IndieWire claims Bond 25 will be Craig’s FRWL

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

IndieWire, without saying how it obtained the information, claims that Bond 25 will be Daniel Craig’s version of From Russia With Love. Here’s the opening of the article:

What Daniel Craig wants, Daniel Craig gets. And what he wants is to make his own version of “From Russia with Love” (1963), arguably the best of the James Bond movies and Sean Connery’s favorite. And now, with the signing of Cary Fukunaga as director, it looks like Craig’s going to pull it off for his fifth and final outing as 007.

All of this is presented with the certainty that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Journalists like Bob Woodward get away with this sort of thing because of a long track record.

Also, in Woodward’s case, it’s known he has recordings of all his interviews and lots of documents. People will speak to Woodward (even if it’s not with their name attached) to make sure they come across as good as possible.

IndieWire is a long-standing entertainment news website and clearly aspires to be more than British tabloids. But its latest story on Bond 25 calls on the reader to take a lot on faith without providing any information how the information was obtained.

The article says Craig has been seeking a From Russia With Love-like vehicle for almost a decade, going back to when Peter Morgan was hired to work with Nearl Purvis and Robert Wade on what eventually would be Skyfall.

IndieWire says Craig approached Morgan “to write a ‘From Russia with Love’-inspired treatment. Morgan delivered ‘Once Upon a Spy,’ in which Judi Dench’s M is blackmailed by a ghost from her Cold War past, exposing a secret love affair with a Soviet spy, which threatens to topple MI6, forcing Bond to kill his boss and maternal figure.”

Morgan’s misadventure in 007 screenwriting (he left the project) has been covered in the book Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of The James Bond Films by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury.

Is IndieWire summarizing the book? Or does IndieWire claim original reporting about this? There’s no way for the reader to know. IndieWire wrote about the Field-Chowdhury book and Morgan in a 2015 story. In turn, that article was a summary of a Digital Spy article about the book.

There’s not much more to tell. If IndieWire is correct, it’s interesting for a number of reasons. The most important is Craig’s power — unprecedented among Bond actors working for Eon Productions —  to determine the course of the 007 film franchise. We’ll see how it goes.

Bond 25 questions: The new director edition

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director 2.0 for Bond 25

Almost a month after the old director left, Bond 25 has a new director. Of course, the blog has questions.

Who is Cary Joji Fukunaga, the new Bond 25 director? Fukunaga, 41, is a U.S.-born writer-producer-director. His credits go back to the early 2000s. They include TV series such as True Detective and Maniac as well as films such as the 2011 version of Jane Eyre.

He had been slated to direct a film based on Stephen King’s It. He left the production. The movie came out in 2017 and was a big hit. Fukunaga was one of the credited screenwriters.

What’s the significance of hiring an American? Probably not much, if anything. It matters to some fans who argue on internet bulletin boards and the like that a Bond film should never be helmed by an American.

Truth be told, however, American Phil Karlson was favored by some United Artists executives for Dr. No, according to the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger. The main thing against Karlson was his $75,000 asking price. Terence Young was paid about $40,000. Karlson ended up directing two Matt Helm films produced by Irving Allen, former partner of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

What about the script? In July 2017, Eon said it would be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. On May 25, Eon said Bond 25 had an “original screenplay” by John Hodge. He’s a writer who’s worked with Danny Boyle, who left the project in August.

The announcement naming Fukunaga as director doesn’t mention the script. Last week, multiple media outlets said Purvis and Wade had been brought back to turn a previous treatment they had written into a script. Assuming that’s the case, the director may want to revise whatever Purvis and Wade produce. But that remains to be seen.

The movie’s release date has been pushed back to February 2020. Is that a good move? Yes. Bond 25 originally was to begin filming Dec. 3. That meant that a new director would have a little more than two months to do his pre-production work. Now, the start of filming has been delayed until March 4. That gives Fukunaga five months of pre-production time.

Also, Bond 25’s original November 2019 U.S. release was getting crowded. Wonder Woman 1984, sequel to last year’s hit film, would have come out the week before Bond 25. Star Wars Episode IX is scheduled for Dec. 20. That would have limited Bond 25’s window for audiences.

Bond 25 will still face competition in February but according to the movie release schedule of The Numbers website, it includes an untitled DC Comics movie from Warner Bros. and an untitled Walt Disney film.  So the February 2020 situation is a little hazy and changes may be made before then.

Today’s announcement says Bond 25 will have a “worldwide” release date of Feb. 14, 2020. Is that right? No U.K. release 10-14 days before the U.S.? That’s what it says. We’ll see if that stands.

UPDATE (11:10 a.m. New York time). The Guardian interviewed the director a few days ago. CLICK HERE to read the interview

UPDATE II (2:10 p.m. New York time). IndieWire has a quote from an interview with Fukunaga: “I’ve wanted to do one of these [Bond films] for a long time, so that’s not new. So right now it’s just kind of dealing with the shock that it’s real and the honor obviously and now the responsibility.”

A recap of Bond 25’s writing process

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

Last week, outlets (starting with Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail) reported that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have resumed work on Bond 25. But things still remain a bit confusing.

With that in mind, here’s a recap of how we got to this point.

March 2017: Bamigboye reports Purvis and Wade have been hired to write Bond 25.

July 2017: The hiring of Purvis and Wade is confirmed in an Eon Productions press release that announces a fall 2019 release date for Bond 25.

December 2017: Barbara Broccoli, in a podcast for The Hollywood Reporter says Purvis and Wade are still hard at work on Bond 25’s story.

February 2018: Deadline: Hollywood reports that Danny Boyle, under consideration to direct Bond 25, devised an idea with writer John Hodge. According to the entertainment news site, Hodge was writing up a script based on that idea. If the script would be accepted, then Boyle will direct.

March 2018: Boyle essentially confirms the Deadline story during a public appearance.

May 25, 2018: Eon announces that Boyle will direct Bond 25, which will have an “original screenplay” by John Hodge.

Aug. 21, 2018: Eon announces Boyle has left Bond 25. Hodge isn’t mentioned but the writer later confirms he, too, is no longer involved.

Sept. 6, 2018: The MI6 James Bond website publishes a story that a Hodge script “was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.” and it is “now being touched up again with changes being made to reflect the wishes of the producers and Daniel Craig.” (emphasis added) This is a new twist, given how the May 25 press release didn’t mention Purvis and Wade.

Sept. 13, 2018: Bamigboye reports that Purvis and Wade have been re-hired to work on Bond 25. The story says a Purvis and Wade treatment had been approved by Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before Boyle and Hodge arrived. A treatment is like a detailed outline. It is not the same as a script draft with its dialogue and stage directions. Anyway, Bamigboye’s story is confirmed by Variety and Deadline: Hollywood. Like Bamigboye, those outlets say Purvis and Wade are turning their previous treatment into a full script.

There it is, contradictions and all. Is it possible that Hodge was working from the Purvis and Wade treatment and not a script draft?

 Maybe. But nobody seems to know at this point.

As a result, it’s hard to tell how developed the story really is.

Bond 25 questions: The P&W are back edition

So Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are back (if they ever were really away) for Bond 25. At least that’s the news from the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, whose 007 scoops for the Daily Mail are usually proven right.

Naturally, the blog has questions. So let’s get to it, shall we?

Just what are P&W writing up for Bond 25?Bamigboye makes it sound like the duo are writing up a treatment they worked on last year. So will it incorporate ideas/input from departed director Danny Boyle and his writer of choice, John Hodge?

We don’t really know. Members of FOE (Friends of Eon) would have you believe that Hodge was rewriting previous work by Purvis and Wade. Boyle, in public comments in March, didn’t make it sound that way. Neither did Eon’s own May 25 announcement that Boyle would direct and Hodge was writing Bond 25.

A treatment is like a detailed outline. It’s not a full-fledged script. So, based on Bamigboye’s story, Purvis and Wade never got past the treatment stage for Bond 25.

How does this affect Bond 25’s schedule?  This is the more important question. Again, FOE members are telling everyone that everything is on track for Bond 25 to come out in fall 2019. Eon has previously said Bond 25 will start filming on Dec. 3. But Eon’s leading man, Daniel Craig, has much of his November spoken for, filming another movie.

 Put another way, how far advanced is Bond 25’s story?  Hypothetically speaking, if a “polish” (tweaking dialogue, massaging set pieces) were underway now, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But based on Bamigboye’s story, things may not be that far advanced.

The thing is, nobody outside of the Eon/MGM/Universal camp really know. That may even apply to FOE members. For the moment, Bond 25 still doesn’t have a director to replace Boyle. Until that appointment is made, there are more questions than answers.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m. New York time): Variety had a story this afternoon making it sound as if nothing from John Hodge/Danny Boyle is being retained. It says Purvis and Wade will write a “new script” based on their treatment that had been approved before Boyle and Hodge entered the picture. It also refers to the Hodge-Boyle effort as having been “tossed.”

Surprise, surprise: P&W working on Bond 25, Baz reports

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis. (Paul Baack illustration)

Veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are — again — working on Bond 25, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported.

The duo “have had their licence renewed and have bonded with Bond again,” Bamigboye wrote. It is their 007th Bond film writing assignment.

P&W were hired last year to write Bond 25, which was referenced in a July 24, 2017 announcement. However, in 2018, director Danny Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, pitched an idea. Boyle confirmed that in March. And a May 25, 2018 announcement only referenced Boyle directing with Hodge scripting and no mention of Purvis and Wade whatsoever.

Boyle and Hodge exited the project last month. So, P&W are “back in action again,” to evoke an old 007 film poster.

Here’s the key excerpt from Bamigboye’s new story:

‘The Purvis and Wade treatment they wrote earlier was already signed off before the bromance with Danny Boyle and John Hodge began,’ a Hollywood executive close to the production explained.

Purvis and Wade, working on their seventh 007 thriller, will develop their ‘treatment’ into a script.

However (and, by this stage of the soap opera, you knew there had to be a “however”), more changes likely are in store once a Bond 25 director is selected, Bamigboye wrote.

Bamigboye, since 2011, has had a series of scoops proven correct (including that Purvis and Wade had been hired to write Bond 25 in the first place, something he reported in March 2017).

Meanwhile, Bamigboye also had this line about Bond 25: “The whole thing’s a hot mess and (Eon Productions’s Barbara) Broccoli has been in Los Angeles meeting a variety of film-makers who might take over directing duties.”

‘Little things.’ How 007 press releases evolved

“I can’t help it, sir. Little things bother me.”

An apology in advance. This post goes very deep into the weeds.

Back on May 25, the official Eon Productions webite said that Bond 25 would be directed by Danny Boyle “from an original screenplay by Academy Award nominee John Hodge (Trainspotting).”

The phrase “original screenplay” usually means a script, not based on other media that originated with a specific screenwriter. Based on the phrasing of the May 25 release, that would seem to be John Hodge.

But this week, the James Bond MI6 website said the following about Bond 25: “The script by John Hodge, which was a re-working of a draft completed by long-term series stalwarts Neal Purvis and Robert Wade…”

The website fielded a question on Twitter and had this response:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

That’s interesting. One thing to note: The May 25 press release didn’t mention Purvis and Wade.

What’s more, the “original screenplay” phrasing is different than other Eon press releases this decade.

October 2011, Skyfall: “The screenplay is written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan.”

July 2013, the then-untitled Bond 24: “…Sam Mendes will also return to direct the screenplay written by John Logan.” The Sony hacks showed later that there wasn’t a full-fledged script at the time of the release. Logan turned in his first draft in the spring of 2014.

During the summer of 2014, Purvis and Wade were summoned to rewrite Logan’s work. So this is what was said in the press release in December 2014, SPECTRE: “Written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,”

Finally, in July 2017, Eon put out a release announcing a release date for Bond 25. It said the movie, “…will be written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long time collaborators and writers on previous Bond films including CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, SKYFALL and SPECTRE.”

But by May 2018, Purvis and Wade had disappeared and the official press release was only talking about John Hodge.

So: Was the May 2018 press release written in a sloppy manner? (“Hey guys, we forgot to mention Purvis and Wade!” “Forget it, nobody will every notice!”) Back in February, Deadline: Hollywood said Hodge was writing a script totally separate from what Purvis and Wade wrote in 2017. Did that outlet make a mistake?

Or did Eon and public relations crew simply change its press release phrasing after all these years?

Oh, one more thing: Press releases are typically vetted by the principals involved as well as lawyers. The writers of press releases don’t just wing it.

These are just little things, as Lt. Columbo used to say. Little things.

UPDATE (12:50 p.m. New York time): The James Bond dossier reminded me (see comments below) of some Danny Boyle comments where it certainly sounded like he and John Hodge were working on a new story, not revising an existing script. Here’s a video of Boyle from The Associated Press in March.

Bond 25 questions: The “Mr. Obvious” edition

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who is known for getting 007 film scoops correct, finally weighed in and said that director Danny Boyle departed Bond 25 because Eon Productions wanted to bring in a new writer to replace his man, John Hodge.

As a result, the blog has a series of “Mr. Obvious” questions.

Did Boyle and Hodge do their due diligence before signing on for Bond 25? The 007 film franchise has a history of bringing in multiple writers to massage scripts.

In the early days, Richard Maibaum replaced Johanna Harwood and Len Deighton on From Russia With Love. Paul Dehn replaced Maibaum on Goldfinger. Tom Mankiewicz replaced Maibaum on Diamonds Are Forever.

More recently? Well, this decade, John Logan replaced Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on Skyfall. Purvis and Wade were summoned to replace Logan on SPECTRE. On both films, Jez Butterworth did work (but only getting a credit on SPECTRE).

Assuming Bamigboye is correct, neither Boyle nor Hodge should have been surprised when Eon wanted a new scribe. Hell’s bells, Maibaum dealt with that sort of thing over 13 separate 007 films.

Did Eon Productions do its due diligence before bringing on Boyle and Hodge? In 2017, Eon hired Purvis and Wade do the script for Bond 25. But that work got cast aside when the possibility arose of getting Boyle as director. But Boyle wanted his man, Hodge, to write it.

Boyle has a reputation for doing unique films and Hodge is one of his main collaborators. So you’ve got to figure they have a certain way of working.

Yes, Boyle said he was a James Bond fan. Everybody (especially if they’re British) says they’re a James Bond fan when they hire on to work for Eon. But did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson really think through whether Boyle could adapt to working for Eon?

What role does Daniel Craig have in all this? Bamigboye’s story said Craig was a key figure in wanting a new writer to take over from Hodge. But is that really a big deal?

Before the cameras rolled on Goldfinger, Sean Connery objected to some of Paul Dehn’s ideas (such as ending the moving with “curtains” being drawn). The 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger goes into this in detail.

Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever, described a meeting he had with Connery. The star weighed on various issues, according to the screenwriter. So it’s not unprecedented for stars of Bond films to let their opinions be known. Granted, Craig had a co-producer title on SPECTRE, something Connery never got when he toiled for Eon.