Bond 25 questions: The trailer, soundtrack edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

The No Time to Die publicity machine got reactivated this week, including a new trailer and details about the soundtrack being released.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What’s the big takeaway?

It’s very clear that No Time to Die is back to “saving the world” territory.

The new trailer shows agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch) saying villain Safin “will kill millions.” Bond (Daniel Craig) says if his team is unsuccessful there won’t be anything left to save.

Eon Productions has shied away from such sweeping, big stakes since Craig took over as Bond. Quantum of Solace, for example, dealt with water rights.

I’m not exactly sure about the stakes of SPECTRE. Bond and his allies sought to prevent something from being deployed related to observing people. But SPECTRE already seemingly had the ability to record every single phone conversation on the planet. It wasn’t very clear how things would be any worse if SPECTRE succeeded.

Anything new catch your eye?

The No Time to Die ad that debuted during the Super Bowl showed Bond and Nomi is a plane or glider. In the new trailer, we see it can become a submarine.

That idea isn’t new. One of the earliest Gerry Anderson shows was Supercar, a craft that could fly and be a submarine. (I actually had a Supercar toy as a kid.) The 1964-68 series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea featured the Flying Sub, which flew and could travel undersea.

Still, it’s an element of fantasy that hasn’t been part of the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films.

Hey, what happened to Steve Mazzaro?

For the uninitiated, No Time to Die composer Hans Zimmer told Variety in June that he needed Steve Mazzaro’s help to do the movie’s score because of a tight deadline.

As part of that interview, Zimmer said: “Steve should really be the top name on the Bond film.”

Naturally, there was no mention of Mazzaro in the press release Eon Productions put out with the soundtrack cover.

There were quotes from the likes of Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson and director Cary Fukunaga about the genius of Hans Zimmer. Of course, Fukunaga doesn’t mention how his composer choice, Dan Romer, got fired from the project.

Does that surprise you?

No. When I read the Zimmer interview in Variety, I took his remark about how Mazzaro should get top billing as an empty compliment, not something he meant seriously.

Still, it’s another example of how studios and “artistes” count on people not remembering what has been said previously. So it goes.

Zimmer suggests his NTTD co-composer did a lot of work

Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer, the lead composer on No Time to Die, suggests in a new interview with Variety that his assistant composer did a fair amount of work on the 25th James Bond film.

Zimmer told Variety of how he was approached by producer Barbara Broccoli about scoring the movie.

“And I asked her if it was okay that Steve Mazzaro, who is one of the most fabulous composers I know, could do it with me, because there was very little time,” Zimmer said. “And of course she said yes. Steve should really be the top name on the Bond film. I hope we’ve done it justice.” (emphasis added).

Mazzaro scored The Rhythm Section, the non-Bond spy film that Eon produced, which was released by Paramount in January. Zimmer was the producer of that movie’s soundtrack. Zimmer and Mazzaro shared the music title card, with Zimmer getting top billing.

Mazzaro also is one of the composers affiliated with Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions company.

In the Variety interview, Zimmer also discussed recruiting guitarist Johnny Marr to perform on No Time to Die.

Zimmer replaced Dan Romer as the composer for No Time to Die. Zimmer’s name is on No Time to Die posters that include credits but Mazzaro’s is not.

The article examines other movie projects Zimmer is working on. You can view it by CLICKING HERE.

M:I 7 Venice shoot delayed by coronavirus

A stunt from Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Updated to note the Paramount statement.

Mission: Impossible 7’s Venice shoot is being delayed by the coronavirus, Variety reported, citing a Paramount statement.

The delay was reported earlier by the tabloid Daily Mail said.

Paramount said it was delaying the Venice shoot because of an “abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our cast and crew,” according to Variety.

There has been an outbreak of more than150 cases of coronavirus in Italy and the Venice carnival was cut short, according to The New York Times.

Star-producer Tom Cruise arrived in Venice last week and was scheduled to begin filming, the Daily Mail said.

M:I 7 is scheduled to be released in 2021. It is to be filmed back-to-back with an eighth installment coming out in 2022. Recent Cruise M:I movies were written around locations and stunts.

The most recent M:I film, Mission: Impossible-Fallout, was a hectic affair, which included Cruise breaking his ankle doing a stunt. The production altered its schedule and some late filming occurred to make a summer 2018 release date.

An outbreak of coronavirus in China has caused a China premiere and publicity tour for No Time to Die in April to be canceled. The disease has shut down theaters in China.

Some questions Variety could have asked Broccoli & Wilson

Eon Productions logo

This week, Variety published an interview with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions. What follows are some questions that could have been asked.  Maybe they were but there’s no reference in the story that they were.

–Mr. Wilson, you’re 78. You and your half-sister Barbara Broccoli have run the franchise for a quarter-century. Does Eon have a succession plan in place? If so, can you describe it? Might you retire? Or do you plan to carry on? Or  will Barbara Broccoli take full command?

–Has anyone proposed acquiring Danjaq/Eon in the last 10 years?

–Do you expect the Broccoli-Wilson family will remain in control of the Bond film franchise 10 years from now?

Michael G. Wilson

–Who proposed that “Smallville”-style TV show? (The Variety story said Broccoli and Wilson rejected a “Smallville”-style TV series with Bond at Eton as a teenager) Was it Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, your studio partner? Why did Eon reject it?

–How would have the proposed “Smallville”-style TV show differ from the “Young Bond” novels published by Ian Fleming Publications? Would it have been substantially different in tone than the James Bond Jr. animated show (which featured Bond’s nephew, rather than Bond himself) from the 1990s?

–MGM, has undergone many changes over the past 40 years. It exited bankruptcy in 2010. It hasn’t had a CEO since Gary Barber exited in March 2018. Are you satisfied with where MGM is right now?

–The entertainment industry is facing a lot of changes with streaming. What is Bond’s place amid all these changes? Stay with movies? Make some kind of adjustment?

I did a couple of tweets with a few of these questions. I got some pushback from a reader who felt the questions were rude. The thing is, all of these are legitimate questions.

Remember, Albert R. Broccoli put Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) up for sale in the early 1990s. Nothing came of that. But succession planning is common. Even family-owned companies do succession planning all the time.

Bond 25 questions: The composer edition

Hans Zimmer title card from Inception (2010),

Thanks to Variety (but still not announced), the word is out that Hans Zimmer is working on the score for No Time to Die. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is it Zimmer or Hans Zimmer & Co.?

Hans Zimmer runs a company called Remote Control Productions. It has more than 60 affiliated composers. On a number of films (Dunkirk, Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises and Inception), Zimmer gets sole “music by” credit while of the Remote Control Productions composers get an “additional music” credit.

Those other composers have included Lorne Balfe and Junkie XL. The number of additional music composers varies from project to project.

On other occasions, including Blade Runner 2049 and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zimmer has shared the main “music by” credit with another one of the Remote Control Productions composers. Benjamin Wallifisch shared the credit with Zimmer on Blade Runner 2049 while Junkie XL shared the Batman v Superman music credit.

How long has Zimmer been working on No Time to Die?

The MI6 James Bond website, in a story early today, said it “understands that orchestral sessions are currently being recorded” for the new Bond film. Mr. Obvious observation: That sounds like the score has been written, or at least partly written.

What happened to Dan Romer?

The Variety story said “creative differences” without providing more details. News that Romer was initially hired to score No Time to Die surfaced last year. He was listed in the crew in an August press release issued primarily because of the title reveal.

Presumably, Romer’s work didn’t please Eon Productions in some way. Meanwhile, Eon has been working with Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions for its upcoming non-Bond spy film The Rhythm Section. Zimmer is listed as executive music producer.

Why don’t they bring David Arnold back?

Arnold composed scores for five Bond films and is a fan favorite. But starting with Skyfall, Eon Productions has — at least initially — hired a composer chosen by the director.

Sam Mendes wanted Thomas Newman and got him. Romer had worked on some previous projects of No Time to Die director Cary Fukunaga.

In the end, any composer is a hired hand when it comes to the family-run Bond films. Marvin Hamlisch got two Oscar nominations for The Spy Who Loved Me but was never asked back into Bondage.

‘Show me the money!’

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Two separate events created a furor and accusations of entertainment companies being cheap.

One was the competition announced for No Time to Die poster artwork.

Under terms of the contest, all entries become the property of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio.

Five winners will receive 2,000 British pounds ($2,665). Another 20 pieces of artwork will be designated as finalists and receive 250 pounds ($333.12) each.

The tweet announcing the contest asked: “Are you a budding artist or illustrator? Here’s your chance to design poster artwork inspired by Daniel Craig’s Bond film.”

Twitter, though, can be an unforgiving place at times. While some Bond fans indicated their approval, many artists typed replies that included some pretty harsh comments (i.e, swear words), essentially saying artists should get paid and terms of the contest are onerous.

Examples (without swear words) include THIS TWEET, THIS TWEET, and THIS TWEET.

CLICK HERE and you can scroll down and see the replies for yourself.

The other situation, mostly unrelated except for the money angle, concerns Discovery Networks, which wants to eliminate royalty payments to composers.

Here’s an excerpt from a story by Variety.

Discovery has informed many of its top composers that, beginning in 2020, they must give up all performance royalties paid for U.S. airings, and that they must sign away their ability to collect royalties on all past shows on its networks.

Eliminating royalties will reduce composer income by 80 percent to 90 percent for those shows, Variety said. According to the report, composers don’t get paid that much up front. Discovery includes the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, HGTV and Food Network.

Professional composers took to Twitter to express their disapproval.

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Robert Evans dies at 89

Poster for Black Sunday, the 1977 movie produced by Robert Evans

Robert Evans, who had a remarkable career as an actor, studio executive and producer, has died at 89, according to Variety.

As an actor, Evans played MGM producer Irving Thalberg (Man of a Thousand Faces); as an executive at Paramount, he helped get The Godfather made; and a producer he made Chinatown, Marathon Man and Black Sunday.

Evans died on Saturday, Oct. 26, according to Variety.

Evans was as colorful, if not more so, than the characters in his various productions. His wives included actress Camilla Sparv (whose credits included the Matt Helm film Murderers’ Row); actress Ali MacGraw; and former beauty contest winner Phyllis George.

His personal life also included arrests of cocaine possession, according to the Variety obituary.

Nevertheless, when Evans was a Hollywood survivor — in a major way.

The Godfather was one of the most important movies of the 1970s. Chinatown had a huge impact on audiences, gathering 11 Oscar nominations, though only writer Robert Towne won. Black Sunday, a movie based on a Thomas Harris novel, dealt with Middle Eastern terrorism brought to the United States at the Super Bowl.

Evans was the ultimate Hollywood survivor. He wrote a memoir, The Kid Stays In the Picture: A Notorious Life. That was later the basis of a 2002 documentary. 

Scott Z. Burns talks (a little) about No Time to Die

Scott Z. Burns

Scott Z. Burns, one of No Time to Die’s screenwriters, discussed the 25th James Bond film as part of a longer feature story in Variety.

“It was being able to throw in with a group of really talented people on a franchise that had a huge impact on me,” Burns told Variety.

“I mean, it’s a dream come true to have grown up in Minnesota watching James Bond movies, and then you look at your laptop and you’re writing the name Bond and then writing dialogue underneath it. If anybody would have told me that was ever going to happen, I would have never believed them.”

The writer received Variety’s 2019 Creative Impact in Screenwriting Award. The outlet’s article was a look at Burns’ screenwriting career.

Burns’ credits include scripts for The Bourne Ultimatum and Contagion. He also has a reputation as a top “script doctor” in Hollywood.

The Playlist reported in February that Burns was working on the No Time to Die script. The hiring was confirmed in late April during a “reveal” event in Jamaica that also disclosed various casting movies. Burns was hired to work for four weeks, The Playlist said in its story.

Burns coming aboard initially created a buzz. It later got overshadowed when it came out that actress-writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge was also working on the movie. The original No Die to Die writers were Bond veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

Bond 25 questions: The odds and ends edition

No Time to Die logo

No Time to Die’s production grinds on. Still, the blog has a few questions.

Annapurna Pictures apparently cut a deal with its banks. What’s the significance for No Time to Die?

There were reports from major entertainment news sites such as The Hollywood Reporter and Variety that Annapurna was preparing for bankruptcy in case it couldn’t reach a deal with its lenders.

Variety this week reported Annapurna had reached such a deal, covering $200 million worth of debt. Lenders will get 82 cents on the dollar, according to Variety.

Annapurna and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are partners in United Artists Releasing, which will distribute No Time to Die in the U.S., with Universal handling international distribution.

An Annapurna bankruptcy might, at the least, been a distraction. Now, assuming Variety’s report is correct, bankruptcy is off the table. Annapurna can figure out how it wants to continue operations with the debt issue settled.

Is that the end of it?

I wouldn’t be surprised in the long run if there were some sort of restructuring at United Artists Releasing. Perhaps MGM buys out Annapurna. Or something else. Regardless, that’s a longer-term question that can be addressed separately from No Time to Die.

When’s the No Time to Die teaser trailer coming out?

At this point, who knows?

A favorite fan theory was the title for Bond 25 wouldn’t come out until the teaser trailers. Instead, the title was dropped in the afternoon New York time.

It may be the teaser trailer’s debut will be just as unpredictable. Maybe in a few days. Maybe a few weeks. It doesn’t seem worth guessing right now.

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.