Bond 25 questions: The script edition

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Bond 25 filming is underway. Work has wrapped up in Jamaica. Things should be moving along nicely, right?

Not according to tabloid newspapers, specifically The Sun and Daily Mail in the U.K. and the New York Post in the U.S. And a lot of the hubbub has to do with the film’s script.

Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is there really “no script”?

From the time the first draft is submitted, there’s a script. The question is whether there’s a script everyone is happy with.

Still, at any time, there’s a document that exceeds 100 pages and says “The End” at the end. The first draft is replaced by a second draft and so on and so forth.

Nevertheless, the tabloids say differently. The Post in an April 25 story quotes a person it didn’t identify as saying, “They don’t have a script.”

The Sun in an April 26 story said “there is no script.”

Not to be outdone, the Daily Mail began a May 9 story thusly: “The joke on the Bond 25 set is the script’s under wraps. And the response is: ‘What script?’” The story said the story is being rewritten “endlessly.”

So what’s really going on?

Clearly, a number of writers have worked on the project at one time or another. Among them: the team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade; John Hodge when Danny Boyle was attached as director; and Scott Z. Burns and Phoebe Waller-Bridge since Cary Fukunaga (who also writes scripts) replaced Boyle.

In the past week, Waller-Bridge has gotten a lot of attention. She’s both a performer and writer and worked on various high-profile projects.

Waller-Bridge was interviewed on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast. That mostly concerned her career generally but included a few minutes about Bond 25 at the end. She was also the subject of a separate Daily Mail feature story.

In both instances, Waller-Bridge made it sound as if Bond 25’s scripting is under control.

“We have a script and we’re continuing to work on it, all of us floating ideas around and creating characters together,” she said in the Daily Mail story.

Anything else catch your eye?

The Daily Mail’s May 9 story about the “endless” rewriting of Bond 25’s script said it was being revised by Waller-Bridge, director Fukunaga and star Daniel Craig.

Back in 2011, Craig said how he and director Marc Forster supposedly rewrote Quantum of Solace on the set. “A writer I am not,” Craig said then.

If the Daily Mail is correct (something I am not assuming), did Craig change his mind?

Is there context we should keep in mind?

At various times in the 57-year history of the 007 film franchise, there’s been frantic rewriting: From Russia With Love, The Spy Who Loved Me and Tomorrow Never Dies come to mind. Things turned out well at the end.

Still, past performance isn’t a guarantee of future success. You can’t take success for granted.

That’s something to keep in mind. But not something to lose sleep over, at least not at this stage in the proceedings.

UPDATE: A Japanese outlet, Cinema Today, posted a story dated May 12 but is based on an April interview with Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. According to a translation, the duo say that director Cary Fukunaga recruited Scott Z. Burns as a writer while they brought in Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Wilson said work on the script “struggled for a while” but they have a story “with a lot of twists and surprises.”

If Twitter existed in the early days of 007 films

Twitter logo

Twitter, founded in 2006, drives a lot of the conversation on social media.

When it comes to movies and TV shows, Twitter often is a medium for fans to express themselves about movies and TV shows. It’s also a way for various media outlets to blast out headlines before publishing stories.

With that in mind, here are some of the tweets that could have been posted in the earliest days of the James Bond film franchise.

Sean Connery’s casting as James Bond is announced.

–They cast WHO? The guy is balding and he has bad teeth!

Production on Dr. No begins

–Dr. No is a half-day behind schedule after its first day of filming! This movie is doomed!

–I hear the reason for the delay was Jack Lord was late. Bloody American!

–Rumor has it the fourth day of shooting was almost a total loss. Does this production know what it’s doing?

–The Dragon keeps breaking down! Lousiest machine I’ve had to work on!

Things get serious when the movie goes to post-production.

–Film Finances, the company that provided the completion bond for Dr. No, has taken over control. This production is doomed!

–Word is Film Finances has impounded a big chunk of Terence Young’s salary until it gets its money back. What a messed up production this is!

The movie comes out

–Felix Leiter?! He wasn’t in the book!

–Hey! They changed the ending! What happened to Dr. No being buried under guano?!

Eon makes From Russia With Love as the second film in the series

–Call Me Bwana? It was Niagara in the book! And it was Marilyn Monroe, not Anita Ekberg!

–I must say Lotte Lenya is far too glamorous to play Rosa Klebb!

–Pedro Armendariz just committed suicide. How tragic! I wonder if they got all the Darko Kerim footage they needed.

–Terence Young was almost killed in a helicopter accident! Is this production jinxed?

–There’s a rumor that they set off explosions for what was intended as run-through. Do these jokers know what they’re doing?

–Hey! They changed the ending! Bond went all the way to Paris in the book!

–I still don’t know about this Connery guy.

Bond 25 questions: The new writer edition

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

One of the later questions deal with a possible Bond 25 story line, so consider that a spoiler.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a writer and performer, has come aboard Bond 25 as the newest screenwriter. The story was broken by the Mail on Sunday while The Observer had its own, later story with additional details.

Not surprisingly, the blog has some questions.

What is Waller-Bridge’s background?

She was born in 1985 and acts, writes and directs. One of her prominent credits is the BBC comedy Fleabag.

Why is she being brought on Bond 25?

According to The Guardian’s story, actor Daniel Craig requested her services. An excerpt:

Sources close to the film in the US said that while in the country she discussed with Craig how to improve the script of Bond 25, which the 007 actor felt needed some “polishing”, by introducing more humour and the offbeat style of writing she is best known for.

What’s the significance of this move?

Eon Production recently hired “script doctor” Scott Z. Burns for a four-week stint going over the script. If The Guardian is to be believed, the powers that be felt yet more work was needed.

The Mail on Sunday hyped Waller-Bridge’s hiring as “a comprehensive makeover for the MeToo era.” The Guardian’s story makes it sound like more of a tweaking.

Any plot hints? (here’s the spoiler for the spoiler adverse)

The Mail on Sunday story said one plot “being considered” has a retired Bond while a woman agent now has the 007 code number.

If accurate, that’s the flip side of an idea in Anthony Horowitz’s Forever and a Day 007 continuation novel. It’s set in 1950. Bond gets promoted to the 00 section and opts to take the 007 number, which had been assigned to a murdered agent.

Is it a big deal to hire a woman screenwriter for a Bond film?

It shouldn’t but it probably will be because there have been so few.

Johanna Harwood (b. 1930) worked on the first two films in the Eon series. She shared the Dr. No screenplay credit with Richard Maibaum and Berkely Mather. On From Russia With Love, she received an “adapted by” credit while Maibaum got the screenplay credit.

Dana Stevens took over from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who had done the initial drafts of The World Is Not Enough. Bruce Feirstein subsequently took over from her. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein shared in the screenplay credit while Stevens went uncredited.

Nadja Regin, two-time 007 actress, dies

Nadja Regin with Pedro Armendariz in From Russia With Love

Nadja Regin, who appeared in two early James Bond films has died at 87. Her death was disclosed on the official James Bond website of Eon Productions.

She appeared in From Russia With Love as the mistress of Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendariz). She tries to entice the head of Station T away from his work. They are interrupted by an explosion meant to kill Kerim.

The actress was also in Goldfinger as Bonita, a dancer who attempts to set up Bond (Sean Connery) for an attack in the pre-titles sequence. It nearly works until Bond sees the image of the approaching attacker in her eye.

Regin was born Dec. 2, 1931 in Yugoslavia. Her IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 50 acting credits, including episodes of Danger Man and The Saint.

Bond 25 questions: Miscellaneous edition

Denis Villeneuve, one-time contender to direct Bond 25

We (apparently) are on the cusp of Bond 25 production getting underway. Before that happens, the blog has a couple of questions (for entertainment purposes only).

Did anybody think Dune would start production before Bond 25? 

You may recall that director Denis Villeneuve said in November 2017 he’d been asked to direct Bond 25 but took a pass because he wanted to direct a new film version of Dune.

Dune was seen as a difficult, ambitious project and one that might take a long time to get going — if it could get started at all.

However, it got underway last week. See stories from UPI and Screen Rant for details. The film’s cast includes the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin among others.

Dune has a Nov. 20, 2020 release date, or more than seven months after Bond 25’s April 8, 2020 release date.

Speaking of Bond 25, what’s the state of its script? 

Scott Z. Burns was brought in to rework Bond 25’s script, The Playlist reported last month. He was scheduled to work four weeks.

After roughly four weeks, Burns wrapped up work, the same outlet said last week.

Easy peasy, right?

Not so fast. The more recent Playlist story also talked about cast members such as Ralph Fiennes saying they haven’t seen any script pages.

The writer, Rodrigo Perez, said “the screenplay seems to be a work in progress, and isn’t complete yet enough for producers to circulate it to the cast, despite being just weeks away from filming.” (emphasis added)

“Seems” is a long way from “knowing.” Still, that passage didn’t go unnoticed among 007 fans.

I suppose it should be remembered that Eon Production has always been loosey goosey when it comes to Bond scripts. Two extreme cases:

–Richard Maibaum was still at work during filming of From Russia With Love in 1963. It was after the start of filming that he got the idea of showing Red Grant shadow Bond in Istanbul. That was a move that caused the story to come into focus, according to the documentary Inside From Russia With Love.

–Bruce Feirstein was reworking Tomorrow Never Dies script during filming. He wrote the first draft, others had a go at it and then Feirstein was brought back. Supposedly, Feirstein was writing scenes shortly before they would be filmed.

007 poll shows the devil is in the details

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Earlier this month, the Morning Consult and the Hollywood Reporter conducted a poll of almost 2,100 Americans about James Bond films. Here are two greatly different headlines summarizing the results.

Morning Consult’s report: “007 Poll Shows Scant Support for Diversifying Bonds.”

The Express, U.K. tabloid: “James Bond: Most Americans support a black 007 – Idris Elba BACKED to replace Daniel Craig.”

They’re both right but you have to dig into the data to see why.

According to Morning Consult, 51 percent of adult respondents said “the James Bond series was a classic and nothing about it should be changed, a 17-percentage-point edge over those who said they’d prefer to see the film adapt to the times and have a more diverse cast and lead.”

However, those polled were then asked additional groups about different groups and individuals.

Among groups, 52 percent of adults said they support the idea of a black James Bond, with 20 percent having no opinion and 29 percent opposing.

Also, 39 percent support a Hispanic Bond, 37 percent support an Asian Bond, 37 percent supported a female Bond and 28 percent support a gay Bond.

Meanwhile, when asked specifically about Idris Elba, 63 percent said  they wanted to see him play Bond, with only 21 percent opposed.

Meanwhile, Morning Consult had more details about how respondents feel about agent 007.

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of the adults polled said they’d at least watched some of the series. And with a net favorability of 62 points, only “Back to the Future” (74 points) and “Indiana Jones” (72 points) were more popular among films made before the 1990s. (“Toy Story” was the most popular movie franchise out of 34 series tested, while “Back to the Future” was second.)

The poll also tackled the issue of who is the most popular actor to play Bond in the Eon Productions series.

Most popular 007 film and Bond actor among Americans polled: Goldfinger and Sean Connery. 

Sean Connery was No. 1 at 82 percent, with Pierce Brosnan right behind at 81 percent. Roger Moore, who made 007 entries in the Eon series, was No. 3 at 74 percent, followed by current Bond Daniel Craig at 71 percent. The least popular Bond actors were Timothy Dalton at 49 percent and George Lazenby at 31 percent.

There’s also the question of favorite 007 films of Americans. Morning Consult again sued a “net favorability” number. On that basis, the top five were: Goldfinger (plus 69), From Russia With Love (plus 66), Live And Let Die (plus 66), Diamonds Are Forever (plus 65) and For Your Eyes Only (plus 64).

The highest Daniel Craig 007 film was his debut, Casino Royale, at No. 6 (plus 63), tied with You Only Live Twice.

The bottom? The Living Daylights, Dalton’s debut, (plus 48). SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, was next at plus 49.

Eon’s new normal: Update

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

This isn’t your father’s James Bond film franchise.

Hire a new director? Great! Except, Cary Fukunaga has to deal with a new television project at more or less the same time.

Got your leading man back on board? Great! Except he began filming a movie just a month (or so) before the latest Bond movie originally was to start filming. Thankfully (from the actor’s standpoint, anyway) the Bond film got delayed until March.

Your latest James Bond film project moving ahead? Great! Except we have to get our latest non-007 project (The Rhythm Section) out of the way first.

When Eon Productions started operations, the idea was to make 007 films every year with other project in between. That lasted as far as 1963 (Dr. No, Call Me, Bwana, From Russia With Love).

Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman went off and did non-007 films (the Harry Palmer series, Battle of Britain) on his own. Albert R. Broccoli, the other co-founder, did one more non-007 project (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) while devoting the rest of his life to the Bond film series.

Saltzman, of course, is long gone, having sold his interest in the mid 1970s. Broccoli, before he died in 1996, yielded control to his daughter (Barbara Broccoli) and stepson (Michael G. Wilson).

Now, the main figures of the Bond series juggle 007 among their various projects. Fukunaga, hired in September to direct Bond 25, is only the latest. Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have been doing it for years. Writer John Logan juggled various enterprises in 2013 and 2014 before delivering a first draft for SPECTRE.

One reader of the blog pointed out on Twitter that Marvel Studios directors Joe and Anthony Russo are cutting deals for future projects even while the untitled Avengers 4 is in post-production.

That’s true enough. Still, by 2019, the Russos will have directed four movies (Captain America: Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4) in five years for Marvel. During that same period, there will have been just one James Bond film (SPECTRE).

In the 21st century, the 007 film series is like Paul Masson wine. No wine (or film) before its time.