TWINE’s 15th anniversary: a transition for 007

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough, the 19th film in the 007 film series made by Eon Productions, marked a transition.

Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli hired a director, Michael Apted, with little experience in action movies. Apted was brought on because of his drama experience.

The producers also hired a new writing team, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, to develop the story. They’re still in the world of 007 15 years later.

The script development established a pattern the duo would soon be familiar with. They delivered their script, which would be reworked by other writers. In the case of The World Is Not Enough, Dana Stevens, Apted’s wife, revised the story. Another scribe, Bruce Feirstein, worked on the final drafts. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein would get a screen credit.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench’s M got expanded screen time, something that would persist through 2012’s Skyfall. The film also marked the final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q. John Cleese came aboard as Q’s understudy.

Pierce Brosnan, in his third 007 outing, was now an established film Bond. In interviews at the time, he talked up the increased emphasis on drama. In the film, Bond falls for Elektra King, whose industrialist father is killed in MI6’s own headquarters. But in a twist, Elektra (played by Sophie Marceau) proves to be the real mastermind.

The movie tried to balance the new emphasis on drama with traditional Bond bits such as quips and gadgets, such as the “Q boat” capable of diving underwater or rocketing across land. Some fans find the character of Dr. Christmas Jones, a scientist played by Denise Richards, over the top.

Sometimes, the dual tones collided. Cleese’s initial appearance was played for laughs. In the same scene, however, Q, in effect, tells Bond good-bye in what’s intended to be a touching moment. It was indeed the final good-bye. Llewelyn died later that year as the result of a traffic accident.

The movie was a financial success, with $361.8 million in worldwide box office. Broccoli and Wilson, meanwhile, would return to the idea of increased drama in later entries after recasting Bond with Daniel Craig.

When is it time for 007 actors, or fans, to ‘move on’?

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day

John Cleese, who appeared in two James Bond movies, has let it be known he doesn’t think that highly of 007 films since he departed the series.

Cleese is promoting a new book, but his association with Bond (in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough and 2002’s Die Another Day) keeps coming up in stories run by DIGITAL SPY SHORTLIST.COM and DEN OF GEEK among other websites.

Here’s an example of what Cleese has said. It’s from ShortList.com, and these comments have been picked up by other sites.

I didn’t see [Skyfall], because I have criticisms of the new Bond movies. Two things went wrong: the plots became so impossibly obscure that even professional writers couldn’t figure out what they were about; and the action scenes, which are supposed to make the adrenaline run, go on far too long. They discovered these movies were popular in places such as the Philippines and South Korea, and so they dropped the humour because no one there is going to understand jokes about the English class system. They’re financially incredibly clever, as the take goes up by $100m every movie, but one of the great things I’ve learnt in the last few years is just how much money spoils everything.

Cleese made some similar comments in June in a RADIO TIMES interview.

In turn, some 007 fans on social media have reacted by saying Cleese is bitter because he wasn’t included in the Daniel Craig reboot, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale, he should “just move on,” or simply “shut up.” Skyfall was a billion-dollar blockbuster, Casino Royale and Skyfall got some of the best reviews of the series, etc.

Of course, if you spend enough time on social media or 007 message boards or other spots on the Internet, you’ll see fans debate things going back 30, 40, almost 50 years. For example, many still don’t like how 1967’s You Only Live Twice jettisoned the plot of Ian Fleming’s novel. Some still strongly criticize the performances of Roger Moore, who hasn’t made a Bond movie since 1985. Some feel the movies went wrong in the early 1970s when the humor element increased. And so on and so forth.

A few questions: When is it time to move on? Ten years? Twenty? Longer? If Cleese should move on, should fans do so as well? Are Cleese’s complaints substantially different than the complaints fan air on the Internet? Where’s the line between being a devoted fan and taking things too seriously?

The answers are going to vary from fan to fan, of course. But Cleese has, probably unintentionally, given something for fans to think about.

Aging in James Bond movies

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Skyfall director Sam Mendes this month said his 007 film was the first Bond adventure “where characters were allowed to age.” But was it really?

In 2000, author James Chapman made an observation about the opening of 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. At the start of the film, Roger Moore’s Bond visits the grave of his late wife, Tracy. Her headstone gives her year of death as 1969, the year On Her Majesty’s Secret Service came out.

What is unusual, however is not that the film refers back to Bond’s wife…but that it should do so in such a temporally precise way. The dates on the gravestone place the Bond of For Your Eyes Only as being twelve years older than the Bond of OHMSS. Assuming that Bond is usually taken to be in his late thirties, then the Bond of For Your Eyes Only would therefore be approaching fifty. In this sense, the film brings Bond roughly in line with Roger Moore’s own age (he was fifty-three when the film was released) and works better for Moore than it would likely have done for a younger, incoming actor.

Licence to Thrill, Columbia University Press, page 207

Chapman, interacting with fellow 007 fans on Facebook, also mentioned how Desmond Llewelyn’s Q aged. In The World Is Not Enough, he refers to his upcoming retirement and gives Bond a piece of advice before the agent departs on his mission. It would be the last time Llewelyn’s Q would be seen. The actor died after the film was released in the fall of 1999.

This wasn’t the first time such a notion had been considered. In Bruce Feirstein’s first draft script for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, Q is retired. He has been succeeded by a man named Malcolm Saunders. Q even got a retirement gift from the CIA.

However, later in the Feirstein draft, Q interrupts his retirement to help Bond out. In the final version of Tomorrow Never Dies, there is no hint about a Q retirement.

Finally, while it’s not part of the Eon Productions series, 1983’s Never Say Never Again, with Sean Connery returning as Bond, embraced the older Bond concept.

Arguably, though, Mendes’ Bond film addressed the aging issue the most of a 007 story.

Variations of the line sometimes, the old ways are best were repeated. Mendes, in various interviews, quoted himself as telling Daniel Craig before production started that “you’ll have to play this at close to your own age.” Also, Roger Deakins, the movie’s director of photography, seemed to highlight every wrinkle on Judi Dench’s face in some closeups.

UPDATE: Some other examples of aging in the pre-Mendes Bond universe:

–Connery, in a 1971 article in True magazine, indicated he wanted to play an older Bond in Diamonds are Forever. He said how immortality “isn’t anyone’s, not yours, not mine and not James Bond’s.” The article also referenced how Connery would have preferred to portray a balding Bond.

–Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny, in Octopussy, says “as I used to be?” when Moore’s Bond talks about how lovely her new assistant is. Of course, this changed when the part was recast in The Living Daylights.

–In Licence to Kill, David Hedison tells his wife that Bond had been married “a long time ago,” in a reference that’s not as specific as the one in For Your Eyes Only.

The Bond of the 1990s

Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Does anyone remember the 1990s?

Beverly Hills 90210, the Backstreet Boys, the fall of Communism, Claudia Schiffer everywhere, the rise of the Nintendo and Sega videogames, Windows, Internet… so much stuff to make us all feel a little nostalgic and perhaps a bit old, too.

Now we can watch once again on YouTube, in that standard VHS quality, we might now consider bad footage of a long haired and beardy man in a dark suit being surrounded by thousands of cameras and photographers, next to producers Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and a director called Martin Campbell.

It was 20 years ago. The man was Pierce Brosnan. And this moment was the return of James Bond.

The franchise had its weak moments before, but in the longest gap in the franchise history between 1989 and 1994, Bond seemed really dead, without a chance to survive the post Cold War era or the legal troubles surrounding Danjaq and MGM.

Even with the necessary reboot in 2006 with Casino Royale after the somewhat exaggerated Die Another Day, there was probably no bigger buzz about Bond being outdated than in these five years, for many reasons: (a) Agent 007 was a product of the Cold War, and there was no more Cold War, (b) Licence to Kill was a commercial failure and had weak reviews, and (c) too many years were passing without Bond.

By no means was the return of 007 in the form of Daniel Craig unimportant. It certainly was, but it was expected James Bond would return. By the early 1990s, with only the TV cartoon James Bond Jr. and some telefilm Ian Fleming biopics, the “man on the street” would have many doubts of watching our hero back in the silver screen. Some headlines even called Licence to Kill “007’s final mission.”

This is why June 8, 1994, will be remembered as one of the greatest days in the history of the cinematic agent 007.

With a thousand journalists and photographers from all over the world, Brosnan promised to show us “what is beneath the surface of this man, what makes him a killer,” but also maintain the elements that made him famous: “He’s still a ladies man, yes.”

(Essay continues below the videos)

From that day on, the name of James Bond, sentenced to be part of a retro club subject of conversations years before, was being heard again everywhere, including in Papua New Guinea, where Brosnan, shooting Robinson Crusoe, was recognized by a group of children as the secret agent.

The Brosnan era firmly represented the ‘90s, in the humor, the costumes, the music and the scripts.

GoldenEye (1995) offered us a classic story with some twists. The old Communists were back –- in jokes included –- but also with explicit sex scenes; a metallic and modern score by Eric Serra; and, of course, the inclusion of something that was starting to change our lives, the Internet (Natalya asks for an IBM Computer with 650 MB hard drive, basically one-sixteenth the capacity of our iPad;), the 007 vs 006 rivalty, first time a 00 agent –- a friend of Bond — goes rogue.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) opted for a more pragmatic and less brainy idea by having media tycoon Elliott Carver using his empire to make a war between China and Britain (action, action, action everywhere).

The World Is Not Enough (1999), being the last Bond of the 20th century, provided a twist by having as a villain a woman he fell for, with Sophie Marceau having the distinction of being the first female mastermind in a 007 film.

The 40th anniversary adventure, 2002’s Die Another Day, might have been a weak film in many aspects, but it also had its dosage of drama and violence (i.e. a depiction of torture as part of the main titles).

Even when nowadays Pierce says his Bond wasn’t “good enough” and that he doesn’t dare to watch his own Bond movies, his contribution to the franchise was more than memorable and needed.

Brosnan not only resurrected Bond but also brought a new generation of fans. The end of Cold War couldn’t kill James Bond.

MI6 Confidential interviews Purvis & Wade

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

MI6 Confidential, the James Bond fan magazine, is out with a new issue that includes an interview with five-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

In issue 24, the duo “talk candidly about their years with Bond,” according to an MI6 Confidential promo. The writing team’s work on Bond spanned more than a decade, from 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, through 2012’s Skyfall.

Purvis and Wade have now departed the series. Bond 24 is being written by John Logan, who rewrote Purvis and Wade on Skyfall. Logan is also slated to write Bond 25.

As we discussed IN A JAN. 11 POST, four of the five Purvis/Wade movies involved a theme where either Bond isn’t “fully” Bond yet, or he’s lost his mojo and needs to get it back.

Also in issue 24 of MI6 Confidential is a feature on John Glen, director of the five 1980s 007 films, about his career; a story about the casting of the female leads in 1989’s Licence to Kill; a story about Denise Richards; and a story about highlights of John Barry’s scores of Bond movies.

The price is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros, plus postage and handling. For more information, CLICK HERE.

2014: numerous big 007 anniversaries

"Order plenty of Bollinger -- '55, of course."

“Order plenty of Bollinger — ’55, of course.”

We were reminded that 2014 will mark a number of significant James Bond film anniversaries. Thus, there’s more reason than normal for 007 fans to dip into their home video copies.

50th anniversary of Goldfinger. The first mega-hit for Agent 007.

45th anniversary of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. An early attempt to bring 007 back down to earth, but one that wasn’t judged a success by United Artists.

40th anniversary of The Man With The Golden Gun. A box office misstep after Live And Let Die set a worldwide 007 box office record (though not in the U.S. market).

35th annivesary of Moonraker. Producer Albert R. Broccoli’s extragant follow-up to The Spy Wh Loved Me.

25th anniversary of Licence to Kill. A controversial Bond entry that preceded a six-year hiatus for the series.

15th anniversary of The World Is Not Enough. Pierce Brosnan’s third 007 entry and a preview of attempts to bring a more dramatic take to the world of 007.

UPDATE: As reader Stuart Basinger reminds us:

60th anniversary of the CBS television broadcast of Casino Royale. The first, and so far only, adaptation to feature an American (Barry Nelson in this case) playing Bond.

50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s death on Aug. 12. 007’s creator passed away the month before the film version of Goldfinger’s U.K. debut.

And one more that’s related:
50th anniversary of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Debut of the series featuring Ian Fleming’s other spy, Napoleon Solo, co-created with television producer Norman Felton.

Are cameos in movies worth it?

Alfred Hitchcock's cameo right after his "directed by" credit in North by Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo in North by Northwest

This fall, fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series wondered if the show’s original stars would have a cameo in a new film version underway. Some fans were vocal, arguing that of course they should.

It’s not known if such a cameo took place for the U.N.C.L.E. movie. (Robert Vaughn said more than once he’d welcome the opportunity; David McCallum made comments suggesting he wouldn’t participate.) The subject though got this blog to thinking: are such cameos worth it, or are they more of a distraction for a finished film?

The king of such cameos was director Alfred Hitchcock, who made a cameo in his more than 50 films. They can be something of a mixed bag. In North by Northwest, he appears right after his “directed by” credit as a man missing his bus in New York City. The appearance, in effect, is an extension of the main titles designed by Saul Bass. At this point, the viewer hasn’t been watching the actual story of the film.

In other cases, Hitchcock’s appearance almost draw attention to themselves. In 1969’s Topaz, there’s an airport scene. The viewer is drawn to Hitchock, in a wheelchair, guided by a nurse. Hitchcock meets a man, abruptly stands up and shakes the man hand before walking off. By this point, more than 20 minutes of the story have been told. You could argue it’s a distraction, although it’s over pretty quickly.

In the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, co-boss Michael G. Wilson has been performing cameos for decades. Again, they’re a bit of a mixed bag. In some cases (Skyfall, The World Is Not Enough), they’re fleeting, something for the hard-core fans while more casual 007 cinema goers aren’t likely to notice. In others (Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale), they draw attention to themselves. Here are some:

The interest among U.N.C.L.E. fans whether the movie has cameos is different. Vaughn and McCallum established the original show’s popularity. There’d be no movie if there hadn’t been a television show in the first place. If one was filmed, would it distract from the Guy Ritchie-directed story? The counter question: do you owe it to the original actors if they’re interested? (Especially since Ritchie appears to have squeezed former soccer star David Beckham into the movie.)

None of these questions have right or wrong answers. Fan tastes vary. Hitchcock fans, for example, take pleasure in trying to spot the director’s cameos. In any case, it’s likely such cameos will continue in movies.

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