Boyle-Eon: The lack of due diligence

Danny Boyle

Last August, the blog asked whether Danny Boyle and Eon Productions did proper due diligence before Eon decided to hire Boyle to direct Bond 25.

Boyle, seemingly, has confirmed the answer was no.

Empire magazine has a feature story about Boyle in its May issue. The story isn’t online, but Boyle comments about Bond 25 have been summarized, including a story at the MI6 James Bond website.

There’s a passage where Boyle says he left Bond 25 after Eon wanted to bring in other writers to rework what John Hodge had done. (Cary Fukunaga would be hired to replace Boyle.)

“We were working very, very well, but they didn’t want to go down that route,” Empire quotes Boyle as saying. “What John Hodge and I were doing, I thought, was really good. It wasn’t finished, but it could have been really good.

“You have to believe in your process and part of that is the partnership I have with a writer. It’s like saying ‘Hey, we are going to give you a different editor…’ Those fundamental partnerships are vital.”

It sounds like Boyle learned his lesson the hard way. If he had done a little research, maybe a half-hour using Google, he’d have discovered Eon often brings in multiple writers to work on Bond films. In some cases, the more the merrier. 

To be fair, Boyle would not be the first auteur director to have difficulties working in a blockbuster film environment. The 2015 Marvel Studios film Ant-Man originated with Edgar Wright. But, in the end, Wright bowed out while retaining a screenplay credit.

Nevertheless, Eon had plenty of chances to check Boyle out. Boyle and Hodge reportedly pitched their idea. How did they think Boyle would react after telling him Hodge’s work needed to be reworked by other scribes?

“Oh sure, Barbara. Whatever you say.” Not likely. They call it auteur for a reason.

This whole affair likely is more complicated. Regardless, neither side did their proper due diligence. And both sides are to blame. That’s as obvious as how the sun rises in the East.

UPDATE (March 21, 2019): Empire has posted an online excerpt of its Danny Boyle story that contains his comments about Bond 25.

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.

Bond 25 release pushed back 2 months

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25’s release has been pushed back almost two months to April 8, 2020, The Wrap entertainment news website said.

The change was confirmed in an announcement on the official 007 website of Eon Productions.

The Wrap’s initial story was only two paragraphs long. It provided no details nor said how it obtained the information. An updated version added some background but still had no details. The Eon announcement was only one sentence.

Bond 25’s scheduled release date had been Feb. 14, 2020.

Bond 25 had already been pushed back once. The next 007 film originally was announced as having a November 2019 release date in the United States.

The 25th James Bond film originally was to have been directed by Danny Boyle. He departed over “creative differences.” Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace Boyle.

Bond 25 will be distributed in the U.S. by United Artists Releasing, a joint venture of MGM and Annapurna Pictures. Universal is handling international distribution.

UPDATE (9:20 p.m., New York time): Perhaps a piece of the puzzle: Universal (which is distributing Bond 25 internationally) has moved Fast & Furious 9 from April 10, 2020 (the start of Easter weekend), to May 22, 2020, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

007 questions before Bond 25 starts filming

So how do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25?

In less than two months, Bond 25 is scheduled to start filming in time for a Feb. 14, 2020 release. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

001: How do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25? Cary Fukunaga, the director of Bond 25, has said that Bond 25 will continue a “character arc” that began with 2006’s Casino Royale.

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, it appeared the Daniel Craig 007 had retired as an Double-O agent. So how do you get from there to a new adventure?

002: How do you reconcile the various Bond 25 scripts? The current effort began with a treatment (i.e. detailed outline) by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Then, that was put off to the side because director Danny Boyle and his writer John Hodge pitched an idea that supposedly was great. Then, a few months later, Eon thought better and Boyle and Hodge walked away.

There were many stories published during 2018 (See the blog’s sister site, The Bond 25 Timeline for details).

But Eon owns all those ideas. Will the final script reflect some or all of those ideas? In some cases, ideas from submitted scripts end up in Bond films years later. Also, it was reported last week that Paul Haggis (involved with writing Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) had worked on Bond 25’s script.

We’ll see how this plays out for Bond 25.

003: How much leeway does director Fukunaga have for Bond 25? Eon Productions gave Sam Mendes a lot of leeway for Skyfall and SPECTRE, including granting Mendes his choice of composer (Thomas Newman in both movies) and director of photography (Roger Deakins in Skyfall). Does Fukunaga get that kind of love from Eon for Bond 25?

004: If the answer to 003 is not so much, does David Arnold get a chance to return to score Bond 25? Arnold, composer of five 007 scores (behind only John Barry’s 11) has been away for more than a decade. Much of that absence stemmed from Mendes’ relation with Newman. Does Arnold get a chance to come back?

005: Does Bond 25’s budget grow, stay the same, or shrink from SPECTRE’s? During the Sony hacks (hacked emails and other documents), it came out that SPECTRE’s budget was on pace to go past $300 million. Supposedly, the budget was closer to $240 million (after factoring in all the product placement and Mexico tax credits). It’s always easier to spend more — as long as a studio is willing to cut checks.

006: How energized are Bond 25’s lead producer and star? Over the extended break, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has worked on “indie-style” small films while star Daniel Craig has worked on other projects. Meanwhile, Craig said back in 2016 that “everybody’s just a bit tired.” Is everybody rested up now?

007: Does Universal’s involvement with Bond 25 change things? Sony Pictures (through its Columbia Pictures brand) released the last four 007 films (2006-2015). Now, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures will handle U.S. distribution while Universal will handle international distribution. Does Universal change things? There’s no way to tell for now.

Bond 25 director says script still being written

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Bond 25’s director

The script for Bond 25 still is being written with major issues, including characters, yet to be determined, director Cary Fukunaga said in an interivew with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Fukunaga was asked whether Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld or Ben Whishaw’s Q would return in Bond 25.

“We haven’t finished the screenplay, so there is no way that anyone could know that,” he told the outlet. “Those are two extraordinary actors, so if there is space for them in the story, I would absolutely want them there. But I don’t know yet what it’s going to be.”

The story doesn’t specify who is doing the writing.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long-time 007 screenwriters, were announced as Bond 25 scribes in July 2017. Then, early this year, Danny Boyle emerged as the main contender to direct the film. He had devised an idea with his writer of choice, John Hodge.

When Boyle was announced in May 25, the press release said Hodge was writing and Purvis and Wade weren’t mentioned. Then Boyle exited because of creative differences. Last word was from the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye (with Variety and Deadline: Hollywood confirming) that things went back to Purvis and Wade and a treatment (essentially a detailed outline) that had been approved before Boyle and Hodge entered the picture.

Fukunaga is a writer himself. He may or may not be directly writing Bond 25 himself. Even if he isn’t, a director usually has a big voice in how a script is developed.

There was also this passage.

“In terms of what I can bring to change the character, Bond is on a character arc that started with ‘Casino Royale,’ and I will be carrying that on. There will be changes, I am sure. As in any story, a character has to change in order [to have] a narrative.”

2006’s Casino Royale was Daniel Craig’s first 007 film. 2008’s Quantum of Solace was a “direct sequel.” But 2012’s Skyfall initially didn’t pick up any plot points from Craig’s first two Bond films. Then 2015’s SPECTRE sought to connect the four films together.

Bond 25 isn’t scheduled to begin filming until March 2019 and be released in February 2020.

h/t @Bond25Film

Epilogue: About that whole Danny Boyle thing

Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

In the 21st century, news cycles go faster than ever. So it is with the infatuation of Eon Productions with director Danny Boyle.

For much of 2018, the idea that Boyle may/would/wasn’t going to after all direct Bond 25 was big news among James Bond fans.

Now? Hardly anyone remembers all that. Danny who? Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

Despite that, Eon’s infatuation has had a huge impact on Bond 25.

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, Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge made a pitch that intrigued Eon.

Suddenly, the Purvis & Wade story seemed expendable.

Three months later, Eon announced that Boyle was onboard and Hodge was writing the movie. Another three months later, Boyle is gone. So is Hodge.

That’s at least at least six months (if not more) of wasted effort. Fans were told in September 2018 that a new director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, had been hired.

Since then, Boyle has become as forgotten as Peter Morgan (hired to write what would eventually be Skyfall), or John Landis, Cary Bates and Anthony Burgess (among the scribes hired to write stories for what would become The Spy Who Loved Me).

As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, “What’s up with that?”

At the very least, it suggests Eon and its studio partners Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (who knows how long Annapurna Pictures will be part of the equation?) still care about prestige. Such as when Eon hired Morgan.

Nevertheless, with 20-20 hindsight, it’s clear that the le affaire de Boyle delayed the development of Bond 25.

Is this important? Actually, yes. With hindsight, the Boyle Affair provides insight to the state of the 007 film franchise. Will it all work out? We won’t know until February 2020.