The Future of Bond: Implications of a Deal with Apple or Amazon
By Jack Lugo
In an exclusive article published in the Hollywood Reporter, it has been revealed that both Amazon and Apple have emerged as potential suitors for Bond film distribution rights. Warner Bros. and Sony are still in the running with most insiders believing that Warner Bros. will ultimately prevail in courting the distribution rights for Bond 25, a film slated for release in November of 2019. As most Bond fans are aware, the ownership of the Bond franchise is currently split between EON through it’s parent company Danjaq controlled by the Broccoli family and MGM. Since MGM lacks the ability to distribute their own films, Sony was brought in as a distributor until their deal expired with Spectre. Former Sony Chairperson Amy Pascal was an instrumental key to Sony’s previous distribution deal, but the 2014 Sony hack led to her stepping down. It’s unclear if the relationship between Sony and EON / MGM has suffered as a result, but the fact that Warner Bros. has become the unofficial favorite to land the distribution rights, has led some to think that Pascal’s ouster has hurt Sony’s chances.
The news now that Apple and Amazon have entered the fray could have various implications for the Bond franchise. It’s doubtful that either company would be interested in making a significant investment without the possibility of a lucrative return. According to the article, Sony’s investment to distribute Spectre failed to result in the kind of return they were expecting. If Apple and Amazon are now in the picture, it’s very possible that they might be looking beyond just securing distribution rights. Some in the Bond fan community are starting to speculate that such a deal with either of these two entities might in fact lead to a sale of ownership rights at least in part. Could Apple or Amazon be looking to buy out MGM’s ownership stake in Bond? This is pure speculation at this point, but it’s something that is entirely possible. Even if Warner Bros. obtains the sole distribution rights for Bond 25, a large multinational company like Apple or Amazon could still figure into the future of Bond.
So, let’s go down the rabbit hole and look at what the implications could be if what’s on the table is more than just distribution rights. Amazon is currently set to commence it’s very first self-distribution vehicle with the Woody Allen film Wonder Wheel while Apple recently recruited former Sony executives Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg. A potential Bond film rights ownership deal with Amazon or Apple would mean that EON would not have to rely on a third party for film distribution. Assuming EON retains it’s half ownership stake in the Bond franchise, this would make it easier to produce Bond films and we could get more Bond films made at a steadier pace than the 3-4 year ball park we’ve presently grown accustomed to. If Bond 25 is to be Daniel Craig’s final film, there’s a chance that in the next era of Bond we might get a film closer to every 2 years, and perhaps that’s not such a bad thing as long as the quality of the films isn’t sacrificed in favor of quantity. This is assuming, however, that they stick to the traditional single film release format that has been the touchstone of Bond since the beginning of the cinematic franchise. There is reason to believe, however, that maybe this won’t be the case. . .
There are many in the Bond fan community who have expressed concerns about whether such a deal would mean a deviation from the traditional single film release format. Could this lead to a “Bond Expanded Universe?” Whether we as fans like the idea or not, it’s something that will most definitely be explored if such a deal were to happen. Both Apple and Amazon have spent many resources over recent years in developing original content for their platforms by either acquiring or licensing intellectual properties or developing their own original brands. The article cites Bond as one of the few untapped and under-developed franchises. So, if Apple or Amazon were to own a piece of Bond the idea of expanding the Bond universe across all sorts of media platforms will likely be in play just as much as it has been for Star Wars and Marvel after Disney acquired those properties.
There are multiple ways they could do this. The most obvious would be to start a string of spin-off films in between proper Bond films that would take place in the Bond universe perhaps featuring Bond himself in a limited cameo capacity or explore some untapped aspect of Bond just as the Star Wars “Anthology/ Solo” films like Rogue One and the upcoming Han Solo movie have begun to do. As fans are aware, EON were very close to producing a solo Jinx feature film prior to obtaining the rights to Casino Royale, so the idea of expanding Bond is clearly something they’ve considered in the past. Does this mean we’ll see the adventures of a different Double-0 (perhaps a female agent or an agent of color)? Perhaps this could mean a Moneypenny adventure or a Q-centric spinoff TV series on Amazon Prime? Q did mention he has a mortgage and two cats to feed in Spectre so maybe we’ll get an animated or live action series all about Q’s cats…. Maybe not.
On a more serious note, however, despite the inherent skepticism fans may have to an expanded Bond universe, if it’s done right it could prove to be a success depending on all sorts of different factors. Fans tend to have knee-jerk reactions to any kind of potential change. Take a look at most Bond forums, and you’re sure to find many vociferous arguments about the franchise. There are a great many fans who hate the idea of expanding the Bond universe, and that’s a valid opinion, but to be fair we don’t quite know what or how it would be pulled off if it were to happen. We can only speculate. Instead of lingering on the negative, however, let’s try to imagine a world where this approach might work. Here’s a list of expanded universe ideas that might win some fans over:
- Young Bond: I would be down for any kind of adaptation of Charlie Higson’s and Steve Cole’s series of books. Even if they don’t strictly adapt the Young Bond novels, perhaps certain elements can be used from them. Most importantly, I would want this to be strictly rooted in Fleming’s Bond. So, they should be in essence prequels to the literary Bond and separate from the current slate of Bond films, which would mean that this series could go on regardless of the casting of a new Bond actor for the feature films.
- Period Adaptations of the Fleming novels: This is something that would be in Amazon’s wheelhouse. They’ve already had success with period dramas such as The Last Tycoon and Z: The Beginning of Everything. Taking on the original Fleming material with the right showrunners in place would be something that I imagine they can pull off quite well as long as the creative team firmly grasps the source material.
- A Bond Origin Series: There is already a graphic novel series in the works called Origin being developed by Dynamite comics. This would be an opportunity to tackle an untapped era of Bond covering his service in the British Royal Navy during WWII and leading up to his recruitment to work in SIS prior to becoming a Double -0. Once again, Amazon with their penchant for developing period dramas could excel quite well at this.
- A Female Double-0 or a Double-0 of Color: The development of a new character utilizing non-traditional casting would avoid the controversy of going the route of non-traditional casting of Bond. I think this could be quite successful depending upon the creative choices that are made. Of course if it’s done in a contemporary setting, there would be the added expectation of casting the MI6 regulars. Given all the attention that the potential casting of Idris Alba stirred, this might be a way for the franchise to meet fans halfway. Such a series would be quite relevant for our times given the emboldening of bigotry and sexism that has given rise in our society. A female double-0 or a double-0 of color would at the very least achieve notoriety as an attempt to combat such attitudes by providing a vehicle where the main character and hero is not a white male.
Some fans will lament the potential involvement of Apple or Amazon in the business of Bond, and they have some legitimate concerns to be sure. There’s always a danger of over-saturation. As much as we love Bond, maybe keeping up with a new Bond project all year round could prove to be exhausting. Wherever you stand on this issue as a fan, it’s best to try to stay positive and keep an open mind. It’s easy to get upset and dismissive of any kind of change, however, sometimes change can be good. I choose to be an optimist when it comes to the future of Bond. Even if the franchise goes in a direction I may not necessarily like, I’m willing to give it a chance. I might even be pleasantly surprised.
by Jack Lugo