Bond 25 questions: Where did the money go edition

No Time to Die teaser poster

Well, everybody knew going in that No Time to Die wasn’t going to be cheap. But a recent U.K. regulatory filing by B25 Ltd., a subsidiary of Eon Productions, gives an idea of how expensive it was.

A movie and a half? 

The filing said for 2019 the “work in progress” (No Time to Die is the only work in progress B25 has) was 199.47 million pounds. The conversion rate between pounds and dollars varies, but that’s more than $240 million.

The filing also listed a figure for 2018: 17.44 million pounds. The MI6 James Bond website said that may be pre-production costs when Danny Boyle was attached to direct before departing in August 2018 for “creative differences.” He was replaced by Cary Fukunaga.

Regardless, production designer Mark Tildesley in a Masterclass video interview posted May 10, said a 350-foot rocket had been built and a Russian gulag set in Canada constructed during Boyle’s time on the project.

Tildesley also said the production continued to lease the pricey 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios after Boyle left. Part of the space was used as a construction workshop.

Expensive cast

Variety previously reported that Daniel Craig was due a $25 million payday for No Time to Die. The film then brought on Rami Malek as the villain. He was coming off winning a Best Actor Oscar. He’s probably getting considerably more than scale. That probably applies to the returning MI6 cast of characters played by Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw.

Expensive crew

Phoebe Waller-Bridge was brought in as a writer at a cost of $2 million, The Hollywood Reporter said last year.  Scott Z. Burns, a pricey “script doctor” also did uncredited work on the script.

Bond 25 questions: The potpourri edition

New No Time to Die poster

We’ve had a few No Time to Die developments recently. Naturally, the blog has a couple of questions.

Will the gunbarrel be at the beginning?

Hard to say, but this week’s Cary Fukunaga video suggests it’s a strong possibility.

“The white dots on the screen…the adrenaline starts pumping,” Fukunaga’s voiceover says, accompanying the Daniel Craig gunbarrel from SPECTRE. “Settle in and get ready for a ride.”

That sounds like a description of the first 20 Bond films when the gunbarrel was at the start of the movie. Things got changed up with 2006’s Casino Royale, which began a new, rebooted timeline. The gunbarrel appeared at the end of the pre-titles sequence.

Then, for Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, the gunbarrel appeared at the end of the film. There was some pushback from fans. That generated pushback to the pushback where other fans questioned how dare fans question the artistry of the films. The comments section of this 2012 post demonstrates both sides of the argument.

The gunbarrel was back at the start of SPECTRE, although it wasn’t the best executed, including having Daniel Craig swinging his arm wildly showing he’s holding a gun.

In any case, Fukunaga at least sounds more appreciative of the gunbarrel logo than his Bond directing predecessor Sam Mendes. We’ll see.

Why didn’t Scott Z. Burns get a script credit?

Supposedly, the ace Hollywood “script doctor” in early 2019 was on his way to save No Time to Die’s script. Certainly, The Playlist website made it sound that way in a February 2019 story.

To give credit where credit is due, The Playlist was the first to report Burns participating in the writing of the film. Saving the script? Not so much. Burns ended up not getting a credit while Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, director Fukunaga and scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge did.

Ultimately, script credits are decided by the Writers Guild of America. The rules are a bit complex but in general favor the early writers over those who rewrite. There is also a cap on the number of credits available. In this case, Burns had no seat when the WGA musical chairs of writing credits ended.

New No Time to Die poster is out

A new No Time to Die poster is out today. It includes credits and a few things leaped out.

— Ana de Armas isn’t referenced among the cast. She is a rising star and has drawn a fair amount of publicity. Fans have suspected she has a small part and this may be a confirmation.

— Daniel Craig is again credited as a co-producer, as he was in SPECTRE. Personally, I was wondering if he might get promoted to executive producer but that’s not the case.

— The writing credit matches a Jan. 21 entry in a Writers Guild of America East database. The writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, director Cary Fukunaga and scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge all get some form of writing credit. Scott Z. Burns, once hailed as coming in to save the script, is out man out.

— Hans Zimmer gets a “music by” credit. Presumably, that means that Steve Mazzaro, who has assisted Zimmer, will get an “additional music” credit (probably in the end titles).

The version below was tweeted out by UIPSA, which distributes Universal and Paramount films in South Africa. Universal is handling international distribution of No Time to Die.

The official @007 account on Twitter also had a tweet about the poster. But that version had no credits at the bottom.

UPDATE (4:20 p.m. New York time): A separate e-mailed release has a longer cast list. Ana de Armas is listed with Rory Kinnear, Dali Bessalah, David Dencik, and Billy Magnussen.

New No Time to Die poster

NTTD’s writing credit: Scott Z. Burns may be odd man out

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

Sorry, Scott Z. Burns. You may have gone from saving No Time to Die’s script to being the odd man out.

The Writer’s Guild of America East database has a listing for the writing credit for the 25th James Bond film:

Screenplay by: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Story by: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga

The Writers Guild database listing the credit is dated Jan. 21, 2020.

The film’s script went through a series of revisions. In February 2019, The Playlist reported that Burns had been enlisted to rewrite the movie.

“It’s an overhaul and I won’t be surprised if Burns is ultimately given first screenplay credit,” wrote Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist.

What The Playlist didn’t know was that Phoebe Waller-Bridge, an actress and writer, had also been employed for script duty on No Time to Die. Also, director Cary Fukunaga also does writing on his projects.

Still, an April press release from Eon Productions listed Burns among the screenwriters.

Meanwhile, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been the first writers hired, joining the project in 2017. They were bumped in 2018 when Danny Boyle was hired to direct, bringing scribe John Hodge with him.

Boyle then departed over “creative differences” and Hodge also exited. In came Fukunaga as the new director. Back came the Purvis and Wade team. The writers now have their 007th Bond screenwriting credit.

Robert Wade speaks at University of Chichester

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

Robert Wade, a seven-time James Bond film screenwriter with his partner Neal Purvis, spoke at the University of Chichester on Feb. 11.

The university, on the story portion of its Instagram account, provided a summary that didn’t include comments Wade made about No Time to Die.

Meanwhile, people who said they attended the talk took to Twitter.

First, some highlights from the official university summary.

— Wade said he and Purvis worked on Skyfall for a year but it wasn’t until two weeks before they had to submit a script that they came up with the idea of Bond kidnapping M.

— Director Sam Mendes “really leaned towards doing a London centric story.”

— On writing Bond films generally, Wade said he and Purvis “always start quite dark.”

Now, some comments from people who said they were at the presentation.

@TheTchaikovsky, author of the upcoming book Quantum of Silliness (part of the cover illustration is his Twitter avatar and the book’s Amazon.com entry references the Twitter feed), posted these tweets.

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Purvis and Wade were hired to write No Time to Die in 2017. Director Danny Boyle pitched an idea by himself and writer John Hodge, which was reported in 2018.

The film was announced in May 2018 as being written by Hodge and directed by Boyle. But Boyle departed in August 2018 and Hodge left with him. Cary Fukunaga was brought in after that.

The Purvis and Wade team, Fukunaga, Scott Z. Burns and Phoebe Waller-Bridge have all been involved in writing No Time to Die. A press release issued in December listed all but Burns, according to a story by the MI6 James Bond website.

The final writing credit will be determined by the Writers Guild of America.

The Playlist says Burns may go uncredited on NTTD

Scott Z. Burns

The Playlist, which originally reported that Scott Z. Burns was recruited to do a rewrite on No Time to Die, says in a Dec. 4 story that the scribe may, indeed, go uncredited.

Here’s an excerpt:

“True Detective” and “Beasts of No Nation” director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, is set to direct the film along with sharing co-writing duties with longtime Bond film screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and recent Emmy winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Scott Z. Burns did a rewrite too, but with five writers originally credited, someones gotta go) (emphasis added)

The Writers Guild of America will have the ultimate say. However, there are a number of writers contending for a credit for a limited number of writing credit slots for the 25th James Bond film. The others include Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, director Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

The Playlist reported in February that Burns, a noted “script doctor” had been hired to work on No Time to Die.

We’ll see what the final writing credit is after an arbitration by the union.

Scott Z. Burns apparently bumped from NTTD writing credit

Scott Z. Burns

Script doctor Scott Z. Burns, once hailed as coming in to overhaul No Time to Die’s script, isn’t listed as one of the film’s screenwriters in a new press release.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer sent a press release to outlets, including the MI6 James Bond website. MI6’s story, which includes updated credits from the press release, says the writers are listed as the writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, plus director Cary Fukunaga and scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

In April, during a “reveal” event in Jamaica, those writers and Burns were listed as writers of the film. An April 25 press release listed the writers as “Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, Scott Z. Burns with Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge,”

Burns was also mentioned the same day in a tweet from the official 007 account.

That was then.

According to the Screen Credits Manual of the Writers Guild:

“Written by” credit generally will not be shared by more than two writers. In unusual cases, and solely as the result of arbitration, the names of three writers or the names of writers constituting three writing teams may be used.

That means there weren’t enough credit slots available. Purvis and Wade count as one writing entity because they’re a writing team. Two more slots were available. What’s more, the guild says a credit arbitration is automatic when “three writers are proposed for ‘Written by’ or ‘Screenplay by’ credit.”

Back in February, The Playlist reported that Burns had been hired to rewrite the script. “It’s an overhaul and I won’t be surprised if Burns is ultimately given first screenplay credit,” Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist wrote. That story was published before it was known that Waller-Bridge was also working on the project.

It remains to be seen whether the writing credit in today’s press release is the final version.

Meanwhile, the press release also said Christoph Waltz also is in No Time to Die’s cast. He played Blofeld in SPECTRE. Presumably, he’s reprising the role given the new film is tethered to SPECTRE. The casting announcement confirmed an April 25 tweet by Rodrigo Perez that Waltz was coming back.

Scott Z. Burns says Bond is other side of coin from Bourne

Scott Z. Burns

Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, in a new interview with The Express, says writing for James Bond is the other side of coin of writing for Jason Bourne.

“It’s fun for me because a few years ago I got to write a Jason Bourne movie and they’re definitely opposite sides of the same coin,” the writer told The Express.

“So I’m thrilled to have had a chance to contribute to the other side of the coin,” he said.

Burns was a screenwriter on 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. Since then, Burns has moved into directing but is also a well-known “script doctor.”

The writer said No Time to Die’s script “was in a completely reasonable shape” when he joined the project early this year.

The Playlist reported in February that Burns was working on the No Time to Die script. The hiring was confirmed in late April during a “reveal” event in Jamaica that also disclosed various casting movies. Burns was hired to work for four weeks, The Playlist said in its story.

In the Express interview, Burns also talked up star Daniel Craig. “I think Daniel has been an incredible custodian of that character and I think for the people who like the direction he has taken it, they are going to really love what happens next.”

RE-POST: Why Bond 25 didn’t economize

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

Updated from an April 3 post.

NEW INTRODUCTION: This past week, The Hollywood Reporter had a feature story about No Time to Die cast members Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas that had a passing reference that the film’s budget was $250 million.

On Nov. 9, the Daily Mail had a story with a passing reference that the budget was 200 million British pounds ($257 million or so, depending on the conversion rate).

Regular readers of this blog were probably not surprised. In April, the blog had a post about why it was not likely the 25th James Bond film didn’t do much economizing.

Since that post was published, it became public knowledge that writer-actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge also worked on the movie’s script. Her reported fee (via The Hollywood Reporter) was $2 million. Thus, there’s even more evidence that spending on the movie continued on the high side.

Over the past few days, other outlets have picked up on the $250 million budget figure for No Time to Die. SPECTRE had a $245 million figure (after tax breaks, product placement and other incentives were factored in).

What follows in the text of the blog’s original post on the subject.

ORIGINAL APRIL POST: Bond 25 production got underway last week with some filming in Norway. There’s a lot we don’t know (including a title). But there are some signs that the film isn’t traveling in Economy Class.

Delays in production: Eon Productions began renting space at Pinewood Studios last year. But filming there has been delayed at least five months.

Eon couldn’t just give up that space. Demand for space at Pinewood is high. So that’s a few months without any footage actually being shot. That makes it harder to economize.

An expensive script doctor: Scott Z. Burns recently spent four weeks working on Bond 25’s script. He’s a well-regarded scribe and he’s moving into directing. His services are in demand. It’s likely his Bond 25 services didn’t come cheap. (UPDATE: Burns’s involvement was confirmed in late April at the “reveal” event in Jamaica.)

The star may have gotten a raise: Variety last year reported that Daniel Craig will receive $25 million for his fifth 007 film. The truth is known to Craig, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, Craig’s agent and the various studios backing Bond 25. Still, it’s unlikely Craig’s services are receiving discounted rates.

The Mission: Impossible franchise means now isn’t the time to economize: This is a favorite fan theory/speculation. During the 2010s, the Mission: Impossible films starring and produced by Tom Cruise have cranked out three entries while Eon’s 007 series will have two.

Moreover, the M:I films have gotten a lot of attention for their stunts, big set pieces and international intrigue — things the 007 films are known for.

Paramount recently announced the Cruise M:I series will produce two more entries back-to-back, coming out in 2021 and 2022. By the time the latter entry is out, Cruise will be 60 and Christopher McQuarrie will have written and directed four films.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge talks to BBC about No Time to Die

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Phoebe Waller-Bridge downplayed the extent of her script work for No Time to Die in an interview with the BBC.

“They were just looking for tweaks across a few of the characters and a few of the storylines,” Waller-Bridge told the BBC.

The writer-actress said her hiring by itself didn’t represent a big change in the way women are depicted in the Bond film series.

“They were already doing that themselves,” the BBC quoted her as saying.

“They’re having that conversation with themselves the whole time. It (her involvement) was much more practical. Just, ‘You’re a writer, we need some help with these scenes. And you come up with some dialogue for these characters’.”

Waller-Bridge was one of a number of writers who worked on the 25th James Bond film. Others include series veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as well as “script doctor” Scott Z. Burns.

However, Waller-Bridge has a higher profile because she starred in Fleabag, a streaming series she created. She recently walked off with three Fleabag-related Emmy awards.

What’s more, some outlets have played up her contributions as critical. The Daily Mail, in a September story, quoted an executive it didn’t identify as saying she was “the savior of Bond, really.”

In the BBC interview, Waller-Bridge said she was first approached by Bond producer Barbara Broccoli.

“We met for coffee and then a few months later we met again,” Waller-Bridge told the BBC. “And then I met the director Cary Joji Fukunaga and then I met Daniel (Craig) after that. But I know Daniel and Barbara had been talking about it for while.”