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.

McQuarrie talks about M:I 7-8

Poster for Mission: Impossible-Fallout, directed by Christopher McQuarrie.

Christopher McQuarrie, writer-director of the last two Mission: Impossible movies, was interviewed by Empire magazine, which published an excerpt.

Now, McQuarrie will be helming two M:I movies to be filmed back-to-back and released in 2021 and 2022. Cruise will be 60 when the latter comes out.

“I pitched the idea of making two movies, and now I have to justify why it’s two movies,” Empire quotes McQuarrie as saying. “You’ve got to earn that. You’ve got to make something that swallows the last three movies whole. I’m freaked out now. We’ve talked ourselves into something.”

The M:I film series began in 1996. It has had long gaps in between installments. But this decade, the series, produced by star Tom Cruise, has been accelerating its schedule. In the 2010s, it had movies come out in 2011, 2015 and 2018.

The 007 had entries in 2012 and 2015. Bond 25, now in production, is scheduled for release in April 2020.

McQuarrie also tweeted about the Empire interview.

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Why Bond 25 may not economize much

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Bond 25 production got underway last week with some filming in Norway. There’s a lot we don’t know (including a title). But there are some signs that the film isn’t traveling in Economy Class.

Delays in production: Eon Productions began renting space at Pinewood Studios last year. But filming there has been delayed at least five months.

Eon couldn’t just give up that space. Demand for space at Pinewood is high. So that’s a few months without any footage actually being shot. That makes it harder to economize.

An expensive script doctor: Scott Z. Burns recently spent four weeks working on Bond 25’s script. He’s a well-regarded scribe and he’s moving into directing. His services are in demand. It’s likely his Bond 25 services didn’t come cheap.

The star may have gotten a raise: Variety last year reported that Daniel Craig will receive $25 million for his fifth 007 film. The truth is known to Craig, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, Craig’s agent and the various studios backing Bond 25. Still, it’s unlikely Craig’s services are receiving discounted rates.

The Mission: Impossible franchise means now isn’t the time to economize: This is a favorite fan theory/speculation. During the 2010s, the Mission: Impossible films starring and produced by Tom Cruise have cranked out three entries while Eon’s 007 series will have two.

Moreover, the M:I films have gotten a lot of attention for their stunts, big set pieces and international intrigue — things the 007 films are known for.

Paramount recently announced the Cruise M:I series will produce two more entries back-to-back, coming out in 2021 and 2022. By the time the latter entry is out, Cruise will be 60 and Christopher McQuarrie will have written and directed four films.

M:I accelerates its output amid longer 007 film gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The facts are clear. The importance is a little fuzzy.

So, producer-star Tom Cruise and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie intend to do two Mission: Impossible film back to back. The movies would come out in 2021 and 2022.

If that works out, that means there will have been four M:I films (all directed by McQuarrie) from 2015 to 2022. There will have been two 007 films (2015’s SPECTRE and 2020’s Bond 25) coming out during that same period.

The M:I development makes sense in that Cruise will turn 60 in 2022. While a fantastic physical specimen for a middle-aged guy, the clock is ticking on Cruise’s time as a movie action hero.

The two McQuarrie-directed M:I films (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible-Fallout) have been big hits. So it’s a natural studio Paramount could secure his services for two more movies. On top of everything else, McQuarrie and Cruise obviously get along.

Once upon a time, something similar was envisioned for the Bond series. John Logan was hired to write Bond 24 (later titled SPECTRE) and Bond 25. Skyfall director Sam Mendes, in a 2014 interview, said that he came back to helm SPECTRE after plans were ditched to do Bond 24 and 25 back to back. Star Daniel Craig had vetoed the idea.

Bond fans have a mixed reaction to this. There are the usual social media posts about Bond is superior, Bond is forever, Mission: Impossible will be done when Cruise is done, etc.

But there are also gibes (such as this one by the author of a Bond-related book) calling Cruise a “teeny man.” Cruise is listed at 5-foot-7 on IMDB.com while current 007 star Daniel Craig towers above him by an entire three inches, according to that same website. Craig is no runt but he’s definitely the shortest Bond in a series cast with tall actors.

(Historical note: Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon Productions, had his early successes as a producer after he and his then-partner Irving Allen signed 5-foot-6 1/4 Alan Ladd as a star.)

The M:I news hardly means the end of Bond. And nobody is seriously making that argument.

At the same time, M:I has been showing more energy (perhaps because of the aforementioned ticking clock). On the Bond side? It star, Craig, and lead producer, Barbara Broccoli, wanted to do other things after SPECTRE. “Everybody’s a bit tired,” Craig said during a 2016 appearance.

As I said at the beginning: The importance of all this is fuzzy. M:I will do what it has to do (with the “teeny man” having a BIG say). The Bond series will do what it wants to do. Unlike other franchises, Bond is not totally controlled by a studio and the one studio involved (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) a weak industry player.

McQuarrie to direct 2 M:I films back to back, Variety says

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Christopher McQuarrie has agreed to direct two more Mission: Impossible movies for Paramount, Variety reported and film them back to back,  citing people familiar with the situation it didn’t identify.

McQuarrie wrote and directed the last two installments in the Tom Cruise series, 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossibl-Fallout. Both were hits, with the latter addressing loose ends from previous M:I adventures.

The decision to film two films at once, with McQuarrie again writing and directing is  “to take advantage of the popularity of the series,” wrote Variety’s Justin Kroll. The first would be out in 2021, the second the following year, Variety said.

Cruise, who turns 57 in July, also is committed to the two movies, according to Variety.

In 2012, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced John Logan had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. The announcement occurred after the release of Skyfall, the first 007 film to generate $1 billion in global box office.

Star Daniel Craig vetoed the idea of making two Bond films back to back. Bond 24, later titled SPECTRE, came out in the fall of 2015. Bond 25 is scheduled to be released in February 2020.

Other franchises, though, have done back to back productions. Marvel Studios took that approach with Avengers: Infinity War, released in 2018, and Avengers: Endgame, scheduled for release this spring.

UPDATE Jan. 15: Both McQuarrie and Cruise confirmed the news on social media.

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The Spy Command marks its 10th anniversary

Today marks the 10th anniversary of The Spy Command.

It has been a long journey. Initially, the blog was a spinoff of a website (Her Majesty’s Secret Servant) that’s no longer online.

It took a few months for the blog to find its own voice, its own point of view.

Yet it did. The blog’s main reason for being has been to apply some journalistic principles to a fan endeavor.

The blog is a hobby. But it also keeps track of what has been said and revisits whether that’s occurred.

Some James Bond fans don’t like that. They want to celebrate all things 007. If there have been inconsistencies, they don’t care.

That’s fine. There are plenty of sites on the internet.

But here, the basic idea is to keep track of what is happening now while providing context of how it compares with the past.

One example: What really happened with the script of Quantum of Solace? which examined various contradictory accounts of how the 22nd James Bond film came together.

In hindsight, a better title would have been “Whatever happened to Joshua Zetumer?”

Zetumer was the scribe who was doing rewrites during filming. His contributions were noted in stories published while the movie was in production. Examples include a story on the Rotten Tomatoes website as well as pieces on the MI6 James Bond website and the Commander Bond website.

However, Zetumer’s is a forgotten man these days. That’s because of  later stories quoting Daniel Craig how he and Quantum director Marc Forster rewrote the movie during production. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend, I suppose.

Another example: A 2015 post, A SPECTRE reality check, noted how, in 2012, Eon said the SPECTRE organization was passe and that Quantum was much better than SPECTRE in the 21st century. All that changed, of course, once the rights to SPECTRE were secured from the Kevin McClory estate in 2013.

Finally, more recently, the blog documented (so far) the writing process of Bond 25 complete with various contradictions.

Paul Baack (1957-2017) and the Spy Commander in 2013.

Origins

The blog was the idea of Paul Baack (1957-2017), one of the co-founders of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant. He wanted HMSS to have a presence in between issues of the “e-magazine,” which specialized in producing magazine-length stories on James Bond and related topics.

Paul informed HMSS contributors about the blog and said it was all of theirs.

I was the one who took him up on it.

Initially, I was skeptical. But, after a few posts, I got hooked. It was an outlet that quickly became one of my main hobbies.

Over time, I took it over. By 2009, I was the primary contributor. By 2011, the blog established its own voice separate from HMSS. By 2014, the blog was totally on its own after HMSS went offline. On Feb. 8, 2015, the blog took the new name, The Spy Command.

So much different. Yet so much the same.

Since its debut, there have been three James Bond films released (Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and SPECTRE); three Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible films; and a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (which I long thought would never happen).

Blog Highlights

The blog tries on occasion to get into the business side of the entertainment industry. One of my personal favorite series of posts was a three-part series about the involvement of Film Finances Inc. with Dr. No.

Film Finances supplies “completion” bonds to ensure movies can finish production. The company ended up taking control of Dr. No during post production.

It’s an episode that hasn’t been written much outside of a book Film Finances published about its work with Dr. No, which reproduced many documents. One example was a memo showing Dr. No fell a half-day behind schedule on its first day.

Photocopy of the title page of Richard Maibaum’s 1961 draft of Thunderball

Some other personal favorite posts include those about scripts for Bond movies. In some cases, like this 2015 post about You Only Live Twice, dealt with drafts similar to the final film with a few significant differences. Others, like this 2017 post about a Bond 17 treatment dealt with stories that never saw the light of day.

Perhaps the most enjoyable was an examination of three Thunderball scripts, including Jack Whittingham’s first draft in 1960 and Richard Maibaum’s first try in 1961.

On this 10th anniversary, my thoughts keep going back to Paul Baack, who died last year. Last month was what would have been his 61st birthday. He gave me the chance to contribute. After I had taken over, he always provided encouragement.

If there is an after life, I hope Paul is pleased with the result.

I’d also like to thank, one more time, J. Kingston Pierce’s Rap Sheet blog. The Rap Sheet had some kind words in 2009 about a series this blog did about Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary. That, and other feedback, indicated there was interest in what this blog was doing.

Finally, two replies to posts were particularly satisfying.

In 2013, the blog had a post about how the current Hawaii Five-0 series was remaking an episode of the original series titled Hookman. The post noted how a CBS press release left off the names of the original writers, Glen Olson and Rod Baker. The post raised the question whether they’d get a credit.

Baker wrote a reply. “Thank you for pointing out that Glen Olson’s name and my name were left out of the CBS press release as the writers of the original Hawaii Five-0 ‘Hookman’ episode.. The Writer’s Guild contacted CBS today and that omission was corrected immediately.”

In July, the blog wrote about Adrian Samish, who had been an ABC executive and later one of producer Quinn Martin’s key lieutenants. It’s part of a series dubbed “unsung figures of television.”

The post got this reply: “There are two sides to every story… I am Adrian Samish’s granddaughter and it’s been nice to read some kinder comments about him, especially since he isn’t here to defend himself or tell his side of the story. Thank you for writing this.”

Well, enough sentiment. Bond 25 and other spy entertainment topics are present to be analyzed and written about.

What next for Henry Cavill?

“We want that cape back!” “Mr. Warner” said.

Henry Cavill may be turning in his Superman cape after “Mr. Warner” (Warner Bros.) decided to go in a new direction for its movies based on DC Comics characters. At least The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Cavill is out. Neither side confirmed the development to the entertainment news outlet.

Cavill, 35, played Superman in three movies, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. When not portraying the hero, Cavill has moonlighted playing spies: Napoleon Solo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Tom Cruise’s adversary in Mission: Impossible-Fallout. And, of course, he’s a perennial name in the “Who Will Be the Next James Bond?” sweepstakes. He screen tested for Bond in his 20s for Casino Royale.

Assuming THR is correct, what’s next for the Britis actor who often plays Americans? He’s part of a Netflix project, The Witcher. But does he have prospects for other franchises?

Warner Bros. perhaps hoped U.N.C.L.E. might become a franchise. Cavill stepped into the Solo role when Tom Cruise took a pass to concentrate instead on 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation.

That M:I film opened just two weeks before U.N.C.L.E. and was a major factor in the latter under-performing at the box office. There’s occasional chatter about doing an U.N.C.L.E. sequel despite that. Still, that would seem a long shot.

Based on the ending of Mission: Impossible-Fallout, it would seem a Cavill appearance in a seventh M:I film is unlikely. Which brings up to the inevitable Bond discussion.

Despite the fact there’s no vacancy (Daniel Craig is to star in Bond 25), the British press loves to pose the question of future Bond possibilities. And British bookies love to take bets, generating still more publicity.

Anecdotally, I’ve encountered people who love Cavill and others who decry him as a block of wood. Regardless, given the current pace of 007 film production, who knows when Cavill would even have a chance?

That’s show business, I guess.

UPDATE (12:45 p.m. New York time): Cavill’s agent says not so fast.

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UPDATE II (1:05 p.m. New York time): The io9 Gizmodo site received the Warner Bros. statement about Cavil. “While no decisions have been made regarding any upcoming Superman films, we’ve always had great respect for and a great relationship with Henry Cavill, and that remains unchanged.”

Doesn’t appear to say a whole lot.