Back in 2002 after the release of the James Bond movie Die Another Day there was talk of a spin-off movie featuring Halle Berry as Jinx Johnson and Michael Madsen as her boss Damian Falco. The film made it a long way into pre production with Berry very excited about reprising the role. Die Another day writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade wrote a script and it has even been suggested Stephen Frears was hired to direct. IMDB’s trivia page for Die another Day claims MGM pulled the plug on the project after movies like Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003) and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) underperformed. It wasn’t the first time MGM had considered developing a spin-off film, they had looked at the possibility a few years before based on Michelle Yeoh’s character, Wai Lin, from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). That film didn’t get beyond an idea.
Why am I talking about this now? Following the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe everyone is looking for money making franchise ideas utilising expanded universes . DC Comics’ are working on their own shared universe beginning with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice next year. Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is also expected next year. The first of a new Star Wars trilogy opens this Christmas and will be joined by a series of standalone films. Michael Bay plans to expand the Transformers universe. There has even been a suggestions of Dwayne Johnson’s character Hobbs from the Fast and Furious getting his own film.
But there is more to this story than just the trend for shared universes. Following the release of Spectre in November the deal between EON, Metween Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony will expire leaving the distribution rights up for grabs. Warner have been suggested as front runners, but Sony are going to want to hold onto the profitable property. To date the Bond franchise has grossed about $6billion (more than double that if you adjust for inflation), Skyfall baking over a billion on its own. Whoever gets them is sure to want to maximise their profits. The most obvious way to do this is to put more films out. With a Bond film about every three years they can either ramp that up to a film every two years or develop spin-off films. This does risk diluting the franchise but avoids rushing too many main Bond films to production. Here are a few ideas on what they could do:
American Bond: The most likely spin-off would involve an American character, be it Jinx Johnson or Felix Leiter. More likely than these characters would be to follow the Marvel or DC model by introducing a character in a bond film then give them their own film. To work, the writers would need to come up with a great character who is fundamentally different to Bond, it would have to be more than a Bond film with a character of a different name.
Old Bond: Bond films have always played fast and loose with continuity from one film to another, however this idea would have to exist outside the continuity of the current films. Bring back Timothy Dalton as an older retired 00 agent. There are numerous ways a retired character could be used. The much used trope of a man hearing a news story that compels him to finish a job from years before. He could be called to help an old friend who is in trouble, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) from Licence to Kill (1989) would be a good choice. Or we could have a more personal Equalizer style story. Anyone who watches Penny Dreadful will know that at 71 Dalton is still a towering presences.
Young Bond: I haven’t read any of the Young Bond novels so don’t know how good they are or if they would work as films. The first five novels by Charlie Higson are set in 1933/4 and feature a 13/14 year old Bond. Steve Cole took over in 2014 and plans to publish four book taking Bond up to the age of 15. If made into a film they will probably make him an older teenager. The setting could remain the 1930’s or be transposed to the late 80’s early 90’s to bring it in line with the current films.
Origins of Bond: The 2011 novel Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver rebooted Bond. There was a subplot that recurred throughout the book. Bond believes his father, Andrew Bond, was a British spy and was killed because of this and not in a climbing accident. He investigates this and comes across an old cold war KGB operation code-named “Steel Cartridge”. It appears Steel Cartridge was a “clean-up operation” where the KGB killed their own double agents when surplus to requirements or in danger of detection. Eventually he discovers that Steel Cartridge also assassinated a spy-hunter who about to discover their sleeper agents and moles. The spy hunter was Bond’s mother Monique Delacroix Bond. This could make a great film for numerous reasons. It could be set in the 60’s where Bond belongs, think of a spy movie that looks like Mad Men. It gives the opportunity for a strong female lead. There could be elements of an action movie but also a more claustrophobic spy thriller like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with the main theme is Andrew Bond a KGB agent?
We still have Spectre to look forward to before anything happens.