GoldenEye’s 20th anniversary: 007 begins anew

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

GoldenEye, the 17th James Bond film, had a lot riding on it, not the least of which was the future of the 007 franchise.

It had been six years since the previous Bond film, Licence to Kill. A legal fight between Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had kept 007 out of movie theaters. In 1990, Danjaq, the holding company for Eon, was put up for sale, although it never changed hands.

After the dispute was settled came the business of trying kick start production.

Timothy Dalton ended up exiting the Bond role so a search for a replacement began. Eon boss Albert R. Broccoli selected Pierce Brosnan — originally chosen for The Living Daylights but who lost the part when NBC ordered additional episodes of the Remington Steele series the network had canceled.

Brosnan’s selection would be one of Broccoli’s last major moves. The producer, well into his 80s, underwent heart surgery in the summer of 1994 and turned over the producing duties to his daughter and stepson, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli himself would only take a presenting credit in the final film.

Various writers were considered. The production team opted to begin pre-production on a story devised by Michael France.

His 1994 first draft was considerably different than the final film. France’s villain was Augustus Trevelyan, former head of MI6 who had defected to the Soviet Union years earlier. Bond also had a personal grudge against Trevelyan.

Other writers — Jeffrey Caine, Kevin Wade and Bruce Feirstein — were called in to rework the story.  The villain became Alec Trevelyan, formerly 006 and now head of the Janus crime syndicate in the post-Cold War Russia. In addition, the final script included a new M (Judi Dench), giving Bond a woman superior. Caine and Feirstein would get the screenplay credit while France only received a “story by” credit.

In the 21st century, many Bond fans assume 007 will always be a financial success. In the mid 1990s, those working behind the scenes didn’t take success for granted.

“Wilson and (Barbara) Broccoli already knew that GoldenEye was a one-shot chance to reintroduce Bond,” John Cork and Bruce Scivally wrote in the 2002 book James Bond: The Legacy. “After Cubby’s operation, they also knew the fate of the film — and James Bond — rested on their shoulders.”

GoldenEye’s crew had  new faces to the 007 series. Martin Campbell assumed duties as the movie’s director. Daniel Kleinman became the new title designer. His predecessor, Maurice Binder, had died in 1991. Eric Serra was brought on as composer, delivering a score unlike the John Barry style.

One familiar face, special effects and miniatures expert Derek Meddings, returned. He hadn’t worked on a Bond since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. GoldenEye would be his last 007 contribution. He died in September 1995, before the film’s release.

In the end, GoldenEye came through, delivering worldwide box office of $352.2 million. Bruce Feirstein, who had done the final rewrites of the script, was hired to write the next installment. Bond was back.

 

The visual impact of GoldenEye

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster


By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer
The gunbarrel opens on a plane that flies over a dam leaving the audience with a breath-taking visual of the landscape. We see a mysterious man running across the dam. More close ups shots follow of the man adjusting a bungee cord.

He jumps. There’s silence as he plunges more than 640 feet.

We are on Arkhangelsk, USSR. The man is trying to gain access to a chemical facility.

We see lots of close-up and detail shots of this man’s blue eyes as well as more takes of his silhouette as he sneaks into the complex’s bathroom.

His face is revealed upside down while greeting a Russian soldier sitting on the toilette right before punching the living daylights out of him. Meet Bond, James Bond.

After a six-and-a-half-year gap in the series, GoldenEye brought James Bond back to the big screen. There were new faces, starting with the secret agent himself, played by Pierce Brosnan in the first of his four Bond films.

GoldenEye also brought to the series a visual impact missing in the five films directed by John Glen, whose basic TV style was one of the few cons of his time in the Bond director chair, in spite of succeeding in bringing the spy back to Earth after the slapstick-ish Moonraker.

Many were responsible for the visual impact of the 1995 film: Director Martin Campbell and his team included cinematographer Phil Méheux, editor Terry Rawlings, second unit director Ian Sharp and, of course, veteran production designer Peter Lamont.

GoldenEye’s visuals feature a lot of ethereal blue skies in the Monaco scenes, a warm orange palette during the beach scenes in Cuba (shot in Puerto Rico), colder blues in the snowy Severnaya and a lot of chiaroscuro techniques in the Statue Park scene where Alec Trevelyan is revealed as the movie’s villain.

Méheux does a superb team work with Rawlings, who provided beautiful editing techniques, particularly the transition between the kiss of Bond and Natalya on the Cuban beach fading into the hearth’s fire and a traveling pan to the couple on the bed inside a cottage.

No less impressive is the thrilling plane crash scene, and the subsequent reveal of Xenia Onatopp’s silhouette rappelling down against the sunlight reflected of an unconscious Bond’s forehead in the jungle.

More brilliant editing by Rawlings can be seen during the film’s many action sequences: the shootout in the St Petersburg Military Archives, i.e. the Russian soldier falling through a glass after being gunned down by a runaway Bond, or the secret agent and his girl Natalya running avoiding the bullets from Ourumov’s troops; or the fight between 007 and Xenia on the hotel’s spa, particularly the way Bond’s quick reflexes work by grabbing the girl and throwing her against the wall before the “foreplay” starts.

Another more explicit fist-fight scene, where Bond has his ultimate showdown with the treacherous Trevelyan inside the giant antenna, not only features a sharp editing that harkens back to 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Bond vs Che Che) and 1963’s From Russia with Love (Bond vs Red Grant), but also reworks the Méheux’s chiaroscuro previously seen in the statue park and the nerve gas facility.

The GoldenEye director of photography is equally skilled in choosing unusual and dramatic shots during quick moments: the supine take of Brosnan being frisked by Alec guards, the zoom-in on Bond’s desperate eyes while trying to level off the plane falling through the cliff or the reflection of the Tiger missiles on them later, or the fast shot of the severely wounded Trevelyan right before the whole antenna structure falls over him, a resort he also used effectively in The Mask of Zorro (1998) and The Legend of Zorro (2005), both directed by Martin Campbell.

Of course none of this could have been done with success if it wasn’t by the perfect tandem ofCampbell and Ian Sharp. Both the dialogue scenes and the action scenes shot by the second unit are joined together in a very effective way. The action scenes in GoldenEye from the bungee jump to the spy vs spy battle above the antenna dish look tidy and planned with intelligence, in a way every action scene has its reason to be in each particular moment.

Last but not least, we owe must credit Peter Lamont the materialization of each one of the locations described in the tale from Michael France, Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein. The interiors like the bottling-room of the Arkhangelsk facility, the Severnaya Space Weapons Center and Janus’ Base computer rooms, all of them built on the Leavesden Studios from scratch, just like the statue park with sculptures by Brian Muir and the recreation of the streets of St Petersburg, when the production was unable to shot the epic tank chase on location in Russia.

The remaining bits of the visual impact of the first Bond film of the 1990s is given by designer Daniel Kleinman, hired after his work on Gladys Knight music video for Licence to Kill. He took the freedom of giving a traditional element like the opening gunbarrel shot a sleek and dynamic digital look and he made history with the film’s opening credits: red, purple and gold are seen while lingerie-clad women destroy soviet icons and statues in synchrony with Tina Turner’s powerful main title song.

GoldenEye breathed fire into the Bond series putting a big step on a new era not only in a historical way, but also in a very sharp graphic and gorgeous way.

Nicolas Suszczyk is editor of The GoldenEye Dossier.

Repeat after me, ‘Writing a James Bond movie is hard’

Bond 24 writer, err co-writer, John Logan

Bond 24 writer, err co-writer, John Logan

John Logan is learning a lesson that the likes of Paul Haggis, Bruce Feistein, Jeffrey Caine and Michael France learned before him. Writing a James Bond movie is hard.

You can be a hero one day (Logan after Skyfall, Feirstein after GoldenEye, Haggis after Casino Royale) and out the door the next (Feirstein for a period during Tomorrow Never Dies until he got asked back, Haggis after Quantum of Solace).

Screenwriting in general is tough. If you’re in demand, you make a lot of money. If you’re not, it can be humbling. Studios make fewer, more expensive movies. With the stakes so high, there are all sorts of people — directors, stars, studio executives — looking over your shoulder. Bond movies take it a step further. You have the Broccoli-Wilson family, which has controlled the franchise for more than a half century. They have definite ideas of what they like and don’t like.

Screenwriters don’t tally up a lot of multiple 007 screen credits. An Oscar winner such as Paul Dehn had only one. Other one-time only scribes include John Hopkins. Roald Dahl and Michael France. Some writers toil without even getting a credit, such as Len Deighton and Donald E. Westlake, hardly slouches as authors.

All of which is a long way of saying it’s remarkable that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been summoned, according to Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, for a sixth turn writing a James Bond movie, taking over for Logan, who, in turn, rewrote their script for Skyfall. The only writer who has more Bond screenwriting credits is Richard Maibaum (1909-1991) with 13. Maibaum had the advantage of a long-standing relationship with producer Albert R. Broccoli.

Maibuam and the Purvis-Wade team have one thing in common. They’ve taken their share of flak over the years. The British film historian Adrian Turner, in a 1998 book about Goldfinger, made it clear he didn’t think much of Maibaum, painting Dehn as the one who brought the Goldfinger script into shape. Purvis and Wade, meanwhile, get criticized on Internet message boards and social media by some fans as hacks. It helps to have a thick skin.

Feirstein, Haggis and Logan were the final writers on three significant 007 hits: GoldenEye (reviving the franchise after a six-year hiatus), Casino Royale (a reboot of the franchise) and Skyfall (the first billion-dollar Bond film). They got invited back but in the cases of Feirstein and Haggis it was hardly easy going. Something similar may be going on with Logan. He was hired to write a two-film story arc, but that plan got scrapped as part of the price to get Skyfall director Sam Mendes back for Bond 24.

The situation undoubtedly is even more complicated and can only really be appreciated by those who’ve gone through the same grind. But the basic lesson still stands. It’s hard to write a James Bond movie.

Michael France, GoldenEye screenwriter, dies

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Michael France, one of the screenwriters of 1995’s GoldenEye who devised the film’s original plot, has died, according to an OBITUARY IN THE TAMPA BAY TIMES.

An excerpt:

ST. PETE BEACH — Hollywood screenwriter and Beach Theatre owner Michael France was discovered dead at his St. Pete Beach home Friday morning after an extended illness, his sister said. He was 51.

In recent years Mr. France struggled with diabetes that impaired his left arm and right leg. Nine months ago he was found comatose at his residence by his sister, who also discovered his body Friday.

We’ve written before how France’s FIRST DRAFT of GoldenEye included a planned attack on the World Trade Center in New York years before it occurred in real life. In the France draft, the villain was Augustus Trevelyan, the predecessor to the Bernard Lee/Robert Brown M, who defected to the Soviets.

France ended up with only a “story by” credit in the 1995 James Bond movie after his script was worked over by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein (credited with the screenplay) and Kevin Wade (who didn’t get a credit). It was France’s only contribution to the series but it was a key one. GoldenEye kick started the Bond franchise after a six-year hiatus and there were plenty of doubters at the time whether 007 could make a comeback. Still, of the GoldenEye writers, only Feirstein got invited back for an encore by Eon Productions.

You can read the entire Tampa Bay Times obituary by CLICKING HERE. You can also view stories by DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD and UPI.COM

1994: a 007’s screenwriter’s prescient plot

goldeneyeposter
Screenwriter Michael France was hired to script the 17th James Bond film, GoldenEye. His January 1994 FIRST DRAFT, would be worked over by other writers. But that original draft’s climatic sequence contained an idea that would, unfortunately, occur on Sept. 11, 2001: targeting the World Trade Center for an attack.

In France’s draft, the villain is Augustus Trevelyan, former head of MI6 who defected to the Soviet Union years ago. Bond has a personal reason for hating Trevelyan. In a flashback scene well into the script, Bond and two other 00-agents, believing Trevelyan to be captured, are on a mission to silence their chief. Bond passes up a chance to shoot Trevelyan and kills his guards instead. This turns out to be a trap and the other 00-agents are killed.

Trevelyan, described as being in his 60s, is retired from the KGB but has ambitious ideas hot to spend his golden years. As in the finished film, the McGuffin is a set of satellites that can be set off to create an electro-magnet pulse over a target. The project is called Tempest, rather than GoldenEye. On page 138 of the 157-page script, Trevelyan’s plot is revealed.

“Credit is due, James — I’ve broken into the finance computer for the wire theft,” Trevelyan says. “The clearing house computer for overseas wire trasactions in the World Trade Center.” He then “modestly” adds: “I had one of my men in place as new security protocols were created after the unfortunate bombing there.”

That last line apparently refers to the February 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center that was intended to destroy the office complex. The 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 did bring down the towers, costing thousands of lives.

In the France script, Trevelyan intends to steal $600 billion or so, then use the Tempest to destroy all evidence of the crime and the computer itself.

“A matter of accounting,” Trevelyan tells Bond. “Six hundred billion dollars balanced against one million lives? Merely dust on the globe.”

That basic plot device was retained in the final film, but with many changes. The target ends up being London. Trevelyan’s first name was changed to Alec, he became much younger and his background was altered to be the former 006. In that version, credited by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein, Trevelyan’s motivation is his parents were Russians who had helped the British in World War II but who were given up to the Soviets after the war.

Besides the eerie World Trade Center reference, there are other things of note in the France first draft. The writer actually uses two Ian Fleming characters that haven’t been seen in the 007 films: Loelia Ponsonby, Bond’s secretary, and Sir James Molony, here described as “consulting neurologist to the secret service.” France also brought back the character of KGB chief Pushkin from 1987’s The Living Daylights, a character created by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson.

France ultimately only got a “story by” credit for GoldenEye but many of his ideas, while altered, were incorporated in the movie. His female assassin was named Xenia Labyakova, rather than Onatopp. It’s also clear the writer has seen a lot of James Bond movies. France also wrote a scene where Trevelyan conducts a meeting of his associates, much like Blofeld’s meeting with SPECTRE operatives in Thunderball. Bruce Feirstein, one of the last writers to work on GoldenEye, did the same thing in his first draft for the next 007 film, Tomorrow Never Dies.

007 Fidelity Index: how close are the films to the books? Part III

We conclude our comparison of James Bond films to the Ian Fleming originals. We’ve gotten a mixed reaction. While some like the analysis, there’s also a worry that these entries reinforce fan like/dislike of particular actors.

These postings, for the most part, aren’t intended as movie reviews (though we admit to taking a shot to the second half of Die Another Day in a previous installment). And they’re not intended to praise or criticize any particular actor. Anway, here’s our final category, films that are virtually entirely creations of the filmmakers with next to nothing of Fleming’s novels or short stories:

MADE UP OF WHOLE CLOTH

The Spy Who Loved Me: The official story, told time and again, is that the deal Eon Productions made with Fleming is that only the title of the author’s novel could be used. That’s understandable. Bond doesn’t appear until two-thirds of the way through and the story is told from the perspective of a young woman who has had her share of troubles in life.

The movie Spy, from all accounts, was the first time Eon retained the services of a tag team of writers, including future director John Landis, author Anthony Burgess and DC Comics writer Cary Bates. The final script was credited to Christopher Wood, director Lewis Gilbert’s choice, and 007 veteran Richard Maibaum. It’s a virtual remake of You Only Live Twice (also directed by Gilbert). In a documentary on the film’s DVD, we’re told that superthug Jaws was inspired by Horror, a thug in the novel who wore braces. The film ended up being a bit hit and re-established 007 as a popular movie figure at a time many critics wondered if he was washed up.

A View To a Kill: The movie is viewed by some fans as yet another remake of Goldfinger. But the Richard Maibaum-Michael G. Wilson script seems to channel John Gardner’s continuation novels as much as Fleming, including a scene set as the Ascot horse-racing track, also featured in Gardner’s License Renewed novel. That’s somewhat amusing given how Wilson has badmouthed Gardner’s novels, including at a 1995 fan convention in New York City. Then again, you can’t copyright locations, and as a result, you don’t have to pay royalties and rights fees.

GoldenEye: Bond returned to movie screens in 1995, six years after his previous film adventure. Once more, Eon brought in multiple writers. Three got some form of credit: Michael France, Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein. One, Kevin Wade, didn’t, though he managed to have a CIA operative (played by Joe Don Baker) named after himself. The film also launched the seven-year tenure of Pierce Brosnan as Bond.

Tomorrow Never Dies: If it worked once (bringing in several writers), it can work again, or at least that seemed to be Eon’s approach to Pierce Brosnan’s second 007 outing. Novelist Donald E. Westlake was among those employed at least at one point. Westlake’s involvement might have gone unnoticed except the author told an Indiana audience that he would be writing the film. That was news to Bruce Feirstein, standing next to Michael G. Wilson, when Wilson was asked about Westlake’s comments during a 1995 fan convention in New York City.

The film ended up with a “Written by Bruce Feirstein” credit but that was misleading. Other writers were brought in after Feirstein submitted a draft. Feirstein was summoned to finish things up as the film faced tight, frantice deadlines to ensure a Christmas 1997 release.

The World Is Not Enough: by 1998-1999, Eon’s approach to film writing was well established: bring in enough writers and you can develop a workable story. This time, it began with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, with Dana Stevens (wife of director Michael Apted) playing midwife and Bruce Feirstein finishing things up. All but Stevens would get a credit.

Quantum of Solace: The most recent 007 movie follows a familiar pattern. The Purvis and Wade duo worked on the project at one point. Paul Haggis did the heavy lifting as the project faced a Writers Guild deadline for a strike. Another screenwriter, Joshua Zetumer, was brought in for final polishes. Haggis got top billing in the eventual writing credit followed by Purvis and Wade, with no mention of Zetumer. The film was a big hit, though some fans wondered if the movie was too heavily influenced by the Jason Bourne movies. There were few critques suggesting the film had too many Ian Fleming influences.