007 poll shows the devil is in the details

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Earlier this month, the Morning Consult and the Hollywood Reporter conducted a poll of almost 2,100 Americans about James Bond films. Here are two greatly different headlines summarizing the results.

Morning Consult’s report: “007 Poll Shows Scant Support for Diversifying Bonds.”

The Express, U.K. tabloid: “James Bond: Most Americans support a black 007 – Idris Elba BACKED to replace Daniel Craig.”

They’re both right but you have to dig into the data to see why.

According to Morning Consult, 51 percent of adult respondents said “the James Bond series was a classic and nothing about it should be changed, a 17-percentage-point edge over those who said they’d prefer to see the film adapt to the times and have a more diverse cast and lead.”

However, those polled were then asked additional groups about different groups and individuals.

Among groups, 52 percent of adults said they support the idea of a black James Bond, with 20 percent having no opinion and 29 percent opposing.

Also, 39 percent support a Hispanic Bond, 37 percent support an Asian Bond, 37 percent supported a female Bond and 28 percent support a gay Bond.

Meanwhile, when asked specifically about Idris Elba, 63 percent said  they wanted to see him play Bond, with only 21 percent opposed.

Meanwhile, Morning Consult had more details about how respondents feel about agent 007.

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of the adults polled said they’d at least watched some of the series. And with a net favorability of 62 points, only “Back to the Future” (74 points) and “Indiana Jones” (72 points) were more popular among films made before the 1990s. (“Toy Story” was the most popular movie franchise out of 34 series tested, while “Back to the Future” was second.)

The poll also tackled the issue of who is the most popular actor to play Bond in the Eon Productions series.

Most popular 007 film and Bond actor among Americans polled: Goldfinger and Sean Connery. 

Sean Connery was No. 1 at 82 percent, with Pierce Brosnan right behind at 81 percent. Roger Moore, who made 007 entries in the Eon series, was No. 3 at 74 percent, followed by current Bond Daniel Craig at 71 percent. The least popular Bond actors were Timothy Dalton at 49 percent and George Lazenby at 31 percent.

There’s also the question of favorite 007 films of Americans. Morning Consult again sued a “net favorability” number. On that basis, the top five were: Goldfinger (plus 69), From Russia With Love (plus 66), Live And Let Die (plus 66), Diamonds Are Forever (plus 65) and For Your Eyes Only (plus 64).

The highest Daniel Craig 007 film was his debut, Casino Royale, at No. 6 (plus 63), tied with You Only Live Twice.

The bottom? The Living Daylights, Dalton’s debut, (plus 48). SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, was next at plus 49.

The Living Daylights script: Writing for a new Bond

Timothy Dalton’s gunbarrel for The Living Daylights

In 1986, writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson were working on a new chapter for the cinematic James Bond.

Roger Moore’s era had ended. The choice of the next film 007 film actor would be unsettled. For a time, it was Pierce Brosnan. But when NBC and MTM Productions wanted him back for additional episodes of Remington Steele, Timothy Dalton seized the prize.

By the time Maibaum and Wilson were writing their second-draft script, much of the basic story had been settled. The story line and major set pieces in this script would, more or less, appear as they would in the final 1987 film.

Still, there were significant differences. Some scenes play differently. Also, the Maibaum and Wilson team appeared to be unaware of the basics of firearms.

Pre-credits sequence

The second-draft script (which doesn’t have a date on its title page) has a pre-credits sequence very similar to the finished product.

One major difference: This script begins at the London offices of Universal Exports (the MI6 front).  Nevertheless, the script wants to have a little suspense before the audience can see the new James Bond.

After an establishing shot, the script takes the reader to Moneypenny’s office. We’re told “as door opens” that “BOND’S HAND, holding hat, appears in doorway and poises to throw it toward COSTUMER in B.G.  TWO HATS already on pegs.”

As Bond tosses yet another hat on a peg, Moneypenny tells him that M wants to see him.

Inside M’s office, Bond joins two other Double-O agents and the stage directions specify none of the men’s faces can be seen by the camera.

M explains the assignment (an exercise to see if the Double-O operatives can penetrate the Rock of Gibraltar’s defenses). But in this script, M has a voice over of Gibraltar images.

When this script depicts the mission, the agents are only identified as first, second and third “DOUBLE-O MAN.”

They parachute down to Gibraltar. The first Double-O man is described as “a rugged, lantern jawed young man, but obviously not James Bond.” The second 00-agent “too, could not be James Bond.”

When the first “Double-O man” is killed by an imposter, we’re given a description of third.

THIRD DOUBLE-O MAN ON RIDGE
strapping on PARACHUTE CONTAINER. He turns INTO CAMERA. We now see his face. James Bond at last!

What follows is similar to the final film. Bond escapes while the imposter is killed in an explosion. Bond parachutes his way to a luxury yacht where he meets a woman named Linda. She is described as “impressed, amused and interested” after Bond lands.

The Defection

After the main titles, the primary plot of the movie unfolds. While similar to the final film, there are some major differences.

Bond, instead of attending a concert, 007 goes to a book store. He briefly encounters Halas an “elderly, book-wormy proprietor.”

007 provides some code words. “Have you a Czech first edition of Karl Marx ‘Das Kapital’?” Halas closes the book store.

This, however, is a prelude to Bond having his first meeting with Saunders, head of Station V, Vienna. Bond prepares to take out a Soviet-bloc assassin so that Soviet General Koskov can successfully defect.

As in the final film, Bond suspects something is up and doesn’t kill the supposed sniper. He takes over command of Koskov’s defection and tells Saunders to meet him at the border.

Halas (!) resurfaces, helping Bond and Koskov work their away around the grounds of the Soviet pipeline that’s bringing natural gas to Western Europe. Halas even says, “It is good to work with you again, Mr. Bond.”

Based on this script, Bond’s double cross of Saunders is even more elaborate than we’d see in the movie.

Still, this is all preliminary to Bond meeting up with Rosika Miklos, “a huge but attractive young woman.” Bond and Rosika arrange for Koskov to be taken pass the border in a “pig” via the pipeline.

General Gogol (?!)

After Koskov has made it to the U.K., he says he has defected because General Gogol of the KGB has gone mad.

“I tell you why I defect,” Koskov says. “General Gogol is why.”

Gogol (Water Gotell) had made appearances in Bond movies starting with 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. He had a significant role in that film, while showing up in Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View To a Kill. (Gotell had also appeared as a SPECTRE villain in 1963’s From Russia With Love.)

In the final movie version of The Living Daylights, Gogol had joined the Soviet diplomatic service. He was replaced by Gen. Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies). Thus, Gotell received a cameo in his final appearance in the 007 film series.

On some James Bond message boards, fans argue there should be no attempts at continuity among movies. This script is not like the inter-connected movies made by Marvel Studios. But it is similar to the continuity of early 007 films, such as the references in From Russia With Love to Dr. No.

No Aston Martin (!)

After Koskov’s seeming defecting, Bond drives a Bentley to the MI6 safehouse where Koskov is being debriefed.

Later, when Bond gets Kara Milovy away from the KGB, the agent steals a KGB car and isn’t driving a gadget-laden Aston Martin. As a result, the sequence gets Bond onto a frozen lake much quicker than the completed film.

As the action unfolds on the frozen lake, an “ice yacht” happens by. The yachtsman helps rescue Czech policemen. This leads to an extended action sequence where Bond and Kara, more or less, end up in the same spot in the movie.

Finale 

The final film had a relatively romantic movie. This script? Not so much.

BEHIND SCREEN KARA BOND

his shirt already unbuttoned, awaits her. She gives startled gasp.

BOND
You didn’t think I would miss this performance did you?

She laughs delightedly, takes off his shirt.

Firearms

When Bond puts the squeeze on Gogol in Tangiers, this appears in the stage directions:

BOND slips a silencers out of his jacket pocket, then affixes it to his revolver as he moves behind GOGOL.

The problem with this is that silencers, generally speaking, don’t work as well on revolvers as they do on semi-automatic pistols. TV Guide, in the 1970s, mentioned silencers on revolvers as among TV-generated myths. (Another was how getting wounded in the shoulder in real life is very bad, while on TV shows, it’s like a flesh wound.)

THIS 2013 VIDEO explains some of the science involved. Some revolvers can be noise suppressed but they’re not common, the silencers are very large and they aren’t as quiet as depicted in movies and TV shows.

1990: Bond 17 treatment attempts a new direction

Timothy Dalton

In the spring of 1990, Eon Productions attempted to begin a new direction with its James Bond series.

Veterans such as screenwriter Richard Maibaum and director John Glen were gone following 1989’s Licence to Kill.

Michael G. Wilson, co-scripter of the previous five Bond films and stepson of Eon boss Albert R. Broccoli, worked with Alfonse Ruggiero, a television writer-producer whose credits included the crime drama Wiseguy.

For some, Licence to Kill came off as a bit drab. Locations were Key West, Florida, and Mexico. Its villain, Franz Sanchez, was a drug lord. A particularly powerful drug lord, but still a drug lord.

For Bond 17, Wilson and Ruggeiro appeared to want to make things more exotic, for what was intended as Timothy Dalton’s third adventure as Bond. Locations included Japan and Hong Kong.

Also present were robots.

At beginning of a treatment dated May 1990, there was this note: “The robotic devices refered (sic) to in this outline are complex and exotic machines designed for specific tasks and environments. They are to be designed especially for the film for maximum dramatic and visual impact.” More about that later.

The villain of the treatment is Sir Henry Lee Ching, “a brilliant and handsome thirty year old British-Chinese entrepreneur.” His plot is take over Hong Kong from the British and Chinese. His extensive business empire supplies key components for missile guidance, communications, navigation and weapon systems.

The female lead character is Connie Webb, “a beautiful American adventuress in her early 30’s.” She’s a former CIA agent who has gone free lance.

The robots involved primarily are industrial robots that malfunction, causing great calamity. Then, there’s the most sophisticated robot.

Sir Henry has a mistress named Nan. At one point, he emerges from a lovemaking session. “Through the open door Connie spots Nan laying prostrate on the bed behind a curtain of white flowing gauze.”

Later, Bond is reunited with Connie. But Nan appears “in form fitting corset and spandex shorts.” They decide they need to tie Nan up. However, Nan knocks Bond across the room. Connie tries her luck at subduing Nan. It is revealed….

“Nan is a lethal security robot!”

Of course, The Avengers television series had John Steed and Emma Peel deal with the Cybernauts in the 1960s. A few years later, the Austin Powers comedy films would have the International Man of Mystery coping with fembots.

This particular plot would not be produced and financial troubles at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contributed to a 1989-1995 hiatus for the 007 series.

However, the 1990 treatment shows that Eon was growing nostalgic for the Aston Martin DB5. Bond ends up driving one that has been revamped by Q. Bringing back the car was an idea that Eon retained.

The DB5 would show up later in the decade in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies. It appears to be the personal car of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond.

Daniel Craig’s Bond would win a left-handed drive DB5 in a poker game in 2006’s Casino Royale. He drives a right-handed drive DB5 (supposedly the Goldfinger car) in Skyfall and SPECTRE.

007 by the numbers: Films per decade

An exchange with a fellow James Bond fan got us to thinking about the output of James Bond fans by decade.

There has been a long-term trend of fewer movies. Some say it’s because making films has gotten more complicated.

Anyway, without further analysis, here’s how it breaks down by decade.

1960s: 007 films. This was the decade of Bondmania so, naturally, it’s when output reached its zenith. There were six entries in the Eon Productions series, plus the Casino Royale spoof produced by Charles K. Feldman with fifth credited directors including John Huston.

1970s: 005 films. The Eon series began the decade by bringing back its original leading man (Sean Connery) while spending the rest of the ’70s with Roger Moore.

1980s: 006 films. The Eon series was like clockwork, with a movie every other year. Also, there was Connery’s final Bond film, Never Say Never Again, the non-Eon production that came out in 1983, the same year as Eon’s Octopussy.

Timothy Dalton replaced Moore with 1987’s The Living Daylights (after Pierce Brosnan had been signed but couldn’t get out a contract with NBC). Eon didn’t miss a beat. That would be the last time such a statement would be uttered, though fans didn’t realize it at the time.

1990s: 003 films. A big legal fight between Eon and studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer shut down production at the start of the decade. Bond didn’t return until 1995’s GoldenEye. But the (by now) tradition every-other-year production schedule still resulted in three entries for star Pierce Brosnan.

2000s: 003 films. MGM gave Eon an extra year to put out Die Another Day in 2002. It was Brosnan’s finale, though he didn’t know it at the time. Eon then went into a period of self-reflection. It got the rights to Casino Royale, opted to ditch Brosnan and hire Daniel Craig as a replacement.

Quantum of Solace in 2008 proved to be the final 007 film produced on an every-other-year schedule. But nobody knew it at the time.

2010s: 003 films (scheduled). The decade began with MGM going into bankruptcy and emerging as a smaller company. Craig, though, stayed onboard with 2012’s Skyfall, followed by 2015’s SPECTRE.

“Everybody’s just a little bit tired,” Daniel Craig said in 2016.

Then, another self-imposed break took hold.

“There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at a New Yorker magazine event in fall 2016, referring to the next Bond film. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli stepped up her involvement with non-Bond films as well as plays, including a production of Othello with Craig.

Craig said last month on CBS’s The Late Show he would be back for Bond 25. “I needed a break,” he told host Stephen Colbert.

Eon has announced a U.S. release date of November 2019 for Bond 25. But, for now, it’s not known what studio will actually distribute the film. MGM doesn’t have a distribution operation and cuts deals with other studios.

Remembering that 1989-95 007 hiatus

GoldenEye’s poster

Our post the other day about the anniversary of Licence to Kill’s release got the blog to thinking about what followed: The six-year hiatus in James Bond film production.

Like the earlier post, this is more of a personal take on the events.

The thing is, in those pre-internet days, the news was much slower in getting around. During much of this period, I saw a number of items in The Wall Street Journal. I had a subscription at the time.

Also, the extent of what was going on wasn’t immediately evident.

There were reports in the trade press that director John Glen and screenwriter Richard Maibaum wouldn’t be returning to the series. This was the first indication (at least to me) that a big makeover, rather than minor tweaks, was in store.

There were occasional stories about potential new directors and screenwriters. Things got more serious when it was announced that Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions, was putting itself up for sale. Eventually, no sale occurred, but seeing the original announcement was an eye-opener.

What’s more, the soap opera at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, went into overdrive. MGM was bought and sold again, with a bank (Credit Lyonnais) taking over the operation. Bond fans now needed to read the business pages of newspapers just to keep things straight.

Also, Danjaq/Eon filed a lawsuit related to what was going on with MGM. It was clear the next James Bond film wouldn’t be made soon. Even when the lawsuit was settled (I had a chance to read the press release at my office), it still wasn’t clear when production would resume.

Timothy Dalton

During this period, there were questions about what would happen with the incumbent 007, Timothy Dalton. Geraldo Rivera had a syndicated U.S. television show at the time and one broadcast was devoted to Bond. Some Bond experts participated. Rivera asked if Dalton would be back. The experts said they expected him to return.

Finally came the announcement that Dalton was gone. What was going to happen next?

Attention turned to Pierce Brosnan, who lost out on his chance to play Bond in 1986, when Dalton got the nod.

Eon maintained in a 1987 television interview that Dalton was always its No. 1 choice. In that interview, Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson said Brosnan had never been signed to play Bond.

Brosnan had been signed (and it’s detailed in the Inside The Living Daylights documentary that’s part of home video release), but NBC reacted by ordering more episodes of Remington Steele. That, of course, was what gave Dalton his opportunity to play Bond.

In 1994, shortly before the casting decision was announced, The Wall Street Journal weighed in with a long front-page story about the Bond search and that it was not a clear-cut choice.

Regardless, Brosnan got the nod. Many fans, no doubt, thought, “Finally!”

Advertisement for 1994 James Bond convention

Still, Bond had been away from theater screens for quite a while. Eon did something it had never done — having an official James Bond fan conventions in the fall of 1994 and 1995 (the latter days before the premiere of GoldenEye).

That was part of an effort to revive interest in Bond. For hard-core fans, they were anxiously waiting all along. Still, both conventions were interesting to attend. For some fans, it was a chance to meet like-minded people they had never had a chance to encounter before.

In the end, Bond resumed production. 007 even maintained an every-other-year schedule until the end of the 1990s.

Still, looking back at the hiatus, it’s a reminder that film franchises — for fans, for productions companies, for studios — can’t be taken for granted.

Licence to Kill: Odd opening day in 1989

Licence to Kill’s poster

Twenty-eight years ago today, Licence to Kill, the 16th James Bond film had its U.S. opening.

It didn’t go well, financially. Licence to Kill finished No. 4 at the U.S.-Canada box office that weekend, behind even Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

But even leaving that aside, it was an odd day for various reasons. This is a more personal post about that day.

I had arranged to take the day off from work. Back then, you didn’t really have the Thursday night preview showings (starting at 7 p.m.) that are common today. You’d have to show up late and the movie would begin just after midnight. It was technically a Friday showing.

Anyway, Mrs. Spy Commander and myself went to the first showing. It was after 1 p.m. Today, multiplexes start their day at 10 a.m. or earlier.

I knew ahead of time there was a scene (“He disagreed with something that ate him”) based on the Live And Let Die novel that had gone unused when the book was adapted by Eon in the early 1970s. I knew Licence to Kill was supposed to be a grittier Bond film and was more than ready to view it.

My initial reaction was the movie probably needed another draft for its script. It didn’t have the polish of previous Bond adventures. But I was also aware that a Writers Guild strike meant Richard Maibaum hadn’t fully participated in the proceedings despite the fact he shared the writer’s credit with Michael G. Wilson.

Anyway, after it was over, I asked Mrs. Spy Commander what she thought.

“It was….fine,” she replied.

Uh-oh. This was my first sign she didn’t like it. I pressed for more of a reaction.

“No, it’s OK,” she said. “They got their revenge story.”

When things really got odd was when we got home. I turned on TV and began “channel surfing.”

Suddenly, on Nickelodeon of all places, there was a Licence to Kill special. Kid anchors from the network were interviewing the principals of Licence to Kill. Clearly, the interviews had been done months before when the crew was filming in Key West, Florida.

The most unusual sequence was a joint interview of producer-screenwriter Michael G. Wilson and character actor Anthony Zerbe, who played secondary villain Milton Krest.

The kid interviewer asked about the increased violence in Licence to Kill. Wilson said something about how Bambi was emotionally intense.

Zerbe reacted by pretending he was about to cry. “I never got over Bambi,” he said.

That was the highlight of the show, such as it was. Timothy Dalton also did an interview for the Nickelodeon special, but it wasn’t nearly as memorable as Zerbe’s bit of comedy.

The thing was, I had no idea it would be more than six years before I’d have a chance to see another new James Bond film.

The Living Daylights at 30: A short-lived new era

The Living Daylights poster

The Living Daylights poster

The Living Daylights, the 15th James Bond film made by Eon Productions, was going to be the start of a new era for the series.

With hindsight, it’s now evident the new era was doomed to be short-lived. But nobody envisioned that when the movie came out in the summer of 1987.

Roger Moore hung up his shoulder holster following 1985’s A View to a Kill. There was going to be a new film James Bond. The question was who would it be.

Sam Neill was screen tested. He had supporters among the production team, but didn’t have the vote of producer Albert R. Broccoli, according to the documentary Inside The Living Daylights.

Pierce Brosnan tested for the role (including playing scenes from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). He even signed a contract, with a photo taken of the event.

But all that went askew when NBC renewed his Remington Steele series. Broccoli had second thoughts.

Broccoli and his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, later denied in a television interview that Brosnan had even been signed.

The ultimate choice was Timothy Dalton. Broccoli said Dalton was the first choice all along.

“We wanted to get Timothy,” Broccoli said. “We had standing by the possibility of Pierce Brosnan. We liked Pierce. But we did really feel Timothy was the man we wanted.” Even if NBC hadn’t renewed Remington Steele, the producer said, “We liked Timothy very much.”

After the bumpy start, Daylights got into gear. Dalton, 40 at the time filming began, was almost 20 years younger than Moore. The actor also was more than willing to do some of his own stunts. This tendency showed up in the pre-titles sequence when Bond is on the top of a military truck at the Rock of Gibraltar.

Dalton, though, brought more than (relative) youth to the role. His Bond was more conflicted and more grounded in the original Ian Fleming novels and short stories.

Early in the film, Bond disobeys orders when he suspects a supposed sniper (Maryam d’Abo) isn’t genuine. He shoots her rifle instead of her.

Later, Saunders, another MI6 agent, says he’s going to report Bond to M. Dalton’s Bond isn’t fazed. “If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.”

Richard Maibaum was on board for his 12th Bond film as scripter, collaborating with Wilson. The Maibaum-Wilson team built their story out from a sequence in Ian Fleming’s short story of the same title.

Initially, the duo had an “origin” story line that Broccoli vetoed. Instead, Dalton’s Bond would again be depicted as a veteran agent.

The Living Daylights generated worldwide box office of $191.2 million, an improvement over A View to a Kill’s $152.6 million.

In the U.S. market, however, Daylights’ $51.2 million wasn’t much better than View’s $50.3 million. For whatever reasons, American audiences never warmed to Dalton the way international audiences did.

Still, Daylights seemed to represent a fresh start for the Bond film series. What nobody knew at the time was that audiences had already consumed half of the Dalton Bond films.

What’s more, Daylights was the end of an era for the series. It had John Barry’s final 007 score. For his final Bond film, the composer would make a brief on-screen appearance.

Daylights also would be the last time that Maibaum would fully participate in the writing.

The veteran scribe (1909-1991) would help plot 1989’s Licence to Kill. But the actual script was written by Wilson, with Maibaum sidelined by a Writers Guild of America strike.