Writing a James Bond movie is harder than it looks. Bruce Feirstein is among those who know best because he’s among the rosters of writers Eon Production has hired over the years to devise new adventures for Ian Fleming’s character. Feirstein kicked off months of agonizing efforts by multiple scribes when in 1996 he submitted his first draft for Bond 18, which would be titled Tomorrow Never Dies when it was released in December 1997.
You get the impression that Feirstein had watched a lot of 007 movies. The stage directons in one action scene says an entrance door explodes in a “thunderball of water.” In some cases, Feirtein maybe watced 007 films a little too closely. A meeting of villain Elliott Harmsway (renamed Carver in the final film) comes across as a little too close to Blofeld’s meeting with SPECTRE’s leadership in Thunderball. One of them has embezzled from Harmsway and, naturally, meets a premature end. We’re also told in the sequence that Saddam Hussein was on Harmsway’s payroll.
The McGuffin of the draft is also familiar territory. It’s the one-third of the U.K. gold reserves that had been stored in Hong Kong but is being moved back to London. It’s not even Goldfinger the movie, it’s like going back to Goldfinger the novel where that iconic villain actually wanted to steal the gold in Fort Knox. Harmsway also intends to cause a nuclear meltdown in Hong Kong because he’s angry at the impending giveback of Hong Kong to the Chinese.
Paris, the villain’s wife who formerly had a relationship with 007, is present — she’s even contacts MI6 to alert the agency about Harmsway’s plans. As in the finished product, Paris also meets an unpleasant end but it occurs pretty early in the story. There is no Wai Lin, the woman Chinese intelligence agent who’d be the lead female character of the finished film. Instead, the female lead character is named Sidney Winch, a former New York lawyer who runs a salvage ship. She also calls Harmsway “Uncle Elliott,” because the villain knew her father.
Feirstein’s draft also contains some bits that didn’t make Tomorrow Never Dies but would get included in The World Is Not Enough. There’s a fight at a bar where Bond plunges an icepick through a thug’s necktie, then kicks the chap’s bar stool out from under him.
Also, there’a line for Judi Dench’s M that, “Contrary to what you may believe, 007, the world is not filled with mad-men who can hollow out volcanoes, stock them with big-breasted women, and threaten the world with nuclear annihilation.” That reference to You Only Live Twice would get filmed for The World Is Not Enough, but be cut from the final version of that movie.
As we said, the ranks of people who’ve gotten to write a James Bond movie is relatively small. Feirstein got a writing credit on three 007 films in the 1990s. Eon had enough confidence in Feirstein to bring him back to write Tomorrow Never Dies’s final drafter after others had spent months revamping his original. Whatever you think of his work, he was undoubtedly under a lot of pressure at the time. The film would be Pierce Brosnan’s second Bond film and expectations were high.
Filed under: James Bond Films Tagged: | Bruce Feirstein, Goldfinger, James Bond Films, Judi Dench, Pierce Brosnan, Thunderball, Tomorrow Never Dies, Tomorrow Never Dies's first draft, You Only Live Twice