Purvis & Wade discuss writing 007 films

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who’ve worked as writers on the past six James Bond movies, told The Telegraph that writing future 007 films has gotten harder.

“I’m just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now.” Purvis said in the interview.

Purvis and Wade were interviewed concerning SS-GB, an upcoming mini-series they’ve scripted. It’s based on a Len Deighton novel about a United Kingdom where Nazi Germany won the Battle of Britain.

Much of the Telegraph article, naturally, concerns SS-GB. But there are a number of comments concerning Bond films. Some excerpts:

How a changing world affects Bond films: “Each time, you’ve got to say something about Bond’s place in the world, which is Britain’s place in the world,” Purvis said. “But things are moving so quickly now, that becomes tricky.

“With people like (U.S. President Donald) Trump, the Bond villain has become a reality. So when they do another one, it will be interesting to see how they deal with the fact that the world has become a fantasy.”

Skyfall’s origins: Wade is quoted (via paraphrase and not by direct quote) as saying the 23rd James Bond film came from discussions with director Sam Mendes about a new take on Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice novel. The movie includes M (Judi Dench) writing Bond’s obituary, substituting Turkey for Japan.

Working on SPECTRE: Purvis and Wade were brought during 2014 in to rework John Logan’s script.

When the duo arrived, construction had began on a replica of London’s Westminster Bridge. Logan’s script had a helicopter crashing on the bridge. Purvis and Wade’s work had to include that, according to the article.

In the end, they used it as the stage for Bond to make a life-changing choice: would he walk off to a new life with the comely Madeleine Swann on one side, or slink off to M on the other, back to a life in the shadows? Purvis and Wade had him choose the latter: in the end, they were overruled.

“Spectre felt like it closed off a certain way of doing Bond,” Purvis told The Telegraph. “And I think whatever happens next will be quite different.”

To view the Telegraph article, CLICK HERE. You’ll see a preview of the article. You either have to register for the site (no payment involved) or subscribe to the site to see the entire article.

Purvis & Wade to adapt Len Deighton novel, Variety says

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who’ve worked as writers on the last six James Bond movies, will adapt the Len Deighton novel SS-GB for the BBC, VARIETY REPORTED.

The BBC production will consist of five one-hour episodes, Variety said. Here’s an excerpt:

It is set in an imaginary Britain controlled by the Nazis, if Germany had occupied the country. It centers on a police detective caught between the Nazis and the British resistance.

Purvis and Wade were summoned earlier this year to rewrite John Logan’s script for Bond 24, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported in June. The duo delivered a draft that was “substantially different” that Logan’s original, Bamigboye reported July 31.

Purvis and Wade originally weren’t to have been involved with Bond 24 after working on 007 films starting with The World Is Not Enough in 1999 and through 2012’s Skyfall. The Bond 24 script was additional tweaked by playwright Jez Butterworth, ACCORDING TO A NEW YORKER PROFILE OF BUTTERWORTH. Butterworth also did uncredited work on Skyfall, the magazine said.

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.

Funeral in Berlin gets new U.S. DVD release

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Len Deighton and Michael Caine

Funeral in Berlin, the second Harry Saltzman-produced film based on Len Deighton’s spy novels and starring Michael Caine, is now available in a new DVD release in the U.S. through Warner Bros.’s Warner Archives.

Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions, producer of the James Bond film series, had ambitions beyond the 007 movies. At the same time, Saltzman summoned 007 film veterans to work on his Deighton-based films.

With 1966’s Funeral in Berlin, Saltzman hired Guy Hamilton, who helmed Goldfinger, as director. Also on board was Ken Adam as production designer and Peter Murton as art director. Other films in the series employed John Barry, Peter Hunt and Maurice Binder.

Warner Archive specializes in “manufactured on demand” (or MOD); the DVDs are made as they’re ordered and the sets aren’t available in stores. Warner Bros. has used Warner Archive for home video releases of properties in the vast WB library, including THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. and THE FBI television series.

The price for Funeral in Berlin is $18.95 plus shipping and handling. For more information on ordering, CLICK HERE.

For more information, you can view the IMDB.COM pages for:

1965’S THE IPCRESS FILES

1966’s FUNERAL IN BERLIN

1967’s BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN

From Russia With Love’s 50th Part I: the difficult sequel

From Russia With Love's poster

From Russia With Love’s poster

Nothing about From Russia With Love was easy. From scripting all the way through filming, the second James Bond film was difficult and at times an ordeal.

At last three writers (Richard Maibaum, Johnna Harwood and an uncredited Len Deighton) took turns trying to adapt the Ian Fleming novel, with major rewrites during shooting. One cast member (Pedro Armendariz) committed suicide shortly after completing his work on the movie because he was dying of cancer. Director Terence Young was nearly killed in a helicopter accident (CLICK HERE for an MI6 007 fan page account of that and other incidents).

For many 007 fans, the movie, which premiered Oct. 10, 1963, is the best film in the Eon Productions series. It’s one of the closest adaptations of a Fleming novel, despite the major change of adding Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE into the proceedings. It also proved the success of Dr. No the previous year was no accident.

Fleming’s novel was one of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s 10 favorite books, a list published in 1961 in Life magazine. From Russia, With Love (with the comma and published in 1957) was one of the author’s most important books.

Fleming’s friend, author Raymond Chandler, had chided 007’s creator for letting the quality of his Bond novels slip after 1953’s Casino Royale. “I think you will have to make up your mind what kind of writer you are going to be,” Chandler wrote to Fleming in an April 1956 letter. Fleming decided to step up his game with his fifth 007 novel.

Years later, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, with an endorsement of the source material from Kennedy, proceeded with adapting the book. Dr. No veterans Young, editor Peter Hunt, director of photography Ted Moore and scribes Maibaum and Harwood all reported for duty on the new 007 project.

The major Dr. No contributor absent was production designer Ken Adam, designing the war room set and other interiors for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. John Stears, meanwhile, took over on special effects.

Armendariz, as Kerim Bey, the head of MI6’s station in Turkey and Bond’s primary ally, had a big impact. He lit up every scene he was in and had great on-screen chemistry with star Sean Connery. When Kerim Bey is killed, as part of the complicated SPECTRE plot, it resonates with the audience. The “sacrificial lamb” is part of the Bond formula, but Armendariz was one of the best, if not the best, sacrificial lamb in the 007 film series.

The gravely ill actor needed assistance to complete his scenes. In long shots in the gypsy camp sequence, you needn’t look closely to tell somebody else is playing Kerim Bey walking with Connery’s 007. (It was director Young, according to Armendariz’s WIKIPEDIA ENTRY.)

Young & Co. retained the novel’s memorable set pieces (the fight between two gypsy women, the subsequent battle between Bulgarians and gypsies and the Orient Express train fight between Bond and Red Grant). The production also added a few twists, including two outdoor sequences after getting Bond off the train earlier than in the novel. The question was how would audiences respond.

The answer was approvingly. “I see that ‘From Russia With Love’ is now a movie and although I rarely see them I plan to take this one in,” former CIA Director Allen Dulles wrote to Fleming in 1964.

He wasn’t alone. The film, with a budget of $2 million, generated $78.9 million in worldwide box office, almost one-third more than its predecessor.

NEXT: John Barry establishes the 007 music template

1997 HMSS article: A VISIT WITH IAN FLEMING

November 2012 post: LEN DEIGHTON ON FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Len Deighton on From Russia With Love

Len Deighton and Michael Caine


The Deighton Dossier blog has a new interview with author Len Deighton. You can read the entire interview by CLICKING HERE One thing that caught our eye was Deighton’s description of his work on From Russia With Love, the second 007 film.

The Q and A featured questions from readers. One of those readers was Jeremy Duns, journalist (he dug out Ben Hecht’s screenplay drafts for producer Charles K. Feldman’s Casino Royale) and spy author.

Richard Maibaum got the screenplay credit for From Russia With Love, with Johanna Harwood receiving an “adapted by” credit. Maibaum had a long association with Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. On the early Bond films, Harry Saltzman, the other Eon co-founder, was involved heavily in developing the scripts and often sought English writers such as Paul Dehn and John Hopkins. Saltzman later produced the Harry Palmer series, starring Michael Caine, based on Deighton novels.

Here’s how Deighton in the Deighton Dossier interview, prompted by a question from Duns, described his time working on the film:

I’m very interested in your work on From Russia With Love – do you have any surviving drafts of your script and how do you regard it?

Len: I went to Istanbul with Harry Saltzman, plus the director and the art director. As with virtually all movies, the producer is the driving force who gets the idea, buys the rights, commissions the screenplay, chooses the actors and employs the director.

Harry demonstrated this creative power. We took breakfast together every day so that he could guide me and teach me how film stories worked. It was a wonderful course in movie making especially as the rest of each day was spent roaming around Istanbul with Harry plus the director and art director talking about locations and building the sets back in England.

I’ve always been rather careless about typescripts and notes etc. And having a restless disposition I have packed, unpacked and repacked countless times as my family and I lived in different countries, I don’t have much written stuff left.

Terence Young directed the movie and Syd Cain worked as art director, with Michael White as assistant art director.

The Deighton Dossier and this blog, are members of the Coalition Of Bloggers wRiting About Spies. We noticed the From Russia With Love mention from Tweets by Jeremy Duns.

Dr. No’s 50th anniversary part I: the odd couple

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman

By mid-1961, there had been multiple attempts to adapt Ian Fleming’s James Bond to other media. A 1954 CBS adaptation of Casino Royale had become reality and was mostly forgotten. No film versions had yet gone before the cameras. That was about to change as American Albert R. Broccoli and Canadian Harry Saltzman agreed to team up. It’d be an eventful, and sometimes stormy, 14 years.

Each had something the other wanted: Saltzman had secured a six-month option on Fleming’s novels other than Casino Royale (and a court settlement would take the 1961-published Thunderball out of that package). Broccoli had studio connections that Saltzman lacked. Broccoli wanted to buy the option from Saltzman, but the latter wanted to go into business with Broccoli.

Saltzman, by multiple accounts, provided a constant flow of ideas. The quality, reportedly, was erratic but when they were good, they were brilliant. (Let’s have Bond “killed” at the start of From Russia With Love.) He could be volatile, almost killing off what would be two of the most popular title songs in the 007 series (Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever). Composer John Barry bemoaned in a 2006 U.K. television special that, “I could never deal with Harry and didn’t.”

Broccoli, by these accounts, was the steadier, more patient of the duo. He had wanted to do Bond for years before meeting Saltzman and was mostly content with 007, a large endeavor of its own. Saltzman, meanwhile, would launch a series based on Len Deighton’s spy novels and pursue other non-Bond projects.

Eventually, the producers grew apart, with Live And Let Die primarily a Saltzman production (although there are shots of Broccoli visiting locations and sets) while The Man With the Golden Gun was primarily overseen by Broccoli. The partnership would end when Saltzman, in severe financial trouble, sold his half of the franchise to United Artists, the studio that released the 007 films.

During work on 1962’s Dr. No, the producers managed to find a collaborative rhythm. James Bond probably would have come to the screen, but likely not in exactly the same form had Broccoli and Saltzman not joined forces.

For their work on Dr. No, the first 007 film, Broccoli and Saltzman received a producer’s fee of $80,000 and 50 percent of the profits, according to the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger. The film debuted on Oct. 5, 1962, in the U.K., reaching other countries the following year.

If you CLICK HERE, you can view a 1965 interview the CBC did with Broccoli and Saltzman. At this point, Thunderball was about to be released.

Around the 14:00 mark, Saltzman has to take a call regarding a censorship issue with one of his non-007 movies. At the end, Saltzman works in a plug for his Harry Palmer films. You can view Broccoli’s expressions and draw your own conclusions about what the producer may have been thinking.

NEXT: The $40,000 man