Bond 25 questions: The “Mr. Obvious” edition

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who is known for getting 007 film scoops correct, finally weighed in and said that director Danny Boyle departed Bond 25 because Eon Productions wanted to bring in a new writer to replace his man, John Hodge.

As a result, the blog has a series of “Mr. Obvious” questions.

Did Boyle and Hodge do their due diligence before signing on for Bond 25? The 007 film franchise has a history of bringing in multiple writers to massage scripts.

In the early days, Richard Maibaum replaced Johanna Harwood and Len Deighton on From Russia With Love. Paul Dehn replaced Maibaum on Goldfinger. Tom Mankiewicz replaced Maibaum on Diamonds Are Forever.

More recently? Well, this decade, John Logan replaced Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on Skyfall. Purvis and Wade were summoned to replace Logan on SPECTRE. On both films, Jez Butterworth did work (but only getting a credit on SPECTRE).

Assuming Bamigboye is correct, neither Boyle nor Hodge should have been surprised when Eon wanted a new scribe. Hell’s bells, Maibaum dealt with that sort of thing over 13 separate 007 films.

Did Eon Productions do its due diligence before bringing on Boyle and Hodge? In 2017, Eon hired Purvis and Wade do the script for Bond 25. But that work got cast aside when the possibility arose of getting Boyle as director. But Boyle wanted his man, Hodge, to write it.

Boyle has a reputation for doing unique films and Hodge is one of his main collaborators. So you’ve got to figure they have a certain way of working.

Yes, Boyle said he was a James Bond fan. Everybody (especially if they’re British) says they’re a James Bond fan when they hire on to work for Eon. But did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson really think through whether Boyle could adapt to working for Eon?

What role does Daniel Craig have in all this? Bamigboye’s story said Craig was a key figure in wanting a new writer to take over from Hodge. But is that really a big deal?

Before the cameras rolled on Goldfinger, Sean Connery objected to some of Paul Dehn’s ideas (such as ending the moving with “curtains” being drawn). The 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger goes into this in detail.

Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever, described a meeting he had with Connery. The star weighed on various issues, according to the screenwriter. So it’s not unprecedented for stars of Bond films to let their opinions be known. Granted, Craig had a co-producer title on SPECTRE, something Connery never got when he toiled for Eon.

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Producers wanted to replace Hodge as B25 writer, Baz says

Bond 25 producers wanted to replace John Hodge as the film’s writer, which precipitated Danny Boyle’s exit as director, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in a column.

Boyle “quit when Daniel Craig and fellow producers insisted on replacing screenwriter John Hodge,” Bamigboye said.

Bamigboyle has a record of 007 scoops being proven as correct during the lead up to Skyfall and SPECTRE. However, the scribe was away from the action last week when Boyle’s departure for “creative differences” was announced.

The Daily Mail item didn’t identify the other producers. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions are the producers of record, Craig, star of the last four 007 films, received a co-producer credit for SPECTRE. Last week’s Boyle announcement carried all three of their names.

Boyle and Hodge pitched an idea for Bond 25 that Eon bit on. That caused the producers to set aside another script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade the duo worked on last year. Hodge then wrote a script incorporating his pitch with Boyle.

The entertainment reporter only wrote a short Bond 25 item.

Bamigboye said producers are under “a lot of pressure” to find a replacement for Boyle. The column said a replacement needs to be “prepared to be ruled over by Mr Craig.”

“Several studio sound-stages were booked for the picture,” Bamigboye also wrote. “Problem is: do they hang on to them, or give them up?”

SPECTRE’s script: Sibling (sort of) rivalry

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, had more scrutiny than most James Bond films. Thanks to the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures, at least two versions of the script and many related e-mails ended up going out ahead of filming that began in December 2014.

By the time of a 129-page, Dec. 1, 2014 draft — one week before the start of principal photography — the story was mostly locked down. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had rewritten earlier drafts by John Logan.

However, there would still be changes made before the final film.

The Dec. 1 draft, referring to the gunbarrel sequence, said: “IRIS OPENS on the eye-socket of a SKULL.

“It’s the Day of the Dead.”

The official James Bond Twitter feed in early 2015 teased this idea as part of its series of clapperboard photos.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

However, in the final film, the gunbarrel (or iris) didn’t open up on anything. The image of Bond having shot his gun went black and the words, “The dead are live” appeared. Then an image of the Day of the Dead parade (including a skull float) appeared.

The stage directions establish what audiences would see in the fall of 2015.

In this sea of RED and BLACK we pick up a MAN IN A WHITE SUIT AND BLACK MASK moving against the stream…

This is MARCO SCIARRA. An assassin.

Now the man bumps into someone — and, as he continues on, WE FOLLOW THE MAN HE BUMPED INTO…

It’s JAMES BOND. Also an assassin.

What follows is very similar to the final film. Bond is with a woman named Estrella, who he eventually ditches to go after Sciarra. However, there’s a brief exchange later that wouldn’t be part of the final film.

BACK TO BOND. Steely as he looks over Mexico. His cell phone rings.

ESTRELLA (O.S)
I thought you said you wouldn’t be long…

BOND
Something came up.

An aerial shot of the helicopter flying over the city into the setting sun.

ESTRELLA (O.S.)
Well – I hope you found what you were looking for.

He looks down…at the small ring he now holds in his palm.

BOND
It’s a start.

After the titles, Bond goes to see M. The stage directions indicate 007’s actions in Mexico are the talk of the office. “As he strides down the corridor, people fall silent. Analysts whisper.” Bond also notices new cameras being installed.

Poster for SPECTRE

In the final film, after the title things began directly with Bond’s meeting with M. In the script, the cameras would be referenced when Bond meets C.

“…cameras. You put up all the cameras,” Bond says.

“Well, you’ve nothing to hide, have you Bond?” C replies.

Judi Dench’s Return

Later, when Bond shows Moneypenny the video message he received from the former M (Judi Dench), the stage directions list the character as “M (Judi).” Her lines are in italic type.

The Moneypenny-Bond scene is a bit longer than the final film, but not substantially different. It does turn out there’s a woman in Bond’s bedroom. “James? I’m lonely…Come back to bed…” After Moneypenny departs, the woman asks Bond who was just there.

Bond goes to Rome and infiltrates a SPECTRE meeting. The script briefly introduces the movie’s villain but there are no clues yet to his real identity.

As in the final film, Bond makes his getaway in the Aston Martin he took from MI6 while SPECTRE’s Hinx follows in a Jaguar. The stage directions specify that “Dusty Springfield’s ‘SPOOKY'” come out of the Aston’s Martin’s speakers at one point.

Skipping ahead, Bond meets up with Mr. White, more or less as he did in the final film. After White kills himself, Bond is trying to meet up with his daughter Madeline Swann.

When he tracks her down, the script has a few more details. Bond says he was 11 when his parents died.

By page 61, Bond has put it together than Franz Oberhauser is behind all the villainy. “He was older than me,” Bond tells Q. “We barely spoke. But he knows me. Check his name. And check for multiple identities.”

“And what’s your plan exactly?” Q asks.

“Find him,” Bond replies. “And kill him.”

Big Reveal

Bond gives Q the ring he took from Sciarra back in Mexico City. Q begins working with his laptop. The stage directions emphasize how the previous Daniel Craig 007 films are now interlocked.

“On Q’s LAPTOP, the connections are starting to accumulate. THE IMAGE OF LE CHIFFRE IS JOINED BY VESPER LYND, DOMINIC GREENE AND THEN … RAOUL SILVA.”

Meanwhile, as in the film, C shows off to M how all of MI6 personnel are under surveillance. The script, though, has a scene where M confronts Moneypenny for aiding Bond without his knowledge.

“I do hope it wasn’t for love,” M says. “If so — you’ve been made a fool.”

“This sears into her,” according to the stage directions. “And in recoiling from that pain, she learns her answer.”

Moneypenny’s reply: “It wasn’t love. It was loyalty.”

“Conspiculously not loyalty to M,” the stage directions read. “Painful to him.”

More back and forth takes place when Moneypenny says Bond was following orders.

“Who from?” M asks.

“Your predecessor, sir.” This, of course, shakes M up.

Dad Always Liked You Best!

Bond and Madeline eventually head out to find Oberhauser. There’s a final confrontation between Bond and Hinx. The script makes it sound like Hinx dies (the script says he is “sucked under the wheel”). Also, in this script, M manages to get a telegram message to Bond. “DOUBLE-0 SECTION FINISHED — STOP GOOD LUCK — STOP M.”

SPECTRE teaser image

On page 97, Bond and Oberhauser finally meet. Their exchange goes on for a few pages. On page 102, we cut to the chase.

“Me, I was not a well child,” Oberhauser says. “But I had loving, doting parents. Then one day, they brought another boy into our home. This boy was an orphan. His parents had died in a climbing accident.”

Of course, the boy was Bond.

“I would sit in my room alone listening to my father hour after hour playing cards with this boy.”

Translation: Dad always liked you best!

Oberhauser goes on to describe the time he played poker with Bond, using hazelnuts as chips.

OBERHAUSER (CONT’D)
And the next hand I was dealt All Hearts to the King. A flush! And I pushed all my hazelnuts into the middle. And cuckoo looked at me. And he did the same. Then he reached to his wrist, and he took off his big silver watch his own dead father had given him, and he placed it on the table. And suddenly…I panicked.

Yes, young Bond bluffed young Oberhauser. Bond had a pair of threes. This was the inspiration for Oberhauser to become a super villain.

This continues on to page 106, where Bond reveals to Oberhauser the latter was really adopted. “Your name, your real name …is Ernest Serban.”

Oberhauser remains frozen. Bond leans in.

BOND (CONT’D)
Who’s the cuckoo now?

Let’s skip to the ending. Bond shoots Oberhauser three times but doesn’t kill him.

“KILL ME you coward! KILL ME!!” Oberhauser says.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Bond replies.

According to the stage direction, it’s a week later when Bond shows up and talks to Q.

As in the final film, Bond and Madeline are in the Aston Martin DB5. But there’s some addditional dialogue in the scrip.

MADELINE
Where will we go, James?

BOND
I have a few ideas. After all…
(He smiles at her.)
We have all the time in the world.

The final stage directions say the DB5 roars away “TAKING THEM SOMEWHERE…ANYWHERE….TOGETHER.”

An educated guess about Bond 25: The volatile mix

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The British tabloid press is generating stories about what supposedly caused Danny Boyle to exit Bond 25. One example: a Daily Mail story (not done by Baz Bamigboye who has a record of scoops proven to be correct). The new story purports to provide behind-the-scenes detail.

The thing is, under the best of circumstances, Bond films often are tense, expensive affairs. Thunderball raced to meet a Christmas 1965 release. The script of Tomorrow Never Dies was being written on the fly extensively. SPECTRE’s production issues were explosed via the Sony hacks before filming began.

The tabloid stories have sought to sniff out specific details. But it almost doesn’t matter. Bond 25, from the outside, appears to have had an even more volatile mix than even the 007 series norm. And some of the factors go back years.

Eon’s desire for critical respect: The James Bond film franchise was built, in part, on the work of journeymen directors such as Terence Young and Guy Hamilton.

For example, Young helped to shape Sean Connery’s performance as Bond, introducing him to tailored suits and expensive dress shirts. Later, Eon would promote the likes of Peter Hunt and John Glen (who had been editors and second unit directors) to the 007 director chair.

But in the 21st century, Eon wants more respect. “(W)e’ve never been one to hire directors for hire,” Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a 2012 interview with ComingSoon.net.  “We always wanted someone who was a great director in their own right and a storyteller.”

As a result, Eon hired the likes of Marc Forster for Quantum of Solace and Sam Mendes for Skyfall and SPECTRE. So the hiring of Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting, was part of a broader pattern.

Boyle had even directed a video for the 2012 Olympics featuring Daniel Craig as Bond. A natural, right? Not so fast.

A new director who had mixed feelings: Boyle had previously said he wasn’t Bond director material.

“I’m not the guy to make Bond movies,” Boyle said in 2013. “I love watching them and I like the books…As a teenager, I read those books cover to cover many times.” He said working on lower-budget films like the ones he usually does provides more freedom. You can see for yourself in the video below, starting about the 1:56 mark.

However, Daniel Craig, returning for his fifth 007 film, really wanted Boyle as director, according to March Daily Mail story by Baz Bamigboye.

If Craig wanted it, then it was likely that Barbara Broccoli would want it, too. Broccoli made the choice of Craig in the first place in 2005 and has made it clear she wants him to stick around as long as possible.

Boyle got himself in this position by pitching an idea that would later be written into script form by John Hodge, Boyle’s screenwriter on Trainspotting.

Sure enough, on May 25, Eon announced Boyle would direct Bond 25 from an original screenplay by Hodge. Everything was rolling, right?

A 007 star with unprecedented power: With 2015’s SPECTRE, Craig added the title of co-producer. It was something no other Bond actor in the Eon series had achieved. Connery in the 1960s wanted to be an Eon partner but was turned down.

Exhibit A as an example of Craig’s power: The Aug. 21 press release announcing Boyle’s departure. “Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig today announced that due to creative differences Danny Boyle has decided to no longer direct Bond 25.”

If Boyle had any serious disagreement with Craig, chances are he wasn’t going to come out on top.

The mix: So we have an “auteur” director uncomfortable with big-budget film making, who’s used to doing things his own way. He’s working his way amid a big, expensive project. He’s working with a star who had the additional clout of a producer’s title who also has the backing of the leader of the production company that’s been making 007 films since 1962.

Shrug. Just another day at the Universal Exports office, I suppose.

State of the 007 film franchise summer 2018

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

The James Bond film franchise is either experiencing an unusual run of bad luck or it it’s adrift and taking in water.

Either way, there was an omen on Aug. 21. Omega released an image of tuxedo-clad 007 star Daniel Craig, mostly underwater but promoting an Omega watch. A few hours later, Eon Productions announced that director Danny Boyle had exited Bond 25 because of “creative differences.”

It was the latest in a series of whipsawing developments with the 25th James Bond film produced by Eon.

For a long time after the release of 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon was quiet amid speculation that Craig wouldn’t be back. Finally, in July 2017, it said it had retained veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to write Bond 25.

This after the duo said writing Bond films were very hard in the 21st century. “I’m just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now.” Purvis said in a January 2017 interview with The Telegraph.

In August 2017, Craig announced on CBS’s The Late Show that he was, indeed, coming back.

Yet, as 2017 ended, no real word on how things were going. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a Hollywood Reporter podcast that Purvis and Wade were hard at work.

Until, a few months later, when Danny Boyle and his screenwriter, John Hodge, became the 007 flavor of the month. The duo pitched an idea. Hodge began writing. If his script was deemed acceptable by Eon, that would be Bond 25’s new direction.

On May 25, the Eon brain trust, doing its best Jean-Luc Picard imitation, proclaimed: “Make it so!” Boyle was now the official director and Hodge the new writer. Good-bye, Purvis and Wade.

Less than three months later? No so fast. The Boyle was lanced. No word on Hodge’s script, based on the supposedly spectacular idea Boyle and Hodge pitched.

What happens next? Your guess is as good as mine. Eon seemed to love working with “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster and Sam Mendes. Boyle’s hiring (however brief) seemed a natural.

The bigger question: Does Eon really know what it wants to do with Bond?

Both Broccoli and Craig clearly wanted a break from Bondage after SPECTRE. They both went about various projects, including a stage production of Othello where Craig appeared and Broccoli was a producer.

The break is over. Aside from keeping Craig in the Bond role, what does Broccoli have in mind? Eon has burned through three writers from 2017 through the present.

Will the next installment be helmed by another “auteur” director? If so, how long does it take to find a Boyle replacement?

At the very least, Bond 25’s announced fall 2019 release date looks shaky. Eon had a bad experience trying to make Quantum of Solace on an accelerated schedule. Does Eon have the stomach to try to find a new director fast? Or should it take a deep breath and start over?

Eon, of course, has business partners it must consider. Universal now does the international distribution. A joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures is distributing the movie in the United States.

More broadly, the movie business is in the midst of great change, under pressure from streaming services such as Netflix.

Bond is a franchise that has enjoyed enormous longevity. It still generates interest worldwide.

But continued longevity isn’t automatic. At the very least, the 007 film franchise faces renewed uncertainty.

Bond 25 questions: The panic button edition

Some 007 fans reaction to the latest Bond 25 news

James Bond director Danny Boyle, we hardly knew ye. Like a comet, the possibility of the Trainspotting director helming Bond 25 lit up the sky, only to dissipate into the vacuum of space.

Boyle’s departure was the subject of a very brief announcement by Eon Productions. The blog has few answers, but as usual it loads up on the questions.

What happened? The only stated reason was “creative difference,” an often-used description when a project hits a major bump.

In some ways, Boyle was an odd match. Yes, he directed a 007-themed video with Daniel Craig for the 2012 Olympics in London. But Boyle is known for lean productions. Eon is used to mounting hugely expensive ones with long shooting schedules.

On the other hand, Eon has been enamored of “auteur” directors such as Sam Mendes and Marc Forster. Mendes, in particular, seemed to get just about everything he wanted during production of Skyfall and SPECTRE. Boyle’s hiring appeared to fit that pattern.

What happens to the script? Boyle’s hiring was just as director. He and writer John Hodge (who scripted Trainspotting) had pitched an idea. Boyle’s participation depended whether a script Hodge wrote based on that idea would be accepted by Eon.

It was. Eon tossed out a script by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

So does a new director (whenever he or she is hired) work with Hodge’s script? Does the new director want to start over? Could Purvis and Wade get called back yet again with either their rejected script or to rewrite Hodge’s work?

What about the start of Bond 25 production? It was supposed to start Dec. 3. You’d think that’s questionable. On the other hand, directors can get hired in a hurry.

Could they bring Sam Mendes to direct a third 007 film? Don’t even think it.

What about Bond 25’s release date? That likely will depend on the answer to the question about starting production.

Is Daniel Craig being promoted to producer? Craig shared the title of co-producer with two others in SPECTRE. The announcement about Boyle’s departure cited Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson as well as Craig in disclosing the development. Will Craig share the Bond 25 producer’s credit with Broccoli and Wilson?

Danny Boyle no longer directing Bond 25

Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle is no longer directing Bond 25, Eon Productions said in a very short statement:

Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig today announced that due to creative differences Danny Boyle has decided to no longer direct Bond 25.

Some things of note:

–The prominence of Daniel Craig’s name. He was one of three co-producers for 2015’s SPECTRE. Has he been promoted to share the Bond 25 producer’s credit with Broccoli and Wilson?

–No mention of how this affects the Bond 25 schedule. In late May, Eon said Bond 25 would start filming on Dec. 3.

–Creative differences has long been used in the movie business to explain away things when a production hits a major snag.