MARK O'CONNELL

Writer, Author, Bond Fan

Tag: Barbara Broccoli (page 2 of 2)

SPECTRE – EON Productions let the cat out the bag on the 24th Bond opus

SPECTRE cast banner 8

“Welcome to the 007 Stage – where budgets go to die” – Sam Mendes

So sure as light follows day, finger follows gold and fall follows sky, there will be a new James Bond movie. So at a traditional press call (this time at the famed 007 Stage on the equally famous Pinewood Studios lot where the new 007 epic has been setting up shop for a while) it has been officially announced that shooting on the twenty-fourth 007 epic is about to begin. And whilst “B24” will continue to be signposted to various locations and unit bases during the seventh month shoot, the rest of the world will know the newest 007 movie now as SPECTRE.

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Official press release, MGM / Sony Pictures / EON Productions

Joining producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, and Daniel Craig on his fourth Bond outing as agent 007 will be two-time Oscar winner, Tarantino favourite and all-round Austrian acting powerhouse, Christoph Waltz. Playing the under-specified “Oberhauser”, Waltz’s casting alongside the title has pulled back the anti-shark floodgates for all manner of speculation and supposition suggesting Roger Moore failed in his efforts to rid the world of Ernst Stavro Blofeld down a chimney at Beckton Gas Works. To be fair on Sir Roger, the biggest victim of Blofeld’s treachery has always been continuity which certainly implies the scarred/not scarred/drag act/wheelchair bound chameleon himself is right royally back in SPECTRE. Or is he?

Ever since Barbara Broccoli and Waltz shared time on the judging panel at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival it felt like only a matter of time until the two-time Oscar winner graced the Bond podium. And of course Waltz has already had a loose brush with Bond having played a German spy in 1989’s Fleming TV drama, Goldeneye. Like Javier Bardem before him, you don’t cast Waltz in a Bond film and not use him. “And the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for 2015 goes to Christoph Waltz….”

The SPECTRE Boardroom (from left) Daniel Craig, Naomi Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Dave Bautista, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear & Andrew Scott.

Sidling up alongside Waltz in a delicious piece of physically ill-matching casting is Dave Bautista. Fresh from his summer 2014 success in Guardians of The Galaxy, the American-Filipino ex wrestler is to play henchmen Mr Hinx. It’s been a while since Bond has a decent bitch fight with a man monolith who can actually act. No – Zao, Kil, Bull and all manner of Brosnan henchmen don’t count.

Irish actor Andrew Scott is to play “Whitehall” colleague Denbigh. Scott (Pride, Sherlock) is a massive fan favourite via his current turn as arch nemesis Moriarty in Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s Sherlock and no doubt a great box office lure for a whole slew of early 20s lady cult fans. Trust me. I have seen the Whovians and Sherlockians go crazy in Scott’s company and his casting represents more of a box office coup than may yet be realised. He is also a top notch actor. Scott’s Sherlock colleague and co-star Mark Gatiss (Catching Bullet’s very own cat-stroking ‘pre-title’ contributor) told this site upon Scott’s SPECTRE news “I’m naturally thrilled about Andrew being in Bond. He’s a brilliant actor and a brilliant man and now Her Majesty gets the unalloyed pleasure of his secret service!”

“I’m naturally thrilled about Andrew being in Bond. He’s a brilliant actor and a brilliant man and now Her Majesty gets the unalloyed pleasure of his secret service!”

Mark Gatiss on Andrew Scott’s casting in SPECTRE

Returning as MI6’s Chief of Staff Tanner, Rory Kinnear returns to the Eon fold for the third successive time. Clocking in with him at MI6’s new Bernard Lee-tastic HQ is Ben Whishaw as Q (who is already quite pleased to be back in the suit and glasses), Naomie Harris as arch-secretary Moneypenny (she is not arch at all but SPECTRE has now brought back such parlance) and of course Ralph Fiennes as 007’s new boss, passport holder and all-round brace wearing machine, M.

Remembrances of Things Past 

And what of Bond’s women? Well as was touted, rising French actress Lea Seydoux (Blue is The Warmest Colour, Grand Central, Midnight In Paris) is to play the Proustian Madeleine Swann. A possible play on words and continuing Skyfall and writer John Logan’s literary cameos, a madeleine cake was famously referenced at the beginning of Proust’s Swann’s Way – when the subject marks how a nostalgia-making madeleine brings back a tumult of hard emotions and childhood remembrances. A possible clue to Seydoux’s role, Swann’s Way was the first chapter of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (À la Recherché Du Temps Perdu, 1913) which translates as the more familiar Remembrance of Things Past. A possible pointer to Bond’s personal journey in SPECTRE?

And in what has quickly made bigger headlines than was maybe expected, Italian actress Monica Bellucci (The Apartment, The Matrix Reloaded) is to play the brilliantly named Lucia Sciarra. Aged 50, Bellucci will be the oldest leading Bond actress and marks the first time – if these things really matter (they don’t) only the second actress in 007 history to be older than her Bond (Honor Blackman was older than Connery in 1964’s Goldfinger). Married to French actor Vincent Cassel (Mesrine, La Haine) and already more of a Bond Cougar than a Bond Woman, Bellucci has set many a heart racing and could well – despite her standing already – be the breakout star of SPECTRE.

SPECTRE cast banner 10

 

SPECTRE NUMBER 1 :

How does it stand as a Bond title?

In two words – cool and ruthless.

To paraphrase Ian Fleming it is a blunt instrument of a title. Perhaps like no other 007 marquee name for quite a while it packs a cracking punch. There is no hiding or interpretation with SPECTRE. It certainly makes total sense for a Bond movie that has to sidle up to its sizeable 2015 box office cousins – The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Fury Road, The Man From UNCLE, Inside Out, Terminator – Genysis, The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2, Mission Impossible V, The Martian, The Fantastic Four, The Peanuts Movie (Bond’s US release day buddy) and Spielberg’s own Cold War spy drama St. James Place – to load itself up with the bombast, heritage and killer intent of a title like SPECTRE.

There is no deceit or bluff about SPECTRE. Or is there? Despite the official line being that Christoph Waltz is playing “Oberhauser”, reports and rumour merchants have opted for the easy copy stating Christoph Waltz must ultimately be playing Blofeld. A title like SPECTRE only fuels that and the thought of Waltz waltzing in as a new wave Ernst is just too delicious a premise. But this is 2015. EON are following up Skyfall and Sam Mendes is making his first sequel. This will be a story with plenty of secrets, surprises and triple bluffs up its Mao suit sleeves. The phrase “hiding in plain sight” comes to mind.

(c) Aston Martin Ltd

SPECTRE NUMBER 2 :

Who else will be sat round SPECTRE’s table of Bondage?

Barbara Broccoli confirmed at the March 2014 launch of Bond In Motion that Bond 24 will see the return of a new Aston Martin. Well in true game-show unveiling style, director Sam Mendes whipped back the sleekest tarpaulin ever designed to reveal possibly the sleekest, juice-inducing Aston Martin – the brand new and wholly unique DB10. Designed by Aston Martin’s Gaydon HQ and in unison with EON Productions, the model has been specifically engineered for SPECTRE , the first time the famed car company has created such a bespoke, film-steered sidekick for our man James.

Dr Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin, says : “In the same year that we celebrate our 50-year relationship with 007, it seems doubly fitting that today we unveiled this wonderful new sports car created especially for James Bond…I’m incredibly proud of everyone in the team at Gaydon who have brought this special project from concept to reality.” (AstonMartin.com). Aside from the probable stunt requirements dictating more than one back-up of the car, production of the beautiful DB10 will be limited to merely ten models.

Production designer Dennis Gassner has his biggest Bond gig so far as the Ken Adam Does SPECTRE boots are hard to fill. Confirmed locations are now Austria – where the townsfolk of the mountainous Obertilliach in the Tirol region have already seen the Bond circus come to town in preparation for the new year’s ambitious and sizeable shoot. Alongside that, Sölden and Lake Altaussee will be on Bond 24’s itenary too.

Incidentally the Tirol region and Kitzbühel is known Fleming turf. Ian himself would regularly holiday there and Fleming heavily references “Oberhauser” and Kitzbühel (see below). Perhaps Obertilliach is doubling for Kitzbühel?

Flanking such Bond-tastic locations (and nothing screams Bond more than a mountain covered in snow) will be London – playing a significant role, following on from Skyfall – Mexico City and Morocco’s Tangier and Erfoud. Possibly linking Bellucci’s turn as the Italian Lucia Sciarra, the capital Rome will finally feature significantly in a Bond movie. Production has already been based at the mod-classic and landmark Cinecittà Studios for quite a while. As Variety reported on the 24th November 2014, “MGM’s 24th James Bond film is instead expected in Rome between February and March 2015 with reported plans for high-speed car chases down the Eternal City’s narrow cobble-lines streets, and Bond parachuting down onto the ancient Ponte Sisto bridge on the Tiber“.

 

SPECTRE NUMBER 3 :

So what do we need to know about SPECTRE?

SPECTRE_LogoFirst mentioned by Ian Fleming in 1961’s Thunderball novel, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (or  Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion – go on Don Black, get that one to rhyme) was next mentioned in 1962’s The Spy Who Loved Me, before taking centre stage in the following year’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The shadowy organisation’s infamous kingpin Ernst Stavro Blofeld later re-appears in 1964’s novel, You Only Live Twice. The Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice books are often classed as The Blofeld Trilogy. But then came the Bond movies which tapped into S.P.E.C.T.R.E. from the start (despite Ian Fleming’s on-going wranglings with producer Kevin McClory who claimed he shared ownership to Ernst and SPECTRE – having allegedly crafted both when developing Bond with Fleming, Jack Whittingham and others for a touted TV project). The dispute behind SPECTRE, Blofeld and indeed Thunderball’s content reputedly stalled the ninth 007 novel from being the first Eon produced Bond movie, so producers Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman went instead for the [then] less litigious and easier-to-mount Dr. No.

DR. NO: I’m a member of SPECTRE.

BOND: SPECTRE?

DR. NO: SPECTRE. Special Executive for Counter Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion. The four great cornerstones of power headed by the greatest brains in the world.

BOND: Correction. Criminal brains.

DR. NO: The successful criminal brain is always superior. It has to be.

Dr. No, 1962

The Doctor No of 1962’s Dr. No was instantly on the SPECTRE staff. In its rapid sequel From Russia with Love (1963) the toe-filleting Rosa Klebb had recently defected to SPECTRE from SMERSH (the real life Russian Soviet counter-intelligence organisation). From Russia With Love also marked the first feature appearance of one Ernst Stavro Blofeld – albeit shot with narrative chaste through a careful frame where only his hands and lap cat were seen. Played by Anthony Dawson (who also played SPECTRE agent Professor Dent in Dr. No) and voiced by actor Eric Pohlmann, it was From Russia’s Blofeld that set the template for the onscreen Blofeld – all Mao suits, Angora cats, menacing cuffs and the peril of anonymity.

That notion continued into the fourth Bond movie Thunderball (1965) before later evolving into a no holds (or faces) barred Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (Donald Pleasance, 1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Telly Savalas, 1969) and Diamonds Are Forever (Charles Gray, 1971).

More men have collectively played Blofeld than Bond. Though it is only one Blofeld who has ever tried to win Bond over in a panic by offers of a bizarre delicatessen start-up restaurant scheme (For Your Eyes Only).

Are we keeping up SPECTRE agents? This will not be repeated.

The 1970s saw various legal challenges, internal developments and ownership wrangles plaguing the Bond movies. The return of SPECTRE and Blofeld were toyed with for subsequent 007 episodes but times [and lawyers] changed and Eon Productions reputedly wanted to move on from Blofeld, his organisation and the possible claimants to the artistic properties in question (though the first draft notions of many a later Bond film was to go with SPECTRE). This possibly accounts for 1981’s in-joke overture – where an obscured wheelchair-bound Blofeld and his cat are plunged by Roger Moore and a 80s chopper  into a chimney at Beckton Gas Works (ironically, the site is now part of the SPECTRE inspired Docklands Light Railway monorail).

“He lets the other two fight while he waits. Waits until the survivor is so exhausted then he cannot defend himself. And then like SPECTRE, he strikes”

BLOFELD, From Russia With Love, 1963

 

SPECTRE_Logo Blofeld’s er filmic ‘swansong’ marked the final [to date] onscreen appearance of Blofeld in an Eon produced 007 opus. Of course 1983’s rival Bond film Never Say Never Again saw producer Kevin McClory exercising his rights to SPECTRE and Blofeld (having had the courts rule he does share an element of creative ownership with factors from that one novel). Max Von Sydow portrayed a decent enough Ernst in the less decent enough re-tread, but that would not stop McClory mounting various attempts to remake his remake (the only Bond property he was legally allowed to). Every decade and nearly every ex Bond actor it seemed were beckoned in to McClory’s remake plans with an abundance of schlocky titles (Warhead 2000?!!) and acrimonious lines in the sand.

“SPECTRE’s a dedicated fraternity to whose strength lies in the absolute integrity of its members”

BLOFELD, Thunderball, 1965

007 holding company Danjaq LLC and their various legal representatives naturally responded. Some courtroom altercations made headlines and some did not. The 2012 documentary movie Everything Or Nothing documents the toll it all took on Fleming, McClory, Eon and their associates. However, the end upshot was that in November 2013 the onscreen rights held by the McClory estate (which included Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE) were finally given to Danjaq/Eon and MGM. McClory himself passed away in 2006.

As Variety reported in November 2013, representatives of the McClory estate declared “the 50-year intellectual property row involving James Bond was settled because of a great deal of hard work by the attorneys for the estate of Kevin McClory, MGM, and Danjaq and will benefit James Bond film fans throughout the world.”

 

SPECTRE NUMBER 4 :

Right ideas, wrong rumours

So what does this Bond fan think or hope we have in store? A bespoke, bigger budgeted sequel to Skyfall (which was deliberately produced – as much as you can on a Bond – with an eye on the budget, hence the brilliant domestic, UK based scenes) with the luxury now of a great canonical title and story background. This will not be 1960s SPECTRE. There will not be hollowed out volcanoes and monorails (despite my pleas on a recent media interview for such design quirks). There is also not the concern of the Blofeld/SPECTRE parodies easy copy writers are already throwing at Bond 24. This SPECTRE and its ownership will definitely be cut from that Mendes/John Logan cloth. Already the suggestion is that SPECTRE has one of the biggest intents of a Bond film. Mammoth sets and stunt sequences are being constructed throughout the globe and the box office success of its predecessor buys it some budgetary goodwill (as well as immense pressure).

The cast is cracking. Gone are the days of unknown models and European art-house actors flanking the Bond stage. The cast of SPECTRE could easily be in the next Coen Brothers movie, a Paul Thomas Anderson drama or Tarantino’s next final film. Likewise, the craftsmen and women responsible for this movie have between them been responsible for the look, tone and creative success of Let Him Have It, Interstellar, Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Her, Road To Perdition and American Beauty.

We still have no confirmation of a title song performer but lets something for the new year. Sam Smith has made the rumour rounds, but maybe it is time for a Depeche Mode or Rolling Stones type number – something a bit more cock-rock. Less Adele, more Cornell. But I would not be remotely surprised or delighted if Ms Adkins name is once again flanking a Bond film and the Best Song performances at the 2016 Academy Awards. However, two words though for Mendes, Thomas Newman and the EON team – London Grammar.

SPECTRE will be a natural successor to Skyfall. SPECTRE will inhabit its tonal and story world. Whitehall and how MI6 is run and led will once again be a thread, but in ways no-one possibly fathomed. Personally I would like to see Helen McCrory’s MP Claire Dowar being revealed as a SPECTRE agent all along. And what was in that file Mallory threw at Bond at the end of Skyfall?  One thing it is worth remembering – SPECTRE is not solely Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Nor are villain casting conclusions always right.

One final caveat for now is that “Oberhauser” is of course known to the Fleming / Bond world already. Hannes Oberhauser features in Ian Fleming’s 1966 short story Octopussy & The Living Daylights. In this novella (which inspired the onscreen Dexter-Smythe story strand in 1983’s Octopussy), this Oberhauser is pitched as a father figure to Bond, a ski and mountain instructor who was friends with his parents – the deceased Andrew and Monique Bond (referenced in the final act of 2012’s Skyfall). Bond’s parents also died in a climbing accident, the details of which could well be up for speculative grabs.

“It just happened that Oberhauser was a friend of mine. He taught me to ski before the war, when I was in my teens. He was a wonderful man. He was something of a father figure to me at a time when I happened to need one.”

Octopussy & The Living Daylights, 1966

Might SPECTRE be pitching Bond and Blofeld as former childhood friends?

 

ALBERT R BROCCOLI’s EON PRODUCTIONS LTD.

presents

DANIEL CRAIG

as IAN FLEMING’S

JAMES BOND 007 in

SPECTRE

Starring

CHRISTOPH WALTZ

MONICA BELLUCI

LEA SEYDOUX

RALPH FIENNES

BEN WHISHAW

RORY KINNEAR

DAVE BAUTISTA

STEPHANIE SIGMAN

BRIGITTE MILLAR

PEPPE LANZETTA

and NAOMIE HARRIS as MONEYPENNY

Directed by SAM MENDES

Produced by BARBARA BROCCOLI & MICHAEL G WILSON

Written by JOHN LOGAN and NEIL PURVIS & ROBERT WADE

Co-Producer ANDREW NOAKES

Associate Producer GREGG WILSON

Production Designer DENNIS GASSNER

Director of Photography HOYTE VAN HOYTEMA

Editor LEE SMITH

Main Titles designed by DANIEL KLEINMAN

Original Score by THOMAS NEWMAN

Costume Designer JANY TEMIME

Casting DEBBIE McWILLIAMS

Unit Production Manager CALLUM McDOUGALL

Second Unit Director ALEXANDER WITT

Special Effects & Miniature Effects Supervisor CHRIS CORBOULD

Sound Design PER HALLBERG

Stunt Coordinator GARY POWELL

Visual Effects and Miniature Supervisor STEVE BEGG

Filmed on location at Pinewood Studios and Cinecittà Studios, Rome

and Italy, Austria, Morocco, Mexico, London and the UK.

Spectre_onesheet

Catching SPECTRE – discussing Bond, his new mission, Vodka Martinis and SPECTRE monorails

SPECTRE cast banner 8

SPECTRE is a nod to the Connery cat-stroking years”

Talking Bond, SPECTRE, Vodka Martinis and villain’s monorails on Five News…

“SPECTRE goes right back to the heart of Bond”

And taking things with a twist of lemon and a spin of the SPECTRE dice….

With thanks to the team at Five News.

 

 

 

Reviewing THE SILENT STORM – Neon Films / Eon Productions new drama

storm 5Balor (Damian Lewis) is an anachronistic reverend, ex-naval officer and turn of the century bible-thumper. Pitched in a post WWII world of revived gender, sexual and even atheist confidence, Balor is a defiant Presbyterian cart-horse charged with keeping afloat the dwindling Christian instincts of an unnamed Scottish island (though shot on the Isle of Mull) in an unnamed year. “To expect happiness in this life is a form of arrogance” says Balor to a life-weary parishioner. Married to Aislin (Andrea Riseborough), Balor is both stranger and religious drill sergeant to his kindly spouse. Recovering from the loss of their child singlehandedly, Aislin is dutiful but privately proud of her resistance to Balor’s sense of a God. Hers is a world of nature and nurture, of quietly ignoring her husband’s sense of Christ and the medieval guilt that comes with it. But such defiance comes at a price – and one Aislin has long assumed is her lot to accept in a world without friends and where leisure time and reading in the bath is heresy.

silent stormEnter Fionn (newcomer Ross Anderson), a strapping, ex-shipyard tyke assigned by mainland naughty-boy wrangler Mr Smith (a far too brief John Sessions) to possibly reform, or at best learn the error of ways he knows were never errors. Respectful and patient himself, the hardworking Fionn admits to sorting contraband for the dockers and shipmen of his orphaned youth whilst learning all about women along the way – an admission that betrays a quietly curious Aislin and her lack of decent male contact, be it physical or emotional.

Pallid and glacial in his emotions, Damian Lewis’s Balor is cut from a similar cloth as Stanley Baker in Zulu or Richard Harris in This Sporting Life – marked by a simmering and very British onscreen masculinity at increasing odds with a femininity and modernity he cannot control. Prone to bouts of [almost] Pythonesque martyrdom (almost because the hyperbole levels are deliberate) and Calvary-inspired physical acts, Lewis creates a crumbling bull of a man at odds with the modern world and the breakdown nailing him to his own cross. A cracking sequence sees Balor singlehandedly haul the contents of his austere chapel onto his own Ark – and one with no dove of peace or chance of salvation.

Riseborough’s Aislin is less clear-cut. Equally pallid yet not the indulgent witch she is painted as, Riseborough plays the God widow with a sympathy that avoids sentiment. With her abilities to cure an ailing ram through herbs rather than prayer, Aislin is at one with the nature of an island she equally loathes. As all her femininity is almost pared away, Riseborough’s wife holds an earthly wisdom and controlled sexuality that grates with husband Balor. Aislin knows that God is not found on the hard wooden pews of a remote chapel but the private herbs, fauna, flora and respect for others she surrounds herself with. Ross Anderson’s Fionn is possibly the soul of the film. Handsome, agile yet still the child who can be scolded, Anderson allows Fionn to become the audience’s entry point to a sad story of a couple that already feels over when the film opens.

Writer/director Corinna McFarlane forever steers the emotions of The Silent Storm (or clear lack of them) to various cliff edges of revelation or despair, but often pulls back from what is expected when telling the tale of such matrimonial decay (a rot that has mostly already set in before the film starts). The burgeoning friendship between Aislin and Fionn is loaded with preconceptions that do not always manifest where moments of reconciliation and hope are often swiped aside. The tonal upshot is ultimately one of emotional honesty and a romance not always dealt the obvious cards by the writing. At times reminiscent of the God/protagonist divide of Peter Mullan’s Orphans, The Silent Storm is never a sermon.

storm 4Cinematographer Ed Rutherford’s stark palette of pastel blues, enamel tea cups, grained chapel pews and ashened skies of course underline the film’s characters and McFarlane’s intent but never over-define it. Just as Aislin’s lot verges on a Dickensian misery, Rutherford and McFarlane refresh proceedings with rich burnt oranges, greenery and beautifully shot flora and fauna. A treasured book of poetry is prized by Fionn because of its contents, but McFarlane’s eye marks it out simply because it is blue in a palette of Calvinistic browns and greys.

Likewise, Sharon Long’s costume work is a sallow wardrobe of braces, reverend bibs, collars and hair ties holding back the emotions within just as long as things look in order to the outside world. Credit too must go to Alistair Caplin’s blustering, Calvinistic roar of a score. At times intrusive and almost too heavenly in its bombast it also reminds – like Riseborough’s Aislin – that God is in every cliff edge, moss-covered tree, cave nook and mountain stream. Providing a more contemporary Celtic sound than the film’s austere visuals, Caplin’s orchestral and choral work (he contributes his own vocals more than once) ably serves the film with a hope and religious scope The Silent Storm needs to work before it can pull it down. Or at least kneel before it with what it knows and wants us to know about the human condition and spirit.

Developed and produced by Barbara Broccoli, Michael G Wilson, Eon Productions and producer Nicky Bentham, The Silent Storm is a sparse but progressively forceful work.

The Silent Storm – a Neon Films production in association with Eon Productions and West End Films.

The film opens in the UK on May 20th 2016.

The Silent Storm’s world premiere was held during the 2014 London Film Festival with Damian Lewis, Andrea Riseborough, Ross Anderson, Corinna McFarlane and Nicky Bentham on hand to introduce the film to the gathered crew, artists, executive producers and at least one James Bond.

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014

Photo © Mark O'Connell / 2014

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014

Photo © Mark O'Connell / 2014

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014

Photo © Mark O'Connell / 2014

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014

Photo © Mark O'Connell / 2014

Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014

THE SILENT STORM – Barbara Broccoli produced drama to premiere at the LFF 2014

storm 3Executive produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson and Bond production house Eon Productions, director Corinna McFarlane’s The Silent Storm is to receive its UK premiere this month at the 2014 London Film Festival. Starring Damian Lewis (Homeland, Wolf Hall) and Andrea Riseborough (Oblivion, Shadow Dancer), the powerful drama is also written by McFarlane (Three Miles North of Molkom).

silent storm

On a remote Scottish island in the 50s, Aislin (Andrea Riseborough) lives with her minister husband Balor (Damian Lewis). He is a man of sudden and violent mood swings, and stern religiosity. Aislin finds consolation from his attitude of wrathful disapproval in the stark beauty of the surrounding countryside.

With the other islanders leaving for the mainland in droves, the couple are joined by a Glaswegian youth (Ross Anderson), entrusted to their care by a religious charity. Balor is initially suspicious of him, but Aislin recognises a kindred spirit in this sensitive young man and their relationship deepens when her husband has to leave the island.

Marking Corinna McFarlane’s feature debut after her codirected 2006 documentary Three Miles North of Molkom, this domestic melodrama is a tale of sweeping emotions and grandly realised landscapes, featuring full-blooded performances from Riseborough and Lewis.

Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival 2014


Silent storm 3

 

“A kind of modern Celtic folk tale”, producer Nicky Bentham (speaking to WFTV)

Shot on the Isle of Mull and co-starring Kate Dickie (Prometheus, Red Road), John Sessions (Filth, Through the Looking Glass) and newcomer Ross Anderson (Unbroken), Eon alumni Debbie McWilliams serves as casting director, Skyfall co-editor Kate Baird takes on editing duties and the score is composed by Alistair Caplain. Nicky Bentham (Moon, Talking Liberties) serves as producer.

The Silent Storm (Neon Films / Eon Productions) has its premiere at the BFI London Film Festival 2014 on October 14th and will be released in 2015 and sold by West End Films.

 

Those Magnificent 007 Men in Their Flying, Driving & Diving Machines – CATCHING ‘BOND IN MOTION’

BOND IN MOTION montage 1 d

BOND-IN-MOTION-32

“I’ve had some optional extras installed”

Aston Martin V8, The Living Daylights (1987)

From the opening shot of the opening Bond movie Dr. No (1962) where three “blind” assassins trundle on a mission of murder across traffic before cowering in a private members club car park, James Bond’s onscreen romance with automobiles was a given. Instantly part of the machismo, panache and kinetic pace of 007, these various fold-up planes, model trains and high-end automobiles are now Bond’s necessary co-stars, sidekicks and maybe even love interest. In 2012’s Skyfall, the fiery death of the Aston Martin DB5 was lent nearly as much impact as the onscreen death of Bond’s wife Tracy forty or so years before. It was certainly as shocking. Maybe. And an earlier reveal in a London lock-up got the biggest cheer in many a screening of Skyfall, including a right royal applause on premiere night.

“I hope my back end will stand up to this!”

Mercury Cougar XR7, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Mercury Cougar XR7, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (Photos © Mark O'Connell / 2014)

Mercury Cougar XR7, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

So it now makes perfect sense for 007 creative house Eon Productions to celebrate Bond’s various vehicular speeding bullets with the London Film Museum’s newly launched exhibition, Bond In Motion. A collaboration between both parties (following a highly successful and extended run at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu through 2012 and 2013), Bond In Motion is the largest official collection of original 007 vehicles and a rich pageant to some of cinema’s most iconic cars. And planes. And motorbikes. And jet packs. And speedboats. And underwater tow-sleds. And that crocodile submersible thing.

“No, some men just don’t like to be taken for a ride”

Thunderball  (1965)

Overseen by Raoul Silva, GOLDENEYE’s Aston Martin DB5 and the scale model of the same car as used in SKYFALL (Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

Kindly invited by Eon Productions and the London Film Museum to a recent preview of Bond In Motion, the day quickly grew faster than an Aston Martin’s self-inflating tyre with surprise reunions, typical Bond glamour, some welcome bubbly and a possible nugget or two of news about October 2015’s Bond 24. Granted a quieter session of grace to fully take in the whole exhibition before the world’s press descended like Japanese ninjas, it was a welcome opportunity to chat to the gathering Bond alumni, particularly top Eon archivist and the ‘M’ of the various Bond exhibitions travelling through the globe, Meg Simmonds. Added to that production designer Peter Lamont, stunt driver and 007 fan Ben Collins (who currently doubles for Daniel Craig and took part in the frenetic Italian road chase in Quantum of Solace), Casino Royale‘s Caterina Murino (who does not have a fear of hammocks as I first queried but does admit they are awful for reading in), current Moneypenny and all-round car wrecker herself Naomie Harris, husband and wife stunt legends Vic Armstrong and Wendy Leech, 007 producer Gregg Wilson, special effects head Chris Corbould (who was able to answer another pressing query of mine – namely, ‘did we do our Christmas shopping last year at the same place?’ … we did), actress Maryam D’Abo (Kara, The Living Daylights), writers Robert Wade and Neil Purvis (Skyfall, The World Is Not Enough) and soon to be three-time production designer Dennis Gassner (following on from Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall).

© Mark O'Connell 2014

“Boy with toys” – Various souped up examples of Bond machinery from THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and SKYFALL.
(Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

Amidst all the fantasy apparatus and Q-Branch hardware, this Bond author chose instead to not chat to Peter Lamont about his favourite Bond car or maybe even the prop that caused him the most design grief. No, this Bond film author chose instead to take the opportunity to chat about the Octopussy bed (all spray-painted polystyrene and destroyed not long after filming… criminal, I know). Cutting a far too youthful gait for someone in his eighty-fifth year, the now retired Lamont (Titanic, Aliens) was glad to have gone out on 2006’s Casino Royale, which he suggests is one of his best Bonds. That film’s presence is certainly marked in Bond In Motion by one of the Aston Martin DBS’s used for that film’s record-smashing multiple roll, and the curious magic-shattering add-ons necessary to make it happen.

The different phases of Bond production design – all perfectly underlined by Bond In Motion – have always held a fascination. Not just for me, but cinema audiences, design students, new directors and cineastes the world over. Ken Adam’s influence on design (and not just cinema) is immense. Globally renowned architects often cite him as an influence, his bombastic war rooms and HQs are no longer a retro fantasy (The Avengers Assemble and Inception certainly owes him a debt – or an apology), Apple’s flagship stores ape his style, and material contradictions and angular excesses are all over the likes of London’s Canary Wharf tube station.

Ken Adam’s iconic designs @ The Storyboard Gallery, BOND IN MOTION (Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

To witness Mr Adam arrive – and equally cutting a far too youthful gait for his ninety-three years – to a warm welcome from Peter Lamont and current 007 designer Dennis Gassner was a moment to treasure. Clearly, Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson couldn’t have been happier to mark such an exhibition with three generations of 007 designers in attendance and some of the most famous examples of all their work flanking proceedings.

(L) Artists Royale : a rare and special moment for BOND IN MOTION. 007’s top production designers (Dennis Gassner, Ken Adam & Peter Lamont) unite with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson to prove the charcoal sketch pen is always mightier than the sword.
(R) “So how many Oscars have you got?” – Dennis Gassner, Ken Adam & Peter Lamont catching up in the BOND IN MOTION café.
(Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

And of course Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson were on hand to proudly talk up Bond In Motion for the press, the legacy of all these cars, their own favourites and what the likes of CUB 1 means to the Broccoli family and the history of Bond film production. Naturally the question of 007’s immediate future came up and the astute pair were traditionally coy. However, Wilson confirmed that Bond 24 – Daniel Craig’s fourth spin of the wheel – will feature a brand new Aston Martin. Writer John Logan is indeed hard at work on the script with Daniel Craig crucially inputting as before, the process of casting a villain will begin in earnest in the next few months, the production is based at Pinewood Studios and the film is based on an “original story”. Broccoli declared how this is “the fun bit” – where casting, story arcs, choosing the various creatives and heads of department, planning the stunts and feel of the film is debated and planned to get into enough shape for the commencement of principle photography in the Autumn.

Flanked by the family wheels (CUB 1 - as seen in A VIEW TO A KILL, THUNDERBALL and CATCHING BULLETS), 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson chat to the press about all things BOND IN MOTION ( / Photo © Mark O'Connell / 2014)

Flanked by the family wheels (CUB 1 – as seen in A VIEW TO A KILL, THUNDERBALL and CATCHING BULLETS), 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson chat to the press about all things BOND IN MOTION
(Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

Unfortunately, the gathered Eon ensemble will not be on hand when the doors properly open for the public. But rest assured, there are enough vehicular stars, shiny beauties and colourful flying co-stars on display to keep every Bond fan boy and girl, man and women completely happy. Oh, and the gift shop – don’t let me forget the gift shop! And the ‘get your own gunbarrel pose’ photo room (complete with tuxedos, oh yes).

One [not] careful owner : an Aston Martin DBS, a SPECTRE Bath-O-Sub & a Ford Mustang, BOND IN MOTION (Photos © Mark O'Connell / 2014)

One [not] careful owner : an Aston Martin DBS, a SPECTRE Bath-O-Sub & a Ford Mustang, BOND IN MOTION (Photos © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

Astutely situated in London’s Covent Garden (and a gearstick’s length from Bond director Sam Mendes’ current West End hit, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory), from the moment one steps off the street into the immersive and white gallery space of 45 Wellington Street, it is instantly apparent just how much thought and design care has gone into Bond In Motion. Multiple screens herald and celebrate 007’s car moments, Bond anthems are all around you and a 1/3 scale (but still sizeable) model of Skyfall’s Augusta Westland helicopter hangs very carefully on an equally sizeable hoist. Incidentally it was the same hoist that lowered each and every car into the exhibition space in what Bond In Motion’s very own Q – the London Film Museum’s Jonathan Sands – admits was a sweaty process as each car had its own weights, structural concerns and no doubt insurance premiums. And it is the very idea of logistics and planning that sees an upstairs gallery space dedicated to numerous storyboards and design thinking from Bond’s transport options over the last six decades. Including sketches and vehicle concepts by Bond production designers Ken Adam, Peter Lamont, Peter Murton and Syd Cain, the collection contains some top notch examples of 007 artistry from the Eon Archive – some of which has never been seen publically before, such as all that now remains of Thunderball’s SPECTRE yacht, the Disco Volante.

“That look like a boat stuck in the Sheriff’s car there, Eddie?”

Glastron V-162 Futura, Live and Let Die (1973)

Sgt Pepper’s lonely boat club banned….The Glastron GT-150 speedboat from LIVE AND LET DIE
(Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

With an optional tour guide cell-phone ably guiding those that opt for the pre-ordained flow, Bond In Motion takes off proper when one ventures downwards into an underground Aladdin’s cave of 007 delights. Filling a labyrinthine space that once housed a vast flower storage warehouse (serving the Covent Garden’s famed trade) this is now the London Film Museum’s chamber of 007 secrets, an apt underground garage housing the capital’s most expensive run-arounds. Flanked by Auric Goldfinger’s beautiful 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III (which Bond producer Michael G Wilson drove himself to the Skyfall premiere in October 2012) and the all-important Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II aka “CUB 1” from 1985’s A View To a Kill (which due to a familial link is one of the key players in my own Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan), this exhibition very quickly lays it cars on the table with a luxuriant bombast.

“Little Nellie got a hot reception. Four big shots made improper advances towards her, but she defended her honour with great success”

Wallis WA-116 Agile, You Only Live Twice (1967)

Little Nellie causing a big stir, BOND IN MOTION (Photo © Mark O'Connell / 2014)

Little Nellie causing a big stir, BOND IN MOTION (Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

Of course the original factory-floor artistry of these Aston Martins, Lotus Esprits, BMWs, Cougars, Mustangs, Jaguars and Roll Royces speak for themselves. Most of the gathered vehicles here deserve their own pedestal whether they shared screen time with Sean, Roger and Daniel or not. Albert R Broccoli’s very own CUB 1 is a beautiful example of early 1960s car-tistry, regardless of her two Bond film appearances – a lush metallic zeppelin of curves, passenger head room and corners. Likewise, the various incarnations of Aston Martin’s famed relationship with Bond never ceases to amaze even the least car savvy of punters for their sleek aesthetic and low-lying finesse. Rest assured, Bond In Motion is not solely for Bond or film fans. This writer is no petrol head, but the way this exhibition presents itself, the way it allows itself and its visitors room to breathe and let these cars tell their own derring do tales is a key lure for the slightest of Bond geeks. Because this is Eon’s Bond and because their own filmmaking ethos dictates the real thing being real at all times where feasible, this collection is also a high-end reminder of the opulence and quality invested in each new film. There are no Smart cars or family friendly Skodas here. This is an A-grade ensemble of vehicles. The investment Eon pumps into its various filmic projects is no more apparent than in this exhibition.

“Ejector seat? You’re joking!”

Aston Martin DB5, Goldfinger (1964)

Of course a great many of these vehicles come with – as 1987’s Bond Timothy Dalton remarks – “a few optional extras“. An added joy is seeing just how the various special effects gurus and design heads over the decades have souped up cars that are so damn cool they didn’t need accessorising. Yet this is the world of James Bond and witnessing the fantasy of that up close is a major plus point of Bond In Motion. So of course the various added missile launchers, studded tyres, ski supports and revolving number plates mark these already special cars as being just that bit more special. Take your time to study the exhibits and props. The amount of detail put into a GoldenEye train, model helicopter or a nearly throwaway Brosnan surfboard is as important to this exhibition and understanding the effort spent on Bond as the smooth fender of an Aston Martin DBS or a Mustang’s red paint job.

One of these looks stunning emerging from the surf. The other is a Lotus Esprit from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

“Ever heard of Evel Knievel?”

AMC Hornet, The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

(Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

All delicately lit with aptly positioned montage screens and film friezes adding individual Bond film context, each car is often showcased with visitor access as key. Whilst petting the exhibits will no doubt be frowned upon, this is not an exercise in keeping the public at bay. With a loose theme for the various zones – water, the DB5s (there is more than one), bikes, ski-doos and Skyfall Honda bikes, the destroyed DBSs (the Daniel Craig Astons are invariably Royale-y trashed) and all punctuated with props, miniatures, random helmets, jetpacks and cool piton guns – this exhibition has its own natural flow with a breathing space between these four and two wheeled beauties and plenty of photo opportunities for everyone’s 007 fantasies. Museum head Jonathan Sands has a self-declared fondness for the Roger Moore era (good man) and there is a fun array of 1970s Roger-mobiles. Likewise, there is a lot of Connery kit, particularly showcasing the design alchemy genius of one Ken Adam. Like the quirky cousin that must be in every family photo, You Only Live Twice’s famed gyrocopter Little Nellie is of course in there too – taking pride of place in a spacious wing with various two-wheeled motorbikes, Octopussy‘s tuk-tuk, For Your Eyes Only’s canary yellow Citreon 2CV and The World Is Not Enough’s Parahawks.

Lean over!”

Ford Mustang Mach 1, Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Yes, maybe the Lotus Esprit could have been more showcased (or showboated) in the layout scheme of things, but actually its not-obvious placement creates a great “oh my – is that the Lotus?” realisations for any kid of any age to suddenly make an eager beeline for. One of the feng-shui successes of Bond In Motion is how sizing up one car offers a nearby peek of another classic from yesteryear. It’s like being at a school reunion where every conversation is interrupted by someone better to veer towards. More than one sweep through and starting at the end and working backwards is much recommended. And yes – check out the gift shop, nicely sited in one of the underground flower storage catacombs of the museum and inadvertently echoing the “new digs” MI6 end up in 2012’s Skyfall. The ladies can traipse around town with their buff boy Hollister bags, but the Bond fan boys are going to be fighting for a Bond In Motion boutique bag stocked full of mugs, DVDs, prints, clothing and pencils (who isn’t a sucker for a museum pencil?). It also houses a neat case of vintage Bond car memorabilia. And just like how the rather snazzy and kid friendly Scalectrix set available in a canteen room for all to play demonstrates, Bond In Motion straddles a careful line of history, geekery and contemporary.

BOND IN MOTION - 18-03-14 - Jaguar XKR (DIE ANOTHER DAY) © Mark O'Connell 2014 (7)

BOND IN MOTION (Photo © Mark O’Connell / 2014)

And my favourite exhibit? Yes, the Astons are beyond lush and the mecha-flippered Lotus Esprit is always going to be the biggest Bond car toy made real. Diamonds Are Forever’s Mustang is – like Las Vegas itself – a bit weather-worn but still holding its sparkle and Blofeld’s Bath-O-Tub from the same film is possibly the campest exhibit in a subterranean world of machismo. But the one that kept catching this bullet catcher’s eye…? Diana Rigg’s Mercury Cougar XR7 from 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Complete with a vintage rack of White Wing skis, this car is simple in its own intent and that of the film it features. No bells. No whistles. Just Steve McQueen cool.

Like a 1970s double-taking Frenchman clasping a near-empty bottle of plonk as a Lotus Espirit motors from the surf, these cars make you pause. Strikingly laid out and physically choreographed by Jonathan Sands, Eon and their respective teams, the exhibition echoes Eon Production’s sister exhibition – Designing Bond – for its insistence on leaving space to let these metallic exhibits breathe. However, it might well overtake Designing Bond on a hairpin bend for the best current exhibition celebrating cinema’s favourite son and spy. Amidst the hardware, ammo and machismo of these cars and vehicles there is an unexpected grace to this collection. But as you shift down a gear for your final lap of the exhibits, there is a private and selfish joy in standing back and surveying the biggest Bond car toy box ever opened in one place. A highly roadworthy experience from lots of careful and not-so-careful owners, Bond In Motion passes its 007 fan MOT with flying (and driving and diving) colours.

“I love a drive in the country, don’t you?”

Citreon 2Cv, For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Bond In Motion opens on March 21st 2014.

www.londonfilmmuseum.com

BOND IN MOTION 2Tickets are £14.50 for adults, £9.50 for children and a family ticket is £38. The Museum is currently recommending booking ahead (especially in these early weeks) but also states how people are equally welcome just to turn up and try their chances.

With thanks to Jonathan Sands, Meg Simmonds, Barbara Broccoli & Eon Productions, Sam Fane & Sal Porter at Freuds and the team at London Film Museum. And to Remmert Van Braam, Ben Williams, Adam Bollard & Morten Steingrimsen.

For a whole car boot full of more photos of the exhibition and launch – check out Catching Bullets Facebook page.

PLAY IT AGAIN SAM – Mendes returning for ‘Bond 24’

Sam Mendes and Barbara BroccoliSam Mendes returning to the Bond fold is great news. Not because Skyfall was the most successful Bond movie, the most successful British movie ever, won two Oscars and a few high profile gongs. It is not even because it was the first Bond movie for a while to become a cultural event, a film whose momentum and qualities both shook and stirred the public’s consciousness and stoked the anticipation for what James does next in a way possibly not seen since the 1960s. No, Sam Mendes returning to direct Bond 24 is great news as the Bond series is in a new golden age of confidence and impetus. With 2012’s fiftieth anniversary bench-marker Skyfall pulling all sorts of clever doves out of Baron Samedi’s top hat, the pressure is naturally there for all involved to find a new hat to pull some tricks from.

Can lightning be trapped in an empty Bollinger bottle twice? Of course it can. 007 producers Eon Productions have a whole cellar full of lightning bottles. But I doubt Bond 24 will be Skyfall Too – Back to the Chapel. It will no doubt take its predecessor’s baton and sprint with it like a gym-fit Daniel Craig. Yet it will be a totally different kettle of SPECTRE piranhas. Heck, there may even be some SPECTRE piranhas in there. And a submersible Prius. With Union Jack airbags. Maybe not.

Yet it won’t retread. We are in era of Bond directors with firm creative signatures of their own. Mendes’ tends towards films exploring what circumstances and the wider facets of society does to people. Respectively American Beauty, Road To Perdition, Revolutionary Road and Skyfall are a turn of the century classic, an ode to gangsterdom, a bitter stab at suburban nirvana and a home-soil vendetta. They are Sam Mendes looking at what wider circumstances, societal structures and defence mechanisms do to the common man. Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva (Skyfall) is no different to Kevin Spacey’s Lester Burnham (American Beauty). Both have been chewed up and spat out by life. And both allow Mendes to have fun with how they stick up two fingers to the world. Likewise Jake Gyllenhaal in Jarhead and Away We Go’s Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski are striving to not let the same happen to them. There are lot of roads to perdition in Sam Mendes work. There is no reason to question why a new facet of Bond will not be explored, another internal scar creating external damage laid bare. That is the world of Fleming. And that is the DNA of Bond onscreen.

But along Mendes’ story paths there is a playfulness and wit. Lester Burnham’s breakdown is a lush descent into suburban anarchy and Away We Go is a fun road movie peppered with non-centric eccentrics. Mendes is currently executive producing Penny Dreadful under the auspices of his own creative company Neal Street Productions (Call The Midwife and The Hollow Crown – which of course saw Skyfall’s Ben Wishaw recently scoop the Best Actor BAFTA). Written by Skyfall and Bond 24’s John Logan, Penny Dreadful is a London Victorian re-imagining of the origins of classic horror creations such as Dracula and Frankenstein. A co-production with Showtime, the series is due to bite TV screens in 2014. This sort of baroque villainy has already shown its own teeth (literally) in Skyfall and could well flick a different villainous cape in Bond 24. With John Logan in the writing seat alongside Mendes, the end result of their 2012 ‘act one’ was a carefully arched Bond film marked by rich exchanges pushing the story forward through dialogue, character wit and drives (Bond and Severine, Bond and Silva, Bond and M, Bond and Q, Bond and Kincade, Bond and Moneypenny). The creative impulse to let the characters steer the story was a welcome one and wholly succeeded. Expect more of the same come the Fall of 2015. Skyfall ended with the orphan James Bond presented with a new family. Ben Wishaw’s Q is suggesting he will be back, as might Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Ralph Fiennes as the new M. But what about the bureaucratic Clair Dowar MP (Helen McCrory – whose real life husband and possible ‘next Bond’ candidate Damian Lewis is currently shooting Eon’s new co-production, The Silent Storm) and Rory Kinnear’s much-liked ally Tanner? And of course we may well see more familiar keynotes of Bond re-dressed for 2015.

Mendes clearly relished his time working with Eon Productions, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson. It is a team-led ‘family’ operation with working relationships and continuity much valued linchpins. Throughout the 1980s, director John Glen helmed all five successive Bond movies with great results, creating new fans in new generations and blasting the lazy detractors of that era’s output with aplomb (see this writer’s Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan). Sam Mendes will have already done the same. As part of a maybe three-act regeneration of Bond, Skyfall certainly has re-pointed the character for its guardians and its audiences new and old. The twenty-second Bond film relished the heritage of 007. My hunch is that Bond 24 will move forward from that. Or aside. The history of the films will not be sidelined. The much touted ‘formula’ of Bond is entwined with the heritage of the character, the films and those that produce them. Yet, Mendes will want to produce a brand new movie, a brand new take and a brand new project. He has never directed a sequel to any of his cinematic work (whose narratives admittedly do not leave much room for ‘what happened next?’). We all have our wish lists and suggestions (mine would be Barcelona, Washington, a bit of skiing and a Daft Punk theme tune). However, it is worth noting the curious skill of Skyfall was how it packed in wholly familiar turf for the Bond series – London, the Far East and Istanbul – yet dressed it most wisely. Mendes is not about reinventing the wheel, but how the spokes work. We are still in a time of relative studio poverty (Skyfall had to allegedly hem in its budget and the results worked). Bond 24 will no doubt have to rein itself in too – as best as a multi million pound movie can. But having financial and physical restrictions often aides creativity. The Bond series’ production history has always proved that.

For any director or writer to come into that Bond world is no doubt a daunting task. Next time round Mendes is no longer the new boy at school. He is head boy – a proven newcomer with a few trophies (if that matters alongside such global box office stamina) gleaming in the Eon cabinet. But the team at Bond HQ are not wholly looking to emulate Skyfall. They are looking to emulate the decisions, the discussions, the aptitude and perceptions Mendes brought to the table. Of course the dollars and the studios that gave and then counted them are wanting more of the same. That is simple business sense. But film-making – even on the scale of a Bond – thrives on creative relationships and continuity. It is about both project and product for Eon.

The Sony PR elves were forever telling us how Mendes noted his own Bond fandom launched when he saw 1973’s Live and Let Die. There are echoes of that film in Skyfall (the arched villainy, the deathly opening titles, the throwaway dead girls, the drama often playing out on familiar streets and pavements and even the shared double-decker London buses…maybe). The question now is – what Bond film did Sam like next? My money’s on a direct sequel to Octopussy. That barge had to pull in somewhere?!*

(*joking)

Mark O’Connell is the author of Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan (Prelude by Barbara Broccoli). www.splendidbooks.co.uk

“When you were young and your heart was an open book…”

LIVE AND LET DIE @40 (c) Mark O'Connell

Eon Productions Live and Let Die celebrates its fortieth anniversary this week (it opened in the States on June 27th 1973, and a week or so later in the UK). It has been a linchpin of the series and the man on the street’s affection for James Bond ever since. It is also director Sam Mendes stated favourite 007 entry, whose influence is very evident in 2012’s Skyfall.

For more thoughts on Live and Let Die and all the Bond movies, check out Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan.

CATCHING BULLETS is going ‘home’…

CATCHING BULLETS joins the OCTOPUSSY Circus!

CATCHING BULLETS is heading “home”. Taking the book to Pinewood Studios and the memories, routines, faces and echoes that kick-started it as well as taking part in honouring OCTOPUSSY and its thirtieth anniversary is serendipity at its most curious. I will report back of course. But for now, it is an honour to be taking the book to the spiritual home of Bond and my families connections with our man James.

(I promise not to sari off a Pinewood balcony, despite putting in the thirty years of practise…).

JAMES BOND Will Return

“Choose your next witticism carefully Mr Bond, it could be your last” (Goldfinger, 1964)

All the Daniel Craig Bond movies have ended with a beginning. But none more so than the closing motifs, nostalgias and characterisation of Skyfall. The regeneration of Bond is apparently complete. Yet, with every next film, Eon and 007 are faced with starting again, of re-election or a second album Groundhog Day with less Sonny and Cher and more Shirley Bassey. Or Adele.

Skyfall is Bond’s heritage – the Aston Martin DB5, the now justified return of Moneypenny and Q and that double-tufted leather door of M’s which got fans more giddy than being reincarnated as a Berenice Marlohe shower curtain. It is also a curious hint at his future. Bond’s world is no longer a governmental granite behemoth of old, but a prescient post “2012” cyber-spy playground of Met Police officers in stab-vests and social-media distracted commuters, media-savvy Whitehall bureaucrats whose only defence agenda is media presentation, Bond women with histories of child sex trafficking, Bond villains with workplace revenge over ones of mass genocide, Bond not afraid to joke/hint he is has an alias on Grindr (maybe), his boss has an army history in Northern Ireland (a series no-go for years), Q is a sexy geek possibly “on the spectrum” and we have now seen Moneypenny’s legs.

We are now in an era where juggling the old and the new, the exploding lairs of Roger Moore’s reign and the internal devastations of Craig’s, require handling by contemporary film makers unafraid to make mainstream fare with a scholarly eye, and vice-versa. It is no easy task to forever move forward with a central character the audience must not take too seriously – but he and his storyworld always has. Eon know why Bond works. More crucially they know how it doesn’t.

Like Skyfall, Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me were also their respective 007’s third entry. Everything Or Nothing (director Stevan Riley’s rich and recent documentary looking at the evolution of 007) suggests that it is the third film for a Bond actor where he really makes his franchise stamp. If so, is there a pattern for the fourth film too? Thunderball (1965), Moonraker (1977) and Die Another Day (2002) are arguably examples of the Bond brand and their leading men in an effective, but over-comfortable groove. James Bond’s biggest cinematic enemy has always been himself. How do you follow up those Bond movies that really chime with cinemagoers (where old ladies on the bus had seen it and builders were whistling Adele in their lunch break)? How do you create an event planned or otherwise that equals the peaks of 007’s 2012, 1977 and 1964? Put simply, you bite the bullet and start again.

It is now assured we will get a fourth Daniel Craig outing – or B24 / Bond 24. MGM and Sony Picture’s bean-counters have seen to that, and more crucially so will the team at Eon. Screenwriter John Logan (Peter and Alice, Noah) who lent such eloquent fizz to Skyfall’s dialogue and particularly the scenes with villain Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) is staying on board. Director Sam Mendes who clearly enjoyed the process has now confirmed he is unable to commit – due in part to long-standing theatre projects Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and King Lear.

Yet Mendes can and might return. He has yet to helm a sequel to his own work and has evidently forged great working relationships with the Bond team. So who else?

As Bond fans and film websites the world over begin the speculation game all over again, Eon’s decision to bring in auteur-minded directors like Mendes and Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) with a storytelling confidence and instinct clearly works. The biggest hurdle an incoming director has now is not the eyebrow-raising stigma of doing a Bond, but simply not being Mendes. So what about Joe Wright (Atonement, Anna Karenina), Gareth Evans (The Raid), Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Jack Ryan), Ben Affleck (Argo, The Town), Kevin MacDonald (Senna, The Last King of Scotland) or Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Drive)? Danny Boyle (127 Hours, Trance) has of course already filmed his pre-title sequence last year involving Craig and Elizabeth Windsor parachuting onto London’s East End and ticks a lot of British and competent storyteller boxes (and he would possibly be the first Bond director the wider British public have even heard of).

But the casting of Bond 24’s director is ultimately down to the producers and who they want to work with. And the course and eventual thrust of Bond 24‘s grand plan dictates everything. Mendes is a force of both film and theatre who the likes of Eon and Barbara Broccoli wanted to work with for a while. Broccoli – whose multi Tony winning production Once opens this month at London’s Phoenix Theatre – is a keen but quiet force of theatre herself, with Chariots of Fire, A Steady Rain, Catwalk Confidential and of course Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as recent projects. Might a director emerge from the same dual camps as Mendes?

And lest not forget Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, X Men First Class) who sadly – like Bond himself – has commitment issues. Christopher Nolan is another golden boy rich for easy speculation pickings, but we will see. One thing is certainly influential. Bond 24 is semi-locked in. Availability is key. And whilst a Bond director will possibly always be homegrown, British minded or plucked from what the 1950s used to call “the Commonwealth” , I was not joking about Ben Affleck. Likewise, Kathryn Bigelow.

Unlike any Bond actor before him Daniel Craig emerges as less a movie star fulfilling a tempting contract and more of a movie actor with a creative ownership and pride over the character and the direction of the franchise like never before. It was Craig who approached Sam Mendes. It was Craig who championed Adele and was grinning beside her like a schoolboy when she bagged the Golden Globe. And it will be Craig who no doubt has a necessary say on what happens with Bond 24.

Despite its vintage DB5 and ancestral pads, there is a modernity to Skyfall. There is no reason to believe that will not evolve into and through Bond 24. Who knows – out gay screenwriter John Logan may give the new Q a boyfriend or see Bond toying with a male concierge for vital information. Bond is as straight as they come. But even if his Skyfall dialogue bomb (“why do you think it is my first time?”) says otherwise that doesn’t imply his tactics are. With Craig’s 007 passport already pretty full of Europe and Asian destinations, maybe some North American city or alpine fun could be in order – with a bit of Washington-based senate villainy thrown in for Watergate effect. Or Africa? And is the Craig era assured enough to go big – big global jeopardy, big sets, big explosions? Or conversely, how small can a successful 007 movie go? Skyfall was a particularly small Bond movie. As Mendes’ stint proved, a solid script, story-led pyrotechnics, utter conviction in the project, simple but effective character strokes and the proven skills of the Bond crews can easily steer Skyfall II (or Dr. No XXIV) back to repeat business, even less critical resistance and something Bond has more of right now than any other franchise’s history – the audience’s goodwill.

And whilst we are at it, let’s now throw a title-tune bone at Muse, Depeche Mode or Kylie Minogue. Better still, bring back Adele. She doesn’t have second album problems. (I wasn’t joking about Kylie either).

Just as the notion of Sam Mendes or even Forster helming a Bond movie would have been at best a curious prediction ten years ago, am I doing what every Bond fan does – assuming Bond’s past, his on-screen triumphs and not-done-that yets, will inform What James Did Next? Skyfall’s whole package was a curve-ball entry masquerading as formula. Aside from the natural fervour to see Daniel Craig again in what might well be his penultimate outing, Bond is now in a very interesting place. Those directing, writing and starring in the movies predominantly grew up with these films. Just look at the standing 00-Vation at this year’s Academy Awards where Shirley Bassey’s soaring rendition of Goldfinger had the likes of Tarantino, Witherspoon and Affleck on their feet beaming with guilty pleasure.

As Skyfall’s deliciously effective villain Silva proved, it is not what a Bond film can now do to make its mark, but how. The entire cat and mouse motif of Bond and Silva was predicated on a writer’s notion – a piece of deliciously rendered dialogue about who will be the “last rat standing”. That is potentially more about the Bond character and brand’s immediate future than scores of stuntmen in paragliding hovercrafts. Bond 24’s greatest ruse could be to take Bond even further out of his Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me comfort zones. Of course the expected beats will be in place. Yet like one of those Tom Ford designed suits of Daniel Craig’s, Bond 24 could well follow the new Bond formula as blueprinted in Skyfall, the new comfort zone – sharper stitching and less embellishment, traditionally cut but using new material, just enough room for surprises and tight in all the right places.

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