UPDATE: A recap of Bond 25’s writing process

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

Updated and expanded from a September 2018 post.

In September, outlets (starting with Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail) reported that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have resumed work on Bond 25. But things still remain a bit in flux.

With that in mind, here’s a recap of how we got to this point.

March 2017: Bamigboye reports Purvis and Wade have been hired to write Bond 25.

July 2017: The hiring of Purvis and Wade is confirmed in an Eon Productions press release that announces a fall 2019 release date for Bond 25.

December 2017: Barbara Broccoli, in a podcast for The Hollywood Reporter says Purvis and Wade are still hard at work on Bond 25’s story.

February 2018: Deadline: Hollywood reports that Danny Boyle, under consideration to direct Bond 25, devised an idea with writer John Hodge. According to the entertainment news site, Hodge was writing up a script based on that idea. If the script would be accepted, then Boyle will direct.

March 2018: Boyle essentially confirms the Deadline story during a public appearance.

May 25, 2018: Eon announces that Boyle will direct Bond 25, which will have an “original screenplay” by John Hodge.

Aug. 21, 2018: Eon announces Boyle has left Bond 25. Hodge isn’t mentioned but the writer later confirms he, too, is no longer involved.

Sept. 6, 2018: The MI6 James Bond website publishes a story that a Hodge script “was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.” and it is “now being touched up again with changes being made to reflect the wishes of the producers and Daniel Craig.” (emphasis added) This is a new twist, given how the May 25 press release didn’t mention Purvis and Wade.

Sept. 13, 2018: Bamigboye reports that Purvis and Wade have been re-hired to work on Bond 25. The story says a Purvis and Wade treatment had been approved by Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before Boyle and Hodge arrived. A treatment is like a detailed outline. It is not the same as a script draft with its dialogue and stage directions. Anyway, Bamigboye’s story is confirmed by Variety and Deadline: Hollywood. Like Bamigboye, those outlets say Purvis and Wade are turning their previous treatment into a full script.

As 2018 draws to a close, there are contradictions.  Is it possible that Hodge was working from the Purvis and Wade treatment and not a script draft? There are no clear answers.

Jan. 1, 2019: The Geeks Wordwide website publishes a story that American screenwriter-director Paul Haggis has contributed to Bond 25’s screenplay.

Haggis did the final drafts of 2006’s Casino Royale. He shared the screenplay credit with Purvis and Wade. The news excites some 007 film fans. Perhaps another Casino Royale is in the offing. Haggis also was a screenwriter for 2008’s Quantum of Solace (where the credit was also shared with Purvis and Wade).

Feb. 16, 2019: The Playlist carries a story saying that American screenwriter Scott Z. Burns has been hired to do an “overhaul” for Bond 25 and he’ll be spending a total of at least four weeks and be well paid. According to this story, Haggis’ work either didn’t register or was dispensed with.

Regardless, we’re now up to at least five writers who’ve been reported to be involved in the writing — Purvis, Wade, Hodges, Haggis and Burns.

That’s hardly a record for a Bond film. The Spy Who Loved Me had around a dozen scribes, with two (Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum) getting a credit and the rest not.

Both Moonraker (Christopher Wood) and Tomorrow Never Dies (Bruce Feirstein) had only one credited screenwriter while numerous others did some work.

There are many unanswered questions. Is any of Hodges’ work being used, or was that pitched when Boyle left? Also, what does “overhaul” mean? Four weeks doesn’t seem like sufficient time to devise a completely new story, though it may mean significant changes for the existing Bond 25 script.

We’ll see what happens.

About those Bond 25 delays

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Since the most recent six-week delay for Bond 25 was announced on Friday, there has been a lot of reaction. One recurring theme has been in tweets and elsewhere in social media saying to get over it, you’re being childish by being upset, etc..

For a recap, here’s a look at some previous gaps in 007 films:

1989-1995: A legal fight between Danjaq/Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; major disruptions at MGM (eventually it got taken over by a French bank); Danjaq/Eon considered a sale but didn’t follow through. Pretty major stuff.

2002-2006: Dana Broccoli, matriarch of the Broccoli-Wilson clan died in 2004. Eon did soul searching, decided to reboot with Casino Royale. Change in leading man. Pretty major stuff.

2008-2012: MGM (Bond’s home studio) goes bankrupt and reorganizes. Pretty major stuff.

2015-present: Well, there was…no calamity remotely as severe as the aforementioned gaps. No MGM bankruptcy. No reboot. No recasting of leading man.

Regardless, the current gap already is on pace to be the second-longest gap, with the latest release date of April 8, 2020.

You could argue it’s good that Eon is taking time with Bond 25’s story, reportedly hiring Scott Z. Burns to rewrite the script. Better to nail down the script before production.

Sure. That’s a glass half-full outlook and perfectly understandable. See THIS VIDEO and THIS VIDEO for examples.

On the other hand, condescending, pats on the head aren’t a good look. If you want people to take a more positive outlook, lecturing isn’t the way to achieve your goal.

Scott Z. Burns enters Bond 25 writing sweepstakes

Scott Z. Burns, who has worked with director Stephen Soderbergh on some films, has been to hired to rewrite Bond 25’s script, The Playlist reported.

Also, according to the story, Bond 25’s start date was pushed back to April from March. If true, that would confirm a Feb. 5 tweet by Steven Weintraub, editor of Collider.com.

Weintraub said Bond 25 director of  photography Linus Sandgren told him that the movie would start filming in April.

The Playlist’s story said Burns’ rewrite is an “overhaul” of a script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have worked on seven Bond films, including Bond 25.

Earlier this decade, Burns worked on a script for a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. when Soderbergh was attached as director. That story would have been a Thunderball-inspired plot based on a real-life incident in the 1960s.

Soderbergh exited the project and Burns’ script was dumped. Guy Ritchie directed the film, which came out in August 2015.

On Jan. 1, a site called Geeks WorldWide said Paul Haggis, a screenwriter on Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, had also contributed to the Bond 25 script.

In 2018, Danny Boyle was hired to direct Bond 25 but left over “creative differences.” His preferred writer, John Hodge, was announced as the scribe at that time. After Boyle’s depature, Cary Fukunaga (himself a writer) was hired to direct Bond 25.

The Playlist said Bond 25 currently has “a script that no one is entirely happy with.” It describes Burns as having a reputation for being a top script rescue doctor.

Burns will work on Bond 25 for “at least” four weeks, according to The Playlist.

Eon Productions announced Feb. 15 that Bond 25’s release date was pushed back to April 8, 2020, from Feb. 14, 2020. It gave no reason.

Bond 25 questions: The glass half-full/half-empty edition

No time to panic..

So Bond 25 has been delayed again. It has now been assigned its third release date since July 2017. And the news came one day after fans had begun their one-year countdown art and memes.

As usual, the blog has questions. But the blog is switching up the format with this post.

Is this bad news?

Half-full answer: It’s not even a two-month delay. Nothing to see here. Move along. No reason to panic.

Half-empty answer: Any other shoes to drop?

What’s going on?

Half-full answer: Universal, which will distribute Bond 25 outside North America, is juggling its schedule. Fast & Furious 9 (working title) has been moved from April 10, 2020 to May 22, 2020. So it makes sense to movie Bond 25 to April 8 and get a start on the Easter weekend for 2020.

Half-empty answer: Bond 25 hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck. Some movies get moved earlier (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation by months in 2015 and Avengers: Infinity War by a week in 2018).

Let’s say this release date won’t change (really). Will it be good for Bond?

Half-full answer: People go to movies at times other than summer and the Thanksgiving-Christmas period. Batman v Superman opened big during Easter weekend 2016. Admittedly it fell off quickly, but people came to see it opening weekend. Furious 7 (part of the Fast & Furious series) had a big opening during Easter weekend 2015.

Half-empty answer: We’ll see. This is new territory for Bond.

Isn’t this weird? Three release dates?

Half-full answer: Nothing to see here. Move along. Release dates change all the time.

Half-empty answer: Of course it’s weird. Let’s face it, Bond 25 has had a development full of twists and turns.

Star Daniel Craig and producer Barbara Broccoli each take an extended break after 2015’s SPECTRE. The first release date (November 2019) was announced in July 2017 when no distributor was in place (and wouldn’t be for months). Craig finally came back but that was followed by a long director search, one director signing but leaving (Danny Boyle) followed by a quick search for a replacement, etc., etc. etc.

So for argument’s sake, assume this newest delay is strictly Universal’s doing. It still comes on top of a longer-than-usual gap. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Bond’s home studio) went bankrupt in 2010. That resulted in a four-year gap between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. The current gap already was longer with nothing as calamitous involved.

Bond 25 release pushed back 2 months

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25’s release has been pushed back almost two months to April 8, 2020, The Wrap entertainment news website said.

The change was confirmed in an announcement on the official 007 website of Eon Productions.

The Wrap’s initial story was only two paragraphs long. It provided no details nor said how it obtained the information. An updated version added some background but still had no details. The Eon announcement was only one sentence.

Bond 25’s scheduled release date had been Feb. 14, 2020.

Bond 25 had already been pushed back once. The next 007 film originally was announced as having a November 2019 release date in the United States.

The 25th James Bond film originally was to have been directed by Danny Boyle. He departed over “creative differences.” Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace Boyle.

Bond 25 will be distributed in the U.S. by United Artists Releasing, a joint venture of MGM and Annapurna Pictures. Universal is handling international distribution.

UPDATE (9:20 p.m., New York time): Perhaps a piece of the puzzle: Universal (which is distributing Bond 25 internationally) has moved Fast & Furious 9 from April 10, 2020 (the start of Easter weekend), to May 22, 2020, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

Oscars do Emily Litella impression: ‘Never mind!’

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may have pulled an Emily Litella. “Never mind!”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has retreated from a plan of awarding four Oscars during commercial breaks, according to reports from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline: Hollywood.

As Emily Litella (a 1970s reference you can find on Google) might say, “Never mind!”

Originally, the academy planned that Oscars for cinematography, editing, live action short and makeup and hairstyling be given out during commercials, with edited versions being shown later.

This didn’t go over well from academy members of the affected categories, especially cinematography and editing, two crucial parts of movie making.

Had the rule been in effect last year, the broadcast would haven’t included live coverage of director of photography Roger Deakins finally winning after after a long string of nominations. One of Deakins’ nominations was for the 2012 007 film Skyfall, and many Bond fans were pulling for him to finally win in 2018.

Here’s an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter story:

In a statement on Friday afternoon, the Academy stated that it “has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards – Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling.” The statement continued: “All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format. We look forward to Oscar Sunday, February 24.”

The move came just nine days before this year’s Oscar telecast. The academy and ABC, which airs the awards show, have been trying to keep the program to three hours.

UPDATE (9:40 p.m., New York time): The statement is on the academy’s website.

A few things to keep in mind as Bond 25 gears up

 Art by Paul Baack (1957-2017).

Before long, Bond 25 will begin principal photography. So here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Don’t expect detailed analysis from many Bond fan sites: There’s a symbiosis between major 007 fan site and Eon Productions.

Eon looks at the fan sites as an extension of its marketing efforts. Often times, the sites are more than willing to cooperate. Afterall, the proprietors can take selfies with the crew.

Don’t expect detailed analysis from Eon-approved books: Authors of some Eon-approved books don’t go too far.

One such book (which repeatedly refers to Eon’s Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli throughout as “Michael and Barbara”) punts when it comes to the contradictory stories involving the scripting of Quantum of Solace, including polishes by Joshua Zetumer during filming..

“(I)n the end it came down to Daniel Craig trashing it out with (director Marc) Forster.” This became the preferred Eon narrative, regardless of how much work Zetumer performed during filming.

Don’t expect detailed reporting from entertainment news sites: Trade pubications/websites such as The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Deadline: Hollywood are based in Hollywood. Eon is based out of London.

The U.S. sites snare the occasional scoop. But they’re tracking a lot of other news, including the impact of Walt Disney Co.’s pending acquisition of 20th Century Fox.

There are, of course, British tabloids but that’s hit or miss. The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye gets a fair number of 007 scoops but he has made some mistakes. such as his 2011 story describing the character Albert Finney would play in Skyfall.

Regardless, the next few months will be amusing for Bond fans. Let’s see what happens.