SPECTRE by the numbers (and not just 007)

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE is starting production in Rome, for a five-week shoot, including a car chase, that will cost almost as much (if not more) than some movies.

So, here’s a breakdown of the kind of spending that’s known about the 24th James Bond film. We’ll assume a total production budget of $300 million.

According to information from hacked Sony documents, the budget was on pace to well exceed that, but there were also efforts to rein it in. We’ll assume the trends cancel themselves out so we’ll go with a nice round number with $300 million.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume a 30-week shooting schedule. Principal photography began on Dec. 8 and is supposed to run seven months. Actual total may run a week or two less than 30 weeks, but some filming was done before principal photography began. So, again, we’ll use a round number.

Cost per week, total: $10 million.

Cost per week, Rome shoot: $12 million (five weeks, $60 million, according to figures reported by Variety.com)

ESTIMATED COST OF NOTABLE JAMES BOND MOVIES (not adjusted for inflation)

Dr. No: $1 million

From Russia With Love: $2 million

Goldfinger: $3 million

You Only Live Twice: $9.5 million (Ken Adam’s volcano set alone cost more than Dr. No)

The Spy Who Loved Me: $14 million

Moonraker: $31 million to $34 million, depending on estimate (Initial plan was to keep it close to Spy’s budget but it was evident that wouldn’t hold)

Tomorrow Never Dies: $110 million (first to exceed $100 million)

Quantum of Solace: $230 million (first to exceed $200 million)

SPECTRE: $300 million (first to reach $300 million).

One week’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than You Only Live Twice, which had the one set that cost more than Dr. No.

Put another way, each day’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than Dr. No. At $10 million a week, if you shot seven days a week, equals $1.43 million daily.

ESTIMATED COST OF OTHER 2015 SPY MOVIES

Taken 3: $48 million

Kingsman: The Secret Service: $81 million

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: $75 million

To be fair, none of this takes into account 50 years of inflation. At the same time, this exercise is also a reminder that studios don’t play with Monopoly money. Studios don’t get to spend, or receive, inflation-adjusted dollars.

A few things best to forget about You Only Live Twice

You Only LIve Twice poster

You Only LIve Twice poster

The other night over at the MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. SPIES AND DETECTIVES FACEBOOK PAGE, a conversation broke out about implausibilities of various James Bond movies. You Only Live Twice came up quite a bit.

So, it got us to thinking about things that are best to forget or overlook about the 1967 James Bond film directed by Lewis Gilbert. For the purposes of this post, we won’t even go into things chewed over the years, such as Bond trying to impersonate a Japanese.

“Arrange usual reception, please.” In You Only Live Twice, Bond (Sean Connery) and Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) are being followed and shot at by SPECTRE thugs.

No problem (as future 007 sacrificial lamb Vijay might say). Aki requests Japanese Secret Service chief Tanaka to, “Arrange usual reception, please.” A helicopter swoops down, extends a magnet, snares the thugs’ car, whisks it out over Tokyo Bay and drops it.

A few things (as noted in the Facebook conversation): Should Tanaka have maybe captured the thugs and interrogated them? And since this is the “usual reception,” how many times a year does the Japanese secret service dump cars full of thugs into the bay? It’s probably best not to think about any of this, or else you’ll be distracted by the Kobe docks chase that follows.

SPECTRE not exactly being inconspicuous: The criminal organization kills an American tourist because she happened to take a photo of the ship Ning Po (which, is connected to SPECTRE). As Bond remarks, the photo shows “a ship and a strip of land, it could be anywhere.” In effect, SPECTRE has announced its presence. Later, Bond flies over the volcanoes in Little Nelly. SPECTRE sends out four helicopters to try to shoot Bond down, confirming its presence in the area.

Of course, it’s best to forget all that because we wouldn’t have the helicopter battle that follows.

Bond’s magical ninja shirt: Bond and Kissy investigate a cave. But there’s poisonous gas, so they dive overboard and swim away. Bond is wearing a shirt and a white undershirt (see the 1:25:51 mark).

Much later, when he and Kissy have reached the top of volcano (and the metal roof that’s supposed to look like water), Bond has his gray ninja shirt on underneath (1:29:41 mark). It’s sort of like the DC Comics superhero Green Lantern who creates his costume using his power ring.

But it’s best to forget all that because the climax of the movie will be coming up shortly.

The film’s weird timeline: When Bond and Kissy reach the top of the volcano, it’s still daylight. The sun must have set pretty quickly because it’s night when they get to the metal door.

Meanwhile, the trek of Bond and Kissy up the mountain was depicted as long and arduous. The use of dissolves implies it took a long time. Some the shots show the walking isn’t easy. Also Bond said there were “miles” of cave tunnel leading to the top of the volcano.

Yet, Bond when sends Kissy “to get Tanaka,” she goes back down the mountain, swims across a bay, dodges bullets from a SPECTRE helicopter and brings Tanaka and his ninjas all in darkness. Maybe Bond misjudged the distance. Anyway, something else to ignore or else you’ll miss the big ninja raid on SPECTRE HQs.

Majesty’s 45th: ‘This never happened to the other fella’

OHMSS poster

OHMSS poster

When Sean Connery was cast as James Bond in Dr. No, there was interest. Ian Fleming’s 007 novels were popular. President John F. Kennedy was among their fans. Still, it wasn’t anything to obsess over.

Six years later, things had changed. Bond was a worldwide phenomenon. 007 was a big business that even producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hadn’t anticipated originally. Now, the role was being re-cast after Sean Connery departed the role.

As a result, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which debuted 45 years ago this month, was under intense scrutiny. The film required a long, exhausting shooting schedule. This time, Bond would be played by a novice actor, George Lazenby, and a first time director Peter Hunt.

Hunt, at least, was no novice with the world of 007. He had been editor or supervising editor of the previous five Broccoli-Saltzman 007 films and second unit director of You Only Live Twice. So he was more than familiar with how the Bond production machine worked. Also, he had support of other 007 veterans, including production designer Syd Cain, set decorator Peter Lamont, screenwriter Richard Maibaum and composer John Barry.

Lazenby, on the other hand, had to take a crash course. He was paired with much more experienced co-stars, including Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas. And he was constantly being compared with Connery.

When, at the end of the pre-titles sequence, Lazenby says, “This never happened to the other fella,” the statement was true on multiple levels.

Majesty’s was also the first time Eon Productions re-calibrated. You Only Live Twice had dispensed with the main plot of Fleming’s novel and emphasized spectacle instead. Majesty’s ended up being arguably the most faithful adaptation of a Fleming 007 novel. It was still big, but it had no spaceships or volcano hideouts.

Majesty’s global box office totaled $82 million, according to THE NUMBERS WEBSITE. That was a slide from You Only Live Twice’s $111.6 million. Twice’s box offce, in turn, had declined compared with Thunderball.

For Lazenby, once was enough. He subsequently has said he erred by not making a second Bond. “This never happened to the other fella,” indeed.

Today, Majesty’s has a good reputation among 007 fans. In 1969 and 1970, the brain trust at Eon Productions and United Artists concluded some re-thinking was needed. Things were about to change yet again.

Goldfinger: the first ‘A-movie’ comic book film?

Goldfinger poster

Goldfinger poster

Here’s a thought as Goldfinger celebrates its 50th anniversary. In a way, the third James Bond film may have been the first “A-movie” comic book film.

Before Goldfinger, comic book films existed as serials. Lewis Wilson, father of Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson, played Batman in a 1943 serial, for example. Serials would run for weeks in 15-minute or so installments ahead of the main feature.

Goldfinger, of course, was based on Ian Fleming’s novel, not a comic book. Still, some Fleming novels seem to draw their inspiration from pulp adventure stories (also a source of inspiration for comic books).

In Fleming’s novel, Goldfinger’s henchman Oddjob was already over the top. With the film, that increased. A gold bar bounced off his chest without causing Oddjob harm. Harold Sakata’s Oddjob crushed a golf ball to show his displeasure with Sean Connery’s Bond. The henchman used his steel-rimmed hat to kill with precision. Oddjob, for a time in the Fort Knox sequence, bats Bond around like a cat playing wth a mouse.

Nor did the comic book style action end there. Bond’s tricked out Aston Martin became the inspiration for “spy cars,” with far more weaponry that a few extras the novel’s Aston had. The deaths of both Oddjob and later Auric Goldfinger could be described as comic book like. It was as if Jack Kirby of Marvel Comics drew the storyboards.

The difference, of course, was this all occurred in a $3 million A-movie where the audience could see the story all in one night.

Goldfinger’s success certainly was felt in the 007 series. In Thunderball, Bond flew a jet pack and in the climatic underwater fight had an oversized air tank that had additional weapons. You Only Live Twice included a helicopter snatching a car with a giant magnet and Blofeld’s volcano headquarters set that cost more than it took to produce Dr. No.

The success of such movies demonstrated audiences had an appetite for such uber-escapist sequences when executied in an entertaining way. You could make the case that Goldfinger blazed a trail that the likes of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and, yes, movies based directly on comic books, exploited.

The path from Connery’s Bond to, say, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man may be shorter than it appears.

The most obvious sign: director Christopher Nolan, a self-described 007, adapted Bond bits (the Bond-Q briefing evolved into Bruce Wayne getting new equipment from Lucius Fox) into his three Batman movies. Director Sam Mendes in Skyfall returned the favor, saying Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight influenced the 2012 007 film.

Bond 24 questions: the writers edition

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are back? There’s been no official announcement but it was reported last month by The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye that the writers were retained to rewrite John Logan’s efforts.

Bamigboye had a number of Skyfall and Bond 24 scoops proven correct. Example: he wrote that Purvis and Wade were initially not going to be back for Bond 24, while their Skyfall co-scribe John Logan would be the new 007 film’s writer. Purvis and Wade subsequently confirmed they were leaving the series. Until, it now seems, things changed.

How extensive will Purvis and Wade’s Bond 24 script work going to be? If the duo end up getting a credit, you’ll know it will have been substantial.

The Writer’s Guild has extensive guidelines on how much work a scribe (with a team of writers such as Purvis and Wade counted as a single entity) should do to get a screen credit. A writer or writing team must contribute more than 33 percent of the finished product for an adapted script, 50 percent for an original one. Bond 24 falls under the adapted category since it uses a character who originally appeared in a novel.

Getting a credit isn’t as simple as counting lines of dialogue. A credit is supposed to reflect “contributions to the screenplay as a whole,” according to the guild. It’s possible, for example, for a writer to change every line of dialogue but for the guild to determine there’s been no significant change to the screenplay.

In any case, if Bond 24’s credit reads something like, “Written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,” Purvis and Wade will have done more than revamp some dialogue or tweak a scene or two.

Is this unusual?It’s the normal method of operation for both movies in general and James Bond movies in particular. Even 007 films that had only one writing credit had contributions from other writers. For example:

–From Russia With Love had a solo screenplay credit for Richard Maibaum, but also an “adapted by” credit for Johanna Harwood, while Len Deighton did work that didn’t earn a credit.
–You Only Live Twice had a “screenplay by” credit for Roald Dahl but an “additional story material” credit for Harold Jack Bloom, the film’s first writer.
–On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had a Maibaum solo credit for the screenplay but an “additional dialogue” credit for Simon Raven, who rewrote dialogue in some scenes.
–Tomorrow Never Dies had a “written by” credit for Bruce Feirstein. Other writers took a whirl without credit between Feirstein’s first draft and his final draft.

As far as anyone knows, Live And Let Die really represented the work of only one writer (Tom Mankiewicz), and he did plenty of rewrites himself.

Is this any reason to be concerned? The Daily Mail also reported the start of Bond 24 filming was pushed back to December from October. If true, that should still be enough time for Bond 24 to meet its release date of late October 2015 in the U.K. and early November 2015 in the U.S.

What should fans look for next? The date of the press conference announcing the start of Bond 24 filming. There should also be a press release. If Purvis and Wade get a mention in that press release along with John Logan, that’ll be a sign they did a fair amount of work on the script.

MI6 Confidential features Armstrong, Picker in new issue

David Picker

David Picker

MI Confidential is out with A NEW ISSUE that, among things, includes features on stuntman/second unit director Vic Armstrong and former United Artists executive David V. Picker.

Armstrong worked on the 007 film series in such films as You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was interviewed for John Cork-directed documentaries about those movies, providing some behind-the-scenes perspective about how stunts were performed. From 1997-2002, Armstrong assumed the helm as stunt coordinator and second unit director for three Bond films starring Pierce Brosnan.

Picker was among the UA executives who reached a deal in 1961 with producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to get the 007 film series started. His memoirs were published last year, including A CHAPTER ON THE BOND FILM SERIES.

Also included in the issue are stories about Lana Wood and her experiences filming Diamonds Are Forever and Ian Fleming’s taste in cars.

The price for MI Confidential No. 25 is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros. For more information about the contents or to order, CLICK HERE.

Will Bond 24 be Skyfall Part II?

Bond 24 writer John Logan

Bond 24 writer John Logan

The answer is almost certainly not. But some recent comments by Bond 24 scribe John Logan remind long-time 007 fans of history: on previous occasions, Eon Productions has followed up enormous Bond hits with more of the same.

The IGN website had a Jan. 17 story that quotes Logan, signed to write Bond 24 and Bond 25, about the next 007 movie.

“My goal is to write a great movie that’s appropriate, to build on what we did on Skyfall, but make it its own unique animal,” Logan said of the teams aspirations for Bond 24. “The themes, ideas and the characters from Skyfall can obviously continue on, because it is a franchise, and it is an ongoing story. So I think there’s resonance from Skyfall in the new movie.”

Some history: 1965’s Thunderball was the biggest 007 hit of the 1960s, the decade the film series began. Eon followed it up with You Only Live Twice, which dispensed with most of the plot of the 1964 Ian Fleming novel. Instead, Eon came up with bigger set pieces and even had a SPECTRE woman assassin (Karin Dor) made up to look very similar to Thunderball’s femme fatale (Luciana Paluzzi).

In the 1970s, the future of the franchise was at stake. The Spy Who Loved Me was a huge hit in 1977 and Eon’s next outing was Moonraker, an even bigger spectacle. The former had a villain who wanted to kill off the human race to preserve the oceans; the latter had a villain who wanted to kill off the human race and repopulate it with a “flying stud farm” of perfect human specimens.

Skyfall, while having its share of spectacle, was more about introspection, inner emotions and the like. Based on Logan’s remarks, will viewers get even more introspection, even more inner emotions? Perhaps even flashbacks as Bond thinks back to the demise of M (Judi Dench)?

Obviously, few people have any idea what will happen next. Logan has made a tease, but that’s all it is. Still, it’ll be interesting to see when the movie comes out in the fall of 2015.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166 other followers