007 questions before Bond 25 starts filming

So how do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25?

In less than two months, Bond 25 is scheduled to start filming in time for a Feb. 14, 2020 release. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

001: How do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25? Cary Fukunaga, the director of Bond 25, has said that Bond 25 will continue a “character arc” that began with 2006’s Casino Royale.

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, it appeared the Daniel Craig 007 had retired as an Double-O agent. So how do you get from there to a new adventure?

002: How do you reconcile the various Bond 25 scripts? The current effort began with a treatment (i.e. detailed outline) by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Then, that was put off to the side because director Danny Boyle and his writer John Hodge pitched an idea that supposedly was great. Then, a few months later, Eon thought better and Boyle and Hodge walked away.

There were many stories published during 2018 (See the blog’s sister site, The Bond 25 Timeline for details).

But Eon owns all those ideas. Will the final script reflect some or all of those ideas? In some cases, ideas from submitted scripts end up in Bond films years later. Also, it was reported last week that Paul Haggis (involved with writing Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) had worked on Bond 25’s script.

We’ll see how this plays out for Bond 25.

003: How much leeway does director Fukunaga have for Bond 25? Eon Productions gave Sam Mendes a lot of leeway for Skyfall and SPECTRE, including granting Mendes his choice of composer (Thomas Newman in both movies) and director of photography (Roger Deakins in Skyfall). Does Fukunaga get that kind of love from Eon for Bond 25?

004: If the answer to 003 is not so much, does David Arnold get a chance to return to score Bond 25? Arnold, composer of five 007 scores (behind only John Barry’s 11) has been away for more than a decade. Much of that absence stemmed from Mendes’ relation with Newman. Does Arnold get a chance to come back?

005: Does Bond 25’s budget grow, stay the same, or shrink from SPECTRE’s? During the Sony hacks (hacked emails and other documents), it came out that SPECTRE’s budget was on pace to go past $300 million. Supposedly, the budget was closer to $240 million (after factoring in all the product placement and Mexico tax credits). It’s always easier to spend more — as long as a studio is willing to cut checks.

006: How energized are Bond 25’s lead producer and star? Over the extended break, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has worked on “indie-style” small films while star Daniel Craig has worked on other projects. Meanwhile, Craig said back in 2016 that “everybody’s just a bit tired.” Is everybody rested up now?

007: Does Universal’s involvement with Bond 25 change things? Sony Pictures (through its Columbia Pictures brand) released the last four 007 films (2006-2015). Now, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures will handle U.S. distribution while Universal will handle international distribution. Does Universal change things? There’s no way to tell for now.

Haggis joins Bond 25 writer roster, website says

Paul Haggis, who helped launch the Daniel Craig era of 007 films, has become part of the roster of Bond 25 writers, according to a website called Geeks Worldwide.

Haggis shared the screenplay credit for Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace with the writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

Geeks Worldwide said Haggis turned in a Bond 25 draft dated Nov. 22, 2018.

Purvis and Wade began the Bond 25 scripting efforts in 2017. Then their effort was cast aside when director Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge pitched an idea. Hodge was announced as Bond 25’s writer in May 2018. Then Boyle and Hodge left the project. The Purvis and Wade story reportedly was revived and Cary Fukunaga hired to direct.

The website, also known as GWW, describes itself as covering “video games, comics, movies, television, and cosplay.”

Haggis did the later drafts of Casino Royale. The scripting process of Quantum of Solace was more muddled with reports of discarded storylines. Besides Haggis, Purvis and Wade haring the final writing credit for Quantum, Joshua Zetumer performed uncredited rewriting during filming.

UPDATE (12:05 p.m. New York time): Since Haggis was last involved with the 007 film series, he has become a controversial figure because of rape allegations and the #MeToo movement.

A total of four women have made allegations of sexual misconduct, including two rapes (see this January 2018 story in The Hollywood Reporter).

In a court filing, Haggis denied a rape allegation while saying he had consensual sex (see this August 2018 story by The Associated Press via The Wrap).

The Haggis legal team has suggested the writer-director is being targeted by the Church of Scientology (see this December 2018 story in The Daily Beast.) Haggis is a former member.

If Haggis has indeed contributed to Bond 25’s scripting, it remains to be seen if all this becomes part of Bond 25’s publicity.

Writers Guild authorizes strike; will it affect Bond 25?

Writers Guild of America West logo

More than 96 percent of Writers Guild of America members participating voted to authorize union leaders to call a strike during current contract negotiations, according to The Hollywood Reporter and other entertainment news outlets.

The idea of a possible WGA strike makes James Bond fans uneasy. Quantum of Solace was affected by a WGA strike and 007 fans fret it could have an impact on Bond 25 as well.

First, a strike-authorization vote doesn’t guarantee a strike. A union has to conduct such a vote before a strike can happen. Some times, there is an authorization vote but a settlement occurs without a walkout.

On the other hand, if a WGA goes on strike, it could occur as early as May 2.

Quantum’s WGA strike history: The 22nd James Bond film originally had a release date of May 2, 2008. (CLICK HERE to see the text of the July 20, 2006 press release announcing the date. It came out before Casino Royale was released.)

Later, the release date was pushed back to fall 2008. However, the WGA went on strike from Nov. 5, 2007 to Feb. 12, 2008. Screenwriter Paul Haggis dropped off a draft just before the strike began. The strike is blamed for story shortcomings in Quantum, even if it doesn’t explain everything.

Bond 25’s writing history (such as it is): Nothing is official, but the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported last month that veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired to write Bond 25.

Naturally, Bond fans wonder if a new WGA strike might disrupt things.

Still there’s one key difference.

The 2007-08 strike began shortly before the beginning of Quantum filming. Bond 25 doesn’t have a director. It doesn’t have a studio to distribute it. It hasn’t cast any actors. It has no production start date.

A strike may delay Bond 25 scripting but that process isn’t anywhere near as advanced as Quantum was just before that WGA strike.

Just to be clear, this post is from the narrow perspective of Bond 25. The WGA negotiations cover serious, broader issues.

Casino Royale’s 10th: The ‘kids’ make the series their own

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

This month’s 10th anniversary of Casino Royale is best known for the debut of Daniel Craig as James Bond and the 007 film series being rebooted.

But it’s also when the “kids,” Barbara Broccoli, now 56, and Michael G. Wilson, now 74, really made the series their own.

Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon Productions, died in 1996. His wife Dana, mother to both Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, remained a behind-the-scenes presence until she passed away in 2004.

The “kids” (as some fans refer to them) were looking to make their own mark and make changes.

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Wilson told The New York Times in October 2005, recalling his thinking on the matter. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

That included the reboot, starting the series over; finally adapting Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel after acquiring the film rights after many years; informing Pierce Brosnan he no longer had the 007 role; and casting Daniel Craig (with Barbara Broccoli as his primary champion), performing a tougher interpretation of the part.

In November 2006, when Casino arrived in theaters, the movie, its new approach and its lead actor received many good reviews. It has a 95 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson

“Daniel Craig makes a superb Bond: Leaner, more taciturn, less sex-obsessed, able to be hurt in body and soul, not giving a damn if his martini is shaken or stirred,” movie critic Roger Ebert (1942-2013) wrote of the film’s star.

Of the movie itself, Ebert wrote: “With “Casino Royale,” we get to the obligatory concluding lovey-dovey on the tropical sands, and then the movie pulls a screeching U-turn and starts up again with the most sensational scene I have ever seen set in Venice, or most other places. It’s a movie that keeps on giving.”

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade did the initial adaptation, with Paul Haggis polishing up the story, with all three receiving credit. Martin Campbell came aboard as director. Campbell had helmed Brosnan’s first Bond with GoldenEye and oversaw Craig’s first 007 adventure.

Casino Royale set a high bar for the “new” series to maintain. The challenges of doing that would unfold in coming years.

The main thing in November 2006 was, after a four-year absence, Bond was back — different but still 007. And the “kids” were responsible.

Forster tells Collider he considered quitting Quantum

International poster for Quantum of Solace

International poster for Quantum of Solace

Director Marc Forster, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE COLLIDER WEBSITE, says he considered quitting Quantum of Solace before the 2008 007 film went into production.

“Ultimately at that time I wanted to pull out,” Forster told Collider’s Adam Chitwood. “Ron Howard pulled out of Angels & Demons which Sony was about to do and they sort of shut down, and at the time I thought, ‘Okay maybe I should pull out’ because we didn’t have a finished script. But everybody said, ‘No we need to make a movie, the strike will be over shortly so you can start shooting what we have and then we’ll finish everything else.’”

The director said he and star Daniel Craig essentially wrote the movie. He also described to Collider the pressure he was under doing a follow up to the well-received Casino Royale: “Then ultimately you have a follow-up with an incomplete script based on no book and you have to deliver.”

In the end, Forster told Collider he had to make a “sort of like a 70s revenge movie; very action driven, lots of cuts to hide that there’s a lot of action and a little less story.”

There’s an element here of “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” To bring this up is like saying Ranse Stoddard didn’t really shoot Liberty Valance. But here goes anyway.

In a 2008 STORY ON THE ROTTEN TOMATOES WEBSITE, Forster played down the Quantum script problems.

The Writers’ Guild strike, which began just as Quantum of Solace was gearing up for production, did not impact the production as much as the industry trade papers had speculated. “The good thing is that Paul (Haggis) and I and Daniel all worked on the script before the strike happened and got it where we were pretty happy with,” Forster 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 with someone and it worked out with all this stuff coming up. So I was pretty happy with all the work we’d done in January and February so [there won’t be any need for reshoots].”

Also, it was reported during production of the movie scribe Joshua Zetumer was doing rewrites during filming. In the Rotten Tomatoes story, Forster took credit for hiring Zetumer.

Regardless, Zetumer didn’t get a credit for the movie. That went to Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

The “Forster and Craig really wrote Quantum” narrative was first offered up by Craig in 2011 interviews. And that story line has more or less taken hold since, with Zetumer’s contributions totally forgotten. Without their on-screen credit, Purvis and Wade would be in the same situation.

To be fair, one can understand Forster not wanting to play up the problems while trying to publicize the film eight years ago. The truth usually takes some time — often years — to emerge. SPECTRE was an unusual case because of the Sony hacks publicized pre-production problems on the 2015 007 film.

Still, there are elements of the “Forster-Craig” writing team narrative for Quantum that are more creative than the finished movie. The Quantum reality is likely far more complicated than that.

Print the legend, indeed.

How James became Bond: A decade of Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

By Nicolás Suszczyk,
Guest Writer

How time flies! It was ten years ago we saw Daniel Craig rushing the Thames River on a speedboat to meet the press during his announcement as the new James Bond, on Oct. 14, 2005.

Casino Royale, set for November 2006, had many challenges: introduce a new Bond actor, reboot the series and provide a good balance between the action scenes the book lacked and the drama content that filled the pages of Ian Fleming’s first novel, published in 1953.

Directed by a familiar face, GoldenEye’s Martin Campbell, the film was the target of a lot of criticism concerning the new face of 007.

Craig, then 37, had a hard time when production started: a website boycotting him plus tabloids calling him “James Bland.” He seemed far different from Pierce Brosnan’s suave portrayal of the British spy, last seen in 2002’s Die Another Day, a movie that went too far with CGI effects and overly seen clichés.

However, the 2006 film proved to be a great box office hit and the press had to admit its misjudgment of Craig’s portrayal. The actor showed us a strong and fearless Bond. Lethal but equally weak and romantic, Craig’s Bond fell in love and tragically lost Vesper Lynd, the female lead of the movie played by Eva Green.

In Casino Royale, Craig’s 007 could balance Sean Connery’s ironies with Timothy Dalton’s violence, as well as bringing to screen a modern sense of humor. “Do I look as if I give a damn?” he says when asked if his drink should be shaken or stirred, or cuts M off the phone after interrupting her for an “urgent” call. Indeed, this was the Bond the 21st century needed.

Campbell’s crew
Much of the 2006 film success came, of course, by the expert hand of director Campbell and his crew: veteran cinematographer Phil Méheux, editor Stuart Baird, composer David Arnold and the second unit directed by Alexander Witt (who returned in Skyfall and now in SPECTRE).

Martin Campbell, director of GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

Martin Campbell, director of GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

Not to mention the cast selected by Debbie MacWilliams: Eva Green contrasting the original Vesper from Fleming’s book with a self-confident and seductive character that falls for the spy; Mads Mikkelsen bringing up a young and debonair Le Chiffre; and Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright bringing to life to René Mathis and Felix Leiter, 007’s allies in the novel.

The film wasn’t a success because it was a Bond film, but because it excelled in showing us “how James became Bond,” as the audience exploded into an applause when getting the classic “Bond, James Bond” introduction spoken by Craig in the film’s last minutes.

‘Direct sequel’
In 2008, Daniel Craig returned for the much anticipated Quantum of Solace, conceived as a “direct sequel” of Casino Royale.

Craig provided a fine performance, but the script fails to give the audiences what they wanted: Quantum of Solace was, in result, poor in comparison with Casino Royale, both technically and literary, as the script had to be completed during filming when the WGA strike affected Bond scribes Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Craig said he and director Marc Forster were de facto writers.

The film provides some nice shots of the Italian, Bolivian and Austrian landscapes courtesy of director of photography Roberto Schaeffer, as well as some original and dynamic music by David Arnold. But the story seems dull, uninteresting and full of badly shot scenes with Forster trusting many scenes to his second unit director, Dan Bradley.

Many moviegoers and Bond aficionados felt that the reboot and the idea of bringing up a redefined 007 went a bit too far with the 2008 film, that didn’t gross as much worldwide as its 2006 predecessor.

An original ending, where Bond faced of Mr .White one last time, ended up in the cutting room floor and was replaced by a final scene of the secret agent capturing Vesper’s treacherous boyfriend and throwing her distinctive necklace on the snowy ground.

Bond’s 50th
James Bond wouldn’t return until 2012’s Skyfall.

Once again, Daniel Craig returned as Bond. It was the longest gap between two Bond films with the same actor playing the main role.

As the series celebrated its 50th anniversary, the propaganda machine opted for leaving the Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace story behind and going for a completely different plot in which the secret agent would have to protect M (Judi Dench) from the hands of Tiago Rodrigues aka Raoul Silva, a dismissed MI6 field agent with a desire of revenge towards his former boss.

The first Bond movie directed by Sam Mendes promised a lighter Bond film, with many winks to the first adventures of the series and more humoristic situations: a gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 and references to an exploding pen, as well as the re-establishment of Q and Moneypenny, left apart after Pierce Brosnan was separated of the role, now played by Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris.

The idea for Skyfall was, apparently, steering away from the story arc started in Casino Royale and apparently closed in Quantum of Solace. In a very similar case that Goldfinger, Skyfall seems completely unrelated to its two predecessors: the 1964 film didn’t have SPECTRE as the enemy but the self-employed Auric Goldfinger and his plan to irradiate Fort Knox.

The 50th anniversary Bond film proved to be a great success, providing a story balanced between the classic Bond humor with dramatic and violent situations, plus elements taken from the two last Ian Fleming novels: You Only Live Twice and The Man With the Golden Gun.

The film has also had five Oscar nominations, including Adele’s main title song that got the Best Song award. The film also shared an Oscar for sound editing with Zero Dark Thirty.

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

In a couple of weeks, the 24th James Bond films will hit theatres. It’s simply called SPECTRE, as the old criminal organization led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Eon Productions convinced Sam Mendes to return one more time to the director’s chair, as well as many of his crew members. The base of the script was written by Skyfall’s John Logan, with the return of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and additional scripting by Jez Butterworth.

The script was leaked shortly after the film was announced on December 2014. While producers claimed it was only an old draft, it is understood that the story inside this leaked script featured many classic elements of the franchise, resulting in probably the most “traditionalist” Craig Bond film.

In SPECTRE, Bond travels from Mexico to London, Rome, Austria and Morocco to uncover the truth behind a criminal organization known as SPECTRE (according to Mendes, this SPECTRE is not an acronym, thus not related to Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). The organization’s leader, known as Franz Oberhauser (Cristoph Waltz) is someone from Bond’s past and has a vendetta against him.

The film apparently ties the story left over from Quantum of Solace, as 007 meets again with Mr. White, and there are a few connections with Skyfall’s plot. The movie sees the return of Ralph Fiennes as the new M, Ben Whishaw as Q and Naomie Harris as Moneypenny. New characters include Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann, Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra, the widow of a SPECTRE assassin, and Andrew Scott as Denbigh, a bureaucrat rival the new M will have to face.

Co-producer
The sixth Bond actor also is as co-producer with Andrew Noakes and David Pope. It is understood that this is due to his collaboration in the making of the film and his strong bond with director Sam Mendes, a closer friend of him since both met during the shooting of Road to Perdition.

Stephanie Sigman, playing Estrella in the upcoming film, said on an interview with News.au that she learned a lot with Craig, since we was very technical with the shooting: “He’s very experienced doing films. He was helping me with how to move with the camera.” On the other side, The Telegraph claims that the British actor saw his films as a big story arc and had the idea of introducing the Bond folklore elements gradually.

It is still unknown if Daniel Craig will return for a fifth Bond: in some interviews he claims he’ll play the character as long as he can while sometimes he points out he’s way too physically tired from playing Ian Fleming’s character.

What is true is that the blonde guy who ten years ago raised some eyebrows as he wore a life vest while being taken on boat to the HMS President vessel for his introduction has made many achievements in the franchise and became a member of the James Bond family.

Repeat after me, ‘Writing a James Bond movie is hard’

Bond 24 writer, err co-writer, John Logan

Bond 24 writer, err co-writer, John Logan

John Logan is learning a lesson that the likes of Paul Haggis, Bruce Feistein, Jeffrey Caine and Michael France learned before him. Writing a James Bond movie is hard.

You can be a hero one day (Logan after Skyfall, Feirstein after GoldenEye, Haggis after Casino Royale) and out the door the next (Feirstein for a period during Tomorrow Never Dies until he got asked back, Haggis after Quantum of Solace).

Screenwriting in general is tough. If you’re in demand, you make a lot of money. If you’re not, it can be humbling. Studios make fewer, more expensive movies. With the stakes so high, there are all sorts of people — directors, stars, studio executives — looking over your shoulder. Bond movies take it a step further. You have the Broccoli-Wilson family, which has controlled the franchise for more than a half century. They have definite ideas of what they like and don’t like.

Screenwriters don’t tally up a lot of multiple 007 screen credits. An Oscar winner such as Paul Dehn had only one. Other one-time only scribes include John Hopkins. Roald Dahl and Michael France. Some writers toil without even getting a credit, such as Len Deighton and Donald E. Westlake, hardly slouches as authors.

All of which is a long way of saying it’s remarkable that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been summoned, according to Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, for a sixth turn writing a James Bond movie, taking over for Logan, who, in turn, rewrote their script for Skyfall. The only writer who has more Bond screenwriting credits is Richard Maibaum (1909-1991) with 13. Maibaum had the advantage of a long-standing relationship with producer Albert R. Broccoli.

Maibuam and the Purvis-Wade team have one thing in common. They’ve taken their share of flak over the years. The British film historian Adrian Turner, in a 1998 book about Goldfinger, made it clear he didn’t think much of Maibaum, painting Dehn as the one who brought the Goldfinger script into shape. Purvis and Wade, meanwhile, get criticized on Internet message boards and social media by some fans as hacks. It helps to have a thick skin.

Feirstein, Haggis and Logan were the final writers on three significant 007 hits: GoldenEye (reviving the franchise after a six-year hiatus), Casino Royale (a reboot of the franchise) and Skyfall (the first billion-dollar Bond film). They got invited back but in the cases of Feirstein and Haggis it was hardly easy going. Something similar may be going on with Logan. He was hired to write a two-film story arc, but that plan got scrapped as part of the price to get Skyfall director Sam Mendes back for Bond 24.

The situation undoubtedly is even more complicated and can only really be appreciated by those who’ve gone through the same grind. But the basic lesson still stands. It’s hard to write a James Bond movie.