Why Bond 25 may not do much economizing

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

One question about Bond 25 is whether its budget may get trimmed. 2015’s SPECTRE was the most expensive 007 film adventure, with an estimated $245 million budget including Mexican tax credits and product placement deals.

While it’s too early to say definitively, there are signs that Bond 25 won’t exactly fly economy class.

Craig’s reported paycheck: Earlier this month, Variety reported that star Daniel Craig is set for a $25 million payday from his fifth Bond film. It was the highest amount in a survey of actor compensation by the trade publication.

If correct, that makes it harder to drastically cut the budget. For example, if you wanted to cut Bond 25’s outlay to $100 million to $150 million, Craig’s pay would mean you could only spend $75 million to $125 million for the rest of the film.

Boyle’s change of attitude: Director Danny Boyle has a reputation for making very lean, small-scale films. Some fans on internet message boards have speculated Boyle in Bond 25’s director chair could mean a less epic, leaner 007 outing.

Not so fast.

This week, Boyle spoke at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Here’s an excerpt from a story about the talk on LIPA’s website.

Danny says, at first, he wasn’t sure he was the right person for the job (for Bond 25). “I like watching big films but I don’t think I’m necessarily good at making them. Then I thought ‘no, you shouldn’t think like that’.”

Working with long-time collaborator, writer John Hodge, Danny explained why he accepted. “We have this idea about what we want to do with Bond and I felt we should have a go because of this idea. So we are trying to stay true to our principles.” (emphasis added)

It sounds, at the very least, Boyle may be more than willing to have a go at an epic-like film.

Broccoli’s ambitions: The Screen Daily website this week ran a story about how Universal became the international distributor for Bond 25. There was this passage:

“(Eon Productions boss) Barbara Broccoli wants a one billion dollar international gross,” says one industry expert, noting that international box office accounts for the bulk of Bond films’ global theatrical revenues. No 007 release has ever achieved this, and Universal knows a thing or two about getting to the hallowed milestone. Of only seven films to cross $1bn at the international box office, Universal has released three, and it has done so in the last three years: Furious 7 and Jurassic World in 2015, and Fate Of The Furious in 2017.

Only one Bond film surpassed $1 billion globally. 2012’s Skyfall had $304.4 million in the U.S. and $804.2 million internationally. SPECTRE slipped to $200 million in the U.S. and $680.6 million internationally.

To achieve that $1 billion international mark, Bond 25 would have to generate more than 45 percent more box office compared with SPECTRE. Higher ticket prices will help some. But if Broccoli really wants $1 billion, excluding the U.S. market, Bond is going to have to ramp things up.

What’s more, if Broccoli really is seeking $1 billion internationally, that generally means mounting a big-scale production. Marvel Studios filmed two Avengers movies back to back, Avengers: Infinity War, released in late April and the yet-to-titled Avengers 4, due out next year.

It’s been estimated the combined cost of the two movies may reach as much as $1 billion. Avengers: Infinity War has been a big hit (global box office of $1.9 billion so far).

Big risks, big rewards. If the expert quoted by Screen Daily is correct (and the website didn’t identify him or her), that may mean that Bond 25 may be a more high stakes game than anything 007 encountered in a novel or movie scene.

Advertisements

Bond 25 questions: Daniel Craig payday edition

Daniel Craig in 2016 during the Brexit campaign in the U.K.

Variety says it knows Daniel Craig’s salary for Bond 25. Naturally, that raises questions. That’s the specialty of this blog.

Is Craig getting a pay raise or pay cut?

It depends who you believe, how accurate the news account and what currency exchange rates were at the time.

Back in 2012, after Skyfall became the first “billion-dollar-Bond,” outlets such as The Independent said Craig would receive 31 million British pounds to do two more 007 films.

At 2012 exchange rates, that would mean getting $49.7 million, or almost $25 million per film. At current exchange rates, that would be closer to $42 million, or $21 million per film.

Variety’s story says Craig is getting $25 million for Bond 25.

Given the currency swings and the like, it’s hard to say one way or another.

Still, the Variety figure is FAR LESS than the $150 million, two-film deal that Radar Online claimed Craig would receive in a September 2016 story.

In 2016, some Bond fans took to social media to argue Craig was worth every penny of that supposed $150 million, two-film deal.

That argument was made despite the fact that Craig hasn’t shown any evidence of being a box office draw outside of the Bond series.

Examples: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ($232 million global box office), and a film where Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said resulted in a loss; Cowboys & Aliens ($174.8 million global box office); Lucky Logan ($47.6 million global box office); and Kings ($258,614 U.S. box office since April 27).

Does the Variety story mean Bond 25’s distribution/financing is wrapped up?

Not necessarily. MGM said in 2007 that Craig was signed for four more 007 films (or running through Bond 25). But one event (Craig’s contract) doesn’t directly affect the other (Bond 25’s distribution/financing).

Put another way: Craig isn’t going to collect on his contract (whatever the amount, whatever the length of time) unless there’s somebody to pay it.

MGM and Eon Productions announced a November 2019 release date back on July 24, 2017. No distribution deal was set then.

On Oct. 31, 2017, MGM and Annapurna Pictures said they formed a joint venture to release each other’s movies in the U.S. But that deal specifically exempted Bond 25.

In mid-December 2017, Barbara Broccoli said in a podcast of The Hollywood Reporter said Bond 25 distribution wasn’t set.

Maybe there’s been more progress since then. But Craig’s contract, in an of itself, doesn’t mean much.

Craig to receive $25M for Bond 25, Variety says

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig is set to receive $25 million for Bond 25, Variety reported as part of a survey of salaries for major actors.

The story, by Brent Lang and Justin Kroll, doesn’t specify how the information was obtained. Craig’s $25 million was the highest actor figure referenced. Dwayne Johnson is due to receive $22 million for Red Notice (2020) and Vin Diesel received $20 million for 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, Variety said.

Anne Hathaway is set to receive $15 million for 2020’s Barbie while Jennifer Lawrence got a $15 million pay day for this year’s Red Sparrow.

The bulk of the article concerns trends in pay for movie stars.

“Studios have gotten stingier about cutting stars in on a share of the profits from big-budget movies, preferring to keep much of the spoils of a box office blockbuster for themselves,” Lang and Kroll wrote.

“Part of the problem is that costumed superheroes and Jedi knights became the big attraction at movie theaters,” according to the writers. “The size of a film’s opening weekend no longer hinges on the popularity of the actors who grace its poster. Special effects are the stars these days and the place where studios are spending the bulk of their money.”

Variety said while some actors can still get $20 million or more for a movie, “those checks are usually handed out for only major franchise installments and often are tied to reaching a significant number of box office milestones.”

In 2007, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said Craig was signed for four more 007 films after his debut in Casino Royale, according to an account at that time by The Hollywood Reporter. If true, that would mean Craig’s contract extended through Bond 25 all along.

Bond 25 questions: Release date edition

Daniel Craig

An announcement by Universal and a line in a Variety story have stirred the pot, getting fans concerned — or at least wondering — about Bond 25’s release date.

The announcement was made by Universal that it planned to release a Danny Boyle-directed comedy/musical in September 2019. That’s two months before Bond 25’s current release date of November 2019.

The line in the Variety story: ” MGM announced last summer that it would open Bond 25 on Nov. 8, 2019, but it’s unlikely to do so.”

So, let the questions begin.

How likely is Bond 25 to be delayed? Variety didn’t specify. In fact, it didn’t indicate whether that line was based on hard reporting or a simple assertion.

Meanwhile (while I was writing this very post), the MI6 James Bond website put out this tweet about the Variety story:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

That sounds like an endorsement of what Variety said. But Variety wasn’t the model of transparency with its readers. And there’s ways to be more transparent while not identifying specific sources.

Is there something else? Fans have mostly overlooked how Bond 25 doesn’t have a distributor.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hasn’t had a distribution operation since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010. Sony Pictures’s most recent two-picture 007 distribution deal ended with SPECTRE.

MGM took a step last year to getting back into distribution by forming a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies in the U.S. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

Deadline: Hollywood reported in November that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture had just about wrapped up U.S. distribution for Bond 25. But no announcement ever came. The Hollywood Reporter said April 4 that the distribution deal had been held up as MGM seeks to sell itself.

Under the most recent MGM-Sony deal, the two studios split the production costs while MGM kept 75 percent of the profits.

Unless MGM either sells itself or grows itself into a bigger entity, getting a distributor deal is vital to financing Bond 25.

Put another way, until you finance the movie, you can’t make the movie. There’s been an element of uncertainty surrounding Bond 25 all along. The November 2019 release date may have been built on a foundation of sand since it was first announced.

Bond 25: Annoying stories edition

Daniel Craig

This week, Daniel Craig talked (very, very) briefly about Bond 25. He didn’t say much, except to say (again) he’d be doing the movie. However, that didn’t stop a number of stories with very annoying passages. Here’s a look at some.

VANITY FAIR, APRIL 11: “Bond 25 Is Coming Sooner Than You Think,” the magazine proclaimed in a headline on its website. In the first paragraph, it said, “Break out your martinis and Omega watches, because Bond 25 is upon us.”

No, no it’s not. Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said last year the movie would have a U.S. release date of November 2019. MGM, last month on an investor call, said Bond would return in 2019. Bond 25 is not upon us.

In other words, nothing has changed. The only people who are surprised are the scribes and editors at Vanity Fair who, from a 007 perspective, have been in a slumber to rival that of Rip Van Winkle’s.

DEN OF GEEK!, APRIL 11: The entertainment news website examines the release slate of Sony Pictures and ponders whether Sony might end up distributing Bond 25.

“We’ve learned that indie outfit Annapurna Pictures will team with MGM and EON Productions for US distribution, but last we heard, the international rights are up for grabs,” Den of Geek! said.

Well: 1) Eon Productions isn’t involved in distribution. It may or may not have a say, but distribution is an MGM decision. 2) Clearly, Den of Geek! has fallen behind in its reading, including last week’s STORY BY THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER that no Bond 25 distribution decision has been made and that MGM is using its Bond rights to attract buyers.

To be sure, MGM and Annapurna last year formed a joint venture to distribute each other’s movies in the United States. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal. Deadline: Hollywood reported in November that joint venture was close to getting the U.S. Bond 25 deal. But hasn’t happened yet.

Note to Den of Geek!: There’s this site affiliated with the blog called the Bond 25 Timeline. You might want to check it first before doing your next article on Bond 25. h/t to reader @CorneelVf on Twitter for pointing out the Den of Geek! story.

OBSERVER, APRIL 10: The story isn’t bad for the most part. It notes for example, the lack of a distributor for Bond 25. But there is one line that was annoying.

“We can only assume that franchise producer Barbara Broccoli is paying Craig handsomely for his fifth and final Bond installment,” the Observer said.

Ultimately, Barbara Broccoli doesn’t pay the bills. The studio (or studios with co-financing deals) handles that chore. Eon has never financed Bond movies. Whatever money it has fronted has been returned once a studio (beginning with United Artists in the early 1960s, MGM after it acquired UA in the 1980s) OK’s the movie and started paying.

VARIETY, APRIL 10: The entertainment publication/website essentially summarized an Associated Press video of what Craig said this week. So far, so good. Then, there was this passage:

“At one point  (Craig) said he would ‘rather slash my wrists’ than play Bond again and said he would only do another film ‘for the money.’ Apparently, the studio paid him handsomely.”

At least Variety understands the studio foots the bills. However, this falls into the annoying category because Variety ignored the scoop of its rival (The Hollywood Reporter) about MGM seeking to be acquired and putting off a Bond 25 distribution deal.

I’m sure Craig is in line for a big pay day if Bond 25 is made. But it won’t get made unless it is financed (something at least somewhat in doubt until the distribution situation is ironed out). It might have been a better use of time for Variety to find out what really is going on than to write a snarky line.

THR says Broccoli & Wilson had rift with deposed MGM chief

Barbara Broccoli

The Hollywood Reporter, as part of a followup story about the firing of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer chief Gary Barber, said Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions also had major differences with Barber.

“(I)nsiders say a rift had also developed between (Barber) and 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson,” according to the story by THR’s Paul Bond. ‘“There was a revolt,’ says an insider who claims the Broccoli camp ultimately refused to work with Barber.”

The THR story  was posted this morning. Variety and Deadline: Hollywood had new or updated stories Tuesday night. All three outlets described how Barber and board chairman Kevin Ulrich disagreed over strategy. Ulrich, according to the accounts, wants MGM to get bigger amid changes in media.

Variety said MGM’s board “had doubts about whether Barber had the right strategic vision and willingness to take big risks.”

Deadline said: “Ulrich saw an opportunity for MGM to remake itself into a digital powerhouse by renaming Epix with the MGM brand and making it a subscription streaming service that could line up favorably along the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Disney’s new service, Hulu and others that come along. The idea would be to include the upcoming James Bond film’s pay window as part of this.”

The upcoming film, of course, is Bond 25, which has an official U.S. release date of November 2019. Ulrich heads a New York investment company, Anchorage Capital Group, a major shareholder in MGM.

UPDATE (2:35 p.m.): The Wall Street Journal weighed in with an MGM story I can’t access because it’s behind a paywall. However, one of the reporters, Ben Fritz, sent out this tweet quoting from a Broccoli-Wilson statement that’s not referenced in the story.

 

Bond 25: Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?

Hang in there, James! We’ll get you a director yet!

There’s an old saying: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Does that apply to Bond 25?

In July 2017, Variety reported that Yann Demange, was the leading contender to direct Bond 25. The story came two days after Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions said the next 007 adventure would be released in November 2019.

The twin announcements confirmed that veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were scripting Bond 25.

Then, last month, Variety and Deadline: Hollywood said that Danny Boyle was now in the picture to direct Bond 25. Deadline’s story added the twist that Boyle would only direct if a story being scripted by John Hodge were selected as the blueprint for the 25th Bond adventure made by Eon Productions.

On March 1, The Hollywoord Reporter, the Daily Mail AND Deadine: Hollywood say Boyle’s next project is likely to be a musical. The Daily Mail story specifically says the musical will be based around the songs of The Beatles.

Finally, on March 5, THR comes out with a story that Demange will be executive director of a new HBO series, Lovecraft County, and will direct its first episode.

So, if all of this is true (admittedly a major qualification), it’s certain whether either Demange or Boyle will be available to direct Bond 25.

Could Eon (and MGM) by going for a more high-powered choice (Boyle) have chased off Demange? A situation again proving a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?

Hard to say with certainty. Here’s how THR summed it up in its latest story.

Demange was a contender to direct the next James Bond movie and his boarding may further muddy that search. Demange, along with Denis Villeneuve and David MacKenzie were on the shortlist last year for the high-profile project, which is heading towards a release date of Nov. 8, 2019. The search got murkier in February when Danny Boyle became a contender.

Villeneuve is now focusing on Dune while Boyle is prepping a period music-themed drama. Now it seems that Demange’s time will be spent on Lovecraft Country.

Potentially, it’s a plot twist that even Ian Fleming wouldn’t have predicted.