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 Guardian 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.

Mail on Sunday delivers newest B25 writing rumor


Possible spoiler below.

The Mail on Sunday (the Sunday edition of the U.K. tabloid Daily Mail) just came up with a Bond 25 curve ball.

The publication says Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator and star of the BBC series Fleabag, is the latest writer to tackle Bond 25’s script.

Here’s an excerpt:

One plot being considered involves (Daniel) Craig’s ageing Bond retired and now living in Jamaica – the island where 007 author Ian Fleming had his Goldeneye retreat. The 007 number has been taken up by a new agent – a woman – who embarks on a mission which forces Bond to come out of retirement.

Despite Bond’s legendary reputation as a womaniser, the new 007 manages to resist his charms.

A source said last night: ‘Phoebe is the hottest young writer in the UK and Hollywood at the moment.

The story also says Bond 25 is scheduled to begin filming in Jamaica “within weeks.” Last month, a unit shot a sequence in Norway.

If the story is correct, Waller-Bridge joins a growing roster of Bond 25 scribes, including Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Hodge, Paul Haggis and Scott Z. Burns.

Also, if Waller-Bridge joins the Bond 25 writing brigade, she’ll join a select group of women screenwriters who’ve worked on 007 films. Others include Johanna Harwood (Dr. No and From Russia With Love) and Dana Stevens (The World Is Not Enough, uncredited).

Here is an appearance Waller-Bridge made on NBC’s Late Night With Seth Myers.

Bond 25 questions: Waiting for principal photography

Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux await the start of Bond 25 principal photography.

While the 007 fan base awaits the start of principal photography, the blog has more questions.

When will principal photography begin?

Presumably sooner than later, but not imminently.

This week, Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga was spotted in Matera, Italy, and he was photographed there. On April 10, a story in an Italian newspaper showed up via a photograph on Instagram.

Two readers of the blog, @CorneelVF and @EiriniMakr, discussed it (the latter knows Italian) on Twitter. According to that story, Fukunaga will be in Matera until Sunday and travel elsewhere in Italy after that.

In any case, you can’t have have the first unit of a film start work without a director. And the first unit isn’t filming yet.

Could other Bond 25 work be going on?

Sure. The second unit might be laboring. A miniatures or special effects unit may be at work. There is, of course, no way of knowing right now.

Could another writer have been hired or about to be hired?

Certainly possible. It would make sense to have a scribe around to make last-minute adjustments.

A story line has taken hold that Daniel Craig and director Marc Forster “wrote” Quantum of Solace on the set. However, once a Writer’s Guild strike was over, Joshua Zetumer was hired for the final rewriting. Zetumer didn’t get a credit.

Who will be the credited writers for Bond 25?

Strictly a guess: Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (writing as a team) and Scott Z. Burns (an expensive script doctor).

John Hodge was on board when Danny Boyle was hired to direct. But even if any of his ideas make the final script, (and we have no idea at this point) he may not get a credit.

A wild card: Director Fukunaga also is a writer. Perhaps he did enough work to merit a screen credit for writing.

Why Bond 25 may not economize much

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Bond 25 production got underway last week with some filming in Norway. There’s a lot we don’t know (including a title). But there are some signs that the film isn’t traveling in Economy Class.

Delays in production: Eon Productions began renting space at Pinewood Studios last year. But filming there has been delayed at least five months.

Eon couldn’t just give up that space. Demand for space at Pinewood is high. So that’s a few months without any footage actually being shot. That makes it harder to economize.

An expensive script doctor: Scott Z. Burns recently spent four weeks working on Bond 25’s script. He’s a well-regarded scribe and he’s moving into directing. His services are in demand. It’s likely his Bond 25 services didn’t come cheap.

The star may have gotten a raise: Variety last year reported that Daniel Craig will receive $25 million for his fifth 007 film. The truth is known to Craig, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, Craig’s agent and the various studios backing Bond 25. Still, it’s unlikely Craig’s services are receiving discounted rates.

The Mission: Impossible franchise means now isn’t the time to economize: This is a favorite fan theory/speculation. During the 2010s, the Mission: Impossible films starring and produced by Tom Cruise have cranked out three entries while Eon’s 007 series will have two.

Moreover, the M:I films have gotten a lot of attention for their stunts, big set pieces and international intrigue — things the 007 films are known for.

Paramount recently announced the Cruise M:I series will produce two more entries back-to-back, coming out in 2021 and 2022. By the time the latter entry is out, Cruise will be 60 and Christopher McQuarrie will have written and directed four films.

UPDATE: A peculiar Craig interview is yanked

Daniel Craig

(UPDATE, March 11) : The supposed interview has been taken down from the Beyond site. If you click on the link below, you get a “Page not found” message. Apparently it was even more peculiar than it seemed this weekend.

Two theories readers have passed on: 1) It was a fake from the start. 2) It was an interview that was supposed to be embargoed until a later date. Admittedly, I have no idea.

UPDATE II (7 p.m., New York time, March 11): The James Bond MI6 website examined the quotes in the now-withdrawn story and matches them up against previous interviews. The MI6 story notes other fishy elements.

(ORIGINAL POST, March 10): A peculiar interview with Daniel Craig was published online by Beyond magazine.

Why describe it as peculiar? In the text, it says, “Cameras began rolling on Bond 25 earlier this year.”

Bond 25 had an announced start date of March 4 — just six days ago. And that was before the release date was pushed back to April 2020 and it emerged that Scott Z. Burns was spending four weeks doing a rewrite of the script.

So what does “earlier this year” mean exactly? It’s hard to know reading the story.

Meanwhile, Craig appears to say that Bond 25 will really, really will be his finale.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed it,” Craig says in the interview.

It’s also clear that scribe Sarah Freeman is sympathetic to Craig. “On set, it’s now hard to imagine Bond being played by anyone else.”

Again, it makes it sound as if Craig was interviewed during Bond 25 filming. And there’s this passage toward the end:

And with that he’s off. Back to filming his final Bond.

 

About that killing James Bond off in Bond 25 thing

Danny Boyle, a sort of spectre over Bond 25.

Some time back, it seemed the memory of Danny Boyle, briefly the director of Bond 25, had dissipated. But, for some reason, that memory is hanging around like a spectre that won’t leave a haunted house.

The catalyst of this was a story in the Daily Star proclaiming that Boyle had gotten the boot because he wanted to kill off 007 in his version of Bond 25. The story got picked up and Bond fans were aghast about it.

The thing is, this wasn’t the first time — not by a long shot — that this notion had made the rounds. The Playlist’s Feb. 16 story about the hiring of Scott Z. Burns as a Bond “script doctor” also alluded to this idea. That piece said “there were rumors that Boyle wanted to kill Bond in the end…and this was a bone of contention. Having heard about the ending of the current, non-Burns version of the script (which I can’t reveal), I can say there’s likely some truth to that rumor. ”

Of course, the idea goes even further back. The Sun, in an August 2018 story, had it the other way around — that Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig wanted to kill Bond off but Boyle didn’t.

It makes your head hurt either way.

In 2017, Eon had spent months developing a story by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But, as first reported by Deadline: Hollywood in February 2018, Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge made a pitch that intrigued Eon.

Suddenly, the Purvis and Wade story seemed expendable.

Three months later in May 2018, Eon announced that Boyle was onboard and Hodge was writing the movie. Another three months later, Boyle and Hodge were gone.

Now, if Boyle wanted to kill Bond off, when did he present that idea? During the pitch? In a treatment by Hodge? When Hodge turned in his first draft? Still later? (“Oh by the way, we’ve got to kill Bond off.”)

If Broccoli and Craig wanted to kill Bond off, when did they present that notion to Boyle? When they were having their pitch meetings? After Hodge did his script or….well, you get the idea. Killing off James Bond would be a big deal. You would think it would have happened early in the discussions. If it was deal killer (which you’d think it would be) it’d be something to resolve right away. Oh well…..

About those Bond 25 script stories: The Rashomon Effect?

Can’t keep all these writing scenarios straight? Relax with a drink.

In the space of days, we’ve gotten two wildly different scenarios about the progress of Bond 25’s script.

The Playlist, in a Feb. 16 story, said noted script doctor Scott Z. Burns was doing an “overhaul” of Bond 25’s screenplay. “Burns, like Tony Gilroy and Christopher McQuarrie, is known as one of the top emergency rescue script doctors in Hollywood. If your script is hemorrhaging, he’s one of the first people you call.”

Later, on Feb. 27, Variety did an imitation of Kevin Bacon in Animal house and reassured everyone all is well.

Bond 25 director Cary “Fukunaga turned in his recent draft at the beginning of the year, and while reports surfaced that major rewrite work was done to the script, sources say no significant changes were made,” according to Variety, “and the producers and (star Daniel) Craig were excited with what Fukunaga had delivered.”

This might be an example of what’s known as The Rashomon Effect. That’s defined as “a phenomenon where different people have contradictory accounts of the same event.”

Rashomon was a 1950 movie directed by Akira Kurosawa where the characters have wildly different memories and impressions of the same story. The film was quite influential. In the 1960s, a plot on some television situation comedies in the U.S. was to depict the very different recollections of characters of the same occurrence.

Maybe, just maybe, The Playlist and Variety have different sources with different outlooks on the progress of the Bond 25 story. Both sources cited “sources” they didn’t identify.

The Playlist played up Burns’ record as a script doctor. “It’s an overhaul and I won’t be surprised if Burns is ultimately given first screenplay credit,” wrote The Playlist’s Rodrigo Perez.

Variety’s Justin Kroll specifically said Fukunaga had a turn writing the script himself. Fukunaga often writes his own scripts. There’s been plenty of fan speculation this would take place with Bond 25. Variety was the first place I saw that said that had happened. The Variety story doesn’t mention Burns by name.

Scripting efforts on Bond 25 began when 007 veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired in 2017. There was a detour last year when Danny Boyle was hired to direct the movie, bringing along his writer, John Hodge. Boyle and Hodge departed.

So now we’re where we’re at — where ever that is. Maybe it’s time for a drink to relax after trying to evaluate the different scenarios.