Should 007 and Batman share the same cinema universe?

NOT an actual comic book cover

NOT an actual comic book cover

It was reported this week that Warner Bros. may be in a good position to replaced Sony Pictures as the studio that releases James Bond movies. That got some fans to wonder whether 007 and Batman (and Superman and the Justice League) could share the same cinema universe.

Necessary background: 007’s home studio is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But, after emerging from bankruptcy, it’s a relatively small company and cuts deals with other studios to release its films.

Sony Pictures’ current two-picture deal with MGM for Bond expires once SPECTRE is released in November. Sony wants to strike a new deal, but the studio knows it’ll have competition for post-SPECTRE 007 projects.

Variety reported Warner Bros. is a leading contender because its executives have a good relationship with MGM’s top executive, Gary Barber.

Anyway, on THE SPY COMMAND’S FACEBOOK PAGE, a reader asked if Warners really does secure the 007 releasing deal whether Bond could be included in a planned two-part Warner Bros. Justice League movie, even if it’s just a cameo.

For the uninitiated, the Justice League is a group of DC Comics heroes, headed by Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. DC Comics has long been part of Warners’ parent company and the comic book company now is actually part of the studio. Next year’s Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice will help set up the even bigger Justice League project.

It seems like a stretch that Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-bosses of Eon Productions, would go along with such a concept. In AN INTERVIEW WITH COMING SOON.NET, Broccoli and Wilson did not warm up to the idea of Bond sharing a fictional universe with any other character.

Q: The notion of cinematic shared universes are increasingly popular in Hollywood these days. Any chance of seeing the Bond franchise go after something like that?

Broccoli: I think Bond lives in his own universe. I don’t think he wants to share it with anyone else.

Wilson: Like Bond and Mission: Impossible? I think that’s the stuff for comic books. More power to them.

Beyond the Eon leadership, there’s the question of 007 fans.

It’s hard to know how many, but — via Internet message boards and social media outlets — there are a lot of vocal 007 fans critical about “comic book movies.” For these fans, Bond is above that sort of thing. For them, “comic book movies” are glorified cartoons. Except, of course, when director Sam Mendes acknowledged that The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, INFLUENCED 2012’s SKYFALL.

Humility is not part of the 007 fan’s DNA. Bond is the best. Any other spy entertainment that has been created since 1962 is merely a “James Bond knockoff.” Bond in the same universe as Batman and Superman, even if it came via a cameo? Untold billions of brain cells around the world would explode.

Meanwhile, a note about the illustration with this post. It APPEARED ON THIS WEBSITE. The actual cover The Brave and The Bold No. 110 LOOKED LIKE THIS.

MGM may end ties with Sony for 007, Variety says

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer may seek another studio as a James Bond partner when MGM’s current deal with Sony Pictures expires after the release of SPECTRE, VARIETY REPORTED, citing people it didn’t identify.

Sony has released the last four 007 films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. The current MGM-Sony deal was for two movies after MGM emerged from bankruptcy.

Variety’s Brent Lang’s story includes this passage:

However, insiders speculate that the close relationship between MGM chief Gary Barber and Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara could result in the super-spy shifting addresses to the Burbank studio. MGM and Warner Bros. have partnered on several films including the “Hobbit” trilogy, the May box office dud “Hot Pursuit” and the upcoming Rocky Balboa spin-off, “Creed.”

In an exclusive sit-down interview, newly-minted Sony Pictures Entertainment motion picture group chairman Tom Rothman acknowledged that the fight for the Bond rights will be fierce.

“The reality is that Sony’s had a fantastic run with the Bonds,” said Rothman, adding, “Sure we’re going to compete for (the rights), but let’s be honest, so is everybody in the business.”

The deal isn’t as financially rewarding for Sony as fans might suppose. The New York Times, IN A MAY 2013 STORY detailed how Sony was third in line behind Eon Productions and MGM for its cut from Skyfall. According to that story, the Wilson-Broccoli clan took its cut and then MGM got 75 percent of what was left over.

Still, 007 films come as close to a sure thing in the movie business so studios naturally would still be interested.

Robert Rodriguez to direct Jonny Quest movie, Variety says

Race Bannon about to rescue Jonny Quest

Race Bannon about to rescue Jonny Quest

Robert Rodriguez will direct and co-write a live-action Jonny Quest movie, VARIETY REPORTED.

Here’s an excerpt:

Rodriguez has made a name for himself for his violent action pics, but his most successful films to date have been the family-friendly “Spy Kids” movies. That franchise comes from the same mold as “Jonny Quest,” making him seem like the perfect fit for the adaptation.

There are have been three versions of the cartoon, but the most popular among fans is the original, The Adventures of Jonny Quest. That consisted of 26 episodes that aired in prime-time on ABC during the 1964-65 season. Jonny Quest was the only son of important scientist Benton Quest. As a result, U.S. intelligent agent Race Bannon was assigned as combination tutor and bodyguard.

The cartoon was created by cartoonist Doug Wildey for producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. It was Hanna-Barbera’s answer to James Bond and development began after Barbera saw Dr. No. Hanna-Barbera initially intended to adapt the radio program Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, but went with original characters instead. The Hanna-Barbera cartoon brand was later absorbed by Warner Bros.’s animation unit.

UPDATE (8 p.m.): If you want to check them out, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD have stories on this subject.

U.N.C.L.E. awakes: The Rip Van Winkle Affair

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

For one day, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was truly back after a slumber of more than 30 years. Rip Van Winkle only slept for 20 years.

May 9 was a press junket in Rome for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie. Images and comments flooded social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

There hasn’t been an official U.N.C.L.E. production since The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie aired on CBS in 1983. Principal photography for the Guy Ritchie-directed feature film took place in the late summer and fall of 2013.

There have been milestones since then, including test screenings in 2014 and release of a first trailer in February. Still, the Rome press junket represented the biggest push by Warner Bros. to begin to raise visibility for the film.

Warner Bros. is in an unusual situation for the “summer” movie season (which begins the first weekend of May). It has no “tent pole” movie, so AS NOTED IN THIS VARIETY STORY, it’s releasing more films than other studios for the summer, looking to make up in volume what it lacks in spectacle. Thus, U.N.C.L.E. has become part of the studio’s “flood the zone” strategy.

Anyway, that’s for studio executives. For U.N.C.L.E. fans — at least those who want new U.N.C.L.E. tales — May 9 marked a beginning (or reawakening).

The U.N.C.L.E. movie, by 2015 standards, is modest ($75 million production budget). It’s in the shadow of the James Bond franchise, whose new installment, SPECTRE, has a $300 million budget, making it one of the most expensive movies of all time.

On the very same day Warners had its coming out party, SPECTRE released its latest “clapperboard” shot, one of the ways the 007 franchise uses social media to promote its product. (If you want to see all the SPECTRE clapperboard shots in scene order, CLICK HERE.)

In the end, despite U.N.C.L.E.’s Ian Fleming connection (the 007 author helped name Napoleon Solo), the two are different animals. Bond is the big kid on the block. U.N.C.L.E. is trying to get established again after a long layoff.

The U.N.C.L.E.’s movie’s Napoleon Solo is played by Henry Cavill, passed over for the role of 007 in favor of Daniel Craig in 2005. Both movies filmed in Rome, but SPECTRE spent $60 million there, almost as much as U.N.C.L.E.’s entire budget.

May 9 was a big day for U.N.C.L.E. fans. It remains to be seen whether the U.N.C.L.E. movie so long in development will be worth the wait. For at least one day, many U.N.C.L.E. fans felt a surge of excitement that it might be.

U.N.C.L.E. movie to be promoted at Rome event, fan site says

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Cast members of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie will be participate in a media event in Rome this weekend, the HENRY CAVILL NEWS WEBSITE said.

Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Debicki will be part of the event, according to the fan website, which writes extensively about Cavill’s various projects.

Cavill and Hammer play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, the characters portrayed by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in the 1964-68 series. Debicki plays a new character who appears to be a femme fatale in the film that comes out in mid-August.

Here’s one of the items contained in the Henry Cavill News story. Alicia Malone, who is part of a website called Malone’s Movie Minute took to Twitter to tease the event.

Cavill and Hammer appeared at the recent CinemaCon event in Las Vegas, where upcoming movies are promoted to theater owners.

Rome was one of the main locations for the Guy Ritchie-directed U.N.C.L.E. movie, which was filmed in the late summer and fall of 2013. The movie, set in 1963, has an “origin” story, showing how American Solo and Soviet Kuryakin came to work together. It has a different time line than the show, where U.N.C.L.E. had been formed shortly after World War II.

WSJ on M:I and U.N.C.L.E.; new Kirby-Steranko story

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Here’s a roundup of some Other Spies developments.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL has a story about making movies based on television series, specifically looking at Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

One excerpt:

Why does TV continue to inspire movie dreams?

It is partly because of the extra time and money a feature can offer filmmakers. More fundamentally, even an aged television series can provide brand-name recognition, which acts as a commercial safety net—although an unreliable one.

(snip)
For every successful adaptation, though—from “Star Trek” to “21 Jump Street”—there’s the risk of turning out “The Lone Ranger.” The 2013 film with Johnny Depp as Tonto was rejected by audiences, who were uninterested in the plot, unfamiliar with the 1950s television show and more mystified than intrigued by Mr. Depp wearing a dead-bird headdress. The film led to a nearly $200 million loss for Disney.

The story includes quotes from M:I director Christopher McQuarrie about watching the original Mission: Impossible in returns (“It was sort of iconic to me.”) and U.N.C.L.E. movie co-writer Lionel Wigram, who says Warner Bros. wasn’t “interested in a contemporary story. But we could do a ’60s spy movie that appeals to a modern audience, and is very much the zeitgeist of ‘Mad Men.’”

Nick Fury

Nick Fury

COMIC BOOK RESOURCES reports that Marvel Comics plans to run a previously unpublished Jack Kirby-Jim Steranko art in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. No. 9 coming out in August.

Here’s text from a press release in the Comic Book Resources story:

First, this August, S.H.I.E.L.D. #9 answers a question half a century in the making. A mystery that lies at the heart of the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. – who is the “Man Called D.E.A.T.H.”?! Written by Mark Waid with art by Lee Ferguson – this special, oversized anniversary issue features a never before published S.H.I.E.L.D. sequence penciled by Jack Kirby and inked by Jim Steranko! Plus – Al Ewing brings you a second story featuring the return of Dum Dum Dugan and the birth of the new Howling Commandos! Along with the very first S.H.I.E.L.D. story from 1965 and the original sequence that inspired S.H.I.E.L.D.’s creation – this is not one to miss!

Jack Kirby and Stan Lee both co-created Nick Fury (as the start of a World War II comic book) and S.H.I.E.L.D. (where an older Fury takes command of the agency). Steranko took over S.H.I.E.L.D. in 1966, first as artist and then as writer. Steranko’s early S.H.I.E.L.D. efforts had him doing finished art over breakdowns by Kirby.

Cavill, Hammer say they’d like to do an U.N.C.L.E. sequel

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, stars of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, say they’d be happy to reprise the roles of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin in another film if their first effort is successful at the box office.

The two were interviewed at CinemaCon this week by JBlo Movie Trailers, which posted the video to YouTube.

“I certainly enjoyed playing Napoleon Solo so fingers crossed I get to do it again,” Cavill said. Added Hammer, “I’d love to make one of these again.”

The big question is whether the movie, due out Aug. 14 in the United States, will do well enough for Warner Bros. to commission a sequel. The movie will come out just two weeks after Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the fifth installment of the film series featuring Tom Cruise. On the other hand, the U.N.C.L.E. movie had (these days at least) a modest production budget of $75 million, which is small change compared to the $300 million outlay for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

This blog has previously posed the question if Cavill would have the time to make an U.N.C.L.E. sequel. He’s committed to playing Superman in a two-part Justice League project, with release dates in 2017 and 2019 as well as a stand-alone Superman movie at some future date. Based on Cavill’s comments, he sounds like he could fit in another U.N.C.L.E. turn if it comes up.

In the interview, Hammer also discussed something he’s mentioned before. The actor says he bought a DVD set of the original 1964-68 series after he was cast as Kuryakin. He said he liked the second season but thought the show went “off the rails” in the third when the humor-drama balance tipped more toward the humor side.

Anyway, here’s the interview:

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