Ben Hecht’s Casino Royale

Yet another chapter in the saga of Casino Royale‘s journey from the page to the screen has been uncovered.

Ben Hecht

From 1954’s TV adaptation to 1967’s comedy aberration to 2006’s triumphal Eon series entry, Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel has been kicking around Hollywood from almost the time of its initial publication. (HMSS’s Bill Koenig has previously written about Howard Hawks having considered filming it.) Now, Jeremy Duns reports in today’s The Telegraph that no less than Ben Hecht, “the Shakespeare of Hollywood,” had taken several swings at adapting the problematic novel for the big screen.

In 1954, producer and director Gregory Ratoff bought a six-month option, and the next year purchased outright, the film rights to 007’s first adventure. In 1956, it was announced that 20th Century Fox would release Ratoff’s production, scripted by a “noted scenarist.” Ratoff’s death in 1960 eventually led to the CR screen rights going to Charles Feldman, who eventually turned to Ben Hecht to write a screenplay. Hecht is best known to film fans as the writer of Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound and Notorious, and Howard Hawks’ The Front Page and Scarface. Hecht would eventually write four scripts of varying faithfulness to the Fleming novel — a couple of which seemed to be attempts to shoehorn the film into the Broccoli & Saltzman Eon James Bond series!

Duns’ story, Casino Royale: discovering the lost script, is a must-read for James Bond fans, movie fans, and students of the history of cinema. You’ll be amazed and intrigued (and perhaps a little regretful that it never came to pass).

The Times runs excerpts from Carte Blanche

News Corp.’s The Times of London today has excerpts of Jeffery Deaver’s new James Bond continuation novel, Carte Blanche. The Times is a subscription-only Web site, so you’ll have to pay to see it. You can CLICK HERE to access the Web site, where you’ll be prompted how to pay for access.

Our (not so serious) Bond 23 product placement suggestions

So, Sony and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer want product placement to provide one-third of Bond 23’s production budget, according to a Sunday Times story that ran in The Australian recently. Are there new ways this can be accomplished? New sources of product placement may have to be found that go beyond the usual car and watch deals. We have some ideas:

Bond at breakfast: The hallmark of the Daniel Craig 007 era is that it’s supposed to be gritty and real , no more of the hokey one liners, no more hackneyed, fantasy plots. This is REAL LIFE (except when the laws of physics are violated, but that’s artistic, so it’s OK). What’s more gritty and real life than eating breakfast? This is real life, after all.

Think of it. No 007 movie has shown Bond having breakfast. The closest we got was Sean Connery ordering yogurt and green figs for the next morning in a scene in From Russia With Love. The script could be crafted that Bond is thinking really, REALLY hard about something at breakfast. Daniel Craig can look angry, he could look inquisitive, whatever furthers the story. And while he does that, he can have Kelogg’s Frosted Fakes, or Dannon yogurt or an Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s, or whoever offers the best deal.

This would have the added benefit of being true to the spirit of Ian Fleming, whose original 007 novels featured a lot of detail on what Bond ate. As the MBA types would say, it’s a win-win situation.

Bond at the gym: If the Bond 23 story included some sexual tension between 007 and a female character, it could be set up this way: Bond and the woman exchange some banter. The woman could say something suggestive.

“Well,” Bond replies, “I really have to work out first.” The woman says in a sultry manner, “I’d really love to see that.”

We cut to Bond at the gym working out. Nike, no doubt, would gladly pony up big bucks to get its name on Bond’s gym clothes. Some of Nike’s competitors would offer a lot just to make sure Nike wouldn’t get into the movie.

This also fits into how the Craig 007 movies are gritty and real, not fantasy. After all, ripped bodies like Craig/Bond don’t just happen. They’re the result of a lot of hard work and dedication. It would reinforce how 007 is a dedicated, serious character, not some quipster.

Bond staking out his quarry: In the gritty and real world, 007 can’t just wonder into some place and just spring into action. If the story calls for it, we could see his gritty and real determination to get information, to get an opponent. We could see him parked discreetly away, spending hours patiently waiting for the right moment to strike. And while he’s doing so, he can drink a coffee from Starbucks, or one of its competitors. Once more, this would reinforce the themes of the Daniel Craig era.

As Marc Forester might say, each product placement is its own character, it has its own contribution, it helps to make it real. These suggestions help further that artistic vision.