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.

Quantum of Solace’s revisionist history continues

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Marc Forster picked up A CAMERIMAGE AWARD last week in Poland. In AN INTERVIEW with Empire magazine, the subject of Quantum of Solace came up — and Forster’s comments didn’t exactly match up with what he said during production.

Excerpt from Empire:

So after that, Quantum Of Solace must’ve seemed like a walk in the park.
Not quite a walk in the park (laughs). Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are great producers, the best I’ve ever worked with – fantastic. So you have a well-oiled machine and you’re in such good hands, even though you don’t have a script (laughs). It makes it easier, even when you only have half a script. That was the problem there. You had Casino Royale, which came from the best book by Ian Fleming, and three or four years to develop the script. You have Skyfall, another three years to develop a script. We were in the middle – ‘Here, three months, make a movie.’ And as a director you can only do as much as you have on the page.

In that case, why did you take it on?
Because I believed the script would come. But it never did! (Laughs). At one point I felt like pulling out but I didn’t. Barbara and Michael and Eon wanted to make the movie and I thought we’d pull it off.
(emphasis added to Forster quotes)

In 2008, Forster told a much different story to THE ROTTEN TOMATOES WEBSITE. Among other things, Forster said then that the Quantum script was mostly ironed out before a 2007 Writer’s Guild strike. “The good thing is that Paul (Haggis, the screenwriter) and I and Daniel (Craig) all worked on the script before the strike happened and got it where we were pretty happy with.”

In the same interview, Forster said there was a script when he first came on board, but he tossed it out and things started from scratch. Forster said he conferred with Haggis, “And I said to him these are the topics I am interested in this is what I would like to say.”

This, of course, isn’t the first instance or revisionist history with the 2008 James Bond film. Daniel Craig also drastically changed his tune in 2011 compared with what he said in 2008.

The main talking point now is that the 2007 writer’s strike damaged the production and everybody soldiered on as best as they could.

For Forster, that’s convenient because he can ignore his contributions to the problem — throwing out a script and starting over from scratch and his emphasis on “topics” rather than a story.

Forster didn’t specify the topics to Rotton Tomatoes. In another 2008 interview, NEW YORK MAGAZINE, he talked about sneaking political ideas past the Bond producers into the movie. “I question the role that these Secret Service agencies play today—is their role really to protect the country? Or the interest of a few?” Forster told New York five years ago.

Earlier posts:
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED WITH THE SCRIPT OF QUANTUM OF SOLACE? (December 2011)

DANIEL CRAIG, 2008 AND 2011 VERSIONS (December 2011)

QUANTUM OF SOLACE’S POLITICAL POINT OF VIEW (March 2012)

Purvis & Wade, an appreciation

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, 007 screenwriters in residence for 15 years, confirmed this week to Collider.com that THEY’RE DEPARTING THE 007 FRANCHISE. That ends a run of five films, tying them for second among credited screenwriters in the 23-film series produced by Eon Productions.

The writing duo stir mixed reactions among fans. The thing is, it’s difficult to exactly measure the contributions they made to their five Bond films. They shared the screenplay credit with other writers on four of their five films. Some of those other scribes (in particular, Paul Haggis on Casino Royale) won praise. Stories SUCH AS THIS ONE mentioned Haggis and his Oscars without mentioning Purvis and Wade who wrote the early drafts of the script. Meanwhile, late drafts referred to Haggis’ contributions as revisions of Purvis and Wade’s work.

It does appear Purvis and Wade worked hard to evoke Ian Fleming without always having a lot of Ian Fleming material to work with aside from Casino Royale. They managed to rework story elements from Moonraker that had been dropped while the 11th 007 movie was being developed for 2002’s Die Another Day. For Skyfall, they used parts of the You Only Live Twice and The Man With the Golden Gun novels as a springboard for the story.

Writing a James Bond movie is undoubtedly a lot harder than it looks, something Paul Haggis found out when he returned to write a second 007 film, Quantum of Solace. Still, Eon kept bringing the duo back, even if they hired others to revamp their work.

We noted Purvis and Wade are tied for second among credited Eon-Bond screenwriters. The person they’re tied with is Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss who had a bit of inside track to co-write his five 007 movies from 1981 through 1989 given that Albert R. Broccoli was his stepfather. No. 1, of course, is Richard Maibaum, whose 13 Bond script credits between 1962 and 1989 aren’t likely to be surpassed.

Purvis and Wade can say they’re going out on a high. Skyfall, their finale, is now the No. 1 movie in 007 ticket sales unadjusted for inflation. John Logan, the latest scribe hired to revamp a Purvis-Wade script with Skyfall, has been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25.

You can CLICK HERE to view the Collider.com story on Purvis and Wade. You can CLICK HERE to read a 2002 interview HMSS’s Tom Zielinski had with the writers. You can CLICK HERE to view a 2007 interview HMSS had with Purvis and Wade.

John Logan hired to write Bond 24, Daily Mail says

Skyfall co-scripter John Logan

And so it begins. Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, opens in the U.K. on Oct. 26 (Nov. 9 in the U.S.) and we’ve already had the first major report about Bond 24. The Daily Mail in a story you can read BY CLICKING HERE says Eon Productions has hired John Logan to write Bond 24.

An excerpt:

Bond 24 is already in pre-pre-production and the plan is for it to start shooting at Pinewood Studios around this time next year and be ready for cinemas in the autumn of 2014.

Screenwriter John Logan has been hired to write Bond 24…(snip) On Skyfall, he was brought in by director Sam Mendes and producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to re-write the existing Skyfall screenplay that had been created by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

The writer is Baz Bamigboye, who has had a number of scoops about Skyfall that panned out. The Daily Mail has a trashy reputation in general but Bamigboye had a decent track record for accuracy for Skyfall. We’ll see if it’s true.

If the Daily Mail writer is accurate, that would indicate there is a serious effort to get Bond 24 out in two years’ time. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer wants it (the studio said in court papers filed during a 2010 bankruptcy it wanted to get the 007 series back on an every-other-year schedule). Sony Pictures wants it (an executive has already told theater executives it plans to release Bond 24 in 2014). Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli hasn’t publicly committed to it.

Meanwhile, 007 movies have a bit of mixed history with screenwriters delivering late drafts who won acclaim along the way.

Bruce Feirstein did the final drafts of 1995’s Goldeneye but had a rough time with 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. Feirstein was the only credited writer on Tomorrow but his first draft was drastically revamped by a number of other writers before Feirstein was brought back. Feirstein’s final 007 film credit was 1998’s The World Is Not Enough, where he rewrote the initial Purvis-Wade effort.

Paul Haggis got a lot of good press for 2006’s Casino Royale, where he revised a Purvis-Wade script. Haggis’s follow up effort for 2008’s Quantum of Solace (where he shared credit with Purvis and Wade) weren’t nearly as well received.

Meanwhile, if you CLICK HERE you can read a 2002 interview Purvis and Wade gave to HMSS about Die Another Day, one of the five 007 movies they’ve worked on.

What really happened with the script of Quantum of Solace?


Daniel Craig recently gave an interview to Time Out magazine where he said he and Quantum of Solace director Marc Forester had to rewrite the film’s screenplay because it was only “the bare bones of a script” because of a Writers Guild of America strike. In the process, Craig told the magazine, the process turned Quantum into much more of a direct sequel to Casino Royale than originally intended.

The quotes from that interview keep turning up LIKE IN THIS POST on the Yahoo! Movies Web site. So by now, “Craig Had to Rewrite Quantum of Solace” has become an established narrative among fans.

Except, three years ago, while the movie was being filmed, writer Joshua Zetumer was supposed to be polishing the script during filming, according to stories LIKE THIS ONE FROM APRIL 2008 and THIS ONE.

Both of those appear to be based on a ROTTEN TOMATOES STORY. That story read in part:

Forster and (producer Michael G.) Wilson both revealed that an earlier idea for the film was scrapped when Forster came aboard to helm. “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 [the Oscar winner who rewrote Casino Royale] from scratch,” Forster recalled. “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. And we developed it from there together. Then Barbara and Michael said they liked where we were going and they liked the script.”

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 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].” (emphasis added)

Now bear in mind this passage is referring to the same Writers Guild strike that Daniel Craig says in 2011 meant Quantum had only “a bare bones of a script.” And once the strike was over, Zetumer was around to help do last-minute polishes, although you wouldn’t know that if you read the Time Out interview.

And what was the script that got rejected, causing a race to get a new script done before the Writers Guild strike? Forster revealed details in a post ON THE VULTURE BLOG OF NEW YORK MAGAZINE.

“Haggis had an idea they weren’t fond of, and I didn’t know if it would work or not,” says Forster. “The idea was that Vesper in the last movie, maybe she had a kid, and there would be an orphan out there. It wasn’t anything to insult the franchise. But they felt it wasn’t particularly Bond — him looking for the kid. I think Paul thought he just leaves the kid, he doesn’t deal with it. But [the producers] thought that would be really nasty, too, because Bond was an orphan himself. If he would find a kid, would he just leave it? They were so vehemently against it. That was the only time I saw, really, ‘No, we can’t do that.’ They said, ‘Once he finds the kid, Bond can’t just leave the kid. It’s not right.'”

So let’s recap. Haggis had an idea that Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli rejected. Haggis turns in another script just ahead of the Writers Guild strike in fall 2007. Marc Forster says in spring 2008 that script was fine, while some polishing was done after the strike by Joshua Zetumer.

Now, in 2011, Daniel Craig says he and Forster did all the work on the final script, with no word of any contributions by Haggis, Zetumer, Neal Purvis or Robert Wade.

Needless to say, all of this can’t be true. You be the judge which (if any) of these tales is the truth. But next time you hear how Skyfall will be “Bond with a capital B,” or will be a “classic Bond” or how director Sam Mendes is “working his arse off,” remember those are mere words.

Maybe Skyfall will be a classic Bond. If it is, it won’t be because of words uttered by cast and crew members during filming. The verdict will be determined by the finished film. Words change before, during and after filming. It’s the film that endures and is the ultimate report card.

Daniel Craig, 2008 and 2011 versions

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A little over three years ago, Quantum of Solace was coming out. Star Daniel Craig did a number of interviews. During filming of the 2008 James Bond film, Craig TOLD USA TODAY that the story *had* be a direct sequel to Casino Royale.

More changes to the traditional formula are in store for Quantum of Solace, among them the notion of a true sequel. Bond has always been ageless, and the previous 21 movies stand largely independently of each other, but Quantum of Solace picks up where Casino Royale ended, with Bond working his way up the chain of command of the terrorists who blackmailed his lover, Vesper Lynd.

“We set something up in motion in the last one that we need to keep in touch with in this one,” Craig says. (emphasis added)

What’s more, Craig said using the title Quantum of Solace was HIS IDEA.

Asked if he agreed with fans who have laughed at the new name, Craig told GQ: “No, because I was involved in making the decision…”We had it written down on boards and we’d literally go and sit in rooms and stare at this title….As soon as it came out, people were saying, ‘Ooh, it sounds like Harry Potter.’ No, it’s Quantum of Solace. I was saying, ‘It’s a Bond title! The name of a Bond film is not about anything. Live And Let Die? Octopussy? What does it mean? It means very little. We’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Flash forward to 2011 and Craig has given an interview to Time Out. Among the disclosures IN THAT INTERVIEW? Let’s start with how Daniel Craig and Quantum Marc Forester were the real writers of the movie, not the credited Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

It seems that the script is sometimes an after-thought on huge productions.

‘Yes and you swear that you’ll never get involved with shit like that, and it happens. On “Quantum”, we were fucked. We had the bare bones of a script and then there was a writers’ strike and there was nothing we could do. We couldn’t employ a writer to finish it. I say to myself, “Never again”, but who knows? There was me trying to rewrite scenes – and a writer I am not.’

You had to rewrite scenes yourself?

‘Me and the director [Marc Forster] were the ones allowed to do it. The rules were that you couldn’t employ anyone as a writer, but the actor and director could work on scenes together. We were stuffed. We got away with it, but only just. It was never meant to be as much of a sequel as it was, but it ended up being a sequel, starting where the last one finished.’ (emphasis added)

Now, Craig is not the only 007 actor to revise his version of history (HERE’S AN EXAMPLE of Pierce Brosnan making two very contradictory statements about Tomorrow Never Dies). But it is interesting that Craig continues to call Quantum a disappointment, something that began this summer.

If Craig and Forster really did write Quantum, that may explain continuity problems with the 2008 film. Craig, by his own admission wasn’t a writer and Forster didn’t work on Casino Royale, so neither had neither the incentive or circumstances to worry about those problems. (Of course, it still doesn’t explain how Quantum was edited to make it appear M was shot when she wasn’t, shortly after the main titles).

Quantum fans are still going to like the film no matter what. So if you’re a Quantum fan, good for you. Still, when it comes to statements made by actors promoting a movie, it’s caveat emptor. That’s regardless of who’s playing James Bond. For that matter, it’s likely true of many other films.

Casino Royale’s 5th anniversary: a new path

“With Casino Royale, we started down a path,” Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson said last week at a London press conference, “and we’re sticking with that path.”

That path was unveiled five years ago this month. And of all the major Bond movies anniversaries in 2011, the fifth anniversary of 2006’s Casino Royale is the one that’s arguably most germane today. Not only did a new Bond (Daniel Craig) debut, but a new direction did as well, one that continues over the next year as Skyfall, Craig’s third 007 movie, is filmed, edited and — in late October in the U.K., Nov. 9, 2012 in the U.S. — is shown.

Wilson had a different message in October 2005, when Eon first announced the choice of Craig and that Casino Royale, the 21st Bond movie produced by Eon, would be a reboot, throwing out previous continuity. Here’s an account in The New York Times on Oct. 15, 2005:

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Mr. Wilson recalled saying. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

Dana Broccoli, widow of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, mother of Wilson and his half-sister Barbara Broccoli, and the last of the Eon old guard, had passed away in 2004. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli had been in charge since Cubby Broccoli’s failing health forced him to the sidelines during the production of 1995’s GoldenEye (he’s get his usual “presents” credit, but not be listed as producer). But Dana Broccoli, Cubby’s confidante, was still keeping an eye on things.

Until Casino Royale, that is. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli were truly on their own.

First, the Wilson-Barbara Broccoli duo told Pierce Brosnan, star of four 007 filmms, his services were no longer required. “If we wanted to make a deal, we would’ve made a deal with Pierce at some financially viable level,” Wilson was quoted by The Times. “This was about us trying to find new inspiration for the series.”

In Brosnan’s place, their choice was Craig, light-haired (Blond Bond soon became a label) and shorter (though hardly a runt) compared with his predecessor. The casting proved divisive within the fan base. Many loved the tougher take on 007. Others felt Craig’s version was closer to Jason Bourne than James Bond.

According to The Times, in a story written by reporter Sharon Waxman, who now oversees The Wrap entertainment Web site, Bourne did play a factor:

For both Ms. Broccoli and Sony (released Casino, Quantum of Solace and will release the upcoming Skyfall), executives said, the model was Jason Bourne, the character Matt Damon successfully incarnated in two gritty spy movies for Universal Pictures, “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy.”

But the producers and Sony are well aware that they are tinkering with one of Hollywood’s most lucrative franchises, one that has generated an estimated $4 billion in ticket sales over more than four decades. It is MGM’s most important film property and a legacy carefully guarded by Ms. Broccoli, whose father, Albert R. Broccoli, initiated the movie series, based on the books by Ian Fleming, in 1962 with “Dr. No.”

Regardless of motivation, Casino Royale was grittier than previous Bond entries. The producers had secured the rights to Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, the last Fleming original novel available to them. The novel’s torture sequence was retained. The story’s heroine, Vesper Lynd, did betray 007. Still, there were major differences. Screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis devised a new storyline that dominated the first third of the film until Fleming’s storyline kicked in. Vesper, instead of a quiet suicide, killed herself as part of a big action setpiece.

In the end, Casino Royale got both good reviews and the highest worldwide 007 box office at about $596 million. Craig still has the role, despite what will be a four-year gap between his second 007 outing, Quantum of Solace, and next year’s Skyfall. Craig, and the new “path” that Wilson referred to last week, are still spurring debate among Bond fans today. An example: a Web site whose name is self explanatory, Danielcraigisnotbond.com.

Octopussy, a reappraisal

Octopussy, the 1983 James Bond film, doesn’t get love from some 007 fans, particularly those fans who first got the Bond habit from the Sean Connery films of the 1960s. That includes editors from our parent site, HMSS, where a survey of editors gave it no higher than a B letter grade, with mostly Cs and Ds.

Watching it again recently reminds us the film is hardly a lost cause. Granted, it doesn’t have much Ian Fleming content. The author’s Octopussy short story provides the backstory of the movie’s female lead (Maud Adams). An auction scene, is based on another short story, The Property of a Lady.

Still, there are sequences that evoke Fleming. The best example is a sequence right after the main titles, set in East Berlin, where a double-O agent attempts to pass along vital information.

For star Roger Moore, who was 54 when filming began in the summer of 1982, Octopussy was an opportunity. Under other circumstances, Eon Productions might hired a new Bond. Indeed, Eon did screen test American James Brolin for the Bond role.

But going into production, Eon knew it was going to have 007 competition in the form of Never Say Never Again, a Thunderball remake starring Sean Connery. Eon eventually concluded this wasn’t the time for a new actor and brought Moore back. And the “Battle of the Bonds” was underway.

Some actors may have wilted under such pressure. But Moore seems to be thriving. The actor exhibits a kind of cockiness, a confidence that he knows exactly what he’s doing. He out-cheats Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) is a game of backgammon. He later seems to be having a great time fighting off Kamal’s thugs along with MI6 operative Vijay (Vijay Amritraj):

At the same time, when Vijay ends up being the film’s “sacrificial lamb,” Moore/Bond doesn’t laugh it off; he seems quite touched by the loss of a fellow agent. Up to that point, Bond and Vijay had demonstrated good chemistry. As a result, Vijay is one of the best “sacrificial lambs” of the Eon-produced series. Even after the character’s death, Bond is reminded of him while in Berlin. John Barry’s sad music adds to the scene without overpowering it.

Is Octopussy a perfect Bond adventure? No. Its comic elements get too strong at times, in particular a Tarzan yell Bond makes while being hunted in India by Kamal’s men. Later, he gets in and out of a gorilla suit impossibly quickly. Still, there is a sense of adventure, even joy at times. Sequences set in Germany, including an extended action sequence on a train with Bond constantly in peril, tend overall to be more serious than the ones set in India.

A viewer does get the impression that Eon, because of Never Say Never Again, pulled out the stops. At one point, both the two Bond films were scheduled to come out one week apart. Never Say Never Again, however, ended up delayed until the fall of 1983. But Eon had to assume Never would meet its original summer release date.

Octopussy was made by “journeymen” such as director John Glen and screenwriter Richard Maibaum (aided in this installment by George MacDonald Fraser and Michael G. Wilson). They didn’t have the critical acclaim of recent Eon hires. But, looking at it again, Octopussy is miles ahead of films such as Quantum of Solace, which featured a critically acclaimed director (Marc Forester) and an equally critically acclaimed writer, Paul Haggis. But you can actually tell what’s happening in the action sequences (something you can’t say about Quantum). Also, at times, Octopussy has an elegance about it, another aspect Quantum lacked.

For those who don’t like any 007 film with Roger Moore (which includes some of our staff), that’s not enough. For others, Octopussy is a Bond movie that’s easy to take for granted. It shouldn’t be, though. Bond films are harder than they look to make, something “prestige” hires such as Marc Forester and Paul Haggis, should have discovered by now.

Telegraph publishes extended version of its Ben Hecht/Casino Royale story

The U.K.-based Telegraph newspaper today published an extended online version of its story by Jeremy Duns about screenwriter Ben Hecht’s 1960s scripts for Casino Royale.

You can read THE ENTIRE ARTICLE BY CLICKING HERE. What follows are a couple of excerpts.

Duns on what he discovered when he went to the Newberry Library in Chicago, where Hecht’s papers are kept:

To my amazement, I found that Hecht not only contributed to Casino Royale, but produced several complete drafts, and that much of the material survived. …Hecht adapted Ian Fleming’s first novel as a straight Bond adventure…The folders contain material from five screenplays, four of which are by Hecht. An early near-complete script from 1957 is a faithful adaptation of the novel in many ways but for one crucial element: James Bond isn’t in it. Instead of the suave but ruthless British agent, the hero is Lucky Fortunato, a rich, wisecracking American gangster who is an expert poker player…it seems likely (producer Charles K.) Feldman sent this script to Hecht as a starting point to see what he could do with it.

According to Duns, Hecht’s version of the story has Bond being directly responsible for Le Chiffre’s financial plight and need to win money back gambling (a very similar technique used by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis in 2006’s Casino Royale to set up the main Ian Fleming novel story). They have even met before the gambling begins.

Here’s Duns’s analysis, with April 1964 referring to the final draft by Hecht:

All the pages in Hecht’s papers are gripping, but the material from April 1964 is phenomenal, and it’s easy to imagine it as the basis for a classic Bond adventure….(T)here is also a distinctly adult feel to the story. It has all the excitement and glamour you would expect from a Bond film but is more suspenseful, and the violence is brutal rather than cartoonish.

Hecht died in April 1964. Producer Feldman ended up producing a mega-spoof instead.

Eon’s drive for ‘respect’ and how it affects the 007 film franchise

The Peter Morgan situation (fiasco?), where Eon Productions’ flirtation with a “prestige” writer didn’t pan out, got us to thinking about the state of the James Bond movie franchise. As Lt. Columbo on more than one occasion said, “little things” bothered him about a case. So it is with our concerns about the state of the James Bond movie franchise.

Peter Morgan wrote Frost/Nixon and other movies that had the label of being a Very Important Film. So, in 2009, when Eon announced that Morgan would be part of a writing team to script Bond 23, it got a lot of attention, especially among Bond fans. Months after ending his 007 writing efforts, Morgan gave an interview where he indicated he really didn’t care that much for the Bond concept.

In a way, that seems to seems to represent the approach of Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli after the death of Albert R. Broccoli, Eon’s co-founder, in 1996. There have been hints of this for awhile. Michael Apted got hired to direct 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, even though he had basically no experience directing action films. But the stepson and daughter of Cubby Broccoli really hit paydirt on the respect scale with 2006’s Casino Royale, which arguably got the best reviews of a 007 film in decades. Part of the reason was co-screenwriter Paul Haggis, known as a writer and director of Very Important Movies, despite the fact he also created the schlocky TV series Walker, Texas Ranger.

That’s a heady thing to ignore. So the duo hired Marc Forster, also known as a director of Very Important Movies, such as Monster’s Ball, to direct Quantum of Solace, with Haggis returning as the lead writer, getting first billing ahead of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The result: a $230 million-budgeted movie that was hard to follow in many places and seemed twice the length of its 106-minute running time, the shortest of the 22-film Eon/Bond series.

For an encore, the Wilson-Broccoli duo hired Peter Morgan to write Bond 23. Now the delay in Bond 23, understandably, is blamed on financial problems at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., 007’s home studio which also controls half of the Bond franchise with Eon. But even if MGM’s finances hadn’t tanked, there’s some reason to doubt the current Eon regime was up to getting out a Bond film in a reasonable amount of time. In April, when Eon said it was suspending development of Bond 23 because of MGM’s financial ills, it said the film was originally scheduled for a “2011/2012” release. That would have been three or four YEARS after Quantum of Solace.

What’s more, Morgan revealed in an interview that after months of work in 2009, he had gotten no further than a “treatment” (essentially a detailed outline) and never had gotten around to actually writing a script. Aside from Morgan himself plus the grateful city of Vienna (where Morgan lives), it’s hard to see who else benefitted from the decision to hire Morgan in the first place. Morgan made his reputation on films that were lathered in politics. Bond films, while having a few referendces to the time they were made, tended to be as “timeless” as possible. Eon’s co-founders, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, de-emphasized the Cold War roots of Ian Fleming novels such as Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, which formed the basis of the first three films of the series. The Russians were the ultimate villains of all three novels; in the first two films the independent SPECTRE took the place of the Soviets while in Goldfinger, the title character was acting independently with the backing of the Chinese.

Bond 23 has been delayed primarily because of MGM’s financial ills, make no mistake. But even if MGM’s finances were fixed tomorrow, Eon would still have a lot of work to do to get a shootable script ready. The Broccoli-Saltzman team was able to do four films in four years and, after that, adhere to producing a film every other year (more or less). It’s unimaginable to envision the current Wilson-Broccoli regime sticking to such a schedule. They seem too busy worrying about their press clippings. The irony: Cubby Broccoli, a supposed hack, in 1982 received the Irving Thalberg Award, one of the most prestigious Hollywood gives to one of its own. Does anyone really think either Michael Wilson or Barbara Broccoli will receive that award anytime soon?