A letter to 007 fans: Chill

Original James Bond film gunbarrel

To: James Bond fans
From: The Spy Command

Take it’s easy. Relax.

The 25th entry in the Eon 007 film series is being filmed. But, viewing various comments on social media, a number of fans seem to be uptight.

What follows is a summary of Bond social media comments.

There is a serious movement to trash Bond 25 before it’s released.

As the blog has noted, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. and U.S. tabloids have run critical articles. That’s interesting, but keep this in mind: THEY ARE TABLOIDS. They traffic in sensationalism. They always have, they always will. Don’t get too worried about it.

Why are people criticizing Daniel Craig?

The last time Bond fans were, more or less unified behind a Bond actor was Sean Connery in the 1960s.

George Lazenby? Some fans argued he was too stiff, too raw.

Roger Moore? Too lightweight! (This sentiment was particularly concentrated in the U.S. where some fans looked at old Moore publicity stills from the 1950s and said he wasn’t manly enough.) Not worthy of the role that Connery originated!

Timothy Dalton? Some fans thought he was too theatrical.

Pierce Brosnan? He was trying to split the difference between Connery and Moore and not being his own man.

It goes with the territory. If you like Craig’s interpretation of Bond, just let it go. You’re going to get a fifth movie and who knows? He may still come back for Bond 26.

“You’ll be sorry — you rats!” 

Some James Bonds don’t have much of a sense of humor. When they see other fans kid around, they say things like those other fans will be sorry when Bond 25 turns out to be the best Bond film in years!

Well, when Bond films come out every four or five years, that’s not a huge accomplishment. Of course, it’ll be the best Bond film in years

If you want to be a smart alec, at that pace, a new entry is guaranteed to be the worst Bond film in years. The blog prefers to take a realistic approach overall.

If you’re a true Bond fan, you shouldn’t criticize the movie!

The blog’s general rule is you shouldn’t criticize something before it comes out. So, yes, you shouldn’t say Bond 25 sucks before, well, there’s a Bond 25 to view.

At the same time, Bond 25 has had more than its share of odd developments. There have been various delays, including a director (Danny Boyle) coming aboard and then departing. Those are all legitimate topics of fan conversation.

A final cautionary note

The Bond franchise has a history of tense moments. Dr. No was a troubled production. So was From Russia With Love. The Spy Who Loved Me. Tomorrow Never Dies.

In the end, all of those films turned out well.

Yet, you can never assume success. The Flying Wallendas were a spectacular high-wire act. But some of their members died when things went wrong despite numerous successful performances.

Bond 25, of course, is just a movie. But success is never guaranteed, no matter how long the winning streak is.

To sum up: Don’t get bent out of shape about tabloid articles. Relax while filming progresses. Still, keep everything in mind. Just keep it in the proper perspective.

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 questions: Miscellaneous edition

Denis Villeneuve, one-time contender to direct Bond 25

We (apparently) are on the cusp of Bond 25 production getting underway. Before that happens, the blog has a couple of questions (for entertainment purposes only).

Did anybody think Dune would start production before Bond 25? 

You may recall that director Denis Villeneuve said in November 2017 he’d been asked to direct Bond 25 but took a pass because he wanted to direct a new film version of Dune.

Dune was seen as a difficult, ambitious project and one that might take a long time to get going — if it could get started at all.

However, it got underway last week. See stories from UPI and Screen Rant for details. The film’s cast includes the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin among others.

Dune has a Nov. 20, 2020 release date, or more than seven months after Bond 25’s April 8, 2020 release date.

Speaking of Bond 25, what’s the state of its script? 

Scott Z. Burns was brought in to rework Bond 25’s script, The Playlist reported last month. He was scheduled to work four weeks.

After roughly four weeks, Burns wrapped up work, the same outlet said last week.

Easy peasy, right?

Not so fast. The more recent Playlist story also talked about cast members such as Ralph Fiennes saying they haven’t seen any script pages.

The writer, Rodrigo Perez, said “the screenplay seems to be a work in progress, and isn’t complete yet enough for producers to circulate it to the cast, despite being just weeks away from filming.” (emphasis added)

“Seems” is a long way from “knowing.” Still, that passage didn’t go unnoticed among 007 fans.

I suppose it should be remembered that Eon Production has always been loosey goosey when it comes to Bond scripts. Two extreme cases:

–Richard Maibaum was still at work during filming of From Russia With Love in 1963. It was after the start of filming that he got the idea of showing Red Grant shadow Bond in Istanbul. That was a move that caused the story to come into focus, according to the documentary Inside From Russia With Love.

–Bruce Feirstein was reworking Tomorrow Never Dies script during filming. He wrote the first draft, others had a go at it and then Feirstein was brought back. Supposedly, Feirstein was writing scenes shortly before they would be filmed.

UPDATE: A recap of Bond 25’s writing process

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

Updated and expanded from a September 2018 post.

In September, outlets (starting with Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail) reported that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have resumed work on Bond 25. But things still remain a bit in flux.

With that in mind, here’s a recap of how we got to this point.

March 2017: Bamigboye reports Purvis and Wade have been hired to write Bond 25.

July 2017: The hiring of Purvis and Wade is confirmed in an Eon Productions press release that announces a fall 2019 release date for Bond 25.

December 2017: Barbara Broccoli, in a podcast for The Hollywood Reporter says Purvis and Wade are still hard at work on Bond 25’s story.

February 2018: Deadline: Hollywood reports that Danny Boyle, under consideration to direct Bond 25, devised an idea with writer John Hodge. According to the entertainment news site, Hodge was writing up a script based on that idea. If the script would be accepted, then Boyle will direct.

March 2018: Boyle essentially confirms the Deadline story during a public appearance.

May 25, 2018: Eon announces that Boyle will direct Bond 25, which will have an “original screenplay” by John Hodge.

Aug. 21, 2018: Eon announces Boyle has left Bond 25. Hodge isn’t mentioned but the writer later confirms he, too, is no longer involved.

Sept. 6, 2018: The MI6 James Bond website publishes a story that a Hodge script “was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.” and it is “now being touched up again with changes being made to reflect the wishes of the producers and Daniel Craig.” (emphasis added) This is a new twist, given how the May 25 press release didn’t mention Purvis and Wade.

Sept. 13, 2018: Bamigboye reports that Purvis and Wade have been re-hired to work on Bond 25. The story says a Purvis and Wade treatment had been approved by Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before Boyle and Hodge arrived. A treatment is like a detailed outline. It is not the same as a script draft with its dialogue and stage directions. Anyway, Bamigboye’s story is confirmed by Variety and Deadline: Hollywood. Like Bamigboye, those outlets say Purvis and Wade are turning their previous treatment into a full script.

As 2018 draws to a close, there are contradictions.  Is it possible that Hodge was working from the Purvis and Wade treatment and not a script draft? There are no clear answers.

Jan. 1, 2019: The Geeks Wordwide website publishes a story that American screenwriter-director Paul Haggis has contributed to Bond 25’s screenplay.

Haggis did the final drafts of 2006’s Casino Royale. He shared the screenplay credit with Purvis and Wade. The news excites some 007 film fans. Perhaps another Casino Royale is in the offing. Haggis also was a screenwriter for 2008’s Quantum of Solace (where the credit was also shared with Purvis and Wade).

Feb. 16, 2019: The Playlist carries a story saying that American screenwriter Scott Z. Burns has been hired to do an “overhaul” for Bond 25 and he’ll be spending a total of at least four weeks and be well paid. According to this story, Haggis’ work either didn’t register or was dispensed with.

Regardless, we’re now up to at least five writers who’ve been reported to be involved in the writing — Purvis, Wade, Hodges, Haggis and Burns.

That’s hardly a record for a Bond film. The Spy Who Loved Me had around a dozen scribes, with two (Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum) getting a credit and the rest not.

Both Moonraker (Christopher Wood) and Tomorrow Never Dies (Bruce Feirstein) had only one credited screenwriter while numerous others did some work.

There are many unanswered questions. Is any of Hodges’ work being used, or was that pitched when Boyle left? Also, what does “overhaul” mean? Four weeks doesn’t seem like sufficient time to devise a completely new story, though it may mean significant changes for the existing Bond 25 script.

We’ll see what happens.

007-related obits of note

Nicholas Roeg’s title card for the 1967 Casino Royale

There were a couple of obituaries over the weekend of accomplished professionals with ties to James Bond.

The first was the film director Nicolas Roeg. The New York Times’ obit cited how he directed The Man Who Fell to Earth. The Guardian’s obit prominently referenced him directing Don’t Look Now.

Years before, Roeg was credited with “additional photography” for 1967’s Casino Royale, Charles K. Feldman’s expensive spoof of the 1960s spy genre For Roeg, Casino Royale was a footnote. The primary director of photography was Jack Hildyard, a distinguished cinematographer.

The other 007-related obit of note was Ricky Jay, who played a secondary villain in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies.

Jay was a big deal before he entered the film world of 007. The New Yorker magazine published a detailed 1993 feature story about Jay. One short passage described how Jay mastered being a magician.

Michael Weber, a fellow-magician and close friend, has said, “Basically, Ricky remembers nothing that happened after 1900.”

One of Jay’s best scenes was cut from the final version. The official Eon Production 007 feed on Twitter included it.

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‘Hunt’ for Bond Revisited: More M:I Connections to 007

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

By the by, there are spoilers if you haven’t seen Mission: Impossible-Fallout. For that matter, there are spoilers if you’ve never seen the 007 films cited.

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has returned in Mission: Impossible – Fallout while 007’s next film is scheduled for a 2019 release.

Taking advantage of  Bond’s absence in theaters, many reviewers said Hunt has taken the place of Bond and criticized 2015’s SPECTRE.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation adapted Bond-like settings and scenes in the story. But  Mission: Impossible – Fallout is even more Bond inspired. It has, the escapist tone of the days of Pierce Brosnan, just with a little more grit.

Tom Cruise and director-screenwriter Christopher MacQuarrie redoubled their efforts and made a more spectacular film than its predecessors. The last two M:I films are similar to how Thunderball and You Only Live Twice compared with the three first Eon 007 movies, Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger.

In M:I-Fallout, Hunt again faces off against Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who — like Blofeld’s SPECTRE — is the author of his pain. Lane was the main antagonist of M:I – Rogue Nation.

‘The Girl or the Mission’

The film’s starts in Berlin, where Hunt and Benji (Simon Pegg) pose as buyers of three atomic warheads. Their cover is blown and Luther (Ving Rhames) is captured. Hunt makes a risky decision: to save his friend. That leaves the case with the plutonium unattended and stolen.

This is similar to GoldenEye, where Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) asks Bond to choose between “the girl or the mission” while General Ourumov (Gottfried John) held Natalya (Izabella Scorupco) at gunpoint. Finally, Bond saved Natalya by gunning the Russian general down.

It’s also similar to Skyfall. M orders Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to shoot Patrice (who stole a hard drive with data of infiltrated agents). Hunt makes a “judgment call” by shooting Luther to distract the man holding him at gunpoint and save his life. The “fallout” of M’s and Hunt’s action determines the principal threat of both films.

Also in the Berlin scene. we have another familiar Bond meme: a remote controlled car, a function available in the cars driven by Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day.

HALO Jump

Coming next a HALO jump as featured in Tomorrow Never Dies. Although this time, it’s a much riskier scene when Hunt and his teammate August Walker (Henry Cavill) face a storm during the operation and Walker is hit by lightning, losing consciousness.

In a similar situation to Moonraker and Quantum of Solace, Hunt has to do a little skydiving to reach Walker, reconnect his oxygen and deploy Walker’s parachute, as well as his own.

Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) returns and saves Hunt’s life after a cruel bathroom fight with one John Lark, the man he had to impersonate, warning him not to complete his mission of meeting the “White Widow” (Vanessa Kirby) to exchange the missing plutonium.

They walk across a mirrored and red-lighted room that reminds us to Die Another Day’s Álvarez Clinic in Cuba. Ilsa tells him that he’ll be a dead man if he meets the woman because Lark has a contract on him. It’s known he’s meeting the White Widow that night, so they’ll kill him on sight. In a similar context in which Bond met Severine in Skyfall, both heroes manage to beat all the assailants and escape alive.

In exchange of the plutonium spheres, the White Widow and her accomplices want Solomon Lane, who’s been transferred to a prison to another in France. Hunt forgoes the originally conceived plan (which dealt with killing every witness) and pushes the prison van into the Seine, having Luther and Benji extract Lane trough the water, the same method in which Franz Sánchez escaped in 1989’s Licence to Kill.

The breakout of Lane pits the French police against Hunt and a chase ensues through the streets of Paris, on motorbike and then on a small BMW, as he is chased by Ilsa who has been given orders from MI6 to terminate Lane.

Not only there’s a particular shot as the BMW makes a backwards spin above some steps which is very reminiscent to A View to A Kill, where Bond (Roger Moore) chased a parachuting May Day (Grace Jones) in a Renault 14, but we have Ilsa trying to do the job of any 00 agent: terminate someone who is a threat for national security.

Mole Revealed

Hunt and his team –- and the captive Lane — reunite with IMF Secretary Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) in a safe house, much as Bond did at the beginning of Quantum of Solace with Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) in Siena.

Stunt teased by Tom Cruise on Instagram earlier this year.

Walker is revealed as a mole and a shootout ensues, breaking Lane free again. As a result of this confrontation, Hunley is badly hurt by Walker and dies showing his trust to Hunt, much like M at the end of Skyfall.

Just like in the 23rd Bond movie, in pursuit of Walker, Hunt also holds from a scaffold in the bottom of the elevator his enemy is taking, as Bond did in Shanghai when chasing Patrice.

The film’s climax takes place in Kashmir, where Lane and Walker attempt to detonate a nuclear bomb using the plutonium spheres that have fallen into their hands. Ilsa and Benji fight Lane, Hunt goes for Walker.

A long helicopter chase ensues and that includes a few references to SPECTRE’s helicopter fight in Mexico, with Bond fighting Marco Sciarra and the pilot, pushing them away and taking control of the vehicle.

Just like Blofeld at the end of the same film, Hunt and Walker both survive the helicopter crash.

Showdown

This takes us to the final showdown between Hunt and Walker atop the cliff of a mountain, as the remains of the one of the helicopter’s cockpit hang loosely of a wire.

A shot of ice caps falling close to both men looks greatly inspired by Die Another Day, in the scene where a clinging Bond faced the power of the Icarus satellite beam in Iceland.

While this scene overall may be reminiscent of the confrontation between Hunt and rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) in Mission: Impossible II, but there are some links to the antenna fight between 007 and Trevelyan in GoldenEye.

In the beginning of 1995 film, Trevelyan gets half of his face burned by a chemical explosion in Arkhangelsk. In a similar way, Walker gets an acid fluid from the helicopter straight into his face, leaving him badly scarred side. At the end of GoldenEye, Bond and his former friend fight in a small platform at high altitude as both attempt to make each other fall to the vacuum.

A clapperboard from Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Finally, Bond lets Trevelyan fall and the villain, agonizing, is finally terminated when the whole antenna structure crushes him. In Walker’s case, as he’s about to get Hunt, the IMF agent forces the wire over him and the hook gets impaled into his face, making him fall to his death.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is, of all the M:I movies, the closest to a James Bond film. While some people may feel offended for the way they ripped the Bond archive in more than a way this time, I’ll recognize the great taste Mr. Cruise has and the respect he had for 007’s legacy during his interviews promoting the movie.