The Spy Who Loved Me’s 45th: 007 rolls with the punches

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

Adapted from a 2017 post.

The Spy Who Loved Me, which debuted 45 years ago, showed the cinema 007 was more than capable of rolling with the punches.

Global box office for the previous series entry, The Man With the Golden Gun, plunged almost 40 percent from Live And Let Die, the debut for star Roger Moore. For a time, things got worse from there.

The partnership between 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, unsteady for years, ruptured. Eventually, Saltzman was bought out by United Artists, leaving Broccoli in command. But that was hardly the end of difficulties.

Kevin McClory re-entered the picture. He had agreed not to make a Bond movie with his Thunderball rights for a decade. That period expired and McClory wanted to get back into the Bond market. Eventually, court fights permitted Broccoli’s effort for the 10th James Bond movie to proceed while McClory couldn’t mount a competing effort.

But that still wasn’t the end of it. Numerous writers (among them, Anthony Burgess; Cary Bates, then a writer for Superman comic books; future Animal House director John Landis; and Stirling Silliphant) tried their hand at crafting a new 007 tale.

Finally, a script credited to Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum, with uncredited rewriting by Tom Mankiewicz, emerged.

Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct his fifth Bond movie but left the project. That paved the way for the return of Lewis Gilbert, who helmed You Only Live Twice a decade earlier. It was Gilbert who brought Christopher Wood to work on the script.

The final film would resemble Twice. Spy had a tanker that swallowed up submarines where Twice had an “intruder missile” that swallowed up U.S. and Soviet spacecraft.

With Saltzman gone, Cubby made his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, a key player in the production. Wilson was already on the Eon Productions payroll and was involved in the negotiations that saw Saltzman’s departure.

For Spy, Wilson’s official credit was “special assistant to producer” and it was in small type in the main titles. However, that downplayed Wilson’s role. An early version of Spy’s movie poster listed Wilson, but not production designer Ken Adam, whose name had been included in the posters for Twice and Diamonds Are Forever.

UA, now in possession of Saltzman’s former stake in the franchise, doubled down, almost doubling the $7 million budget of Golden Gun.

In the end, it all worked. Bond shrugged off all the blows.

Spy generated $185.4 million in worldwide box office in the summer of 1977, the highest-grossing 007 film up to that point. (Although its $46.8 million in U.S. ticket sales still trailed Thunderball’s $63.6 million.)

Roger Moore, making his third Bond movie, would later (in Inside The Spy Who Loved Me documentary) call Spy his favorite 007 film.

The movie also received three Oscar nominations: for sets (designed by Adam, aided by art director Peter Lamont), its score (Marvin Hamlisch) and its title song, “Nobody Does It Better” (by Hamilsch and Carole Bayer Sager). None, however, won.

The Living Daylights at 35: A short-lived new era

The Living Daylights poster

The Living Daylights poster

Adapted from a 2017 post

The Living Daylights, the 15th James Bond film made by Eon Productions, was going to be the start of a new era for the series.

With hindsight, it’s now evident the new era was doomed to be short-lived. But nobody envisioned that when the movie came out in the summer of 1987.

Roger Moore hung up his shoulder holster following 1985’s A View to a Kill. There was going to be a new film James Bond. The question was who would it be.

Sam Neill was screen tested. He had supporters among the production team, but didn’t have the vote of producer Albert R. Broccoli, according to the documentary Inside The Living Daylights.

Pierce Brosnan tested for the role (including playing scenes from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). He even signed a contract, with a photo taken of the event.

But all that went askew when NBC renewed his Remington Steele series. Broccoli had second thoughts.

Broccoli and his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, later denied in a television interview that Brosnan had even been signed.

The ultimate choice was Timothy Dalton. Broccoli said Dalton was the first choice all along.

“We wanted to get Timothy,” Broccoli said. “We had standing by the possibility of Pierce Brosnan. We liked Pierce. But we did really feel Timothy was the man we wanted.” Even if NBC hadn’t renewed Remington Steele, the producer said, “We liked Timothy very much.”

After the bumpy start, Daylights got into gear. Dalton, 40 at the time filming began, was almost 20 years younger than Moore. The actor also was more than willing to do some of his own stunts. This tendency showed up in the pre-titles sequence when Bond is on the top of a military truck at the Rock of Gibraltar.

Dalton, though, brought more than (relative) youth to the role. His Bond was more conflicted and more grounded in the original Ian Fleming novels and short stories.

Early in the film, Bond disobeys orders when he suspects a supposed sniper (Maryam d’Abo) isn’t genuine. He shoots her rifle instead of her.

Later, Saunders, another MI6 agent, says he’s going to report Bond to M. Dalton’s Bond isn’t fazed. “If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.”

Richard Maibaum was on board for his 12th Bond film as screenwriter, collaborating with Wilson. The Maibaum-Wilson team built their story out from a sequence in Ian Fleming’s short story of the same title.

Initially, the duo had an “origin” storyline that Broccoli vetoed. Instead, Dalton’s Bond would again be depicted as a veteran agent.

The Living Daylights generated worldwide box office of $191.2 million, an improvement over A View to a Kill’s $152.6 million.

In the U.S. market, however, Daylights’ $51.2 million wasn’t much better than View’s $50.3 million. For whatever reasons, American audiences never warmed to Dalton the way international audiences did.

Still, Daylights seemed to represent a fresh start for the Bond film series. What nobody knew at the time was that audiences had already consumed half of the Dalton Bond films.

What’s more, Daylights was the end of an era for the series. It had John Barry’s final 007 score. For his final Bond film, the composer would make a brief on-screen appearance.

Daylights also would be the last time that Maibaum would fully participate in the writing.

The veteran scribe (1909-1991) would help plot 1989’s Licence to Kill. But the actual script was written by Wilson, with Maibaum sidelined by a Writers Guild of America strike.

Dr. No script Part V: Meeting the villain, Bond woman

Not what Dr. No's screenwriters had in mind.

Not what Dr. No’s screenwriters had in mind.

Adapted from a 2014 post. Concluding the blog’s look at an early 1962 version of Dr. No’s script provided by Bond collector Gary Firuta.

The first James Bond movie required a top-notch James Bond villain. The screenwriters of Dr. No envisioned an entrance for the title character that was different than what audiences would eventually see.

The January script by Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood specifies the scene is “POV” (point of view) of Dr. No.

According to the stage directions, “All we see of DR. NO is the edge of his desk, and a slight shadow cast from a reading lamp as he makes a slight movement. In short, we see this scene entirely from his eyeline.”

This, of course, is the scene in the finished film where Dr. No’s lackey, Professor Dent, rushes out to the villain’s headquarters in broad daylight to tell his superior how Agent 007 refuses to be killed. After Dr. No says, “Good afternoon….Professor,” the stage directions add this detail.

“He makes ‘Professor’ sound like an insult.”

From here on out, the dialogue is similar to the finished movie, until this stage direction:

“DR. NO learns forward, extending one hand, still in silhouette, toward a nearby table, from which he picks up small glass cage. As he holds it out towards DENT we see something black and furry moving inside it. DENT recoils involuntarily.”

At this point, Dr. No says, “Since your attempts at assassination have been so ineffectual….let’s try ‘natural causes’ this time.”

In real life, production designer Ken Adam came up with a set, that maximized his minimal resources. The striking set created a strong visual. Dr. No’s voice is heard, but the audience doesn’t even see a shadow. The tarantula Dr. No provides Dent seems to materialize out of nowhere.

Meanwhile, the writing team also was faced with adapting one of Ian Fleming’s most memorable passages, where Bond meets Honey(chile) Ryder.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.

The sun beats down on BOND as he sleeps. In the distance, as if in his dreams, he can hear a WOMAN SINGING.

(snip)
146. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

What he sees: HONEY, standing at the water’s edge, her back to him. She is naked except for a wisp os (sic) home-made bikini and a broad leather belt with an undersea knife in a sheath….Her skin is deep honey cooured (sic)….She stretches contentedly like a cat in the warm sun.

147. EXT. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

BOND – appreciates what he see (sic), in a moment he takes up the calypso refrain.

At the end of the script, as in the finished film, Bond is in a boat with Honey that’s out of fuel. But before the pair can make out very much “we hear the throbbing of an approaching motor launch.” It’s Felix Leiter, of course, spoiling their fun.

LEITER
I’ve brought the Marines….

BOND
(with a sly grin, as he helps HONEY up to her feet)
You picked a helluva time to come to the rescue.

THE END
James Bond will return….

Dr. No script Part III: A friendship is forged

Jack Lord with Ursula Andress and Sean Connery during Dr. No's production.

Jack Lord with Ursula Andress and Sean Connery in a United Artists publicity photo.

Adapted from a 2014 post Continuing the blog’s look at a January 1962 Dr. No script supplied by collector Gary Firuta.

Dr. No’s screenwriting team of Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood opted to bring in Ian Fleming’s Felix Leiter character into the film version of Dr. No even though he wasn’t in that novel.

Their challenge: establish the James Bond-Leiter friendship within a few minutes of screen time.

By the time Dr. No was nearing production, Leiter had appeared in the novels Casino Royale, Live And Let Die, Diamonds Are Forever, Goldfinger and Thunderball. Bond and Leiter had shared a number of adventures in the novels, including Leiter providing a major financial assistance in Casino and nearly getting killed in Live And Let Die.

But that back story wasn’t of use for the screenwriters. They would have to invent their own storyline of the forging of the Bond-Leiter friendship.

In the film, it gets off to a rocky start. The audience doesn’t realize it’s Leiter observing Bond at the Kingston airport. Bond gets the best of the encounter, losing Leiter and Quarrel, who are following him. Bond catches up to Quarrel and gets into a fight. Here’s how the script describes what happens next.

Behind him, and unknown to him, LEITER has appeared in the door. He gently takes BOND’S wrist and equally gently shoves a Walther into his kidneys.

LEITER
(softly)
Gently, bud, gently. Let’s not get execited, eh?

BOND stiffens. His position is now untenable and he’s not a bloody fool. LEITER stretches round in front of him and takes his gun. He tooks at two identical weapons with slightly raised eyebrows.

The exchange that takes place is similar to the finished film but there are some interesting stage directions.

Quarrel we’re told is “looking murderous, steps forward and expertly frisks BOND. (Expertly means to start at sock level and run and tap lightly upwards. A favourite place for keeping a second gun or a knife is taped to the inside of the thigh. QUARREL evidently knows this.)”

Leiter is “moving around so he can see BOND CLEARLY.” After Leiter tells Bond his got his gun from “a guy in Washington,” he then “suddenly breaks into a grin, puts his own gun into his shoulder holster, reverses one in his left hand and holds it butt first to BOND, simultaneously holding out now free right hand in greeting.”

The next scene is at the restaurant/night club as in the film. “In the background, FOUR ATTRACTIVE GIRLS, wearing just what they are forced to by law, are going through a particularly Jamaican type of Twist.”

As they discuss how Cape Canaveral rockets are being sabotaged, Bond “chooses his words with irony” when he asks if Leiter had “cased the joint.”

LEITER
I checked…unofficially. You…
(mimics BOND)
“Limeys” can be pretty touchy about trespassing.

The TWO MEN grin at each other.

From here on out, the two men are friends, although there’s an occasional edge. Later, Leiter “thoughtfully” asks whether Professor Dent is a bad professor or a bad liar. Bond “grimly” says he intends to find out which.

When Bond finally shows up to head out to Crab Key, Leiter is “growling” when he asks where Bond has been.

When Bond and Quarrel get ready to make their approach to Dr. No’s island, Leiter “softly” says “Let me go with him” to Bond. The British agent replies, “We’ve argued all the way out. Strangways happened to be a friend of mine.”

Bond and Leiter “grin understandingly” after Bond says, “We’ll be back in twelve. If not, it’s your show, and you’d better bring in the Marines.”

NEXT: Killing Professor Dent in triplicate

Dr. No’s script Part I: The story takes shape

Sean Connery in Dr. No

Sean Connery in Dr. No

Adapted from a 2014 post

By early 1962, the screenwriters of Dr. No finished their fifth draft of a script adapting Ian Fleming’s novel. That draft, dated 8-January-1962, greatly resembles the film that would ultimately premiere that fall. But there were still elements that either got dropped or significantly altered during production.

What follows is a summary based on a copy supplied by Bond collector Gary Firuta.

The draft’s title page lists Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and J.M. Harwood as the writers and Harry Saltzman and A.R. Broccoli as producers. The production company name is listed as Eon Film Productions Ltd., later shortened to Eon Productions.

The early sequences are very similar to the final product, but scenes have additional dialogue than would make the final cut.

In the stage directions, John Strangways, R.N. (ret.) is described as “Carribean Universal Exports Agent, or, less discreetly, the local representative of the British Secret Service. He is a tall, lean man with a black patch over his right eye, and the sort of acquiline good looks associated with the bridge of a destroyer.”

The bridge game at the Queen’s Club includes an exchange after Strangways departs the bridge game for his daily call from headquarters. Potter, one of the players, asks, “What is his wretched Company, anyway?” Professor Dent replies, “He’s the Carribean Agent for Universal Exports…”

In the script, Strangways realizes, too late, he’s in danger. “The tapping of the sticks” of the supposedly three blind men “ceases. STRANGWAYS turns partially back to the, the moment of silence registering.” (Yes, there appears to be a dropped word.) The stage directions specify Strangways is hit between the shoulders, small of the back and the pelvis. The driver says, “Hurry it up, boys…” rather than the “Hurry, man, hurry!” of the final film. Meanwhile, inside the hearse, the killers put on “roomy black alpaca coats” and replace their baseball caps with black top hats.

At Strangways house, Mary Prescott, “STRANGWAYS’ secretary and No. 2,” is described as “a striking-looking young woman despite her tailored dress.” As described in the stage directions, she only sees one of the assassins before she dies.

As in the final film, the scene switches to London. The script references “the M.I.6. building, a square eight-storey structure near Regent’s Park.” An operator even says, “Urgent. M.I.6. RT Control.”

We’re then off to Le Cercle Casino. On page 10, the stage directions refer to SYLVIA TRENCHARD, who is “willowly exquisitely gowned with a classic, deceptively cold beauty. The stage directions say at first she is playing the “MAN” As the game progresses, it’s specified “we have still not seen” the Man. He is then identified as BOND when he “takes a cigarette from a flat gun-metal case on the table besides him.”

The game continues. On page 11, Sylvia introduces herself as “Trench…Sylvia Trench.” Bond lights her cigarette.

SYLVIA
And I admire your luck, Mr….?

BOND
(as he brings the lighter up to his own cigarette, and for the first time we see his face.)
Bond….James Bond.

TO BE CONTINUED

Dr. No’s 60th-anniversary conclusion: Legacy

Adapted from a 2012 post.

In evaluating the legacy of Dr. No as it approaches its 60th anniversary, start with the obvious: There’s still a 007 film series to talk about.

James Bond isn’t the biggest entertainment property in the world the way it was in 1965. But its longevity is unique.

The time that has passed includes more than a decade of enforced hiatus (a troublesome 1975 financial split between Eon co-founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; a legal fight in the early 1990s between Broccoli and MGM; and MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy) disrupting production of the Bond movies.

Still, the Bond films soldier on. The 25th entry, No Time to Die, debuted in the fall of 2021.

The series turned actor Sean Connery into a major star. It made Roger Moore, known mostly as a television star, into a movie star. The same applies to Pierce Brosnan. It made Daniel Craig a star. Even George Lazenby (one movie) and Timothy Dalton (two) who had limited runs as 007 are identified with the series.

The films generated new fans of Ian Fleming’s hero to the point that the movie 007 long ago outsized the influence of his literary counterpart. Finally, the film 007 helped form an untold number of friendships among Bond fans who would have never met otherwise.

All of that began with a modestly budgeted film, without a big-name star, led by a director for hire, Terence Young, who’d be instrumental in developing the cinema version of Agent 007. Dr. No, filmed in Jamaica and at Pinewood Studios, made all that followed possible.

Fans may fuss and feud about which Bond they like best. This 007 film or that may be disparaged by some fans, praised by others. The series may get rebooted. Bond may get recast. The tone of the entries may vary greatly.

In the end, Bond continues. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. can’t say that; The Avengers, the John Steed variety which debuted the year before Dr. No, can’t say that; Matt Helm can’t say that. Jason Bourne, which influenced recent 007 movies, hasn’t been heard from since a 2016 film.

Many of those responsible for Dr. No aren’t around to take the bows.

They include:

–Producers Broccoli and Saltzman

–Director Young

–Screenwriter Richard Maibaum

–Editor Peter Hunt

–Production designer Ken Adam

–United Artists studio executive Arthur Krim, who greenlighted the project

–David V. Picker, another key UA executive, who was a Bond booster

–Joseph Wiseman, who played the title charater, the first film Bond villain

–Jack Lord, the first, and some fans say still the best, screen Felix Leiter, who’d become a major television star on Hawaii Five-O

–Art director Syd Cain

–Composer John Barry who orchestrated Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme and who would later define 007 film music.

–Nikki van der Zyl, who dubbed Ursula Andress in Dr. No and would work on other Bond films.

–Finally, Sean Connery, who brought the film Bond to life, passed away in 2020 at the age of 90.

That’s too bad but that’s what happens with the passage of time. The final product, though remains. It’s all summed up with these words:

James Bond will return. (Even with the ending of No Time to Die.)

Dr. No’s 60th anniversary Part III: `A pretty rough diamond’

Sean Connery chats with Dr. No co-star Jack Lord.

Adapted from a 2012 post

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had $1 million of United Artists’ money (helped with a major Bank of America loan) to spend to bring Dr. No to the screen. That meant they couldn’t spend a fortune on their lead actor, the man who would personify James Bond. Their choice ended up making themselves and the actor involved rich.

The choice, of course, was Sean Connery, 31 years old at the time Dr. No went into production. Ken Adam, in interviews for extras for 007 movie DVDs directed by John Cork, described him as “a pretty rough diamond” at that time. Broccoli, in his autobiography, used nearly identical phrasing: “…an uncut diamond at the time…Physically and in his general persona, he was too much of a rough-cut to be a replica of (Ian) Fleming’s upper-class secret agent.”

The Scotsman wasn’t a star, but he was already an experienced actor. He had acting credits extending back to 1954 (even if some of them were small parts, like on an episode of The Jack Benny Program or a secondary role in 1959’s Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure).

How much, or little, Connery was paid for Dr. No is in some dispute. Connery told Playboy magazine in a 1965 interview, he only received 6,000 British pounds, or $16,800. U.K film historian Adrian Turner, in his 1998 book on Goldfinger puts the figure at $40,000, in line with director Terence Young’s paycheck.

In Broccoli’s autobiography, a reproduction of a message sent from Broccoli to Saltzman appears. It says “New York,” a reference to UA’s New York headquarters, “did not care for Connery feels we can do better.” The UA executives would change their minds, especially once audiences had their chance to evaluate Connery as 007.

Connery was coached by Young in the ways of the Bondian lifestyle despite, according to Broccoli, the director preferring Richard Johnson in the role. Richard Maibaum, one of three credited screenwriters on Dr. No, said at a 1987 conference (the video is included in the DVD extra, The Thunderball Phenomenon) that Connery wasn’t exactly Ian Fleming’s James Bond and a rougher character.

“Our attributing to him all these gentlemanly qualifications and stuff was the cream of the jest,” Maibaum said in 1987. “It made it funny. It also made him instantly acceptable.”

Whatever the exact reason, the choice of Connery was a successful one. For the actor, it was the springboard to a legendary career. For the producers, it ensured more orders from United Artists for Bond movies. For many fans, Connery supplied an image of 007 that hasn’t been surpassed. Connery would have battles later with Broccoli and Saltzman (especially about money). But, six decades ago, the choice of an unknown actor was proven right.

NEXT: The elegant Venus

UPDATE: Author and academic James Chapman says on Facebook that the 6,000 British pound figure for Connery’s Dr. No salary is correct, according to the archives of Film Finances Inc. Film Finances provided the “completion bond” to ensure Dr. No would be finished. The blog did a series of posts in 2016 about Film Finances. A freshened version will appear next week. 

Michael G. Wilson turns 80

Michael G. Wilson

Michael G. Wilson, during publicity for 2015’s SPECTRE

Michael G. Wilson, a producer and writer who worked longer on James Bond films than anyone else, celebrated his 80th birthday today.

Wilson, who has been involved with Bond for 50 years on a full-time basis, is the stepson of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli and the half-brother of 007 producer Barbara Broccoli.

Wilson and Barbara Broccoli took command of Eon in 1994 as GoldenEye was in pre-production and Cubby Broccoli suffered from ill health. The Wilson-Barbara Broccoli combination has produced every Bond film starting with GoldenEye.

Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli died in 1996, ending 35 years with the franchise.

Wilson’s mother, Dana, married Cubby Broccoli in 1959. She had earlier been married to actor Lewis Wilson, who had played Batman in a 1943 serial. The actor was the father of Michael Wilson.

Michael Wilson’s first involvement in the 007 series was as an extra on 1964’s Goldfinger, but that was a one-off. Starting in 1972, he joined Eon and its parent company, Danjaq.

Michael G. Wilson’s first 007 on-screen credit in The Spy Who Loved Me

In those early years, Wilson, a lawyer who also had training in engineering, was involved in the separation between Eon founders Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, the latter facing financial troubles. Eventually, United Artists bought out Saltzman’s interest in the 007 franchise.

Wilson’s first on-screen credit was as “special assistant to producer” on 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Wilson got a small title card, sharing the screen with other crew members. But that belied how Wilson’s influence on the series was growing following Saltzman’s departure.

A Poster Changes

CLIP TO EMBIGGIN

A preliminary version of the poster for The Spy Who Loved Me, with a credit for “Mike Wilson.”

An early poster for Spy had the credit “Assistant to the Producer Mike Wilson.” It didn’t mention other notables such as production designer Ken Adam or associate producer William P. Cartlidge. Later versions didn’t include Wilson’s credits but Adam and Cartlidge still didn’t make the final poster.

For 1979’s Moonraker, Wilson was elevated to executive producer, a title which can be a little confusing. On television series, an executive producer is supposed to be the top producer or producers. For movies, it’s a secondary title to producer. This time, Wilson was included on the posters as were Adam and Cartlidge.

With 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, Wilson doubled as a screenwriter, working in conjunction with Bond veteran Richard Maibaum. Wilson received a screenwriting credit on every 007 film made by Eon in the 1980s. Starting with 1985’s A View to a Kill, he was joint producer along with Cubby Broccoli.

While adding to his production resume, Wilson also began making cameo appearances in the Bond movies themselves. A 2015 story in the Daily Mail provided images of a few examples. The cameos varied from a quick glance (The World Is Not Enough) to getting several lines of dialogue (Tomorrow Never Dies, as a member of the board of directors working with the villain).

‘Particularly Hard’

After Cubby Broccoli’s death, Wilson in interviews began complaining about the work load of making Bond films. “It just seems that this one’s been particularly hard,” Wilson said in an interview with Richard Ashton on the former Her Majesty’s Secret Service website concerning The World Is Not Enough that’s archived at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

In an earlier Ashton interview, after production of 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, Wilson described the pressure he felt.

“There are a myriad of things every day,” Wilson told Ashton. “From the producer’s point of view they want to know the schedule, does the set need to be this big? Are we gonna shoot all this stuff in the action sequence? How much of it is going to end up on the cutting room floor? You’re putting the director under pressure to make decisions all the time – and he has a point of view he wants to put across.”

‘Desperately Afraid’

Dana Broccoli was an uncredited adviser on the Bond films during Cubby Broccoli’s reign. She became “the custodian of the James Bond franchise” after his death in 1996, according to a 2004 obituary of Dana Broccoli in The Telegraph.

With her passing, Wilson and Barbara Broccoli were truly on their own. One of their first decisions was to move on from Pierce Brosnan, the last 007 actor selected by Albert R. Broccoli, and go in a new direction with Daniel Craig.

In an October 2005 story in The New York Times, Wilson described the process.

“I was desperately afraid, and Barbara was desperately afraid, we would go downhill,” said Michael G. Wilson, the producer of the new Bond film, “Casino Royale,” with Ms. Broccoli. He even told that to Pierce Brosnan, the suave James Bond who had a successful run of four films, he said.

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

Wilson and Barbara Broccoli also began pursuing other interests, including plays as well as movies such as the drama The Silent Storm, where they were among 12 executive producers.

Wilson as P.T. Barnum

Wilson, to a degree, also was the Bond franchise’s equivalent of P.T. Barnum. In separate interviews and public appearances he said he hoped Daniel Craig would do more 007 films than Roger Moore even as the time between Bond films lengthened while later saying Bond actors shouldn’t be kept on too long.

Legal fights between Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which acquired United Artists in 1981) caused a six-year hiatus in Bond films between 1989 and 1995. When production resumed with GoldenEye, Wilson no longer was a credited screenwriter.

Cubby Broccoli had benefited from a long relationship with Richard Maibaum (1909-1991), who ended up contributing to 13 of the first 16 Bond movies. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli seemed to search for their own Maibaum.

At first, screenwriter Bruce Feirstein seemed to fit the bill. He received a writing credit on three movies, starting with GoldenEye and ending with The World Is Not Enough.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011 Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011.

Later, the producing duo seemed to settle on scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who received credits on six consecutive 007 epics. They ran began with 1999’s The World Is Not Enough and ran through 2015’s SPECTRE. They were hired in 2017 to work on a 007th film, No Time to Die, released in 2021. Director Cary Fukunaga and scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge were among the other writers on the script.

Still, it wasn’t the same. After 2012’s Skyfall, Purvis and Wade weren’t supposed to return, with writer John Logan (who’d done Skyfall’s later drafts) set to script two movies in a row.

It didn’t work out that way. With SPECTRE, the followup to Skyfall, Logan did the earlier drafts but Purvis and Wade were summoned back. Eventually, Logan, Purvis, Wade and Jez Butterworth would get a credit.

Changing Role?

Cubby Broccoli seemed to live to make James Bond movies. Wilson  not as much, as he pursued other interests, including photography. By the 2010s, it appeared to outsiders that Barbara Broccoli had become the primary force at Eon.

In December, 2014, at the announcement of the title for SPECTRE, Wilson was absent. Director Sam Mendes acted as master of ceremonies with Barbara Broccoli at his side. Wilson showed up in later months for SPECTRE-related publicity events.

Nevertheless, Wilson devoted the majority of his life to the film series.

Making movies is never easy. Wilson’s greatest accomplishment is helping — in a major way — to keeping the 007 series in production. He was not a founding father of the Bond film series. But he was one of the most important behind-the-scenes figures for the film Bond beginning in the 1970s.

“When you go around the world you see how many people are so anxious, in every country, ‘Oh, when’s the next Bond film coming out?'” Wilson told Ashton after production of Tomorrow Never Dies. “You realize that there’s a huge audience and I guess you don’t want to come out with a film that’s going to somehow disappoint them.”

On 007’s 60th, will Harry Saltzman be the forgotten man?

Cover to When Harry Met Cubby by Robert Sellers

Adapted from a 2012 post.

The 60th anniversary of the first James Bond film, Dr. No, is gearing up. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has come out with an MGM logo noting the anniversary. No Time to Die is making a return to Imax theaters.

All of this is a reason to remind everyone about Harry Saltzman, the co-founder of Eon Productions, who played a key role in getting Agent 007 to the screen.

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.)

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.

Saltzman had ambitions beyond the Bond films. He produced the Harry Palmer movies based on Len Deighton’s novels. He also produced (with S. Benjamin Fisz) Battle of Britain, a big, sprawling movie about Britain’s darkest hour. Saltzman’s three Palmer films employed the services of Bond crew members including Ken Adam, John Barry, Guy Hamilton and Maurice Binder.

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 60 years of 007 films.

Diamonds’ 50th: Rodney Dangerfield of 007 films

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Adapted from a 2016 post.

When Diamonds Are Forever came out 50 years ago this month, it was a huge deal. Sean Connery was back! Everything was back to normal in 007 land.

Nowadays, Diamonds is more like the Rodney Dangerfield of James Bond films, not getting any respect.

Some fans complain about too much humor, about Connery not being in shape, about Blofeld (Charles Gray) dressing in drag as a disguise and about Bond’s wardrobe (his fat, pink tie in particular). Also, Jill St. John’s Tiffany Case at times seems a capable criminal, while at other times comes across as scatterbrained.

Perhaps the biggest advocate of the movie was former United Artists executive David Picker (1931-2019). In his 2013 memoir, Musts, Maybes and Nevers, he says Diamonds saved the Bond series because he got the idea of paying Connery a lot of money to return as 007.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had cast American John Gavin in the role. But UA became more hands on with the seventh film in the series compared with previous entries. UA (via Picker) didn’t want to take a chance after George Lazenby played Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Regardless, Diamonds reflected the creative team’s desire to get back to the style of Goldfinger. As a result, director Guy Hamilton returned. So did production designer Ken Adam after a one-picture absence. John Barry was on board and this time Shirley Bassey would return to perform the title song.

There was new blood, however, in the form of screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, brought in to rewrite Richard Maibaum’s early drafts. Mankiewicz would work on the next four films of the series, although without credit on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

"What does that mean, anyway?"

Q was aghast at Bond’s tie.

Mankiewicz (1942-2010), part of a family prominent in both show business and politics, still generates sharp divisions among Bond fans.

Supporters say his witty one liners enlivened the proceedings. (“At present, the satellite is over Kansas,” Blofeld muses at one point. “Well, if we destroy Kansas, the world may not hear about it for years.”) Detractors say he simply didn’t understand Bond and made things too goofy.

The writer’s initial draft actually contained more bits from Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel than would be in the final film. (This 2011 ARTICLE has more details, just scroll down to the section about the Mankiewicz draft.) Still, with Diamonds, it was now standard practice that the films need have little in common with Fleming’s novels.

The legacy of the movie is mixed. Diamonds got 007 into the 1970s. But as late as 1972, people still questioned whether the series could survive without Sean Connery. That wouldn’t be evident until after Diamonds. And the movie clearly began a lighter era for the series.

Still, Bond was Bond. The movie was a success with moviegoers. It had a worldwide box office of $116 million, an improvement from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s $82 million and You Only Live Twice’s $111.6 million.

Diamonds fell short of Goldfinger and Thunderball ($124.9 million and $141.2 million respectively). But it did well enough that Eon Productions would again try to find a successor to Connery. James Bond would return.