Why it may be time for Eon to modernize its P.R.

Eon Productions logo

You are making a major action-adventure film. Your star injures himself. What do you do?

If you’re making Mission: Impossible-Fallout, you get ahead of the story. Your writer-director Christopher McQuarrie gives an interview to Empire magazine to explain how things are under control even though star Tom Cruise broke his ankle.

Confirming that Cruise had broken his right ankle, McQuarrie assured Empire that his star remained in good shape, in spite of his injury. “Tom is great,” McQuarrie said. “He’s in very good spirits.”

Meanwhile, if you’re Eon Productions and your star, Daniel Craig, has suffered (apparently) a lesser injury, you stay quiet.

This week, The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. tabloid, ran a story about how Craig hurt his ankle during Bond 25 filming. Other outlets summarized The Sun’s story, including Variety.

Throughout all this, there was no word from Eon, which has produced the 007 film series since 1962.

Finally, after about 24 hours, The Sun produced a follow-up story saying Craig’s injury wasn’t that bad and he’ll be back at work in a week or so.

Still, for that 24 hour period, others were dictating the Bond 25 story line to the general public.

The thing is, this is par for the course. Eon has a history of denying things that are true such as Ben Whishaw being cast as Q, Naomie Harris being cast as Moneypenny, John Logan being hired to write Bond 24 and 25 (before things changed), Christoph Waltz being cast as Blofeld and so on and so forth.

For that matter, Eon spun a fairy tale in the 1970s that Roger Moore was always the first choice (rather than Sean Connery) to play Bond. For that matter, in the 1980s, Eon’s principals said with a straight face that Pierce Brosnan had never been signed to play Bond and Timothy Dalton was always its first choice to succeed Roger Moore as 007.

We’re now almost one-fifth into the 21st century. Things change. What worked in the past, doesn’t necessarily work now.

You need a communications strategy where your viewpoint is made clear and plain at all times. If you’re making a movie that costs more than $200 million, you can’t be passive.

Truth be told, a big chunk of the 007 fan base acts as if this is still 1965 and Bond is the biggest thing on the planet. There are times that Eon appears to believe the same thing.

Whatever you believe, you can’t be passive in an age where social media helps shape the perception of your product. For one 24-hour period this week, Bond fans genuinely were wondering what was going on.

With silence from Eon, the notion that Craig suffered an injury serious enough to affect Bond 25 filming began to take hold.

This particular dust-up already is fading. But it still points to the need for a more pro-active public relations approach.

Bond 25 questions: The script edition

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Bond 25 filming is underway. Work has wrapped up in Jamaica. Things should be moving along nicely, right?

Not according to tabloid newspapers, specifically The Sun and Daily Mail in the U.K. and the New York Post in the U.S. And a lot of the hubbub has to do with the film’s script.

Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is there really “no script”?

From the time the first draft is submitted, there’s a script. The question is whether there’s a script everyone is happy with.

Still, at any time, there’s a document that exceeds 100 pages and says “The End” at the end. The first draft is replaced by a second draft and so on and so forth.

Nevertheless, the tabloids say differently. The Post in an April 25 story quotes a person it didn’t identify as saying, “They don’t have a script.”

The Sun in an April 26 story said “there is no script.”

Not to be outdone, the Daily Mail began a May 9 story thusly: “The joke on the Bond 25 set is the script’s under wraps. And the response is: ‘What script?’” The story said the story is being rewritten “endlessly.”

So what’s really going on?

Clearly, a number of writers have worked on the project at one time or another. Among them: the team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade; John Hodge when Danny Boyle was attached as director; and Scott Z. Burns and Phoebe Waller-Bridge since Cary Fukunaga (who also writes scripts) replaced Boyle.

In the past week, Waller-Bridge has gotten a lot of attention. She’s both a performer and writer and worked on various high-profile projects.

Waller-Bridge was interviewed on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast. That mostly concerned her career generally but included a few minutes about Bond 25 at the end. She was also the subject of a separate Daily Mail feature story.

In both instances, Waller-Bridge made it sound as if Bond 25’s scripting is under control.

“We have a script and we’re continuing to work on it, all of us floating ideas around and creating characters together,” she said in the Daily Mail story.

Anything else catch your eye?

The Daily Mail’s May 9 story about the “endless” rewriting of Bond 25’s script said it was being revised by Waller-Bridge, director Fukunaga and star Daniel Craig.

Back in 2011, Craig said how he and director Marc Forster supposedly rewrote Quantum of Solace on the set. “A writer I am not,” Craig said then.

If the Daily Mail is correct (something I am not assuming), did Craig change his mind?

Is there context we should keep in mind?

At various times in the 57-year history of the 007 film franchise, there’s been frantic rewriting: From Russia With Love, The Spy Who Loved Me and Tomorrow Never Dies come to mind. Things turned out well at the end.

Still, past performance isn’t a guarantee of future success. You can’t take success for granted.

That’s something to keep in mind. But not something to lose sleep over, at least not at this stage in the proceedings.

UPDATE: A Japanese outlet, Cinema Today, posted a story dated May 12 but is based on an April interview with Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. According to a translation, the duo say that director Cary Fukunaga recruited Scott Z. Burns as a writer while they brought in Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Wilson said work on the script “struggled for a while” but they have a story “with a lot of twists and surprises.”

Bond 25: Murdoch’s tabloids strike back

Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns tabloids The Sun (U.K.) and New York Post (U.S.)

Tabloid papers belonging to News Corp., run by Rupert Murdoch, a possible inspiration for the media mogul in Tomorrow Never Dies, have weighed in with dire depictions about Bond 25.

What’s more, one of their targets is Bond 25 star Daniel Craig, making his fifth film as Bond.

To be sure, Bond films have always gotten lots of attention from tabloids. Nevertheless, two Murdoch tabloids — The Sun in the U.K. and the New York Post in the U.S. — have published stories with a common theme. Namely, according to the Murdoch publications, all is not well behind the scenes with Bond 25.

On April 25, the same day as the Bond 25 media event in Jamaica, the Post’s Page Six gossip operation runs a story headlined, “There’s already trouble in paradise on new James Bond set.”

A sample of the prose:

A source close to Bond 25 said, “They don’t have a script, there’s no title, it is nearly five years since the last Bond. It starts with a retired Bond living in wedded bliss, but the rest of the script is still being worked over. They rolled out the cast this week at Ian Fleming’s villa in Jamaica because if they wait much longer Daniel Craig, who is 51, will be too old, and then he really won’t do the film.”

As Jack Benny used to say: “Well!” The story also said there would be cameos by Grace Jones (who played May Day in A View to a Kill) and Christoph Waltz, who played Blofeld in SPECTRE.

Not to be outdone, The Sun publishes a story on April 26 with the headline, “James Bond 25 chaos as Daniel Craig is given creative control amid fears he wants spy to be PC.”

Among other things in the story:

Bond head honcho Barbara Broccoli, 58, and makers E-on (sic) Productions were desperate for Craig to make a U-turn.

So they handed him a £18.4million pay cheque and complete creative control, meaning he has a say on casting, scripts, locations, costumes, technical team — and even the role of director.

(snip)
A Bond insider said: “The move has got people’s backs up. Some are expecting constant arguments, as whatever Craig wants, he gets.”

If Jack Benny were still with us, he’d be saying “Well!” a lot.

Not to be outdone, the Post came back with another a column today headlined, “How whiney Daniel Craig killed James Bond.”

Another sample:

Since Craig first donned the spy’s tuxedo in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” the franchise has turned increasingly homogeneous, dreary and frankly skippable. The granddaddy of super-spy films is now one of the most mediocre action series out there — and Craig is largely to blame for it.

(snip)
During his reign, 007 has become a bitter curmudgeon who jets ‘round the world pouting and going rogue in seemingly every film. Huh, kinda sounds like Craig himself.

Yikes! Is this a coordinated assault by the House of Murdoch? Or does Murdoch’s News Corp. simply employ a lot of like-minded people?

Oh well. We’ll see how it goes. Principal photography on Bond 25 is scheduled to begin Sunday, April 28, in Jamaica.

Bond 25 spoiler video emerges

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

No spoilers in the post. But don’t blame the blog if you click on the links.

After less than one week of shooting in Norway, stills and a video of what was being photographed is out in the open.

The Express had stills and the video. The Daily Mail got into the act with a story that had more stills. And don’t forget The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloid.

Meanwhile 007 film fans, many of whom like to complain about spoilers, weren’t shy about the spreading the various images as well as the video. Example: THIS TWEET from a leading fan site that embeds the video following a brief spoiler warning.

To sum up the week: We’ve gone from sketchy evidence that filming was underway to video evidence of what may await in the film.

Have a good weekend.

About that 007 driving an EV thing

Powertrain of an Aston Martin Raptide E

The British tabloid The Sun caused a stir this week with a story saying that James Bond will drive an all-electric Aston Marton Raptide E in Bond 25

Being a tabloid, the phrasing was provocative.

The £250,000 Rapide E is the Brit motor manufacturer’s first electric vehicle and only 155 are being built.

An insider said: “The decision was spearheaded by the film’s new director, who’s a total tree-hugger.

“He is working directly with Aston Martin to get one of their electric cars ready for its big close-up.he £250,000 Rapide E is the Brit motor manufacturer’s first electric vehicle and only 155 are being built.

(snip)
“Everybody is afraid of Bond getting labelled ‘too PC’ but they all felt the time was right to put him in a zero emission vehicle.” (emphasis added)

The thing is, if you’re going to keep “timeshifting” a character created in the early 1950s by Ian Fleming, Bond has to confront the world the way it is now. Needless to say the world has changed when Fleming was writing Casino Royale in early 1952 in Jamaica.

Specifically, it’s not just “tree huggers” who are causing the auto industry to develop electric vehicles.

China, the world’s largest automotive market and a country with severe pollution problems, is more or less forcing the industry to make more electric vehicles. Here’s the opening to a 2018 story published by Bloomberg Businessweek:

The world’s biggest market for electric vehicles wants to get even bigger, so it’s giving automakers what amounts to an ultimatum. Starting in January, all major manufacturers operating in China—from global giants Toyota Motor and General Motors to domestic players BYD and BAIC Motor—have to meet minimum requirements there for producing new-energy vehicles, or NEVs (plug-in hybrids, pure-battery electrics, and fuel-cell autos). A complex government equation requires that a sizable portion of their production or imports must be green in 2019, with escalating goals thereafter.

In other words, if you want to sell cars and trucks in China, you’d better have electric offerings. Regulators in Europe are also pushing “cleaner” vehicles. The U.S. is the one major market where the government want to ease up fuel-economy and vehicle-emission standards.

To be sure, it’s unclear how fast EV expansion will happen. Regardless, EVs are a fact of life. So it’s not crazy that Bond 25 would reflect this. This post isn’t an endorsement of The Sun’s story. It remains to be seen how accurate that story is.

However, Bond driving a fast EV in the 21st century isn’t a fantasy. We’ll see what happens.

About that killing James Bond off in Bond 25 thing

Danny Boyle, a sort of spectre over Bond 25.

Some time back, it seemed the memory of Danny Boyle, briefly the director of Bond 25, had dissipated. But, for some reason, that memory is hanging around like a spectre that won’t leave a haunted house.

The catalyst of this was a story in the Daily Star proclaiming that Boyle had gotten the boot because he wanted to kill off 007 in his version of Bond 25. The story got picked up and Bond fans were aghast about it.

The thing is, this wasn’t the first time — not by a long shot — that this notion had made the rounds. The Playlist’s Feb. 16 story about the hiring of Scott Z. Burns as a Bond “script doctor” also alluded to this idea. That piece said “there were rumors that Boyle wanted to kill Bond in the end…and this was a bone of contention. Having heard about the ending of the current, non-Burns version of the script (which I can’t reveal), I can say there’s likely some truth to that rumor. ”

Of course, the idea goes even further back. The Sun, in an August 2018 story, had it the other way around — that Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig wanted to kill Bond off but Boyle didn’t.

It makes your head hurt either way.

In 2017, Eon had spent months developing a story by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But, as first reported by Deadline: Hollywood in February 2018, Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge made a pitch that intrigued Eon.

Suddenly, the Purvis and Wade story seemed expendable.

Three months later in May 2018, Eon announced that Boyle was onboard and Hodge was writing the movie. Another three months later, Boyle and Hodge were gone.

Now, if Boyle wanted to kill Bond off, when did he present that idea? During the pitch? In a treatment by Hodge? When Hodge turned in his first draft? Still later? (“Oh by the way, we’ve got to kill Bond off.”)

If Broccoli and Craig wanted to kill Bond off, when did they present that notion to Boyle? When they were having their pitch meetings? After Hodge did his script or….well, you get the idea. Killing off James Bond would be a big deal. You would think it would have happened early in the discussions. If it was deal killer (which you’d think it would be) it’d be something to resolve right away. Oh well…..

Broccoli not giving up on Craig for Bond 26, Sun says

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and her star Daniel Craig

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli hasn’t given up on Daniel Craig returning for Bond 26, the tabloid Sun newspaper said.

“My Bond insiders insist boss Barbara Broccoli has not seriously considered a single name from the raft of potential replacements that have been touted,” columnist Dan Wootton wrote.

But Broccoli has ignored the chatter because she is “loyal to Daniel” while he remains 007, according to sources. Further, she feels that hunting for a replacement while he is in the job would be “disrespectful”.

(snip)
The insider – who has revealed a string of exclusives about the Bond world – added that Broccoli has not even officially drawn a line through the possibility of Craig making another film.

The Sun didn’t specify what “string of exclusives” has been revealed by the insider. Among U.K. tabloids, the Daily Mail (mostly via writer Baz Bamigboye) has had substantive 007 film scoops proven correct. The Sun, though, on Oct. 21 2011 reported that James Bond would have a beard in Skyfall. (Sorry, original link has gone dead.) So there’s that.

The Sun, in a story by a different writer, said in an August 2018 story that Broccoli and Craig wanted Bond to die at the end of Bond 25. From that story:

It would be a final hurrah for Daniel, and leave fans hanging.

“It would also leave it open for a twist in the next instalment — either Bond hadn’t died or there could be a Doctor Who-esque regeneration with a new actor.

Supposedly, according to that August account, director Danny Boyle objected and that was a reason he left the project.

Both Broccoli and Craig took a longer break after 2015’s SPECTRE to pursue non-Bond projects. Bond 25 is scheduled for a February 2020 release. At the current pace of 007 film production, Bond 26 won’t be out until at least 2023, maybe 2024.

h/t to @CorneelVF on Twitter for pointing out the latest Sun effort.

Bond 25 pre-announcement accuracy scorecard

A reader of the blog, @EiriniMakr on Twitter, suggested a post about inaccurate things published about Bond 25.

Well, we’ll go one step further. What follows is a look at major examples of what panned out, what didn’t and what was muddy.

DEFINITELY RIGHT

Craig was coming back: The Page Six gossip operation of the New York Post said Feb. 22, 2017 that Daniel Craig was indeed coming back to play 007 in Bond 25. It had another item to that effect on April 3, 2017. The New York Times has its own story about Craig’s return on July 24, 2017.

All of these were published before Craig announced in mid-August 2017 that he was returning (2:06 mark).

Purvis & Wade were (initially) hired to write Bond 25: Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported on March 9, 2017 that six-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired to write Bond 25. This was confirmed in a July 24, 2017 announcement that the movie would have a November 2019 release date in the United States.

Danny Boyle would direct Bond 25: Variety reports Feb. 20 that Boyle was in contention to direct Bond 25. Deadline: Hollywood comes back Feb. 21 with a story that Boyle’s participation depends on whether an idea he has developed with writer John Hodge (and that Hodge is writing as a script) is accepted.

On May 25, it was announced Boyle is directing from a script by Hodge.

DEFINITELY WRONG

The Daily Mail says May 18, 2016 that Daniel Craig turned down an offer of 68 million British pounds to play Bond in two more films. Problem: Craig says in a public appearance in New York in October 2016 that there are “no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Also, Craig ended up coming back.

Radar Online says Sept. 3, 2016 that Sony Pictures was offering Daniel Craig $150 million to do two more James Bond film. Problem: Sony’s involvement as a Bond film distributor ended with 2015’s SPECTRE. The Bond 25 distribution wouldn’t be settled until last month and Sony wasn’t part of it.

The Mirror says July 29, 2017 that Bond 25 will be based on a 007 continuation novel by Raymond Benson titled Never Dream of Dying. Problem: Benson says on social media that he was never contacted by the Mirror and that he can only assume the story was a fabrication. Also, Eon Productions has been notoriously adverse to using Bond continuation novels as the basis of its films. A sequence from Kingsley Amis’ Colonel Sun was adapted for SPECTRE but you have to dig deep into the end titles to find acknowledgment of it.

Archivo 007, a fan website, says Dec. 2, 2017 Christopher Nolan is “more than likely” to direct  Bond 25. Problem: Didn’t happen. Nolan said in a BBC interview in February he wasn’t going to direct the film.

The Sun says April 26 that filming on Bond 25 “has been put back to later next year” because Daniel Craig’s wife, actress Rachel Weisz, is pregnant. ProblemThe May 25 official announcement about Boyle, Hodge, et. al., specifies that Bond 25 is to begin production Dec. 3.

MUDDY

This section involves stories that are plausible but aren’t likely to be confirmed definitively

Deadline: Hollywood says on July 26, 2017 that  Denis Villeneuve, Yann Demange and David Mackenzie are the “frontrunners” to direct Bond 25. Variety says the same day that Demange is the leading contender. (Variety also said Daniel Craig was likely to return.)

Some Bond fans were extremely enthusiastic about Villeneuve. And the director said in a November podcast that, ” “I had some contact” regarding Bond 25. But Villeneuve said he was is working on a new version of Dune and that was that.

So taking Villeneuve at this word, one of those three directors had been contacted about directing Bond 25. Were Demange and Mackenzie also under consideration? No way to know at this point.

About that Bond 25 release date

“This is an old friend of mine. And it tells me…something smells!”

During the past week, there’s been a buzz that the pregnancy of Rachel Weisz, the wife of Daniel Craig, may push back the November 2019 release date of Bond 25.

As Keim Bey would say: “This is an old friend of mine. And he tells me something smells!”

This latest notion began when Weisz, 48, gave an interview to Marueen Dowd of The New York Times that went online April 20.  The actress revealed she was pregnant. From the Times story;

“I’ll be showing soon,” she says, with a radiant smile.

On April 26, The Sun weighed in with a story that Bond 25’s U.S. release date of November 2019 might be pushed back because of the pregnancy.

A film source said: “Pushing back the schedules suits all parties.

“Daniel (Craig) can concentrate on matters at home with Rachel, which are pretty life-changing, to say the least.”

Let us count the ways this smells:

–The Bond 25 release date was announced in July 2017 before a distributor was in place.

–It’s not unheard for women in their late 40s to utilize the services of fertility specialists to become pregnant. We don’t know that happened in this case. But it’s rare for women in their late 40s to suddenly become pregnant.

–Daniel Craig announced in August 2017 he would return for another James Bond film. At the very least, he and Weisz may have already been trying to have a child.

That said, there are other reasons why Bond 25’s release date could be pushed back.

–Danny Boyle became a late contender to direct Bond 25. Whether that happens depends on whether a story idea Boyle and writer John Hodge gets approved for the film.

–A non-007 spy project being made by Eon Productions, The Rhythm Section, has been delayed because of an injury to star Blake Lively.

–Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, reportedly is trying to sell itself, according to an April 4 story by The Hollywood Reporter. One of MGM’s selling points, according to the report, is the studio’s film rights to 007.

Put another way, there are multiple reasons to suspect Bond 25’s release date could be pushed back.

The pregnancy angle is not the most convincing. Weisz’s due date would be before Bond 25 begins filming (end of the year is the earliest estimate).  Meanwhile, MGM hasn’t been a stable studio for decades.

It’s more likely that a Bond 25 delay would be related to MGM than Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz welcoming an addition to the family.

Bond 25 title song artist? Get back to us summer 2019

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Over almost two months, we’ve had dueling tabloid stories about which popular singer will perform Bond 25’s title song.

In July, the Mirror tabloid said A POPULAR SINGER WHO PREVIOUSLY PERFORMED A 007 TITLE SONG was all but certain to do the same in Bond 25.

Over the weekend, Rupert Murdoch’s Sun tabloid said A DIFFERENT POPULAR SINGER IS ALL BUT CERTAIN to perform Bond 25’s title song.

Obviously, both can’t be right.

This post carefully didn’t mention either performer (while providing the links for those who feel the need to read it). Why?

Truth be told, this blog really finds it hard to care about a title song for a movie **THAT WON’T BE OUT FOR MORE THAN TWO YEARS FROM NOW**.

Right now, nobody knows who the distributor of Bond 25 is. That distributor will co-finance the movie and get the film to theaters. That may not be as sexy as a 007 title song singer but considerably more important. Without a distributor, nobody will actually see the film.

Also, are you willing to wish more than two years of your away to find out the Bond 25 title song perfomer? We aren’t.

Put another way, get back to us during, say, in summer 2019, when we might care more about a movie coming out in November 2019.

What’s more, on social media, you’ll find some posters, who describe themselves as 007 insiders, chiding fans for being impatient. Some of them will say that artistes will take their time and shouldn’t be hurried.

OK, fine. By that standard, there’s no reason to get excited about a film that nobody can see for more than two years.

The artistes shouldn’t be pressured. Fans should not do so. However, please let us know when it’s time to care.