Michael France, an appreciation

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The James Bond film franchise wasn’t in a good place in 1994.

There had been no 007 film in five years. Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli had been in a legal fight with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Broccoli had put Eon up for sale before taking it off the market. The producer wasn’t in great health. He had decided that 007 veterans John Glen and Richard Maibaum would not continue laboring on Bond.

In short, everything was up for grabs.

Broccoli yielded primarily responsibility for overseeing Bond 17 to his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, and his daughter, Barbara Broccoli. But if the cinematic Bond was going to make a comeback, somebody had to step up.

That somebody was screenwriter Michael France, who died last week at the age of 51.

“I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was watching Goldfinger,” France was quoted by Steven Jay Rubin in his The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia’s updated 1995 edition. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be Richard Maibaum, not Bond.” According to Rubin’s account, he was given the chance to come up with a script in March 1993.

“We had meetings twice a week for several months with Michael, Barbara, Cubby and Dana,” France told Rubin, referring to Wilson, Barbara Broccoli as well as Albert R. Broccoli and his wife Dana. “We also wanted a villain on the level of Goldfinger — with an elaborate, unsinkable plot. At the same time, we also want him to be credible as a threat — that all of the story elements were based in reality, that these things could happen.”

In 1994, France delivered a first-draft script. It took a real-life event, a 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, and went from there. There was no way to know it at the time but France’s script was prescient because on Sept. 11, 2001, the towers were brought down by a terrorist attack.

France’s script wasn’t the last word. Other writers revised his draft. France only got a “story by” credit while Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein got the “screenplay by” credit. Only Feirstein was invited by Wilson and Barbara Broccoli back for the next Bond film. Feirstein’s FIRST DRAFT also got revised, much the way France’s GoldenEye initial draft was. Still, Feirstein got the sole screenwriting credit for Tomorrow Never Dies. That’s show business.

The fact remains that the cinematic Bond was dead in the water until Michael France delivered his script. By that time, Richard Maibuam, the dean of 007 scriptwriters, was dead. Cubby Broccoli was in failing health. And the future of the cinematic Bond was far from assured. The work was far from complete. But Michael France gave everybody a starting point. For that alone, his contributions to the film franchise are huge.

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One Response

  1. [...] France was responsible for re-establishing the Bond series after being derailed by legal disputes following Licence To Kill. You can read an appreciation of Michael France on the HMSS Weblog. [...]

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