Telegraph publishes extended version of its Ben Hecht/Casino Royale story

The U.K.-based Telegraph newspaper today published an extended online version of its story by Jeremy Duns about screenwriter Ben Hecht’s 1960s scripts for Casino Royale.

You can read THE ENTIRE ARTICLE BY CLICKING HERE. What follows are a couple of excerpts.

Duns on what he discovered when he went to the Newberry Library in Chicago, where Hecht’s papers are kept:

To my amazement, I found that Hecht not only contributed to Casino Royale, but produced several complete drafts, and that much of the material survived. …Hecht adapted Ian Fleming’s first novel as a straight Bond adventure…The folders contain material from five screenplays, four of which are by Hecht. An early near-complete script from 1957 is a faithful adaptation of the novel in many ways but for one crucial element: James Bond isn’t in it. Instead of the suave but ruthless British agent, the hero is Lucky Fortunato, a rich, wisecracking American gangster who is an expert poker player…it seems likely (producer Charles K.) Feldman sent this script to Hecht as a starting point to see what he could do with it.

According to Duns, Hecht’s version of the story has Bond being directly responsible for Le Chiffre’s financial plight and need to win money back gambling (a very similar technique used by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis in 2006’s Casino Royale to set up the main Ian Fleming novel story). They have even met before the gambling begins.

Here’s Duns’s analysis, with April 1964 referring to the final draft by Hecht:

All the pages in Hecht’s papers are gripping, but the material from April 1964 is phenomenal, and it’s easy to imagine it as the basis for a classic Bond adventure….(T)here is also a distinctly adult feel to the story. It has all the excitement and glamour you would expect from a Bond film but is more suspenseful, and the violence is brutal rather than cartoonish.

Hecht died in April 1964. Producer Feldman ended up producing a mega-spoof instead.

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