Maibaum’s ‘circular’ script structure

Christopher Reeve (right) with Roger Moore during filming of Octopussy.

A few James Bond films utilize a structure that, for the purposes of this post, I am crediting to veteran screenwriter Richard Maibaum (1909-1991).

That’s the “circular” structure — the audience sees something at or near the start of the movie that is repeated (with key variations) at the climax.

With the following examples, it’s difficult to give Maibaum full credit. Other screenwriters worked on the Bond films involved. But Maibaum is the only constant. So, without further ado:

From Russia With Love (1963): The film opens with James Bond apparently being stalked — and then killed — by Red Grant (Robert Shaw). However, Grant has only killed a double as part of a training exercise.

Grant kills Bond’s double using a garrotte hidden inside a watch. Later, Grant tries to kill the real Bond (Sean Connery) with the garrotte during a fight sequence on the Orient Express. Naturally, Bond turns the tables on Grant.

Caveat: Both Johanna Harwood (who got an “adapted by” credit) and Len Deighton (uncredited) also worked on the script.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974): The film opens with a gangster (Marc Lawrence) hired to take out Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) on his home grounds, including a “fun house.”

Scaramanga has to scramble before he finally dispatches the gangster. Much later, James Bond (Roger Moore) is lured into the “fun house.” Bond loses his own Walther PPK. But he kills Scaramanga taking a PPK from a life-sized 007 figure.

Caveat:  Tom Mankiewicz was the original screenwriter, then Maibaum was brought in. Mankiewicz did the final rewrites.

Octopussy (1983): After the main titles, a 00-agent disguised as a clown flees from a circus. He’s fatally wounded by twin assassins who are also circus performers.

Toward the climax of the film, Bond (Roger Moore) is disguised as a clown — the same getup as his doomed predecessor — and manages to deactivate an atomic bomb just in the nick of the time.

Caveat: Octopussy began as a script with an effort by George Macdonald Fraser, which was later rewritten by Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson.

Did Fleming think Maibaum’s 007 was better?

Ian Fleming, drawn by Mort Drucker, from the collection of the late John Griswold.

This week, TCM kicked off showing 19 James Bond films made by Eon Productions. The first night included a promotional video featuring comments by Bond film veterans Bruce Feirstein (credited as writer on three films) and Martin Campbell (director on two).

Feirstein, at one point told an anecdote about Bond’s creator talking to Richard Maibaum on the set of Goldfinger.

“Apparently, Fleming told Maibaum that he liked Maibaum’s Bond better than his own. Because Maibaum added the wit….There is no wit in the books. So one of the key elements that we all know and love Bond for was added by Maibaum.”

That sounds very provocative. But how true is it? Feirstein doesn’t provide a source for the information. The word “apparently” is a way to hedge your bet.

What’s more, the Bond scripting process was a lot more complicated.

Movies are a collaborative medium. That’s especially when it comes to scripts. By the time Goldfinger was in production, Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkeley Mather, Len Deighton, Wolf Mankowitz and Paul Dehn had all taken turns at the typewriter (some getting credit, some not).

At the very least, it’s debatable whether there was a “Maibaum Bond” versus a “Fleming Bond.”

Maibaum was a writer on 13 of the first 16 Bond films made by Eon. He was clearly a major contributor and had a lot of input.

On the other hand, with Goldfinger, Maibaum started the scripting while Dehn did the later drafts. And Mankowitz sold co-producer Harry Saltzman a major idea (having the gangster Mr. Solo in a car that was crushed at a junkyard) that was a highlight of the movie. The 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger spells out the scripting process.

In any case, Feirstein provided an interesting anecdote. You can see it around the 6:40 mark of this YouTube copy of the TCM video. Warning: you never know when these things may get pulled down by YouTube.

Robert Sellers coming out with a Broccoli-Saltzman book

Ian Fleming, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli

Robert Sellers, the author of The Battle for Bond, a book about the behind-the-scenes conflict concerning Thunderball, is coming out with a new book about Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the co-founders of Eon Productions.

There is a listing on the U.K. site of Amazon for When Harry Met Cubby: The Story of the James Bond Producers.

According to the listing, the book will be out in September. Here’s part of the description:

Both men were of such contrasting personalities that relations between them often span out of control, to such an extent that they not only fell out with their star, Sean Connery, but ultimately with each other. Loved and hated in equal measure, respected and feared by their contemporaries, few movie people have loomed as large over the industry as Broccoli and Saltzman, yet tragically they would meet very different ends.

During the 1960s heydey of the Bond film series, Broccoli and Saltzman took the industry by storm as 007 became a phenomenon.

In the ensuing decades, a narrative took hold of Saltzman being the more volatile of the two. Some fans (via social media) claim that Saltzman wasn’t really a producer.

On the other hand, other accounts indicate that Saltzman had a major impact on Bond film stories. Richard Maibaum had been a Broccoli man (going back to the producer’s partnership with Irving Allen). Saltzman brought in others (such as Len Deighton, Paul Dehn and John Hopkins) to revise Maibaum’s work.

Regardless, the blog’s guess is the new Sellers book will bring new insights to an old partnership that finally ruptured in the mid-1970s.

Bond 25 questions: The “Mr. Obvious” edition

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who is known for getting 007 film scoops correct, finally weighed in and said that director Danny Boyle departed Bond 25 because Eon Productions wanted to bring in a new writer to replace his man, John Hodge.

As a result, the blog has a series of “Mr. Obvious” questions.

Did Boyle and Hodge do their due diligence before signing on for Bond 25? The 007 film franchise has a history of bringing in multiple writers to massage scripts.

In the early days, Richard Maibaum replaced Johanna Harwood and Len Deighton on From Russia With Love. Paul Dehn replaced Maibaum on Goldfinger. Tom Mankiewicz replaced Maibaum on Diamonds Are Forever.

More recently? Well, this decade, John Logan replaced Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on Skyfall. Purvis and Wade were summoned to replace Logan on SPECTRE. On both films, Jez Butterworth did work (but only getting a credit on SPECTRE).

Assuming Bamigboye is correct, neither Boyle nor Hodge should have been surprised when Eon wanted a new scribe. Hell’s bells, Maibaum dealt with that sort of thing over 13 separate 007 films.

Did Eon Productions do its due diligence before bringing on Boyle and Hodge? In 2017, Eon hired Purvis and Wade do the script for Bond 25. But that work got cast aside when the possibility arose of getting Boyle as director. But Boyle wanted his man, Hodge, to write it.

Boyle has a reputation for doing unique films and Hodge is one of his main collaborators. So you’ve got to figure they have a certain way of working.

Yes, Boyle said he was a James Bond fan. Everybody (especially if they’re British) says they’re a James Bond fan when they hire on to work for Eon. But did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson really think through whether Boyle could adapt to working for Eon?

What role does Daniel Craig have in all this? Bamigboye’s story said Craig was a key figure in wanting a new writer to take over from Hodge. But is that really a big deal?

Before the cameras rolled on Goldfinger, Sean Connery objected to some of Paul Dehn’s ideas (such as ending the moving with “curtains” being drawn). The 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger goes into this in detail.

Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever, described a meeting he had with Connery. The star weighed on various issues, according to the screenwriter. So it’s not unprecedented for stars of Bond films to let their opinions be known. Granted, Craig had a co-producer title on SPECTRE, something Connery never got when he toiled for Eon.

1970s: McClory enlists Connery, Deighton for a 007 script

Title page to the 1978 Warhead script.

Kevin McClory had struck it big in 1965. Holding the screen rights to Thunderball, he had been, in effect, made a partner by Eon Productions on the film adaptation. It was a big hit.

Under terms of his deal, McClory wasn’t to attempt another Thunderball-related project for a decade. Once that time elapsed, McClory decided to do just that.

This time, he enlisted Sean Connery, now the former 007, and author Len Deighton, who had performed uncredited work on the screenplay of From Russia With Love.

The trio’s names would be attached to a script titled James Bond of the Secret Service in 1976 and Warhead in 1978. The 1976 script is online, uploaded by 007Dossier.com. I dug out a copy I had of the 1978 effort. Meanwhile, the BBC on July 26 ran a story about the Warhead script.

The two are very similar with key differences. James Bond of the Secret Service is like Thunderball. Blofeld is the behind the scenes mastermind while Largo is the operational commander.

In Warhead, Blofeld (identified as Ernst Stavros Blofed, with the extra “s” in the middle name) performs both functions. The name Largo inadvertently appears a couple of times in my copy of Warhead, as if somebody forgot to remove it.

SPECTRE operates a mammoth underwater operation. In 1976, it’s called Arkos. In 1978, it’s named Aquapolis. The earlier script includes a large thug named Bomba, described as “a black man of gigantic proportions.” The 1978 script the henchman is called Ghengis, “a Mongloian of gigantic proportions.”

More Ambitious

SPECTRE, in both scripts, has gotten more ambitious than it had been in the Eon film series. It’s responsible for missing aircraft in the Bermuda Triangle (apparently because it can). It’s already extracting gold and other substances from seawater.

And this time out, SPECTRE aims to take control of the world’s oceans.

“My first act will be to stop all pollution,” Blofeld says in both scripts. “Each government will answer to me for any desctive elements coming in to our oceans. I will give them six months to cease using our oceans as umping grounds for their sewage, filth, poisons, chemicals and atomic waste.”

SPECTRE’s plan to accomplish all this includes robot sharks and nuclear warheads from a Soviet submarine the criminal organization has disabled.

Familiar Tale?

By this point, the average Bond fan is probably observing all this sounds familiar to The Spy Who Loved Me, the 10th film in Eon’s film series.

That 1977 movie featured villain Karl Stromberg, an industrialist who operated a mammoth installation called Atlantis and who was alarmed about environmental damage to oceans. He, of course, had a large henchman named Jaws. The story line emerged from the contributions of many writers besides the credited Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum.

Indeed, there were court fights between Eon and McClory during this period. The result was that Eon and United Artists proceeded with Spy while McClory stayed on the sidelines.

In James Bond of the Secret Service/Warhead, we don’t encounter Bond himself until the scene switches to Shrublands. This story turned Schrublands from a health clinic into an “aquatactical centre,” which trains operatives of various countries, including the U.K. and U.S.

Here’s a stage direction from the Warhead script:

Along the beach, barbed wires comes down to the sea. JAMES BOND is having sun oil aplied to his body by a girl instructor, an exceptionally athletic and attractive fair-haired girl, JUSTINE LOVESIT. He is reclining in the shade of an old gun emplacement.

Perhaps she’s a cousin of Lovey Kravezit from the Matt Helm movie series. The dialogue here is certainly similar to a Helm movie with Dean Martin.

BOND
Call me James. And what’s your name?

LOVESIT
Justine Lovesit.

BOND
She does?

LOVESIT
My name is Justine.

BOND
(laughs)
Well, I’ll call you ‘Just’ for short.

Anyway, Bond and Felix Leiter meet up at Schrublands. They have an exchange that appears to reference scandals of the era involving the CIA and FBI.

“Good to see you, Felix,” Bond says. “So the Russians haven’t put you behind bars yet.”

“No, but Congress nearly did,” Leiter replies.

Dr. Blush

A briefing is conducted because SPECTRE has contacted the United Nations and “the leaders of the governments of five great powers” in the words of Gardner Steer, a CIA official. SPECTRE has already killed the UN secretary general, disabling his plane as it flew threw the Bermuda Triangle.

Meanwhile, SPECTRE agent Fatima Blush lurks about as a memeber of the medical staff. Bond quickly takes interest. “Well, if the party’s off, perhaps you’d like to give me my physical tonight, Dr. Blush,” the British agent says.

Also, at one point, Bond is scheduled is play Largo/Blofeld (depending on which script) in a backgammon game. But M orders Bond not to participate so we don’t get to see any such confrontation.

Eventually, the story results in a climax in New York City and at the Statue of Liberty. Naturally, the plot is foiled, the villain vanquished.

None of this would make the screen. A Thunderball remake finally became reality in 1983 with Never Say Never Again.

McClorry was aboard with the title of executive producer. But it was producer Jack Schwartzman (1932-1994) who did the heavy lifting, securing Sean Connery’s services to make one final appearance as 007.

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.