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.

Harry Saltzman, the forgotten man, gets remembered

If the official 007 Twitter feed were your only source of information, you’d have to conclude the two guys on the left weren’t that important to the Bond movies.

It only took eight months and 319 posts, but the official 007 Twitter feed got around to mentioning Harry Saltzman, the co-founder of Eon Productions, which produces the James Bond film series.

OTDIBH: 1961, Eon Productions, the company behind the 007 series, was founded by producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. ‪

The 007 Twitter feed, remember, is the official face of Eon as Skyfall, the 23rd 007 film, comes out this fall. The official Twitter feed didn’t get around to mentioning Ian Fleming, James Bond’s creator, until May 28 (the 104th anniversary of the author’s birth). It took even longer to recognize Saltzman who supervised script development of the earlier Bond movies. He was the one, for example, who brought in writers such as Paul Dehn and John Hopkins to revise Richard Maibaum’s drafts for Goldfinger and Thunderball.

Of course, if you checked out message boards on some James Bond Web sites, you’d see how some fans would claim that’s not really producing. In fact, supervising scripts is one of the most important things a movie producer does.

However, history is written by the winners. Saltzman sold out his interest in Eon in 1975 because he got into financial trouble. And the Broccoli-Salztman partnership was not an easy one.

Still, on the occasion of the golden anniversary of the cinema 007, it’s ridiculous to pretend as if Saltzman never existed. Saltzman, not Broccoli, had obtained the option for the film rights of the majority of Ian Fleming’s 007 novels. Without Saltzman, Eon would not come to be. If Broccoli had never met Saltzman (thanks to an introduction by writer Wolf Mankowitz), Cubby might have died the obscure producer of less-than-memorable screen epics such as The Bandit of Zhobe and Hell Below Zero.

The official 007 Twitter feed — and by extension, Eon itelf — avoided that level of ridiculousness today.

Two minor observations about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

We caught up with the new movie version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It’s well worth your time. But, in our own fashion, we wanted to make a couple of tangent observations about the adaptation of the John Le Carre novel. Minor spoilers follow.

1. Anti-Bond George Smiley meets 007 knock off Charles Vine (sort of). In the 1960s, the success of James Bond films helped create a demand for an “anti Bond,” somebody who wasn’t a romantic hero and who dealt in a morally ambiguous world, just like real spies. The novels of John Le Carre (real name David Cornwell) provided the perfect fodder. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold starring Richard Burton came out in 1965, with George Smiley a secondary character, Bernard Lee (the M of Eon Productions’s 007 series) in the cast and Paul Dehn, co-screenwriter of Goldfinger, part of the crew.

The ’60s Bond films also generated 007 takeoffs, including The Second Best Secret Agent in The Whole Wide World, starring Tom Adams as Charles Vine, a Sean Connery-esque, British agent.

Well, in the new Tinker, Tailor, these two trends from the past are merged. The 2011 film has repeated flashbacks to an MI6 Christmas party. At one point, the theme song to Second Best Secret Agent is played. (Le Carre has a cameo, as well.) This is part of an effort by the filmmakers to tie into cultural references of the past, given that Tinker, Tailor is done as a 1970s period piece. Which leads us to:

2. The temptation to overdo past cultural references. This is a minor quibble. But when movies are done as period pieces — especially of a story that has been made before (Tinker, Tailor was made as a television miniseries more than 30 years ago) — there is a temptation to load up on past cultural references. In this case, hairstyles and music. In the new film, Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) sports a haircut more appropriate for ’70s high school students rather than an experienced MI6 operative. And the film sometimes overdoes it with providing ’70s songs.

It’s always interesting to compare remakes done as period pieces with earlier versions made during the same era. Another example: Farewell My Lovely (1975) was done as a 1940s period piece and sometimes over does the culture references compared with Murder My Sweet (1944), both based off the same Raymond Chandler novel.

We want to stress all of these observations are minor. The new Tinker, Tailor is worth the time of any spy fan and Gary Oldman is a wonderful successor to Alec Guiness (star of two television miniseries) as Smiley. Oldman did an NPR interview last year where he said he’d love to play Smiley again if the opportunity presents itself. We’ll second that thought.

On 007’s 50th, will Harry Saltzman be the forgotten man?

This week, the official 007.com Web site added some new features, including this greeting from Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions:

At the 0:22 mark, Wilson says, “Cubby Broccoli made Dr. No, the first Bond film, in 1962.” Albert R. Broccoli did indeed produce the film with his then-partner Harry Saltzman. Now, Wilson is Broccoli’s stepson and our guess is this isn’t an intention dig at Saltzman, who exited the series in 1975 and died in 1994. It is, after all, a 45-second video, not a definitive history. But it may be a sign that in 2012, the year of the cinema Bond’s 50th anniverary, Saltzman may end up being overlooked.

When Saltzman’s name comes up today, the image is of a cranky, volatile man who almost axed the classic Goldfinger title song, ordered elephant shoes for a movie (The Man With the Golden Gun) that didn’t have any elephants in it, etc., etc. At least one film historian, Adrian Turner, took a different view in his 1998 book, Adrian Turner on Goldfinger.

“To begin with, Saltzman took the responsibility for the scripts” of the early 007 films, Turner wrote. “Having worked with John Osborne, it’s clear he thought that Richard Maibaum — Broccoli’s man — was little more than a hack.” Obviously, that’s hardly a unanimous opinion of Maibaum. Still, Maibaum is quoted on page 100 in author James Chapman’s 2000 book Licence to Thrill as saying that Saltzman did bring in U.K. screenwriter Paul Dehn to do the later drafts of Goldfinger (the notes section of the book says the quote is from page 285 of a book called Backstory.)

We only bring this up to show that Saltzman’s contributions extended beyond being an eccentric crank. The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership wasn’t an easy one. Eventually, the pair largely alternated producing the films while both were listed as producers. Saltzman primarily responsible for Live And Let Die (though Broccoli did visit the set in Louisiana and posed for a photograph with Saltzman and star Roger Moore) while The Man With the Golden Gun was Broccoli’s picture.

The Broccoli-Wilson clan, now headed by Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, has supervised the 007 series since 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Nobody is suggesting that Cubby Broccoli wasn’t a master showman, who deserves a lot of credit for launching Bond on the screen. Still, it would be a shame if Saltzman ends up being the forgotten man as fans look back on a half century of 007 films.

Also, here’s a shoutout to Dell Deaton, who blogs about James Bond watches. A tweet of his got us to thinking about all this.

007 and Aston Martin: development of a myth

When Prince William and his bride pulled out of Buckingham Palace in an Aston Martin convertible, it didn’t take long for people to make the connection between the royal couple’s ride and 007. The Reuters news service (Ian Fleming’s one-time employer) ran a video it called James Bond moment for royal newlyweds. Meanwhile, some 007 fan Web sites wrote up the connect such as THIS EXAMPLE

No question, Aston Martin is viewed as 007’s ride. Bond driving an Aston Martin is a modern myth, one that thrived for decades. But the original connection was much more modest.

In Fleming’s 1959 novel Goldfinger, Bond drove an Aston Martin DB III from MI 6’s car pool. “Bond had been offered the Aston Martin or a Jaguar 3.4. He had taken the D.B. III. Either of the cars would have suited his cover — a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good, the fast things of life.”

Richard Maibuam introduced the DB V model in his first draft of the screenplay for the 1964 film. However, he took it out in his second draft in favor of a Bentley, the literary Bond’s preferred personal car, according to film historian Adrian Turner, who reviewed all of the film’s drafts for a 1998 book. The DB V returns in later drafts by Maibaum and Paul Dehn. John Stears, the film’s special effects man, added various extras not in the novel.

Goldfinger, of course, was a big hit and the Aston Martin was one of the movie’s attractions. The DB V returned in Thunderball. Different Aston Martin models could be seen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever (a visual joke in the background in a shot of Q talking to Bond on the telephone), The Living Daylights, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

Some authors of Bond continuation novels have tried to equip 007 in different rides. Raymond Benson’s 1997-2002 run included Bond in a Jaguar. Jeffery Deaver’s upcoming Carte Blanche, a reboot of the literary 007, features the agent in a Bentley. There’s a special limited-edition of the new novel that plays up the Bentley connection.

None of that, though, is likely to shake the association between Bond and Aston Martin. The royal wedding on April 29 is just another example:

UPDATE: We’re reminded that the DBV (or DB5, depending on your preference) also appeared in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies, even though the main “Bond cars” were BMWs. In Raymond Benson’s novelizations of the films, we’re told Bond bought the car for his personal use after MI 6 was had decided to sell off the car.

Peter Morgan, 007 fans hardly knew ye

Peter Morgan, screenwriter of Frost/Nixon and other prestige movies, joined a line of scribes such as Len Deighton and Anthony Burgess, who gave a try at writing a James Bond movie and couldn’t get it done. “The whole thing went to hell,” Morgan said in an interivew, published on the Indie Wire blog. “I’m so happy to be doing something else.”

Eon Productions put out a news release last year saying that Morgan would join Neal Purvis and Robert Wade in writing Bond 23. In the Indie Wire interview, which you can view for yourself starting around the 3:20 mark of the following video, Morgan says he “wrote a treatment, I never wrote a script…I went there with an orignial idea.” He never mentions Purvis and Wade.

Take a look for yourself:

In the next video, starting at the 0:15 mark, Morgan says the Bond is dated and “I’m not sure it’s possible to do it … I do think the absence of social reality in the Bond film…if they fix that, or they get that of if they get that in a script, which I’m so hoping they will, where you can actually believe in him, that he isn’t just a person in a dinner jacket…he is a creature of the Cold War, Bond….I just personally struggle to believe a British secret agent is still saving the world.”

Morgan goes on the praise Sam Mendes, the would-be director of Bond 23. You can see for yourself:

Eventually, the financial troubles at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which controls half of the Bond franchise, caused Morgan to cease his efforts, which he clearly doesn’t seem sad about. The fate of Bond 23 won’t be decided until MGM’s future is resolved.

Some observations and specuation about Morgan’s comments:

— Prestige apparently means more to current Eon boss-people Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli than it did to master showman Albert R. Broccoli, Eon’s co-founder with Harry Saltzman. Broccoli relied on Richard Maibaum, at least for first drafts, while Saltzman tried to entice more prestigious scribes, such as Paul Dehn (on Goldfinger) and John Hopkins (on Thunderball) to revamp Maibaum’s early drafts. Deighton also did some work on From Russia With Love, according to U.K. film historian Adrian Turner, and Burgess was among a gaggle of writers that pitched ideas for The Spy Who Loved Me. But the old Eon seemed to keep it all in perspective (i.e. they didn’t let the search for presige bog down the screenwriting process) than the current crew.

— Morgan sounds like he was never highly interested in the world of 007. You half expect him to sound like Sebastian Faulks, author of a 2008 Bond continuation novel, that it might be a jolly good romp to try writing a Bond movie.

— This is another case why press releases shouldn’t be viewed as any more than the tip of an iceburg.

007 Fidelity Index: How close are the films to the books? Part I

An exchange of e-mails between James Bond fans referenced a range of faithfulness of the 007 films to Ian Fleming’s novels. That got us to thinking, what would a spectrum of 007 fidelity look like?

Here’s our try at it. To keep thing simple, we’re keeping it to the official series made by Eon Productions

THE ONE ABOVE THE REST

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: The major components of Fleming’s novel, written in 1962 while filming of Dr. No was underway in Jamaica, are in Peter Hunt’s film version. Richard Maibuam (aided by Simon Raven’s dialogue polish) brings the books’s two storylines closer by having Blofeld capture Tracy, giving her a role in the cliamatic attack on Piz Gloria. The filmmakers may have considered further deviations, but the finished product is the closest to having Fleming’s world put up on the screen.

BEST OF THE REST

Dr. No: Some sequences, and even dialgoue, are taken directly from Fleming’s 1958 novel. But Dr. No now works for SPECTRE, rather than the Russians; the screenwriters add Felix Leither and a new character, Miss Taro; Bond’s trip through Dr. No’s obstacle course is removed and he just crawls through tunnels instead; and Dr. No’s demise is totally changed.

From Russia With Love: No. 2 in the series again transposes sequences and dialgoue. Still, some notable tinkering — including having SPECTRE organizing the plot instead of the Russians; Bond gets off the Orient Express much earlier, creating two new, outdoor action sequences; and Bond’s final faceoff with Klebb occurs in Venice, rather than Paris and the film lacks the cliffhanger ending of Fleming’s original. On the latter point, given the filmmakers changed the order of books they used, that’s just as well but it’s still a deviation.

Goldfinger: Makes changes that improve upon Fleming’s 1959 novel, including having the villain plot to irridate Fort Knox’s gold (to make his own more valuable) rather than stealing it. Screenwriter Maibuam felt the novel’s buzz saw corny and a cliche, so the laser beat was introduced instead. The Maibuam-Paul Dehn script also has Goldfinger in an alliance with China, rather than working for the Russians.

Thunderball: The film is not only based on Fleming’s novel but scripts that preceded the book. The novel introduced Blofeld and he’s still pulling the strings here, with Largo being the operational commander. Maibaum and co-screenwriter John Hopkins make things more complicated by having SPECTRE substitute a double for a NATO pilot, rather than just buying off the pilot. And the climatic underwater fight takes place in the middle of the day (probably to make things easier to film, a difficult enough undertaking in 1965) rather than at night.

Casino Royale: In the 21st Century, Eon adds considerably to the basic story of Fleming’s first novel. Also, Vesper’s suicide is transformed from just taking an overdose of pills to being part of a huge action set piece. Still, the main part of Fleming’s novel is there, including the torture sequence and “The bitch is dead” line.

TO BE CONTINUED