Bond 25 questions: The script edition

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Bond 25 filming is underway. Work has wrapped up in Jamaica. Things should be moving along nicely, right?

Not according to tabloid newspapers, specifically The Sun and Daily Mail in the U.K. and the New York Post in the U.S. And a lot of the hubbub has to do with the film’s script.

Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is there really “no script”?

From the time the first draft is submitted, there’s a script. The question is whether there’s a script everyone is happy with.

Still, at any time, there’s a document that exceeds 100 pages and says “The End” at the end. The first draft is replaced by a second draft and so on and so forth.

Nevertheless, the tabloids say differently. The Post in an April 25 story quotes a person it didn’t identify as saying, “They don’t have a script.”

The Sun in an April 26 story said “there is no script.”

Not to be outdone, the Daily Mail began a May 9 story thusly: “The joke on the Bond 25 set is the script’s under wraps. And the response is: ‘What script?’” The story said the story is being rewritten “endlessly.”

So what’s really going on?

Clearly, a number of writers have worked on the project at one time or another. Among them: the team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade; John Hodge when Danny Boyle was attached as director; and Scott Z. Burns and Phoebe Waller-Bridge since Cary Fukunaga (who also writes scripts) replaced Boyle.

In the past week, Waller-Bridge has gotten a lot of attention. She’s both a performer and writer and worked on various high-profile projects.

Waller-Bridge was interviewed on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast. That mostly concerned her career generally but included a few minutes about Bond 25 at the end. She was also the subject of a separate Daily Mail feature story.

In both instances, Waller-Bridge made it sound as if Bond 25’s scripting is under control.

“We have a script and we’re continuing to work on it, all of us floating ideas around and creating characters together,” she said in the Daily Mail story.

Anything else catch your eye?

The Daily Mail’s May 9 story about the “endless” rewriting of Bond 25’s script said it was being revised by Waller-Bridge, director Fukunaga and star Daniel Craig.

Back in 2011, Craig said how he and director Marc Forster supposedly rewrote Quantum of Solace on the set. “A writer I am not,” Craig said then.

If the Daily Mail is correct (something I am not assuming), did Craig change his mind?

Is there context we should keep in mind?

At various times in the 57-year history of the 007 film franchise, there’s been frantic rewriting: From Russia With Love, The Spy Who Loved Me and Tomorrow Never Dies come to mind. Things turned out well at the end.

Still, past performance isn’t a guarantee of future success. You can’t take success for granted.

That’s something to keep in mind. But not something to lose sleep over, at least not at this stage in the proceedings.

UPDATE: A Japanese outlet, Cinema Today, posted a story dated May 12 but is based on an April interview with Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. According to a translation, the duo say that director Cary Fukunaga recruited Scott Z. Burns as a writer while they brought in Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Wilson said work on the script “struggled for a while” but they have a story “with a lot of twists and surprises.”

Bond 25 script rewritten by committee, Baz says

“We can’t go yet, dear. I have to help out on the script rewrite.”

Bond 25’s script is being “endlessly” rewritten by a committee, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye wrote in a story published Thursday night.

The committee consists of “director Cary Joji Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and 007 himself, Daniel Craig,” Bamigboye reported.

Bamigboye quoted a source he didn’t identify as saying Waller-Bridge is “writing a re-write of a re-write…‘They have an outline of plot, but dialogue is all last-minute. It’s not the way to make a movie.”

Efforts to devise a Bond 25 script began in 2017 when 007 film veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired. For a time, the production shifted to screenwriter John Hodge when Danny Boyle was hired as director in 2018.

A few months later, Boyle exited and Hodge followed him out the door. Fukunaga, who often writes his own scripts, was hired to replace Boyle. Scott Z. Burns and Waller-Bridge subsequently were hired to work on the Bond 25 story.

Bamigboye has a record of coming up with 007 film scoops that were later proven correct. Among them was the fact that Purvis and Wade were brought back to begin Bond 25’s scripting.

A Bond 25 sequence was filmed in Norway in March. Principal photography began late last month.

Bond 25 spoiler video emerges

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

No spoilers in the post. But don’t blame the blog if you click on the links.

After less than one week of shooting in Norway, stills and a video of what was being photographed is out in the open.

The Express had stills and the video. The Daily Mail got into the act with a story that had more stills. And don’t forget The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloid.

Meanwhile 007 film fans, many of whom like to complain about spoilers, weren’t shy about the spreading the various images as well as the video. Example: THIS TWEET from a leading fan site that embeds the video following a brief spoiler warning.

To sum up the week: We’ve gone from sketchy evidence that filming was underway to video evidence of what may await in the film.

Have a good weekend.

Norway shoot to be part of B25’s pre-title sequence

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of Bond 25

The Bond 25 sequence to be filmed in Norway will be part of the film’s pre-titles sequence, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, wrote in a short item Thursday night that was part of his weekly column.

Director Cary Fukunaga “and a small crew” will be part of the shoot at a frozen lake, according to item. The crew wants to complete the sequence before the lake thaws, the scribe said.

Bamigboye has a record of Bond scoops ultimately being proven as correct.

Bamigboye also wrote that Danny Boyle, Bond 25’s original director, “had wanted to film an iced-over lake in Canada.” Boyle departed the project in August over “creative differences.” That led to the hiring of Fukunaga.

The short item also says Bond 25 will also be filmed in Jamaica.

Bond creator Ian Fleming wrote the first drafts of his 007 novels in Jamaica in the winter before returning to London to rewrite and revise. The first 007 film, 1962’s Dr. No, was filmed in Jamaica, where the novel was set.

(UPDATE, March 8): Variety has a story about Bond 25’s planned Italian shoot and says that sequence will be the film’s pre-titles sequence. Well, we shall see what we shall see.

Daily Mail rips the scab off the Barry-Norman question again

John Barry

Over the weekend, the Daily Mail ran a story ripping the scab off the question whether it was the credited Monty Norman or John Barry who really wrote The James Bond Theme.

The article tilts in Norman’s favor simply because the composer, 90, is still around (and was interviewed) while Barry died in 2011. Anyway, here’s an exerpt:

Barry and Norman, like their screen counterparts Bond and Blofeld, became bitter rivals, slugging it out for decades as they fought over this piece of Hollywood gold.

(snip)

Norman says he’s amazed at both the riff’s success and its longevity. ‘I accept the good fortune that I wrote something that has not only lasted more than 50 years but will last another 50,’ he says. ‘There are musicals I have written that took six months and I think, “Oh God, James Bond took just six hours.’’’

The question was once part of a court case where Norman came out on top. At the end of the Daily Mail story, Norman takes a victory lap.

Barry died in 2011 but the two men never buried the hatchet. Does he have any regrets about that? ‘None whatsoever,’ says Norman. ‘I did not like him.’

The most neutral answer to the question is “it’s complicated.” Author Jon Burlingame in his 2012 book The Music of James Bond examined the conflicting stories between Barry (officially brought aboard or orchestrate and arrange the theme) and Norman.

Barry fans argue it’s really not that complicated, with Barry doing much of the heavy lifting and drawing upon some of his past work. Barry ended up scoring 11 Bond films and co-wrote famous title songs to Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. He ended up winning five Oscars (though none for a Bond film).

For those who’ve never seen it, this 2009 video comes from the Barry side. You can judge its point of view for yourself.

UPDATE (4:15 p.m. New York Time): I exchanged an e-mail with a long-time (i.e. from Dr. No onwards) 007 film fan. This reminds me of the debate in comic books about who created what at Marvel between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. My correspondent referenced parts of the Dr. No score that incorporated the Bond theme that don’t sound like Barry. I am just referencing this for informational purposes.

 

A recap of Bond 25’s writing process

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

Last week, 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 confusing.

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.

There it is, contradictions and all. Is it possible that Hodge was working from the Purvis and Wade treatment and not a script draft?

 Maybe. But nobody seems to know at this point.

As a result, it’s hard to tell how developed the story really is.

Surprise, surprise: P&W working on Bond 25, Baz reports

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

Veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are — again — working on Bond 25, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported.

The duo “have had their licence renewed and have bonded with Bond again,” Bamigboye wrote. It is their 007th Bond film writing assignment.

P&W were hired last year to write Bond 25, which was referenced in a July 24, 2017 announcement. However, in 2018, director Danny Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, pitched an idea. Boyle confirmed that in March. And a May 25, 2018 announcement only referenced Boyle directing with Hodge scripting and no mention of Purvis and Wade whatsoever.

Boyle and Hodge exited the project last month. So, P&W are “back in action again,” to evoke an old 007 film poster.

Here’s the key excerpt from Bamigboye’s new story:

‘The Purvis and Wade treatment they wrote earlier was already signed off before the bromance with Danny Boyle and John Hodge began,’ a Hollywood executive close to the production explained.

Purvis and Wade, working on their seventh 007 thriller, will develop their ‘treatment’ into a script.

However (and, by this stage of the soap opera, you knew there had to be a “however”), more changes likely are in store once a Bond 25 director is selected, Bamigboye wrote.

Bamigboye, since 2011, has had a series of scoops proven correct (including that Purvis and Wade had been hired to write Bond 25 in the first place, something he reported in March 2017).

Meanwhile, Bamigboye also had this line about Bond 25: “The whole thing’s a hot mess and (Eon Productions’s Barbara) Broccoli has been in Los Angeles meeting a variety of film-makers who might take over directing duties.”