Tomorrow Never Dies’s 20th: Jigsaw puzzle

Tomorrow Never Dies poster

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Tomorrow Never Dies, a jigsaw puzzle of a production.

Just when the pieces seemed to be coming together one way, they had to be disassembled and put together another.

That condition certainly applied to the script. Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli initially employed Donald E. Westlake. That effort was dropped.

Next up, Bruce Feirstein, who had penned the later drafts of GoldenEye, started a new story line. Other scribes worked on the project before Feirstein returned, doing rewrites on the fly while filming was underway.

Locations ended up being a puzzle as well. Much of the story was set in Vietnam. But the Asian country abruptly revoked permission to film there. The Eon Productions crew had to quickly go to Thailand as a substitute.

The score from composer David Arnold would also be a jigsaw puzzle. The newcomer scored the movie in thirds. (He explained the process in detail in an audio interview with journalist Jon Burlingame that was released on a later expanded soundtrack release.) There would be next to no time for normal post-production work.

Principal photography didn’t begin until April 1, 1997, and production would extend into early September for a movie slated to open just before Christmas.

It was star Pierce Brosnan’s second turn as 007. In the documentary Everything or Nothing, he said his Bond films other than GoldenEye were all a blur. That blur began with this production.

Also, during the film’s buildup, the publicity machine emphasized how Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin, a Chinese agent, was Bond’s equal. This wasn’t exactly a new development. Barbara Bach’s Agent Triple-X in The Spy Who Loved Me was “his equal in every way,” according to that movie’s director, Lewis Gilbert. Nor would Tomorrow Never Dies be the last time “Bond’s equal” would come up in marketing.

In some ways, Tomorrow Never Dies was the end of an era.

It was the last opportunity to have John Barry return to score a Bond film. He declined when told he wouldn’t be permitted to write the title song. That opened up the door for Arnold, who’d score the next four 007 movies.

This would also be the final time a Bond movie was released under the United Artists banner. UA was a division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1997. Two years later, MGM decided to release The World is Not Enough under its own name.

The movie, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, generated global box office of $339.5 million. That was lower than GoldenEye’s $356.4 million. Still, it was more than ample to keep the series, and its Brosnan era, going.

Murder on Relationships: The story between Paris and Bond

Publicity still from Tomorrow Never Dies

Publicity still from Tomorrow Never Dies

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Hidden among the pyrotechnics in Tomorrow Never Dies, there’s a character that has a particularity among the female leads in the James Bond saga. It’s Paris Carver, one of the leading ladies from the film that will celebrates its 20th anniversary later this year.

Paris had a past with Bond — a past that involved love. It that started as a flame, was interrupted for some years, and reignited when M sent her spy to a party in Hamburg to investigate Paris’ husband, media tycoon Eliott Carver, a prime suspect on the sinking of a British vessel.

Bond doubts she’ll remember him, in the world of fame and luxury she adopted thanks to her husband. “Remind her,” M (Judi Dench) responds. “Pump her for information.”

Teri Hatcher, the Californian actress picked for the role (then popular for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) summarized her character a bit: “She has to make a choice: be loyal to her cruel and unscrupulous husband, or help her former lover. Her decision is an integral part of the movie.”

First Draft

In Bruce Feirstein’s original draft, Paris Harmsway (her surname would change to Carver) was a former interest for Bond. There were no explanations. For some reason she left him and he felt very hurt for that, to the point he slaps her as she tries to tell him, “I love you.” Her development and fate is pretty similar to the one in the finished film.

Feirstein molded Paris in the shape of a typical socialite who marries a rich and powerful man, but what could been a new variation of Andrea Anders or Lupe Lamora (from The Man With The Golden Gun and Licence to Kill) had a different twist. This girl knew –and loved– him in the past, a relationship of mutual caring. In the final film, it was Bond who left her because she was getting “too close for comfort”.

Raymond Benson’s novelization sums up her background a bit, coinciding with the screenwriter idea: Her name was Paris McKenna, she was interested in modelling and only went to university to please her parents. She met Bond in a party seven years prior to the events of Tomorrow Never Dies. Both were fascinated for each other and dated for two months (a “stormy relationship,” in Benson’s words). When the romance was at its height, he disappeared without notice.

Apparently, a model surrounded by paparazzi and cameras was incompatible with Ian Fleming’s description of James Bond as “the man who was only a silhouette” (from the end of Moonraker).

Paris then met Elliot Carver. She was attracted by his histrionic personality, his power and for being “handsome in a way.” She married him three months later and dished away her desire of being a model. It is very much implied she lived into the shadow of his husband, becoming a possession of him and not necessarily happy with it, although not daring to confront him.

Jonathan Pryce as media baron Carver

Jonathan Pryce as media baron Carver

Reunion

Things would change – drastically – when Bond and Paris meet again.

During Carver’s party in Hamburg, Bond poses as a banker. Donning his impeccable midnight blue Brioni tuxedo, he approaches her, standing alone in a balcony, dressed in a sensual Ocimar Versolato black dress.

The sighting of Paris alone while Carver was funnily talking about how he overhyped the Mad Cow disease as a beef industrialist refused to pay him a poker game winning shows a certain distance, a hatred feeling on his husband life and soul of the party antics.

“I always wondered how I’d feel if I ever saw you again,” he teels her.

The female pride incarnates in Paris’ body and she soundly slaps Bond for leaving him. She pretends to be much better now, and warns Bond that he’ll be in trouble if he tries to run down the “Emperor of the Air.” As much as Bond is playing the cover of a banker, Paris is playing another cover: Masquerading into the “I’m OK” attitude of the socialite who marries a powerful man.

Not much later, 007 will be discovered by and then subdue some Carver thugs. Bond cuts Carver (Jonathan Pryce) off the air during the inaugural speech in the process.

Later, Paris seeks out Bond. The situation would end in one of the most believable love moments in the franchise: Throwing her “happy mannequin wife” cover away, Paris reveals she has missed him ever since, wondering if she came to close for him. They share a passionate and romantic kiss, in a moment that distillates equal measures of erotism and genuine love from the duo.

Love Returns

Their long lost love comes back in that instant. She betrays her husband and informs Bond of the entrance of Carver’s pressroom. Before leaving, she says: “This job of yours, its murder for relationships,” highlighting the key reason they previously split up.

After much mayhem at the Carver facility, Bond returns his hotel room. The agent finds Paris lying dead on his bed. He kisses her lifeless body. We see a hint of guilt and sadness in Pierce Brosnan’s eyes in a brilliant portrayal of 007.

Paris Carver is one of the most drama charged relationship Bond has had.

Interestingly, Sheryl Crow’s title song seems to be a requiem for Paris, talking from the point of a “killed” woman describing Bond’s lifestyle as “murder on our love affair.”

About that ‘Chairman Mao’ 007 villain wardrobe

UPDATE: @SuperThunderFan on Twitter reminds us that Dr. No had a similar look in the movie of the same name, not to mention Bond himself (of course, those were borrowed clothes) as well as Kamal Khan in Octopussy.

ORIGINAL POST: Is it asking too much for a little variety? Let’s consider, the “Chairman Mao” look appears to have originated with the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.

The “dramatic reveal” (such as it is) is that Jimmy Bond (Woody Allen), the nephew of James Bond (David Niven), is the villain.

woody-allen-casino-royale-1967

Just a few months later, You Only Live Twice, the fifth 007 film produced by Eon Productions, debuted. It’s the first time we see Blofeld on screen. In his previous appearances (in From Russia With Love and Thunderball), Blofeld wore a suit. But not for this big reveal in the person of Donald Pleasence.

blofeld-yolt

This look for Blofeld would continue for the next two Eon films, including Charles Gray as Blofeld in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.

blofeldsmiles

Diamonds would be the final appearance by Blofeld in an Eon movie for a while. But, in 1973’s Live And Let Die, “Wardrobe by Blofeld” continued in the person of Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto). And he had *nothing* to do with SPECTRE.

lald-yahphet-kotto

A couple of movies later, Bond did battle with rich/crazy guy Karl Stromberg and…oh, for crying out loud, couldn’t he afford his own wardrobe?

stromberg-tswlm

Well, The Spy Who Loved Me was a huge hit. Producer Albert R. Broccoli was ensured the resources for an even bigger hit with 1979’s Moonraker — except for a new wardrobe for his villain, embodied by Michael Londale’s Drax.

moonraker-drax

We’ll skip ahead many years (leaving aside the question about whether that guy in the pre-credits sequence of For Your Eyes Only was Blofeld or not). It’s now 1997. It’s a new era.

So in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies….oh, for crying out loud! Apparently, Jonathan Pryce’s villainous media baron is cheap when it comes to clothes!

tomorrow-never-dies-villain

OK, let’s go further forward to the 21st century. The franchise has been rebooted. Oh, there’s a new version of Blofeld? Almost certainly, there’s no way they’d copy that campy, goofy 1960s version. Right? Maybe not.

blofeld-waltz

If the producers need a Blofeld for Bond 25, and Christoph Waltz is unavailable, they should perhaps consider one of the performers in this video. Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis Jr. are no longer with us. But Regis Philbin is still going strong.

SEQUEL: 007 movies listed by number of tickets sold

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image

Last year, this blog published a post about how the last eight James Bond movies performed in number of tickets sold in the U.S. and Canada, 1995 to present.

Since that post ran, we now have the final figures for SPECTRE. No major changes in the conclusion. Bond movies  during this period — featuring two different Bond actors, Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan — sold between 23 million and 27 million tickets each.

The one exception was Skyfall with Craig, which was much higher.

Here’s the information again, with one change. Before, we listed the movies sequentially. Here, they’re listed highest to lowest, along with the average ticket price during the year of release. The information is from the BOX OFFICE MOJO website.

Skyfall (2012): 37,842,000/average ticket price $7.96

Die Another Day (2002): 27,584,000/$5.81

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): 26,911,200/$4.59

Casino Royale (2006): 25,428,700/$6.55

The World Is Not Enough (1999): 24,853,800/$5.08

GoldenEye (1995): 24,403,900/$4.35

Quantum of Solace (2008): 23,449,600/$7.18

SPECTRE (2015): 23,001,900/$8.43

 

‘Jane Bond’ shows interest in women spies

Salt poster

Salt poster

This week’s buzz about whether actress Gillian Anderson should play a female version of James Bond caused a lot of fans to complain about click bait and political correctness.

But the media attention concerning “Jane Bond” may show something else — continuing interest in women spies.

There have been attempts at a woman spy movie series. Eon Productions, maker of the 007 films, tried to develop a spinoff movie featuring Halle Berry’s Jinx character from Die Another Day. But in the end, no movie occurred.

In 2010, Angelina Jolie starred in Salt, which had worldwide box office of $293.5 million. The film had an ending that left things open for a sequel but none has taken place. Sony Pictures is developing a television series version, Screen Daily said in February.

In 2015, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. included Alicia Vikander as a British spy, Gaby Teller, who wasn’t a character in the original 1964-68 television series.

Thus, Solo and Illya became Solo, Illya and Gaby. Vikander got good reviews, but the movie limped home with worldwide box office of $109.9 million, pretty much killing any chance of a sequel.

On the other hand, Jennifer Garner’s Alias television series ran more than 100 episodes from 2001-2006.

In the 007 films, women spies have been a major part of the proceedings for decades.

Bond has allied himself with women agents from the Soviet Union (The Spy Who Loved Me), United States (Moonraker), China (Tomorrow Never Dies) the U.S. again (Die Another Day) and Bolivia (Quantum of Solace) . 2012’s Skyfall provided a new take on Moneypenny, in which the Naomie Harris version is initially an MI6 agent.

In these risk-adverse days, studios may want to check out properties such as the comic strip Modesty Blaise, the subject of a 1966 movie.

Anyway, we were reminded by reader Stuart Basinger that back when the film rights to Casino Royale were first acquired (years before Eon Productions was formed), producer-director Gregory Ratoff wanted to change James Bond into a woman. Ratoff wanted to cast Susan Hayward in the role. Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. worked on the project and described it in a 2012 article in Variety.

What prompted this post was a comment from a reader, @CinemaOnFire on Twitter. So, as a shoutout, we present that tweet:

UPDATE (May 25): Alyssa Rosenberg, a pop culture blogger for The Washington Post, has weighed in with an essay titled “No, a woman shouldn’t play James Bond.”  Here’s an excerpt:

If our goal is for Hollywood to create action-oriented jobs for women that will be available for decades to come, then we need franchises that are built around women. We need roles like Bond’s, or Jack Ryan’s, or Captain Kirk’s that are designed to be occupied by a rotating series of women. Borrowing Bond’s tux might be a fun fantasy. But real power means a role we don’t have to give back to the men.

007 movies listed by number of tickets sold, 1995-present

Skyfall teaser poster

Skyfall teaser poster

The BOX OFFICE MOJO website has tools that let you look beyond unadjusted movie box office. You can also, for example, get a listing (for the U.S. and Canada, at least) of the estimated number of tickets sold.

There are various formulas for adjusting box office figures for inflation. But tickets sold is basic. So we decided to take a look back at the number of tickets sold for the eight 007 films of the past 20 years. Home video was firmly established, as opposed to the early years of the Bond series, where it didn’t exist and movies could get re-released.

Using this measure, 2012’s Skyfall, by far, sold the most tickets among 007 films in the region. After that, there’s less difference that the unadjusted box office figures might suggest.

What follows is each movie’s total U.S.-Canada tickets sold, with the number in parenthesis the number for its opening weekend. The average ticket price for each year is also listed. The total figure for SPECTRE is through Nov. 23.

GoldenEye (1995): 24,403,900 (6,024,100); average ticket price, $4.35

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): 26,911,200 (5,477,800); average ticket price, $4.59

The World Is Not Enough (1999): 24,853,800 (6,991,900); average ticket price, $5.08

Die Another Day (2002): 27,584,000 (8,101,900); average ticket price, $5.81

Casino Royale (2006): 25,428,700 (6,234,100); average ticket price, $6.55

Quantum of Solace (2008): 23,449,600 (9,405,100); average ticket price, $7.18

Skyfall (2012): 37,842,000 (10,977,000); average ticket price, $7.96

SPECTRE (2015): 18,085,500, through Nov. 23, (8,176,900); average ticket price, $8.34. UPDATED FIGURE: 22,996,5000 through March 27, 2016.

UPDATE: Out of curiosity, we went back to the earliest days of the series. Remember, these movies had re-releases, in some cases several re-releases. But in the cases of Goldfinger and Thunderball, you get an idea that Bond was a *very* big thing in the U.S. in the mid-1960s. Also, there was a big decline, relatively speaking, when You Only Live Twice came out. At the same time, Twice sold almost as many tickets in the U.S. and Canada as Skyfall did. Anyway, here’s a sampling:

Thunderball (1965): 74,800,000 (no opening weekend figure available)

Goldfinger (1964): 66,300,000

You Only Live Twice (1967): 35,904,000

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): 16,038,400

Diamonds Are Forever (1971): 26,557,300

Live And Let Die (1973): 19,987,500

Moonraker (1979): 28,011,200 (2,832,000 opening weekend)

Octopussy (1983): 21,553,500 (2,826,200)

Licence to Kill (1989): 8,732, 200 (2,210,300)

UPDATE II: To give that Thunderball figure some perspective, the top box office movie in the U.S. and Canada so far this year has been Jurassic World. It sold about 79 million tickets, according to Box Office Mojo. While comparisons that far apart are dicey, it’s fair to say Thunderball was in the same general league in its day. But before Bond fans brag too much, The Sound of Music (released the same year as Thunderball and also re-released several times), sold more than 142 million tickets.

MI6 Confidential looks at SPECTRE, Donald E. Westlake

SPECTRE LOGO

The newest issue of MI6 Confidential takes a look at a key segment in the upcoming SPECTRE as well as a prominent American author’s try at writing a James Bond movie.

Among the articles is a feature about the movie’s 300-member second unit and the work it did on a Rome car chase involving the Aston Martin DB10 Bond drives. The sequence is one of the highlights of the 24th James Bond film.

Also a part of the issue is an article concerning “the little-known story” about author Donald E. Westlake’s 1995 treatment for a Bond film, according to an MI6 Confidential promo.

Westlake (1933-2008) was a prolific author of crime stories. But his 007 writing effort hasn’t received much attention until now.

In 1995, Westlake was interviewed by a columnist for The Indianapolis News while the author was at a crime writing festival in Muncie, Indiana. The column quoted Westlake as saying he was going to write the next James Bond movie — not the then-upcoming GoldenEye but the next film after that.

Producer Michael G. Wilson was asked during a Q&A sessions with fans at a November 1995 convention in New York about Westlake’s remarks. Wilson confirmed that Eon Productions had been in touch with Westlake, and said that the author might someday write a Bond movie. The next movie turned out to be Tomorrow Never Dies, which was started by Bruce Feirstein, rewritten (without credit) by others and finished by Feirstein.

For more information about the new issue, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros.