Sunday, 30 September 2012

Vodka Martini... Shaken, Not Stirred


Admit it, we’ve all done it (or wanted to do it), haven’t we, boys?

For some reason (wedding, university ball, particularly posh birthday party, black-tie dinner), you’re in a tuxedo. You instantly feel a bit James Bond. So you go to the bar and order Bond’s classic drink.

‘Vodka martini, shaken not stirred’.

As the name suggests, a vodka martini is a variation of a classic martini with vodka instead of the traditional gin. It is made by combining vodka, dry vermouth and ice and chilling the ingredients (either by shaking or stirring) then straining them into a chilled cocktail glass and generally served without ice, but can be garnished with an olive, a strip of lemon peel, capers or a cocktail onion.

In the Bond novels, the phrase first appears in Diamonds Are Forever (1956) but is not spoken by Bond until Dr. No (1958), under the variation of ‘shaken but not stirred’. It has been counted that through the Bond novels and short stories, Bond imbibes nineteen vodka martinis and sixteen gin martinis- interestingly, his drink of choice (in print) is bourbon whiskey, with sake and champagne second and third.

In the Bond movies, Dr. No offers Bond ‘a medium dry martini, lemon peel. Shaken, not stirred’ but it isn’t until Goldfinger (1964) that Bond- played by Sean Connery- orders one himself. Thus a legend is born. George Lazenby’s and Roger Moore’s Bond do not order the drink for themselves, but receive them nonetheless; Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan both order the famous drink themselves. There are only a few occasions where Bond’s martini is other than shaken- in Casino Royale (2006), Bond doesn’t ‘give a damn’ whether it’s shaken or stirred as he’s just lost millions in a game of poker, and in You Only Live Twice (1967) when Bond is in Japan, his contact Henderson offers him a martini which is ‘stirred, not shaken’. Bond glosses over this, saying the drink is ‘perfect’. But what's the difference between shaking a martini and stirring it?

Andrew Lycett, an Ian Fleming biographer, believed that Fleming liked his martinis shaken, not stirred because Fleming thought that stirring a drink diminished its flavour. But it could be that, bizarrely, a shaken martini could be healthier for you.

The Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario in Canada conducted a study to determine if the preparation of a martini has an influence on their antioxidant capacity; the study found that the shaken gin martinis were able to break down hydrogen peroxide and leave only 0.072% of the peroxide behind, versus the stirred gin martini, which left behind 0.157% of the peroxide. Thus a shaken martini has more antioxidants than a stirred one.

Other reasons for shaking tend to include making the drink colder. Shaking increases convection, thus making the drink far colder than if it were to be stirred. Shaking is also said to dissolve the vermouth better making it less oily tasting. Shaking can also break down the oils in cheaper vodka and make the drink taste smoother; however, a gin martini should be stirred as shaking gin can bruise it and make it bitter.


It isn't certain whether we’ll see Daniel Craig ordering the famous drink in Skyfall as Heineken have struck a deal for a Bond campaign which will see Bond drinking beer in the film. For some, this may be an act of pure heresy. But Bond has been seen drinking other things throughout the movies- champagne, mojito, rum Collins and mint julep amongst others.

The next time you find yourself in a tux, order Bond’s signature drink. You may find the bartender slightly rolls their eyes or sighs, but ignore it and enjoy the sensation that- albeit fleetingly- you could be James Bond.

Tez

Mini Podcast: Rhys' Never Say Never Again Review


Tez has written his view on this unofficial 007 adventure; take a listen to my view.

Enjoy

Rhys


Friday, 28 September 2012

The Three Faces Of M



In the Bond novels and films, M is the head of MI6 and Bond's superior.

There are several possibilities for the inspiration for M- the most obvious one is Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence for the Royal Navy during the war, whom Fleming worked under. Indeed, Godfrey could see himself in M but was less than impressed, calling the character 'unsavoury'. Other inspirations include Lieutenant Colonel Claude Dansey, Maxwell Knight (who was head of MI5) and even Fleming's mother (whom he called M).

In the official EON Productions Bond films, M has been played by three different actors.

BERNARD LEE

Stern, authoratative and no-nonsense, Lee's portrayal of M is generally agreed to be close to Fleming's characterisation in the novels.

Lee played M in every Bond film from Dr. No to Moonraker. He sadly passed away in early 1981, four months into the filming of For Your Eyes Only. He had not recorded any scenes for that film and, out of respect, the character was not recast- his lines given instead to Bill Tanner and Sir Frederick Gray.

Outside the Bond franchise, Lee often played authority figures, such as policemen or army sergeants. He appeared in Carol Reed's The Fallen Idol, The Third Man (with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten), Whistle Down The Wind and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
  
ROBERT BROWN

Interestingly, Brown had previously appeared in a Bond film before his casting as M in Octopussy. He played Admiral Hargreaves in The Spy Who Loved Me; however, it is never really clear whether Brown is still Hargreaves (who has been promoted to the position of 'M'), a version of the character played by Bernard Lee, or a different character altogether.

Brown appeared in four films- Octopussy, A View To A Kill, The Living Daylights and License To Kill- but his character is never truly developed within these films; Brown often played M as a softer version of Bernard Lee's character.  His finest hour in the role comes in License To Kill in the confrontation where he strips Bond of his 00 status.

Outside the Bond franchise, Brown appeared in such films as One Million Years B.C., The Masque Of The Red Death, Billy Budd and also had an uncredited role in The Third Man. On television, Brown played Gurth the servant in Ivanhoe opposite... Roger Moore (who played Ivanhoe).

JUDI DENCH

In 1992, the real MI6 appointed its first female director-general: Stella Rimington. She held the role until 1996 and it is often thought that she inspired the casting of a female M when the Bond franchise was revived in 1995 with GoldenEye.

Described by Bill Tanner as 'the evil queen of numbers', she wastes no time by putting Bond in his place, calling him a 'sexist, misogynist dinosaur'. Dench's M has been more involved with Bond's adventures, even being abducted by Renard and Elektra in The World Is Not Enough. If the trailers are to be believed, M will play a big part in Skyfall- something from her past will come back to haunt her, prompting her to 'think on your sins'.

Skyfall will be Dench's seventh outing as M. Dench is one of the UK's most well-loved actresses and outside the Bond franchise, she has appeared in films such as Tea With Mussolini, The Chronicles Of Riddick and Notes On A Scandal and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Elizabeth I in Shakespeare In Love.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Countdown: The Watchers' Top 10 Bond Villains

The villain is one of the core elements within a Bond film. The threat that Bond has to face can make or break the movie. So, after some deliberation, we came up with The Watchers' Top 10 Bond Villains


1. ERNST STAVRO BLOFELD
(played by Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice) 

The most iconic and most parodied of Bond villains, the facial scar and bald head (along with the volcano base and deadly fish) is instantly recognisable the world over- and Pleasance's truly brilliant performance has cemented the legend. The original and best Blofeld. 





2. FRANCISCO SCARAMANGA 
(played by Christopher Lee in The Man With The Golden Gun)

Suave, debonair and deadly, Scaramanga is the dark side of Bond, the flip-side to 007's coin. The fact that this most gentlemanly of assassins is played by the legend that is Christopher Lee is probably one of the best casting choices ever made in the entire Bond franchise. 



3. FRANZ SANCHEZ
(played by Robert Davi in License To Kill)

A thoroughly nasty piece of work, Sanchez is a ruthless and vicious drug lord responsible for the attack on Felix Leiter. Gone are the exotically-named megalomaniacs with convoluted plans of world domination, here we have an all-too-real villain played with a steely edge by Davi. 







4. MAX ZORIN


(played by Christopher Walken in A View To A Kill)

Walken brings his trademark intensity to the role of Zorin, an ex-KGB psychopath who plans to destroy Silicon Valley through a tremendous earthquake and thus monopolise the microchip market (a timely suggestion by the writers, as computers were starting to break big in the mid-80s) 



5. ELEKTRA KING
(played by Sophie Marceau in The World Is Not Enough)

It's a masterly stroke of misdirection; Renard looks like the master villain, Elektra the poor abused kidnap victim. The moment when it's revealed that it's actually Elektra pulling the strings is a total gut-punch, helped in no small part by a strong performance by Marceau. 





6. AURIC GOLDFINGER
(played by Gert Frobe in Goldfinger)

The archetypal Bond villain, his grandiose plan to devalue the gold reserves of Fort Knox by detonating a nuclear bomb there sets the bar for those that follow. Even though his lines are all dubbed, he still gets one of the most famous movie lines of all time. What more can you ask for? 


7. HUGO DRAX
(played by Michael Lonsdale in Moonraker) 

Drax's plan to create the 'super-race' in space (by gassing the inhabitants of Earth with nerve gas) is quite insane, but Lonsdale's performance is strong and he resists the cliche of the ranting megalomaniac- his quiet aside of 'Look after Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him' is particularly chilling. 





8. ALEC TREVELYAN (006)
(played by Sean Bean in GoldenEye)

A battle-scarred former 00 gone rogue proves a brilliant foil for Pierce Brosnan's first Bond film (much like Scaramanga against Moore's Bond) with the ever-dependable Bean turning in a performance full of simmering rage. 





9. DR. KANANGA (A.K.A. MR. BIG)
(played by Yaphet Kotto in Live And Let Die) 

Kananga is the two-faced Caribbean criminal who plans to flood the American heroin market. The use of voodoo as a cover for these business enterprises is an interesting twist and Kotto makes for a convincing and occasionally unnerving villain.





10. ELLIOT CARVER
(played by Jonathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies)

There's a prescience to the character of Carver- an amoral, manipulative and deceitful media baron willing to start a war for ratings- and Pryce's performance is just top-notch, none more so than the scene where he gleefully dispatches his 'golden retrievers' to destroy a politician's reputation and release bug-filled software.





These are our picks for the best of the Bond villains - what about you? Do you agree with our choices or are we missing someone vital? Let us know in the comments below. Of course, the villains can't take Bond down on their own- they often need help in the form of henchmen (and henchwomen). Next week, we reveal our countdown of our Top 10 Henchmen.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Favourite And Least Favourite Bond Themes - Tez's Choices

One of the essential parts of any Bond film is the theme song. In the week that it was confirmed that Adele has recorded the theme song for Skyfall, it seems a good time to discuss my five favourite and five least favourite of the Bond themes so far (I haven't ranked them; they're done in chronological order)

FAVOURITE SONGS
  • 'Diamonds Are Forever' (Shirley Bassey)


As queen of the Bond theme (three to date), Dame Shirl would have to be here somewhere. It was a real toss-up between this and 'Moonraker' but my affection for the film Diamonds Are Forever snuck it. There's something so gloriously OTT and camp about the song which fits nicely with the film to follow.

  • 'Live And Let Die' (Paul McCartney & Wings)

Recently voted the nation's favourite Bond theme (according to listeners of Radio 2), so who am I to argue? The guitars are fantastic and the rock-y nature of the song is a marked contrast from the power ballads and love songs of 60s and early 70s Bond.


  • 'Nobody Does It Better' (Carly Simon)

This is a beautifully written song, beautifully sung and a song which has transcended the Bond theme origin to become a love song in its own right.


  • 'License To Kill' (Gladys Knight)


There is an undeniable strength and passion to Knight's voice which suits this most powerful of power ballads. Knight's voice is just truly sublime, making this a strong entry to the Bond theme collection.


  • 'GoldenEye' (Tina Turner)
 
Sinuous and slightly sensual, Turner's voice is a perfect match for the song written by Bono & The Edge from U2, providing not only a fantastic opening to the new chapter of the Bond franchise- but a fantastic opening to Tina's concerts too!


LEAST FAVOURITE SONGS

  • 'The Man With The Golden Gun' (Lulu)


Lulu blares it out and even the innuendo-laden lyrics are grating and lacking in any kind of charm. Plus this is the worst kind of earworm which just nests in your head and won't go, no matter how many times you sing 'Bohemian Rhapsody' to try and dislodge it.

  • 'For Your Eyes Only' (Sheena Easton)

To think that this song was nominated for an Oscar is an affront to good music. Weak, whiny and bland- and that's as much to do with the lyrics as the way they're sung. A shame that such a good film is laden with such a bad theme.


  • 'All Time High' (Rita Coolidge)



Much like 'For Your Eyes Only', I find this an insipid, weak dirge. Bond themes should grab you by the throat, not timidly tap you on the shoulder like this one does. Even a surprise rendition of it in Ted (by Mark Wahlberg) does nothing to redeem it.

  • 'Die Another Day' (Madonna)


Utter tripe. Disposable pop nonsense. Haven't got much else to say about it. Awful, awful, awful.


  • 'Another Way To Die' (Jack White & Alicia Keys)


It's not a bad song per se and it kind of grows on you but it doesn't really fit with the film. There's something slightly discordant about it as well which doesn't quite sit right as a song in its own right either.

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So those are my choices, my opinion on my favourite and least favourite Bond themes. Feel free to agree or disagree and let me know your favourites and least favourites in the comments below. 

Tez

(PS. Rhys will share his choices of his favourite and least favourite Bond themes on the week that the new Bond theme is released.)

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Never Say Never Again (1983)



To give you a taste of what we’ll be doing on the Bondathon weekend, we’ve had a bit of a trial run with one of the non-official Bond films, Never Say Never Again. We tossed a coin to see who would blog and who would podcast, and I won the coin toss and so decided to blog 

As you may know (or not know), I’m not a huge fan of Thunderball. It’s something to be endured rather than enjoyed. So sitting through Never Say Never Again (or Thunderball II: The Revenge as I like to think of it) was never going to be first on my list of things to do on a Friday night. But watch it we did. And I have to say… if I never see this wretched abomination of a film again, it will be too soon.

The story of the making of Never Say Never Again is a fascinating one, as I learned from Rhys’ excellent article on it. I have to say, if I was Kevin McClory, having fought so long and so hard to get my Bond movie made, I would be bitterly disappointed with this as the result. From the very opening (with a theme song that makes ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ a contender for Best Bond Theme by comparison) to the cheesy cartoon-esque wink at the camera Connery plants on us at the end, the film is dreadful.

It largely follows the plot of Thunderball; SPECTRE agent Largo steals two nuclear warheads and plans to blackmail the world, so Bond has to go get them back and avert disaster. There’s the usual globetrotting (taking in the south of France and the Bahamas amongst other), the usual beautiful women and the usual large-scale action sequences and stunts. Everything you expect from a Bond film.

But what happened here?

One of many things I was surprised to learn was that the screenplay was not written by McClory; it was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. who must take the vast amount of responsibility for this stinker. The characterisation is all to cock- Edward Fox’s M is belligerent and miserable throughout, forcing Bond to go to a health spa to get rid of ‘free radicals’; Alec McCowen’s Q is hoping for ‘lots of gratuitous sex and violence’ which is frankly ridiculous.

Largo, the main villain (played by Klaus Maria Brandauer), isn’t a great threat, coming off as a creepy little runt who comes out with charming lines like ‘I’d cut your throat’ when Domino asks what he’s do if she left him and childishly smashing up his studio with an axe when he sees Bond kissing Domino before leaving her chained up and attempting to sell her off to a mob. The first showdown between Bond and Largo at the charity ball isn’t played with any kind of tension and the metaphor of playing a videogame for world domination is as subtle as a brick, coming off as a macho pissing contest instead.

Barbara Carrera absolutely chews the scenery up as Fatima Blush, the femme fatale SPECTRE agent who is first seen as a nurse at the health spa; she’s grooming Jack Petachi to gain access to the warheads. She devolves into a crazed loon, demanding that Bond writes that she was the best he ever had (which gives Bond the chance to shoot her with an exploding pen).

The direction is lacklustre and workmanlike in places, so it was a surprise to find out that this was directed by none other than Irvin Kershner- who directed Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. A lot of the underwater scenes look like they may have been shot in someone’s swimming pool, with a scene where Bond is chased by sharks utilising less believable rubber props than were used in Jaws. The fight scenes are often poorly choreographed, the CGI is staggeringly bad (even for 1983 standards) and there are some utterly bizarre script choices that absolutely beggar belief- Jack’s death by Fatima throwing a snake into his car being one of them.

Bond has a reputation for being a womaniser and that’s played to the hilt here- bedding no less than four women throughout- but the sex scene between Sean Connery and Barbara Carrera has been dreadfully cut together and there is something remarkably uncomfortable about the scene where Bond poses as a masseur to get to talk to Domino- Connery was in his early fifties at the time, whilst Kim Basinger was thirty. In fact, the more I think about it, there’s a rather unpleasant borderline misogynistic streak that runs through this movie which leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

However, that’s not to say the whole enterprise is entirely beyond redemption- whilst it was a struggle, I did find a few things I liked about it. Max Von Sydow makes for an impressive Blofeld, giving the few scenes he’s in a much-needed kick; I also liked Bernie Casey who gave a decent turn as Felix Leiter. There are a few nice lines throughout that raised a wry smile rather than a disbelieving snort but they were few and far between.

I could continue to run this film into the ground, but I’m not going to. I hope this final sentence sums up how bad I found this film: Never Say Never Again makes Octopussy look good.

Tez

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Rhys’ podcast review of Never Say Never Again will follow shortly.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Kevin McClory and the Battle for Bond




If you are a hardened Bond fan or just a movie fan you will know that in 1983, a movie event happened – The Battle Of The Bonds! The summer of 1983 saw the release of not just a new 007 adventure – but two Bond Films: Octopussy (starring Roger Moore) and the return of Sean Connery to the role in Never Say Never Again.

You probably know that Never Say Never Again was a remake of Thunderball- not surprised or reading anything new? Well, how about the fact that Connery nearly returned as Bond sooner in 1977, and that there was nearly a second Thunderball remake in the late 1990's? How was this all nearly possible? Well, the battle between Bonds didn't start in 1983- and certainly didn’t end there- and it was all because of one man. Kevin McClory.

Kevin McClory
McClory was born June 8 1926 in Dublin, he began his film career in the 1950s as boom operator and location manager on The Cockleshell Heroes for Warwick Films. He went on to be John Huston's assistant on films including The African Queen (1951) and Moulin Rouge (1952). In 1956, he was an Assistant Director on Huston's version of Moby-Dick and Associate Producer and Second Unit Director on Mike Todd’s Around The World In 80 Days. A year later McClory wrote, produced and directed the film The Boy And The Bridge, which was co-financed by the heiress Josephine Hartford Bryce. It was his work friendship with Josephine Hartford Bryce that led him to meet Ian Fleming, a friend of Josephine’s husband Ivar.

In the summer of 1958 Fleming and his friend Ivar Bryce began talking about the possibility of a Bond film; in the autumn of 1958 Bryce introduced Fleming to Kevin McClory. It wasn't until May 1959 that Fleming, Bryce, McClory and Bryce's friend Ernest Cuneo first met to came up with a story outline which was based on an aeroplane full of celebrities and a female lead called Fatima Blush. McClory was fascinated by the underwater world and wanted to make a film that included it. Over the next few months, as the story changed, there were ten outlines, treatments and scripts. Titles included SPECTRE, James Bond of the Secret Service and Longitude 78 West.
Fleming first wanted to work alongside McClory, because of his film The Boy And The Bridge. which was the official British entry to the 1959 Venice Film Festival. However, when the film was released in July of that year, it flopped at the box office; Fleming became worried with McClory's ability. As a result of this in October 1959, with Fleming spending less time on the project, McClory introduced experienced screenwriter Jack Whittingham to the writing process.
Jack Whittingham
In November 1959, Fleming left to travel around the world on behalf of The Sunday Times; while he was travelling, Fleming met with McClory and Ivar Bryce in New York and McClory told Fleming that Whittingham had completed a full outline which was ready to shoot. Back in Britain in December 1959, Fleming met with McClory and Whittingham for a script conference; shortly afterwards, McClory and Whittingham sent Fleming a script- Longitude 78 West- which Fleming considered to be good, although he changed the title to Thunderball.
In January 1960, McClory visited Fleming's Jamaican home Goldeneye where Fleming explained his intention of delivering the screenplay to MCA with a recommendation from him and Bryce that McClory act as producer. Additionally, Fleming told McClory that if MCA rejected the film because of McClory's involvement, then McClory should either sell himself to MCA, back out of the deal or file suit in court.
First cover of Fleming's
novel Thunderball
From January to March 1960, Fleming wrote a novel version of Thunderball based on the screenplay written by himself, Whittingham and McClory. The book was released and McClory sued Fleming for plagiarism; the case lasted three weeks, during which time Fleming had a heart attack and- under advice from Ivar Bryce- they settled out of court. McClory gained the literary and film rights for the screenplay, while Fleming was given the rights to the novel, although it had to be recognised as being "based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and the Author". On settlement, Fleming ultimately admitted '...that the novel reproduces a substantial part of the copyright material in the film scripts'. On 12 August 1964, nine months after the conclusion of the trial, Ian Fleming suffered a further heart attack and died at the age of 56. 
Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli's production company Eon Productions later made a deal with McClory for Thunderball to be made into a film in 1965. Under the deal, Eon licensed McClory's rights for a period of ten years and in return they assigned McClory would produce and he would have the rights to any further scripts and treatments. The film was directed by Terence Young with the screenplay re-written by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins. McClory co-produced and even made an uncredited cameo in the film.
McClory's cameo in Thunderball
In 1974, with the ten years nearly up on that deal, Albert R. Broccoli was working for the first time without his longtime partner Harry Saltzman. The Man With the Golden Gun was released in the cinema, but film audiences had started to tire of the Bond character and the film was a critical flop. Once the rights to Thunderball had returned to Kevin McClory, he started to work on a new script in 1975 and obtained the help of the writer Len Deighton (creator of Harry Palmer). They completed their script and quickly announced that they would begin production on a new Bond film, entitled James Bond of the Secret Service.

MGM promptly filed an injuction against McClory to stop him from making a rival Bond film. Eon were successful on a claim that the title was too similar to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. McClory furthered this argument with his opinion that he alone had the rights to SPECTRE and Ernst Blofeld stating that Broccoli and company could not use it. Broccoli stated that McClory had no right to make a movie based on the original drafts as he didn't have Ian Fleming's permission. Due to lack of financial backing, McClory had to back down his claims.

Not one to be stopped, McClory simply changed the script’s name to Warhead. The late 1970's saw McClory and Deighton joined by a third contributor to the script: Sean Connery. The three of them continued to work on the project. Deighton sad of this time: “Kevin was something of an eccentric… I went on location recces with him to Tokyo, Okinawa and Florida. In New York I was arrested as I got off the plane but the NYPD detective who arrested me was a close friend of Kevin. To compensate for the joke, he had me made an honorary member of the NYPD.” The three men wrote a screenplay over three months, both in Ireland and at Connery’s home in Marbella.
  
A copy of the original script for Warhead was recently sold in auction, it went for $68,000. Here's a description of that document’s storyline: “Warhead featured Bond super-baddies SPECTRE’s most outlandish plan yet for world domination. Luring Russian and American planes and ships into the Bermuda Triangle, they steal a cache of nuclear weapons and commandeer the Statue of Liberty as a base from which to unleash a robot hammerhead shark armed with a nuclear bomb. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, RoboFish would be escorted by heat-seeking tiger sharks into the sewer system, swimming to the centre of the city before it went BOOM! (In one grisly scene, a team of SWAT soldiers meet up with the piscarian posse; Bond can only watch helplessly as mutilated limbs float out amid toilet paper and sewage.) Oh, and there was also an undersea HQ that rises out of the ocean and a black muscle-bound henchman named Bomba whom the script described as “making Muhammad Ali look like a fag.

The script circulated the studios, raising attention. McClory announced shooting would begin in February 1977; Paramount would back it to the sum of $22m. Rumours circulated that Orson Welles was to play arch-villain Blofeld and Richard Attenborough was to direct. The film was in pre-production, sets were being designed and the final drafts were being written. 
Concept artwork for the RoboFish in Warhead
However, with millions going into the project, Paramount would only make it if Connery was Bond. Connery agreed, “There was a certain amount of curiosity in me about the role, having been away from it so long.” It seemed he had protested too much – apparently he missed the old boy. At the time McClory told the press that Connery returning to Bond was like, “Muhammad Ali, when he’s at his most fit, when someone else is champion of the world, throwing his hat into the ring.” Eon Productions of course tried to stop the film through legal routes – the argument of what McClory owned the rights to was swung from side to side and into the press at the time. With an impending legal battle to get the film produced, Connery started to change his mind. “Before I put my nose into anything, I want to know it is legally bona fide,” said the actor in 1978. With this statement, Paramount got cold feet and withdrew; this tipped Connery and he pulled out. With that, Warhead was dead.

Jump to 1981. The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker are blockbusters and Bond is back on the right side of movie fans! Kevin McClory still has sole rights to Thunderball, SPECTRE and Blofeld. Eon Productions used a villain who looked very much like Blofeld in the opening sequence of For Your Eyes Only – but they never used the character name Blofeld and the character is not in the end credits either. At this point, McClory has spent the last seven years trying to find financial backing to go to court against Eon Productions, so he can remake Thunderball. This happened in the form of Jack Schwartzman of Warner Brothers. Schwartzman knew that McClory had the rights to do the film; his case just had to be presented correctly.  The British High Court ruled for Kevin McClory, stating that the Deed of Assignment dated December 31, 1963, gave McClory full rights to both the novel and original scripts to Thunderball. Thanks to the help of Warner Brothers' lawyers, McClory was finally free to begin production on his remake: Never Say Never Again.

The film’s title was a suggestion from Connery’s wife. She was referring to the press statement that Connery made in 1971 after completing Diamonds Are Forever- in which he said “never again!”. This was the summer that the Bonds did battle. Connery went head to head with Moore in Octopussy – both films were filmed and then released in 1983. Advertising for Never Say Never Again had posters and trailers with “Sean Connery IS James Bond” all over them, which was a statement of course reminding audiences that the original actor had returned. Connery last appeared as Bond twelve years previously in Diamonds Are Forever. The actor was 52 at the time – the plot actually added the element of Bond being older, facing aging and being brought back into action.

Both films were released and the public would decide. Octopussy was released in June and grossed $187,500,000;  Never Say Never Again managed a good second place grossing $160,000,000. Nevertheless, it made Warner Brothers money and also McClory had finally made his non-canon Bond movie. Here you would think McClory would be happy, and see this as finally a victory, having finally made the Bond film he wanted to make – a Bond film outside the canon, with his rights.

No. Not nearly enough. For the next few decades, rumours and one surprise announcement that led to years of more court battles still lay ahead of him! The first movement of this came in 1989; McClory announced that he would begin filming on “Warhead 8”, the second remake of Thunderball (which never materialized).  Then after a seven year hiatus- with Eon’s legal battles with MGM/UA and Timothy Dalton not returning for a planned third adventure, and a new Bond in the form of Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye in cinemas finally in 1995- Bond was back. Not just back, but a massive money-maker once again. Suddenly McClory was meeting studios and rumours were popping up between fans. Then the shocking announcement was made. Sony Pictures were going to back him.

On October 13 1997, just two months before the release of Tomorrow Never Dies, Columbia Pictures (a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company) announced a new association with producer/director Kevin McClory and his company Spectre Associates Inc. to make a series of new James Bond feature films. The first film of this new Bond franchise, to be produced by McClory, was expected to be released in1999. Titled Warhead 2000 AD. McClory told press at this announcement; "I had several choices of studios with whom to work.....but Sony Pictures and Columbia stood head and shoulders above the other studios in experience, unique production facilities, digital special effects and global distribution abilities. Plus, this is a great opportunity to join old friends John Calley, Gareth Wigan (co-vice chair, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group) and Amy Pascal (president, Columbia Pictures) in propelling James Bond into the 21st century."


With this press announcement, and the backing of such a major player in Hollywood, court battles were obviously going to erupt once again and Eon began their fight. Injuction upon injunction happened and rumour after rumour began. Notably, Timothy Dalton was linked to play Bond and Patrick Stewart was tipped to play Blofeld. Director and producer team Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich (who made Independence Day) were in talks with Sony to make the first of the second franchise, while for a short period Connery himself was allegedly interested in returning to the tuxedo for one more time in the now titled Doomsday 2000, with a shoot date of 1999!
  
While there was a production office with McClory and a production team meeting people and developing this new series for Sony, there was of course a court war, which lasted between the announcement in 1998 and ended on March 30, 1999. Sony reached a settlement with MGM. Sony attorney David W. Steuber said at the time ‘Essentially... we have given up the universal right to make a James Bond picture’. Despite this fact, McClory alone appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals, but on May 11, 2001, the court upheld the original finding that McClory was not entitled to a share of the profits from the series.

For next few years a rumour would rear its head, especially by now we were in the age of the internet – movie rumour heaven and blogs! McClory had what is now seen as the final blow to the end of his lifelong fight to have his franchise – Sony Pictures bought out MGM and in doing so secured a deal, which meant that the next two Bond films would be distributed by Sony Pictures. This happened with the first two Craig adventures- in the end, Sony had a share of Bond.

McClory passed away on 20 November 2006, aged 80, four days after the UK release of Casino Royale. With MGM being bought out by Sony and losing their major box office draw, they nearly went bankrupt in the last few years, to the point that the shoot of Skyfall was abandoned and a deal was made with their sister company and owners Sony. Skyfall is the third film to be released by Sony and the twenty-fourth adventure will be too.

What of McClory's rights he won in court? Can someone make a Bond film if they owned these? Sony has those rights; as part of the development deal in 1997 he signed them over. As of now, Bond is completely over seen by Sony Pictures as of now. The likelihood of another non-canon 007 adventure looks unlikely..... but Never Say Never Again!

Rhys

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Video Countdown: Top Ten Bond Stunts

When you think about Bond films, there are certain elements which spring to mind. One we'd like to focus on today is the action sequences and stunts. There have been some truly amazing stunts throughout the Bond franchise and we've put together our Top Ten. Click the video below to find out what we rated as the best stunt in a Bond movie:



Thursday, 13 September 2012

Bond At The Oscars: Part Two - The Movies



Yesterday, we looked at the various Oscar-winning (and Oscar-nominated) actors and actresses that have appeared in the Bond films. Today, we look at which Bond films have been nominated for an Academy Award- and which ones have actually won.

It may surprise you to learn that seven official EON Productions Bond films have been nominated for at least one Academy Award, often giving the lie to the assumption that the Oscars are elitist and only go for worthy dramas. True, none of the films have been nominated for Best Picture but there has been recognition of the technical and musical achievements of the following films:

Goldfinger

Widely seen as the best Bond film, it is entirely fitting that Goldfinger is not only the first Bond film to be nominated for an Oscar, but the first to win: Norman Wanstall picked up the Oscar for Best Sound Effects.


Thunderball

Yep, you read that right. Thunderball was nominated for an Oscar. Not only was it nominated; it also won! John Stears picked up the award for Best Visual Effects.

Diamonds Are Forever

Gordon K. McCallum, John W. Mitchell and Al Overton were nominated for Best Sound for their work on Diamonds Are Forever; McCallum did walk away with a Golden Baldy on the night, however, as he shared Best Sound with David Hildyard for Fiddler On The Roof


Live And Let Die

This was the first time a Bond theme was nominated for Best Original Song but ‘Live And Let Die’ didn't win; that honour went to 'The Way We Were' (I personally think 'Live And Let Die' is twenty times the some 'The Way We Were' is, but there's no accounting for taste)


The Spy Who Loved Me

To date, this is the Bond film with the most Oscar nominations: three nods, for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (for Ken Adam, Peter Lamont and Hugh Scaife). Best Original Song (the epic ‘Nobody Does It Better’) and Best Original Score (Marvin Hamlisch). Unfortunately, nominations would have to be enough- the Oscars were won by Star Wars Episode IV (Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Original Score) and You Light Up My Life (Best Original Song)


Moonraker

This film was recognised for Best Visual Effects (the team of Derek Meddings, Paul Wilson and John Evans) but lost out to Alien


For Your Eyes Only

The last Bond film to be nominated for an Oscar so far, and another nomination for Best Original Song (‘For Your Eyes Only’) but another loss: the Academy Award went to Arthur


Incidentally, the unofficial 1967 version of Casino Royale was nominated for Best Original Song for 'The Look Of Love' but lost to 'Talk To The Animals' from Doctor Dolittle. As you can see, Bond has had an interesting relationship with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Could Skyfall break a thirty-one year hiatus and get an Oscar nod? We'll have to wait til next January to find out. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Bond At The Oscars: Part One - The Actors



Skyfall's main antagonist, Raoul Silva, is played by Spanish actor Javier Bardem. Bardem won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in No Country For Old Men (and has also been nominated for his performances in Before Night Falls and Biutiful). 

However, Bardem is not the first Oscar-winning actor to appear in a Bond film.


Sean Connery

OK, so his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Untouchables was years after he hung up the tux (even if you include Never Say Never Again), but the fact still remains that- to date- Connery is the only actor to play Bond to have been nominated or has won a competitive acting Oscar.


Christopher Walken

Walken had already walked away with his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in The Deer Hunter before he took on the role of Max Zorin in A View To A Kill. He was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Catch Me If You Can.


Benicio Del Toro

Del Toro played Dario, one of Sanchez's henchmen, in License To Kill. It was one of his first film roles and he would go on to have a very successful career, winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Traffic (and being further nominated for his role in 21 Grams).


Judi Dench

The third incarnation of M, Dench won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Shakespeare In Love in 1999 after she had already appeared in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies. She has also been nominated for Best Actress for Mrs. Brown, Iris, Mrs. Henderson Presents and Notes On A Scandal, and for Best Supporting Actress for Chocolat.


Halle Berry

Berry made history when she became the first African-American actress to win a Best Actress Oscar (on her first nomination) for her role in Monster's Ball. She then went on to play Jinx in Die Another Day.


Other Oscar nominees that have appeared in Bond films are:

  • Lotte Lenya (Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love; nominated for Best Supporting Actress for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone)

  • Robert Shaw (Donald ‘Red’ Grant in From Russia With Love; nominated for Best Supporting Actor for A Man For All Seasons)

  • Telly Savalas (Blofeld in On Her Majesty's Secret Service; nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Birdman Of Alcatraz)

  • Topol (Columbo in For Your Eyes Only; nominated for Best Actor for Fiddler On The Roof)

  • Minnie Driver (Irina in GoldenEye; nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Good Will Hunting)

  • Giancarlo Giannini (Rene Mathis in Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace; nominated for Best Actor for Pasqualino Settebellezze [Pasqualino: Seven Beauties])

  • Ralph Fiennes (Mallory in Skyfall; nominated for Best Actor for The English Patient, and Best Supporting Actor for Schindler’s List)

  • Albert Finney (Kincade in Skyfall; nominated for Best Actor for Tom Jones, Murder On The Orient Express, The Dresser and Under The Volcano, and Best Supporting Actor for Erin Brockovich)
In the next post, we look at which Bond films have been nominated for an Oscar... and which films have won!