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.

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.”