Tomorrow Never Dies’s 20th: Jigsaw puzzle

Tomorrow Never Dies poster

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Tomorrow Never Dies, a jigsaw puzzle of a production.

Just when the pieces seemed to be coming together one way, they had to be disassembled and put together another.

That condition certainly applied to the script. Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli initially employed Donald E. Westlake. That effort was dropped.

Next up, Bruce Feirstein, who had penned the later drafts of GoldenEye, started a new story line. Other scribes worked on the project before Feirstein returned, doing rewrites on the fly while filming was underway.

Locations ended up being a puzzle as well. Much of the story was set in Vietnam. But the Asian country abruptly revoked permission to film there. The Eon Productions crew had to quickly go to Thailand as a substitute.

The score from composer David Arnold would also be a jigsaw puzzle. The newcomer scored the movie in thirds. (He explained the process in detail in an audio interview with journalist Jon Burlingame that was released on a later expanded soundtrack release.) There would be next to no time for normal post-production work.

Principal photography didn’t begin until April 1, 1997, and production would extend into early September for a movie slated to open just before Christmas.

It was star Pierce Brosnan’s second turn as 007. In the documentary Everything or Nothing, he said his Bond films other than GoldenEye were all a blur. That blur began with this production.

Also, during the film’s buildup, the publicity machine emphasized how Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin, a Chinese agent, was Bond’s equal. This wasn’t exactly a new development. Barbara Bach’s Agent Triple-X in The Spy Who Loved Me was “his equal in every way,” according to that movie’s director, Lewis Gilbert. Nor would Tomorrow Never Dies be the last time “Bond’s equal” would come up in marketing.

In some ways, Tomorrow Never Dies was the end of an era.

It was the last opportunity to have John Barry return to score a Bond film. He declined when told he wouldn’t be permitted to write the title song. That opened up the door for Arnold, who’d score the next four 007 movies.

This would also be the final time a Bond movie was released under the United Artists banner. UA was a division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1997. Two years later, MGM decided to release The World is Not Enough under its own name.

The movie, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, generated global box office of $339.5 million. That was lower than GoldenEye’s $356.4 million. Still, it was more than ample to keep the series, and its Brosnan era, going.

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Murder on Relationships: The story between Paris and Bond

Publicity still from Tomorrow Never Dies

Publicity still from Tomorrow Never Dies

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Hidden among the pyrotechnics in Tomorrow Never Dies, there’s a character that has a particularity among the female leads in the James Bond saga. It’s Paris Carver, one of the leading ladies from the film that will celebrates its 20th anniversary later this year.

Paris had a past with Bond — a past that involved love. It that started as a flame, was interrupted for some years, and reignited when M sent her spy to a party in Hamburg to investigate Paris’ husband, media tycoon Eliott Carver, a prime suspect on the sinking of a British vessel.

Bond doubts she’ll remember him, in the world of fame and luxury she adopted thanks to her husband. “Remind her,” M (Judi Dench) responds. “Pump her for information.”

Teri Hatcher, the Californian actress picked for the role (then popular for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) summarized her character a bit: “She has to make a choice: be loyal to her cruel and unscrupulous husband, or help her former lover. Her decision is an integral part of the movie.”

First Draft

In Bruce Feirstein’s original draft, Paris Harmsway (her surname would change to Carver) was a former interest for Bond. There were no explanations. For some reason she left him and he felt very hurt for that, to the point he slaps her as she tries to tell him, “I love you.” Her development and fate is pretty similar to the one in the finished film.

Feirstein molded Paris in the shape of a typical socialite who marries a rich and powerful man, but what could been a new variation of Andrea Anders or Lupe Lamora (from The Man With The Golden Gun and Licence to Kill) had a different twist. This girl knew –and loved– him in the past, a relationship of mutual caring. In the final film, it was Bond who left her because she was getting “too close for comfort”.

Raymond Benson’s novelization sums up her background a bit, coinciding with the screenwriter idea: Her name was Paris McKenna, she was interested in modelling and only went to university to please her parents. She met Bond in a party seven years prior to the events of Tomorrow Never Dies. Both were fascinated for each other and dated for two months (a “stormy relationship,” in Benson’s words). When the romance was at its height, he disappeared without notice.

Apparently, a model surrounded by paparazzi and cameras was incompatible with Ian Fleming’s description of James Bond as “the man who was only a silhouette” (from the end of Moonraker).

Paris then met Elliot Carver. She was attracted by his histrionic personality, his power and for being “handsome in a way.” She married him three months later and dished away her desire of being a model. It is very much implied she lived into the shadow of his husband, becoming a possession of him and not necessarily happy with it, although not daring to confront him.

Jonathan Pryce as media baron Carver

Jonathan Pryce as media baron Carver

Reunion

Things would change – drastically – when Bond and Paris meet again.

During Carver’s party in Hamburg, Bond poses as a banker. Donning his impeccable midnight blue Brioni tuxedo, he approaches her, standing alone in a balcony, dressed in a sensual Ocimar Versolato black dress.

The sighting of Paris alone while Carver was funnily talking about how he overhyped the Mad Cow disease as a beef industrialist refused to pay him a poker game winning shows a certain distance, a hatred feeling on his husband life and soul of the party antics.

“I always wondered how I’d feel if I ever saw you again,” he teels her.

The female pride incarnates in Paris’ body and she soundly slaps Bond for leaving him. She pretends to be much better now, and warns Bond that he’ll be in trouble if he tries to run down the “Emperor of the Air.” As much as Bond is playing the cover of a banker, Paris is playing another cover: Masquerading into the “I’m OK” attitude of the socialite who marries a powerful man.

Not much later, 007 will be discovered by and then subdue some Carver thugs. Bond cuts Carver (Jonathan Pryce) off the air during the inaugural speech in the process.

Later, Paris seeks out Bond. The situation would end in one of the most believable love moments in the franchise: Throwing her “happy mannequin wife” cover away, Paris reveals she has missed him ever since, wondering if she came to close for him. They share a passionate and romantic kiss, in a moment that distillates equal measures of erotism and genuine love from the duo.

Love Returns

Their long lost love comes back in that instant. She betrays her husband and informs Bond of the entrance of Carver’s pressroom. Before leaving, she says: “This job of yours, its murder for relationships,” highlighting the key reason they previously split up.

After much mayhem at the Carver facility, Bond returns his hotel room. The agent finds Paris lying dead on his bed. He kisses her lifeless body. We see a hint of guilt and sadness in Pierce Brosnan’s eyes in a brilliant portrayal of 007.

Paris Carver is one of the most drama charged relationship Bond has had.

Interestingly, Sheryl Crow’s title song seems to be a requiem for Paris, talking from the point of a “killed” woman describing Bond’s lifestyle as “murder on our love affair.”

1995: 007 convention, the sequel

Program for the 1995 James Bond convention in New York. Image courtesy of Steve Oxenrider.

Program for the 1995 James Bond convention in New York. Image courtesy of Steve Oxenrider.

In November 1995, James Bond was about to end a six-year hiatus from the screen in GoldenEye. So, a few days before its U.S. premiere, the second — and final — James Bond convention produced by Creation Entertainment was held in New York.

On Nov. 12, 1995, fans again traveled at attend an officially sanctioned 007 convention. The new Bond, Pierce Brosnan, put in an appearance as did other members of the cast.

What follows are by no means the only highlights. But they may be interesting to those who couldn’t make it.

Bond quiz: Like the 1994 convention in Los Angeles, the 1995 edition featured a “beat the experts” session. Audience members tried to outfox a panel of 007 experts for fun and prizes.

I was among those who gave it a try. My question: Name the three Bond movies where Bond didn’t don a tuxedo.

After conferring, the panel answered You Only Live Twice and Live And Let Die but that there was no third film.

I replied something to the effect, “To that list you have to add From Russia With Love, where it’s Bond’s double who wears the tuxedo but not Bond.”

There was a momentary dispute but the moderator said I got the prize. He quickly grabbed a pair of 007 boxer shorts. I hesitated.

“Are you man enough?” the host asked. As a result, I came up and claimed the prize.

Screenwriter question: At one point, the schedule had to be altered on the fly. So, Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson and writer Bruce Feirstein came out to take audience questions.

Earlier that year, writer Donald E. Westlake, in a column in The Indianapolis News, said he was writing the next Bond film after GoldenEye. It was the only place I had ever seen that news. So I got in line to ask about it.

My memory is that Feirstein was the first to talk, looking at Wilson and asking, “He is?” Wilson’s said something to the effect that Westlake might end up writing for Bond some day.

Many years later, more details have emerged about the late author’s Bond writing effort, which is to be issued as a novel with Bond removed from the proceedings.

The new Bond: Pierce Brosnan, naturally, was the star attraction. Anticipation for his appearance had been building throughout the afternoon. At one point in the program, the GoldenEye titles were shown.

By the time Brosnan appeared, fans came were ready with more than just good wishes. They came with presents. Lots of presents. The pile of presents grew and grew the longer Brosnan spoke.

One can only guess what Brosnan was feeling. The role had almost been his nine years earlier. Now, he had it. The convention was a reminder there’s a whole lot more that accompanies playing James Bond that just a (hefty) paycheck.

Then it was over. For whatever reason, Creation Entertainment didn’t produce future Bond conventions. Bond was back, however. The two conventions had done what they were intended to do, helping revive interest in Agent 007.

An image of the New York convention is below. Thanks to reader Steven Oxenrider who provided it.

 

Schedule for the 1995 007 convention, image courtesy of Steve Oxenrider.

Schedule for the 1995 007 convention, image courtesy of Steve Oxenrider.

 

GoldenEye’s 20th anniversary: 007 begins anew

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

GoldenEye, the 17th James Bond film, had a lot riding on it, not the least of which was the future of the 007 franchise.

It had been six years since the previous Bond film, Licence to Kill. A legal fight between Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had kept 007 out of movie theaters. In 1990, Danjaq, the holding company for Eon, was put up for sale, although it never changed hands.

After the dispute was settled came the business of trying kick start production.

Timothy Dalton ended up exiting the Bond role so a search for a replacement began. Eon boss Albert R. Broccoli selected Pierce Brosnan — originally chosen for The Living Daylights but who lost the part when NBC ordered additional episodes of the Remington Steele series the network had canceled.

Brosnan’s selection would be one of Broccoli’s last major moves. The producer, well into his 80s, underwent heart surgery in the summer of 1994 and turned over the producing duties to his daughter and stepson, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli himself would only take a presenting credit in the final film.

Various writers were considered. The production team opted to begin pre-production on a story devised by Michael France.

His 1994 first draft was considerably different than the final film. France’s villain was Augustus Trevelyan, former head of MI6 who had defected to the Soviet Union years earlier. Bond also had a personal grudge against Trevelyan.

Other writers — Jeffrey Caine, Kevin Wade and Bruce Feirstein — were called in to rework the story.  The villain became Alec Trevelyan, formerly 006 and now head of the Janus crime syndicate in the post-Cold War Russia. In addition, the final script included a new M (Judi Dench), giving Bond a woman superior. Caine and Feirstein would get the screenplay credit while France only received a “story by” credit.

In the 21st century, many Bond fans assume 007 will always be a financial success. In the mid 1990s, those working behind the scenes didn’t take success for granted.

“Wilson and (Barbara) Broccoli already knew that GoldenEye was a one-shot chance to reintroduce Bond,” John Cork and Bruce Scivally wrote in the 2002 book James Bond: The Legacy. “After Cubby’s operation, they also knew the fate of the film — and James Bond — rested on their shoulders.”

GoldenEye’s crew had  new faces to the 007 series. Martin Campbell assumed duties as the movie’s director. Daniel Kleinman became the new title designer. His predecessor, Maurice Binder, had died in 1991. Eric Serra was brought on as composer, delivering a score unlike the John Barry style.

One familiar face, special effects and miniatures expert Derek Meddings, returned. He hadn’t worked on a Bond since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. GoldenEye would be his last 007 contribution. He died in September 1995, before the film’s release.

In the end, GoldenEye came through, delivering worldwide box office of $352.2 million. Bruce Feirstein, who had done the final rewrites of the script, was hired to write the next installment. Bond was back.

 

MI6 Confidential looks at SPECTRE, Donald E. Westlake

SPECTRE LOGO

The newest issue of MI6 Confidential takes a look at a key segment in the upcoming SPECTRE as well as a prominent American author’s try at writing a James Bond movie.

Among the articles is a feature about the movie’s 300-member second unit and the work it did on a Rome car chase involving the Aston Martin DB10 Bond drives. The sequence is one of the highlights of the 24th James Bond film.

Also a part of the issue is an article concerning “the little-known story” about author Donald E. Westlake’s 1995 treatment for a Bond film, according to an MI6 Confidential promo.

Westlake (1933-2008) was a prolific author of crime stories. But his 007 writing effort hasn’t received much attention until now.

In 1995, Westlake was interviewed by a columnist for The Indianapolis News while the author was at a crime writing festival in Muncie, Indiana. The column quoted Westlake as saying he was going to write the next James Bond movie — not the then-upcoming GoldenEye but the next film after that.

Producer Michael G. Wilson was asked during a Q&A sessions with fans at a November 1995 convention in New York about Westlake’s remarks. Wilson confirmed that Eon Productions had been in touch with Westlake, and said that the author might someday write a Bond movie. The next movie turned out to be Tomorrow Never Dies, which was started by Bruce Feirstein, rewritten (without credit) by others and finished by Feirstein.

For more information about the new issue, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros.

1998: the Purvis & Wade era begins

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, at six movies and counting, are No. 2 among credited 007 screenwriters, behind only Richard Maibaum at 13. Their tenure began with a first draft script for The World Is Not Enough, submitted June 15, 1998.

The copy this blog got from Bond collector Gary Firuta.

The script weighs in at 109 pages. The rule-of-thumb for scripts is they average out at one minute of running time per page. The final movie, released in November 1999, was 128 minutes. The first draft would eventually be rewritten separately by Dana Stevens and Bruce Feirstein. Feirstein would share the screenplay credit with Purvis and Wade.

Overall, the 1998 first draft is closer to the final product than either Michael France’s first draft for GoldenEye or Feirstein’s first draft for Tomorrow Never Dies. There are still significant differences, but the basic plot and many set pieces are present in the initial effort by Purvis and Wade.

The pre-credits sequence of the first draft is similar to the final movie with a couple of major differences. It opens in Havana, instead of Bilbao, Spain. Later, in London, Bond takes off after the woman assassin with a jet pack instead of the gadget-laden Q boat.

Bond uses the jet pack to get ahead of the woman assassin in her boat. She spots him “minus jet pack, standing at the front of a moored ship, feet apart, poised to start firing.” The two fire at each other. She’s hit and “crashes into the side of the ship.”

This sets up a bit of a cliffhanger as an explosion ensues “lighting up the evening sky, enveloping James Bond and burning us into our….TITLES.”

Of course, Bond survives (it’d be a short movie it he didn’t), but after the titles we see a funeral. It takes an exchange between M and Bill Tanner to establish it’s the funeral for businessman Robert King (thus establishing it’s not 007’s funeral). We don’t actually see Bond until the next scene.

In this draft, Q is around for a bit longer than in the final film, which would be actor Desmond Llewelwyn’s final appearance in the role. There’s no “R,” the Q deputy John Cleese would play. There’s also no sign of Robinson, the aide to M who debuted in Tomorrow Never Dies. As a result, Tanner gets more dialogue.

The woman doctor Bond gets to clear him for duty is named Greatrex instead of Molly Warmflash.

The character of Christmas Jones is present, but there’s a bit of a difference. Here, she’s  a “BEAUTIFUL FRENCH POLYNESIAN GIRL,” and “is a mid-twenties, shortish hair, hot right now.”  She also speaks with a French accent.

Her entrance is much like the final movie. When she gets out of protective suit she has “a khaki sports bra, similar shorts, heavy duty boots. Deep tan, incredible figure. Totally unselfconscious.” The part ended up going to American actress Denise Richards.

The biggest structural difference in this draft compared with the movie is that M stays put and doesn’t go out into the field. Thus, M is never kidnapped and put into peril. Later versions of the script added that element, which would be the start of the trend where Judi Dench’s M leaves the office a lot to deal with Bond away from MI6 headquarters. That became a way for the series to provide more screen time for the Oscar-winning actress.

Finally, the first draft — similar to Bruce Feirstein’s first draft for Tomorrow Never Dies — makes occasional references to earlier 007 films.

Besides the jet pack (a nod to Thunderball) in the pre-titles sequence, Bond initially travels to see Elektra King posing as David Somerset (an alias Bond used in From Russia With Love). Here, the David Somerset cover is supposed to be a public relations expert in crisis communications.

Anyway, for Purvis and Wade this was just the start. The duo have made five 007 encores, including SPECTRE, the 24th 007 film that comes out this fall. With SPECTRE, the duo revised drafts by John Logan.

 

 

SPECTRE: newest twist on 007 product placement

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers.

James Bond movies have never been shy about product placement. SPECTRE may just be a twist on a long-standing tradition.

For decades, the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions has cut deals with companies pitching their wares. Goldfinger did deals with Ford Motor Co. and Gillette. With Thunderball, not only did Ford provide vehicles but then-CEO Henry Ford II appeared as an extra. Moonraker had deals with Marlboro, 7 Up and British Airways.

By the time Pierce Brosnan was 007 (1995-2002), writer Bruce Feirstein, in his FIRST DRAFT for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, didn’t even specify a car model for 007’s vehicle. It just said “(Insert name).”

What’s different about SPECTRE is it may amount to being product placement for a country — Mexico, to be specific — than a series of companies.

The Tax Analysts website, which is targeted at tax professionals, PUBLISHED A MARCH 3 ARTICLE detailing how SPECTRE’s script was altered to take advantage of as much as $20 million in Mexican incentives. (If you click on the link, there are spoilers.)

The incentives are intended to make Mexico look as good as possible in movies, according to the website. The country has reason to do so, according to AN ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST. Here’s an excerpt:

The Mexican government’s sensitivities to its violent reputation are no secret. When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012, he tried to minimize the focus on the drug war while emphasizing economic and political reforms. But ongoing high-profile violence, including battles in Michoacan and the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, has undercut that message.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. For blockbuster movies, access to the vast Chinese market is a must. The 2013 movie Iron Man 3 was a co-production with China. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn turned the villains into North Koreans instead of Chinese.

With SPECTRE, according to Tax Analysts, it was more of a direct subsidy. SPECTRE’s budget may exceed $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made.

Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that owns half the Bond franchise, emerged from bankruptcy only a few years ago. It doesn’t even release its own movies, cutting deals with Sony Pictures (including the 007 films) or Warner Bros. (the now-completed Hobbit series). For MGM, $300 million is a huge bet, even for a 007 film and even though the most recent Bond movie (Skyfall) had a worldwide box office of $1.1 billion.

Put another way, $300 million is real money. Some Bond fans may get annoyed with product placement but they don’t have to sign the checks. As a result, it’s understandable why MGM would be willing to change SPECTRE’s story in return for millions of dollars.