Rise of the ‘Scooby Gang’ in 007 films

SPECTRE publicity still featuring part of the fan-dubbed “Scooby Gang,” Tanner (Rory Kinnear), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw).

There’s a fan-generated 007 nickname that has gotten traction these days.

That would be the “Scooby Gang.” It’s shorthand for how supporting characters in the Eon Production film series join Bond out in the field. It’s based on the cartoon series Scooby-Doo, where the Scooby Gang of young people and a dog go out and solve mysteries together.

“Scooby Gang” was used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, referring to the cartoon show.

Formerly, Bond was a lone-wolf. M would give 007 the mission. Q would provide some gadgets and Moneypenny would flirt before Bond departed the office.

That’s been changing for a while. In 1989’s Licence to Kill, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) goes rogue, as Bond (Timothy Dalton) has. He not only brings along some gadgets, he acts as 007’s assistant.

After Judi Dench came aboard as M in 1995’s GoldenEye, her character’s screen time expanded. That process started with 1999’s The World Is Not Enough where M’s kidnapping is a major aspect of the plot.

Finally, with 2012’s Skyfall, we got a rebooted Moneypenny (now with a first a name, Eve) who we initially see as a field agent. Also, the Judi Dench M scores more screen time than before because she’s a mother figure for both Bond (Daniel Craig) and the villain Silva (Javier Bardem).

In 2013, there was an early indication the Scooby Gang would come together in SPECTRE.

“Naomie Harris is getting more  of the action in the next James Bond film, which starts shooting next year,” Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in a story published on Sept. 12 of that year.

Director Sam Mendes, Craig, and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are all big fans of Naomie’s and don’t want her to be too desk-bound, as other Moneypennys have been.

‘The idea formulating in Bond-land is for Naomie to be much more of a sidekick to James, and for her to get out and harm the bad guys,’ an executive close to the production told me.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench/M perished at the end of Skyfall and was succeeded by Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who has his own impressive military background.

By the end of SPECTRE, M, Moneypenny, Q (Ben Whishaw) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) are all out in the field helping Bond. And, thus, the Scooby Gang nickname was born. It has appeared on 007 message boards and elsewhere on the internet.

Now, there has been recent fan speculation/questioning whether Fiennes can return to play Mallory/M because of other acting jobs.

In the “old days,” few fans wondered about the availability of Llewelyn, Bernard Lee or Lois Maxwell. The actors only had a few days of work and the focus was on Bond. Llewelyn was absent from Live And Let Die, but most of the publicity and fan attention was on Roger Moore’s debut as 007.

We’ll see what happens next. Meanwhile, here’s an amusing tweet from Phil Nobile Jr., former writer for Birth. Movies. Death and now editor of a new incarnation of Fangoria magazine. He’s a big 007 fan and has written extensively about Bond films in the past.

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Eon’s new normal (cont.): Q’s comments analyzed

Publicity still of Ben Whishaw with Daniel Craig in Skyfall

So, this week, actor Ben Whishaw, Q in the two most recent James Bond movies, made a few comments to Metro which were deemed news about Bond 25.

“I haven’t had an update for a while. I would imagine, I think they have a release date for next year, so I think by the end of this year we have to have started filming something,” Whishaw was quoted by the website. “Although it has gone strangely quiet, but that’s often the way it goes.”

This was analyzed by Birth. Movies. Death (“Q Is Standing by for BOND 25“) and Screen Rant (“Ben Whishaw Expects Bond 25 To Begin Filming Later This Year“).

And, yes, it was news, at least of a sort. Neither Eon Productions (which makes Bond movies) nor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which controls half of the 007 franchise) have said a whole lot for months. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In the land of a news blackout, a nugget becomes news.

It’s another reminder about Eon’s new normal. The Bond franchise has franchise has transitioned from being a film series to more like occasional events not on a set schedule.

In the 1970s, even 1980s, it probably wouldn’t have been much of a story if Desmond Llewelyn, the longest-serving film Q, commented about an upcoming film.

Imagine in that time period if Llewelyn said, “I guess they’re getting ready. They have a release date. So they’d have to start filming something before too long.” That wouldn’t have been a blip.

Also, consider this line from the Screen Rant story: “Whishaw may have confirmed his involvement, but there is still no news as to whether Ralph Fiennes (M) or Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) may be joining him.”

In the 1970s, the equivalent would have been: “Llewelyn may have confirmed his involvement, but there is still no news as to whether Bernard Lee (M) or Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny) may be joining him.”

In those days, it’s not a question a lot of people would have been asking. The show was James Bond and whoever was playing him. Connery is back! (Diamonds Are Forever) Who will be the new Bond? Can Roger Moore make it as the new Bond? (Live And Let Die)

This isn’t a complaint. The world is as it is. And Eon’s new normal is what it is.

A View To A Kill’s script: Q goes out in the field

A View To A Kill’s poster

In 1984, the writing team of Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson commenced work on their third consecutive James Bond film.

A View To A Kill (shortened from the Ian Fleming short story title From a View to a Kill) would go all-in on a contemporary plot involving computers and microchips.

A copy of a script identified as a first draft (but with some pages saying they had been revised later) indicates the Maibaum-Wilson team had worked out most of the story issues.

The script is similar to the final film that reached audiences in 1985. But, as is often the case, there are interesting differences.

The most significant is that Q is out in the field during the long San Francisco sequence.

As in the film, Q first shows up in the briefing scene shortly after the main titles. He explains the importance of computer chips and how they can be rendered useless by electro magnet pulses. Bond also comments, “expertise showing,” according to the script.

From there, we’re off to Ascot, where the MI6 crew is at the races. We’re introduced to Max Zorin, described as “tall, slender, impeccably dressed, in his late thirties. Unusually handsome he has one grey eye and one blue eye.”

David Bowie (1947-2016)

Eon initially courted David Bowie to play Zorin. Bowie turned 38 in 1985 and had two different eye colors. He turned down the part and Christopher Walken. who turned 42 the year the movie came out, got the job.

The script also describes May Day as “a shapely, tall, somewhat bizarrely dressed twenty eight year old girl with a distinctively short hairdo and a beautiful but saturninely placid face.”

Most of what follows mirrors the final film until the story shifts to San Francisco.

Bond and Q are in a van using’s Q’s surveillance device, identified in the script as “Snooper.” They’re spying on Zorin and his minions, trying to figure out what he’s up to in his operation in San Francisco Bay. A sample:

IN VAN BOND Q

watching and listening at TV SCREEN showing GROUP in STATION CONTROL ROOM. Voices from TV are faint and somewhat obscured by sound of pumping.

CONLEY ON TV
We’re at maximum pumping now…

ZORIN ON TV
We have a deadline. I’ll hold you personally responsible if we miss it.

A guard dog menances the Snooper. The device sprays the dog with repellent that Q describes as, “Foul smelling stuff.”

Thanks to the Snooper, Bond and Q discover that the Russians are also trying to plant bugs on Zorin’s operation. One Russian is captured by May Day while the other escapes. The second Russian, of course, is Pola Ivanova. Bond intercepts her and things proceed more or less as in the movie.

Desmond Llewelyn (1914-1999)

In the script, we don’t hear anymore from Q until the end of the movie. Still, one suspects this idea resonated with the Eon creative team.

Previously, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) journeyed into the field to provide Bond with gadgets (Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me). But in the script, Q is working with Bond side by side.

Q would venture out into the field to assist Bond directly in Licence to Kill.

A few more things of note:

–No Dick Tracy joke when a police captain tries to arrest Bond. In the script, the captain is in plain clothes, rather than a uniform as in the movie.

–Some lines of dialogue between Zorin and Mortner in the blimp were switched between this script and the final film.

–The scene where May Day, having been betrayed by Zorin, sacrifices herself reads flat. It has the dialogue (“Jump! “Have to hold the brake off…..Get Zorin for me!”). But it’s mostly explaining how we get from point A to point B.

After reading the script, I again watched the scene in the movie. Roger Moore and Grace Jones did a lot more with it than what was written. It’s possible director John Glen influenced that (an observation from reader Matthew Bradford made on The Spy Command page on Facebook). Also, having a John Barry absolutely increased the drama. I think it’s one of the best scenes in the movie but you couldn’t tell it by reading the script.

–At the end, it’s the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., and not Gogol (as in the movie) who is visiting M (who “looks very glum,” according to the stage directions).

“The president is most anxious to personally thank Mr Bond and inform him he will be the first foreigner ever awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor,” the U.S. ambassador says. In the final film, Gogol shows up with the Order of Lenin for Bond.

Bond is missing, which accounts for the sad mood at MI6. But, as in the movie, Q is on the job (and still in San Francisco) using the Snooper to track Bond down. In the script, Q shuts off the monitor and quickly calls M. In the film, the gag would be extended for a bit.

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.

 

 

Our modest proposal for 007 Twitter quizzes

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The OFFICIAL JAMES BOND TWITTER FEED has been doing occasional quizzes about the Bond film series of late.

One such quiz was took place May 15 and the question was who played Moneypenny the most times in Bond films.

Not the most difficult quiz, given the correct answer was Lois Maxwell at 14, with Samantha Bond the next highest at four followed by Caroline Bliss at two and Naomie Harris at one (going up to two when SPECTRE comes out in November).

On June 12, there was another quiz. Compared to the Moneypenny question, the gap between No. 1 and No. 2 is narrower, but Bernard Lee is the only actor to play M with double digit appearances at 11 while Judi Dench is runner up at seven.

We mused about this on Twitter and a reader suggested these quizzes may well be aimed at those with only a passing knowledge of James Bond. So perhaps the intent is to make Bond more accessible to a broader audience.

With that in mind, here are some suggested future quizzes for the James Bond feed on Twitter:

What actor has played Q the most times in the Bond films?

a) Desmond LLewelyn b) Peter Burton c) John Cleese d) Ben Whishaw

What is James Bond’s code number?

a) 007 b) 86 c) 99 d) 008 e) $6.2 billion

James Bond has a license to do what?

a) kill b) fish c) drive d) print money at the box office

How did SPECTRE’s budget get so high?

SPECTRE LOGO

Many entertainment websites (including this blog) have written about how the Mexican government may have helped shape a sequence in SPECTRE in return for $20 million in incentives, something the TAX ANALYSTS WEBSITE REPORTED EARLIER THIS MONTH.

The Cinema Blend website in its story on the subject added a question about SPECTRE’s $300 million-plus budget: “Why is the budget that high to begin with?” Skyfall had a reported budget of $200 million.

Sam Mendes, at the Dec. 4 media event for SPECTRE said the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios was “where budgets go to die.” The comment took on a whole new meaning after hacking of internal Sony Pictures emails revealed the budget was on pace to exceed $300 million, making the 24th James Bond movie once of the most expensive of all time.

Cinema Blend poses a good question. Here’s an attempt at a partial answer. What follows is by no means definitive or comprehensive.

More locations: With 2012’s Skyfall, the first unit only went to one location: Turkey. The second unit went to Shanghai to film exteriors but the first unit used Pinewood Studios and U.K. locations in place of the Chinese business center.

With SPECTRE, the crew is traveling more. The OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE said, “The locations for SPECTRE include Pinewood London, Mexico City, Rome, Tangier and Erfoud, Morocco. Bond is also back in the snow, this time in Sölden, Austria as well as Obertilliach and Lake Altaussee.” Already, there has been filming in Rome and Austria.

Some of the principals probably got a big raise: In November 2012, as Skyfall was on its way to a worldwide box office of $1.1 billion, THE INDEPENDENT reported star Daniel Craig would be paid 31 million pounds (or almost $46 million at current exchange rates) to play 007 in Bond 24 (now SPECTRE) and Bond 25 combined.

According to that article, Craig received 1.9 million pounds for Casino Royale, 4.4 million pounds for Quantum of Solace and 10.7 million pounds for Skyfall.

Meanwhile, Skyfall director Mendes initially said the thought of directing another Bond movie made him “physically ill.”

Nevertheless, Eon Productions wanted Mendes back, to the point of being willing to push back production so the director could participate in some stage projects. With Skyfall’s box office, it’s likely he got a big raise also. Money has a way of calming upset stomachs.

Bond movies now have pricier casts: Under Albert R. Broccoli, Eon was willing to pay big money for its Bond but supporting actors — particularly those with the M, Moneypenny and Q roles — were paid modestly.

In the 21st century, the likes of Ralph Fiennes (a two-time Oscar nominee), Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw are paid better adjusted for inflation than Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn. Meanwhile, Skyfall had an Oscar winning actor (Javier Bardem as Silva) and SPECTRE has another (Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser).

All of this is, at best, a partial explanation. SPECTRE’s budget exceeds the estimated outlays of Marvel’s The Avengers ($220 million) and The Dark Knight Rises ($250 million), movies with extensive special effects.

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.