TWINE’s 20th: A transition for Bond

Cover to the original soundtrack release of The World Is Not Enough

Adapted and updated from a 2014 post.

The World Is Not Enough, the 19th film in the 007 film series made by Eon Productions, marked a transition.

Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli hired a director, Michael Apted, with little experience in action movies. Apted was brought on because of his drama experience.

Apted also was charged with increasing the female audience for a Bond film.

“I didn’t understand why they picked me to do (The World Is Not Enough),” Apted told The Hollywood Reporter in an October 2018 interview.

“It turned out, they were trying to get more women to come and see it,” Apted said. “So, we really wanted to do a Bond with a lot of women in it. I was right person because I’d done a lot of successful films with women in them. But they didn’t tell me that until right before we started. When I found out, I finally understood.”

The producers also hired a new writing team, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, to develop the story. They’re still in the world of 007 20 years later.

The script development established a pattern the duo would soon be familiar with. They delivered their script, which would be reworked by other writers. In the case of The World Is Not Enough, Dana Stevens, Apted’s wife, revised the story. Another scribe, Bruce Feirstein, worked on the final drafts. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein would get a screen credit.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench’s M got expanded screen time, something that would persist through 2012’s Skyfall. The film also marked the final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q. John Cleese came aboard as Q’s understudy.

Pierce Brosnan, in his third 007 outing, was now an established film Bond. In interviews at the time, he talked up the increased emphasis on drama. In the film, Bond falls for Elektra King, whose industrialist father is killed in MI6’s own headquarters. But in a twist, Elektra (played by Sophie Marceau) proves to be the real mastermind.

Q’s Good-Bye

The movie tried to balance the new emphasis on drama with traditional Bond bits such as quips and gadgets, such as the “Q boat” capable of diving underwater or rocketing across land. Some fans find the character of Dr. Christmas Jones, a scientist played by Denise Richards, over the top.

Sometimes, the dual tones collided. Cleese’s initial appearance was played for laughs. In the same scene, however, Q, in effect, tells Bond good-bye in what’s intended to be a touching moment. It was indeed the final good-bye. Llewelyn died later that year as the result of a traffic accident.

The movie was a financial success, with $361.8 million in worldwide box office. Broccoli and Wilson, meanwhile, would return to the idea of increased drama in later entries after recasting Bond with Daniel Craig.

Bond 25 questions: The new writer edition

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

One of the later questions deal with a possible Bond 25 story line, so consider that a spoiler.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a writer and performer, has come aboard Bond 25 as the newest screenwriter. The story was broken by the Mail on Sunday while The Observer had its own, later story with additional details.

Not surprisingly, the blog has some questions.

What is Waller-Bridge’s background?

She was born in 1985 and acts, writes and directs. One of her prominent credits is the BBC comedy Fleabag.

Why is she being brought on Bond 25?

According to The Guardian’s story, actor Daniel Craig requested her services. An excerpt:

Sources close to the film in the US said that while in the country she discussed with Craig how to improve the script of Bond 25, which the 007 actor felt needed some “polishing”, by introducing more humour and the offbeat style of writing she is best known for.

What’s the significance of this move?

Eon Production recently hired “script doctor” Scott Z. Burns for a four-week stint going over the script. If The Guardian is to be believed, the powers that be felt yet more work was needed.

The Mail on Sunday hyped Waller-Bridge’s hiring as “a comprehensive makeover for the MeToo era.” The Guardian’s story makes it sound like more of a tweaking.

Any plot hints? (here’s the spoiler for the spoiler adverse)

The Mail on Sunday story said one plot “being considered” has a retired Bond while a woman agent now has the 007 code number.

If accurate, that’s the flip side of an idea in Anthony Horowitz’s Forever and a Day 007 continuation novel. It’s set in 1950. Bond gets promoted to the 00 section and opts to take the 007 number, which had been assigned to a murdered agent.

Is it a big deal to hire a woman screenwriter for a Bond film?

It shouldn’t but it probably will be because there have been so few.

Johanna Harwood (b. 1930) worked on the first two films in the Eon series. She shared the Dr. No screenplay credit with Richard Maibaum and Berkely Mather. On From Russia With Love, she received an “adapted by” credit while Maibaum got the screenplay credit.

Dana Stevens took over from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who had done the initial drafts of The World Is Not Enough. Bruce Feirstein subsequently took over from her. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein shared in the screenplay credit while Stevens went uncredited.

What critics are saying about Villeneuve

Blade Runner 2049 poster

Denis Villeneuve, a potential Bond 25 director, is getting a lot of attention in reviews for Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to Blade Runner that he helmed.

007 fans are playing a game of “will he or won’t he” regarding Villeneuve, He’s acknowledged being in talks about the next James Bond film while also having other projects on his plate. The Blade Runner 2049 reviews may further boost the interest of Bond fans in Villeneuve.

Blade Runner 2049 currently has a 94 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website that collects reviews.

With that in mind, here are non-spoiler excerpts (focused on Villeneuve) from some reviews.

CHRIS KLIMEK, NPR: “I’m severely restrained in my ability to tell you very much, as the publicity team read to the critics at the screening I attended an appeal from Villeneuve: an exhaustive list of specific characters and plot developments he has kindly asked that we not discuss. I’m complying because he has made a superb movie, one that really is stocked with revelations and counterrevelations worth preserving intact.”

A.O. SCOTT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Like any great movie, Mr. (Ridley) Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ cannot be spoiled. It repays repeated viewing because its mysteries are too deep to be solved and don’t depend on the sequence of events. Mr. Villeneuve’s film, by contrast, is a carefully engineered narrative puzzle, and its power dissipates as the pieces snap into place. As sumptuous and surprising as it is from one scene to the next, it lacks the creative excess, the intriguing opacity and the haunting residue of its predecessor.”

MICHAEL O’SULLIVAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: “‘Blade Runner 2049,’ the superb new sequel by Denis Villeneuve (‘Arrival’), doesn’t just honor that (Blade Runner) legacy, but, arguably, surpasses it, with a smart, grimly lyrical script (by [Hampton] Fancher and Michael Green of the top-notch ‘Logan’); bleakly beautiful cinematography (by Roger Deakins); and an even deeper dive into questions of the soul.”

DAVID JENKINS, LITTLE WHITE LIES: “What Villeneuve had presumed in his lightly passive-aggressive memo (asking critics to not include spoilers) is that there would be material in his film that viewers would possess a natural urge to spoil. And yet, to these eyes, there was nothing. This film is little more than a bauble: shiny, hollow and shatters under the slightest pressure. Maybe it’ll be good news for the spoilerphobic among us, but there is little in the film that is actually worth spoiling – at least not without reams of fiddly context and turgid backstory.”

DANA STEVENS, SLATE: “Denis Villeneuve, who made Arrival, Sicario, and Enemy, is a director who enjoys not-fully-solved enigmas, and 2049’s twisty, misdirection-filled story alternates between suspenseful and tediously murky. But Villeneuve is working with the legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose mobile yet stately camera provides stunning bird’s-eye perspectives on the bleak urban habitat where these humans and replicants live.”

Nolan’s Dunkirk gets a big thumbs up from critics

Christopher Nolan

Dunkirk, the World War II drama coming out this weekend, obviously isn’t a spy film. But there is continuing fascination (admiration by some fans, disdain by others) with the idea writer-director Christopher Nolan might one day helm a James Bond film.

Also, two of Nolan’s collaborators, director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema and editor Lee Smith, worked on SPECTRE. The latest wave of Nolan mania among Bond fans occurred via a Playboy interview timed to come out shortly before Dunkirk.

So the blog decided to look at Dunkirk’s critical response.

The answer is a huge thumbs up. The Warner Bros. release currently enjoys a 97 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Here are some non-spoiler summaries of some of the reviews.

KATIE WALSH, TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE: “Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema have crafted a film that places us in this heightened reality, shooting with IMAX cameras on large format film stock. Everything about ‘Dunkirk’ is bigger, realer, in images that are equally breathtaking in their beauty and in their terror.”

BILL GOODYKOONTZ, ARIZONA REPUBLIC: “Nolan is the best example of the filmmaker who, if you asked him what time it was would tell you how the watch works — and in his case that’s a compliment, because he turns the intricacies and minutiae of time and how it’s used in stories into artistic statements. Certainly he has done that here — ‘Dunkirk’ is a great movie, both an old-time inspirational war epic and at the same time very much a Christopher Nolan movie.”

PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE: “From first frame to last, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a monumental achievement, a World War II epic of staggering visual spectacle (see it in IMAX if you can) that hits you like a shot in the heart. Leave it to a filmmaking virtuoso at the peak of his powers to break both new ground and all the rules – who else would make a triumphant war film about a crushing Allied defeat? And who but Nolan, born in London to a British father and an American mother, would tackle WWII without America in it?”

DANA STEVENS, SLATE: Nolan’s 2010 Inception “will serve as my yearly reminder never to go into a movie with preconceived ideas. The swift-moving, pulse-pounding Dunkirk reveals its filmmaker at his most nimble, supple, and simple—all adjectives that seem strange to use in connection with a movie shot in 65mm IMAX format, using practical effects and real stunts…But Dunkirk’s simplicity inheres not in its production logistics but in its storytelling.”

TODD MCCARTHY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “(T)his is a war film like few others, one that may employ a large and expensive canvas but that conveys the whole through isolated, brilliantly realized, often private moments more than via sheer spectacle, although that is here, too….In Dunkirk, Nolan has gotten everything just right.”

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.

 

 

TWINE’s 15th anniversary: a transition for 007

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough, the 19th film in the 007 film series made by Eon Productions, marked a transition.

Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli hired a director, Michael Apted, with little experience in action movies. Apted was brought on because of his drama experience.

The producers also hired a new writing team, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, to develop the story. They’re still in the world of 007 15 years later.

The script development established a pattern the duo would soon be familiar with. They delivered their script, which would be reworked by other writers. In the case of The World Is Not Enough, Dana Stevens, Apted’s wife, revised the story. Another scribe, Bruce Feirstein, worked on the final drafts. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein would get a screen credit.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench’s M got expanded screen time, something that would persist through 2012’s Skyfall. The film also marked the final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q. John Cleese came aboard as Q’s understudy.

Pierce Brosnan, in his third 007 outing, was now an established film Bond. In interviews at the time, he talked up the increased emphasis on drama. In the film, Bond falls for Elektra King, whose industrialist father is killed in MI6’s own headquarters. But in a twist, Elektra (played by Sophie Marceau) proves to be the real mastermind.

The movie tried to balance the new emphasis on drama with traditional Bond bits such as quips and gadgets, such as the “Q boat” capable of diving underwater or rocketing across land. Some fans find the character of Dr. Christmas Jones, a scientist played by Denise Richards, over the top.

Sometimes, the dual tones collided. Cleese’s initial appearance was played for laughs. In the same scene, however, Q, in effect, tells Bond good-bye in what’s intended to be a touching moment. It was indeed the final good-bye. Llewelyn died later that year as the result of a traffic accident.

The movie was a financial success, with $361.8 million in worldwide box office. Broccoli and Wilson, meanwhile, would return to the idea of increased drama in later entries after recasting Bond with Daniel Craig.

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.