The Spy Who Loved Me’s 40th: 007 rolls with the punches

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me, which debuted 40 years ago this year, showed the cinema 007 was more than capable of rolling with the punches.

Global box office for the previous series entry, The Man With the Golden Gun, plunged almost 40 percent from Live And Let Die, the debut for star Roger Moore. For a time, things got worse from there.

The partnership between 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, unsteady for years, ruptured. Eventually, Saltzman was bought out by United Artists, leaving Broccoli in command. But that was hardly the end of difficulties.

Kevin McClory re-entered the picture. He had agreed not to make a Bond movie with his Thunderball rights for a decade. That period expired and McClory wanted to get back into the Bond market. Eventually, court fights permitted Broccoli’s effort for the 10th James Bond movie to proceed while McClory couldn’t mount a competing effort.

But that still wasn’t the end of it. Numerous writers (among them, Anthony Burgess; Cary Bates, then a writer for Superman comic books; future Animal House director John Landis; and Stirling Silliphant) tried their hand at crafting a new 007 tale.

Finally, a script credited to Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum, with uncredited rewriting by Tom Mankiewicz, emerged.

Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct his fifth Bond movie but left the project. That paved the way for the return of Lewis Gilbert, who helmed You Only Live Twice a decade earlier. It was Gilbert who brought Christopher Wood to work on the script.

The final film would resemble Twice. Spy had a tanker that swallowed up submarines where Twice had an “intruder missile” that swallowed up U.S. and Soviet spacecraft.

With Saltzman gone, Cubby made his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, a key player in the production. Wilson was already on the Eon Productions payroll and was involved in the negotiations that saw Saltzman’s departure.

For Spy, Wilson’s official credit was “special assistant to producer” and it was in small type in the main titles. However, Spy was that downplayed Wilson’s role. An early version of Spy’s movie poster listed Wilson, but not production designer Ken Adam, whose name had been included in the posters for Twice and Diamonds Are Forever.

UA, now in possession of Saltzman’s former stake in the franchise, doubled down, almost doubling the $7 million budget of Golden Gun.

In the end, it all worked. Bond shrugged off all the blows.

Spy generated $185.4 million in worldwide box office in the summer of 1977, the highest-grossing 007 film up to that point. (Although its $46.8 million in U.S. ticket sales still trailed Thunderball’s $63.6 million.)

Roger Moore, making his third Bond movie, would later (in Inside The Spy Who Loved Me documentary) call Spy his favorite 007 film.

The movie also received three Oscar nominations: for sets (designed by Adam, aided by art director Peter Lamont), its score (Marvin Hamlisch) and its title song, “Nobody Does It Better” (by Hamilsch and Carole Bayer Sager). None, however, won. 

007 screenwriter Christopher Wood dies

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

Christopher Wood, screenwriter on two big James Bond films of the 1970s, has died, Roger Moore said on Twitter.

Wood, 79, was brought on to write 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me by the movie’s director, Lewis Gilbert. He came aboard after various scribes — Richard Maibaum, Stirling Silliphant, Cary Bates and others — had tried their hand at a story for the 10th 007 film.

Wood ended up sharing the screenplay credit with Maibaum, while Tom Mankiewicz did some uncredited rewrites.

Spy was a major test for producer Albert R. Broccoli. It was his first Bond film as solo producer after Harry Saltzman sold off his interest to United Artists. Also, The Man With the Golden Gun had underperformed at the box office.

A lot was riding on Spy and the escapist, extravagant film delivered, becoming a big hit in the summer of 1977.

Wood was brought back for 1979’s Moonraker, also directed by Gilbert. While writer Tom Mankiewicz helped plot the story, Wood was the only credited screenwriter. Broccoli wanted to outdo himself this time, wanting to send Bond into outer space and going bigger in every way. It also was a big hit, but Broccoli scaled things down for future films.

As big as Moonraker was, it was actually reduced from THE FIRST-DRAFT SCREENPLAY, which had his and her micro-jets, a keel-hauling sequence and a jet pack. The keel-hauling sequence (based on the Live And Let Die novel) would be saved for For Your Eyes Only and (only one) micro-jet would be utilized in Octopussy.

Wood also wrote the novelization for the two movies. In the minds of many fans, Wood successfully merged Ian Fleming’s literary Bond with the large-scale epic films.

Here’s Sir Roger’s tweet about Wood’s death:

Moonraker’s 35th: when outer space belonged to 007

moonrakerposter

June marks the 35th anniversary of Moonraker, a James Bond movie fans either like or despise.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli sought to make the most extravagant Bond film ever. The film’s first-draft script was too big even for the ambitions of the veteran producer. Twin mini jets, a jet pack and a keel hauling sequence were removed in subsequent drafts. Some of the ideas would be used in the next two films in the series, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy.

But there was plenty left, including taking Agent 007 into outer space (or Outer Space! as it was spelled in the list of locations in the end titles). Writer Tom Mankiewicz did uncredited work to develop the story. Screenwriter Christopher Wood received the only screen credit for the film.

Broccoli and United Artists initially wanted to spend about $20 million, a substantial hike from the previous 007 adventure, The Spy Who Love Me. It soon became evident the budget would have to even higher, costing more than $30 million.

Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert had teased the audience in 1967’s You Only Live Twice with the idea of Bond going into space. In that film, Ernst Stavro Blofeld catches Sean Connery’s Bond in a mistake before Bond can be launched into orbit. This time out, Broccoli and Gilbert would not use such restraint. Roger Moore’s Bond would go into space, in a spacecraft modeled after the space shuttles that NASA had in development.

As with other Bond films of the era, there was a lot of humor, including pigeons doing double takes and henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) suffering various indignities. The movie got good reviews from some critics, including Frank Rich, then of Time magazine. A sample of Rich’s take: ” When Broccoli lays out a feast, he makes sure that there is at least one course for every conceivable taste.”

Also singing Moonraker’s praises was reviewer Vincent Canby of THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Moonraker, Canby wrote, was “one of the most buoyant Bond films of all. It looks as if it cost an unconscionable amount of money to make, though it has nothing on its mind except dizzying entertainment, which is not something to dismiss quickly in such a dreary, disappointing movie season.”

Bond fans have a more mixed reaction. Some feel it’s too far from the spirit of the original Ian Fleming novels. For examples, CLICK HERE. Others, while acknowledging there isn’t much from Fleming’s namesake novel, are more than content to go along for the ride.

Despite the higher budget, Broccoli & Co. weren’t willing to pay what major U.S. special effects houses wanted. Instead, Derek Meddings used decidedly lower tech ways to simulate a fleet of Moonraker rockets launching into space and meeting up with a space station. Meddings and his crew an Academy Award nomination. Meddings & Co. lost to Alien.

For Moonraker, it was a major accomplishment to get the nomination. Meddings and his special effects colleagues were the only crew members working at England’s Pinewood Studios. The home base for Moonraker was Paris because of tax reasons.

Two stalwarts of the Bond series, composer John Barry and production designer Ken Adam were also aboard. Moonraker monopolized stages at three Paris studios with Adam’s sets. It would be designer’s farewell to the series. Shirley Bassey performed the title song, her third and final 007 film effort.

In the end, Moonraker was a success at the box office. The movie’s $210.3 million worldwide box office was the most for the series to date.

Broccoli changed course soon after, with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only being much more down to earth, with a greater emphasis on Ian Fleming original source material. Never again would Broccoli or United Artists (or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which acquired UA in 1981) attempt a spectacle on this scale.

The Spy Who Loved Me’s 35th anniversary: license renewed

July is the 35th anniversary of 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. It may not be the best James Bond movie but it’s certainly one of the most important for the series: 007 got his license to kill renewed.

CLIP TO EMBIGGIN

A preliminary version of Spy’s poster: Barbara Bach is “introduced” while Michael G. Wilson gets a credit he wouldn’t receive on the final version of the poster.


Spy faced many barriers to reaching the screen: the breakup between founding 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; widespread doubt (outside of Bond fandom) whether Agent 007 had a cinematic future; and legal fights as Kevin McClory sought to get back into the 007 movie game more than a decade after 1965’s Thunderball.

All of those topics have been covered in more detail than we can provide here. Suffice to say, there was a lot riding on the 10th James Bond film.

Eon Productions was now headed solely by Cubby Broccoli, aided and abetted by stepson Michael G. Wilson (who got a “special assistant to producer” credit in small type in the main titles). United Artists had bought out Saltzman’s stake in the franchise. The studio (now, in effect, Broccoli’s partner) supported the remaining Bond producer by doubling down, greatly increasing Spy’s budget compared with 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun (about twice Golden Gun’s $7 million outlay).

For star Roger Moore, it was his third 007 film. It firmly established him in the role and he has said it’s his favorite Bond movie. The plot has a number of similarities with 1967’s You Only Live Twice, also directed by Lewis Gilbert. Spy had a tanker that swallowed up submarines where Twice had an “intruder missile” that swallowed up U.S. and Soviet spacecraft.

The script was developed after a number of writers participated without receiving a credit (among them, Anthony Burgess; Cary Bates, then a writer for Superman comic books; future Animal House director John Landis; and Stirling Silliphant). The final credit went to 007 stalwart Richard Maibaum and Christopher Wood (the latter, who got top billing in the screenplay credit, was brought in by Gilbert). There even were odd changes in the early version of the film’s poster compared with the final version.

For all the twists and turns, Spy was a big hit in the summer of 1977. It generated $185.4 million in worldwide ticket sales, the highest-grossing 007 film up to that point. (Although its $46.8 million in U.S. ticket sales still trailed Thunderball’s $63.6 million.) The movie also received three Oscar nominations: for its sets (designed by Ken Adam, aided by art director Peter Lamont), score (Marvin Hamlisch) and title song, “Nobody Does It Better” (by Hamilsch and Carole Bayer Sager). The movie, though, went 0-for-3 on Oscar night.

Do all 007 film fans love Spy? No. Check out some of the comments by HMSS EDITORS, many of whom never warmed up the Roger Moore movies. Still, Spy’s success ensured there would be future 007 screen adventures, securing Broccoli’s control of the franchise.

IFP hires writer for new 007 novel, Book Bond Says

Ian Fleming Publications has hired William Boyd to write a new James Bond novel, to be set in the 1960s, according to A POST on The Book Bond Web Site.

Here’s an excerpt, including part of an IFP statement:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012WILLIAM BOYD TO WRITE THE NEXT JAMES BOND NOVEL

Huge news today! Ian Fleming Publications has announced that William Boyd will write the next James Bond novel. Boyd’s yet untitled novel will take Bond back to the 1960s and will be published in Fall 2013 by Jonathan Cape in the UK and HarperCollins in the U.S and Canada. Here is the full press release:

William Boyd to write new James Bond novel
Boyd takes Bond back to the Sixties with all the style and flair of Ian Fleming

William Boyd, the award-winning and bestselling author of Restless and Any Human Heart, is to write the next James Bond novel.

The novel, which is yet to be titled, will be published in the UK and Commonwealth in autumn 2013 by Jonathan Cape – Ian Fleming’s original publisher and an imprint of Vintage Publishing – and simultaneously by HarperCollins Publishers in USA & Canada. Rights were sold in the English language by Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown, on behalf of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.

William Boyd is the third author in recent years to be invited by the Ian Fleming estate to write an official Bond novel, following in the footsteps of the American thriller writer Jeffery Deaver, who wrote Carte Blanche in 2011, and Sebastian Faulks, whose Devil May Care was published to mark Ian Fleming’s centenary in 2008.

The key phrase is “in recent years.” IFP, formerly known as Glidrose, “invited” Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, Christopher Wood and Raymond Benson to write either new 007 novels or novelizations of James Bond films between 1968 and 2002. IFP changed management about a decade ago and, not uncommon a phenomenon, the current regime tends not to recognize the work of its predecessors.

The last new “adult” Bond novel was Jeffery Deaver’s Carte Blanche, published last year, which rebooted the literary 007 to the 21st Century, just like the film 007’s reboot starting with 2006’s Casino Royale with Daniel Craig. Now, IFP has switched gears back to going with the period piece approach the way it did with Sebastian Faulks’s Devil May Care in 2008.

Our speculation: it may be a sign that IFP has realized there’s no way Eon Productions will ever opt to use a continuation novel as the basis of a movie. Or maybe not.

As of 10 p.m. New York time, there was no press release on the official IFP Web site. So credit John Cox, who runs The Book Bond site, with a scoop (at least among the fan Web sites).

UPDATE: The BBC in A STORY on its Web site, quotes the new 007 author as saying his story will be set in 1969. It also says first-week sales of Deaver’s Carte Blanche novels were a fraction of Faulks’s Devil May Care.

No Skyfall novelization, Book Bond Web site says

There won’t be a novelization of Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, the BOOK BOND WEB SITE REPORTED, citing Ian Fleming Publications.

Raymond Benson's Die Another Day remains the most recent 007 film novelization. Photo copyright © Paul Baack

Raymond Benson, most recent 007 novelization author


There was no statement on the Ian Fleming Publications Web site as of 3 p.m. Eastern Time on March 18. On the Book Bond site, webmaster John Cox said he didn’t press for the reasons why there won’t be a novelization.

One possibility (our own speculation): director Sam Mendes has had a penchant for secrecy for all matters Skyfall, even to the point of denying in early 2010 he was in talks to direct the film even after his own publicist had confirmed such talks were, in fact, underway. A novelization is typically available before a film’s release and is the ultimate spoiler. One exception: Max Allan Collins, in his novelization for Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy movie, awkwardly told the reader Tracy was surprised who the mystery was without revealing the identity.

IFP controls the literary Bond. Novelizations were published for the four Pierce Brosnan films: GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. John Gardner did the GoldenEye novelization in 1995 and Raymond Benson the others, beginning in 1997. In 2002, Benson’s final Bond continuation novel had been published but he was the logical choice to do Die Another Day’s novelization published in the fall of that year.

With 2006’s Casino Royale, IFP re-issued Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel of the same name, and with 2008’s Quantum of Solace, IFP put out two Fleming short stories, including Quantum of Solace, which had nothing to do with the film.

Going further back, Christopher Wood penned novelizations for The Spy Who Loved Me (“James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me”) and Moonraker (“James Bond and Moonraker”) in 1977 and 1979 respectively. Gardner also wrote the novelization for 1989’s Licence to Kill.

IFP has no “regular” Bond continuation novel author. Sebastian Faulks and Jeffery Deaver were hired to do one-offs (Devil May Care for Faulks where he was “writing as Ian Fleming” and Carte Blanche for Deaver). Interestingly, based on spoilers that have leaked out, Skyfall has a plot element similar to Carte Blanche. (We referenced that spoiler in a March 17 post, so we won’t mention it here).

007 Fidelity Index: how close are the films to the books? Part III

We conclude our comparison of James Bond films to the Ian Fleming originals. We’ve gotten a mixed reaction. While some like the analysis, there’s also a worry that these entries reinforce fan like/dislike of particular actors.

These postings, for the most part, aren’t intended as movie reviews (though we admit to taking a shot to the second half of Die Another Day in a previous installment). And they’re not intended to praise or criticize any particular actor. Anway, here’s our final category, films that are virtually entirely creations of the filmmakers with next to nothing of Fleming’s novels or short stories:

MADE UP OF WHOLE CLOTH

The Spy Who Loved Me: The official story, told time and again, is that the deal Eon Productions made with Fleming is that only the title of the author’s novel could be used. That’s understandable. Bond doesn’t appear until two-thirds of the way through and the story is told from the perspective of a young woman who has had her share of troubles in life.

The movie Spy, from all accounts, was the first time Eon retained the services of a tag team of writers, including future director John Landis, author Anthony Burgess and DC Comics writer Cary Bates. The final script was credited to Christopher Wood, director Lewis Gilbert’s choice, and 007 veteran Richard Maibaum. It’s a virtual remake of You Only Live Twice (also directed by Gilbert). In a documentary on the film’s DVD, we’re told that superthug Jaws was inspired by Horror, a thug in the novel who wore braces. The film ended up being a bit hit and re-established 007 as a popular movie figure at a time many critics wondered if he was washed up.

A View To a Kill: The movie is viewed by some fans as yet another remake of Goldfinger. But the Richard Maibaum-Michael G. Wilson script seems to channel John Gardner’s continuation novels as much as Fleming, including a scene set as the Ascot horse-racing track, also featured in Gardner’s License Renewed novel. That’s somewhat amusing given how Wilson has badmouthed Gardner’s novels, including at a 1995 fan convention in New York City. Then again, you can’t copyright locations, and as a result, you don’t have to pay royalties and rights fees.

GoldenEye: Bond returned to movie screens in 1995, six years after his previous film adventure. Once more, Eon brought in multiple writers. Three got some form of credit: Michael France, Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein. One, Kevin Wade, didn’t, though he managed to have a CIA operative (played by Joe Don Baker) named after himself. The film also launched the seven-year tenure of Pierce Brosnan as Bond.

Tomorrow Never Dies: If it worked once (bringing in several writers), it can work again, or at least that seemed to be Eon’s approach to Pierce Brosnan’s second 007 outing. Novelist Donald E. Westlake was among those employed at least at one point. Westlake’s involvement might have gone unnoticed except the author told an Indiana audience that he would be writing the film. That was news to Bruce Feirstein, standing next to Michael G. Wilson, when Wilson was asked about Westlake’s comments during a 1995 fan convention in New York City.

The film ended up with a “Written by Bruce Feirstein” credit but that was misleading. Other writers were brought in after Feirstein submitted a draft. Feirstein was summoned to finish things up as the film faced tight, frantice deadlines to ensure a Christmas 1997 release.

The World Is Not Enough: by 1998-1999, Eon’s approach to film writing was well established: bring in enough writers and you can develop a workable story. This time, it began with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, with Dana Stevens (wife of director Michael Apted) playing midwife and Bruce Feirstein finishing things up. All but Stevens would get a credit.

Quantum of Solace: The most recent 007 movie follows a familiar pattern. The Purvis and Wade duo worked on the project at one point. Paul Haggis did the heavy lifting as the project faced a Writers Guild deadline for a strike. Another screenwriter, Joshua Zetumer, was brought in for final polishes. Haggis got top billing in the eventual writing credit followed by Purvis and Wade, with no mention of Zetumer. The film was a big hit, though some fans wondered if the movie was too heavily influenced by the Jason Bourne movies. There were few critques suggesting the film had too many Ian Fleming influences.