Boyle-Eon: The lack of due diligence

Danny Boyle

Last August, the blog asked whether Danny Boyle and Eon Productions did proper due diligence before Eon decided to hire Boyle to direct Bond 25.

Boyle, seemingly, has confirmed the answer was no.

Empire magazine has a feature story about Boyle in its May issue. The story isn’t online, but Boyle comments about Bond 25 have been summarized, including a story at the MI6 James Bond website.

There’s a passage where Boyle says he left Bond 25 after Eon wanted to bring in other writers to rework what John Hodge had done. (Cary Fukunaga would be hired to replace Boyle.)

“We were working very, very well, but they didn’t want to go down that route,” Empire quotes Boyle as saying. “What John Hodge and I were doing, I thought, was really good. It wasn’t finished, but it could have been really good.

“You have to believe in your process and part of that is the partnership I have with a writer. It’s like saying ‘Hey, we are going to give you a different editor…’ Those fundamental partnerships are vital.”

It sounds like Boyle learned his lesson the hard way. If he had done a little research, maybe a half-hour using Google, he’d have discovered Eon often brings in multiple writers to work on Bond films. In some cases, the more the merrier. 

To be fair, Boyle would not be the first auteur director to have difficulties working in a blockbuster film environment. The 2015 Marvel Studios film Ant-Man originated with Edgar Wright. But, in the end, Wright bowed out while retaining a screenplay credit.

Nevertheless, Eon had plenty of chances to check Boyle out. Boyle and Hodge reportedly pitched their idea. How did they think Boyle would react after telling him Hodge’s work needed to be reworked by other scribes?

“Oh sure, Barbara. Whatever you say.” Not likely. They call it auteur for a reason.

This whole affair likely is more complicated. Regardless, neither side did their proper due diligence. And both sides are to blame. That’s as obvious as how the sun rises in the East.

UPDATE (March 21, 2019): Empire has posted an online excerpt of its Danny Boyle story that contains his comments about Bond 25.

About those Bond 25 script stories: The Rashomon Effect?

Can’t keep all these writing scenarios straight? Relax with a drink.

In the space of days, we’ve gotten two wildly different scenarios about the progress of Bond 25’s script.

The Playlist, in a Feb. 16 story, said noted script doctor Scott Z. Burns was doing an “overhaul” of Bond 25’s screenplay. “Burns, like Tony Gilroy and Christopher McQuarrie, is known as one of the top emergency rescue script doctors in Hollywood. If your script is hemorrhaging, he’s one of the first people you call.”

Later, on Feb. 27, Variety did an imitation of Kevin Bacon in Animal house and reassured everyone all is well.

Bond 25 director Cary “Fukunaga turned in his recent draft at the beginning of the year, and while reports surfaced that major rewrite work was done to the script, sources say no significant changes were made,” according to Variety, “and the producers and (star Daniel) Craig were excited with what Fukunaga had delivered.”

This might be an example of what’s known as The Rashomon Effect. That’s defined as “a phenomenon where different people have contradictory accounts of the same event.”

Rashomon was a 1950 movie directed by Akira Kurosawa where the characters have wildly different memories and impressions of the same story. The film was quite influential. In the 1960s, a plot on some television situation comedies in the U.S. was to depict the very different recollections of characters of the same occurrence.

Maybe, just maybe, The Playlist and Variety have different sources with different outlooks on the progress of the Bond 25 story. Both sources cited “sources” they didn’t identify.

The Playlist played up Burns’ record as a script doctor. “It’s an overhaul and I won’t be surprised if Burns is ultimately given first screenplay credit,” wrote The Playlist’s Rodrigo Perez.

Variety’s Justin Kroll specifically said Fukunaga had a turn writing the script himself. Fukunaga often writes his own scripts. There’s been plenty of fan speculation this would take place with Bond 25. Variety was the first place I saw that said that had happened. The Variety story doesn’t mention Burns by name.

Scripting efforts on Bond 25 began when 007 veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired in 2017. There was a detour last year when Danny Boyle was hired to direct the movie, bringing along his writer, John Hodge. Boyle and Hodge departed.

So now we’re where we’re at — where ever that is. Maybe it’s time for a drink to relax after trying to evaluate the different scenarios.

007 questions before Bond 25 starts filming

So how do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25?

In less than two months, Bond 25 is scheduled to start filming in time for a Feb. 14, 2020 release. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

001: How do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25? Cary Fukunaga, the director of Bond 25, has said that Bond 25 will continue a “character arc” that began with 2006’s Casino Royale.

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, it appeared the Daniel Craig 007 had retired as an Double-O agent. So how do you get from there to a new adventure?

002: How do you reconcile the various Bond 25 scripts? The current effort began with a treatment (i.e. detailed outline) by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Then, that was put off to the side because director Danny Boyle and his writer John Hodge pitched an idea that supposedly was great. Then, a few months later, Eon thought better and Boyle and Hodge walked away.

There were many stories published during 2018 (See the blog’s sister site, The Bond 25 Timeline for details).

But Eon owns all those ideas. Will the final script reflect some or all of those ideas? In some cases, ideas from submitted scripts end up in Bond films years later. Also, it was reported last week that Paul Haggis (involved with writing Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) had worked on Bond 25’s script.

We’ll see how this plays out for Bond 25.

003: How much leeway does director Fukunaga have for Bond 25? Eon Productions gave Sam Mendes a lot of leeway for Skyfall and SPECTRE, including granting Mendes his choice of composer (Thomas Newman in both movies) and director of photography (Roger Deakins in Skyfall). Does Fukunaga get that kind of love from Eon for Bond 25?

004: If the answer to 003 is not so much, does David Arnold get a chance to return to score Bond 25? Arnold, composer of five 007 scores (behind only John Barry’s 11) has been away for more than a decade. Much of that absence stemmed from Mendes’ relation with Newman. Does Arnold get a chance to come back?

005: Does Bond 25’s budget grow, stay the same, or shrink from SPECTRE’s? During the Sony hacks (hacked emails and other documents), it came out that SPECTRE’s budget was on pace to go past $300 million. Supposedly, the budget was closer to $240 million (after factoring in all the product placement and Mexico tax credits). It’s always easier to spend more — as long as a studio is willing to cut checks.

006: How energized are Bond 25’s lead producer and star? Over the extended break, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has worked on “indie-style” small films while star Daniel Craig has worked on other projects. Meanwhile, Craig said back in 2016 that “everybody’s just a bit tired.” Is everybody rested up now?

007: Does Universal’s involvement with Bond 25 change things? Sony Pictures (through its Columbia Pictures brand) released the last four 007 films (2006-2015). Now, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures will handle U.S. distribution while Universal will handle international distribution. Does Universal change things? There’s no way to tell for now.

Bond 25 director says script still being written

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Bond 25’s director

The script for Bond 25 still is being written with major issues, including characters, yet to be determined, director Cary Fukunaga said in an interivew with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Fukunaga was asked whether Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld or Ben Whishaw’s Q would return in Bond 25.

“We haven’t finished the screenplay, so there is no way that anyone could know that,” he told the outlet. “Those are two extraordinary actors, so if there is space for them in the story, I would absolutely want them there. But I don’t know yet what it’s going to be.”

The story doesn’t specify who is doing the writing.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long-time 007 screenwriters, were announced as Bond 25 scribes in July 2017. Then, early this year, Danny Boyle emerged as the main contender to direct the film. He had devised an idea with his writer of choice, John Hodge.

When Boyle was announced in May 25, the press release said Hodge was writing and Purvis and Wade weren’t mentioned. Then Boyle exited because of creative differences. Last word was from the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye (with Variety and Deadline: Hollywood confirming) that things went back to Purvis and Wade and a treatment (essentially a detailed outline) that had been approved before Boyle and Hodge entered the picture.

Fukunaga is a writer himself. He may or may not be directly writing Bond 25 himself. Even if he isn’t, a director usually has a big voice in how a script is developed.

There was also this passage.

“In terms of what I can bring to change the character, Bond is on a character arc that started with ‘Casino Royale,’ and I will be carrying that on. There will be changes, I am sure. As in any story, a character has to change in order [to have] a narrative.”

2006’s Casino Royale was Daniel Craig’s first 007 film. 2008’s Quantum of Solace was a “direct sequel.” But 2012’s Skyfall initially didn’t pick up any plot points from Craig’s first two Bond films. Then 2015’s SPECTRE sought to connect the four films together.

Bond 25 isn’t scheduled to begin filming until March 2019 and be released in February 2020.

h/t @Bond25Film

Epilogue: About that whole Danny Boyle thing

Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

In the 21st century, news cycles go faster than ever. So it is with the infatuation of Eon Productions with director Danny Boyle.

For much of 2018, the idea that Boyle may/would/wasn’t going to after all direct Bond 25 was big news among James Bond fans.

Now? Hardly anyone remembers all that. Danny who? Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

Despite that, Eon’s infatuation has had a huge impact on Bond 25.

In 2017, Eon had spent months developing a story by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But, as first reported by Deadline: Hollywood in February, Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge made a pitch that intrigued Eon.

Suddenly, the Purvis & Wade story seemed expendable.

Three months later, Eon announced that Boyle was onboard and Hodge was writing the movie. Another three months later, Boyle is gone. So is Hodge.

That’s at least at least six months (if not more) of wasted effort. Fans were told in September 2018 that a new director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, had been hired.

Since then, Boyle has become as forgotten as Peter Morgan (hired to write what would eventually be Skyfall), or John Landis, Cary Bates and Anthony Burgess (among the scribes hired to write stories for what would become The Spy Who Loved Me).

As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, “What’s up with that?”

At the very least, it suggests Eon and its studio partners Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (who knows how long Annapurna Pictures will be part of the equation?) still care about prestige. Such as when Eon hired Morgan.

Nevertheless, with 20-20 hindsight, it’s clear that the le affaire de Boyle delayed the development of Bond 25.

Is this important? Actually, yes. With hindsight, the Boyle Affair provides insight to the state of the 007 film franchise. Will it all work out? We won’t know until February 2020.

Questions for a Barbara Broccoli interview

Barbara Broccoli

The Metro website, in a story labeled “exclusive,” quotes Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli as saying things are just fine with Bond 25. “No, it’s film making,” she told the website. “We’re very excited about Bond and can’t wait.”

There really isn’t much more than that. The story has some background about Bond 25’s pre-production and some Broccoli quotes that previously appeared in The Guardian about how 007 will main a man. The new quotes apparently were generated thusly:

But producer Barbara Broccoli has laughed off fan worries, asking Metro.co.uk ‘concerned about what?’ when queried about the difficulties the production has come under.

Not that the blog is ever going to get the chance, but here are some questions interviewers might want to ask Broccoli if they get the chance in the future.

–You told a Hollywood Reporter podcast in December 2017 that “my heart was breaking” before Daniel Craig agreed to come back for Bond 25. Was it ever in doubt that Craig would come back? If so, when did the situation change and why?

Why did you announce in July 2017 that Bond 25 had a release date when no distributor was lined up yet?

Do you have regrets about the whole Danny Boyle-John Hodge situation? That appears to have cost Bond 25 months in pre-production time.

–Is the big Boyle-Hodge idea still part of Bond 25 or not?

–What can you say about Boyle’s departure from the project?

–What was the back story of how you signed on Bond 25’s new director, Cary Joji Fukunaga?

–What is it like working with MGM? The studio still hasn’t named a successor to the departed Gary Barber. What was Eon’s relationship with Barber?

–Will Bond 25 be Daniel Craig’s last 007 film? Or do you think you can get him back for future installments?

–Are intervals of four or more years what we should expect from now for the 007 film series?

Bond 25 questions: The new director edition

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director 2.0 for Bond 25

Almost a month after the old director left, Bond 25 has a new director. Of course, the blog has questions.

Who is Cary Joji Fukunaga, the new Bond 25 director? Fukunaga, 41, is a U.S.-born writer-producer-director. His credits go back to the early 2000s. They include TV series such as True Detective and Maniac as well as films such as the 2011 version of Jane Eyre.

He had been slated to direct a film based on Stephen King’s It. He left the production. The movie came out in 2017 and was a big hit. Fukunaga was one of the credited screenwriters.

What’s the significance of hiring an American? Probably not much, if anything. It matters to some fans who argue on internet bulletin boards and the like that a Bond film should never be helmed by an American.

Truth be told, however, American Phil Karlson was favored by some United Artists executives for Dr. No, according to the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger. The main thing against Karlson was his $75,000 asking price. Terence Young was paid about $40,000. Karlson ended up directing two Matt Helm films produced by Irving Allen, former partner of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

What about the script? In July 2017, Eon said it would be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. On May 25, Eon said Bond 25 had an “original screenplay” by John Hodge. He’s a writer who’s worked with Danny Boyle, who left the project in August.

The announcement naming Fukunaga as director doesn’t mention the script. Last week, multiple media outlets said Purvis and Wade had been brought back to turn a previous treatment they had written into a script. Assuming that’s the case, the director may want to revise whatever Purvis and Wade produce. But that remains to be seen.

The movie’s release date has been pushed back to February 2020. Is that a good move? Yes. Bond 25 originally was to begin filming Dec. 3. That meant that a new director would have a little more than two months to do his pre-production work. Now, the start of filming has been delayed until March 4. That gives Fukunaga five months of pre-production time.

Also, Bond 25’s original November 2019 U.S. release was getting crowded. Wonder Woman 1984, sequel to last year’s hit film, would have come out the week before Bond 25. Star Wars Episode IX is scheduled for Dec. 20. That would have limited Bond 25’s window for audiences.

Bond 25 will still face competition in February but according to the movie release schedule of The Numbers website, it includes an untitled DC Comics movie from Warner Bros. and an untitled Walt Disney film.  So the February 2020 situation is a little hazy and changes may be made before then.

Today’s announcement says Bond 25 will have a “worldwide” release date of Feb. 14, 2020. Is that right? No U.K. release 10-14 days before the U.S.? That’s what it says. We’ll see if that stands.

UPDATE (11:10 a.m. New York time). The Guardian interviewed the director a few days ago. CLICK HERE to read the interview

UPDATE II (2:10 p.m. New York time). IndieWire has a quote from an interview with Fukunaga: “I’ve wanted to do one of these [Bond films] for a long time, so that’s not new. So right now it’s just kind of dealing with the shock that it’s real and the honor obviously and now the responsibility.”

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.

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.”

Surprise, surprise: P&W working on Bond 25, Baz reports

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis. (Paul Baack illustration)

Veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are — again — working on Bond 25, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported.

The duo “have had their licence renewed and have bonded with Bond again,” Bamigboye wrote. It is their 007th Bond film writing assignment.

P&W were hired last year to write Bond 25, which was referenced in a July 24, 2017 announcement. However, in 2018, director Danny Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, pitched an idea. Boyle confirmed that in March. And a May 25, 2018 announcement only referenced Boyle directing with Hodge scripting and no mention of Purvis and Wade whatsoever.

Boyle and Hodge exited the project last month. So, P&W are “back in action again,” to evoke an old 007 film poster.

Here’s the key excerpt from Bamigboye’s new story:

‘The Purvis and Wade treatment they wrote earlier was already signed off before the bromance with Danny Boyle and John Hodge began,’ a Hollywood executive close to the production explained.

Purvis and Wade, working on their seventh 007 thriller, will develop their ‘treatment’ into a script.

However (and, by this stage of the soap opera, you knew there had to be a “however”), more changes likely are in store once a Bond 25 director is selected, Bamigboye wrote.

Bamigboye, since 2011, has had a series of scoops proven correct (including that Purvis and Wade had been hired to write Bond 25 in the first place, something he reported in March 2017).

Meanwhile, Bamigboye also had this line about Bond 25: “The whole thing’s a hot mess and (Eon Productions’s Barbara) Broccoli has been in Los Angeles meeting a variety of film-makers who might take over directing duties.”