The Living Daylights script: Writing for a new Bond

Timothy Dalton’s gunbarrel for The Living Daylights

In 1986, writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson were working on a new chapter for the cinematic James Bond.

Roger Moore’s era had ended. The choice of the next film 007 film actor would be unsettled. For a time, it was Pierce Brosnan. But when NBC and MTM Productions wanted him back for additional episodes of Remington Steele, Timothy Dalton seized the prize.

By the time Maibaum and Wilson were writing their second-draft script, much of the basic story had been settled. The story line and major set pieces in this script would, more or less, appear as they would in the final 1987 film.

Still, there were significant differences. Some scenes play differently. Also, the Maibaum and Wilson team appeared to be unaware of the basics of firearms.

Pre-credits sequence

The second-draft script (which doesn’t have a date on its title page) has a pre-credits sequence very similar to the finished product.

One major difference: This script begins at the London offices of Universal Exports (the MI6 front).  Nevertheless, the script wants to have a little suspense before the audience can see the new James Bond.

After an establishing shot, the script takes the reader to Moneypenny’s office. We’re told “as door opens” that “BOND’S HAND, holding hat, appears in doorway and poises to throw it toward COSTUMER in B.G.  TWO HATS already on pegs.”

As Bond tosses yet another hat on a peg, Moneypenny tells him that M wants to see him.

Inside M’s office, Bond joins two other Double-O agents and the stage directions specify none of the men’s faces can be seen by the camera.

M explains the assignment (an exercise to see if the Double-O operatives can penetrate the Rock of Gibraltar’s defenses). But in this script, M has a voice over of Gibraltar images.

When this script depicts the mission, the agents are only identified as first, second and third “DOUBLE-O MAN.”

They parachute down to Gibraltar. The first Double-O man is described as “a rugged, lantern jawed young man, but obviously not James Bond.” The second 00-agent “too, could not be James Bond.”

When the first “Double-O man” is killed by an imposter, we’re given a description of third.

THIRD DOUBLE-O MAN ON RIDGE
strapping on PARACHUTE CONTAINER. He turns INTO CAMERA. We now see his face. James Bond at last!

What follows is similar to the final film. Bond escapes while the imposter is killed in an explosion. Bond parachutes his way to a luxury yacht where he meets a woman named Linda. She is described as “impressed, amused and interested” after Bond lands.

The Defection

After the main titles, the primary plot of the movie unfolds. While similar to the final film, there are some major differences.

Bond, instead of attending a concert, 007 goes to a book store. He briefly encounters Halas an “elderly, book-wormy proprietor.”

007 provides some code words. “Have you a Czech first edition of Karl Marx ‘Das Kapital’?” Halas closes the book store.

This, however, is a prelude to Bond having his first meeting with Saunders, head of Station V, Vienna. Bond prepares to take out a Soviet-bloc assassin so that Soviet General Koskov can successfully defect.

As in the final film, Bond suspects something is up and doesn’t kill the supposed sniper. He takes over command of Koskov’s defection and tells Saunders to meet him at the border.

Halas (!) resurfaces, helping Bond and Koskov work their away around the grounds of the Soviet pipeline that’s bringing natural gas to Western Europe. Halas even says, “It is good to work with you again, Mr. Bond.”

Based on this script, Bond’s double cross of Saunders is even more elaborate than we’d see in the movie.

Still, this is all preliminary to Bond meeting up with Rosika Miklos, “a huge but attractive young woman.” Bond and Rosika arrange for Koskov to be taken pass the border in a “pig” via the pipeline.

General Gogol (?!)

After Koskov has made it to the U.K., he says he has defected because General Gogol of the KGB has gone mad.

“I tell you why I defect,” Koskov says. “General Gogol is why.”

Gogol (Water Gotell) had made appearances in Bond movies starting with 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. He had a significant role in that film, while showing up in Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View To a Kill. (Gotell had also appeared as a SPECTRE villain in 1963’s From Russia With Love.)

In the final movie version of The Living Daylights, Gogol had joined the Soviet diplomatic service. He was replaced by Gen. Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies). Thus, Gotell received a cameo in his final appearance in the 007 film series.

On some James Bond message boards, fans argue there should be no attempts at continuity among movies. This script is not like the inter-connected movies made by Marvel Studios. But it is similar to the continuity of early 007 films, such as the references in From Russia With Love to Dr. No.

No Aston Martin (!)

After Koskov’s seeming defecting, Bond drives a Bentley to the MI6 safehouse where Koskov is being debriefed.

Later, when Bond gets Kara Milovy away from the KGB, the agent steals a KGB car and isn’t driving a gadget-laden Aston Martin. As a result, the sequence gets Bond onto a frozen lake much quicker than the completed film.

As the action unfolds on the frozen lake, an “ice yacht” happens by. The yachtsman helps rescue Czech policemen. This leads to an extended action sequence where Bond and Kara, more or less, end up in the same spot in the movie.

Finale 

The final film had a relatively romantic movie. This script? Not so much.

BEHIND SCREEN KARA BOND

his shirt already unbuttoned, awaits her. She gives startled gasp.

BOND
You didn’t think I would miss this performance did you?

She laughs delightedly, takes off his shirt.

Firearms

When Bond puts the squeeze on Gogol in Tangiers, this appears in the stage directions:

BOND slips a silencers out of his jacket pocket, then affixes it to his revolver as he moves behind GOGOL.

The problem with this is that silencers, generally speaking, don’t work as well on revolvers as they do on semi-automatic pistols. TV Guide, in the 1970s, mentioned silencers on revolvers as among TV-generated myths. (Another was how getting wounded in the shoulder in real life is very bad, while on TV shows, it’s like a flesh wound.)

THIS 2013 VIDEO explains some of the science involved. Some revolvers can be noise suppressed but they’re not common, the silencers are very large and they aren’t as quiet as depicted in movies and TV shows.

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THR says Broccoli & Wilson had rift with deposed MGM chief

Barbara Broccoli

The Hollywood Reporter, as part of a followup story about the firing of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer chief Gary Barber, said Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions also had major differences with Barber.

“(I)nsiders say a rift had also developed between (Barber) and 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson,” according to the story by THR’s Paul Bond. ‘“There was a revolt,’ says an insider who claims the Broccoli camp ultimately refused to work with Barber.”

The THR story  was posted this morning. Variety and Deadline: Hollywood had new or updated stories Tuesday night. All three outlets described how Barber and board chairman Kevin Ulrich disagreed over strategy. Ulrich, according to the accounts, wants MGM to get bigger amid changes in media.

Variety said MGM’s board “had doubts about whether Barber had the right strategic vision and willingness to take big risks.”

Deadline said: “Ulrich saw an opportunity for MGM to remake itself into a digital powerhouse by renaming Epix with the MGM brand and making it a subscription streaming service that could line up favorably along the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Disney’s new service, Hulu and others that come along. The idea would be to include the upcoming James Bond film’s pay window as part of this.”

The upcoming film, of course, is Bond 25, which has an official U.S. release date of November 2019. Ulrich heads a New York investment company, Anchorage Capital Group, a major shareholder in MGM.

UPDATE (2:35 p.m.): The Wall Street Journal weighed in with an MGM story I can’t access because it’s behind a paywall. However, one of the reporters, Ben Fritz, sent out this tweet quoting from a Broccoli-Wilson statement that’s not referenced in the story.

 

Bond 25: The passionless 007?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 is progressing. Nobody knows how quickly. Nobody outside Eon Productions know exactly what’s happening..

Despite questions this blog has raised (including how nobody knows the distributor who will actually get the movie to theaters) , chances are the next James Bond film will still come out in the fall of 2019.

Why? Well, somebody is likely to step up even if Skyfall and SPECTRE generated small profits for Sony Pictures, the distributor for those two 007 films. Bond, at least for now, still generates a lot of global attention.

Bond still is a way to promote other, more profitable movies for studios that may become involved in Bond 25’s distribution.

The question remains whether Bond 25 will generate passion for global movie audiences.

Marvel Studios’s Black Panther, the newest member of the billion-dollar movie club, generated passion. It was viewed as a breakthrough for a vast audience that finally got to see sympathetic movie characters who looked like them.

That’s passion.

James Bond movies, of course, have been around for more than 55 years. There have been a half-dozen actors who’ve played Bond in the films.

Yet, the lack of Bond passion goes beyond familiarity.

The two custodians of the 007 franchise (Barbara Broccoli, 57, and Michael G. Wilson, 76) have spent the bulk of their lives in Bondage. That’s both a tremendous achievement (keeping such a franchise going) and, one suspects, a tremendous burden.

Broccoli and Wilson operated for years under the watchful eye of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli (1909-1996) and his wife Dana Broccoli (1922-2004).

Since then, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have pursued non-Bond projects for many years now. Bond is lucrative. The other projects have provided variety. Maybe even provided passion.

In the coming months, there likely will be many stories generated about Bond 25.

But the larger question is whether Bond 25 will generate passion — for Broccoli and Wilson as well as the larger 007 audience.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. But it’s something to keep in mind as the Bond 25 story unfolds.

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.

Quantum’s 10th: Impact still felt on 007 franchise

International poster for Quantum of Solace

This fall marks the 10th anniversary of Quantum of Solace, the 22nd 007 film made by Eon Productions. It’s a production that still reverberates with the franchise.

It was the last time the makers of James Bond films tried to come out with an entry just two years after the previous installment. And it’s possible it will remain the last.

As Casino Royale was ending production, Sony Pictures put out a July 20, 2006 release saying it intended to release Bond 22 (as it was then known) quickly — May 2, 2008.

“As we wrap production on CASINO ROYALE we couldn’t be more excited about the direction the franchise is heading with Daniel Craig. Daniel has taken the origins of Ian Fleming’s James Bond portraying, with emotional complexity, a darker and edgier 007,” Eon’s Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli were quoted in the press release.

Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, with three Bond films under their belt, were aboard to come up with a story for what Eon would later describe as the series’ first “direct sequel.”

There were soon signs the pace was causing some strains.

‘Very Nervous’
Director Roger Michell opted not to helm the movie because he felt the story wasn’t developed enough. In 2007, Michell gave an interview to The Times. The original link to the interview is broken, but the Commander Bond website’s summary includes some of Michell’s comments.

“‘Well, I did give up directing the Bond film,” Michell told The Times, according to the Commander Bond summary. “It was because in the end I didn’t feel comfortable with the Bond process, and I was very nervous that there was a start date but really no script at all. And I like to be very well prepared as a director.”

Eventually, Quantum was pushed back to a fall 2008 release. But there were still time pressures. The Writers Guild of America was in labor talks and a strike deadline was looming. The union went on strike from November 2007 to February 2008, with the Bond movie starting production in early 2008.

There are conflicting versions of the movie’s story process.

Marc Forster

The director hired for the movie, Marc Forster, said in an April 2008 Rotten Tomatoes story, said there was a reset after he arrived.

‘From Scratch’
“Once I signed on to do it we pretty much developed the script from scratch because I felt that it wasn’t the movie I wanted to make and we started with Paul Haggis from scratch,” Forster said in the story. Haggis was the writer who did the final drafts of Casino Royale.

“And I said to him these are the topics I am interested in this is what I would like to say, what’s important to me,” the director said. “And we developed it from there together. Then Barbara and Michael said they liked where we were going and they liked the script.”

In this interview, Forster said everything worked out fine.

““The good thing is that Paul and I and Daniel all worked on the script before the strike happened and got it where we were pretty happy with,” the director said. “Then we started shooting and the only problems I had with the script we were shooting in April, May and June so as soon as the strike was over we did another polish.”

The writer doing that polish, Forster said, was Joshua Zetumer. The scribe’s involvement with the film was noted in other stories written during the production.

More Complicated
Forster, in a Nov. 3, 2008 story on the Vulture culture blog of New York magazine, indicated things were more complicated.

“Haggis had an idea they weren’t fond of, and I didn’t know if it would work or not,” Forster told Vulture. “The idea was that Vesper in the last movie, maybe she had a kid, and there would be an orphan out there.”

Eventually, with the clocking ticking to a WGA strike, the idea of Bond searching for Vesper’s child was rejected. Haggis, though, delivered a script ahead of the WGA walkout.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

In 2011, as Skyfall was preparing production, a new scenario was unveiled.

Daniel Craig in an interview with Time Out London, said he and Forster were forced to rewrite the script as Quantum was being filmed.

The actor described what they had as a “bare bones of a script.” Because of the WGA strike, “We couldn’t employ a writer to finish it.”

This tale has emerged as the now-accepted version, with Joshua Zetumer the movie’s forgotten man.

(Note: The original Time out link is still up but when I called it up, I got a warning about a “malicious link” from my computer. This SUMMARY OF THE INTERVIEW ON INDIEWIRE has the same Craig quotes with no malicious link” warnings.)

The movie did fine at the box office, with $586 million globally. But Quantum’s biggest effect may be that Eon doesn’t want to rush things if it can help it.

External Pressures’
“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Eon’s Barbara Broccoli told the Los Angeles Times in 2012.

Barbara Broccoli

“But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures,” the Eon boss told the newspaper.

She didn’t mention either Sony or Quantum of Solace. But it’s not much of a stretch to wonder if both were on her mind during the interview.

What’s more, a Sony executive told theater executives in 2012 that Bond 24 (eventually titled SPECTRE) would be out in 2014. Broccoli and Craig, in a May 1, 2012 interview with Collider, shut down such talk.

Broccoli: He was getting a little overexcited (laughs). We’re just actually focusing on this movie. One hopes that in the future we’ll be announcing other films, but no one’s officially announced it.

Craig: No one’s announced anything. He got a little ahead of himself (laughs). It’s very nice that he has the confidence to be able to do that, but we haven’t finished this movie yet.

SPECTRE, of course, came out in 2015, not 2014.

Today, Quantum occupies an odd space. Despite its financial success, it wasn’t discussed much in the 2012 documentary Everything Or Nothing. But many fans feel it’s more than a worthy entry in series.

Regardless of how you feel about the movie, though, it had an impact on the franchise. Trying to make a James Bond film within two years is now unthinkable.

Eon website reflects how it’s more than just 007

Eon Productions logo

Eon Productions has a new or revamped website that reflects how the production company has a broader portfolio than the James Bond film series.

For example, the site’s film page has entries for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, The Silent Storm, Radiator and Nancy. The 24-film 007 series has a single entry with a link back to the official James Bond film website, 007.com.

The Eon film page does not include an entry for Call Me Bwana, the Bob Hope comedy that, for decades, was the company’s only non-007 film. An advertisement for that movie was included in From Russia With Love, replacing Niagara. An advertisement for that Marilyn Monroe movie was used in the Ian Fleming novel.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, produced by Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli with a number of 007 film veterans on the crew, was made by a separate production company, Warfield Productions. It’s not on the film page either.

Finally, the film page, for now, does not have an entry for The Rhythm Section, Eon’s non-007 spy film where production currently is suspended because of an injury to star Blake Lively.

The new Eon site also has a theater page, reflecting the company’s interest in stage productions.

It has entries for stage productions of Strangers on a Train, The Country Girls, Chariots of Fire, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Love Letters, Once, The Kid Stays in the Picture and Othello.

There is also a news section to the website. The most recent entry is a Jan. 29 story about Nancy winning the Waldo Salt Screenwriting award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

Chill, 007 fans: This gentleman agent is used to criticism

“But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist,” Daniel Craig said while promoting SPECTRE.

Recent stories on websites and British tabloid papers about how millennials are critical of old James Bond films has upset fans of the gentlemen agent.

On social media, that’s generated comments such as, “Bite my bum millenials,” and “I blame the parents……poor upbringing.”

The thing is, the criticisms mentioned in these stories aren’t new. They’ve been around pretty much as long as Bond has. Specifically, Bond is a womanizer, represents imperialism, has racial overtones, etc., etc.

One critique that sometimes is cited is an April 1958 review by Paul Johnson in the New Statesman of the novel Dr. No.

There are three basic ingredients in Dr No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a school boy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult. Mr Fleming has no literary skill…

(snip)
The plot can be briefly described. James Bond, an upper-class Secret Service Agent, is sent by his sadistic superior, M., to Jamaica, to investigate strange incidents on a nearby island.

This review was published almost 60 years ago, yet mirrors some of the criticisms contained in the recent “Millennials vs. James Bond” stories. Those stories rely heavily on Twitter posts. As the website Medium noted in a Jan. 28 story, not all of the tweets are even written by millennials.

On occasion, similar critiques were made when Bond went to the big screen.

In 1973, for example, Time magazine’s review for Live And Let Die declared Bond to be “a racist pig.”

Needless to say, Bond has survived all that — and not always with help from the principals of Eon Productions, which makes the 007 films.

First, consider what Eon’s Michael G. Wilson told USA Today in 2012. Bond is not even a hero, Wilson has said. “There are plenty of imitators, but Bond really is the first one that was an anti-hero,” Wilson told the newspaper.

An anti-hero is defined as “a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.” (emphasis added)

In 2015, Bond star Daniel Craig said of 007: “But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist. A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long,” (emphasis added)

A misogynist is defined as “a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts or mistreats women.” That’s harsher than the definition of a chauvinist, “a person who believes one gender is superior to the other.”

That gave an opening to writer Laurie Penny in an October 2015 commentary in the New Statesman.

“James Bond is a guilty pleasure but one in which the pleasure is increasingly overwhelmed by the guilt. Even Daniel Craig seems to know this,” Penny wrote.

Then, there’s Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, who told the Evening Standard in 2012, that women characters in Bond movies today are better than most of their earlier counterparts. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,”

In the interview, Broccoli wasn’t specific about the “clipboard” women. She complimented the characters of Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) in Dr. No and Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) in Goldfiner. In Moonraker, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) was holding a clipboard, but she was also a CIA agent and an astronaut.

Recently the website Haphazard Stuff did an in-depth review of 2012’s Skyfall. But it took the occasion to note all the times that women actors in Bond movies over the decades said their characters weren’t like the “empty-headed” Bond girl stereotype. It’s the video below, roughly from the 12:00 to 18:00 mark.

Remember, the actors said this as part of promoting the movies they were in. It’s almost as if running down its earlier product as part of promoting the current product is part of Eon’s standard operating procedure.

In any case, Bond fans should take a deep breath and move on. Millennials likely are no more critical of Bond novels and movies than previous generations. Bond has been fired at for a long time. But he’s still here.