Scribes analyze Fukunaga’s prospects for directing Bond 25

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Bond 25’s new director

The naming of Cary Joji Fukunaga as the new director for Bond 25 quickly spurred entertainment writers and other scribes to analyze how he’ll perform.

Essentially, several were excited by what Fukunaga will bring to the production. Others were more cautious, Fukunaga, who has a reputation as an auteur director, is replacing Danny Boyle, another auteur who departed over unspecified “creative differences.”

ERIC KOHN, INDIEWIRE: “Fukunaga has never made an obvious blockbuster, but he’s been steadily flexing the muscles required for a brainy action-adventure over the course of a trailblazing decade-long career…With those two features (Sin Nombre and Jane Eyre) alone, the filmmaker had already shown his capacity to juggle the unique formula that has sustained the Bond franchise across 65 years: tough, visceral action against diverse backdrops, balanced off with sleek romanticism.”

MORGAN JEFFERY, DIGITAL SPY: “If Fukunaga is anything, he’s a director who always has a very specific vision. So given that Boyle is confirmed to have quit Bond over ‘creative differences’, is it a risk to hire another auteur type?…For better or for worse, the Bond films already have their own style, their own formula, and don’t really suit idiosyncratic filmmakers…Cary Fukunaga is a great director, but helming a Bond film and working within that rigid framework is a very singular task. For all Fukunaga’s impressive qualities as a filmmaker, it’s no sure thing that he’ll be able to pull it off.”

OWEN GLEIBERMAN, VARIETY: “(T)he reason Cary Fukunaga has the potential to be an ideal filmmaker for the Bond series is all over his direction of ‘True Detective.’ Simply put, he has a depth-charge understanding of men…and women. And that, as much as anything, is what the James Bond series now needs to be about.”

ALISSA WILKINSON, VOX: “Fukunaga has spent much of his life moving between cultures and absorbing them. His father, a third-generation Japanese American, was born in an internment camp in the US during World War II; his mother is Swedish-American. His parents split when he was a child, after which his father married an Argentinian woman and his mother married a Mexican-American man. Fukunaga is fluent in French as well as Spanish, the latter of which he learned during summers in Mexico with his mother and stepfather.”

GEOFFREY MACNAB, THE INDEPENDENT: “Fukunaga seems a very clever pick on two different levels. He has a strong creative reputation – he is an auteur whose latest series Maniac is said to be genre-breaking and mind-bending – but he also knows how to play the game. He can work with big paymasters like HBO and Netflix….The next Bond will be the first one since the rise of the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Fukunaga’s films, whether Sin Nombre or Jane Eyre, have often had very strong women characters. He’ll strain out any of the sexism that might have crept into the Bond series in the past.”

A recap of Bond 25’s writing process

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

Last week, outlets (starting with Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail) reported that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have resumed work on Bond 25. But things still remain a bit confusing.

With that in mind, here’s a recap of how we got to this point.

March 2017: Bamigboye reports Purvis and Wade have been hired to write Bond 25.

July 2017: The hiring of Purvis and Wade is confirmed in an Eon Productions press release that announces a fall 2019 release date for Bond 25.

December 2017: Barbara Broccoli, in a podcast for The Hollywood Reporter says Purvis and Wade are still hard at work on Bond 25’s story.

February 2018: Deadline: Hollywood reports that Danny Boyle, under consideration to direct Bond 25, devised an idea with writer John Hodge. According to the entertainment news site, Hodge was writing up a script based on that idea. If the script would be accepted, then Boyle will direct.

March 2018: Boyle essentially confirms the Deadline story during a public appearance.

May 25, 2018: Eon announces that Boyle will direct Bond 25, which will have an “original screenplay” by John Hodge.

Aug. 21, 2018: Eon announces Boyle has left Bond 25. Hodge isn’t mentioned but the writer later confirms he, too, is no longer involved.

Sept. 6, 2018: The MI6 James Bond website publishes a story that a Hodge script “was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.” and it is “now being touched up again with changes being made to reflect the wishes of the producers and Daniel Craig.” (emphasis added) This is a new twist, given how the May 25 press release didn’t mention Purvis and Wade.

Sept. 13, 2018: Bamigboye reports that Purvis and Wade have been re-hired to work on Bond 25. The story says a Purvis and Wade treatment had been approved by Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before Boyle and Hodge arrived. A treatment is like a detailed outline. It is not the same as a script draft with its dialogue and stage directions. Anyway, Bamigboye’s story is confirmed by Variety and Deadline: Hollywood. Like Bamigboye, those outlets say Purvis and Wade are turning their previous treatment into a full script.

There it is, contradictions and all. Is it possible that Hodge was working from the Purvis and Wade treatment and not a script draft?

 Maybe. But nobody seems to know at this point.

As a result, it’s hard to tell how developed the story really is.

Variety lists 3 contenders to direct Bond 25

Variety, in a story about the search for a Bond 25 director, lists three contenders.

The entertainment news outlet says that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions ” are showing interest” in Bart Layton, director of American Animals, and S.J. Clarkson, ” who was recently tapped to direct the next ‘Star Trek’ installment.”

Also back in contention is Yann Demange, director of White Boy Rick. Demange last year was reported last year to be a contender for Bond 25. But MGM and Eon got interested in Danny Boyle, who got the job.

“Sit-down meetings are still being worked out for Layton and Clarkson, and the timetable for the meetings is currently unclear,” wrote Variety’s Justin Kroll.

“The producers’ first meeting with Demange went well enough to land him high on the list of contenders, but at the time,” according to Kroll. “‘White Boy Rick’ was unfinished and they were unable to see the movie. A screening will now be set for MGM and Eon officials to see Demange’s final product.”

Variety said Eon wants to keep the currently announced fall 2019 release date for Bond 25. At the same time, the entertainment news outlet said meetings with other directors could still be set up.

Daniel Craig, the 007 film star, is scheduled to begin filming a mystery movie, Knives Out, in November. Bond 25 had been set to begin filming Dec. 3.

(UPDATE, 8:20 p.m. New York Time): Variety’s Kroll put out a tweet saying “there is still a chance Eon and MGM take a Hail Mary shot for a big name like Edgar Wright or (Christoper) McQuarrie.”

 

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.

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.