MOVIES & TV

Here’s why Bond movies shouldn’t be shot back-to-back

By JERHOW

September 6, 2016

A crazy outlandish rumor surfaced indicating Sony offering Daniel Craig $150 million to reprise the role of James Bond for two more films to be shot back-to-back.

We should take this rumor absolutely with a huge dash of grain and salt. It’s such an unlikely concept. Craig had purportedly already nixed the idea of a back-to-back shoot in any scenario with him returning. But it does bring up an interesting philosophical question about the notion of shooting Bond films in this way. Could it be done?

Studios can sometimes love the idea of shooting sequels back-to-back because it presents a more economical method of producing content. Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) were shot back-to-back despite having different directors (Richard Donner directed large portions of II but was replaced) and are a great example.

The set for the massive Fortress of Solitude was built on a sound stage and utilized in a variety of scenes large and small in both I and II. Had they not shot these films back-to-back, likely this set would have been stricken to free up stage space for another production, then completely rebuilt again when the time came to shoot the sequel, a costly endeavor.

Instead, by keeping the set erected, the production enjoyed a massive cost savings, got more “bang for their buck” and reaped further benefits of a budget spread over two films.

On a side note, I’m well aware I just used the word “erected” in a sentence.

Anyway, there’s a reason we never saw a Fortress of Solitude in Superman III. Without the story necessitating the need to return to this location for a handful of scenes, it just wouldn’t have been in the budget to recreate this massive set.

Other franchises from time to time have attempted the back-to-back shooting concept, with very mixed results. Matrix 2 and 3 may be a good example of a series that could have used some extra breathing room in between installments to regroup and reconceptualize the experience. Back to the Future 2 and 3, on the other hand, seems to have been able to pull off the back-to-back schedule with great success.

This brings us to Bond.

Despite perhaps being a more economical endeavor, could consecutive Bond movies work creatively if they are shot back-to-back?

The concept itself would be a departure from the legacy of the franchise, which has always been singularly focused on one film at a time.

And it’s for good reason. I would contend that a Bond movie shouldn’t be shot back-to-back – that doing so would compromise the integrity and quality of both pictures.

Firstly, these movies are more narrowly honed in on one specific character: Bond. It’s different than, say, The Avengers, with a large ensemble cast, and a production schedule that is inherently much more choppy, wih so many piece needing to be put together. Shooting Avengers films back-to-back, as they are doing with Infinity War, and the as yet untitled sequel, actually makes a lot of sense.

But where Robert Downey Jr.’s portion may ony be 45 days of a 180-day shoot, save for a small smattering of scenes here and there, Daniel Craig is front and center across the entire production. Back-to-back shooting doesn’t necessarily mean fewer shooting days. Skyfall (2012) was shot in a little over 4 months. SPECTRE (2015) took 7 months to shoot.

What we’re looking at then, with a back-to-back scenario for Bond, is essentialy a year-long shooting commitment from Craig. He is requred to be in top-notch physical condition and mentally focused and present in every scene, and given how grueling a Bond shoot can be, it’s just not realistic.

Keep in mind also, films are rarely shot in sequential order. Rather, they are shot in a way that makes practical and economic sense for the production. Filming on SPECTRE began in December 2014 in Austria to take advantage of the snow and cold weather conditions. The Mexico City portion of the production didn’t occur until late March 2015 even though the Day of the Dead sequence occurs at the very beginning of the film.

If life imitates art, M would never send Bond on two separate missions at the same time. He needs to be dialed in on one adversary at a time to maximize his talents and efficiency.

Similarly, the producers shouldn’t ask Craig to have to bounce around between bad guys, between his relationship with the good guys, his love interests, and all the nuances in between. It would just be flat out awkward. As an actor, could he theoretically do it? Sure. But if it runs the risk of watering down his performance, is it really worth it?

The nature of a Bond film is contradictory to the economic motivation behind a back-to-back shoot.

As mentioned, a primary reason for shooting in this way is cost savings inherent with keeping sets built, keeping crews on hand, etc. Bond films do have some similar sets. M’s office, for example, we’re likely to see in every picture. But the massive set pieces, the “bad guy’s lair,” is always different. This is what keeps a Bond movie fresh and exciting

In You Only Live Twice, Bond’s adversary, Blofeld, resides inside a gigantic volcano in Japan. This film was followed up by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where Bond discovers Blofeld on a snow-covered mountaintop base in Switzerland. Could you imagine if they had Bond returning to the same volcano set in OHMSS?

It’s more exciting and more epic if Bond encounters Blofeld or any of his nemeses in different parts of the world. It doesn’t make much creative sense, and it’s a contradiction to the history of the franchise, to depict the same bad guy in the same lair across multiple films.

In keeping with tradition, then, Blofeld’s crater lair set in SPECTRE was going to get torn down no matter what. So a back-to-back concept really doesn’t apply even in the Daniel Craig era of the series. 

Lastly, perhaps most importantly, there’s a passage of time quality that adds a unique dimension to the character of Bond. Pierce Brosnan was sporting noticeable greys in his last outing in Die Another Day versus his jet back hair in GoldenEye. There is a much more comfortable, more “seasoned” quality to his portrayal in his last film compared to his first, and this helps to establish Bond’s integrity in the role.

The Daniel Craig arc lends itself to this conceot beautifully, given that Casino Royale takes us back to Bond’s very first mission as 007. We’re watching Craig’s iteration of the character evolve with each installment, as his adversaries continue to move up the food chain, from petty bomb-makers to influential criminal heads bent on world-domination.

Avoiding the back-to-back scenarios allows Craig to age in between each movie. If he does agree to do two more, and ties Sean Connery with a run of 6 James Bond films, seeing the evolution of his Bond, incorporating his seasoning, his aging, is an epic, rare, historical, and special opportunity.

The Bond franchise has always done a great job of staying relevant, modern, and keeping up with the changing times. But it also remains at its best when it retains its vital qualities that can be found within each and every film. We talk a lot about the tradition of the gun barrel sequence, the title song with the opening credits, and the tuxedo.

But it’s also about the way in which these films are made, their particular moviemaking process, which allows this franchise to endure. In this sense, keeping with tradition also keeps Bond headed into the future. And that means filming each adventure one at a time.

by  Jeremy Howard“JERHOW”

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