Off The Cuff

Your Universe editor Salem Hanna occasionally shares his thoughts with YU readers on any number of subjects. This week, he explains why director Danny Boyle may not live to regret quitting the new Bond film.

Most of us love the Bond movies. Goes without saying, doesn’t it? A series doesn’t last for over 50 years unless it’s done something right. And Danny Boyle is one of Britain’s best storytellers: the man whose artistic vision works whether he’s directing Leo DiCaprio stuck on a beach, James Franco stuck between two rocks or Ewan MacGregor stuck in a social circle of drug addicts.

Still, Boyle just quit Bond over the dreaded ‘creative differences’ that usually arise at the start of pre-production, not just before filming. Despite Sony putting a brave face on it, it’s hard to imagine the film’s shoot starting on time. If it’s any consolation to the cast and crew, they’re not alone. Everyone involved in Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is probably equally confused about where they stand right now.

At least Boyle can take a quantum of solace in one fact: directing a Bond film is no guarantee of a golden career afterwards. Far from it. As these names from recent entries can testify…

Martin Campbell

Had a big hit with Brosnan’s debut Goldeneye in 1995 and an even bigger hit with Craig’s debut Casino Royale in 2006. So, what did he make in between? The Mask of Zorro was a smash in 1998 and probably the reason Catherine Zeta-Jones finally cracked Hollywood. But Vertical Limit was critically derided despite its moderate financial success. The Zorro sequel was too little, too late to build on the momentum of the first film and by the time the Bond producers rehired him to make Casino Royale (after the fan backlash against Die Another Day) it’s debatable who needed the other more.

Still, Casino Royale went on to become an all-time classic. Maybe even the best film in the series. So how did Campbell follow it up? With a big screen remake of his own TV show Edge of Darkness, bravely casting Mel Gibson at the start of his comeback (hence poor box office), the Ryan Reynolds superhero megaflop Green Lantern (it’s no Deadpool) then the Jackie Chan terrorism thriller The Foreigner in 2017. The latter was actually a huge hit relative to its low budget…but you do feel Campbell’s Bond work is still the jewel in his crown and promised more outside the series that he never quite delivered on.

Roger Spottiswoode

The co-writer of Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte’s classic 48 Hours, Spottiswoode found directorial success with Tom Hanks and a police dog (Turner and Hooch), co-pilots Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr (Air America) and then Sylvester Stallone and Estelle Getty (Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot). Buddy movies are ‘his thing’ and his 1997 Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies pretty much became the Pierce Brosnan/Michelle Yeoh buddy movie.

Most Bond girls are claimed by the producers to be ‘007’s equal’ but Yeoh really was - the Asian action heroine stole the second half of the film. The underwhelming critical reviews are frankly wrong. Tomorrow Never Dies is reshown on TV more than most because there’s never a dull moment in it! Unfortunately, Spottiswoode next directed Arnold Schwarzenegger in The 6th Day - a buddy movie teaming the Austrian Oak with his own clone - that felt like a watered-down remake of Total Recall. Working with Schwarzenegger when the latter’s career as an A-lister was in terminal decline, Spottiswoode’s Arnie film made about a third as much as his Bond movie. Largely unknown work has followed – though he did get great reviews for A Streetcat Named Bob in 2016, the true story/buddy movie of a homeless man and his feline bestie.

Marc Forster

Hand-picked by Daniel Craig to make 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Forster was something of a critical darling with Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland and The Kite Runner under his belt. Sadly, the second film in Craig’s reign made him something of a victim of circumstance instead. Pre-production clashed with the Hollywood writers’ strike and there was a noticeable drop in the quality of dialogue from Casino Royale. Quantum still boasts excellent action sequences but a lot of fans felt the visual style was trying too hard to imitate the Bourne movies, which were the flavour of the decade and made Forster’s film yet another victim of timing. Had this been shot just a year later (and if Casino wasn’t so flawless) it would have both been and seemed a better film.

Things didn’t improve for Forster. Gerard Butler vehicle Machine Gun Preacher was a low-budget film yet still a huge flop (made for $30m and earned just $3m). He then directed World War Z, the most-expensive horror film of all time. Despite its widely-reported production difficulties and lukewarm reviews the film was a success, but Forster was dropped from the planned sequel. This summer, he had good reviews and reasonable box office for Christopher Robin, so his career is finally back on track.

Who would you most like to direct a Bond movie? Get in touch with universe@uel.ac.uk and let us know!

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