Phoebe Waller-Bridge talks to BBC about No Time to Die

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Phoebe Waller-Bridge downplayed the extent of her script work for No Time to Die in an interview with the BBC.

“They were just looking for tweaks across a few of the characters and a few of the storylines,” Waller-Bridge told the BBC.

The writer-actress said her hiring by itself didn’t represent a big change in the way women are depicted in the Bond film series.

“They were already doing that themselves,” the BBC quoted her as saying.

“They’re having that conversation with themselves the whole time. It (her involvement) was much more practical. Just, ‘You’re a writer, we need some help with these scenes. And you come up with some dialogue for these characters’.”

Waller-Bridge was one of a number of writers who worked on the 25th James Bond film. Others include series veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as well as “script doctor” Scott Z. Burns.

However, Waller-Bridge has a higher profile because she starred in Fleabag, a streaming series she created. She recently walked off with three Fleabag-related Emmy awards.

What’s more, some outlets have played up her contributions as critical. The Daily Mail, in a September story, quoted an executive it didn’t identify as saying she was “the savior of Bond, really.”

In the BBC interview, Waller-Bridge said she was first approached by Bond producer Barbara Broccoli.

“We met for coffee and then a few months later we met again,” Waller-Bridge told the BBC. “And then I met the director Cary Joji Fukunaga and then I met Daniel (Craig) after that. But I know Daniel and Barbara had been talking about it for while.”

TWINE’s 20th: A transition for Bond

Cover to the original soundtrack release of The World Is Not Enough

Adapted and updated from a 2014 post.

The World Is Not Enough, the 19th film in the 007 film series made by Eon Productions, marked a transition.

Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli hired a director, Michael Apted, with little experience in action movies. Apted was brought on because of his drama experience.

Apted also was charged with increasing the female audience for a Bond film.

“I didn’t understand why they picked me to do (The World Is Not Enough),” Apted told The Hollywood Reporter in an October 2018 interview.

“It turned out, they were trying to get more women to come and see it,” Apted said. “So, we really wanted to do a Bond with a lot of women in it. I was right person because I’d done a lot of successful films with women in them. But they didn’t tell me that until right before we started. When I found out, I finally understood.”

The producers also hired a new writing team, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, to develop the story. They’re still in the world of 007 20 years later.

The script development established a pattern the duo would soon be familiar with. They delivered their script, which would be reworked by other writers. In the case of The World Is Not Enough, Dana Stevens, Apted’s wife, revised the story. Another scribe, Bruce Feirstein, worked on the final drafts. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein would get a screen credit.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench’s M got expanded screen time, something that would persist through 2012’s Skyfall. The film also marked the final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q. John Cleese came aboard as Q’s understudy.

Pierce Brosnan, in his third 007 outing, was now an established film Bond. In interviews at the time, he talked up the increased emphasis on drama. In the film, Bond falls for Elektra King, whose industrialist father is killed in MI6’s own headquarters. But in a twist, Elektra (played by Sophie Marceau) proves to be the real mastermind.

Q’s Good-Bye

The movie tried to balance the new emphasis on drama with traditional Bond bits such as quips and gadgets, such as the “Q boat” capable of diving underwater or rocketing across land. Some fans find the character of Dr. Christmas Jones, a scientist played by Denise Richards, over the top.

Sometimes, the dual tones collided. Cleese’s initial appearance was played for laughs. In the same scene, however, Q, in effect, tells Bond good-bye in what’s intended to be a touching moment. It was indeed the final good-bye. Llewelyn died later that year as the result of a traffic accident.

The movie was a financial success, with $361.8 million in worldwide box office. Broccoli and Wilson, meanwhile, would return to the idea of increased drama in later entries after recasting Bond with Daniel Craig.

Bond 25 questions: The mid-year edition

We’re almost halfway through 2019. That’s as good a reason as any for the blog to ask some new questions about Bond 25.

What do you make of the (apparently) discarded title A Reason to Die?

The MI6 James Bond website sniffed out that A Reason to Die was the tentative title for Bond 25. But Eon Productions after conferring with its studio partners decided not to proceed with it the night before an April 25 live stream event from Jamaica.

What the blog wonders is why did it take so long to make that decision? Or, put another way, was the live stream event scheduled before said studio partners (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal among them) weighed in?

Back in 2015, Eon’s Michael G. Wilson said the production company devises the marketing while the studios executes those plans.

So, was A Reason to Die an Eon initiative? Were MGM (handling U.S. distribution for Bond 25) and Universal (handling international distribution) not in the loop until the last minute? Or was the situation more complicated?

Where did A Reason to Die come from anyway?

Edward Biddulph of the James Bond Memes website wrote on Twitter the title may stem from the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service novel.

Specifically, in Chapter 5, The Capu, Marc-Ange Draco tells Bond, referring to his daughter Tracy: “Will you help me save this girl? It is my only chance, that you will give her hope. That you will give her a reason to live. Will you?”

Is that a big deal?

It’s hardly the most significant Ian Fleming reference available. Fleming short titles (Risico, The Hildebrand Rarity, The Property of a Lady and 007 in New York) haven’t been used. However, plot elements from Risico were used for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. Ditto for The Hildebrand Rarity in 1989’s Licence to Kill (plus a passing reference to the name Hildebrand in 2015’s SPECTRE). Also, plot elements from  The Property of a Lady showed up in 1983’s Octopussy.

What’s more, there are chapter titles from the Fleming novels that might be worth considering. Still, veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are known for mining small details from Fleming. They were the first screenwriters on Bond 25. It’s possible A Reason to Die fits their original script.

So what happens next?

When Prince Charles visited the Bond 25 set at Pinewood Studios earlier this month, Daniel Craig told him that filming on the production was about one-third complete.

There’s no teaser trailer yet, although a promotional video was released this week. A teaser trailer may be out sooner than later and we may get a title — A Reason to Die or something else — at that time. As usual, we’ll see.

Waller-Bridge says 007 ‘relevant,’ films must evolve

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

The character of James Bond remains “relevant” while the 007 film series needs to treat women properly, Bond 25 screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge said in an interview with Deadline: Hollywood. 

“There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not [the Bond franchise] is relevant now because of who he is and the way he treats women,” Waller-Bridge told Deadline. “I think that’s bollocks. I think he’s absolutely relevant now.

“It has just got to grow,” she added. “It has just got to evolve, and the important thing is that the film treats the women properly. He doesn’t have to. He needs to be true to this character.”

The Deadline story contains some of Waller-Bridge’s most detailed comments about Bond 25. She has been interviewed a lot recently, with most of the stories concerning the second season of her streaming series Fleabag.

Waller-Bridge’s involvement with Bond 25 became known in April. In the Deadline interview, she complimented star Daniel Craig and said the movie’s story is in good shape.

“When I saw (Craig’s) Bond for the first time, there was a wryness to his performance that I really loved,” the writer-actress told Deadline. “So, I was really excited about writing dialogue for him. I mean, the script was there. It’s already there. I think it’s unfair to say that I’m writing the script.”

Besides Waller-Bridge, Bond 25’s roster of writers includes Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Scott Z. Burns.

Baz strikes with Bond 25 plot spoiler

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Like it says in the headline, it’s a spoiler so stop reading if you don’t like them.

Bond 25’s story line concerns “genetic warfare” and one reason scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge was hired was to “boil it down,” the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported.

Bamigboye quoted a studio executive as saying:

“The movie’s premise is genetic warfare, which is fascinating — but you gotta boil it down and make it accessible”

Bamigboye didn’t identify the executive or say which studio he works for. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is 007’s home studio. A joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures will distribute Bond 25 in the U.S. while Universal will release the movie internationally.

“And that’s why Phoebe was hired,” the scribe quoted the executive as saying. “She has somehow made sense of it.”

The Daily Mail scribe didn’t provide many additional details.

An Eon Productions press release last month said the story involves “a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.”

A number of writers, also including Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as well as Scott Z. Burns, have also worked on the script.

The Mail on Sunday reported in April that Waller-Bridge had joined the roster of writers. But the MI6 James Bond website said earlier this month that Waller-Bridge had begun work earlier.

Bamigboye has had a number of Bond stories proven correct this decade. Among them was a March 2017 story that Purvis and Wade had been hired to start work on Bond 25’s script.

Bond 25 questions: The script edition

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Bond 25 filming is underway. Work has wrapped up in Jamaica. Things should be moving along nicely, right?

Not according to tabloid newspapers, specifically The Sun and Daily Mail in the U.K. and the New York Post in the U.S. And a lot of the hubbub has to do with the film’s script.

Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

Is there really “no script”?

From the time the first draft is submitted, there’s a script. The question is whether there’s a script everyone is happy with.

Still, at any time, there’s a document that exceeds 100 pages and says “The End” at the end. The first draft is replaced by a second draft and so on and so forth.

Nevertheless, the tabloids say differently. The Post in an April 25 story quotes a person it didn’t identify as saying, “They don’t have a script.”

The Sun in an April 26 story said “there is no script.”

Not to be outdone, the Daily Mail began a May 9 story thusly: “The joke on the Bond 25 set is the script’s under wraps. And the response is: ‘What script?’” The story said the story is being rewritten “endlessly.”

So what’s really going on?

Clearly, a number of writers have worked on the project at one time or another. Among them: the team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade; John Hodge when Danny Boyle was attached as director; and Scott Z. Burns and Phoebe Waller-Bridge since Cary Fukunaga (who also writes scripts) replaced Boyle.

In the past week, Waller-Bridge has gotten a lot of attention. She’s both a performer and writer and worked on various high-profile projects.

Waller-Bridge was interviewed on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast. That mostly concerned her career generally but included a few minutes about Bond 25 at the end. She was also the subject of a separate Daily Mail feature story.

In both instances, Waller-Bridge made it sound as if Bond 25’s scripting is under control.

“We have a script and we’re continuing to work on it, all of us floating ideas around and creating characters together,” she said in the Daily Mail story.

Anything else catch your eye?

The Daily Mail’s May 9 story about the “endless” rewriting of Bond 25’s script said it was being revised by Waller-Bridge, director Fukunaga and star Daniel Craig.

Back in 2011, Craig said how he and director Marc Forster supposedly rewrote Quantum of Solace on the set. “A writer I am not,” Craig said then.

If the Daily Mail is correct (something I am not assuming), did Craig change his mind?

Is there context we should keep in mind?

At various times in the 57-year history of the 007 film franchise, there’s been frantic rewriting: From Russia With Love, The Spy Who Loved Me and Tomorrow Never Dies come to mind. Things turned out well at the end.

Still, past performance isn’t a guarantee of future success. You can’t take success for granted.

That’s something to keep in mind. But not something to lose sleep over, at least not at this stage in the proceedings.

UPDATE: A Japanese outlet, Cinema Today, posted a story dated May 12 but is based on an April interview with Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. According to a translation, the duo say that director Cary Fukunaga recruited Scott Z. Burns as a writer while they brought in Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Wilson said work on the script “struggled for a while” but they have a story “with a lot of twists and surprises.”

Bond 25 script rewritten by committee, Baz says

“We can’t go yet, dear. I have to help out on the script rewrite.”

Bond 25’s script is being “endlessly” rewritten by a committee, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye wrote in a story published Thursday night.

The committee consists of “director Cary Joji Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and 007 himself, Daniel Craig,” Bamigboye reported.

Bamigboye quoted a source he didn’t identify as saying Waller-Bridge is “writing a re-write of a re-write…‘They have an outline of plot, but dialogue is all last-minute. It’s not the way to make a movie.”

Efforts to devise a Bond 25 script began in 2017 when 007 film veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired. For a time, the production shifted to screenwriter John Hodge when Danny Boyle was hired as director in 2018.

A few months later, Boyle exited and Hodge followed him out the door. Fukunaga, who often writes his own scripts, was hired to replace Boyle. Scott Z. Burns and Waller-Bridge subsequently were hired to work on the Bond 25 story.

Bamigboye has a record of coming up with 007 film scoops that were later proven correct. Among them was the fact that Purvis and Wade were brought back to begin Bond 25’s scripting.

A Bond 25 sequence was filmed in Norway in March. Principal photography began late last month.