Insomnia File #43: Legend (dir by Brian Helgeland)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If, last night, you were having trouble getting to sleep around two in the morning, you could have turned over to HBO and watched the 2015 British gangster film, Legend.

Tom Hardy is Reggie Kray.  Arrogant, handsome, charming, and dangerous to know, Reggie is a club owner who is also an up-and-coming gangster in 1960s London.  Scotland Yard has him under surveillance.  The East End both fears and respects him.  American gangsters want to do business with him.

Tom Hardy is also Ronny Kray!  Ronny is the ugly twin, the one who lives in a trailer and has just been released from a psychiatric institution.  Ronny is openly gay at a time when that was still illegal in the UK.  Driven by jealousy of Reggie and a desire to prove himself superior to everyone who has ever judged or looked down on him, Ronny is determined to make sure that he and his brother become the top gangsters in London.

Together …. they solve crimes!

No, actually, they do the exact opposite.  They commit a lot of crimes.  Ronny is willing to shoot anyone in the head.  Reggie tries to be a bit more respectable.  He even attempts to run a legitimate nightclub.  Reggie understand that sometimes, the threat of violence is more effective than violence itself.  Reggie and Ronny are about as close as siblings can be, even if they do spend a lot of time beating each other up.

Frances Shea (Emily Browning) is the sister of Reggie’s driver, Frankie (Colin Morgan).  She’s sixteen when she meets and falls in love with Reggie Kray.  Reggie loves her too and he even marries her.  (Of course, he has to do a stint in prison first.)  Reggie swears to Frances that he’s going to go straight and that they’re going to have a normal life.  Deep down, Frances know that will never happen so, while her husband and brother-in-law conquer London, she copes with pills.  Lots and lots of pills.

For an American viewer like myself, British gangster films are always fun to watch because they’re just as violent as American gangster films but, at the same time, everyone’s always dressed impeccably and stopping in the middle of all the mayhem to have a cup of tea.  Legend is based on a true story, which turns out to be both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.  On the one hand, it’s fascinating to see the film’s recreation of London in the early 60s.  On the other hand, the film never convinces us that we should really care about the Krays.  This isn’t a case where, like the Corleones, the Krays are tragic figures who can’t escape their destiny.  Tom Hardy does a great job playing Reggie and he’s an adequate Ronny but you can never quite escape the feeling that the two brothers are just — to use one of their own preferred insults — two wankers who aren’t really worth all the trouble.  This is a film that you watch and you ask yourself, “Why should we care?”  Beyond the novelty of the Krays being twins, the film really can’t provide an answer.

Still, I happen to be fascinated by the early 60s so I enjoyed the film as a historical recreation.  Legend isn’t a bad film.  It’s just somewhat underwhelming.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge

Black Panther Is A Favourite With The Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society


The Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society, which is one of the newer critics groups, announced their nominees for the best of 2018 earlier today!  Not only did they really like The Favourite but — as you might expect from a group of online critics — they also embraced Black Panther.  Which is good because, if Black Panther‘s going to make history as the first comic book movie to score a best picture nomination, it’s going to need the critical precursor support that wasn’t given to Deadpool, Wonder Woman, or Logan.

Here are the nominations!

Best Picture

A Star is Born
Eighth Grade
Black Panther
The Favourite
The Hate U Give
BlacKkKlansman
Green Book
Roma
A Quiet Place
Searching

Best Actor

Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody
Bradley Cooper – A Star is Born
Christian Bale – Vice
Ethan Hawke – First Reformed
Viggo Mortensen – Green Book

Best Actress

Toni Collette – Hereditary
Charlize Theron – Tully
Lady Gaga – A Star is Born
Olivia Colman – The Favourite
Nicole Kidman – Destroyer

Best Supporting Actor

Adam Driver – BlacKkKlansman
Mahershala Ali – Green Book
Russell Hornsby – The Hate U Give
Sam Elliott – A Star is Born
Richard E. Grant – Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Supporting Actress

Elizabeth Debicki – Widows
Emma Stone – The Favourite
Rachel Weisz – The Favourite
Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk
Amy Adams – Vice

Best Adapted Screenplay

Bradley Cooper and Eric Roth – A Star is Born
Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Charlie Wachtel – BlacKkKlansman
Barry Jenkins – If Beale Street Could Talk
Audrey Wells – The Hate U Give
Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty – Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Original Screenplay

Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and John Krasinski – A Quiet Place
Bo Burnham – Eighth Grade
Tony McNamara and Deborah Davis – The Favourite
Boots Riley – Sorry to Bother You
Adam McKay – Vice

Best Male Director

Alfonso Cuaron – Roma
Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman
Yorgos Lanthimos – The Favourite
Bradley Cooper – A Star is Born
Ryan Coogler – Black Panther

Best Female Director

Chloe Zhao – The Rider
Debra Granik – Leave No Trace
Tamara Jenkins – Private Life
Marielle Heller – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Lynne Ramsay – You Were Never Really Here

Best Animated Film

Incredibles 2
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Mirai

Best Foreign Film

Burning
Cold War
Roma
Shoplifters
Girl

Best Documentary

Free Solo
Minding the Gap
RBG
Three Identical Strangers
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Best Visual Effects

Ready Player One
Mission Impossible – Fallout
First Man
Black Panther
Avengers: Infinity War

Best Cinematography

Linus Sandgren – First Man
James Laxton – If Beale Street Could Talk
Alfonso Cuarón – Roma
Robbie Ryan – The Favourite
Rachel Morrison – Black Panther

Best Blockbuster

Avengers: Infinity War
Black Panther
Deadpool 2
Mission: Impossible Fallout
Ready Player One

Best Independent Film

Eighth Grade
First Reformed
Sorry to Bother You
Ben Is Back
If Beale Street Could Talk

Best First Feature

Bo Burnham – Eighth Grade
Bradley Cooper – A Star is Born
Ari Aster – Hereditary
Paul Dano – Wildlife
Aneesh Chaganty – Searching

Best Comedy/Musical

Crazy Rich Asians
Game Night
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!
The Favourite
Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Action Film

Mission: Impossible -Fallout
Black Panther
Avengers: Infinity War
Deadpool 2
Widows

Best Sci-Fi/Horror

A Quiet Place
Annihilation
Halloween
Hereditary
Suspiria

Best Performance by an Actor 23 and Under

Alex Wolff – Hereditary
Lucas Hedges – Boy Erased
Lucas Hedges – Ben Is Back
Noah Jupe – A Quiet Place
Timothée Chalamet – Beautiful Boy

Best Performance by an Actress 23 and Under

Amandla Stenberg – The Hate You Give
Elsie Fisher – Eighth Grade
Millicent Simmonds – A Quiet Place
Milly Shapiro – Hereditary
Thomasin McKenzie- Leave No Trace

Best Breakthrough Performance

Elsie Fisher – Eighth Grade
John David Washington – BlacKkKlansman
Lady Gaga – A Star is Born
Yalitza Aparicio – Roma
Amandla Stenberg – The Hate U Give

Best Cast

Black Panther
The Favourite
BlacKkKlansman
Crazy Rich Asians
Widows

Best Stunt Work

Avengers: Infinity War
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Black Panther
Deadpool 2
Upgrade

Best Score

Justin Hurwitz – First Man
Nicholas Britell – If Beale Street Could Talk
Alexandre Desplat – Isle of Dogs
Ludwig Göransson- Black Panther
Terence Blanchard – BlacKkKlansman

Best Original Song

All the Stars – Black Panther
Shallow – A Star is Born
Hollywood Ending – Anna and The Apocalypse
Revelation – Boy Erased
Hearts Beat Loud – Hearts Beat Loud

Best Editing

Adam Gough and Alfonso Cuarón – Roma
Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick – Searching
Yorgos Mavropsaridis – The Favourite
Barry Alexander Brown – BlacKkKlansman
Hank Corwin – Vice

Best Visual Effects or Animated Performance

Ben Whishaw – Paddington 2
Jason Liles – Rampage
Josh Brolin – Avengers: Infinity War
Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Solo: A Star Wars Story
Tom Hardy – Venom

 

Film Review: Venom (dir. by Ruben Fleischer)


VenomPosterAbout 20 years ago, a friend and I walked out of a movie theatre for some pizza. On the way to the Pizzeria, I raved about the movie we just watched.  The effects were awesome, and the main character was bad ass. My friend didn’t share the same sentiment, and over the dinner, he went on to explain everything that was wrong with the film. Bad CGI (for its time), 2 Dimensional Characters, and a pretty simplistic plot. By the end of my dinner, all of my joy was sucked away. I wanted to believe, deep down that I walked into a quality production, but there was so much room for improvement.

That film was Mark Dippe’s Spawn.

I mention this because after seeing Ruben Fleischer’s Venom, Spawn was the first film that came to mind. That makes sense, given that a lot of Venom’s genesis is from artist Todd McFarlane, who also created Spawn (and gave Spider-Man some of the best webbing I’ve ever known). There are parts of Venom I truly enjoyed, and I can say that there isn’t much of a problem with the acting on anyone’s side.  However, the levels of boredom in the film’s first hour will have you wanting to bring in a highly caffeinated drink to sip on, just to stay awake. The lady next to me yawned, which made me yawn and it just cycled through the audience. The good sequences are already visible in the trailers.

Here’s a clip of Venom from the Ultimate Spider-Man Video Game (easily recommended) to give you a rough idea of how he is.

From a plot standpoint, Venom does a good job in giving us a story for how Eddie Brock and his Symbiote meet without factoring in Spider-Man at all. Comic readers remember the Secret Wars, where Spider-Man lost his suit and picked up a symbiote replacement. When the Symbiote proved dangerous, Peter Parker got rid of it and it fell into the hands of his former Daily Bugle nemesis, Eddie Brock. Together, they formed Venom, a beast with all of Spider-Man’s powers and Brock’s hatred of Parker. Venom plagued Spider-Man, who was incredibly dangerous because he was one of the few villains that didn’t set of Parker’s Spidey Sense. He could sneak up on him at any time, assume the likenesses of other people, and Parker would never see him coming.

The Sony Spider-Man series changed this up in Spider-Man 3, replacing the Secret Wars with more of a Blob-like story. Symbiote crashes to Earth, finds Parker. Parker decides to rip it off and it finds Brock.  In this new version of Venom, symbiotes already exist in space, and a corporation lead by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) are trying to bring them to Earth to intermingle with humans. When investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) stumbles on the corporation’s evil plans, he accidentally joins with a symbiote and finds himself with a near insatiable hunger for the living.

You have the best 2 in 1 team up since Leigh Wannell’s Upgrade. I would not be opposed to a sequel for this if they tightened up the writing. Maybe that’s my problem. Both Upgrade and Venom are similar, but only one had an interesting character that looked like Tom Hardy (sorry, but Logan Marshall-Green does bear a resemblance).

Ruben Fleischer’s (Zombieland, Gangster Squad) direction is okay here. With Cinematographer Matthew Libatique (Iron Man, Black Swan) at his side, Venom doesn’t have many problems there. With the exception of the final confrontation, the shots aren’t too blurry or hard to track when the action starts. Even though Venom is a visibly dark character, I couldn’t complain that scenes weren’t well-lit.

For me, the problem with Venom is that at an hour and 52 minutes, it feels like the first hour is just waiting for that symbiosis to occur. Eddie Brock doesn’t really become interesting until Venom appears (also voiced by Hardy), and that’s a rough thing to say, given the cast involved. We’ve both seen Hardy, Ahmed and Michelle Williams in better roles, but they really aren’t given any real meat here. The dialog is a little shaky in some places. Hardy pushes himself hard here, and you see how disjointed Brock gets as he adjusts to the changes. Brock as a character, however, doesn’t really have a lot going for him. Neither did Peter Parker or maybe even Steve Rogers, but there were elements about who they were that helped you to appreciate who they be became as superheroes.  Steve Rogers was a weakling with a good spirit, which made him a better Captain America. Peter Parker was a chemical whiz kid and came up with his own web-fluid. Brock just…well, reports. There’s a lot of boredom in that first hour. The best scenes are the interactions between Venom and Brock, full of cute banter. It’s like having an unwelcome guest wanting to meet your parents. It just took so long to get to that point. When it does, however, the movie improves. They do manage to get a lot right about what Venom can do.

The CGI in Venom is definitely good in some places. It stands as the best argument for another remake of The Blob. The symbiotes are creepy in their design and motion, slithering up walls and making their way through vents. Venom, in all it’s glory, is quite a sight to behold, towering over humans. It goes a little overboard over the last 3rd of the film. I can’t say I knew for sure what it was I was looking at, but that’s to be expected with some superhero films.

If you see the film, stay for the mid-credits scene, which teases a future character. Also stay for a near 5 minute sneak peek into Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.

Overall, if you feel you have to see it in a theatre, by all means, do so. If you can wait for it to come out on Digital, that may be the best route.

Here’s The Trailer For Venom!


For me, this trailer is kind of iffy.

I know that a lot of people are excited about it but I think that’s a case of being more excited about the character that Tom Hardy is playing than the trailer itself.  I’m hardly an expert on Venom as a character but I will say that Tom Hardy seems to be a better choice for the role than Topher Grace.

(Anyway, Venom fans, I wouldn’t worry too much.  If this movie doesn’t work, they’ll just reboot the character again.)

Myself, I’ll watch Tom Hardy in anything!

Teaser Trailer – Venom


You’ve heard of Venom, haven’t you?

Remember Spider-Man 3, and that weird character Topher Grace played? Or maybe you’ve read the comics over time, played the character in countless videogames? With the latest teaser trailer for Venom, Sony is betting that you already know the character so well that they don’t have to show him or his name. He’s just that popular, and you should already know. Unfortunately, the trailer isn’t that thrilling (not to me, anyway). It’s not a teaser unless you tease something, and all I’ve truly seen are tidbits that could be pulled from any other movie Hardy’s ever done. I feel like Venom pulled on purpose what the Deadpool 2 Teaser joked about, with the CGI not being ready. I sure hope that isn’t the case.

Of course, we’ll need to get a little more and hope that some of the basic questions are answered here. Former Daily Bugle worker Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) will don the suit made from an alien symbiote, but will Spider-Man be seen or mentioned? The worst mistake they could do here is to give Venom a story without at least touching or hinting on Spider-Man’s existence. Still, it’s just a teaser, and perhaps way too early to form any conclusion.

Venom, starring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams will be released in theatres this October 5th.

Celebrate National Trivia Day With The Actors Who Could Have Been James Bond!


 

Today is National Trivia Day so I thought why not share some trivia?  I love film trivia.  I especially love trivia about who was considered for certain films.  Hell, one of my most popular posts on the Shattered Lens dealt with all of the actors who were considered for the Godfather!

(I even came up with an alternative cast for The Godfather, even though I consider the actual film to be the best cast film in history.)

I also happen to love the James Bond films.  (Well, not so much the recent Bond films.  I’ve made my feelings on SPECTRE clear.)  As a franchise, I absolutely love them.  So, with all that in mind, here is a look at the actors who could have been Bond.  I’ve compiled this article from many sources.  And yes, you could probably just find a lot of the information on Wikipedia but then you’d miss out on my editorial commentary.

Hoagy Carmichael

Ian Fleming himself always said that his pick for Bond would have been the musician, Hoagy Carmichael.  He even made a point, in Casino Royale, of having Vesper Lynd exclaim that Bond looked like Hoagy Carmichael.  Of course, the first actor to actually play Bond was Barry Nelson in a 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale.  Nelson is probably best remembered for playing Mr. Ullman in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Barry Nelson, the first James Bond

When Dr. No went into production in 1961, many actors were considered for the role before Sean Connery was eventually cast.  Many of them were very well-known actors and, had they been cast, Dr. No would not have been remembered as a Bond movie.  Instead, it would be remembered as a star vehicle for … well, let’s take a look at some of the better-known possibilities:

Among the famous actors who were mentioned for Bond in 1961: Cary Grant, Richard Burton, James Mason, Trevor Howard, Stanley Baker, George Baker, Jimmy Stewart, Rex Harrison, and David Niven.  (Of that list, I think Burton would have made for an interesting Bond.  If the Bond films had been made in the 1940s, Grant would have been my first choice.  Trying to imagine Jimmy Stewart as a British secret agent is … interesting.)

Once it became obvious that a star was not going to play Bond, the role was offered to Patrick McGoohan and Rod Taylor.  McGoohan had moral objections to the character.  Rod Taylor reportedly felt that the film would flop.  Steve Reeves, the American body builder who became famous for playing Hercules in Italy, was reportedly strongly considered.  At one point, director Terrence Young wanted to offer the role to Richard Johnson, who later played Dr. Menard in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.

Of course, the role went to Sean Connery and made Connery a huge star.  In 1967, after Connery announced that he would no longer play the world’s most famous secret agent, there was a huge and widely publicized search for his replacement.  Some of the names that were considered are intriguing.  Others are just bizarre.

Oliver Reed

To me, perhaps the most intriguing name mentioned was that of Oliver Reed.  Reed definitely would have brought a rougher edge of the role than some of the other actors considered.  However, that’s one reason why Reed wasn’t picked.  Apparently, it was felt that he did not have the right public image to play the suave Mr. Bond.

Somewhat inevitably, Michael Caine was sought out for the role.  Caine, however, refused to consider it because he had already starred in three back-to-back spy thrillers and didn’t want to get typecast.  Caine’s former roommate, Terrence Stamp, was another possibility but wanted too much control over the future direction of the Bond films.  Future Bond Timothy Dalton was considered to be too young.  Another future Bond, Roger Moore, didn’t want to give up his television career.  Eric Braeden has the right look for Bond but was German.  Rumor has it that producer Cubby Broccoli even considered Dick Van Dyke for the role, though I find that hard to believe.  An even more surprising possibility was the nobleman Lord Lucan, who was offered a screen test in 1967 and who, ten years later, would vanish after being accused of murdering his children’s nanny.

Lord Lucan

Among the actors who auditioned before George Lazenby was cast in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Michael Billington, Jeremy Brett, Peter Purves, Robert Campbell, Patrick Mower, Daniel Pilon, John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Hans De Vries, and Peter Snow.

After the mixed reception of both Lazenby’s performance and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby was soon out as James Bond.  Even today, there’s a lot of controversy about what led to Lazenby being dismissed from the role.  Some say Lazenby demanded too much money.  Some say that Lazenby was merely used a pawn to try to get Sean Connery to return to the role.  Regardless, Lazenby only made one film as Bond.  (Of course, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has retroactively been recognized as being one of the best of the series.)

With Connery still claiming that he would never return to the role, the film’s producers went through the motions of looking for a new Bond.  Once again, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were considered.  Connery suggested that a talk show host named Simon Dee should play the role.  An actor named Roger Green auditioned.  So did Michael Gambon, though he later said he was turned down because, in his own words, he “had tits like a woman.”  Interestingly, several Americans were mentioned.  Clint Eastwood as James Bond?  Burt Reynolds?  Adam “Batman” West? The mind boggles but their names were mentioned.

John Gavin

And interestingly enough, an American was cast.  John Gavin is best known for playing Sam Loomis in Psycho but he was also, briefly, James Bond.  After Gavin accepted he role and signed a contract, Sean Connery announced that he would be willing to return to the role.  Gavin was paid off and Connery went on to star in Diamonds are Forever.

After Diamonds, Connery left the role for a second time and, once again, Bond was recast.  This time, Roger Moore would finally accept the role.  However, before Moore was cast, several other actors were considered.  Some of the regular possibilities were mentioned again: John Gavin, Simon Oates, Timothy Dalton, and Michael Billington.  Others considered included Jon Finch, Ranulph Fiennes, Peter Laughton, and Guy Peters.  Some of those names are probably as unknown to you as they are to me but it’s intriguing to think that Guy Peters may not be a well-known name but, at one time, there was a possibility that he could suddenly become one of the biggest stars in the world.

Looking over the history of the Bond franchise, it’s interesting to see the number of times that Moore tried to leave the role, just to be talked into returning.  Every time that Moore considered quitting, a new group of actors would be considered for the role of Bond.  In 1979, when Moore said he might not return after Moonraker, Timothy Dalton, Michael Jayston, Patrick Mower (who was also considered for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and Michael Billington were all considered as replacements.  So was Julian Glover.  Ironically, when Moore did agree to return to the role, Glover was cast as the villain in For Your Eyes Only.

David Warbeck

To me, the most intriguing actor mentioned as a replacement for Roger Moore was David Warbeck.  Warbeck was a television actor and model who subsequently had a nearly legendary film career in Italy.  Not only did he play a key role in Sergio Leone’s Duck You Sucker!, but he also starred in Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat and The Beyond.  He also appeared in the best of Italian Apocalypse Now rip-offs, The Last Hunter.  In interviews, Warbeck claimed that he was under contract to Cubby Broccoli to step into the role in case Roger Moore ever walked off the set.  The likable and rugged Warbeck would have been an interesting Bond.

In 1983, when Moore again said he might not return to the role, Michael Billington (who actually did appear in a Bond film when he played a KGB agent killed at the start of The Spy Who Loved Me) would be once more considered as a replacement.  British TV actors Lewis Collins and Ian Ogilvy were also considered for the role.  In a repeat of what happened with John Gavin in Diamonds are Forever, American actor James Brolin was actually put under contract until Moore agreed to play the role in Octopussy.

James Brolin, in a screen test for Octopussy

After A View To A Kill, Moore left the role for the final time.  Famously, future Bond Pierce Brosnan was actually cast as his replacement until the surge of interest created by his casting led to the renewal of Remington Steele, the American television show in which Brosnan was starring.  Once the show was renewed, Brosnan could no longer work the Bond films into his schedule.

Among the other names mentioned: Sean Bean, Simon MacCorkindale, Andrew Clarke, Finlay Light, Mark Greenstreet, Neil Dickson, Christopher Lambert, Mel Gibson, and Antony Hamilton.  Sam Neill was another possibility and reportedly came very close to getting the role.  Watch any of the films that Neill made when he was younger and you can definitely see hints of Bond.

Sam Neill

In the end, Timothy Dalton finally accepted the role.  Ironically, for an actor who spent 20 years being courted for the role, Dalton turned out to be a bit of a flop as Bond.  He made two movies (both of which were considered to be disappointing when compared to the previous Bond films) and then left the role.

Looking over the contemporary reviews of Dalton as Bond, one thing that comes through clearly is that a lot of people resented him for taking a role that they felt should have gone to Pierce Brosnan.  When the Bond films resumed production with Goldeneye in 1994, Brosnan finally stepped into the role.  Reportedly, if Brosnan had turned down the role, the second choice was Sean Bean.  Much like Julian Glover, Bean may have lost out on 007 but he did end up playing the villain.

Sean Bean

Among the other actors who were reportedly considered before Brosnan accepted the role: Mark Frankel, Paul McGann, Liam Neeson, Russell Crowe, and Lambert Wilson.  Ralph Fiennes, who has been M since Skyfall, was also considered.

As opposed to his predecessors, Brosnan seemed to be very comfortable with the idea of playing Bond and never threatened to leave the role.  Looking over the Bond-related articles that were published from 1995 to 2004, I found the occasional speculation about whether Rupert Everett would be the first gay James Bond or if Sharon Stone would be the first female James Bond but I found very little speculation about Brosnan actually leaving the role.  Indeed, when Brosnan officially retired as Bond in 2004, it was less his decision and more at the prodding of the franchise’s producers, who felt that the series needed to be rejuvenated with a new (and younger) actor.  After Brosnan left, the series was rebooted and Daniel Craig played the role in Casino Royale.

In the past, I’ve made it clear that Daniel Craig is hardly my favorite Bond.  I loved Skyfall (and I consider it to the 2nd best Bond film, after From Russia With Love) but, even in that case, I felt that the film succeeded despite Craig instead of because of him.  With Casino Royale, we were supposed to be seeing a young and inexperienced Bond.  That’s never come through to me, probably because Craig looked like he was nearly 50 years old when he made Casino Royale.

Among the actors who were mentioned for the role before Craig received the role: Ralph Fiennes (again), Colin Salmon, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill, Rupert Friend, Julian McMahon, Alex O’Laughlin, Clive Owen, Dougray Scott, and Goran Visjnic.  Dominic West, who I think would have been great in the role, reportedly ruled himself out because he heard a rumor that Brosnan would be returning to the role.

Dominic West

Daniel Craig, of course, has been talking about leaving the role ever since he was first cast.  I think Skyfall would have been a perfect movie for him to leave on.  (It would have saved the world from SPECTRE.)  However, Craig has apparently agreed to do at least one more Bond film.  Maybe two.

When Craig does leave, who will replace him?  Idris Elba, of course, is probably the most widely discussed possibility.  James Norton has also been named as a possibility.  Others that I’ve seen mentioned: Tom Hardy, Jack Huston, Aidan Turner, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, and Henry Cavill (again).

My personal choice?  Dominic Cooper.  He’d be an off-center Bond but I think it would still be an intriguing pick.

Dominic Cooper

Who knows what the future may hold for 007?  All I know is that I look forward to the speculation.

Happy National Trivia Day, everyone!

Harrow Alley, A Film That Never Was


Harrow Alley (1880, Gustave Dore)

Originally, I was thinking that, since it’s April Fools Day, I would write a 2,000-word review of an “obscure” Italian horror film and then, after I gotten everyone all enthused about tracking down this masterpiece, I would go “April Fools!”

But you know what?

I freaking hate it when people do stuff like that.  Seriously, that’s a really awful way to treat your loyal readers.  If any of the blogs that you follow pull anything like that on you today, I suggest you unfollow them and instead, switch your allegiance over to us.  We love you.

But anyway!  Since I won’t be writing about a fictional film, I thought I might take this opportunity  to tell you about Harrow Alley, a screenplay that has frequently been described as the best script to never be produced.

(Now, I should admit that one of the people who said that was a writer for The Huffington Post and usually, disagreeing with The Huffington Post is point of honor for me.  But, seriously, Harrow Alley sounds so intriguing that I’m willing to make an exception to this rule.)

Harrow Alley was written, in 1970, by a screenwriter named Walter Brown Newman.  It’s a historical film, one that is set in the 17th century.  The Bubonic Plague is ravaging London but the citizens of the Harrow Alley neighborhood are simply trying to survive from day-to-day without sacrificing their humanity.  Harry is a well-meaning alderman who, after every other official flees the city, finds himself as the unofficial leader of Harrow Alley.  He’s an optimist who provides strength to the entire neighborhood but the demands of being positive in the face of death start to wear on him.  His wife is pregnant and, much like Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead, he has to wonder whether it’s right to bring a child into this Hellish world.  As the film progresses, he watches as his friends and neighbors die of the plague.  He’s even forced to kill his beloved dog.

Harry befriends Ratsey, a thief who survived the plague when he was a child.  With everyone wrongly convinced that Ratsey is now immune to the plague, the former thief becomes one of the most respected men in the neighborhood.  (Because of his “immunity,” he is also one of the few people who can help dispose of the dead.)  With Harry as his mentor, Ratsey becomes respectable.  Ratsey starts out as a cynical opportunist but, in the middle of the Great Plague of London, he discovers his humanity.  Even when Ratsey learns that no one is immune to the plague, even if they’ve had it before, he does not flee.  He continues to help dispose of the dead.

But even as Ratsey becomes stronger, Harry grows weaker.  When his wife and child die, Harry vanishes.  Ratsey steps into his place.  Ratsey becomes the new leader of Harrow Alley.  And, months later, when Ratsey arrests a beggar who has just killed a man, he is shocked to discover that the beggar is Harry.

And so the film ends.

Sounds like a really happy movie, doesn’t it?

And did I mention that the script is apparently 180 pages, which would translate to three hours of screen time?

It’s easy to see why Harrow Alley has never been produced.  Can you imagine being the advertising genius who has to make a three-hour film about the Bubonic Plague into a box office success?  That said, the film still sounds incredibly intriguing to me.  Maybe it’s because I’m a history nerd, but the story just fascinates me.  From what I’ve heard, this is a script that literally has everything: tragedy, romance, and even a little dark comedy.

Interestingly enough, Harrow Alley apparently came close to being produced in the 80s.  In this projected version, Harry would have been played by George C. Scott while a young Mel Gibson would have played Ratsey.  It sounds like brilliant casting to me.

Harry?

Ratsey?

If they produced the film today, I could just easily imagine Gibson in the role of Harry and maybe Tom Hardy as Ratsey.

(Bring the Mad Maxes together!)

Harry?

Ratsey?

Though Walter Brown Newman died in 1993, his script is still out there.  Maybe, someday, it will be produced.  If it is, I’ll definitely be there to watch it.

All three hours of it.