UPDATE: A recap of Bond 25’s writing process

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

Updated and expanded from a September 2018 post.

In September, outlets (starting with Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail) reported that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have resumed work on Bond 25. But things still remain a bit in flux.

With that in mind, here’s a recap of how we got to this point.

March 2017: Bamigboye reports Purvis and Wade have been hired to write Bond 25.

July 2017: The hiring of Purvis and Wade is confirmed in an Eon Productions press release that announces a fall 2019 release date for Bond 25.

December 2017: Barbara Broccoli, in a podcast for The Hollywood Reporter says Purvis and Wade are still hard at work on Bond 25’s story.

February 2018: Deadline: Hollywood reports that Danny Boyle, under consideration to direct Bond 25, devised an idea with writer John Hodge. According to the entertainment news site, Hodge was writing up a script based on that idea. If the script would be accepted, then Boyle will direct.

March 2018: Boyle essentially confirms the Deadline story during a public appearance.

May 25, 2018: Eon announces that Boyle will direct Bond 25, which will have an “original screenplay” by John Hodge.

Aug. 21, 2018: Eon announces Boyle has left Bond 25. Hodge isn’t mentioned but the writer later confirms he, too, is no longer involved.

Sept. 6, 2018: The MI6 James Bond website publishes a story that a Hodge script “was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.” and it is “now being touched up again with changes being made to reflect the wishes of the producers and Daniel Craig.” (emphasis added) This is a new twist, given how the May 25 press release didn’t mention Purvis and Wade.

Sept. 13, 2018: Bamigboye reports that Purvis and Wade have been re-hired to work on Bond 25. The story says a Purvis and Wade treatment had been approved by Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before Boyle and Hodge arrived. A treatment is like a detailed outline. It is not the same as a script draft with its dialogue and stage directions. Anyway, Bamigboye’s story is confirmed by Variety and Deadline: Hollywood. Like Bamigboye, those outlets say Purvis and Wade are turning their previous treatment into a full script.

As 2018 draws to a close, there are contradictions.  Is it possible that Hodge was working from the Purvis and Wade treatment and not a script draft? There are no clear answers.

Jan. 1, 2019: The Geeks Wordwide website publishes a story that American screenwriter-director Paul Haggis has contributed to Bond 25’s screenplay.

Haggis did the final drafts of 2006’s Casino Royale. He shared the screenplay credit with Purvis and Wade. The news excites some 007 film fans. Perhaps another Casino Royale is in the offing. Haggis also was a screenwriter for 2008’s Quantum of Solace (where the credit was also shared with Purvis and Wade).

Feb. 16, 2019: The Playlist carries a story saying that American screenwriter Scott Z. Burns has been hired to do an “overhaul” for Bond 25 and he’ll be spending a total of at least four weeks and be well paid. According to this story, Haggis’ work either didn’t register or was dispensed with.

Regardless, we’re now up to at least five writers who’ve been reported to be involved in the writing — Purvis, Wade, Hodges, Haggis and Burns.

That’s hardly a record for a Bond film. The Spy Who Loved Me had around a dozen scribes, with two (Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum) getting a credit and the rest not.

Both Moonraker (Christopher Wood) and Tomorrow Never Dies (Bruce Feirstein) had only one credited screenwriter while numerous others did some work.

There are many unanswered questions. Is any of Hodges’ work being used, or was that pitched when Boyle left? Also, what does “overhaul” mean? Four weeks doesn’t seem like sufficient time to devise a completely new story, though it may mean significant changes for the existing Bond 25 script.

We’ll see what happens.

Scott Z. Burns enters Bond 25 writing sweepstakes

Scott Z. Burns, who has worked with director Stephen Soderbergh on some films, has been to hired to rewrite Bond 25’s script, The Playlist reported.

Also, according to the story, Bond 25’s start date was pushed back to April from March. If true, that would confirm a Feb. 5 tweet by Steven Weintraub, editor of Collider.com.

Weintraub said Bond 25 director of  photography Linus Sandgren told him that the movie would start filming in April.

The Playlist’s story said Burns’ rewrite is an “overhaul” of a script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have worked on seven Bond films, including Bond 25.

Earlier this decade, Burns worked on a script for a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. when Soderbergh was attached as director. That story would have been a Thunderball-inspired plot based on a real-life incident in the 1960s.

Soderbergh exited the project and Burns’ script was dumped. Guy Ritchie directed the film, which came out in August 2015.

On Jan. 1, a site called Geeks WorldWide said Paul Haggis, a screenwriter on Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, had also contributed to the Bond 25 script.

In 2018, Danny Boyle was hired to direct Bond 25 but left over “creative differences.” His preferred writer, John Hodge, was announced as the scribe at that time. After Boyle’s depature, Cary Fukunaga (himself a writer) was hired to direct Bond 25.

The Playlist said Bond 25 currently has “a script that no one is entirely happy with.” It describes Burns as having a reputation for being a top script rescue doctor.

Burns will work on Bond 25 for “at least” four weeks, according to The Playlist.

Eon Productions announced Feb. 15 that Bond 25’s release date was pushed back to April 8, 2020, from Feb. 14, 2020. It gave no reason.

About all those ‘Who will be the next 007?’ articles

Over the last two or three years there have been more “who will be the next James Bond?” articles than the blog can count. The latest example: A Jan. 7 article on the U.K, edition of Esquire’s website.

Esquire goes through a number of the usual suspects — Tom Hardy, Henry Cavill, Idris Elba and Tom Hiddelston, among them.

Meanwhile, hard-core Bond fans ask why? After all there’s no vacancy for the part. Daniel Craig has been announced to star in Bond 25. And he apparently has more clout than other 007 actors, with his name mentioned in the same breath (in press releases) as Eon Productions principals Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Here’s one guess.

The general public, over almost 60 years of Eon’s film series, has been conditioned to having a new Bond actor emerge every decade or so. Sometimes, the tenure is longer (Roger Moore’s 1973-85 run), sometimes less (George Lazenby’s single film, Timothy Dalton’s two). But overall, a decade or so has emerged as the expected run.

After 10 years? The entertainment media starts getting antsy. Moore seemed to be done after 1981’s For Eyes Only yet came back for two more movies. But by that point, Moore was signing up for one movie at a time.

Daniel Craig has been the Bond of record since October 2005, when he was announced as the star of 2006’s Casino Royale. During Craig’s run, there have been one four-year break (between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall) and one of longer than four years (between SPECTRE and the February 2020 release date for Bond 25).

Craig, to date, has only equaled the number of 007 films by Pierce Brosnan. No matter. There’s an element of the fan base, not to mention the entertainment media, that wants to know what’s new?

Essentially Craig is going through what Roger Moore experienced between 1981 and 1985. Roger’s coming back. Great. But who’s the new guy going to be? Craig turns 51 on March 2. Moore turned 58 the fall after A View to a Kill came out.

Bond 25 is scheduled to start production in early March. So maybe this will die down for a while. Still, don’t be surprised if the “who’s going to be the next Bond?” fervor doesn’t reignite sooner than later.

Haggis joins Bond 25 writer roster, website says

Paul Haggis, who helped launch the Daniel Craig era of 007 films, has become part of the roster of Bond 25 writers, according to a website called Geeks Worldwide.

Haggis shared the screenplay credit for Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace with the writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

Geeks Worldwide said Haggis turned in a Bond 25 draft dated Nov. 22, 2018.

Purvis and Wade began the Bond 25 scripting efforts in 2017. Then their effort was cast aside when director Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge pitched an idea. Hodge was announced as Bond 25’s writer in May 2018. Then Boyle and Hodge left the project. The Purvis and Wade story reportedly was revived and Cary Fukunaga hired to direct.

The website, also known as GWW, describes itself as covering “video games, comics, movies, television, and cosplay.”

Haggis did the later drafts of Casino Royale. The scripting process of Quantum of Solace was more muddled with reports of discarded storylines. Besides Haggis, Purvis and Wade haring the final writing credit for Quantum, Joshua Zetumer performed uncredited rewriting during filming.

UPDATE (12:05 p.m. New York time): Since Haggis was last involved with the 007 film series, he has become a controversial figure because of rape allegations and the #MeToo movement.

A total of four women have made allegations of sexual misconduct, including two rapes (see this January 2018 story in The Hollywood Reporter).

In a court filing, Haggis denied a rape allegation while saying he had consensual sex (see this August 2018 story by The Associated Press via The Wrap).

The Haggis legal team has suggested the writer-director is being targeted by the Church of Scientology (see this December 2018 story in The Daily Beast.) Haggis is a former member.

If Haggis has indeed contributed to Bond 25’s scripting, it remains to be seen if all this becomes part of Bond 25’s publicity.

Bond 25 director says script still being written

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Bond 25’s director

The script for Bond 25 still is being written with major issues, including characters, yet to be determined, director Cary Fukunaga said in an interivew with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Fukunaga was asked whether Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld or Ben Whishaw’s Q would return in Bond 25.

“We haven’t finished the screenplay, so there is no way that anyone could know that,” he told the outlet. “Those are two extraordinary actors, so if there is space for them in the story, I would absolutely want them there. But I don’t know yet what it’s going to be.”

The story doesn’t specify who is doing the writing.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long-time 007 screenwriters, were announced as Bond 25 scribes in July 2017. Then, early this year, Danny Boyle emerged as the main contender to direct the film. He had devised an idea with his writer of choice, John Hodge.

When Boyle was announced in May 25, the press release said Hodge was writing and Purvis and Wade weren’t mentioned. Then Boyle exited because of creative differences. Last word was from the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye (with Variety and Deadline: Hollywood confirming) that things went back to Purvis and Wade and a treatment (essentially a detailed outline) that had been approved before Boyle and Hodge entered the picture.

Fukunaga is a writer himself. He may or may not be directly writing Bond 25 himself. Even if he isn’t, a director usually has a big voice in how a script is developed.

There was also this passage.

“In terms of what I can bring to change the character, Bond is on a character arc that started with ‘Casino Royale,’ and I will be carrying that on. There will be changes, I am sure. As in any story, a character has to change in order [to have] a narrative.”

2006’s Casino Royale was Daniel Craig’s first 007 film. 2008’s Quantum of Solace was a “direct sequel.” But 2012’s Skyfall initially didn’t pick up any plot points from Craig’s first two Bond films. Then 2015’s SPECTRE sought to connect the four films together.

Bond 25 isn’t scheduled to begin filming until March 2019 and be released in February 2020.

h/t @Bond25Film

Henry Cavil oddities ahead of Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Henry Cavill in 2013, during filming of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Mission: Impossible-Fallout is about to reach theaters. There are a number of oddities concerning the movie’s co-star, Henry Cavill, during the publicity build-up.

Unasked questions: No entertainment reporter (as far as the blog can tell) has asked Cavill an obvious question. The previous Mission: Impossible movie (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation) helped cause one of your previous movies, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., to crash at the box office. Do you find it ironic you worked on the next M:I film?

2015’s Rogue Nation originally was due to come out at Christmas 2015. But Paramount moved the fifth M:I film up five months to get out of the way of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

As a result, Rogue Nation came out just two weeks before Cavill’s U.N.C.L.E. film. In the U.S., U.N.C.L.E. was No. 3 in its opening weekend, behind Straight Outta Compton and Rogue Nation (in its third weekend of release). The U.S. market didn’t appear interested in two spy movies the same weekend and Tom Cruise & Co. were still going strong.

It might be interesting to hear Cavill reflect on that. But it hasn’t occurred to interviewers.

But, hey, questions about Cavill playing James Bond! At least that appears to be the take Yahoo Movies UK took IN THIS STORY.

Of course, Cavill (in his early 20s) did a screen test for the role for Casino Royale before Daniel Craig (with the significant support of Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli) got the part. Since then, Cavill-Bond has been a case of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

And, after all, Craig is doing Bond 25, which doesn’t even start filming until December and won’t be out until fall 2019.

Cavill’s less-than-surprising answer: “I would love to do it of course. I think Bond would be a really fun role. It’s British, it’s cool. I think that now that I have my Mission: Impossible badge we can do real stunts and really amp it up as well…I don’t get to play a Brit very often. So yes, I would love the opportunity and if they were to ask I would say ‘yes.’”

What about an U.N.C.L.E. sequel? The 2015 U.N.C.L.E. film gets more critical love now than it did when it came out. But there have been absolutely no signs there is any real movement toward a sequel. A screenplay may have been written. But Hollywood is littered with scripts that were never filmed.

Still, that doesn’t stop the questions. Again, from the Yahoo Movies UK story:

“I don’t know when or if it will happen, I had enormous fun making that movie and it would be enormous fun playing Napoleon Solo again but I’m not too sure when that would be.”

Whatever, big guy.

Spy fans engage in throwing bricks from glass houses

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

Late next week, Mission: Impossible-Fallout reaches theaters. Some 007 fans aren’t happy, feeling the movie is, well, a ripoff.

Specifically, based on trailers, there are at least two segments of M:I-Fallout that seem “inspired” from previous Bond films:

–A villain appears to make an escape similar to the way Franz Sanchez did in Licence to Kill (1989).

–Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt makes a HALO (high altitude, low-opening) parachute jump, similar to how B.J. Worth did one doubling for Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

The resemblances are undeniable. In fact, the current Hawaii Five-0 series did an “homage” to the Licence to Kill sequence at the start of its third season in 2012. So Mission: Impossible-Fallout doing it wouldn’t be the first time.

On the other hand, memories may be short. So the following should be noted.

–Live And Let Die (1973) when it was released was seen as inspired by “blaxploitation” movies of the early 1970s. While Ian Fleming’s 1954 novel featured a black villain, the movie utilized a few characters but dispensed with the book’s main plot.

–The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) was seen as 007’s answer to Kung Fu movies of the 1970s. Fleming’s 1965 novel of the same name was mostly set in Jamaica and didn’t have any Kung Fu.

–Moonraker (1979) was seen as 007’s answer to Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Fleming’s 1955 novel concerned a rocket but no space travel was involved.

–Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) were said to be influenced by the Jason Bourne movies that were popular at the start of this century.

Javier Bardem’s Silva in a Joker-like moment in Skyfall

–Skyfall (2012) was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Director Sam Mendes even said so. Javier Bardem’s Silva definitely seemed influenced by Heath Ledger’s Joker.

If fans want to accuse another franchise of copying, it can be a matter of throwing bricks from a glass house.

Filmmakers do this sort of thing all the time. Directors channel their inner-Alfred Hitchcock (or Stanley Kubrick, or whoever) all the time.

Christopher Nolan, who helmed The Dark Knight, channeled 007 films in his Batman trilogy. Example: Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) giving Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) gadgets more than slightly resembled Bond-Q scenes from earlier 007 films.

Chances are, if you see a shot or sequence that reminds you of a famous movie sequence, chances are it’s not a coincidence.

The key difference is what does the director do with it? Does it work? Does it contribute to an entertaining film?

In the case of The Dark Knight, whatever you might think of it, Nolan delivered a memorable movie. With Skyfall, whatever was “borrowed” from Nolan, audiences found it an interesting take on a Bond film.

I can’t judge Mission: Impossible-Fallout. I haven’t seen it, other than the trailers.

The question is where M:I-Fallout writer-director Christopher McQuarrie and his star, Tom Cruise, have delivered a good movie. “Borrowing” happens all the time in film. We’ll see soon.