirmed a March story by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail. Thus, that story now becomes “news that hadn’t been announced yet” from the rumor category.

But how far along are Purvis and Wade? It depends on how long ago they were hired. It has been almost five months since Bamigboye’s story.

Guess: They’ve had enough time to come up with a treatment, perhaps even a full first draft script. If it’s the latter, that’s just the start. But it’s certainly a possibility.

Status of Bond 25’s distributor: Sony Pictures has distributed the last four 007 films. But its most recent two-picture deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, can’t distribute films on its own. Unless, of course, MGM is feeling bolder seven years after existing bankruptcy.

With that in mind, it’s a natural question whether a Bond 25 distributor has already been selected.

Eon Production made the most recent announcement. But it has no distribution operation. It doesn’t finance its movies. The fact Eon made a release date announcement suggests a deal is in hand. We’ll see.

Status of Daniel Craig as James Bond: Craig is 49. Here’s the precedent involving actors in their late 40s/early 50s playing James Bond.

–Roger Moore was 49 when The Spy Who Loved Me was released. He came back for four more movies. Sometimes the negotiations went down to the wire (and potential replacements auditioned). But he was 58 when his final 007 film, A View to a Kill, was released.

–Pierce Brosnan was 49 when Die Another Day came out. He said on talk shows he had an offer for a fifth Bond outing. It didn’t happen that way and Daniel Craig replaced him.

The thing is, Brosnan was the final Bond selected by Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. Craig was the first Bond selected by Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Sometimes, it’s hard to let go. That’s true even if it contradicts your previous public statements.

The prestige media is mixed. The New York Times has reported Craig will be back. The BBC has said it “understands the actor has not yet signed a contract.”

The guess: Craig stays for Bond 25.

Status of the director: This is one category the blog won’t guess. It really depends on what Eon boss Barbara Broccoli is thinking.