No, Daniel Craig is not set for a $150 million James Bond payday, and here’s why

09.06.16 11 months ago

One of the most frustrating things about spending 20 years covering film as a critic and a reporter is watching the slide of even the most basic standards into total ruin, and it is safe to say that at this point, the entire wall of white noise that is “film journalism” is essentially useless as anything other than farce.

Maybe it”s because there are some stories you don”t want to believe and some stories you do. Maybe that”s why certain false things get reported as fact so readily. I still see people run the “fact” that Bill Murray only appeared in Garfield because he got confused by Joel Cohen”s name on the script, thinking he was going to work with the Coen Brothers. People really want to believe that”s true, but it”s ridiculous.

Just take a step back and really consider what you”re saying. Bill Murray would have to be clueless about the nature of Garfield as a project and remain clueless throughout the entire process. Forget about how stupid the idea is that his lawyer negotiated his deal (which, believe me, was negotiated carefully before Murray showed up to record his voice work for what Fox was hoping would be a huge family franchise) and never mentioned to Murray that, no, he was not actually working with the Coen Brothers. You have to believe that Murray showed up for the first day, realized what he”d done, and then stayed to do the movie anyway. Because that sounds exactly like what we”ve heard about Bill Murray for the last 30 years. He”s a real pushover who shows up to make movies by mistake and has no idea who he”s working with or for. I”d be more likely to believe that Murray took Garfield strictly to take a job away from Lorenzo Music, who provided the voice for the Venkman character on the Ghostbusters animated series, out of a sense of perverse whimsy. At least that makes sense. But then again, I can”t blame someone who decided to believe this story since Murray really did tell the story. He was kidding, but if someone fell for this the way kids in the late ’80s earnestly believed Robert Zemeckis when he claimed hoverboards were real, then I guess I understand to some degree.

So what do you want to believe is true about James Bond?

When I reached out to someone close to the Bond franchise about what”s really going on with Daniel Craig and the future of the series, what became clear immediately is that there is no big story at the moment. Before there is any kind of announcement about who will play Bond for the next film, whether that”s Daniel Craig or someone else, there will be an announcement about what EON is doing regarding distribution for the next film. Will they re-sign with Sony? Unlikely, but possible. They weren”t happy with the way the Sony deal worked, and Sony wasn”t especially happy with it, either. Even so, the  It”s far more likely that they”ll jump to a new studio, and Warner Bros. has been particularly aggressive about trying to make sure they”re the new home for the enduring super-spy. Considering how heavily Warner Bros has started leaning on their tentpoles, this would be a pretty spectacular win for them. When Warner Bros. is on their game, their marketing department is a force of nature, and James Bond is one of the most recognizable brands on the planet. If they do manage to convince EON to bring the franchise to them, you can expect they will make as loud a noise as possible to announce the deal.

At the recent TCAs, the producers of Purity, the television series that Daniel Craig stars in, were careful to tell reporters that Craig”s TV schedule will not interfere with his duties as James Bond. It was interesting in part because of how many people wrote articles about Purity that instantly assumed that Craig”s casting meant the end of his time as James Bond. People make assumptions about James Bond and then pass it along as reportage, and it”s little wonder that readers have no idea what”s actually happening. There”s so much junk in the conversation that it”s basically crowded out the truth, and fans of the franchise are hungry for information because things move at a slower-than-average pace for James Bond.

Let”s look at the Radar story that was picked up and reposted over and over, and let”s ask ourselves why anyone should believe the story.

According to Radar, Sony is both offering Daniel Craig $150 million for two films and working to cast the new James Bond at the same time.

Nonsense. That”s not how it works. When Radar writes, “The studio is desperate to secure the actor”s services while they phase in a younger long-term successor,” it suggests that Sony has some ongoing stake in the future of the character. They don”t even have the rights to release one film. Why would they care what happens three or four films down the road? Say they do secure the rights, as Radar predicts. “They will shoot two more films, which will be made virtually back-to-back, preferably featuring Daniel as 007 before he passes the figurative baton to someone else for a third movie that will mark the start of the new era.” No. Absolutely not. They don”t make Bond films back-to-back, and as a whole, the industry seems to be backing off of the two-at-once sequel strategy. It was appealing on an economic level, but it was a huge struggle for the creative teams involved. Whether you”re talking about the Pirates of the Caribbean films or the Matrix sequels, that has been a difficult model to make work, and the makers of the Bond films have never been known for developing more than one film at a time. That”s all they can do. They focus on getting each Bond movie as right as they can get it, and then they take a break and they regroup. That is how it works.

And the Bond films have also never leaned on one Bond passing the torch to the next. That doesn”t even make sense. Forget the fan theory about “James Bond” being a code name and not a character name; that”s simply not the series that EON has been making for over 50 years. When they recast James Bond, they do a hard break and they recast James Bond.

One of the things I”ve noticed is that no matter how logical or matter of fact you are about things, there are people that will automatically take an opposite position, just to argue. Could Sony have the rights all locked up? Maybe. Could they decide to do two films back to back? Maybe. Could they pay Daniel Craig $150 million for two films? Not likely at all, but maybe. Any of those things are possible, but none of them are probable. Radar”s reporting would be problematic if they just got one big part of the story wrong, but there are so many things about what their unnamed source supposedly told them that run directly counter to the way EON actually works that I think anyone who ran that story as news, even with a useless “take this with a grain of salt!” warning, should be embarrassed. It”s terrible reporting in the first place, and no one did even the slightest follow-up to see if there was some reason to run this story that runs counter to everything that we know about the people and the companies involved.

Ask yourself if the money makes sense. Ask yourself why Sony would be the ones making these calls. Ask yourself if you think EON is going to make back-to-back Bond films. Ask yourself why you should believe a story that Radar Online couldn”t even assign a byline to, instead crediting their story to “Radar Staff.” No one put their name on that reporting, and it doesn”t surprise me. I wouldn”t either. It”s a disgrace, and the way the story went viral is just as disgraceful.

We have to do better, across the board, or we have to accept that readers have no reason to trust anything they read anywhere. My own sources indicate that there is no story right now, and that when there is a story, it will be announced quickly and loudly.

Until that point, you deserve more than this “EXLCUSIVE” clickbait trash and the echo chamber that amplifies it.

Meanwhile, if EON is really stuck for a new Bond, I have a great suggestion, and I know he's interested in the job…

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