Some unimportant questions about Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Following this week’s announcement of a 2019 release date for Bond 25 here are some unimportant questions about 007’s next film adventure.

Why make this announcement now? The announcement came the Monday after last weekend’s San Diego Comic Con. That event saw November’s Thor: Ragnarok film, this November’s Justice League movie and next year’s Avengers: Infinity War film grab a lot of publicity. Perhaps it’s a chance to remind audiences that James Bond is yet to be heard from?

Why announce a release date without a star, distributor or a director? We don’t really know. See answer (such as it is) to the previous question for a possible explanation.

What do you mean by that? The San Diego Comic Con has become a publicity launching pad for movies and television shows. 007 has been mostly a no-show at the San Diego Con. Although, to be fair, there were some 007-licensed dolls that were part of this year’s comic con festivities.

Why not announce more? Short answer: The principals aren’t ready to say more right now.

Of course, the short announcement on Monday wasn’t the last word.

The New York Times reported the same day that Daniel Craig’s return as Bond was a “done deal.” Deadline: Hollywood said there were three finalists to direct. And Variety said one of said finalists, Frenchman Yann Demange, is the front runner.

Could it be this is part of a marketing master plan by Eon Productions?

Well, if:

–Eon and Craig got together as SPECTRE wrapped production in July 2015 and knowing Craig was scheduled to do some interviews which would be embargoed until October, Eon publicists encouraged Craig to say he’d rather slash his wrists than play Bond again.

–When the interviews came out in October, the plan was this would create some uncertainty whether Craig would and create extra buzz as SPECTRE was being released.

–That Eon’s Michael G. Wilson, in an interview in November 2015, would say Craig wasn’t signed to a contract, to deliberately further stoke up the uncertainty and buzz.

–That Eon (or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) deliberately planted stories like a September 2016 one in Vanity Fair saying that MGM CEO Gary Barber contacted Craig “to express his frustration in no uncertain terms” with the actor because of the “slash my wrists” interviews.

So, if all that happened, then, yeah, events of the past two years may have been part of a well-oiled plan worthy of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Or maybe not.

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A Sampling of Early Atomic Blonde Reviews

Atomic Blonde poster

Atomic Blonde, this summer’s spy movie, has received mostly positive back in March when the film was shown at the South by Southwest film festival.

The film, starring Charlize Theron, had a Rotten Tomatoes score of 81 percent because of those reviews. It remains to be seen how the score may change with newer reviews that come in ahead of its opening this week.

Regardless, here are some non-spoiler excerpts of reviews.

ERIC KOHN, INDIEWIRE: “The first solo effort by ‘John Wick’ co-director David Leitch, ‘Atomic Blonde’ exists in the same realm of hyperstylized action built around the cold ferocity of an unstoppable action star. It only falters when attempting to tie more story around her….Oscillating between the relentless energy of ‘John Wick’ and the dense plotting of a John Le Carré novel, ‘Atomic Blonde’ never quite finds a happy medium between the two. But when Theron goes back to kicking ass, nothing else matters.”

JOHN DEFORE, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “The more obvious comparison, of course, is with the latest, earthily violent incarnation of James Bond. As enjoyable as Atomic Blonde can be at times, its main utility may be its demonstration that Theron deserves better than this. If not a reincarnation in which James becomes ‘Bond, Jane Bond,’ then at least something with more staying power than this actioner, which looks good and gets some things right, but is as uninterested in its protagonist’s personality as its generic name suggests.”

ANDREW BARKER, VARIETY: “Lifted from Antony Johnston’s graphic novel ‘The Coldest City,’ ‘Atomic Blonde’s’ heroine is a blank slate of emotionless efficiency. A master of cold stares and even colder line readings, (Theron character) Lorraine’s entire diet appears to consist of frozen Stoli on the rocks…Leitch seems uninterested in developing relationships between his characters, leaving them to scamper about on parallel tracks until the hazy machinations of the plot conspire to bring them together.”

JOANNA ROBINSON, VANITY FAIR: “In Atomic Blonde, (Theron’s) Cold War-era spy character, Lorraine Broughton, brutally dispatches Russian and German agents without ever losing an inch of style. She’s the captivating eye of a rather messy plot storm, and you won’t be able to keep your eyes off her for a second. The film had a triumphant, ecstatic debut at SXSW on Sunday night, but won’t debut in the U.S. until July 28. All other summer blockbusters should just surrender now.”

MEREDITH BORDERS: BIRTH. MOVIES. DEATH:Atomic Blonde gives us so little to actually care about, an exercise in style over substance where even the style starts to grate after a time.”

Eon starts filming another non-007 movie

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions is involved in another non-007 film, Variety reported.

The film is titled Nancy and is a “psychological drama” starring Andrea Riseborough, according to the entertainment website.

Here’s an excerpt:

Riseborough plays a serial imposter, who becomes perilously close to losing her entire identity — and the only person who’s ever truly loved her — when her elaborate lies inevitably unravel.

Principal photography has started in upstate New York with a crew comprised of all-female department heads. The film will be produced by Amy Lo, Michelle Cameron, and Riseborough. “Nancy” is a Mental Pictures, Mother Sucker, and Eon Productions movie, in association with Gamechanger Films.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions will be among the executive producers, according to Variety.

Eon’s Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is in post-production. Barbara Broccoli is among that movie’s producers.

The production company’s most recent 007 film entry was 2015’s SPECTRE. No production details have been announced for Bond 25.

Craig’s LA riots movie to begin filming this month

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig’s movie about the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Kings, will begin late this month while the actor still is performing in an off-Broadway play, Variety reported.

Production of the film is scheduled for Dec. 27, according to Variety.

Here’s an excerpt:

Craig will portray a loner who lives in South Central Los Angeles and falls in love with (Halle) Berry’s character. When the riots erupt, he will help Berry in protecting her children from the violence.

Craig currently is playing Iago in an off-Broadway production of Othello that runs through Jan. 18.

The Variety story doesn’t specify how long Kings will be in production. Also in 2017, Craig will be filming Purity, a 20-episode television series for the Showtime pay television channel.

For 007 fans, Craig’s non-007 workload mostly is of interest whether he’ll make another James Bond film.

On Dec. 11, the New York Post reported that Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is indulging Craig (because she’s a producer of Othello) in his desire “to stretch his artistic muscles.”

According to the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, Broccoli’s plan is for Craig to “return to Bond after a hiatus of a few years” doing “more serious roles.”

UPDATE: 3 would-be Bond 25 distributors struggle

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last month, the blog examined how real-life developments could inhibit two studios from seeking a deal to distribute Bond 25 and future 007 films.

At least one other studio may also encounter problems. So this post is part new and part recap.

Sony (the incumbent): Sony Pictures, through its Columbia Pictures brand, has distributed the last four Bond movies. But there was a management change last year, with Amy Pascal (an ally of Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions) departing.

Well, according to Variety’s James Rainey, things haven’t gone well with the new regime. An excerpt:

A series of personnel complaints and threatened defections by senior executives have raised questions about the leadership of Sony Pictures Entertainment movie boss Tom Rothman, several sources said — a difficult challenge for a studio already fighting to gain traction during a rough year at the box office.

(snip)
The unhappy Sony executives report that Rothman has made their lives untenable with his micro-management and obstreperous manner, which they say has also alienated talent agents, producers, directors and actors, many of whom are now loathe to bring their projects to Sony, the sources said.

Sony didn’t make that much money from Skyfall and SPECTRE because it only got a 25 percent split of the profits, earning far less than Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon.

Presumably, Sony would want a better deal from MGM if one could be secured. The Variety report suggests things remain unstable at Sony, which suffered computer hacks in 2014 that damaged its reputation.

Warner Bros.: The studio’s parent company, Time Warner, agreed last month to be acquired by AT&T Inc. in an $84.5 billion deal.

That transaction likely won’t be final until late 2017. The question becomes whether Warners is in a position to make a Bond 25 deal until the AT&T acquisition becomes final.

Paramount: The studio’s parent company, Viacom, may end up merging with CBS. Both companies were once joined and then split. Now, it’s looking like they could join up again.

All that figurative paper pushing isn’t conducive to getting things done. Even if the Viacom-CBS re-merger happens quickly, there’s bound to be a period of adjustment.

MGM watch: 007’s studio seen getting stronger

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which controls half of the James Bond franchise, is becoming stronger financially six years after exiting bankruptcy, author and former studio executive Peter Bart writes in a commentary for the Deadline: Hollywood website.

Bart’s story paints MGM as “one of the most consistently profitable” studios.

“MGM produces 5-7 movies a year, has 14 TV shows on the air, has earned a profit of $124 million in its first quarter, and is positioned to make some intriguing acquisitions in the coming year,” Bart wrote.

How could this shake out for future James Bond films?

Executives at rival studios think MGM might re-enter the distribution business next year with the next James Bond film, but this is still speculation. A merger with another major — Paramount or Lionsgate are prospects — is now feasible given MGM’s weight in TV as well as film. Then there’s always the mega-plan: the Amazons and Apples are always hovering. At this point, the possibilities exist, but the decisions haven’t been made. (emphasis added)

MGM hasn’t released a Bond film since 2002’s Die Another Day. The last four were actually released by Sony Pictures. Sony was part of a group that had control of MGM for a few years.

After MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy, Sony cut a deal where it co-financed 007 films with with MGM but only got 25 percent of the profits. Sony’s contract with MGM for Bond films expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

Bart, 83, was the editor in chief of Variety from 1989 to 2009. But Bart also worked as an executive at studios, including MGM and Paramount. He’s also written books about the film industry, including 1990’s Fade Out: The Calamitous Final Days of MGM.

Bart doesn’t venture too far into 007’s film future but says the gentleman spy will continue to be part of it.

A key resource for MGM, of course, continues to be the Bond franchise, which is in a moment of flux. Daniel Craig may or may not return, say Bond-watchers, and Sam Mendes has withdrawn as its director. And while Barber is tempted to re-establish MGM’s distribution arm to handle the Bond film, he apparently also believes MGM resources may be more profitably focused on acquisitions or other initiatives.

MGM and Eon Productions have had an uneasy relationship since 1981 when MGM acquired United Artists, the studio that originally released Bond films. Before that, UA acquired Harry Saltzman’s stake in the Bond franchise when the co-founder of Eon was in financial trouble in the mid-1970s.

The main question Bart leaves unanswered is whether Gary Barber, who has been either co-CEO or sole CEO since MGM exited bankruptcy, has managed to change that.

Barber said in March he’s not in a hurry to negotiate a new 007 film releasing deal with other studios. The MGM chief declined to comment to Bart.

To read the entire Bart commentary, CLICK HERE.

 

Our modest proposals for Bond 25 Part II

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Despite all the unknowns (leading man, distributor, script, etc.) about Bond 25, Eon Productions is getting plenty of advice about the cinema future of James Bond.

Variety, for example, suggested Kathryn Bigelow or Quentin Tarantino would be good candidates to succeed Sam Mendes as director.

We’ve already done this act once, so here’s our sequel:

Select an up-and-coming director to helm Bond 25: Over at Marvel Studios, executives have a knack for signing up-and-coming directors such as James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Joe and Anthony Russo (the past two Captain America movies) with good results.

Taking such an approach may: 1) Provide a fresh set of eyes on 007 movie making and 2) Help with the budget because you’re signing people before they reach peak earnings power.

Bond 25 after the Sam Mendes-directed SPECTRE and, yet again, homages to past films could use the former. Or, put another way: The DB5, again after it was blown up in Skyfall? Really? Daniel Craig has driven it more than Sean Connery ever did.

Sign your own version of Kevin Feige:  Kevin Feige runs the Marvel movie operation and he’s credited as producer of each Marvel-made film. By all accounts, he’s enthusiastic about his job and has never publicly complained about the stresses of making big movies.

Both Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-bosses of Eon Production, have interests in non-007 projects.

A Feige-like deputy could keep an eye on things while Broccoli and Wilson are involved with plays, non-007 films and the like. Such a person could perhaps have kept a closer eye on SPECTRE’s script development while Broccoli and Wilson were involved with The Silent Storm.

The key thing would be to hire a sufficiently talented individual who the Eon co-bosses could trust. Not necessarily an easy task, but one worth considering.

Develop a succession plan if you haven’t already: Michael G. Wilson, at 74, has already spent a majority of his life in Bondage, longer than anybody else associated with the franchise. Over the past 20 years, he has commented more than once about the strains of the job.

Only Wilson knows if he’s up for doing it yet again for Bond 25. But whether it’s Bond 25, 26, 27, etc., nobody lives forever.

Sam Mendes said at a public appearance  that Barbara Broccoli alone will select the next actor to play James Bond. If he’s correct, perhaps there already has been some kind of transition. We’ll see.

Meanwhile Wilson’s son, Gregg, was assistant producer on Quantum of Solace and associate producer on Skyfall and SPECTRE.