James Bond Writer Fears for Future Under Amazon
John Logan, who wrote screenplays for the James Bond movies Skyfall and Spectre, said he feared that the takeover of MGM Studios by Amazon could lead to the spy franchise’s demise.
The recently announced $8.45 billion deal included a guarantee that Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and their Eon Productions corporation would retain artistic control over the $7 billion, 24-movie series. The release of the 25th Eon film, No Time to Die, planned for September release, is regarded as the event that could help the movie industry recover from the pandemic.
But Logan wrote in a New York Times opinion piece that he experienced a “chill” when he heard news of the acquisition, fearing that Amazon’s business model would impose itself on 007 sooner or later. “Bond isn’t just another franchise, not a Marvel or a DC," he said. "It is a family business that has been carefully nurtured and shepherded through the changing times by the Broccoli/Wilson family. When you work on Bond movies, you’re not just an employee. You’re part of that family.”
He asked: “What happens if a bruising corporation like Amazon begins to demand a voice in the process? What happens to the comradeship and quality control if there’s an Amazonian overlord with analytics parsing every decision? What happens when focus groups report they don’t like Bond drinking martinis? Or killing quite so many people? And that English accent’s a bit alienating, so could we have more Americans in the story for marketability?”
Logan added that, in his experience, “Everything gets watered down to the most anodyne and easily consumable version of itself. … The fire and passion are gradually drained away as original ideas and voices are subsumed by commercial concerns, corporate oversight and polling data.”
He argued that if Bond were to suffer such a fate, it wouldn't be because of bad faith on Amazon’s part. "It’s a global technology company with a more than $1.6 trillion market capitalization that produces on a mass scale and is obsessed with the ‘customer experience,'" he noted.
"It’s not necessarily a champion or guardian of artistic creativity or original entertainment. … Amazon Prime Video is not chiefly about artists. It’s about attracting and retaining customers. And when bigger companies start having a say in iconic characters or franchises, the companies tend to want more, not better, and the quality differential can vary wildly, project to project.”
Logan recalled studio bosses pressing for changes in his screenplay for Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic Gladiator. “They questioned everything, especially the ending: Isn’t it a bummer? How can we have a sequel if you kill the hero? And is there any way we could avoid an R rating?" he explained. "But Ridley believed in the story we were telling and how we were telling it, so he resolutely kept the commercial concerns and noisy corporate voices outside the door.”
Those memories fueled his concerns that such attitudes could come to overwhelm future Eon Productions movies. “Bond’s not ‘content,’ and he’s not a mere commodity,” Logan insisted. “He has been a part of our lives for decades now. … We all grew up with our version of 007, so we care deeply about him. Please let 007 drink his martinis in peace. Don’t shake him, don’t stir him.”