SPECTRE’s script: Sibling (sort of) rivalry

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, had more scrutiny than most James Bond films. Thanks to the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures, at least two versions of the script and many related e-mails ended up going out ahead of filming that began in December 2014.

By the time of a 129-page, Dec. 1, 2014 draft — one week before the start of principal photography — the story was mostly locked down. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had rewritten earlier drafts by John Logan.

However, there would still be changes made before the final film.

The Dec. 1 draft, referring to the gunbarrel sequence, said: “IRIS OPENS on the eye-socket of a SKULL.

“It’s the Day of the Dead.”

The official James Bond Twitter feed in early 2015 teased this idea as part of its series of clapperboard photos.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

However, in the final film, the gunbarrel (or iris) didn’t open up on anything. The image of Bond having shot his gun went black and the words, “The dead are live” appeared. Then an image of the Day of the Dead parade (including a skull float) appeared.

The stage directions establish what audiences would see in the fall of 2015.

In this sea of RED and BLACK we pick up a MAN IN A WHITE SUIT AND BLACK MASK moving against the stream…

This is MARCO SCIARRA. An assassin.

Now the man bumps into someone — and, as he continues on, WE FOLLOW THE MAN HE BUMPED INTO…

It’s JAMES BOND. Also an assassin.

What follows is very similar to the final film. Bond is with a woman named Estrella, who he eventually ditches to go after Sciarra. However, there’s a brief exchange later that wouldn’t be part of the final film.

BACK TO BOND. Steely as he looks over Mexico. His cell phone rings.

ESTRELLA (O.S)
I thought you said you wouldn’t be long…

BOND
Something came up.

An aerial shot of the helicopter flying over the city into the setting sun.

ESTRELLA (O.S.)
Well – I hope you found what you were looking for.

He looks down…at the small ring he now holds in his palm.

BOND
It’s a start.

After the titles, Bond goes to see M. The stage directions indicate 007’s actions in Mexico are the talk of the office. “As he strides down the corridor, people fall silent. Analysts whisper.” Bond also notices new cameras being installed.

Poster for SPECTRE

In the final film, after the title things began directly with Bond’s meeting with M. In the script, the cameras would be referenced when Bond meets C.

“…cameras. You put up all the cameras,” Bond says.

“Well, you’ve nothing to hide, have you Bond?” C replies.

Judi Dench’s Return

Later, when Bond shows Moneypenny the video message he received from the former M (Judi Dench), the stage directions list the character as “M (Judi).” Her lines are in italic type.

The Moneypenny-Bond scene is a bit longer than the final film, but not substantially different. It does turn out there’s a woman in Bond’s bedroom. “James? I’m lonely…Come back to bed…” After Moneypenny departs, the woman asks Bond who was just there.

Bond goes to Rome and infiltrates a SPECTRE meeting. The script briefly introduces the movie’s villain but there are no clues yet to his real identity.

As in the final film, Bond makes his getaway in the Aston Martin he took from MI6 while SPECTRE’s Hinx follows in a Jaguar. The stage directions specify that “Dusty Springfield’s ‘SPOOKY'” come out of the Aston’s Martin’s speakers at one point.

Skipping ahead, Bond meets up with Mr. White, more or less as he did in the final film. After White kills himself, Bond is trying to meet up with his daughter Madeline Swann.

When he tracks her down, the script has a few more details. Bond says he was 11 when his parents died.

By page 61, Bond has put it together than Franz Oberhauser is behind all the villainy. “He was older than me,” Bond tells Q. “We barely spoke. But he knows me. Check his name. And check for multiple identities.”

“And what’s your plan exactly?” Q asks.

“Find him,” Bond replies. “And kill him.”

Big Reveal

Bond gives Q the ring he took from Sciarra back in Mexico City. Q begins working with his laptop. The stage directions emphasize how the previous Daniel Craig 007 films are now interlocked.

“On Q’s LAPTOP, the connections are starting to accumulate. THE IMAGE OF LE CHIFFRE IS JOINED BY VESPER LYND, DOMINIC GREENE AND THEN … RAOUL SILVA.”

Meanwhile, as in the film, C shows off to M how all of MI6 personnel are under surveillance. The script, though, has a scene where M confronts Moneypenny for aiding Bond without his knowledge.

“I do hope it wasn’t for love,” M says. “If so — you’ve been made a fool.”

“This sears into her,” according to the stage directions. “And in recoiling from that pain, she learns her answer.”

Moneypenny’s reply: “It wasn’t love. It was loyalty.”

“Conspiculously not loyalty to M,” the stage directions read. “Painful to him.”

More back and forth takes place when Moneypenny says Bond was following orders.

“Who from?” M asks.

“Your predecessor, sir.” This, of course, shakes M up.

Dad Always Liked You Best!

Bond and Madeline eventually head out to find Oberhauser. There’s a final confrontation between Bond and Hinx. The script makes it sound like Hinx dies (the script says he is “sucked under the wheel”). Also, in this script, M manages to get a telegram message to Bond. “DOUBLE-0 SECTION FINISHED — STOP GOOD LUCK — STOP M.”

SPECTRE teaser image

On page 97, Bond and Oberhauser finally meet. Their exchange goes on for a few pages. On page 102, we cut to the chase.

“Me, I was not a well child,” Oberhauser says. “But I had loving, doting parents. Then one day, they brought another boy into our home. This boy was an orphan. His parents had died in a climbing accident.”

Of course, the boy was Bond.

“I would sit in my room alone listening to my father hour after hour playing cards with this boy.”

Translation: Dad always liked you best!

Oberhauser goes on to describe the time he played poker with Bond, using hazelnuts as chips.

OBERHAUSER (CONT’D)
And the next hand I was dealt All Hearts to the King. A flush! And I pushed all my hazelnuts into the middle. And cuckoo looked at me. And he did the same. Then he reached to his wrist, and he took off his big silver watch his own dead father had given him, and he placed it on the table. And suddenly…I panicked.

Yes, young Bond bluffed young Oberhauser. Bond had a pair of threes. This was the inspiration for Oberhauser to become a super villain.

This continues on to page 106, where Bond reveals to Oberhauser the latter was really adopted. “Your name, your real name …is Ernest Serban.”

Oberhauser remains frozen. Bond leans in.

BOND (CONT’D)
Who’s the cuckoo now?

Let’s skip to the ending. Bond shoots Oberhauser three times but doesn’t kill him.

“KILL ME you coward! KILL ME!!” Oberhauser says.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Bond replies.

According to the stage direction, it’s a week later when Bond shows up and talks to Q.

As in the final film, Bond and Madeline are in the Aston Martin DB5. But there’s some addditional dialogue in the scrip.

MADELINE
Where will we go, James?

BOND
I have a few ideas. After all…
(He smiles at her.)
We have all the time in the world.

The final stage directions say the DB5 roars away “TAKING THEM SOMEWHERE…ANYWHERE….TOGETHER.”

Some Bond 25 article oddities

With the news that Danny Boyle is out as Bond 25 director, there have been some oddities in tabloid articles and social media postings. Here is a look at some of them.

Barbara Broccoli’s supposed anger: The Telegraph had an Aug. 22 story that included the following:

Boyle insistence on bringing an entirely new team, including his established writing partner John Hodge, infuriated Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, another industry source told the Telegraph.

This one doesn’t pass the smell test. Eon Productions indulged Sam Mendes, including giving him his choice of writer (John Logan) and composer (Thomas Newman) for Skyfall and SPECTRE. Why should Barbara Broccoli get upset now?

Admittedly, the passage quoted is a ways down in the story. (The angle higher up concerns a reported disagreement over casting the villain’s part.) But the background about Mendes, Logan and Newman is pretty well known.

Anything is possible, I suppose. Still, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that Broccoli would get angry over the same sort of thing Eon granted Mendes for two movies.

John Hodge’s status:  Hodge’s name wasn’t mentioned in the Aug. 21 announcement that Boyle exited Bond 25.

Many fans (who don’t want Bond 25 delayed) have latched onto a Facebook post this week by Gareth Owen:, who worked with Roger Moore from 2002 until the actor’s death in 2017. Owen’s Facebook post is quoted in this post by The James Bond Dossier.

Hodge, according to the Owen post, has been rewriting an earlier script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade that seemed to be put aside when Boyle and Hodge came aboard.

“There are lots of articles and Internet discussions saying the producers could revert to the Purvis and Wade script,” Owen wrote. “Well, what if I was to tell you that is the script John Hodge was rewriting. The film is still firmly set for a December start.”

Well, if that’s the case, Eon was, eh, mistaken in its May 25, 2018 press release.

“Daniel Craig returns as 007 and Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Steve Jobs) will direct from an original screenplay by Academy Award nominee John Hodge (Trainspotting)*…” (emphasis added)

Original screenplay. If Hodge were rewriting P&W at that point, they’d probably mention all three. That was way it was handled when Purvis Wade and Logan were all mentioned in the press releases for Skyfall (when Logan was rewriting Purvis and Wade) and SPECTRE (when Purvis and Wade were rewriting Logan).

Oh, and there’s this. The Mirror is a tabloid, and it’s dodgy, accuracy wise. But in an Aug. 22 story, it quotes a spokesman for Hodge as saying the scribe isn’t laboring on Bond 25 anymore. “No, he’s not working on it.”

All this just scratches the surface of oddities. Undoubtedly, there’s more to follow.

Bond 25 questions (Danny Boyle edition)

Ever since Deadline: Hollywood’s story last week about how Danny Boyle may direct Bond 25 if the idea he and scribe John Hodge are developing is used there are new questions.

As usual, the blog isn’t in a position to answer. But it can ask. The queries below presuppose there’s something to the Deadline story.

How long has work on this new story been going on?  Deadline didn’t specify when this effort began. “MGM and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson sparked to Boyle’s idea enough to engage Hodge, who has quietly been writing their version,” Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. wrote.

The entertainment website provided a general idea of when Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will have something to consider. Fleming wrote that, “Hodge won’t be done for a couple of months.” If taken literally, that would mean at least two months. But the phrase “a couple” if often not used precisely.

How do you think Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are taking this? It’s doubtful they like it. However, Purvis and Wade have worked for Eon since 1998 when they started work on The World Is Not Enough.

They’ve had their own ups and downs with the franchise. It seemed they were out after Skyfall. Yet, they were summoned back in the summer of 2014 to rewrite John Logan’s work on what would be titled SPECTRE.

By now, they’re more than aware of the twists and turns working on a Bond movie can entail.

Their participation in Bond 25 was one of the few specifics in a July 24, 2017 press release stating the movie has a November 2019 release date in the U.S. Barbara Broccoli also briefly mentioned the duo in a December 2017 podcast with The Hollywood Reporter. The writers, she said, are “busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

What about the schedule if Eon and MGM go with Boyle-Hodge? At the very least it makes you wonder about that November 2019 release date.

When Hodge produces a draft script, chances are it won’t be ready for filming. Typically, movies go through various rewrites.

In the case of SPECTRE, John Logan produced his first draft in March 2014. Purvis, Wade and Jez Butterworth were rewriting into December 2014, when the movie started principal photography.

Meanwhile, it would at least appear the art department may be limited in what it can do until the basic story is ironed out. On the other hand, there is a steady hand at the wheel.

Dennis Gassner, production designer on the series the last decade, has said he’ll be back for Bond 25. Gassner, whose credits also include Blade Runner 2049, is experienced with working on big, complicated productions.

What does star Daniel Craig think of all this? It’s likely OK with him. Boyle directed a video for the opening ceremonies featuring Craig as Bond taking Queen Elizabeth to the games.

What happens next? If no major developments are announced until April or May, that may be a sign that Deadline’s story and its “couple of months” timeline for Hodge’s writing a script are accurate.

What happens if Eon and MGM ultimately pass on the Boyle-Hodge story? At the very least, that might complicate things even more. Certainly the search for a Bond 25 director would go on.

Recap of Skyfall, SPECTRE director announcements

The past sometimes is prologue. Sometimes, not. But here are details when the director was officially announced for the past two 007 films, Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Skyfall: Sam Mendes officially was announced as the director of the 23rd 007 film produced by Eon Productions on Jan. 11, 2011.

There had been news reports that Mendes was working on the film before that. But the official announcement was made via e-mail on Jan. 11. The same release had the U.S. release date of Nov. 9, 2012. Skyfall began production in November 2011.

SPECTRE: Mendes, after Skyfall was released, said he wasn’t interested in coming back. Nevertheless, on July 11, 2013, Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures, said Mendes would direct the then-untitled Bond 24.

At the time off the announcement, there was no script. Writer John Logan wouldn’t submit that until spring 2014. SPECTRE production didn’t begin until December 2014 after Near Purvis and Robert Wade submitted a rewrite of Logan’s work.

What does this mean? Roughly speaking, Bond 25 is a bit behind SPECTRE’s pace but can still match the pace of Skyfall.

There are still a lot of balls being juggled. Distribution (and therefore financing) still hasn’t been locked down. There’s no director of record. Still, at this point, Bond 25 can still easily make a U.S. release date of November 2019. That’s the date Eon and MGM announced on July 24, 2017.

How not to write a Bond 25 story

Poster for SPECTRE

Like a cancer metastasizing throughout the body, The Mirror’s July 8 story saying Daniel Craig is definitely returning as James Bond is spreading through the media.

Various outlets, including the Los Angeles Times,  Fox News and Esquire have summarized the Mirror story.

However, The Mirror’s original and the stories based on it have mostly overlooked some key facts. Very important facts. Here are some of them.

There’s nobody to pay Daniel Craig — yet. The Mirror & Co. depict Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli as having a firm lock on his services.

Problem: Eon doesn’t pay the bills of a Bond movie. The studio or studios involved do.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is Bond’s home studio. But it can’t release its own movies. It needs a studio partner to co-finance and distribute MGM films. And, for the moment, there is no Bond 25 distributor.

Maybe MGM reaches an agreement later this year. Maybe a commitment from Craig (even a verbal commitment) helps that process. But until it happens, nobody is available to actually pay Daniel Craig if he, indeed, is coming back.

There’s no director yet. You can’t have a movie without a director calling the shots. Maybe Bond 25 will get a director later this year. But until it does, not much is going to happen.

There’s no script yet. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired to come up with a story, according to the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, who has had a number of 007 scripts proven correct this decade.

The duo have had more than four months (and perhaps longer) to work up a story. But until a director comes on board, things can only go so far. Directors love to tweak story elements, etc. And that process can’t begin until you have a director, etc.

What’s this John Logan reference? The Mirror says John Logan, who worked on Skyfall and SPECTRE, is working on Bond 25. There’s no evidence that’s the case.

If it really is true, that would be a big turnaround. Thanks to the Sony hacks of 2014 (Sony Pictures released the last four 007 films), it’s known that Eon was unhappy with Logan’s first draft for SPECTRE, something that eventually led to the return of Purvis and Wade.

If (and that’s a HUGE if) Logan really is involved with Bond 25 that’s a major change. But, of course, you’d have to be familiar with the history to make note of that.

Has anything changed the past three months? In April, Page Six, the gossip operation of the New York Post also said Barbara Broccoli pretty much had Daniel Craig committed.

Has something actually changed since that report? The Page Six story got nowhere near the attention the Mirror has. Regardless, it’s a notable piece of background.

Our latest Bond 25 questions

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

It’s summer. Instead of going to the beach the blog came up with some new Bond question after this weekend’s story by the U.K. tabloid Mirror saying Daniel Craig would play 007 for a fifth time.

Here goes.

What’s the difference between the July 8 Mirror story and an April 3 Page Six column

Not that much on the main point.

“Daniel Craig has changed his mind and is set to sign up for his fifth Bond movie,” The Mirror said.

“Multiple sources tell Page Six that Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli has ‘just about persuaded Daniel Craig to do one more Bond movie,'” Page Six said more than three months earlier.

How solid is this newest story?

Reading the Mirror story is like trying to read quicksand — mushy and opaque.

The Mirror’s story begins by making like Craig’s return is a done deal. “But Bond producer Barbara Broccoli is said to have secured Craig – and we can reveal she is ‘determined’ that superstar singer Adele will record the theme tune.”

To support this notion, the story presents a quote from a person it didn’t identify.

“It’s taken time but Daniel has come round and the strong consensus in the Bond offices is that Mr Craig is 007 again.” (Emphasis added.)

Whoa! Consensus? Bond offices? Did the office personnel at Eon take a vote? Isn’t Barbara Broccoli the one who decides everything? At least that’s what Sam Mendes has said.

The Mirror’s first paragraph said he’s set to sign on the dotted line. What’s this about a consensus? Is there some doubt, even a tiny bit? What gives?

Anything give you pause?

Adele has injured her vocal chords and canceled the last two stops of a tour. That’s a potentially serious situation for a professional singer.

Despite that, the Mirror says, “Although Adele had to cancel the final two shows of her world tour because of damaged vocal chords, Barbara is said to be ‘talking the singer round’.”

Is this really the time to make a hard to Adele to sell to sing a Bond song — for a movie with no director or release date?

Also, the Mirror says, “Skyfall and Spectre scriptwriter John Logan is also said to be involved in the project.”

That’s interesting because Logan’s first draft for SPECTRE was judged to need extensive reworking. So much so, that veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were brought back to revise Logan’s work. The extent of SPECTRE’s scripting difficulties became public as a result of the 2014 hacking at Sony Pictures.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported in March that Purvis and Wade were hired to start work on a Bond 25 story.

That’s not been officially confirmed but Bamigboye has a good track record of 007 scoops that prove to be correct.

Now, out of the blue, the Mirror brings Logan into the conversation. This is perhaps the shakiest aspect of the Mirror story.

Purvis & Wade line up another non-007 gig

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

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, reported to be working on their seventh James Bond film, apparently are working on another non-007 screen writing job, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

The duo have been hired to adapt the Jo Nesbo novel I Am Victor, according to the entertainment news website.

The novel is “a thriller about a skilled but morally corrupt and narcissistic divorce attorney,” Deadline said. “When he finds himself framed for a series of brutal murders, he embarks on his own investigation to find the killer.”

The move has not been officially announced. “Purvis and Wade are understood to be finalizing the script before it goes out to cast,” Deadline said, which labeled its story an “exclusive.”

The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported last month that Purvis and Wade were hired to develop a story for Bond 25. Eon Productions hasn’t confirmed the move. But Bamigboye has a history of having 007-related scoops being proven correct.

That includes how Purvis and Wade were hired in the summer of 2014 to rewrite John Logan’s script for SPECTRE. That news wasn’t confirmed by Eon until December 2014 in a SPECTRE press release listing crew members.

Scribes juggling multiple projects isn’t new. Logan’s hiring for what would become SPECTRE was announced in November 2012. Logan also had play and television projects. He didn’t turn in a first draft for SPECTRE until March 2014.

Purvis and Wade recently adapted the novel SS-GB as a BBC television production and served as executive producers.