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.

Variety says Bond 25 to begin filming at end of April

Daniel Craig in Skyfall.

Bond 25 is scheduled to begin filming at the end of this month, Variety said in a story today.

The Variety article primarily concerned the hiring of Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the newest writer on the film.

Variety said it confirmed Waller-Bridge’s involvement with the production. It also had this passage:

A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed that the British writer was indeed taking a pass through the script and that director Cary Fukunaga was fully aware of the decision. The source said production remained on track to begin at the end of April.

A sequence was filmed in Norway last month, but that apparently was done by the second unit without primary cast members. Fukunaga has been photographed in Italy last week scouting locations.

So far at least six writers have performed Bond 25 work. Besides Waller-Bridge, they are Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Hodge, Paul Haggis and Scott Z. Burns. Director Fukunaga also has been known to write scripts so it’s possible the actual total is at least seven.

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.

MGM looks to expand film-based consumer products

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer wants to expand consumer products based on its films, including James Bond, Variety reported.

The home studio of the 007 film series hired Robert Marick as executive vice president of global consumer products and experiences, the entertainment news outlet said. Marick has worked at various studios prior to joining MGM.

Marick will supervise “expansion of MGM’s traditional merchandise, interactive and consumer products business,” Variety said. Besides Bond, the executive will deal with film franchises and TV series such as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Pink Panther and Legally Blonde.

In recent years, Bond-related merchandise has been mostly high-end, such as a Lego Aston Martin DB5 and replica DB5s made by Aston that cost 2.75 million British pounds each and aren’t street legal.

The 007 series was once an active generator of video games but that’s fallen off. In the 1960s, Bond-related merchandise included lunch boxes, puzzles, liquor and clothing. The official Eon James Bond site has a section that includes various goods.

About those Bond 25 script stories: The Rashomon Effect?

Can’t keep all these writing scenarios straight? Relax with a drink.

In the space of days, we’ve gotten two wildly different scenarios about the progress of Bond 25’s script.

The Playlist, in a Feb. 16 story, said noted script doctor Scott Z. Burns was doing an “overhaul” of Bond 25’s screenplay. “Burns, like Tony Gilroy and Christopher McQuarrie, is known as one of the top emergency rescue script doctors in Hollywood. If your script is hemorrhaging, he’s one of the first people you call.”

Later, on Feb. 27, Variety did an imitation of Kevin Bacon in Animal house and reassured everyone all is well.

Bond 25 director Cary “Fukunaga turned in his recent draft at the beginning of the year, and while reports surfaced that major rewrite work was done to the script, sources say no significant changes were made,” according to Variety, “and the producers and (star Daniel) Craig were excited with what Fukunaga had delivered.”

This might be an example of what’s known as The Rashomon Effect. That’s defined as “a phenomenon where different people have contradictory accounts of the same event.”

Rashomon was a 1950 movie directed by Akira Kurosawa where the characters have wildly different memories and impressions of the same story. The film was quite influential. In the 1960s, a plot on some television situation comedies in the U.S. was to depict the very different recollections of characters of the same occurrence.

Maybe, just maybe, The Playlist and Variety have different sources with different outlooks on the progress of the Bond 25 story. Both sources cited “sources” they didn’t identify.

The Playlist played up Burns’ record as a script doctor. “It’s an overhaul and I won’t be surprised if Burns is ultimately given first screenplay credit,” wrote The Playlist’s Rodrigo Perez.

Variety’s Justin Kroll specifically said Fukunaga had a turn writing the script himself. Fukunaga often writes his own scripts. There’s been plenty of fan speculation this would take place with Bond 25. Variety was the first place I saw that said that had happened. The Variety story doesn’t mention Burns by name.

Scripting efforts on Bond 25 began when 007 veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired in 2017. There was a detour last year when Danny Boyle was hired to direct the movie, bringing along his writer, John Hodge. Boyle and Hodge departed.

So now we’re where we’re at — where ever that is. Maybe it’s time for a drink to relax after trying to evaluate the different scenarios.

Reports heat up saying Malek will play B25’s villain

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Just days after picking up an Oscar, Rami Malek is again the focus of stories saying he’ll play the villain in Bond 25.

Variety weighed in with a story saying Billy Magnussen is the top choice to play a CIA agent role while there’s “renewed interest” in Malek as the villain.

Not to be outdone, Collider published a story saying Rami Malek is in final talks to play Bond 25’s villain. It cites “well-placed sources” as the basis of its information. Colllder also says Malek’s representatives have negotiated so the now-Oscar winning actor can do both Bond 25 and a new season of Mr. Robot.

Malek won the best actor Oscar on Sunday for his work on the film Bohemian Rhapsody. He has previously been mentioned in reports as a contender to play the villain’s role.

Each story has additional Bond 25 tidbits.

Variety also said director Cary Fukunaga “turned in” a script draft around the start of 2019. “(W)hile reports surfaced that major rewrite work was done to the script, sources say no significant changes were made, and the producers and Craig were excited with what Fukunaga had delivered.”

The story contained no mention of scribes Neal Purvis, Robert Wade or Scott Z. Burns. The Playlist reported earlier this month that Burns was doing a significant rewrite and was working out of London for four weeks. Purvis and Wade originally were hired in 2017 to work on Bond 25.

“There aren’t really any character details available, though the villain has been rumored to be a blind man,” according to the Collider story about Malek.”

No word whether that rumor stems from the discredited (or at least seemingly discredited) 2017 report in the Mirror that Bond 25 was somehow based on a Raymond Benson James Bond continuation novel. One of Benson’s 007 stories featured a blind villain. The author has said on social media he was never contacted by the Mirror and assumed the 2017 story was a fabrication.

The Collider story references Scott Z. Burns as a writer, but no has mention of Purvis and Wade.

Oscars do Emily Litella impression: ‘Never mind!’

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may have pulled an Emily Litella. “Never mind!”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has retreated from a plan of awarding four Oscars during commercial breaks, according to reports from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline: Hollywood.

As Emily Litella (a 1970s reference you can find on Google) might say, “Never mind!”

Originally, the academy planned that Oscars for cinematography, editing, live action short and makeup and hairstyling be given out during commercials, with edited versions being shown later.

This didn’t go over well from academy members of the affected categories, especially cinematography and editing, two crucial parts of movie making.

Had the rule been in effect last year, the broadcast would haven’t included live coverage of director of photography Roger Deakins finally winning after after a long string of nominations. One of Deakins’ nominations was for the 2012 007 film Skyfall, and many Bond fans were pulling for him to finally win in 2018.

Here’s an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter story:

In a statement on Friday afternoon, the Academy stated that it “has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards – Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling.” The statement continued: “All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format. We look forward to Oscar Sunday, February 24.”

The move came just nine days before this year’s Oscar telecast. The academy and ABC, which airs the awards show, have been trying to keep the program to three hours.

UPDATE (9:40 p.m., New York time): The statement is on the academy’s website.