Octopussy’s script: ‘What happened to Vijay?’

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Note: Octopussy was always a suggestive title. Near the end of this post, there’s a stage direction in the script that’s even more suggestive.

When Eon Productions made Octopussy, the 13th film in its James Bond series and the sixth starring Roger Moore, the production company sought out George MacDonald Fraser to be its writer.

Fraser conferred with producer Albert R. Broccoli, director John Glen and executive producer Michael G. Wilson. He then commenced to turn the ideas discussed into a screenplay, whose locations included India — a place Fraser was familiar with and would be new for the series.

However, Broccoli evidently felt a veteran Bond writer was needed to take over. Thus, once again, Richard Maibaum was brought in, writing with Wilson as the paid had done on For Your Eyes Only.

Bond collector Gary Firuta supplied a copy of a June 10, 1982 draft by Maibaum and Wilson. The title page says it’s “based on a draft screenplay by George MacDonald Fraser.” It’s very similar to the finished movie but with significant differences.

The biggest: there is only one MI6 operative in India in the story, Sadruddin. In the June 10 draft, Sadruddin basically does everything that agents Vijay and Sadruddin do in the finished movie. Presumably, once tennis player/novice actor Vijay Amritraj caught producer Broccoli’s eye, the Sadruddin part got split, with Amritraj’s character becoming the “sacrificial lamb.”

When Bond meets Sadruddin in the draft script, it plays in a similar fashion to the Bond-Vijay meeting in the film. The stage directions even specify that as Bond is looking for his contact, “OVER SCENE COMES SOUND OF PIPE PLAYING JAMES BOND THEME.” The script specifies the next shot is from Bond’s point of view and he sees, “Barefoot SNAKE CHARMER in native dress sits cross-legged on mat, playing pipe as HOODED COBRA sways before him.” Thus, it’s clear the film makers early on had the idea of the contact playing The James Bond Theme.

Sadruddin occasional says “no problem,” but not as often as Vijay does in the film. For example, when Bond says, “Call me James,” Sadruddin replies, “Fine,” rather than “No problem!” In the final film, “No problem!” became a catchphrase for Vijay, coming into play when Vijay is killed.

Meanwhile, the script suggests — but not specify — a gag that many fans found irritating. During the later tiger hunt sequence, the stage directions says Bond “swings out over marshy river like Tarzan.” The Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan yell isn’t mentioned.

There are some other interesting items of note in the draft. Among them:

–Kamal Khan, the villain is described as being in “his early forties, darkly hansome and self-possessed, his body is lithe but athletic.” Eon ended up casting Louis Jourdan, 61 when Octopussy began production, for the part.

–There’s this description of how Bond has Kamal followed to the airport following an auction. “Stepping out to kerb and nodding to ZEC, MI6 undercover man, who is in driver seat of taxi parked across street. ZEC drives cab after limousine.” One of Broccoli’s friends was Donald Zec, who was ghostwriter of the producer’s autobiography.

–Not in the script is how Gobinda, Kamal’s bodyguard/thug crushes the dice used in a backgammon game after Bond outcheats Kamal. Gobinda’s feat is similar to Oddjob crushing a golf ball with his bare hands in Goldfiner.

–Instead of saying “Sit!” to a tiger during the tiger hunt sequence, Bond says, “Nice kitty–“.

–After Bond escapes the tiger hunt, a “BEAUTIFUL INDIAN MASSEUSE” gives 007 a rubdown back at MI6 Station I. Sadruddin remarks, “That should put you back in shape.” Bond tells the masseuse, “Thank you, my dear. You have an exquisite touch.” The masseuse “giggles, exit.” In the finished film, Bond would have to settle for a rubdown from Vijay.

–While talking to Sadruddin there’s this stage direction for when Bond displays his knowledge of an particular type of Octopus:

BOND
(ever The Expert)

–In the climatic fight at Kamal’s headquarters, Octopussy’s women fighters sometimes are referred to in the stage directions as “OCTOPUSSIES.” Example: “TRIBESMEN have surrendered. OCTOPUSSIES round them up.”

–Bond’s line after saving Octopussy: “I knew you were a swinger — “

–In the final scene, the stolen Romanv Star is “nestled in Octopussy’s cleveage, it hangs from a necklace around her throat.” The stage directions say Bond’s unneeded sling, bandages and “traction contraption” can be seen tossed into the water from the Octopussy barge. “Oh, James!” Octopussy says, as in the final film.

Bond 24 press conference suggestion: don’t take questions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Bond 24 will start principal photography on Dec. 6, The Daily Mail said at the very end of a Sept. 11 story and the MI6 James Bond website wrote in more detail in a Sept. 13 article. That likely means a formal press conference in the coming months.

Here’s a suggestion for those concerned with Bond 24: just don’t take any questions.

Based on the November 2011 press conference for the start of Skyfall production, the co-bosses of Eon Productions, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, don’t really like answering a lot of questions. At that event, more than 10 minutes passed (out of less than 28 total) before reporters were even permitted to ask any.

If you did away with the question and answer part of the press conference, it would hopefully mean some clichés would go away. “The money’s all up on the screen,” or “I could tell you but I’d have to kill you,” for example. They don’t add anything.

Also, not taking questions would lessen (though not eliminate) the possibility of misleading things being said.

Director Sam Mendes, in an April PBS interview, said he cast the part of Bill Tanner in Skyfall when, in fact, actor Rory Kinnear already played the part in Quantum of Solace.

He also said Skyfall was the first James Bond film where characters were allowed to age, a statement that didn’t stand up to much scrutiny. Nor was that his first time saying questionable things. Back when he was in talks to direct Skyfall, Mendes denied it while his publicist confirmed it. Not taking questions would help avoid that.

Some fans think it’s ridiculous journalists should even expect an answer to a question (read one of the comments to THIS POST). They just want to watch the video. It’s also not like the media outlets wouldn’t show up if the movie makers didn’t take questions. They’d be there to record the various comments and get video.

For the reporters, would they miss much if not allowed to ask questions? At the 2011 press conference, the MC mocked the scribes for not asking what Skyfall meant sooner. Then, Barbara Broccoli gave the vaguest of answers.

Is it really a loss to not go through that? Most of the real information about the movie (that Skyfall would be the title, that Judi Dench’s M was being killed off, that Naomie Harris’ character was really Moneypenny, for example) came out elsewhere.

Could both 007 and U.N.C.L.E. end up in Rome?

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Rome is getting to be a popular place for spies.

Bond 24, according to a local film official, is to include a car chase in Rome. The Play 4 Movie website attributed the news to Luciano Sovena, president of the Roma Lazio Film Commission.

There aren’t many details. Sovena says on the website he’s met with the co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, about it. “Barbara and Michael really count on it, they’re already excited,” Sovena is quoted as saying. (Thanks to the James Bond Dossier for the heads up.) It should be noted for Skyfall there were reports the producers were looking at India, but the production ended up doing its main location shooting in Turkey.

The 007 film series has been in Italy before, including three stops (From Russia With Love, Moonraker and Casino Royale) in Venice with three different leading men (Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig). The first time viewers see Roger Moore’s 007 in Live And Let Die, he’s back home from a mission M refers to as “the Rome affair.” It’s a passing reference (though we’re told Italian officials were impressed with Bond). It’s mostly to explain for the audience the presence of a woman Italian agent at Bond’s flat. (“They do seem to be missing one of their agents, a Miss Caruso.”)

Last year, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer also filmed in Rome. A fair amount of location shooting time for the film, which is due out in January 2015, was filmed in Rome and elsewhere in Italy. Here’s a video of the U.N.C.L.E. crew during the Rome shoot.

Some critiques from 007’s first Oscar winner

The James Bond Radio website had an interview with Norman Wanstall, the first James Bond movie Oscar winner. The sound effects editor, who won for Goldfinger, had a number of observations of interest.

Here’s a sampling:

– The current leaders of Eon Productions: “I think the biggest problem is, with all respect to the producers, they’re really not what I would call film producers. They’ve inherited the role. So now, they’ll feel because Skyfall was probably the biggest grosser of all time, they’ll feel, fine. They won’t realize the film itself wasn’t up to it. That’s dangerous. They need to be told.”

– Wanstall’s critique of Skyfall: “At one point, I was rather tempted to leave the cinema, which is of unheard of…After (Bond) had hung on to the bottom of the lift, I thought, forget it, it’s getting ridiculous. I knew there was no way for him to get into the building from the lift, so they faked it.”

–The unanswered letter: “Quantum of Solace, of course, is a complete disaster…I’ve often said to people if it was any film other than a Bond film, it would have been shelved. It was unshowable…After Quantum, I did actually write to the producers…I said I was supervising sound editor on six Bond films…we all love them, I said it’s just a terrible shame that you allowed so many things to go on to ruin it…People will always be loyal. But don’t take advantage of it.” Wanstall says he didn’t get a response.

–Wanstall says he can’t watch a Roger Moore 007 film these days. Meanwhile, Sean Connery is his favorite Bond.

The entire interview is embedded below. It runs almost one hour and 47 minutes.

The race to do an Edward Snowden movie

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

There’s a race to see who can do an Edward Snowden movie first.

In one corner is Sony Pictures and 007 producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. In the other, according to various stories (including THIS ONE BY THE GUARDIAN) is director Oliver Stone.

Each project is based on separate books about Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of NSA surveillance programs to reporters. The Sony-Eon Productions project is based on a book by Glenn Greenwald. The Stone project on a book by Luke Harding.

Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian about Stone’s project. The newspaper may have a bit of a rooting interest.

Stone’s thriller will focus on the experiences of the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency who leaked thousands of classified documents to the former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald back in June 2013. The film is to be produced by Stone’s regular business partner Moritz Borman, with Harding and other Guardian journalists serving as production and story consultants.

“This is one of the greatest stories of our time,” Stone, 67, said in a statement. “A real challenge. I’m glad to have the Guardian working with us.” Stone’s previous films include Platoon, JFK and W. The director has also made documentaries on Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, together with a 2012 TV series, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States.

The Sony-Eon project was announced in May. Greenwald’s work for The Guardian about Snowden earned that newspaper a Pulitzer Prize for public service, which it shared with The Washington Post. The public service Pulitzer is given only to publications, not to particular individuals. Greenwald left The Guardian to start a website called The Intercept.

For now, the question is which project reaches theater screens first. Wilson and Broccoli have been involved in a number of non-Bond movie projects but haven’t had one become reality yet. Separately, Broccoli has been involved as a producer of a documentary (Stolen Childhoods), a made-for-television movie (Crime of the Century) and a public service short film (James Bond Supports International Women’s Day). Broccoli and Wilson together have also been involved in stage productions.

Wilson and Broccoli also have Bond 24, scheduled to start filming this fall for a 2015 release. Can they handle they handle that and get their Snowden project to theaters ahead of Oliver Stone? We’ll see. The Stone movie is supposed to start filming before the end of 2014.

Wilson and Broccoli to produce Snowden movie

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

The co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, are slated to produce a movie about NSA leaker Edward Snowden, entertainment news websites reported including VARIETY.COM and DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD.

Sony optioned “No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State,” a book by journalist Glenn Greenwald, for Wilson and Broccoli to produce, according to the websites.

Several studios were seeking to make the book into a movie, The New York Times reported in October 2013. The Times, at that time, identified Barbara Broccoli as being part of the Sony effort. Sony’s Columbia Pictures has released the last three Bond movies and will do so again with 2015’s Bond 24.

Wilson and Broccoli have pursued a number of non-Bond film projects in recent years. It’s part of a new normal at Eon, where the principals want longer breaks between 007 movies to work on other projects.

Licence to Kill’s 25th: 007 flops in the U.S.

Licence to Kill's poster

Licence to Kill’s poster

Licence to Kill, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, is mostly known for a series of “lasts” but also for a first.

It was the last of five 007 films directed by John Glen, the most prolific director in the series; the last of 13 Bond films where Richard Maibaum participated in the writing; it was the last with Albert R. Broccoli getting a producer’s credit (he would only “present” 1995’s GoldenEye); it was the last 007 movie with a title sequence designed by Maurice Binder; and the it was last 007 film where Pan Am was the unofficial airline of the James Bond series (it went out of business before GoldenEye).

It was also the first that was an unqualified flop in the U.S. market.

Bond wasn’t on Poverty Row when Licence to Kill began production in 1988. But neither did 007 travel entirely first class.

Under financial pressure from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which acquired half the franchise after buying United Artists earlier in the decade), Eon Productions moved the home base of the production to Mexico from Pinewood Studios.

Joining Timothy Dalton in his second (and last) outing as Bond was a cast mostly known for appearing on U.S. television, including Anthony Zerbe, Don Stroud, David Hedison (his second appearance as Felix Leiter), Pricilla Barnes, Rafer Johnson, Frank McRae as well as Las Vegas performer Wayne Newton.

Meanwhile, character actor Robert Davi snared the role of the film’s villain, with Carey Lowell and Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto as competing Bond women.

Michael G. Wilson, Broccoli’s stepson and co-producer, took the role as lead writer because a 1988 Writers Guild strike made Richard Maibaum unavailable. Maibaum’s participation didn’t extend beyond the plotting stage. The teaser trailer billed Wilson as the sole writer but Maibaum received co-writer billing in the final credits.

Wilson opted for a darker take, up to a point. He included Leiter having a leg chewed off by a shark from the Live And Let Die novel. He also upped the number of swear words compared with previous 007 entries. But Wilson hedged his bets with jokes, such as Newton’s fake preacher and a scene where Q shows off gadgets to Bond.

Licence would be the first Bond film where “this time it’s personal.” Bond goes rogue to avenge Leiter. Since then, it has almost always been personal for 007. Because of budget restrictions, filming was kept to Florida and Mexico.

The end product didn’t go over well in the U.S. Other studios had given the 16th 007 film a wide berth for its opening weekend. The only “new” movie that weekend was a re-release of Walt Disney Co.’s Peter Pan.

Nevertheless, Licence finished an anemic No. 4 during the July 14-16 weekend, coming in behind Lethal Weapon 2 (in its second weekend), Batman (in its fourth weekend) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (also fourth weekend).

Glen and Maibaum were done with Bond, the latter being part of the 007 series since its inception.

Initial pre-production of the next 007 film proceeded without the two series veterans. Wilson wrote a treatment in 1990 for Bond 17 with Alfonse Ruggiero but that story was never made.

That’s because Broccoli would enter into a legal fight with MGM that meant Bond wouldn’t return to movie screens for another six years. By the time production resumed, Eon started over, using a story by Michael France as a beginning point for what would become GoldenEye. Maibaum, meanwhile, died in early 1991.

Today, some fans like to blame MGM’s marketing campaign or other major summer 1989 movies such as Batman or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But Licence came out weeks after either of those blockbusters. In the end, the U.S. audience didn’t care for Licence. The movie’s total U.S. box office of $34.7 million didn’t match Batman’s U.S. opening weekend of $40.5 million. Licence’s U.S. box office was almost a third less than its 007 predecessor, The Living Daylights.

Licence to Kill did better in other markets. Still, Licence’s $156.2 million in worldwide ticket sales represented an 18 percent decline from The Living Daylights.

For Dalton, Glen, Maibaum and even Broccoli (he yielded the producer’s duties on GoldenEye because of ill health), it was the end of the road.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 141 other followers