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: Murdoch’s tabloids strike back

Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns tabloids The Sun (U.K.) and New York Post (U.S.)

Tabloid papers belonging to News Corp., run by Rupert Murdoch, a possible inspiration for the media mogul in Tomorrow Never Dies, have weighed in with dire depictions about Bond 25.

What’s more, one of their targets is Bond 25 star Daniel Craig, making his fifth film as Bond.

To be sure, Bond films have always gotten lots of attention from tabloids. Nevertheless, two Murdoch tabloids — The Sun in the U.K. and the New York Post in the U.S. — have published stories with a common theme. Namely, according to the Murdoch publications, all is not well behind the scenes with Bond 25.

On April 25, the same day as the Bond 25 media event in Jamaica, the Post’s Page Six gossip operation runs a story headlined, “There’s already trouble in paradise on new James Bond set.”

A sample of the prose:

A source close to Bond 25 said, “They don’t have a script, there’s no title, it is nearly five years since the last Bond. It starts with a retired Bond living in wedded bliss, but the rest of the script is still being worked over. They rolled out the cast this week at Ian Fleming’s villa in Jamaica because if they wait much longer Daniel Craig, who is 51, will be too old, and then he really won’t do the film.”

As Jack Benny used to say: “Well!” The story also said there would be cameos by Grace Jones (who played May Day in A View to a Kill) and Christoph Waltz, who played Blofeld in SPECTRE.

Not to be outdone, The Sun publishes a story on April 26 with the headline, “James Bond 25 chaos as Daniel Craig is given creative control amid fears he wants spy to be PC.”

Among other things in the story:

Bond head honcho Barbara Broccoli, 58, and makers E-on (sic) Productions were desperate for Craig to make a U-turn.

So they handed him a £18.4million pay cheque and complete creative control, meaning he has a say on casting, scripts, locations, costumes, technical team — and even the role of director.

(snip)
A Bond insider said: “The move has got people’s backs up. Some are expecting constant arguments, as whatever Craig wants, he gets.”

If Jack Benny were still with us, he’d be saying “Well!” a lot.

Not to be outdone, the Post came back with another a column today headlined, “How whiney Daniel Craig killed James Bond.”

Another sample:

Since Craig first donned the spy’s tuxedo in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” the franchise has turned increasingly homogeneous, dreary and frankly skippable. The granddaddy of super-spy films is now one of the most mediocre action series out there — and Craig is largely to blame for it.

(snip)
During his reign, 007 has become a bitter curmudgeon who jets ‘round the world pouting and going rogue in seemingly every film. Huh, kinda sounds like Craig himself.

Yikes! Is this a coordinated assault by the House of Murdoch? Or does Murdoch’s News Corp. simply employ a lot of like-minded people?

Oh well. We’ll see how it goes. Principal photography on Bond 25 is scheduled to begin Sunday, April 28, in Jamaica.

About that remaking OHMSS idea

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The New York Post’s Page Six gossip operation succeeded in creating a buzz with a report that Bond 25 will rework part of the plot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But is it a good idea?

Many fans enthusiastically say yes, because it means a proper adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1964 You Only Live Twice novel.

Let’s take a look at some issues involved.

–Another revenge plot? In the Twice novel, Bond is a broken man following the death of his wife Tracy. He’s given an “impossible mission” involving diplomacy instead of guns (trying to get the Japanese to share intel it gathers and decodes using its Magic 44 system).

But through a few twists and turns, it turns out Blofeld is in Japan and Bond gets to go after him.

Eon Productions did Twice first, dispensing with most of the plot while retaining key characters. Majesty’s became the next film in the series. Diamonds Are Forever didn’t make any direct references to Majesty’s. Thus, many fans say they were deprived of a classic revenge plot.

True enough. Eon, over the years, has made up for lost time revenge wise: Licence to Kill (Bond goes after the killers of Leiter’s wife, who also severely maimed Leiter); GoldenEye (Bond, betrayed by 006, goes after him); The World Is Not Enough (Bond is betrayed by Elektra King, goes after her); Die Another Day (Bond is framed and imprisoned, goes after those responsible); Quantum of Solace (Bond swears revenge for the death of Vesper in Casino Royale).

Bond films may have things in short supply, but revenge plots aren’t among them. This time it’s personal (again).

–Chemistry, or lack thereof, with the actors involved. In SPECTRE, Lea Seydoux was very convincing when her Madeline Swann said she hated Daniel Craig’s Bond. Not so much when Swann decided she was in love with Bond.

In 1969’s Majesty’s Diana Rigg as Tracy was very convincing as the character who made Bond feel she was “the one,” his true love. Seydoux wasn’t in that league, a point this blog made in a January 2016 post.

Or, as Philip Nobile Jr. of Birth. Movies. Death wrote: “Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux had absolutely no chemistry on together.”

None of this will matter to advocates of using Majesty’s and Twice as the basis for Bond 25. Blofeld Trilogy, Garden of Death and all that. We’ll have to wait for a couple of years before seeing if there’s anything to all this.

NY Post says Bond 25 reworks OHMSS plot

Daniel Craig

The Page Six gossip operation of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post said Bond 25 may rework the plot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

“A Hollywood insider tells us that in the film that’s so far been dubbed ‘Bond 25’: ‘Bond quits the secret service, and he’s in love and gets married,'” Page Six said. “The source continues that ‘his wife then gets killed,’ bringing Bond back into action.”

“’The film’s like ‘Taken’ with Bond,’ says the source, who adds the suave spy is trying to avenge his wife’s murder.”

Page Six adds this caveat: “It’s unclear if the writers will rework the plot after the leak.”

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, Bond (Daniel Craig) is driving off in the rebuilt Aston Martin DB5 with Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux).

A Dec. 1, 2014 draft of the script had Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world.” But that line isn’t in the film.

That’s the same line Bond (George Lazenby) tells Tracy (Diana Rigg) in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel. Tracy is killed shortly thereafter.

Earlier drafts of SPECTRE included a henchwoman named Irma Bunt, also the name of a major character in Majesty’s. But that character got dropped.

None of this background was mentioned by Page Six. The Page Six item also said Neal Purvis and Robert Wade “reportedly boarded” Bond 25. The duo’s return was referenced in a July 24 announcement by Eon Productions that Bond 25 will have a November 2019 release date.

The Post is the U.S. equivalent of British tabloids in its gaudy tone. Page Six said in April that Craig was “ready to sign on to return as 007.” Craig announced he was coming back for Bond 25 last month.

An early Bond 25 accuracy scorecard

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 has a star (Daniel Craig), a release date (November 2019 in the U.S.) and confirmed writers (Neal Purvis and Robert Wade).

While there’s more than two years before the next Bond film adventure, here’s a look at the accuracy of some major stories written about the movie.

News before it was announced: By that, the stories were accurate before there was a formal announcement.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in March that Purvis and Wade, who’ve worked on the 007 film series since the late 1990s, were hired to write Bond 25’s story. That was confirmed in a July 24 announcement on the official 007 website.

Emily Smith of Page Six/New York Post wrote in April and Brook Barnes of The York Times wrote in July that Daniel Craig would be back for a fifth outing as 007.

The Page Six item, being a gossip column, ragged on Tom Hiddleston being determined by Eon Productions to be too smug. That’s certainly not proven.

But the key phrase was “Multiple sources tell Page Six that Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli has ‘just about persuaded Daniel Craig to do one more Bond movie.'”

The Times’ story, published the same day as the Eon announcement about the 2019 release date said, “Daniel Craig will play James Bond in at least one more film,” In any event, Craig confirmed he’s coming back on the Aug. 15 telecast of The Late Show on CBS.

Looking shaky: Radar Online in September 2016 said Sony Pictures offered Craig $150 million to do two more Bond movies. At the time, there was no distribution deal for Bond 25 and one still hasn’t been announced.

Then, as now, nobody knows if Sony will even be involved with Bond 25. Given a release date has been announced, you’d think a distributor is in place but nobody outside of Eon actually knows.

The Mirror, a U.K. tabloid, said last month that Bond 25 will be titled Shatterhand and be based on a 007 continuation novel by Raymond Benson. Benson, however, went public and said nobody at the Mirror even contacted him and said he “can only assume the article is fabrication.”

The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. tabloid, said earlier this month Craig was “on the verge of signing for not one but two more installments” in the 007 film series.

Craig told CBS, “I think this is it,” referring to Bond 25. But people have been known to change their minds. We’ll see.

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 newest Bond 25 questions

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There’s been a bit of Bond 25 news recently. Or has there?

Here are some questions intended to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Script? Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on a Bond 25 story, according to a report by the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye last month. Eon Productions never confirmed it, but typically it hasn’t confirmed other 007 scoops Bamigboye had about Skyfall and SPECTRE.

How far along are Purvis and Wade? Maybe not very far.

The duo are in the midst of adapting the novel I Am Victor, according to an April 5 story in Deadline: Hollywood.

If Deadline is accurate, the writers “are understood to be finalizing the script before it goes out to cast.” That suggests Purvis and Wade are, at best, in early days of their Bond 25 work.

Meanwhile, there’s a possibility of a Writer’s Guild strike early next month, which would adversely affect movie and television production.

What about that New York Post gossip column? Page Six says Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is close to getting Daniel Criag to coming back for Bond 25. But it doesn’t actually say it’s a done deal.

So? There’s still no Bond 25 director. There’s still no Bond 25 distributor. Sony Pictures, which distributed the last four 007 films, saw its most recent two-picture 007 deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expire with SPECTRE.

What are you trying to say? The blog is trying to say there may be more chaff than wheat at this point.

–You have a star (Craig) who hasn’t publicly committed, despite plenty of opportunity to do so.

–You have a production company (Eon) that seems in no rush to produce the next Bond movie and is keeping busy on various non-007 projects.

–You have a studio (MGM) that seems busy with other matters.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that MGM was trying to sell itself to a Chinese buyer but the deal fell apart. MGM never denied the story and at last month’s investor call, the subejct never came up.

Meanwhile, MGM agreed this week to spend $1 billion to give itself sole ownership of the Epix premium TV channel. If the Epix investment works out, that would help MGM’s finances every year. Bond movies, still one of MGM’s biggest assets, come out only so often.

MGM doesn’t have a studio partner to release Bond 25. Sony Pictures has released the last four Bonds, but Sony’s most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE.

In March 2016, MGM CEO Gary Barber had this to say about seeking a new 007 distribution deal.

“There’s no rush,” Barber said. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.”

Obviously, he was right about the “no rush” part.