UPDATE: A recap of Bond 25’s writing process

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

Updated and expanded from a September 2018 post.

In September, 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 in flux.

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.

As 2018 draws to a close, there are contradictions.  Is it possible that Hodge was working from the Purvis and Wade treatment and not a script draft? There are no clear answers.

Jan. 1, 2019: The Geeks Wordwide website publishes a story that American screenwriter-director Paul Haggis has contributed to Bond 25’s screenplay.

Haggis did the final drafts of 2006’s Casino Royale. He shared the screenplay credit with Purvis and Wade. The news excites some 007 film fans. Perhaps another Casino Royale is in the offing. Haggis also was a screenwriter for 2008’s Quantum of Solace (where the credit was also shared with Purvis and Wade).

Feb. 16, 2019: The Playlist carries a story saying that American screenwriter Scott Z. Burns has been hired to do an “overhaul” for Bond 25 and he’ll be spending a total of at least four weeks and be well paid. According to this story, Haggis’ work either didn’t register or was dispensed with.

Regardless, we’re now up to at least five writers who’ve been reported to be involved in the writing — Purvis, Wade, Hodges, Haggis and Burns.

That’s hardly a record for a Bond film. The Spy Who Loved Me had around a dozen scribes, with two (Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum) getting a credit and the rest not.

Both Moonraker (Christopher Wood) and Tomorrow Never Dies (Bruce Feirstein) had only one credited screenwriter while numerous others did some work.

There are many unanswered questions. Is any of Hodges’ work being used, or was that pitched when Boyle left? Also, what does “overhaul” mean? Four weeks doesn’t seem like sufficient time to devise a completely new story, though it may mean significant changes for the existing Bond 25 script.

We’ll see what happens.

Scott Z. Burns enters Bond 25 writing sweepstakes

Scott Z. Burns, who has worked with director Stephen Soderbergh on some films, has been to hired to rewrite Bond 25’s script, The Playlist reported.

Also, according to the story, Bond 25’s start date was pushed back to April from March. If true, that would confirm a Feb. 5 tweet by Steven Weintraub, editor of Collider.com.

Weintraub said Bond 25 director of  photography Linus Sandgren told him that the movie would start filming in April.

The Playlist’s story said Burns’ rewrite is an “overhaul” of a script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have worked on seven Bond films, including Bond 25.

Earlier this decade, Burns worked on a script for a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. when Soderbergh was attached as director. That story would have been a Thunderball-inspired plot based on a real-life incident in the 1960s.

Soderbergh exited the project and Burns’ script was dumped. Guy Ritchie directed the film, which came out in August 2015.

On Jan. 1, a site called Geeks WorldWide said Paul Haggis, a screenwriter on Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, had also contributed to the Bond 25 script.

In 2018, Danny Boyle was hired to direct Bond 25 but left over “creative differences.” His preferred writer, John Hodge, was announced as the scribe at that time. After Boyle’s depature, Cary Fukunaga (himself a writer) was hired to direct Bond 25.

The Playlist said Bond 25 currently has “a script that no one is entirely happy with.” It describes Burns as having a reputation for being a top script rescue doctor.

Burns will work on Bond 25 for “at least” four weeks, according to The Playlist.

Eon Productions announced Feb. 15 that Bond 25’s release date was pushed back to April 8, 2020, from Feb. 14, 2020. It gave no reason.

007 questions before Bond 25 starts filming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer rosters for Eon 007 films

SPECTRE’s crowded writer title card.

This week, the Geeks Worldwide website said Paul Haggis had turned in a Bond 25 draft, rewriting work by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

If so, Haggins joins a growing roster of Bond 25 scribes, including the team of Purvis and Wade as well as John Hodge.

As it turns out, that’s probably more routine than not. Here’s an incomplete list of screenwriters who took a whirl at Eon’s 007 film series.

Dr. No: Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather (credited), Wolf Mankowitz (uncredited)

From Russia With Love: Richard Maibaum (credited for screenplay), Johanna Harwood (credited for adaptation), Len Deighton (uncredited).

Goldfinger: Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn (credited). In addition, Wolf Mankowitz sold an idea to Harry Saltzman — Goldfinger disposing of a gangster (initially Mr. Springer, but Mr. Solo in the final film) in a car crusher. Mankowitz’s fee was 500 British pounds in cash, according to the book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger.

Thunderball: Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins (credited).

You Only Live Twice: Roald Dahl (credited for screenplay), Harold Jack Bloom (credited for additional story material).

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Richard Maibaum (credited for screenplay), Simon Raven (credited for additional dialogue).

Diamonds Are Forever: Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz (credited).

Live And Let Die: Tom Mankiewicz (credited).

The Man With the Golden Gun: Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz (credited).

The Spy Who Loved Me: Christopher Wood, Richard Maibaum (credited). Tom Mankiewicz, Cary Bates, Sterling Silliphant, Ronald Hardy, Anthony Burgess, Derek Marlowe, John Landis, Anthony Barwick (uncredited).

Producer Albert R. Broccoli, in his autobiography, When the Snow Melts, said he and his wife Dana really came up with the shooting script.

“One day Dana and I were at our home in California and we had all these scripts, close to a dozen of them, spread out all over the room,” according to the autobiography, written with Donald Zec. “We sat and talked for hours with Dana scribbling ideas down on paper. We rewrote the whole story…Lewis (Gilbert, the director) said it was the first time a producer had come to him with a storyline that worked.”

Moonraker: Christopher Wood (credited), Tom Mankiewicz (uncredited), Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais (writing team, uncredited).

For Your Eyes Only: Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson (credited).

Octopussy: George MacDonald Fraser, Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson (credited).

A View to a Kill: Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson (credited)

The Living Daylights: Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson (credited).

Licence to Kill: Michael G. Wilson, Richard Maibaum (credited).

GoldenEye: Jeffrey Caine (credited for screenplay), Bruce Feirstein (credited for screenplay), Michael France (credited for story), Kevin Wade (uncredited).

With Tomorrow Never Dies, only Bruce Feirstein received a writing credit despite several writers working on the film.

Tomorrow Never Dies: Bruce Feirstein (credited), Donald E. Westlake, Nicholas Meyer, Daniel Petrie Jr., David Campbell Wilson (uncredited).

The World Is Not Enough: Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (credited for screenplay and story), Bruce Feirstein (credited for screenplay), Dana Stevens (uncredited).

Die Another Day: Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (credited).

Casino Royale: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis (credited)

Quantum of Solace: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (credited), Joshua Zetumer (uncredited).

Skyfall: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan (credited). Jez Butterworth (uncredited).

SPECTRE: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan (credited for story and screenplay), Jez Butterworth (credited for screenplay).

Haggis joins Bond 25 writer roster, website says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Eon’s lack of a long-term plan

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Over the weekend, I read complaints by friends on social media about the 007 film series.

One cited how Eon flipped the order of filming You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The other cited SPECTRE, the most recent Bond film made by Eon Productions.

Neither friend knows the other. The thing is, both complaints reflected the same thing — Eon isn’t known for its long-term planning.

When Eon launched the series, it initially intended to adapt Thunderball, the then-newest Ian Fleming novel. Richard Maibaum cranked out a script before Eon cast its Bond actor (Sean Connery).

But there were legal issues so plans shifted to starting with Dr. No. For the next entry, Eon opted for From Russia With Love, even though that novel preceded Dr. No.

That wasn’t a big deal at the time. But the OHMSS-YOLT switch was more of a problem. The novels were very connected. Bond is a broken man in the Twice novel because of how Majesty’s ended. But that went by the wayside for a variety of reasons. Still, that wouldn’t have occurred if a long-term plan had been in place.

For some Bond fans (including one of the aforementioned friends), that was a major missed opportunity.

With SPECTRE, the tale is even more complicated.

Quantum is better than SPECTRE. What’s that? Uh, never mind!

Screenwriter John Logan sold Eon on a two-film story, something Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced in November 2012. But star Daniel Craig vetoed that approach. So Logan retrenched. Eventually, veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were summoned to rewrite Logan’s script.

At one point, Logan’s scripts had Blofeld as an African warlord or a woman. After Purvis and Wade got through with it, there was a more traditional Blofeld. However, in the final version, Blofeld was also Bond’s foster brother — pretty similar to how Dr. Evil was the brother of Austin Powers.

Just a guess, but that wouldn’t have been the case with long-term planning.

Over the decades, there are other examples.

At the end of The Spy Who Loved Me, the audience was promised that For Your Eyes Only would be the next entry in the series. But with the popularity of the first Star Wars film, Eon grabbed the only Fleming title with a rocket theme (Moonraker) as the starting point for its next production.

In the 21st century, Eon’s brain trust talked about how SPECTRE was passe and how the new Quantum was more sophisticated. Then, Eon got all the rights that had been held by Kevin McClory. Suddenly, SPECTRE was the No. 1 villainous organization again.

Regardless of your opinions about the individual films involved, it’s pretty clear Eon has never had a long-term footprint. SPECTRE was a belated attempt to tie the four Daniel Craig films together.

That doesn’t make individual entries bad. Still, the lack of a long-term plan still has an impact on Eon’s 007 film series.

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.