Embrace Léa Seydoux, look forward to Madeleine Swann

Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux at the end of SPECTRE.

By Gert Waterink, Guest Writer

When Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga told the Daily Mail this week that French actress Léa Seydoux would reprise her role as Madeleine Swann, Bond fandom was instantly “menstruating” blood and fire.

I leave it to you to find this either preposterous or a sheer exaggeration. But let me first tell you that time is not treating SPECTRE nicely so far. (Look out for the big #JamesBondTOP2018 Poll to see exactly what has happened.)

Was it the SonyLeaks that immediately brand marked it as the worst Bond-film “evva”? Was it Christoph Waltz’ performance as Oberhauser/Blofeld that left Bond fans cold and bitter? Or, and that I can understand, was the writing not good enough?

Madeleine Swann: Better than we thought?
All I saw was an actress that played a wonderful blond elegant psychiatrist, who had the bad luck to be born out of a father whose sole career was crime (remember Tracy’s father in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?). In my honest opinion Léa Seydoux did magnificent acting work with the script she was given.

She showed off an Honey Ryder-esque vulnerability in the third part of the film that was credible enough to me. Her anger at the start of the film was absolutely delightful (Vesper Lynd could have learned a few lessons from her to that respect). And because of Bond’s complex background, it only made sense that, like Vesper, Bond and Madeleine fell in love.

The problem to me with regard to writing was only the rather sudden change from fierce, angry woman into a sexual passive object of desire that didn’t feel convincing. But that was mostly the case because of lackluster writing, not bad acting.

Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade simply wanted too many narrative twists and turns and character’s back stories to put in a film that should have been divided into two parts (it was Craig who eventually insisted on not doing that). The film also needed some more explanations and not leave certain important events and moments to the viewers imagination.

Let’s be old-fashioned, let’s be patient
Having sad all that, please let us trust Léa’s acting capacities. They are exquisite and above all mesmerizing and convincing. We should not write off Madeleine Swann’s character that soon.

For all we know Danny Boyle’s departure resulted in some more firm brainstorming about the story as compared to the writing process of SPECTRE. Let’s not “Facebook” and “Twitter” Léa/Madeleine to death.

There are luckily no “UniversalLeaks” this time around to strengthen all our presumptuous theories about why Madeleine Swann should not return.

Instead let’s ask ourselves how we can bring back Madeleine Swann in a wonderful way, both for short and longer screen times.

And perhaps it sounds a bit old-fashioned during this digital social media age, but for those people who can still be patient, let’s just wait and see.

If you still want to discuss the film like I do, do it in a positive-spirited, inspiring fashion. Because James Bond will return — and there are fresh new chances to make Bond 25 even better than Casino Royale and Skyfall.

Gert Waterink is the editor of the James Bond Nederland website.

Bond 25 director says script still being written

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Bond 25’s director

The script for Bond 25 still is being written with major issues, including characters, yet to be determined, director Cary Fukunaga said in an interivew with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Fukunaga was asked whether Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld or Ben Whishaw’s Q would return in Bond 25.

“We haven’t finished the screenplay, so there is no way that anyone could know that,” he told the outlet. “Those are two extraordinary actors, so if there is space for them in the story, I would absolutely want them there. But I don’t know yet what it’s going to be.”

The story doesn’t specify who is doing the writing.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long-time 007 screenwriters, were announced as Bond 25 scribes in July 2017. Then, early this year, Danny Boyle emerged as the main contender to direct the film. He had devised an idea with his writer of choice, John Hodge.

When Boyle was announced in May 25, the press release said Hodge was writing and Purvis and Wade weren’t mentioned. Then Boyle exited because of creative differences. Last word was from the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye (with Variety and Deadline: Hollywood confirming) that things went back to Purvis and Wade and a treatment (essentially a detailed outline) that had been approved before Boyle and Hodge entered the picture.

Fukunaga is a writer himself. He may or may not be directly writing Bond 25 himself. Even if he isn’t, a director usually has a big voice in how a script is developed.

There was also this passage.

“In terms of what I can bring to change the character, Bond is on a character arc that started with ‘Casino Royale,’ and I will be carrying that on. There will be changes, I am sure. As in any story, a character has to change in order [to have] a narrative.”

2006’s Casino Royale was Daniel Craig’s first 007 film. 2008’s Quantum of Solace was a “direct sequel.” But 2012’s Skyfall initially didn’t pick up any plot points from Craig’s first two Bond films. Then 2015’s SPECTRE sought to connect the four films together.

Bond 25 isn’t scheduled to begin filming until March 2019 and be released in February 2020.

h/t @Bond25Film

Epilogue: About that whole Danny Boyle thing

Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

In the 21st century, news cycles go faster than ever. So it is with the infatuation of Eon Productions with director Danny Boyle.

For much of 2018, the idea that Boyle may/would/wasn’t going to after all direct Bond 25 was big news among James Bond fans.

Now? Hardly anyone remembers all that. Danny who? Danny Boyle, 007 fans hardly knew ye.

Despite that, Eon’s infatuation has had a huge impact on Bond 25.

In 2017, Eon had spent months developing a story by long-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But, as first reported by Deadline: Hollywood in February, Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge made a pitch that intrigued Eon.

Suddenly, the Pruvis & Wade story seemed expendable.

Three months later, Eon announced that Boyle was onboard and Hodge was writing the movie. Another three months later, Boyle is gone. So is Hodge.

That’s at least at least six months (if not more) of wasted effort. Fans were told in September 2018 that a new director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, had been hired.

Since then, Boyle has become as forgotten as Peter Morgan (hired to write what would eventually be Skyfall), or John Landis, Cary Bates and Anthony Burgess (among the scribes hired to write stories for what would become The Spy Who Loved Me).

As Jerry Seinfeld once asked, “What’s up with that?”

At the very least, it suggests Eon and its studio partners Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (who knows how long Annapurna Pictures will be part of the equation?) still care about prestige. Such as when Eon hired Morgan.

Nevertheless, with 20-20 hindsight, it’s clear that the le affaire de Boyle delayed the development of Bond 25.

Is this important? Actually, yes. With hindsight, the Boyle Affair provides insight to the state of the 007 film franchise. Will it all work out? We won’t know until February 2020.

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.”