Bond 25 questions: The P&W are back edition

So Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are back (if they ever were really away) for Bond 25. At least that’s the news from the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, whose 007 scoops for the Daily Mail are usually proven right.

Naturally, the blog has questions. So let’s get to it, shall we?

Just what are P&W writing up for Bond 25?Bamigboye makes it sound like the duo are writing up a treatment they worked on last year. So will it incorporate ideas/input from departed director Danny Boyle and his writer of choice, John Hodge?

We don’t really know. Members of FOE (Friends of Eon) would have you believe that Hodge was rewriting previous work by Purvis and Wade. Boyle, in public comments in March, didn’t make it sound that way. Neither did Eon’s own May 25 announcement that Boyle would direct and Hodge was writing Bond 25.

A treatment is like a detailed outline. It’s not a full-fledged script. So, based on Bamigboye’s story, Purvis and Wade never got past the treatment stage for Bond 25.

How does this affect Bond 25’s schedule?  This is the more important question. Again, FOE members are telling everyone that everything is on track for Bond 25 to come out in fall 2019. Eon has previously said Bond 25 will start filming on Dec. 3. But Eon’s leading man, Daniel Craig, has much of his November spoken for, filming another movie.

 Put another way, how far advanced is Bond 25’s story?  Hypothetically speaking, if a “polish” (tweaking dialogue, massaging set pieces) were underway now, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But based on Bamigboye’s story, things may not be that far advanced.

The thing is, nobody outside of the Eon/MGM/Universal camp really know. That may even apply to FOE members. For the moment, Bond 25 still doesn’t have a director to replace Boyle. Until that appointment is made, there are more questions than answers.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m. New York time): Variety had a story this afternoon making it sound as if nothing from John Hodge/Danny Boyle is being retained. It says Purvis and Wade will write a “new script” based on their treatment that had been approved before Boyle and Hodge entered the picture. It also refers to the Hodge-Boyle effort as having been “tossed.”

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‘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:

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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.

Bond 25 work continues amid director search, MI6 site says

Bond 25 keeping its head above water, MI6 James Bond website says.

Work is continuing on Bond 25 with the intent of meeting its original schedule amid the search for a new director, the MI6 James Bond website said.

Sets are still under construction at Pinewood Studios in accordance with “the original timetable and plans,” the MI6 site said.

Danny Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, departed the project last month.

MI6 also said Hodge’s Bond 25 script “was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.” The script “is being touched up again” to reflect concerns of star Daniel Craig and producers, according to MI6.

Deadline: Hollywood said in a Feb. 21 story that Boyle and Hodge had pitched an idea that Hodge was writing at that point. Deadline said that effort was separate from a Purvis and Wade script written last year.

A May 25 announcement that included that Boyle would direct said the project had “an original screenplay” by Hodge. There was no mention of Purvis and Wade.

MI6 did not mention who is revising the Bond 25 script currently.

Bond 25 has an announced release date of fall 2019. The May 25 announcement said filming would start on Dec. 3. Craig is scheduled to film a mystery movies, Knives Out, during November.

The MI6 website has a relationship with Eon Productions. Disclosure: The blog proprietor has done two articles for MI6 Confidential, a magazine published by the website.

UPDATE (7:05 p.m. New York time): On Twitter, the MI6 website said this about Hodge and the “original screenplay” of the May 25 announcement:

 

Variety lists 3 contenders to direct Bond 25

Variety, in a story about the search for a Bond 25 director, lists three contenders.

The entertainment news outlet says that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions ” are showing interest” in Bart Layton, director of American Animals, and S.J. Clarkson, ” who was recently tapped to direct the next ‘Star Trek’ installment.”

Also back in contention is Yann Demange, director of White Boy Rick. Demange last year was reported last year to be a contender for Bond 25. But MGM and Eon got interested in Danny Boyle, who got the job.

“Sit-down meetings are still being worked out for Layton and Clarkson, and the timetable for the meetings is currently unclear,” wrote Variety’s Justin Kroll.

“The producers’ first meeting with Demange went well enough to land him high on the list of contenders, but at the time,” according to Kroll. “‘White Boy Rick’ was unfinished and they were unable to see the movie. A screening will now be set for MGM and Eon officials to see Demange’s final product.”

Variety said Eon wants to keep the currently announced fall 2019 release date for Bond 25. At the same time, the entertainment news outlet said meetings with other directors could still be set up.

Daniel Craig, the 007 film star, is scheduled to begin filming a mystery movie, Knives Out, in November. Bond 25 had been set to begin filming Dec. 3.

(UPDATE, 8:20 p.m. New York Time): Variety’s Kroll put out a tweet saying “there is still a chance Eon and MGM take a Hail Mary shot for a big name like Edgar Wright or (Christoper) McQuarrie.”

 

Bond 25: What’s up with MGM?

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

With all the fuss about Bond 25 since Danny Boyle departed as director, one aspect hasn’t gotten much attention.

What’s up with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the home studio of the 007 film franchise?

It was Eon Productions’ 007 social media outlets that announced Boyle’s departure. Nothing new on that front since Eon’s Aug. 21 announcement.

MGM controls half of the Bond franchise along with Eon and its parent company, Danjaq.

MGM reported second-quarter financial results back on Aug. 7, back when Boyle still was slated to direct Bond 25.

The studio had a conference call with investors on Aug. 7. At that point, Christopher Brearton, who has the title chief operating officer, said everything was great 007-wise.

“The big film news of the quarter was our announcement that we were partnering with Universal Pictures for the international distribution of Bond 25. We are very excited about this deal. Universal’s exceptional international distribution and marketing organization make this an important new partnership for MGM.”

MGM, through a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures, is slated to handled U.S. distribution of Bond 25. Brearton said MGM is positioned to retain more value from Bond film box office.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the film,” Brearton said of Bond 25.

That was then. This is….well, we don’t know. MGM has said nothing about Bond 25 since Boyle’s departure. Eon? It has said nothing other than Boyle is out because of “creative differences.”

MGM, it should be remembered, still hasn’t named a new CEO since Gary Barber departed in March.

The studio has a successful TV operation. Its movie operation? Well, it’s latest film, Operation Finale (released by the MGM-Annapurna joint venture) came in at No. 4 for the Aug. 31-Sept. 2 weekend with an estimated $6 million, according to Box Office Mojo. No. 1 was Crazy Rich Asians, with an estimated $22.2 million in its third weekend of release. (MGM rolled out Operation Finale on Aug. 29.)

You’ve got to wonder what the MGM brain trust thinks about the uncertainty surrounding Bond 25, especially because it (and presumably Universal) are paying the bills.

Is the studio pressing for a quick Boyle replacement to ensure Bond 25 meets its previously announced fall 2019 release date? Is there really anything it can do about it? Or can it only sit by and watch to see how Eon resolves the situation?

On the other hand, there are a few known aspects. MGM remains one of the weakest Hollywood studios in an era where a 20th Century Fox, a much healthier operation, can get swallowed up (by Walt Disney Co. in Fox’s case).

British tabloids have ignored the MGM angle of the Bond 25 saga. It may still be one worth watching.

The longevity of comedy spies

Cast of Get Smart on a TV Guide cover

A reader said the following on Twitter: “If Rowan Atkinson can play Johnny English at 63 surely Craig can continue for several more films.”

The reader is referring, of course, to 007 star Daniel Craig, 50. He has said Bond 25 will be his final Bond effort. But The Mirror had a story last week saying Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli hasn’t given up on luring him for future installments.

First, to what the reader pointed out. Rowan Atkinson has been in Johnny English (2003), when he was 48; Johnny English Reborn (2011), when he was 56; and Johnny English Strikes Again, coming out this fall.

The blog’s guess: Audience expectations are different for comedy spies than for other fictional spies. Comedy spies may have fight scenes, but that’s not why an audience seeks them out.

Consider Don Adams’ Maxwell Smart in Get Smart. Adams served in the military during World War II and became a comic after the war. Get Smart originally was developed with comic actor Tom Poston in mind for the role. But ABC took a pass.

NBC expressed because it had Adams under contract. Writers Mel Brooks and Buck Henry retooled their script to work in Adams comedy bits (“Would you believe?….”).

Adams already was 42 when Get Smart began. It ran for five seasons (four on NBC, one on CBS). Then, Smart returned in the 1980 theatrical film The Nude Bomb, when Adams was 57. Then there was the 1989 TV movie Get Smart, Again! when he was 66. Finally, there was a brief Get Smart series revival (seven episodes) in 1995 with Max now the Chief. The series ran its course a couple of months before Adams turned 72.

Over that 30-year span, Adams was Maxwell Smart in the mind of many viewers. Get Smart began as a James Bond parody. But it was so popular, the Western comedy series F-Troop had an episode with actor Pat Harrington doing a Maxwell Smart parody named B Wise. In other words, it was a parody of a parody.

A 2008 film version with Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart did OK business, but no sequel was ordered up.

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.