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  1. The CBn Dossier, March '05

    Matt Weston

    Welcome to the March 2005 CBn Dossier, a wrap-up of all the 007 news and rumours for the month (and if you read carefully, a scoop or two). In this month’s column, we take a look at the return of the literary Bond, the latest on ‘Casino Royale’, Sir Sean’s upcoming reprisal of the role that made him famous, that Clive Owen interview and more. Today, [dark] sheds some light on the latest 007 happenings.

    Enjoy.

    Child’s Play: Young Bond Arrives

    Almost three years after Raymond Benson’s final original Bond novel hit the shelves, the literary Bond is back, and in a way I don’t think any Bond fan could have foreseen (or, let’s be honest, wanted). On 3 March, SilverFin hit bookstores throughout the UK, amid a flurry of Young Bond publicity. While CBn offered three very different reviews from three very different Bond fans – with varying reactions – the general consensus outside Bond fandom seems to be that Young Bond author Charlie Higson has penned a winner. Yet it’s worth noting that the finished product is not incurring the wrath from fans that it could, nay, should have. The premise left more Bond fans shaken than stirred, when IFP announced their plans last April to explore Bond’s prepubescent years in a series of novels. However, 11 months on, SilverFin now rests on the shelves of scores of Bond fans who have been lucky enough to obtain a copy within its first month of release, and for many, Higson has succeeded in creating an adequate escapist fare. And as one of the masses who dissed the idea when it was first announced, I’m now eagerly awaiting Young Bond #1 when it’s released Down Under in May.

    Talk of a SilverFin film has also predictably emerged in the UK press. Those appalling ongoing rumours of Orlando Bloom being sought after to play a pre-007 007 aside (last time I checked, Higson’s Bond was in his early-teens and Bloom, well, wasn’t), there might be something deeper running here. Articles in both The Sunday Herald and The Guardian quote IFP spokespeople as saying that negotiations are an option down the track, with DreamWorks and Miramax being named as two interested parties (Who wouldn’t be? With Harry Potter cramming people into cinemas worldwide once every 18 months, Young Bond might be the answer to fill those Potter-less gaps). Charlie Higson himself even weighed in on where the film should be shot. However, it seems that Eon Productions automatically hold the rights to the James Bond character, young and old; case-in-point, James Bond Jr.. Yeah, I know, it was actually Bond’s nephew (who learned the game from his Uncle James, as that priceless theme song kindly informed us). Are these rumours just more SilverFin hype or is there a loophole in Eon’s contract which could see a potential Young Bond film slip out of a rival studio? Who knows? But with SilverFin‘s US release just around the corner, I suspect this isn’t the last we’ve heard of a Young Bond movie.

    At the other end of the literary chronological scale, a first edition copy of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale sold for a cool £21,000 at a Bloomsbury Auction held at the end of February. The inscribed novel went for the second-highest price ever for paid for a Fleming first. Methinks these Casino Royale firsts will become even more sought-after leading up to the release of the film version next year.

    Down at Casino Royale…

    Fans continue to be divided by Eon’s plan to hurl continuity out the window and deliver a Bond picture detailing 007’s first mission, as revealed by director Martin Campbell earlier this year. Things became more complicated when Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (writers of The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day and Casino Royale) told Screen International that the new film would be a “very faithful adaptation” of Fleming’s novel, set in 2006. The current script thankfully contains a number of Casino Royale hallmarks no screen adaptation should be without, including the brutal torture sequence and Bond’s famous final line of dialogue. Fingers crossed these make it to the screen.

    The collective head-scratching of Bond fans didn’t improve when Dame Judi Dench stepped forward and once again confirmed she would be reprising her role as “M” in Casino Royale (opposite a new 007 on his first mission?). Sure, continuity has never been Eon’s bag (Bond has never aged over 40 years, Blofeld discovered a cure for baldness and Felix Leiter has come in more shapes and sizes than one could ever imagine), but with Casino Royale, it seems almost as if they’re trying to outdo their disregard for connectivity between films.

    Purvis and Wade’s script will expand on Fleming’s novel, which isn’t an unprecedented move for the franchise. Fleming’s ‘The Living Daylights’ played out almost verbatim early on during the film of the same name as part of a larger original story. Similarly, Fleming’s ‘Octopussy’ is summed up in two lines of dialogue during that film. But it seems at this stage Casino Royale will be the closest Fleming adaptation we’ve had in years. I can’t wait! Can you?

    And speaking of waiting, it seems we now have a timeframe for Casino Royale, with The Hollywood Reporter recently dropping word that the film’s tentative release date is 17 November 2006, 11 years to the day after Campbell’s first Bond outing, GoldenEye, hit screens. We’ll take that as a good sign.

    Connery’s Comeback

    Who’d have thought? Sean Connery as James Bond in 2005. In what must be one of the most surprising revelations in Bond history, CBn learned in mid-March that the definitive 007 will return to the role of the suave superspy in 2005, despite saying “never again” for what must have been the ninth time.

    Connery will return to voice 007 in EA’s next instalment of their lucrative videogame franchise, From Russia With Love, a re-imagining of the film of the same name. Game Informer‘s April issue offered a world exclusive look at the new game, including the stunningly realistic first images of a CG Sean Connery, circa 1963. Very little is known about the game at this point (selected images to be published by Game Informer include 007 using a jetpack à la Thunderball and being involved in a high-speed car chase), but expect a third-person adventure to rival 2004’s Everything or Nothing, arguably EA’s finest effort to date.

    Curiously, EA is yet to make an official announcement regarding the game. Their last release, a first-person shooter where the player assumed the role of a Bond villain, failed to make much of a critical, commercial or fan impact, despite the obvious attempt to knock the original GoldenEye from its perch as the best Bond game ever. Glad to see they’ve stopped trying (for now) and will return to a game along the lines of Everything or Nothing.

    From Russia With Love is tentatively due for release later this year.

    Is Clive the New Double-Owen Seven?

    In a month with the release of the first Young Bond novel, news of Sean Connery returning to the role of James Bond and some of the most tantalising Casino Royale tidbits yet, nothing shook fans more than an interview with Clive Owen that appeared on a fairly obscure entertainment website before blowing well out of proportion.

    In it, Owen was confronted about accepting the role of James Bond for the 354,127th time, only instead of giving his usual “it’s all rumours” spiel, Owen gave an opaque response that has split fans straight down the middle. One group of fans remain adamant that Owen’s non-answer, coupled with a cheeky grin, gives away that he’s hiding something big (perhaps his first paycheck). Other fans, however, staunchly felt that Owen successfully came up with another way to dodge the 00-question whilst leeching off the Bond PR wagon in the process.

    In a second interview with Charlie Rose (in which the Bond question was posed for the 354,128th time), Owen’s response was decidedly more in-line with his past answers. Of course, he did reveal that he was in the process of being locked into something top-secret that could be Bond, but it could also be Modesty Blaise, for all we know.

    The mainstream media is yet to pick up on this lead, obviously pre-occupied with that “Orlando Bloom is Baby Bond” piece, but Owen received some surprisingly strong support within the fan community.

    Going Back to Fleming…

    CBn shared the first details of a brand-spanking-new Ian Fleming biopic earlier this month. With Ben Daniels as Ian Fleming, Emily Woof as Ann Fleming and Pip Torrens as Noel Coward, the 60-minute film borders on a documentary, telling the meticulously-researched true story of Fleming’s life for the first time (1989’s Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming and 1990’s Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming were B-grade Bond wannabes at best).

    Ian Fleming: A Life In Pictures will be directed by John Alexander (TV’s Cutting It), financed by the BBC and produced through Wall to Wall TV Productions. Filming is currently takng place on-location in the UK and Jamaica (including at Fleming’s home, Goldeneye). The telemovie is scheduled to premiere later this year.

    You Read it on CBn First

    Contrary to those recent “final two” rumours, Daniel Craig is not and never has been a contender for the role of James Bond. However, Dougray Scott and, in particular, Julian McMahon, who has received the most Bond #6 press coverage this month, are more than just rumours…

    Until next time…

    Matt Weston @ 2005-03-31
Follow @cbn007