Tom DeMichael on “Escape from New York” Remake

Twentieth Century Fox recently announced they will be remaking the film, Escape from New York. Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ author Tom DeMichael weighs in on this announcement in the following post!

00120811Let’s be honest – a guy named “Snake” is always going to raise a few suspicions.

Imagine the parents of a young girl when they’re introduced to her new beau.

“Mom…Dad – This is Snake, and we’re engaged!”

Hoo-boy.

The Snake in our case is, of course, Snake Plissken. He’s the ex-soldier, turned bad guy (then turned good guy) in John Carpenter’s 1981 sci-fi action flick, Escape from New York. Set in 1997, World War III has left America in shambles (the long-recurring dystopian future sci-fi setting) and the Manhattan Island in New York has become a maximum security prison (in other words, the Big Apple has a lot of worms in it.) The US government recruits a reluctant Snake to save the President, who has become a hostage of the inmates. He accomplishes the task, but the whole affair leaves Snake in a more cynical state than when he started.

Escape from New York offered a pretty enjoyable cast, with ex-Disney star Kurt Russell as the eye-patched Snake. Other performers included Donald Pleasance, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, and Adrienne Barbeau. It did well at the box office in 1981, grossing more than 25-million dollars and prompting a sequel fifteen years later. Escape from LA brought back Snake, with a new cast of supporting characters. Budgeted at 50-million dollars, the sequel bombed by grossing only half that amount. 

Now, in the opening weeks of 2015, 20th Century Fox has secured the rights for a remake once more. But this isn’t the first rodeo for a remake of Escape. Since 2007, remaking the film has been a recurring topic, first with Gerard Butler slated to play Snake, then Jeremy Renner mentioned. But many movie projects can languish in “development hell” for years, so there’s no guarantee that Snake will be escaping any city very soon.

Understand that movies are remade – not to improve on the original (which hardly ever happens anyway) – but to introduce a “new” product to a new audience. Even with the multitude of alternative sources for films (video-on-demand, DVD/Blu-Ray, digital download, Hulu, etc.,) folks younger than forty or so were barely in kindergarten when Snake first attempted to Escape from New York

So, with Fox obtaining the rights for a remake, they’re hardly concerned about how fans of the original will react – heck, they’re in search of new fans, from a different generation. And, as long as there’s another sci-fi film to keep us engaged and entertained for a couple of hours, that’s all that really matters anyway.

Daniel Craig Confirmed for Bond 25

Columbia Pictures has announced that Daniel Craig will return as James Bond in Bond 25, the 25th film in the James Bond series!  In James Bond FAQ, Tom DeMichael describes the various Bond actors’ individual portrayals of the iconic role. Here’s what DeMichael wrote about the latest Bond star:

Daniel Craig

The sixth official 007 would be flaxen-haired Daniel Craig. As usual, the public reaction was less than supportive, saying heJames-bond-daniel-craig was too short, too blond, or too pug-faced. The vitriol included hate mail to Sony Pictures and Eon Productions, as well as the establishment of an Internet site called “www.danielcraigisnotbond.com.” And Daniel Craig had yet to even order his first martini.

Daniel Wroughton Craig was born on March 2, 1968, in Chester, Cheshire, England. His dad, Tim, was a merchant seaman and eventually ran a pub called Ring O’Bells. Mom’s name was Carol—an art teacher—and the Craigs divorced when Daniel was four. Carol took Daniel and older sister Lia to the working-class city of Liverpool, where Daniel appeared in school plays like Oliver! Craig did find time to rough it up on the rugby fields, but was not the scholarly type, dropping out at age sixteen and joining the NYT—National Youth Theater, with alums that included Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Derek Jacobi, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Colin Firth. Craig toured Europe, while seeking admittance to the celebrated Guildhall School of Music and Drama. His auditions were repeatedly refused, and he waited tables in the meantime (poorly, by his own admission). But Craig was persistent and finally entered Guildhall in 1988 at the age of twenty. With three years of classical training in performance, he graduated in 1991 and was ready to leave the world of table-waiting.

Craig’s first film role came the next year, as he played a soldier in the John Avildsen–directed Power of One, which starred Morgan Freeman, Sir John Gielgud, and Stephen Dorff. His next ten years were steadily spent on British television shows and miniseries, as well as feature films.

Daniel Craig’s first prominent role
came in 2001, teaming up with Angelina Jolie as they searched for lost treasure in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. He followed that up by playing Paul Newman’s crooked son in 2002’s Road to Perdition. Craig played poet Ted Hughes to Gwyneth Paltrow’s poet Sylvia Plath in the 2003 biopic Sylvia. His roles as XXXX, the anonymous drug dealer, in 2004’s Layer Cake, and an assassin in Steven Spielberg’s Munich in 2005, filled Craig’s résumé with enough firepower to justify his appointment as James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale.

Justly, Craig’s take on JB changed a lot of opinions from negative to positive. Fans and critics alike appreciated his vicious physicality, his “rough-around-the-edges” charm, and straight-out acting talent. Dame Judi Dench—Bond’s boss, M, in the latest films—called Craig “a cracking good actor.” His performance in Casino Royale garnered something no other Bond actor had achieved—a nomination as Best Actor by BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (the equivalent of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives out America’s Academy Awards). Former Bonds, including Brosnan and Connery, gave their approval of the actor. Sir Sean Connery himself, appearing in the 2008 “James Bond Special” on the British TV program The South Bank Show, said Craig was “fantastic, marvelous in the part.”

00314951No doubt, Daniel Craig had done his homework in tackling the role. He knew the physical part would be key, working out with a personal trainer. He told an interviewer in a 2008 interview in Playboy, “I got big because I wanted Bond to look like a guy who could kill.” Craig also gave much thought to what this Bond would be. In another interview, this time in a 2008 Parade magazine, he wondered about 007, “Am I the good guy or just a bad guy who works for the good side?”

The actor took his rough-and-tumble Bond into Quantum of Solace in 2008. When he accidentally cut the pad of his finger off during a fight scene, Craig made light of the incident. “There’s nothing to tell about it,” he told an interviewer in a 2008 British edition of GQ, joking, “I lost my fingerprint so I can now commit all sorts of crimes with that finger. I look forward to that.”

Craig was also able to look forward to a third Bond film, following a two- year delay due to bankruptcy issues with MGM. Production of Skyfall, the twenty-third official film in the James Bond franchise, began in November 2011, with release scheduled to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the UK release of Dr. No in November 2012. Furthermore, producer Michael C. Wilson announced plans for Craig to be 007 for five more films (up through Bond 28). At the rate of a Bond film every two years, that would make Daniel Craig fifty-four years old (four years younger than Moore when he abdicated the throne) when that last film is released in 2022. Not at all an unreasonable expectation, but time will tell.

Get to the choppa: A Modern Sci Fi Films FAQ excerpt

Thirty years ago, we saw Arnie take to the screen in his most iconic role as the Terminator! Modern Sci Fi Films FAQ (new from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books) includes a special synopsis of this classic robot action film. Don’t worry – we won’t include any spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet.

 

Robots and Robot Wannabes

Do You Worry About Rust?

The word “robot” is Czech in origin. Their word, “robota,” refers to drudgery, and, in general, a robot is a device designed to perform tasks usually done by a human (apparently, my time spent up to my elbows in dish soap would make me a “robot”).  As such, robots tend to appear in humanoid form, at least in the cinematic world.

The concept of a humanoid robot made sense in Hollywood, as the easiest way to portray one was to build a stiff metallic costume that could be worn by an actor or stunt man. That is, at least, until robots became reality in the 1960s and 1970s. Function overtook form, as the real robots of the world—such as the Stanford Cart—looked more like overloaded tea carts than mechanical men.

The miniaturization of technology took the “man-in-suit” out of the equation in many movies that featured robots. Still, actors Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker served robots C-3PO and R2-D2 well from inside their stuffy confines in the Star Wars epics. Ditto Peter Weller in RoboCop.

Stop-motion animation and computer-generated graphics made non- humanoid robots an alternative to men in suits. Take, for example, 1984’s The Terminator. Once stripped of its cyborg flesh, the T-800 skeleton was presented by way of a full-sized remote-controlled figure built by Stan Winston, as well as stop-motion animation by Doug Beswick, Gene Warren Jr., and the Fantasy II effects team.

The Terminator

Synopsis

  • 1984—American/Orion—108 min./color
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Original music: Brad Fiedel
  • Film editing: Mark Goldblatt
  • Art direction: George Costello

Cast

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator)
  • Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese)
  • Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor)
  • Paul Winfield (Lt. Traxler)
  • Lance Henriksen (Det. Hal Vukovich) 


In 2029, a raging conflict persists between an army of war machines and guerrilla soldiers. The machines send one of their own back to 1984 Los Angeles, where they intend on killing Sarah Connor. If they don’t, she will give birth to John Connor, who is the leader against the machines in the future war. This killing machine, a “terminator,”—Model T-800—is an incredibly sophisticated cyborg. It’s constructed of human tissue, with a high-tech hydraulic skeleton and a single mandate—to kill Sarah. It arrives in a flash of lightning and immediately clothes its nude body by killing a group of toughs and taking their clothes.

But the Terminator is not the only time traveler. Kyle Reese also arrives from the future, sent by John Connor to save Sarah. She is a young single girl who seems dependent on many people. Looking in a phone book, the Terminator finds three Sarah Connors listed. He seeks them out, coldly killing the first two. Going to Sarah’s apartment, the Terminator kills her roommate and room- mate’s boyfriend. 
Sarah is not home, and she is disturbed when she hears on the news that two Sarah Connors have been murdered. She becomes even more fearful when she observes Reese following her. She calls her apartment from a disco, but only gets her answering machine. Not realizing the Terminator is still there, she leaves a message telling her roommate where she is. She then calls police, and Lt. Traxler tells her to stay put. 
In the disco, the Terminator arrives and zeroes in on Sarah, but Reese saves her by firing a salvo of shotgun blasts into the cyborg. It doesn’t faze him, and he responds with fierce gunfire, killing dozens of innocent patrons. Sarah and Reese escape in the fray, but the Terminator takes off after them. They duck him in a car chase, where Reese lets Sarah in on the whole story.

 Read more from Modern Sci Fi Films FAQ here

Watch: Inside Look at Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ

 

Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ by Tom DeMichael  (coming this Fall from Applause Books) focuses on films that give audiences two hours where they can forget about their troubles, sit back, crunch some popcorn, and visit worlds never before seen… worlds of robots, time travel, aliens, space exploration, and other far-out ideas. This book takes a look at the genre’s movies from the last 40 years, where the dreams of yesterday and today may become tomorrow’s realities. Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ travels to a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… visits a theme park where DNA-created dinosaurs roam… watches as aliens come to Earth, hunting humans for sport… and much, much more. 

 

Happy Birthday, Pierce Brosnan!

A very Happy Birthday to one of our favorite Bonds! To celebrate, check out this excerpt from James Bond FAQ that describes how Brosnan rose to Bond-dom:

 

00314951Pierce Brosnan was well known as the title character of private investigator Remington Steele, from the NBC-TV show of the same name. But that notoriety nearly cost him the role of James Bond.

Pierce Brendan Brosnan was born in County Meath, Ireland, on May 16, 1953. He was an only child to mother May and dad Thomas, a carpenter who walked out on the family after only a few years. May moved to London to seek work as a nurse, leaving Pierce to move among relatives, friends, and even a Christian Brothers mission. In a 1997 interview in Cigar Aficionado magazine, Brosnan admitted, “It wasn’t all bleak . . . you learn how to create your own happiness.” When May remarried, eleven-year-old Pierce joined the couple in London. One day, stepdad William took the boy to the cinema to see a film called Goldfinger. Young Pierce was very impressed, realizing “James Bond was very cool.”

Brosnan attended school to be a commercial artist and landed an apprentice job in a small South London studio at the age of eighteen. But he had become enamored with movies and, at the urging of a coworker, joined up with a local theater workshop. Soon, they had formed the Oval House Theater Company, and Pierce quit his art job. He waited tables, cleaned houses, anything that allowed him to be free to act in the evenings. Brosnan attended drama school, acting in repertory theater and London West End productions like The Red Devil Battery Sign by Tennessee Williams. The playwright had personally selected Brosnan for the lead role.

British theater led to appearances on British TV by 1980. His wife, actress Cassandra Harris, landed a supporting role in the 1981 Bond flick For Your Eyes Only. Brosnan would amuse Harris by offering his impression of 007 when he would drive her home from the studio. (Perhaps a view of things to come for Brosnan. Tragically, Harris would succumb to ovarian cancer in 1991.) A successful 1981 ABC-TV miniseries, The Manions of America, led to Brosnan’s casting in NBC-TVs Remington Steele in 1982. The detective show ended up being in the top twenty-five TV ratings, but was canceled after four seasons as those numbers waned. Broccoli recalled Brosnan from the For Your Eyes Only days, and he tested for the role of Bond for the upcoming The Living Daylights. Pleased with the results, producers named Pierce Brosnan as the new James Bond.

Apparently, NBC read the trade papers that day, and, realizing the ratings boost having the “next James Bond” would give the network, they immediately renewed Brosnan’s contract as Remington Steele—effectively blocking his chances to play Bond. Ironically, the series would only air six episodes before getting the ax once more, but the damage was done. The Living Daylights would shoot with Timothy Dalton as 007.

Brosnan was understandably upset, but continued to work on TV and in films, including hits like Lawnmower Man in 1992 and Mrs. Doubtfire in 1993. When the 007 legal snafus were cleared up in 1994, it became apparent that Pierce Brosnan would be Bond in GoldenEye (over suggestions that included Mel Gibson and Ralph Fiennes), and it wouldn’t be enough to rescue the world—this time, he was expected to rescue the character from oblivion.

So, with that small task at hand, it was Pierce Brosnan who brought Bond into the twenty-first century. It was Pierce Brosnan who had to come to terms with a new boss—still M, but this time, a female (gasp!). It was Pierce Brosnan who, with his four Bond films, brought nearly $1.5 billion to box offices worldwide. In his four turns as James Bond, Pierce Brosnan brought the suave and calm demeanor to the character that one would expect from an experienced performer. In 1995, he told Big Screen magazine, “The way I see James Bond is as a man with a passion to get the job done . . . This film is . . . not a cure for cancer, it’s supposed to be fantasy.” Film critics like Roger Ebert praised his portrayal of 007, offering that Brosnan was “somehow more sensitive, more vulnerable, more psychologically complete, than the [other] Bonds.” High praise indeed.

No matter, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided to (get ready, here it comes . . .) “reboot” the role of Bond once more in 2005, just as Brosnan was in negotiations for a fifth whirl as 007. In a 2005 interview for Premiere magazine, he said, “It would have been sweet to go back for a fifth . . . It would have been wonderful to go out there for one last game and pass the baton.” Less poetically, he added, “it f . . . ing sucks.”

Indeed. But bad luck for Brosnan meant good fortune for the next actor to don the shoulder holster and cock the Walther PPK (or Walther P99, as the case may have been). Once again, Broccoli and Wilson considered hundreds of actors to play 007 (the list this time around included Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Ewan McGregor, Jason Statham, Gerard Butler, Colin Firth, Colin Farrell, Clive Owen, Colin Clive . . . no, wait—he played Dr. Frankenstein years ago). After a search that took most of the remaining months in 2005, the winner was: Blond, James Blond.

Listen: Tom DeMichael on Pop Culture Tonight

Tom DeMichael, author of James Bond FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Everyone’s Favorite Superspy, was a guest on Pop Culture Tonight with Patrick Phillips.

>>LISTEN HERE<<

00314951A favorite of film followers for more than  50 years, James Bond is the hero loved by everyone: Men want to be just like him, women just want to be with him. Moviegoers around the world have spent more than $5 billion to watch his adventures across the last five decades. What’s not to enjoy about such a glorious multitude of gadgets, gals, grand locations, and grandiose schemes hatched by master villains and megalomaniacs?

Now, James Bond FAQ is a book that takes on the iconic cinema franchise that’s lasted for so many years. Sometimes serious as SPECTRE, sometimes quirkier than Q, but always informative, this FAQ takes the reader behind-the-scenes, as well as in front of the silver screen. Everyone’s included: Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig; little-known facts about TV’s first shot at 007, the same Bond story that was made into two different films; whatever happened to those wonderful cars and gizmos that thrilled everyone; plus much more. It’s a book for the casual, as well as hardcore, James Bond fan.

James Bond FAQ Trivia

Be the first to answer all four questions correctly and you’ll receive a free copy of James Bond FAQ, by Tom DeMichael. Make sure to include your email so that we can contact you if you win!

1. Who is the author and originator of the James Bond series?

2. How many Bond films did Sean Connery make?

3. Who played Le Chiffre in the 2006 film Casino Royale?

4. What was the latest James Bond movie?

James Bond FAQ

A favorite of film followers for 50 years, James Bond is the hero loved by everyone: Men want to be just like him, women just want to be with him. Moviegoers around the world have spent more than $5 billion to watch his adventures across the last five decades. What’s not to enjoy about such a glorious multitude of gadgets, gals, grand locations, and grandiose schemes hatched by master villains and megalomaniacs?

Now, James Bond FAQ is a book that takes on the iconic cinema franchise that’s lasted for so many years. Sometimes serious as SPECTRE, sometimes quirkier than Q, but always informative, this FAQ takes the reader behind-the-scenes, as well as in front of the silver screen. Everyone’s included: Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig; little-known facts about TV’s first shot at 007, the same Bond story that was made into two different films; whatever happened to those wonderful cars and gizmos that thrilled everyone; plus much more. It’s a book for the casual, as well as hardcore, James Bond fan.

James Bond FAQ is filled with biographies, synopses, production stories, and images and illustrations seldom seen in print, leaving little else to be said about the world’s favorite secret agent. This book includes a foreword by Eunice Gayson.