Bond 24 questions: the writers edition

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are back? There’s been no official announcement but it was reported last month by The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye that the writers were retained to rewrite John Logan’s efforts.

Bamigboye had a number of Skyfall and Bond 24 scoops proven correct. Example: he wrote that Purvis and Wade were initially not going to be back for Bond 24, while their Skyfall co-scribe John Logan would be the new 007 film’s writer. Purvis and Wade subsequently confirmed they were leaving the series. Until, it now seems, things changed.

How extensive will Purvis and Wade’s Bond 24 script work going to be? If the duo end up getting a credit, you’ll know it will have been substantial.

The Writer’s Guild has extensive guidelines on how much work a scribe (with a team of writers such as Purvis and Wade counted as a single entity) should do to get a screen credit. A writer or writing team must contribute more than 33 percent of the finished product for an adapted script, 50 percent for an original one. Bond 24 falls under the adapted category since it uses a character who originally appeared in a novel.

Getting a credit isn’t as simple as counting lines of dialogue. A credit is supposed to reflect “contributions to the screenplay as a whole,” according to the guild. It’s possible, for example, for a writer to change every line of dialogue but for the guild to determine there’s been no significant change to the screenplay.

In any case, if Bond 24’s credit reads something like, “Written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,” Purvis and Wade will have done more than revamp some dialogue or tweak a scene or two.

Is this unusual?It’s the normal method of operation for both movies in general and James Bond movies in particular. Even 007 films that had only one writing credit had contributions from other writers. For example:

–From Russia With Love had a solo screenplay credit for Richard Maibaum, but also an “adapted by” credit for Johanna Harwood, while Len Deighton did work that didn’t earn a credit.
–You Only Live Twice had a “screenplay by” credit for Roald Dahl but an “additional story material” credit for Harold Jack Bloom, the film’s first writer.
–On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had a Maibaum solo credit for the screenplay but an “additional dialogue” credit for Simon Raven, who rewrote dialogue in some scenes.
–Tomorrow Never Dies had a “written by” credit for Bruce Feirstein. Other writers took a whirl without credit between Feirstein’s first draft and his final draft.

As far as anyone knows, Live And Let Die really represented the work of only one writer (Tom Mankiewicz), and he did plenty of rewrites himself.

Is this any reason to be concerned? The Daily Mail also reported the start of Bond 24 filming was pushed back to December from October. If true, that should still be enough time for Bond 24 to meet its release date of late October 2015 in the U.K. and early November 2015 in the U.S.

What should fans look for next? The date of the press conference announcing the start of Bond 24 filming. There should also be a press release. If Purvis and Wade get a mention in that press release along with John Logan, that’ll be a sign they did a fair amount of work on the script.

Moonraker’s 35th: when outer space belonged to 007

moonrakerposter

June marks the 35th anniversary of Moonraker, a James Bond movie fans either like or despise.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli sought to make the most extravagant Bond film ever. The film’s first-draft script was too big even for the ambitions of the veteran producer. Twin mini jets, a jet pack and a keel hauling sequence were removed in subsequent drafts. Some of the ideas would be used in the next two films in the series, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy.

But there was plenty left, including taking Agent 007 into outer space (or Outer Space! as it was spelled in the list of locations in the end titles). Writer Tom Mankiewicz did uncredited work to develop the story. Screenwriter Christopher Wood received the only screen credit for the film.

Broccoli and United Artists initially wanted to spend about $20 million, a substantial hike from the previous 007 adventure, The Spy Who Love Me. It soon became evident the budget would have to even higher, costing more than $30 million.

Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert had teased the audience in 1967’s You Only Live Twice with the idea of Bond going into space. In that film, Ernst Stavro Blofeld catches Sean Connery’s Bond in a mistake before Bond can be launched into orbit. This time out, Broccoli and Gilbert would not use such restraint. Roger Moore’s Bond would go into space, in a spacecraft modeled after the space shuttles that NASA had in development.

As with other Bond films of the era, there was a lot of humor, including pigeons doing double takes and henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) suffering various indignities. The movie got good reviews from some critics, including Frank Rich, then of Time magazine. A sample of Rich’s take: ” When Broccoli lays out a feast, he makes sure that there is at least one course for every conceivable taste.”

Also singing Moonraker’s praises was reviewer Vincent Canby of THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Moonraker, Canby wrote, was “one of the most buoyant Bond films of all. It looks as if it cost an unconscionable amount of money to make, though it has nothing on its mind except dizzying entertainment, which is not something to dismiss quickly in such a dreary, disappointing movie season.”

Bond fans have a more mixed reaction. Some feel it’s too far from the spirit of the original Ian Fleming novels. For examples, CLICK HERE. Others, while acknowledging there isn’t much from Fleming’s namesake novel, are more than content to go along for the ride.

Despite the higher budget, Broccoli & Co. weren’t willing to pay what major U.S. special effects houses wanted. Instead, Derek Meddings used decidedly lower tech ways to simulate a fleet of Moonraker rockets launching into space and meeting up with a space station. Meddings and his crew an Academy Award nomination. Meddings & Co. lost to Alien.

For Moonraker, it was a major accomplishment to get the nomination. Meddings and his special effects colleagues were the only crew members working at England’s Pinewood Studios. The home base for Moonraker was Paris because of tax reasons.

Two stalwarts of the Bond series, composer John Barry and production designer Ken Adam were also aboard. Moonraker monopolized stages at three Paris studios with Adam’s sets. It would be designer’s farewell to the series. Shirley Bassey performed the title song, her third and final 007 film effort.

In the end, Moonraker was a success at the box office. The movie’s $210.3 million worldwide box office was the most for the series to date.

Broccoli changed course soon after, with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only being much more down to earth, with a greater emphasis on Ian Fleming original source material. Never again would Broccoli or United Artists (or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which acquired UA in 1981) attempt a spectacle on this scale.

Three Tom Mankiewicz 007 anecdotes

"Mankiewicz? I have some more ideas."

“Mankiewicz? I have some more ideas.”

Empire magazine’s website has A 2010 INTERVIEW with screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz about his work on James Bond films.

A couple of anecdotes may be of interest.

Connery’s contribution to the script of Diamonds Are Forever: There may been various tellings of a script meeting Mankiewicz had with star Sean Connery. This interview had additional details.

When Lana Wood appears at the crap table and says, “Hi, I’m Plenty.” Bond says, “Why, of course you are.” She says, “Plenty O’Toole.” (Connery) asked me if he could respond, “‘Named after your father perhaps?’” I said, “It’s a great line.” But the very fact that he asked me – I was (only) 27 years old – shows you the kind of way he goes about his work. He’s totally professional. Any other actor would just have tried it right in the take. I was amazed. It’s a good line, and it’s his line.

The writer’s deleted reference to From Russia With Love in The Spy Who Loved Me: Mankiewicz did an uncredited rewrite on The Spy Who Loved Me. The finished film referenced, briefly, Tracy from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It occurred in a scene where Bond and Soviet agent Triple-X verbally joust to show off how each knows the other’s dossier.

Mankiewicz wanted to insert a From Russia With Love reference in the same scene.

The Best Bond quip maybe that I ever wrote – and I wrote hundreds of them – was cut out of The Spy Who Loved Me. It’s when Roger (Moore) meets Barbara Bach at the bar. He knows that she’s a Soviet Major or something and she knows he’s 007. Anyway, he says, “I must say, you’re prettier than your pictures, Major,” and she responds, “The only picture I’ve seen of you, Mr. Bond, was taken in bed with one of our agents – a Miss Tatiana Romanova.”…Roger then said, “Was she smiling?” And Barbara Bach answers, “As I recall, her mouth was not immediately visible.” Roger retorts, “Then I was smiling.”

You can read the entire Bond-related portion of the interview by CLICKING HERE. From the same interview, you can read what Mankiewicz said about the Christopher Reeve Superman movies BY CLICKING HERE.

UPDATE: In the Superman portion of the interview, Mankiewicz provides some 1972 quotes from Connery. According to the screenwriter, he had been asked by 007 producer Albert R. Broccoli to see if Connery could be enticed to play Bond in Live And Let Die.

He said, “Listen, Boy-o, one of the things I always hear is that I owe it to the public to play Bond. I’ve done six fucking movies. When do I stop owing it to the public? It’s not a question of being kind or unkind. What, after the twelfth or fifteenth? After they stop making money anymore and people say, “What, that’s all he plays? How much do you owe after six films?” I understood completely. If he didn’t get out then, he would just be James Bond. His other films wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Live And Let Die’s 40th: the post-Connery era truly begins

Live And Let Die's poster

Live And Let Die’s poster

For the eighth James Bond film, star Sean Connery wasn’t coming back. Three key members of the 007 creative team, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, production designer Ken Adam and composer John Barry, weren’t going to participate. And producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were mostly working separately, with this movie to be overseen primarily by Saltzman.

The result? Live And Let Die, which debuted 40 years ago this year, would prove to be, financially, the highest-grossing movie in the series to date.

Things probably didn’t seem that way for Eon Productions and United Artists as work began. They had no Bond. Broccoli and Saltzman didn’t want Connery back for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The studio didn’t want to take a chance and made the original screen 007 an offer he couldn’t refuse. But that was a one-film deal. Now, Eon and UA were starting from scratch.

Eon and UA had one non-Connery film under their belts, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They had tried the inexperienced George Lazenby, who bolted after one movie. For the second 007 film in the series not to star Connery, Eon and UA opted for a more-experienced choice: Roger Moore, former star of The Saint television series. Older than Connery, Moore would eventually employ a lighter touch.

Behind the camera, Saltzman largely depended on director Guy Hamilton, back for his third turn in the 007 director chair, and writer Tom Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz would be the sole writer from beginning to end, rewriting scenes as necessary during filming. In a commentary on the film’s DVD, Mankiewicz acknowledged it was highly unusual.

Perhaps the biggest creative change was with the film’s music. Barry had composed the scores for six Bond films in a row. George Martin, former producer for the Beatles, would take over. Martin had helped sell Saltzman on using a title song written by Paul and Linda McCartney. The ex-Beatle knew his song would be compared to the 007 classic title songs Barry had helped write. McCartney was determined to make his mark.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die


Saltzman liked the song, but inquired whether a woman singer would be more appropriate. Martin, in an interview for a 2006 special on U.K. television, said he informed Saltzman if Eon didn’t accept McCartney as performer, the producer wouldn’t get the song. Saltzman accepted both.

Live And Let Die wasn’t the greatest James Bond film, despite an impressive boat chase sequence that was a highlight. The demise of its villain (Yaphet Kotto) still induces groans among long-time 007 fans as he pops like a balloon via an unimpressive special effect. Sheriff J.W. Pepper, up to that time, was probably the most over-the-top comedic supporting character in the series. (“What are you?! Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?!”)

But Live And Let Die is one of the most important films in the series. As late as 1972, the question was whether James Bond could possibly continue without Sean Connery. With $161.8 million in worldwide ticket sales, it was the first Bond film to exceed the gross for 1965’s Thunderball. In the U.S., its $35.4 million box office take trailed the $43.8 million for Diamonds Are Forever.

Bumpy days still lay ahead for Eon. The Man With the Golden Gun’s box office would tail off and relations between Broccoli and Saltzman would get worse. Still, for the first time, the idea took hold that the cinema 007 could move on from Connery.

Many HMSS editors CRITICIZED THE MOVIE AND ITS STAR in a survey several years ago. But the film has its fans.

“I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me,” Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a November 2011 news conference. Whatever one’s opinions about the movie, Live And Let Die ensured there’d be 007 employment for the likes of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

FEBRUARY 2012 POST: LIVE AND LET DIE, A REAPPRAISAL

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME PROFILES THE NEW JAMES BOND

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME CALLS 007 A `RACIST PIG’

Some 007 Oscar statistics

oscar

At about 8:30 a.m. New York time, James Bond fans will find out if Skyfall, the 23rd 007 film, scores any Oscar nominations. Ahead of that event, here are some 007 Oscar statistics:

WINS: 2 Goldfinger’s sound man Norman Wanstall won an Oscar for his efforts in 1965 and special effects wizard John Stars, received an Oscar in 1966.

If you CLICK HERE, you can see Wantall get his Oscar from Angie Dickinson. If you CLICK HERE, you can see Ivan Tors, whose production company worked on Thunderball’s underwater sequences, picking up the award for Stears.

MOST NOMINATIONS: 3 (The Spy Who Loved Me) Ken Adam, Peter Lamont and Hugh Schaife were nominated for art direction and set decoration. Marvin Hamlisch was nominated for best score; and Hamisch (music) and Carole Bayer Sager (lyrics) were nominated for best song. None scored a win. Adam got two Oscars and Lamont received one for other movies.

MOST MEMORABLE 007 OSCAR NIGHT: 1982 For Your Eyes Only was nominated for best song and Sheena Easton performed it as part of an elaborate 007 song-and-dance number. It didn’t win but Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon Productions, received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, given to a producer for his or her body of work. The veteran producer gave a gracious speech that included acknowledgments for former partners Irving Allen and Harry Saltzman, even though Broccoli had his share of differences of opinion with them over the years.

The 1982 Oscars show was also the last time Bond (formally at least) was part of the ceremony. Since then, contributors to the film series, such as John Barry, Tom Mankiewicz and Joseph Wiseman, have shown up in the “In Memorium” segments that pay tribute to those who’ve died since the preceding Oscar broadcast.

We know that will change with this year’s broadcast, which will have a James Bond tribute. Fans will soon find out whether the evening will include Skyfall being in the mix for Oscars.

The tribute, depending how elaborate it is, and Skyfall breaking the long Oscar drought for Agent 007, could make 2013 the most memorable 007 Oscar night.

Live And Let Die, a reappraisal

We decided, after quite some time, to rewatch Live And Die. It was the debut of Roger Moore as James Bond but, in some ways, it’s more of a milestone than that. For some people, including Skyfall director Sam Mendes, it was the point of entry for a second generation of Bond fans to get addicted.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, consider Mendes’s own words at the Nov. 3 news conference Eon Productions held: “I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me.” Mendes was born in 1965, too late to catch the first wave of Bond films. For people of that age, their first 007 contact was the Roger Moore Bond of the early 1970s.

Given that, we thought we’d give it another view. First reaction: the Roger Moore 007 didn’t have the swagger, or seem to present the danger element, the way Sean Connery did. At times (mostly when 007 is dealing with African American gangster types early in the film), he’s like Lt. Columbo Bond, trying to lull his adversaries into complacency.

“Waste him?” Bond asks Solitaire (Jane Seymour) after Mr. Big orders his execution. “Is that a good thing?” Shortly thereafter, he’s forced from a door outside into a wall. “Thank you,” Bond says politely.

Later, when the odds have evened up a bit, Moore/Bond comes across as unflappable, rather than having the swagger of Connery/Bond. When he’s told that “Mrs. Bond” has already checked into his bungalow in San Monique, 007 registers concern for a second then cooly says, “Incurable romantic, Mrs. Bond.”

Live And Let Die definitely continues the trend begun in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, Connery’s farewell to the Eon Productions-made film series. Both films were directed by Guy Hamilton, with the final Diamonds script by Tom Mankiewicz (rewriting Richard Maibaum’s earlier drafts) and Mankiewicz working solo on Live And Let Die.

The humor in sequences such as the signature boat chase is even more over the top. Diamonds had some clueless law enforcement officers. Live And Let Die exceeds that with Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), a tabacco-chewing redneck (and clearly racist) sheriff. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Live And Let Die, indicates he didn’t want humor to be at the expense of the African American villains, thus he invented other characters to be the butt of jokes. Also, the death of Live And Let Die’s villain, Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), is on the same level as a Tex Avery-directed cartoon.

The movie is also dated in that it was influenced by so-called “Blaxploitation” films (Shaft, Super Fly) of the early 1970s. That bothers some first-generation fans, who feel that Bond led the way in the ’60s. Then again, when Bond was rebooted with 2006’s Casino Royale and its sequel, 2008’s Quantum of Solace, they were influenced by Jason Bourne movies starring Matt Damon. That doesn’t bother supporters of those films.

Still, the boat chase is amazing, no computer generated special effects (which, of course, didn’t exist then), just real men using their brains guts and tricks such as hidden ramps. So is the stunt by crocodile farm owner Ross Kananga (Mankiewicz’s inspiration for the villain’s name), doubling Roger Moore, he really did risk death five times before finally successful running over the backs of alligators to safety.

Composer George Martin tends to get overlooked because the title song by Paul and Linda McCartney was so popular. After six consecutive John Barry scores, it was up to Martin to provide the film’s background music. Martin didn’t write the Live And Let Die song but was vital to its preparation and selling it to Eon. So, perhaps because he had a vested interest, he weaves the title song throughout the film very effectively while working within the Barry/Bond music templates. If that sounds easy, we suspect it wasn’t.

Finally, upon this viewing, Yaphet Kotto’s performance struck us as interesting. For the film’s first half, he’s dour and doesn’t say much. After it’s revealed he’s both Dr. Kananga and Mr. Big, he suddenly begins having fun with the role. He explains Kananga’s plot of flooding the U.S. with free heroin to drive out criminal competitors. “Man or woman, black or white, I don’t discriminate.” He then says once the plan is implemented, and the number of addicts has doubled, he’ll start charging for the heroin, leaving “myself and the phone company as the only going monopolies in this nation for years to come.”

A Live And Let Die fan


Live And Let Die isn’t a perfect film by any means. (It was mostly panned in a SURVEY OF HMSS EDITORS SOME YEARS BACK.) But you can see how it appealed to a new generation of fans. Sam Mendes doesn’t exactly have a reputation for directing light movies, so we suspect Skyfall won’t resemble Live And Let Die. But it is interesting, at least on some level, that he cites Live And Let Die as an influence.

Finally, it should be noted that Live And Let Die was the first 007 film to have a higher worldwide gross than 1965’s Thunderball, $161.8 million to $141.2 million Its U.S. box office, though, was below Diamonds Are Forever.

In sum, Live And Let Die is a movie that’s going to divide Bond fans. The first-generation fans throw their arms up in the air while, for the second generation, it’s a landmark to explain how they became interested in 007.

UPDATE: 007 Magazine e-mailed us that is has a back issue concerning Live And Let Die. So if you CLICK HERE you’ll see a selection of back issues of 007 Magazine Archive Files, and find the issue devoted to Live And Let Die.

Diamonds Are Forever’s 40th anniversary: a star returns


Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and the United Artists studio wanted the seventh film in the James Bond series to emulate Goldfinger. Bring back Ken Adam to design the sets? Check. Have John Barry do the music and have a title song performed by Shirley Bassey? Check. Hire Goldfinger’s director Guy Hamilton to come back? Check.And the most expensive step, offer Sean Connery so much he couldn’t refuse to reprise the role of 007? Check.

It wasn’t that simple, of course. Making Diamonds Are Forever, which premiered 40 years ago this month, wasn’t as easy as taking the direct route from point A to point B.

Broccoli and Saltzman signed American actor John Gavin to play Bond. In their minds, Bond was bigger than any one actor. It was UA, and executive David Picker, who wanted Connery back. And since UA paid the bills, that’s what happened. The financial package included $1.25 million (huge for those days), hefty overtime pay if the movie exceeded its shooting schedule and financing for other Connery film projects.

Saltzman, again being prickly about music matters, didn’t like the title song that Barry wrote with Don Black. The volatile producer wanted to kill the song but cooler heads, particularly Broccoli’s, prevailed.

The script also wasn’t as simple as devising “another Goldfinger.” The 1956 Ian Fleming novel didn’t have a larger-than-life Goldfinger style villain. Richard Maibaum took a literal approach to the idea of “another Goldfinger” with his initial draft, making the villain Auric Goldfinger’s twin brother. Eventually, Broccoli and Saltzman wanted another writer to revamp the material. Broccoli decided the hook should be based on a dream he had of discovering that his old friend, reclusive industrialist Howard Hughes, had been replaced by someone else.

Enter American writer Tom Mankiewicz, devising a story where villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld has taken over the business empire of the Hughes-like Willard Whyte. Mankiewicz shared the screenplay credit with Maibaum in the final film.

Under Mankiewicz, the script took a lighter tone. You can CLICK HERE for a more detailed examination of Mankiewicz’s “revised first draft,” which featured an actual final confrontation between Bond and Blofeld, something that wasn’t filmed. Mankiewicz’s early drafts also had more material from Fleming’s novel that also didn’t make the final cut.

The movie isn’t ranked that highly in survey of HMSS editors, with grades ranging from a high of B to a low of D-Plus, and one of our staff saying it was the start of the “Dark Ages” of the series. Connery, though, generally gets a pass, even though he proclaimed during filming it had the best script in the Bond series up to that time.

Decades later, it’s not unheard of to hear a conversation something like this:

BOND FAN No. 1: I think Diamonds Are Forever is where it started getting goofy, don’t you agree?

BOND FAN No. 2: Yeah, but it’s got Connery!

In any case, the movie was a success financially, earning $116 million at the box office worldwide, more than either 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or 1967’s You Only Live Twice. But it fell short of Goldfinger’s almost $125 million or Thunderball’s $141.2 million.

It was also the end of an era, the last time Connery would work for Broccoli or Saltzman; when he next donned 007’s shoulder holster more than a decade later, Connery would be starring in a Bond production in competition with the Eon Production series. In any case, Diamonds did well enough to ensure that James Bond would return.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 139 other followers