About that John Hodge script for Bond 25

Last month, The Guardian published a story about John Hodge’s scripting efforts for a new television version of The Ipcress Files. But the scribe made a few comments about Bond 25, later to be titled No Time to Die.

Hodge’s comments suggest there was, perhaps, less than met the eye.

In 2018, there was hype, led by Deadline: Hollywood, that Hodge and director Danny Boyle had a spectacularly wonderful idea for Bond 25. So wonderful that Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would set aside a Neal Purvis-Robert Wade script in development for almost a year.

In May 2018, Eon and MGM announced Boyle was directing Bond 25, with Hodge writing. Previous announcements referencing Purvis and Wade were forgotten. Then, in August 2018, Boyle was gone, departing over “creative differences.”

What happened? Here are Hodge’s limited comments to The Guardian:

“I think it was me they really wanted rid of, but Danny took the bullet, too,” says Hodge. Do non-disclosure agreements cover their departure? “No. Just decent British discretion!”

At the time Hodge and Boyle learned they would not write another day, there were suggestions they had spooked the producers by pitching an incredibly subversive storyline. But the released movie contains a twist at least as dramatic, which seems to disprove the rumour they had gone too far. “My understanding was that that twist had been decided even before we came on board because Daniel Craig wanted it. I think, with us, it was that old cliche “creative differences”. It felt very dramatic at the time but it was just another bump in the road of the Bond franchise.”

The twist, of course, was James Bond would die at the end of the movie. British tabloids carried stories that either Eon wanted Bond to die or Boyle desired it.

Hodge’s comments suggest this was always going to be the case. That doesn’t mean there weren’t differences in the Boyle-Hodge version and the final film. At one point, there were Russian gulag sets being constructed in Canada as well as a mockup of a rocket (as disclosed by production designer Mark Tildesley in a 2020 video interview).

Hodge’s comments also raise the question whether his and Boyle’s idea was all that wonderful. In the end, Eon’s infatuation with Boyle and Hodge cost untold amounts of money as well as several months of precious time.

Had Eon been more efficient in the production process, No Time to Die would have avoided multiple delays stemming from COVID-19. The movie’s original release date was for the fall of 2019.

Admittedly, hindsight is perfect. Still, to cite a World War II slogan, was this trip really necessary?