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.

‘Little things.’ How 007 press releases evolved

“I can’t help it, sir. Little things bother me.”

An apology in advance. This post goes very deep into the weeds.

Back on May 25, the official Eon Productions webite said that Bond 25 would be directed by Danny Boyle “from an original screenplay by Academy Award nominee John Hodge (Trainspotting).”

The phrase “original screenplay” usually means a script, not based on other media that originated with a specific screenwriter. Based on the phrasing of the May 25 release, that would seem to be John Hodge.

But this week, the James Bond MI6 website said the following about Bond 25: “The script by John Hodge, which was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade…”

The website fielded a question on Twitter and had this response:

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

That’s interesting. One thing to note: The May 25 press release didn’t mention Purvis and Wade.

What’s more, the “original screenplay” phrasing is different than other Eon press releases this decade.

October 2011, Skyfall: “The screenplay is written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan.”

July 2013, the then-untitled Bond 24: “…Sam Mendes will also return to direct the screenplay written by John Logan.” The Sony hacks showed later that there wasn’t a full-fledged script at the time of the release. Logan turned in his first draft in the spring of 2014.

During the summer of 2014, Purvis and Wade were summoned to rewrite Logan’s work. So this is what was said in the press release in December 2014, SPECTRE: “Written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,”

Finally, in July 2017, Eon put out a release announcing a release date for Bond 25. It said the movie, “…will be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long time collaborators and writers on previous Bond films including CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, SKYFALL and SPECTRE.”

But by May 2018, Purvis and Wade had disappeared and the official press release was only talking about John Hodge.

So: Was the May 2018 press release written in a sloppy manner? (“Hey guys, we forgot to mention Purvis and Wade!” “Forget it, nobody will every notice!”) Back in February, Deadline: Hollywood said Hodge was writing a script totally separate from what Purvis and Wade wrote in 2017. Did that outlet make a mistake?

Or did Eon and public relations crew simply change its press release phrasing after all these years?

Oh, one more thing: Press releases are typically vetted by the principals involved as well as lawyers. The writers of press releases don’t just wing it.

These are just little things, as Lt. Columbo used to say. Little things.

UPDATE (12:50 p.m. New York time): The James Bond dossier reminded me (see comments below) of some Danny Boyle comments where it certainly sounded like he and John Hodge were working on a new story, not revising an existing script. Here’s a video of Boyle from The Associated Press in March.

New Craig film suggests possible Bond 25 delay

Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli and 007 star Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig is set to star in a movie that begins filming in November, Deadline: Hollywood reported. That raises the possibility of at least some delay for Bond 25, which had been scheduled to start filming on Dec. 3.

Craig is to star in Knives Out, a murder mystery, according to the entertainment news website. The director will be Rian Johnson, who helmed Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi.

The Deadline: Hollywood story doesn’t specifically say Bond 25 will be pushed back. But unless Knives Out can complete filming in less than a month, it would suggest Craig would be unavailable for the announced Dec. 3 date for start of Bond 25 principal photography.

A couple of caveats: Sean Connery was busy when Goldfinger began production in 1964. Mission: Impossible-Fallout still made its July release date despite a delay of months after Tom Cruise broke his ankle. So even if Knives Out keeps Craig tied up it doesn’t necessarily mean — at least not yet — that Bond 25 can’t meet its announced fall 2019 release date.

However, Bond 25 doesn’t have a director after Danny Boyle’s departure last month. And the condition of the script/scripts is/are unknown with scribe John Hodge following Boyle out the Bond door.

MGM pays ex-CEO a lot of money to go away

Gary Barber, former MGM chief, has reason to smile.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has bought shares and options from former CEO Gary Barber essentially to make him go away, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Barber received $260 million for 274,392 shares the former chief owned plus options for almost another 3.9 million shares, according to the entertainment news website.

That was on top of about $15 million in severance compensation that Barber received after being fired in March.

Deadline said in return Barber agreed “not to engage” with MGM for three years. Reuters reported last month that Barber was looking into making a bid for MGM. This new deal would preclude that.

What does this mean for Bond 25? Not much. The main effect is Barber goes away, albeit with a lot more money in his bank account.

Had Barber actually mounted a takeover bid, it had the potential to be a sideshow as MGM and Eon Productions are in the midst of getting Bond 25 off the ground. Sideshow averted.

Deadline says Bond 25 distribution settled

Bond 25’s distribution has been settled, Deadline: Hollywood reported. with Universal taking over the international distribution.

Universal will also handle home video distribution, the entertainment website, citing sources it didn’t identify.

U.S. distribution will be through a joint venture that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures formed last year, Deadline said.

That joint venture was announced on Oct. 31. Deadline reported in November that the joint venture was “thisclose” to securing U.S. distribution rights but no formal announcement has been made.

Deadline also said the movie will debut in the U.K. on Oct. 25, 2019, with a U.S. release on Nov. 8, 2019. The U.S. release date was announced by Eon Productions and MGM on July 24, 2017.

Bond 25 will begin production on Dec. 3 of this year, Deadline said.

UPDATE (11:55 p.m.): Deadline says the studios involved confirmed the news. Danny Boyle also  is now confirmed as director, the website said.

“We are delighted to announce that the exceptionally talented Danny Boyle will be directing Daniel Craig in his fifth outing as James Bond in the 25th installment of the franchise,” Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson said in a statement quoted by Deadline.

“We will begin shooting Bond 25 at Pinewood Studios in December with our partners at MGM and thrilled that Universal will be our international distributor.” the duo said in the statement.

The distribution deal was put together more than 300 days after the release date was announced.

 

Bond 25 questions: Release date edition

Daniel Craig

An announcement by Universal and a line in a Variety story have stirred the pot, getting fans concerned — or at least wondering — about Bond 25’s release date.

The announcement was made by Universal that it planned to release a Danny Boyle-directed comedy/musical in September 2019. That’s two months before Bond 25’s current release date of November 2019.

The line in the Variety story: ” MGM announced last summer that it would open Bond 25 on Nov. 8, 2019, but it’s unlikely to do so.”

So, let the questions begin.

How likely is Bond 25 to be delayed? Variety didn’t specify. In fact, it didn’t indicate whether that line was based on hard reporting or a simple assertion.

Meanwhile (while I was writing this very post), the MI6 James Bond website put out this tweet about the Variety story:

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

That sounds like an endorsement of what Variety said. But Variety wasn’t the model of transparency with its readers. And there’s ways to be more transparent while not identifying specific sources.

Is there something else? Fans have mostly overlooked how Bond 25 doesn’t have a distributor.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hasn’t had a distribution operation since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010. Sony Pictures’s most recent two-picture 007 distribution deal ended with SPECTRE.

MGM took a step last year to getting back into distribution by forming a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies in the U.S. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

Deadline: Hollywood reported in November that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture had just about wrapped up U.S. distribution for Bond 25. But no announcement ever came. The Hollywood Reporter said April 4 that the distribution deal had been held up as MGM seeks to sell itself.

Under the most recent MGM-Sony deal, the two studios split the production costs while MGM kept 75 percent of the profits.

Unless MGM either sells itself or grows itself into a bigger entity, getting a distributor deal is vital to financing Bond 25.

Put another way, until you finance the movie, you can’t make the movie. There’s been an element of uncertainty surrounding Bond 25 all along. The November 2019 release date may have been built on a foundation of sand since it was first announced.

Bond 25: The distributor edition (aka TOLDJA)

Bond 25: Still in search of a distributor

Remember all the posts this blog had when it kept asking why there wasn’t a distributor yet for Bond 25? And how some readers felt it was overkill?

Except, apparently, it wasn’t. The Hollywood Reporter on April 4 reported that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hasn’t yet selected either a U.S. or international distributor. According to the entertainment news outlet, MGM may be setting itself up for a sale and its 007 film rights are a big part of the marketing.

MGM and Eon Productions said back on July 24, 2017, that Bond 25 would have a U.S. release date of Nov. 8, 2019. The blog asked that day, “Who’s going to distribute Bond 25? The blog either asked the question again or discussed the issue on Aug. 29, Oct. 6 and Oct. 20.

As a 007 fan wrote to the blog on Twitter: “I think you need to chill about the distributor. It’s going to happen don’t you think.”

Separately, some fans participating on 007 message boards felt it was all lined up, it was merely a well-kept secret. After all, the thinking went, there’s no way they’d announce a release date without a distributor lined up.

Except, apparently, MGM and Eon did just that. Perhaps it was to call dibs on the November 2019 date. It doesn’t really matter. The announcement went out without having secured a way for the movie to make it to theaters. That was the case then. It’s still the case now apparently.

Almost a year ago, The New York Times reported how five studios were trying to cut a deal with MGM to distribute Bond 25.  Since then, the parent company of one of the contenders, 20th Century Fox, agreed to sell that studio to Walt Disney Co.

Another, Annapurna Pictures, formed a joint venture with MGM to distribute each other’s movies in the U.S. However, Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

Deadline: Hollywood reported in November, in a story labeled “EXCLUSIVE,” that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to getting the Bond 25 U.S. distribution deal. Some outlets have subsequently written as if it were a done deal.

Except, apparently, it wasn’t.

Neither the Times nor Deadline ever felt a need to revisit their previous stories. It wasn’t until this week when The Hollywood Reporter finally got around to it. It would seem if something is “thisclose” to happening but it hasn’t occurred months later, it might be time to make new inquiries.