Tomorrow Never Dies’s 25th: Jigsaw puzzle

Tomorrow Never Dies poster

Adapted from a 2017 post.

This year marks the 25th 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 storyline. 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 theatrically 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.

The Spy Who Loved Me’s 45th: 007 rolls with the punches

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

Adapted from a 2017 post.

The Spy Who Loved Me, which debuted 45 years ago, showed the cinema 007 was more than capable of rolling with the punches.

Global box office for the previous series entry, The Man With the Golden Gun, plunged almost 40 percent from Live And Let Die, the debut for star Roger Moore. For a time, things got worse from there.

The partnership between 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, unsteady for years, ruptured. Eventually, Saltzman was bought out by United Artists, leaving Broccoli in command. But that was hardly the end of difficulties.

Kevin McClory re-entered the picture. He had agreed not to make a Bond movie with his Thunderball rights for a decade. That period expired and McClory wanted to get back into the Bond market. Eventually, court fights permitted Broccoli’s effort for the 10th James Bond movie to proceed while McClory couldn’t mount a competing effort.

But that still wasn’t the end of it. Numerous writers (among them, Anthony Burgess; Cary Bates, then a writer for Superman comic books; future Animal House director John Landis; and Stirling Silliphant) tried their hand at crafting a new 007 tale.

Finally, a script credited to Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum, with uncredited rewriting by Tom Mankiewicz, emerged.

Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct his fifth Bond movie but left the project. That paved the way for the return of Lewis Gilbert, who helmed You Only Live Twice a decade earlier. It was Gilbert who brought Christopher Wood to work on the script.

The final film would resemble Twice. Spy had a tanker that swallowed up submarines where Twice had an “intruder missile” that swallowed up U.S. and Soviet spacecraft.

With Saltzman gone, Cubby made his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, a key player in the production. Wilson was already on the Eon Productions payroll and was involved in the negotiations that saw Saltzman’s departure.

For Spy, Wilson’s official credit was “special assistant to producer” and it was in small type in the main titles. However, that downplayed Wilson’s role. An early version of Spy’s movie poster listed Wilson, but not production designer Ken Adam, whose name had been included in the posters for Twice and Diamonds Are Forever.

UA, now in possession of Saltzman’s former stake in the franchise, doubled down, almost doubling the $7 million budget of Golden Gun.

In the end, it all worked. Bond shrugged off all the blows.

Spy generated $185.4 million in worldwide box office in the summer of 1977, the highest-grossing 007 film up to that point. (Although its $46.8 million in U.S. ticket sales still trailed Thunderball’s $63.6 million.)

Roger Moore, making his third Bond movie, would later (in Inside The Spy Who Loved Me documentary) call Spy his favorite 007 film.

The movie also received three Oscar nominations: for sets (designed by Adam, aided by art director Peter Lamont), its score (Marvin Hamlisch) and its title song, “Nobody Does It Better” (by Hamilsch and Carole Bayer Sager). None, however, won.

Another 60th: Hope and Crosby provide 007 a `Road’ map

Bob Hope, left, and Bing Crosby in the opening to The Road to Hong Kong

Originally posted in 2012.

Five months before the debut of Dr. No, the final Bob Hope-Bing Crosby “Road” movie came out, The Road to Hong Kong. The film, we suspect by coincidence, provided a road map to the future of 007 movies.

The 1962 movie had some major departures from previous “Road” movies. It was produced in the U.K. and was released by United Artists. The earlier films in the series had been produced in Hollywood and released by Paramount. Dorothy Lamour, the female lead of the previous Road movies, makes a cameo as herself but Joan Collins is the main female lead.

The change in locale meant the Norman Panama-Melvin Frank production (both would write the script, Panama directed and Frank produced; the duo had written the 1946 Road to Utopia) would take advantage of U.K. movie talent: Syd Cain was one of the art directors. Maurice Binder designed the main titles. Walter Gotell is one of the main lieutenants of a mysterious organization — stop us if you’ve heard this before — trying to take over the world. Bob Simmons shows up late in the movie as an astronaut in the employ of the villainous organization.

What’s more, there are “animated” sets (designed by Roger Furse) at the villain’s lair that would do Ken Adam proud. Two future participants in the 1967 Casino Royale (Peter Sellers and David Niven) show up in cameos. Did we mention Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin making cameos at the end? Well, they do.

If you’ve never seen The Road to Hong Kong, you can CLICK HERE and watch the 91-minute film on YouTube (at least until it gets taken off that Web site). While a comedy, it is a preview of the more fantastic Bond movies that would emerge a few years later, starting with 1967’s You Only Live Twice.

1972: 007 debuts on U.S. Television

United Artists re-released Goldfinger in the summer of 1972 as part of a triple feature a few months before it was shown on ABC.

Adapted and updated from a 2012 post.

With all the 007 anniversaries this year, one isn’t getting much attention: the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. television showing of a James Bond film when Goldfinger was shown on The ABC Sunday Night Movie.

ABC, which had obtained the TV rights for 007 films, decided to kick off the 1972-73 season with Goldfinger, the third movie in the series made by Eon Productions.

ABC had promoted Goldfinger throughout the summer and especially during its broadcasts of the Summer Olympics in Munich, where 007 promos seemed to air every two hours, prior to the tragic kidnapping and murders of Israeli athletes.

United Artists, moving to squeeze out money from one last theatrical run, had a triple feature of Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger during the summer of 1972.

Finally, on the night of Sept. 17, 1972 (right after the eighth-season opener of The FBI), Goldfinger was broadcast to millions of homes in the U.S. Bond fans who’d seen the film in theaters were caught by surprise immediately. The classic 007 gunbarrel logo had been edited out by the network (though John Barry’s gunbarrel music arrangement remained). It would be the first in a series of changes and cuts ABC would make in the Bond movies.

The ABC broadcast of Goldfinger started at 9 p.m. New York time and ran (including commercials) until 11:15 p.m. In future showings, ABC would take out the pre-credits sequence altogether and start with the main titles so the TV broadcast would run no longer than two hours.

Still, it was a new era. ABC was the U.S. television home for Bond into the early 1990s. ABC even had a last hurrah in 2002, when the network showed the first nine 007 films in the Eon series on consecutive Saturday nights. Today, with DVDs, streaming video, video on demand, etc., none of this sounds special. But, 50 years ago, it was a big deal when agent 007 was available for the first time in living rooms.

Amazon says it has completed MGM deal

Amazon said today in a short statement it has completed its acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio.

“Amazon and MGM announced that MGM has joined Prime Video and Amazon Studios,” the statement read. “The storied, nearly century-old studio—with more than 4,000 film titles, 17,000 TV episodes, 180 Academy Awards, and 100 Emmy Awards—will complement Prime Video and Amazon Studios’ work in delivering a diverse offering of entertainment choices to customers.”

Earlier this week, Amazon received European Commission approval for its $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM. The figure includes assumption of MGM debt.

Amazon was waiting on a review by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. But the short announcement didn’t mention the FTC.

Bloomberg News said in a story today that a deadline for the U.S. agency to challenge the deal had passed with no FTC action.

Amazon announced the MGM deal last year. The studio was founded in 1924 with the merger of three companies. MGM has been involved with the Bond franchise since 1981, when it acquired United Artists.

MGM finances the Bond films produced by Eon Productions.

Financial behind the scenes of Dr. No Part I

Dr. No poster

Dr. No poster

Adapted from a 2016 post.

Squabbles over money, production delays and the exchange of terse words.

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film? Or No Time to Die, the 25th?

No. Dr. No, the first.

In 2011, Film Finances Inc., which specializes in “completion bonds” that ensure movies get finished, published A Bond for Bond. The book presented the company’s history with Dr. No, including reproducing memos and production budgets.

For a fee, Film Finances, founded in 1950, guarantees completion of a movie, including providing contingency financing. With Dr. No, Film Financsz ended up taking financial control of the film as principal photography ended and post-production began. That meant all expenditures from that point forward had to be approved by Film Finances.

According to the book, written by Charles Drazin and reprinted in 2014, Film Finances had previously provided completion bonds to earlier movies produced separately by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. While the new partners had a distribution deal with United Artists, Film Finances would provide the completion bond for the first film Bond.

As Film Finances considered the project, executives were enthusiastic but had concerns.

A Dec. 16, 1961 memo analyzing the movie’s budget questioned whether shooting schedule was too optimistic and whether director Terence Young could meet it.

John Croydon, a consultant for Film Finances, wrote, “I must confess to alarm at the combination of Broccoli, Saltzmann (sic) and Young in charge of the picture, especially as (L.C.) Rudkin, although a good PM (production manager) is probably not the strongest controller of people of this type.”

Croydon wrote from first-hand experience. He had been associate producer on the 1960 Saltzman-produced film The Entertainer.

Dr. No had an initial budget of 317,399 pounds (almost $889,000 at an exchange rate of $2.80 per pound), later revised to 322,096 (almost $901,800), with 23,199 pounds in contingency funds.

Various crew members, including Young and production designer Ken Adam, wrote brief letters to Film Finances saying the budget was adequate for the movie. Harry Saltzman wrote a similar but more detailed letter.

Young was slated to receive a fee of 15,000 pounds ($42,000), but agreed to defer 10,000 pounds of it into an escrow account. This would cause tension later.

The pre-production documents in A Bond for Bond also show the distinguished British director of photography Geoffrey Unsworth worked on Dr. No for a day. On Dec. 21, 1961, Unsworth photographed screen tests of four actresses contending for the role of Miss Taro, including eventual winner Zena Marshall.

In January 1962, principal photography on Dr. No began. Before it was over, executives at Film Finances would make a move the company rarely made because of financial concerns.

Thanks to Gary J. Firuta for loaning the blog his copy of A Bond for Bond.

NEXT: Dr. No falls a half-day behind schedule on its first day.

Dr. No’s 60th anniversary Part III: `A pretty rough diamond’

Sean Connery chats with Dr. No co-star Jack Lord.

Adapted from a 2012 post

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had $1 million of United Artists’ money (helped with a major Bank of America loan) to spend to bring Dr. No to the screen. That meant they couldn’t spend a fortune on their lead actor, the man who would personify James Bond. Their choice ended up making themselves and the actor involved rich.

The choice, of course, was Sean Connery, 31 years old at the time Dr. No went into production. Ken Adam, in interviews for extras for 007 movie DVDs directed by John Cork, described him as “a pretty rough diamond” at that time. Broccoli, in his autobiography, used nearly identical phrasing: “…an uncut diamond at the time…Physically and in his general persona, he was too much of a rough-cut to be a replica of (Ian) Fleming’s upper-class secret agent.”

The Scotsman wasn’t a star, but he was already an experienced actor. He had acting credits extending back to 1954 (even if some of them were small parts, like on an episode of The Jack Benny Program or a secondary role in 1959’s Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure).

How much, or little, Connery was paid for Dr. No is in some dispute. Connery told Playboy magazine in a 1965 interview, he only received 6,000 British pounds, or $16,800. U.K film historian Adrian Turner, in his 1998 book on Goldfinger puts the figure at $40,000, in line with director Terence Young’s paycheck.

In Broccoli’s autobiography, a reproduction of a message sent from Broccoli to Saltzman appears. It says “New York,” a reference to UA’s New York headquarters, “did not care for Connery feels we can do better.” The UA executives would change their minds, especially once audiences had their chance to evaluate Connery as 007.

Connery was coached by Young in the ways of the Bondian lifestyle despite, according to Broccoli, the director preferring Richard Johnson in the role. Richard Maibaum, one of three credited screenwriters on Dr. No, said at a 1987 conference (the video is included in the DVD extra, The Thunderball Phenomenon) that Connery wasn’t exactly Ian Fleming’s James Bond and a rougher character.

“Our attributing to him all these gentlemanly qualifications and stuff was the cream of the jest,” Maibaum said in 1987. “It made it funny. It also made him instantly acceptable.”

Whatever the exact reason, the choice of Connery was a successful one. For the actor, it was the springboard to a legendary career. For the producers, it ensured more orders from United Artists for Bond movies. For many fans, Connery supplied an image of 007 that hasn’t been surpassed. Connery would have battles later with Broccoli and Saltzman (especially about money). But, six decades ago, the choice of an unknown actor was proven right.

NEXT: The elegant Venus

UPDATE: Author and academic James Chapman says on Facebook that the 6,000 British pound figure for Connery’s Dr. No salary is correct, according to the archives of Film Finances Inc. Film Finances provided the “completion bond” to ensure Dr. No would be finished. The blog did a series of posts in 2016 about Film Finances. A freshened version will appear next week. 

Dr. No’s 60th anniversary Part I: The odd couple

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

Adapted from a 2012 post.

By mid-1961, there had been multiple attempts to adapt Ian Fleming’s James Bond to other media. A 1954 CBS adaptation of Casino Royale had become reality and was mostly forgotten. No film versions had yet gone before the cameras. That was about to change as American Albert R. Broccoli and Canadian Harry Saltzman agreed to team up. It’d be an eventful, and sometimes stormy, 14 years.

Each had something the other wanted: Saltzman had secured a six-month option on Fleming’s novels other than Casino Royale (and a court settlement would take the 1961-published Thunderball out of that package). Broccoli had studio connections that Saltzman lacked. Broccoli wanted to buy the option from Saltzman, but the latter wanted to go into business with Broccoli.

Saltzman, by multiple accounts, provided a constant flow of ideas. The quality, reportedly, was erratic but when they were good, they were brilliant. (Let’s have Bond “killed” at the start of From Russia With Love.) He could be volatile, almost killing off what would be two of the most popular title songs in the 007 series (Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever). Composer John Barry bemoaned in a 2006 U.K. television special that, “I could never deal with Harry and didn’t.”

Broccoli, by these accounts, was the steadier, more patient of the duo. He had wanted to do Bond for years before meeting Saltzman and was mostly content with 007, a large endeavor of its own. Saltzman, meanwhile, would launch a series based on Len Deighton’s spy novels and pursue other non-Bond projects.

Eventually, the producers grew apart, with Live And Let Die primarily a Saltzman production (although there are shots of Broccoli visiting locations and sets) while The Man With the Golden Gun was primarily overseen by Broccoli. The partnership would end when Saltzman, in severe financial trouble, sold his half of the franchise to United Artists, the studio that released the 007 films.

During work on 1962’s Dr. No, the producers managed to find a collaborative rhythm. James Bond probably would have come to the screen, but likely not in exactly the same form had Broccoli and Saltzman not joined forces.

For their work on Dr. No, the first 007 film, Broccoli and Saltzman received a producer’s fee of $80,000 and 50 percent of the profits, according to the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger. The film debuted on Oct. 5, 1962, in the U.K., reaching other countries the following year.

In 1965, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. did an interview with Broccoli and Saltzman. At this point, Thunderball was about to be released.

Around 14 minutes into the interview, Saltzman had to take a call regarding a censorship issue with one of his non-007 movies. At the end, Saltzman works in a plug for his Harry Palmer films. Broccoli didn’t appear pleased.

NEXT: The $40,000 man

Diamonds’ 50th: Rodney Dangerfield of 007 films

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Adapted from a 2016 post.

When Diamonds Are Forever came out 50 years ago this month, it was a huge deal. Sean Connery was back! Everything was back to normal in 007 land.

Nowadays, Diamonds is more like the Rodney Dangerfield of James Bond films, not getting any respect.

Some fans complain about too much humor, about Connery not being in shape, about Blofeld (Charles Gray) dressing in drag as a disguise and about Bond’s wardrobe (his fat, pink tie in particular). Also, Jill St. John’s Tiffany Case at times seems a capable criminal, while at other times comes across as scatterbrained.

Perhaps the biggest advocate of the movie was former United Artists executive David Picker (1931-2019). In his 2013 memoir, Musts, Maybes and Nevers, he says Diamonds saved the Bond series because he got the idea of paying Connery a lot of money to return as 007.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had cast American John Gavin in the role. But UA became more hands on with the seventh film in the series compared with previous entries. UA (via Picker) didn’t want to take a chance after George Lazenby played Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Regardless, Diamonds reflected the creative team’s desire to get back to the style of Goldfinger. As a result, director Guy Hamilton returned. So did production designer Ken Adam after a one-picture absence. John Barry was on board and this time Shirley Bassey would return to perform the title song.

There was new blood, however, in the form of screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, brought in to rewrite Richard Maibaum’s early drafts. Mankiewicz would work on the next four films of the series, although without credit on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

"What does that mean, anyway?"

Q was aghast at Bond’s tie.

Mankiewicz (1942-2010), part of a family prominent in both show business and politics, still generates sharp divisions among Bond fans.

Supporters say his witty one liners enlivened the proceedings. (“At present, the satellite is over Kansas,” Blofeld muses at one point. “Well, if we destroy Kansas, the world may not hear about it for years.”) Detractors say he simply didn’t understand Bond and made things too goofy.

The writer’s initial draft actually contained more bits from Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel than would be in the final film. (This 2011 ARTICLE has more details, just scroll down to the section about the Mankiewicz draft.) Still, with Diamonds, it was now standard practice that the films need have little in common with Fleming’s novels.

The legacy of the movie is mixed. Diamonds got 007 into the 1970s. But as late as 1972, people still questioned whether the series could survive without Sean Connery. That wouldn’t be evident until after Diamonds. And the movie clearly began a lighter era for the series.

Still, Bond was Bond. The movie was a success with moviegoers. It had a worldwide box office of $116 million, an improvement from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s $82 million and You Only Live Twice’s $111.6 million.

Diamonds fell short of Goldfinger and Thunderball ($124.9 million and $141.2 million respectively). But it did well enough that Eon Productions would again try to find a successor to Connery. James Bond would return.

Bond 25 questions: No Time to Die’s box office crown

One of the many No Time to Die posters

Sometime soon, No Time to Die is expected will pass F9: The Fast Saga as the No. 1 Hollywood box office movie of 2021. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What do you mean “Hollywood” movie?

From the very beginning, Bond movies were financed by Hollywood studios. United Artists secured a loan from BANK OF AMERICA (a U.S. company) that supplied most of the money. It has never changed since.

Wait, what?

Yes, even though the movies were made in the U.K., the U.S. supplied the money. Without the likes of Arthur Krim, Robert Benjamin and David V. Picker at United Artists, Bond would never have gotten off the ground.

But I thought Eon did everything!

That’s a comforting myth that many Bond fans have adopted. In reality, Eon plays with others’ money.

OK, but doesn’t product placement finance *everything*?

No. That’s another comforting myth among Bond fans.

What are you saying?

REPEAT: James Bond’s ownership is blurred. Creatively, it is controlled by Danjaq/Eon while Bond’s home studio is MGM. It’s an uneasy partnership. MGM can’t go forward without Danjaq/Eon while Danjaq/Eon can’t launch a Bond movie without MGM.

What are you trying to say?

MGM and Danjaq/MGM are in an uneasy partnership. MGM has agreed to be acquired by Amazon. Maybe that will create new opportunities.

Still?

Until Amazon gets full control of MGM (that deal still is subject to regulatory review), we don’t really know.