A look at Skyfall in Concert

The orchestra is applauded by a Toronto audience after Skyfall in Concert has concluded. The Spy Command photo

TORONTO — This weekend, there were two performances in Toronto of Skyfall in Concert, where an orchestra performed the score of the 23rd James movie live, synched up to a showing of the film.

The show was performed Feb. 21 and 22 at Meridian Hall in downtown Toronto.

The Thomas Newman score sounded subtly different in places with the live performance compared with the film’s original soundtrack.

There were also some changes to highlight the score. Some sound effects were dialed back a bit.

An example: In the movie, there were loud crashing sound effects when Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) loses the side mirrors of the vehicle she’s driving in the pre-titles sequence. With Skyfall in Concert, you still heard the effects but they weren’t as overpowering. Also, the film had subtitles for the dialogue.

The orchestra was stationed below the screen where the movie was shown. As a result, audience members could observe the musicians playing as the film played.

As Skyfall drew to an end, the orchestra played a rousing rendition of The James Bond Theme after the “James Bond Will Return” title card. This took place without the end title crawl. That began after the orchestra finished its performance of the Bond theme.

A number of James Bond fan groups, including James Bond Canada, The James Bond Complex, The Bond Experience, Being James Bond and many others were present for the Feb. 22 performance. The Bond fans had pre- and post-show gatherings.

Bond 25 questions: The composer edition

Hans Zimmer title card from Inception (2010),

Thanks to Variety (but still not announced), the word is out that Hans Zimmer is working on the score for No Time to Die. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is it Zimmer or Hans Zimmer & Co.?

Hans Zimmer runs a company called Remote Control Productions. It has more than 60 affiliated composers. On a number of films (Dunkirk, Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises and Inception), Zimmer gets sole “music by” credit while of the Remote Control Productions composers get an “additional music” credit.

Those other composers have included Lorne Balfe and Junkie XL. The number of additional music composers varies from project to project.

On other occasions, including Blade Runner 2049 and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zimmer has shared the main “music by” credit with another one of the Remote Control Productions composers. Benjamin Wallifisch shared the credit with Zimmer on Blade Runner 2049 while Junkie XL shared the Batman v Superman music credit.

How long has Zimmer been working on No Time to Die?

The MI6 James Bond website, in a story early today, said it “understands that orchestral sessions are currently being recorded” for the new Bond film. Mr. Obvious observation: That sounds like the score has been written, or at least partly written.

What happened to Dan Romer?

The Variety story said “creative differences” without providing more details. News that Romer was initially hired to score No Time to Die surfaced last year. He was listed in the crew in an August press release issued primarily because of the title reveal.

Presumably, Romer’s work didn’t please Eon Productions in some way. Meanwhile, Eon has been working with Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions for its upcoming non-Bond spy film The Rhythm Section. Zimmer is listed as executive music producer.

Why don’t they bring David Arnold back?

Arnold composed scores for five Bond films and is a fan favorite. But starting with Skyfall, Eon Productions has — at least initially — hired a composer chosen by the director.

Sam Mendes wanted Thomas Newman and got him. Romer had worked on some previous projects of No Time to Die director Cary Fukunaga.

In the end, any composer is a hired hand when it comes to the family-run Bond films. Marvin Hamlisch got two Oscar nominations for The Spy Who Loved Me but was never asked back into Bondage.

Bond 25 questions: The composer edition (again? maybe?)

No Time to Die teaser poster

On All Saints’ Day 2019, the James Bond Radio podcast raised the question whether Dan Romer may not score No Time to Die after all.

On posts on Twitter and Facebook, the fan site said it heard from a source that Romer has left the 25th James Bond film. Romer has worked with No Time to Die director Cary Fukunaga on other projects.

At this point, there’s no way to know. In the James Bond Radio post on Facebook, there was this caveat: “Our source does seem credible, but of course you never know for sure until we get an official word.”

With all that in mind, the blog has some questions:

Is Romer really gone?

There’s no way to know. Eon Productions isn’t likely to say until a replacement is lined up.

Is this sort of thing unusual?

Not really. Bernard Herrmann scored a number of films for producer-director Alfred Hitchcock. But Herrmnn delivered a score for Torn Curtain (1966). Hitchcock hated it and that was the end of the long collaboration between director and composer.

More recently, Warner Bros. superhero film Justice League (2017) started out with a score by Junkie XL. But the powers that be rejected it and Danny Elfman came in Elfman included his own theme for the 1989 Batman movie as well as John Williams’ theme for the 1978 Superman movie.

If (repeat IF) Romer is gone, who might replace him?

A lot of Bond fans would love to have five-time Bond film composer David Arnold back. Arnold hasn’t scored a Bond film since 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Arnold has a following among Bond fans, many of whom have been wishing he’d return. Director Sam Mendes insisted on Thomas Newman to compose the scores for Skyfall and SPECTRE. Then, Romer was the man for No Time to Die, presumably because he worked with Fukunaga before.

Another fan favorite is composer Michael Giacchino, who has worked in John Barry-style flourishes in a number of scores including The Incredibles (2004) and other films. His credits include one Mission: Impossible movie and a number of Marvel Studios films.

Any other thoughts?

Not really. The James Bond Radio social media posts quickly spread among fans. It remains to be seen what’s really happening. That’s not a criticism of James Bond Radio. We just don’t know what’s happening.

007 questions before Bond 25 starts filming

So how do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25?

In less than two months, Bond 25 is scheduled to start filming in time for a Feb. 14, 2020 release. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

001: How do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25? Cary Fukunaga, the director of Bond 25, has said that Bond 25 will continue a “character arc” that began with 2006’s Casino Royale.

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, it appeared the Daniel Craig 007 had retired as an Double-O agent. So how do you get from there to a new adventure?

002: How do you reconcile the various Bond 25 scripts? The current effort began with a treatment (i.e. detailed outline) by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Then, that was put off to the side because director Danny Boyle and his writer John Hodge pitched an idea that supposedly was great. Then, a few months later, Eon thought better and Boyle and Hodge walked away.

There were many stories published during 2018 (See the blog’s sister site, The Bond 25 Timeline for details).

But Eon owns all those ideas. Will the final script reflect some or all of those ideas? In some cases, ideas from submitted scripts end up in Bond films years later. Also, it was reported last week that Paul Haggis (involved with writing Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) had worked on Bond 25’s script.

We’ll see how this plays out for Bond 25.

003: How much leeway does director Fukunaga have for Bond 25? Eon Productions gave Sam Mendes a lot of leeway for Skyfall and SPECTRE, including granting Mendes his choice of composer (Thomas Newman in both movies) and director of photography (Roger Deakins in Skyfall). Does Fukunaga get that kind of love from Eon for Bond 25?

004: If the answer to 003 is not so much, does David Arnold get a chance to return to score Bond 25? Arnold, composer of five 007 scores (behind only John Barry’s 11) has been away for more than a decade. Much of that absence stemmed from Mendes’ relation with Newman. Does Arnold get a chance to come back?

005: Does Bond 25’s budget grow, stay the same, or shrink from SPECTRE’s? During the Sony hacks (hacked emails and other documents), it came out that SPECTRE’s budget was on pace to go past $300 million. Supposedly, the budget was closer to $240 million (after factoring in all the product placement and Mexico tax credits). It’s always easier to spend more — as long as a studio is willing to cut checks.

006: How energized are Bond 25’s lead producer and star? Over the extended break, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has worked on “indie-style” small films while star Daniel Craig has worked on other projects. Meanwhile, Craig said back in 2016 that “everybody’s just a bit tired.” Is everybody rested up now?

007: Does Universal’s involvement with Bond 25 change things? Sony Pictures (through its Columbia Pictures brand) released the last four 007 films (2006-2015). Now, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures will handle U.S. distribution while Universal will handle international distribution. Does Universal change things? There’s no way to tell for now.

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.

Bond 25 questions: Full speed ahead edition

Bond 25 is full speed ahead, with a director, new screenwriter and a new distribution lineup. So, it’s time for the blog’s specialty — questions.

What was that story idea (turned into a script by John Hodge) that was so good Eon Productions dropped a Neal Purvis-Robert Wade script?

Throughout the Bond 25 saga to date, this has been one of the most intriguing angles.

Eon announced 10 months ago that Purvis and Wade were back as 007 screenwriters. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a December podcast from The Hollywood Reporter that Purvis and Wade were ““busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

Not fantastic enough. Danny Boyle, now officially named as Bond 25’s director, and Hodge pitched Eon an idea. Boyle would direct if a script based on the idea were selected. (Boyle spoke about this in public, even if Eon didn’t until this week.)

Boom! Here we are.

This week’s official announcement about Boyle’s and Hodge’s participation in Bond 25 didn’t reference any plot points. The guess here is we’ll get some kind of brief synopsis when production starts in early December.

Who will compose Bond 25’s score? Some directors have a strong relationship with composers. That’s why we got Thomas Newman for Skyfall and SPECTRE, directed by Sam Mendes.

A variety of composers have worked on Boyle’s films, including David Arnold (A Life Less Ordinary), John Murphy (28 Days Later…), A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours) and Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs).

Arnold, of course, is a 007 film veteran, working on five films from 1997 through 2008. Does he get a chance at a sixth?

Will Bond 25’s budget expand or contract compared with SPECTRE?  SPECTRE’s budget was an estimated $245 million (after including tax credits in Mexico and product placement deals). A car chase scene in Rome alone cost about 24 million British pounds, or $36 million at the time. Also, Eon boasted how the movie had the biggest explosion in motion picture history.

By contrast, 2012’s Skyfall had an estimated budget of $200 million. That’s still a lot of money but there was economizing. The first unit only traveled to Turkey. Sequences set in China were filmed with a second unit, with interiors filmed either at Pinewood Studios or U.K. locations doubling for China.

Presumably, Bond 25’s budget has been taken into account by the new distribution setup: A joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (007’s home studio) and Annapurna Pictures for the U.S. and Universal for international.

The previous four 007 films were distributed by Sony Pictures. For Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony contributed 50 percent of the production budget but only got back 25 percent of the profit, while MGM kept 75 percent.

Bond 25 questions (Danny Boyle edition Part III)

After Danny Boyle this week confirmed his involvement in Bond 25 (he’ll direct if a script being written by John Hodge is approved), the director’s comments generates even more questions about the next 007 film.

Who will be the composer? Some directors have a long-running collaboration with composers. The duos of Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini along with Steven Spielberg and John Williams come to mind.

The 007 film series isn’t immune. Thomas Newman did the scores for Skyfall and SPECTRE because director Sam Mendes wanted him.

Boyle has worked with a variety of composers.

Some examples: Boyle’s A Life Less Ordinary (1997) was scored by David Arnold, the five-time 007 film composer. A.R. Rahman scored Boyle’s 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire. Daniel Pemberton scored 2015’s Steve Jobs.

Arnold, of course, knows his way around scoring a Bond film. Pemberton, in scoring 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., was under orders from director Guy Ritchie to avoid a James Bond sound. To know how to avoid a 007 sound, you have to know what the Bond sound is to begin with.

Then again, Boyle might have a new choice up his sleeve. Assuming Boyle makes it to the Bond 25 director chair, the composer question may be one of the biggest wild cards in the production.

Why Boyle, and why now? Boyle wasn’t asked this question and nobody else is talking for the record.

A guess: For what ever reason, the powers that be (Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) were looking for something different. 

In March 2017, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported that six-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired for yet another go. That was confirmed in July 2017 and, as recently as December, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a Hollywood Reporter podcast the writers were still going at it.

P&W was a safe choice. Eon, which has employed P&W’s services since 1998, when they began work on the World Is Not Enough’s first draft, knows what P&W can do. By this time, P&W knows the ups and downs of working for Eon.

Boyle (and writer Hodge) evidently pitched something that caught the interest of Eon and MGM.

Is everything locked down? In the words of Sheriff J.W. Pepper: “Helllllllllll no!”

Outsiders don’t know when Hodge will deliver his first draft. Regardless, it’s doubtful that draft will be ready to go before the cameras. In movies, there is much rewriting after the initial draft is delivered.

What would be the strangest thing you could imagine regarding this process? If P&W were brought in to rewrite whatever Hodge delivers.