1994: a 007’s screenwriter’s prescient plot

Screenwriter Michael France was hired to script the 17th James Bond film, GoldenEye. His January 1994 FIRST DRAFT, would be worked over by other writers. But that original draft’s climatic sequence contained an idea that would, unfortunately, occur on Sept. 11, 2001: targeting the World Trade Center for an attack.

In France’s draft, the villain is Augustus Trevelyan, former head of MI6 who defected to the Soviet Union years ago. Bond has a personal reason for hating Trevelyan. In a flashback scene well into the script, Bond and two other 00-agents, believing Trevelyan to be captured, are on a mission to silence their chief. Bond passes up a chance to shoot Trevelyan and kills his guards instead. This turns out to be a trap and the other 00-agents are killed.

Trevelyan, described as being in his 60s, is retired from the KGB but has ambitious ideas hot to spend his golden years. As in the finished film, the McGuffin is a set of satellites that can be set off to create an electro-magnet pulse over a target. The project is called Tempest, rather than GoldenEye. On page 138 of the 157-page script, Trevelyan’s plot is revealed.

“Credit is due, James — I’ve broken into the finance computer for the wire theft,” Trevelyan says. “The clearing house computer for overseas wire trasactions in the World Trade Center.” He then “modestly” adds: “I had one of my men in place as new security protocols were created after the unfortunate bombing there.”

That last line apparently refers to the February 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center that was intended to destroy the office complex. The 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 did bring down the towers, costing thousands of lives.

In the France script, Trevelyan intends to steal $600 billion or so, then use the Tempest to destroy all evidence of the crime and the computer itself.

“A matter of accounting,” Trevelyan tells Bond. “Six hundred billion dollars balanced against one million lives? Merely dust on the globe.”

That basic plot device was retained in the final film, but with many changes. The target ends up being London. Trevelyan’s first name was changed to Alec, he became much younger and his background was altered to be the former 006. In that version, credited by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein, Trevelyan’s motivation is his parents were Russians who had helped the British in World War II but who were given up to the Soviets after the war.

Besides the eerie World Trade Center reference, there are other things of note in the France first draft. The writer actually uses two Ian Fleming characters that haven’t been seen in the 007 films: Loelia Ponsonby, Bond’s secretary, and Sir James Molony, here described as “consulting neurologist to the secret service.” France also brought back the character of KGB chief Pushkin from 1987’s The Living Daylights, a character created by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson.

France ultimately only got a “story by” credit for GoldenEye but many of his ideas, while altered, were incorporated in the movie. His female assassin was named Xenia Labyakova, rather than Onatopp. It’s also clear the writer has seen a lot of James Bond movies. France also wrote a scene where Trevelyan conducts a meeting of his associates, much like Blofeld’s meeting with SPECTRE operatives in Thunderball. Bruce Feirstein, one of the last writers to work on GoldenEye, did the same thing in his first draft for the next 007 film, Tomorrow Never Dies.