About getting around WGA writing credits

No Time to Die poster

No Time to Die already had four credited screenwriters. A fifth, Scott Z. Burns, didn’t get a credit despite a lot of publicity when he joined the project. A sixth, John Hodge was brought on during director Danny Boyle’s short-lived tenure.

And, less noticed, a seventh writer, Nick Cuse, got a “consultant” credit for No Time to Die.

Cuse had worked on projects with Boyle’s successor, Cary Joji Fukunaga. Cuse has since gone after Fukunaga on social media, claiming the director stole credit for Cuse’s work, although the scribe did NOT specify the project involved.

The Writers Guild of America is supposed to have the final say on writer credits on films and TV shows released in the U.S. But, on occasion, projects try to get around those rules.

Example: With the first two Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve, there were serious drafts (courtesy of Mario Puzo) and campy drafts (courtesy of David and Leslie Newman). Tom Mankiewicz was assigned the job of melding these, similar to how James Bond films balanced drama and humor.

For his work, Mankiewicz got a “creative consultant” credit (part of the main titles) but wasn’t part of the screenplay credit.

Another example: the 1990 Dick Tracy movie. When the film’s novelization by Max Allan Collins came out, the title page said it was based “on a screenplay by Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr. and Bo Goldman & Warren Beatty.”

The problem: The Cash-Epps writing team filed an arbitration with the WGA. They won. They got the sole writing credit on the finished film.

Beatty was already star, producer and director, so he was fine. But Beatty slipped in an alternative credit for Goldman in the end titles.

NTTD crew member criticizes Fukunaga, MI6 HQ reports

Cary Joji Fukunaga

Nick Cuse, a writer and producer who received a consultant credit on No Time to Die, has criticized the film’s director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, for stealing credit on projects, the MI6 James Bond website reported.

Cuse made a post on Instagram that included the following:

Cary Fukunaga is the worst human being I have ever met in my life. He didn’t groom me to fuck me but he did use a lot of the same tactics to get me to write his scripts for him. Which he would then put his name on. One time, after spending three weeks on a script, he made me open up the cover page and type his name under “Written By”. I had to literally type the stolen credit with my own fingers. 

The post doesn’t specify the project or projects involved. Cuse and Fukunaga worked on the television series Maniac. In addition to directing No Time to Die, Fukunaga was one of four credited screenwriters.

The Cuse criticism occurred after three actresses — Rachelle Vinberg and twins Hannah and Cailin Loesch — accused Fukunaga of predatory behavior. The accusations have been written about at sites such as The Wrap and Jezebel.

Danny Boyle talks about Bond 25

Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle, as part of an Esquire profile, said his version of Bond 25 would have been “all set in Russia, which is of course where Bond came from, out of the Cold War.

“It was set in present-day Russia and went back to his origins, and they just lost, what’s the word… they just lost confidence in it,” the director told Esquire.

This isn’t entirely surprising. Thanks to an interview that production designer Mark Tildesley did, it was known that a Russian gulag set was being constructed in Canada. Also, during the Boyle period of Bond 25, a replica rocket was built.

Boyle also said his screenwriter, John Hodge, also introduced a Bond’s child character.

“The idea that they used in a different way was the one of [James Bond’s] child, which [Hodge] introduced [and which] was wonderful,” Boyle told the magazine.

Boyle also expressed to Esquire a stronger misgiving about becoming involved in a franchise movie.

“I remember thinking, ‘Should I really get involved in franchises?’ Because they don’t really want something different,. They want you to freshen it up a bit, but not really challenge it, and we wanted to do something different with it.”

Bond 25 (eventually titled No Time to Die) began pre-production in 2017 with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as writers. Then, Boyle and Hodge figuratively raised their hands with their idea. In May 2018, it was announced Boyle would direct from a Hodge script.

Before the end of the summer of 2018, Boyle and Hodge exited. Purvis and Wade returned, with Cary Fukunaga directing (and writing also). The switch helped delay the project by about six months. COVID-19 then caused additional delays. No Time to Die didn’t come out until fall 2021.

United Artists Releasing makes a NTTD script available

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis. (Paul Baack illustration)

United Artists Releasing, which distributed No Time to Die in the U.S., has made a version of the movie’s script available as part of a push to get awards for the Bond film.

UAR has put a PDF of the script online. It’s described as a final script. That suggests it reflects the final version of the movie seen in theaters, pay-per-view, and home video.

As a result, there are likely no clues as to which writers (the credited Neal Purvis and Robert Wade team, director Cary Fukunaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as well as the uncredited Scott Z. Burns) contributed what.

Still, for those who collect Bond scripts, there are interesting tidbits in the stage directions.

For example, there is this passage when the movie switches from a young Madeline Swann to an adult one.

EXT. GROTTO ON THE SEA, ITALY – DAY

SOUNDS OF OCEAN WAVES CRASHING

Madeline breaks the surface of the water as if Safin was pulling her out –

She gasps but is frozen — opens her eyes, he is gone. It was just a vision.

BOND stands like Adonis on a lido overlooking the sea. She turns, feeling his eyes on her.

BOND

You okay?

Madeline smiles, burying the past trauma. She’s been dealing with this for years.

United Artists Releasing is a joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, and Annapurna Pictures.

Bond 25 questions: Final box office edition

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film, has more or less reached the end of its theatrical release. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What are the final numbers? It’s not final, but it appears No Time to Die will come in globally at No. 2 among non-Chinese movies ($774 million) while No. 007 in the U.S. ($160.8 million), behind Spider-Man No Way Home, Shang-Chi, and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Black Widow, F9: The Fast Saga, and Eternals.

Behind the Eternals? Really? Eternals was commonly viewed as a weak entry (box office wise) since Marvel began making its own movies with 2008’s Iron Man. But, yes, Eternals came a bit ahead, in the U.S., of No Time to Die.

How do you explain the difference for No Time to Die globally vs. the U.S.?

Beats me.

Eon Productions, for years (at least since 2015), says it controls the marketing of Bond films and studios merely execute those plans.

Since at least 1997, Eon talking points include how women characters in Bond newer films are much stronger than characters in classic Bond films. (Honey Rider, Tatiana Romonva, Pussy Galore, Domino, et. al.)

By now, it’s routine for Bond actresses to proclaim their characters are much stronger than earlier Bond women characters.

In 2012, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli told The Evening Standard, ““Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over.”

More recently, No Time to Die director Cary Funkunaga said the Sean Connery version of Bond was “basically” a rapist.

Also, Daniel Craig, in the midst of a 15-year as Bond, said the character was a misogynist. (Definition: “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.”) When your star calls the character he’s playing that way, it’s hard to argue the point.

That’s especially true when Barbara Broccoli considers Craig the best Bond ever.

Is it time to revamp U.S. Bond film marketing in the U.S.?

Perhaps. Until now, nobody has ever called Eon on its U.S. marketing strategy.

Does anything change in the future?

We’ll see once Amazon completes its acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. Maybe there will be changes. Maybe not.

About genre movies fighting for Oscars love

No Time to Die poster

Studios are in the midst of their blitz to get some love from the Oscars. And that includes lobbying efforts for genre movies to gain some recognition.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, has been lobbying for No Time to Die to get awards while the ultimate goal is the Oscars. Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios are moving to get Spider-Man No Way Home some Oscar love.

Once upon a time, popular movies did pretty well at the Oscars. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), a Cecil B. DeMille schlockfest *won* the Best Picture Oscar. I like Greatest Show but there’s no denying the schlock factor.

Star Wars (1977) was nominated for Best Picture. The movie won Oscars for art direction and score among other awards but fell short of actually winning Best Picture.

In more recent decades, it’s been hard for genre movies to get a lot of Oscar recognition outside of technical awards. There were some exceptions such as Best Actor awards for The Dark Knight (2008) and The Joker (2019). Ironically, both actors involved (Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix) played different versions of the same character.

It’s kind of tough to get Oscar love for playing a hero in a genre movie.

One big exception was Black Panther (2018), a Marvel film that was a big hit while highlighting a Black cast. It got a Best Picture nomination and won a few Oscars, including best score.

All of which brings us to the current situation. MGM is pushing a bit of everything, including star Daniel Craig, director Cary Fukunaga, the writing team and, of course, Best Picture.

Meanwhile, Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman (who said he hates Spider-Man No Way Home) presented a somewhat cynical reason why the academy should nominate the comic book movie anyway.

 If you want an Academy Awards telecast that wins more eyeballs than it loses, you’re going to have to nominate some of the movies that win eyeballs. I don’t disagree with that argument, and in a sense it’s the one I’m making. But this isn’t simply about numbers. It’s about a perception that drives the numbers. Sure, if “No Way Home” gets nominated, a swath of its vast fan base might tune into the Oscars that wouldn’t have otherwise. But what I’m really talking about is the essential idea that movies are, and always have been, a populist art form. If that dimension of cinema isn’t respected, something has gone wrong.

We’ll see how this turns out. The Bond films went almost 50 years between Oscars wins (special effects for Thunderball and two awards for Skyfall). Skyfall got five nominations and won two. But the Bond series has never been nominated for acting or directing.

As for Spider-Man No Way Home? Who knows? Actors and directors love to dump on comic book-based movies but a number of stars have signed on comic book-based movies.

Official NTTD podcast takes a victory lap

No Time to Die poster

Spoilers for No Time to Die (final warning for the blog regarding No Time to Die) If you haven’t seen the movie by now, too bad.

No Time to Die’s official podcast released a new episode this week. It was part of the 25th James Bond film taking a victory lap.

No Time to Die is the biggest box office movie of 2021 among non-Chinese movies. As of Dec. 10, its global box office figure is $765.2 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Some highlights from the official podcast episode:

-Special effects wizard Chris Corbould: “You need to bring new blood and new energy” into the franchise. Corbould says the scene with the demise of Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) was done at Pinewood Studios.

– Eon’s Michael G. Wilson: “It’s quite flattering this” movie got people back into cinema.

–Director Cary Fukunaga: “It’s surreal…the way people got out for repeat viewings. It’s pretty amazing.”

–Eon’s Barbara Broccoli: “We wanted this film to be really an homage to the films that have come before…The emotional context of this film is deeply imbued with the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

— Director Fukunaga: The director says he hadn’t seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) until he was hired to direct No Time to Die.

–Fukunaga (again): Says the You Only Live Twice novel was “a big influence.”

–Co-screenwriter Robert Wade:, re: how Nomi was the new 007: “It was Barbara’s (Broccoli) idea to make it was a female 007, as far as I remember.”

-Daniel Craig about the movie’s ending: “We knew where we wanted to get to.”

–Corbould (again) about the ending: “I still shed a tear…The music really got me….It was the end of an era, really.”

–Fukunaga (again): about filming Craig’s final scenes “It was very much a closed set.”

-Eon’s Wilson (again) about Bond’s demise: “A lot of us (were) thinking that was the right way to go….It seemed like it was a situation we could tackle for the first time in the Bond series.”

–Eon’s Broccoli: “We’ve been trying to work the poison garden (from the You Only Live Twice novel) into the story for so many movies.”

–Broccoli: “I think it was Michael who came up with the idea of the DNA-targeted weapon.”

-Broccoli (yet again): “Daniel’s performance is extraordinary.”

-Wilson (talking about Eon’s co-founder Albert R. Broccoli): “I think he would have been very happy with Daniel as the Bond.”

Purvis & Wade say #MeToo didn’t affect their work

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis. (Paul Baack illustration)

Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, in an interview with The Guardian, say the #MeToo movement didn’t affect their work on No Time to Die.

“I don’t think we did anything differently because of that,” Wade told The Guardian. “We’ve never wanted to be sexist: it doesn’t look good for Bond. I’ve got daughters, and I wouldn’t want him not to be a good role model.” 

The comment was part of a broader profile of the writing duo, who have been involved writing every James Bond film since 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

The comment also is interesting because the notion that No Time to Die reflects an adjustment to #MeToo had been a talking point in publicity for the film. #MeToo, per Wikipedia, refers to “a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment where people publicize allegations of sex crimes.”

For example, there’s this excerpt from a November 2019 article in The Hollywood Reporter.

No Time to Die will be the first entry in the series to land in a #MeToo and Time’s Up world. And while the $7 billion franchise may forever be best known for its womanizing namesake agent, director Fukunaga (True Detective, Beasts of No Nation) and producer Barbara Broccoli have worked hard with both (Lashana) Lynch and (Ana) de Armas to create a new type of female Bond character who is much more fully realized than the “Bond girls” of films past.

“It’s pretty obvious that there is an evolution in the fact that Lashana is one of the main characters in the film and wears the pants — literally. I wear the gown. She wears the pants,” says de Armas.

In a September 2021 story, director Cary Fukunaga told The Hollywood Reporter that #MeToo did have an impact.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for the film was bringing its globe-trotting lothario into Hollywood’s post-#MeToo reality. After all, No Time to Die began development in 2016, before the industry embarked on a period of self-reflection in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall for predatory behavior. Though Craig’s oeuvre puts a greater emphasis on the quality of drinks than the quantity of women, the history of Bond includes casual misogyny and worse.

“Is it Thunderball or Goldfinger where, like, basically Sean Connery’s character rapes a woman?” Fukunaga asks. “She’s like ‘No, no, no,’ and he’s like, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ That wouldn’t fly today.”

In addition to directing, Fukunaga shared the screenwriting credit with the Purvis and Wade team as well as Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

In 2019, in a video interview in Jamaica, Barbara Broccoli, the boss of Eon Productions, also said #MeToo had an impact on No Time to Die, which was about to start principal photography.

“The #MeToo movement came at the right time — I mean long overdue,” Broccoli said during that interview. “It’s had a huge impact on the world…I think everything we do has to reflect that. So I think the film absolutely will incorporate that.”

No Time to Die’s Oscar push is underway

No Time to Die poster

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and United Artists Releasing (the MGM-Annapurna joint venture that distributed No Time to Die in the U.S.) are inviting people to screenings of No Time to Die in Los Angeles and New York as part of a push to get the 25th James Bond movie Oscar nominations.

The Los Angeles screenings are today (Nov. 5), Nov. 12, Nov. 13 and Nov. 15. The New York showings are Nov. 14, Nov. 18 and Nov. 24.

The invitations include “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION IN ALL CATEGORIES” including:

BEST PICTURE: Michael G. Wilson, p.g.a, Barbara Broccoli, p.g.a. (That’s Producers Guild of America)

BEST ACTOR: Daniel Craig

BEST DIRECTOR: Cary Joji Fukunaga

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Purvis, Wade, Fukunaga, Waller-Bridge

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Malek, Waltz, Wright, Fiennes, Whishaw, Magnuson

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Seydoux, Lynch, Harris, de Armas.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

BEST EDITING

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

BEST SOUND

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (listing only Hans Zimmer, not Steve Mazzaro, his co-composer)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

This is the summary of the movie included in the invitations:

Daniel Craig concludes his five-film portrayal of James Bond in NO TIME TO DIE, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Joining forces with his MI6 team (Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris) and a new generation of agents (Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas), Bond faces the highest stakes of his espionage career confronting a global threat devised by Safin (Rami Malek) that has estranged his beloved Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux) and emotionally explores the sacrifices of heroism. The adapted screenplay is by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The original song “No Time to Die” is written and sung by Billie Ellish.

Where No Time to Die went wrong financially

Danny Boyle

Spoilers for those who haven’t seen No Time to Time.

Hindsight, the saying goes, is always 20-20. For No Time to Die, the major financial misstep was when Danny Boyle came aboard as director.

That’s not because Boyle is a bad filmmaker — far from it. Rather, Boyle was hired (along with his preferred screenwriter John Hodge) and the duo would be at odds with Eon Productions.

Eon had spent much of 2017 developing a script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Then, sometime in 2018, the Boyle-Hodge team pitched an idea that Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, fell in love with.

By May 2018, Eon and MGM announced that Bond 25 would be directed by Boyle and written by Hodge. Over the next few months, a large rocket model would be constructed as well as a Russian gulag set built in Canada.

Those details would be disclosed by Mark Tildesley, the project’s production designer, in a spring 2020 video interview. Tildesley was recruited to the project by Boyle.

However, by August 2018, Boyle was out because of “creative differences.”

So much for all that set construction. Welcome back, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. We have a new director (Cary Fukunaga) for you to work with.

Now that the movie is out, the source of the creative differences is out. Eon (and Daniel Craig) wanted one thing for the ending while Boyle wanted something else.

The MI6 James Bond website, on the Oct. 9 edition of its James Bond and Friends podcast said the following about the movie’s ending:

“We’ve heard it from multiple, well-connected sources that it was Craig’s stipulation to do the film.”

As a result of all this, No Time to Die ended up costing (at least) one-and-a-half movies. But it only has *one* revenue stream. There was a lot of unnecessary spending and a lack of financial discipline.

No Time to Die’s global box office exceeds $525 million. That makes it one of the most popular movies in the post-COVID-19 era. But it’s not at a pace to turn a profit in its theatrical release, including production costs approaching $300 million.

In hindsight (that word again), le affaire de Boyle was a detour that added to the costs and didn’t add much to the final product.

So it goes.