Bond 25 questions: The new writer edition

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

One of the later questions deal with a possible Bond 25 story line, so consider that a spoiler.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a writer and performer, has come aboard Bond 25 as the newest screenwriter. The story was broken by the Mail on Sunday while The Guardian had its own, later story with additional details.

Not surprisingly, the blog has some questions.

What is Waller-Bridge’s background?

She was born in 1985 and acts, writes and directs. One of her prominent credits is the BBC comedy Fleabag.

Why is she being brought on Bond 25?

According to The Guardian’s story, actor Daniel Craig requested her services. An excerpt:

Sources close to the film in the US said that while in the country she discussed with Craig how to improve the script of Bond 25, which the 007 actor felt needed some “polishing”, by introducing more humour and the offbeat style of writing she is best known for.

What’s the significance of this move?

Eon Production recently hired “script doctor” Scott Z. Burns for a four-week stint going over the script. If The Guardian is to be believed, the powers that be felt yet more work was needed.

The Mail on Sunday hyped Waller-Bridge’s hiring as “a comprehensive makeover for the MeToo era.” The Guardian’s story makes it sound like more of a tweaking.

Any plot hints? (here’s the spoiler for the spoiler adverse)

The Mail on Sunday story said one plot “being considered” has a retired Bond while a woman agent now has the 007 code number.

If accurate, that’s the flip side of an idea in Anthony Horowitz’s Forever and a Day 007 continuation novel. It’s set in 1950. Bond gets promoted to the 00 section and opts to take the 007 number, which had been assigned to a murdered agent.

Is it a big deal to hire a woman screenwriter for a Bond film?

It shouldn’t but it probably will be because there have been so few.

Johanna Harwood (b. 1930) worked on the first two films in the Eon series. She shared the Dr. No screenplay credit with Richard Maibaum and Berkely Mather. On From Russia With Love, she received an “adapted by” credit while Maibaum got the screenplay credit.

Dana Stevens took over from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who had done the initial drafts of The World Is Not Enough. Bruce Feirstein subsequently took over from her. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein shared in the screenplay credit while Stevens went uncredited.

Albert Finney dies at 82

Albert Finney (1936-2019)

British actor Albert Finney has died at 82, according to obituaries published by The Guardian and the BBC.

The actor had a long career, beginning in the 1950s and concluding with 2012’s Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film. He was nominated five times for an Oscar, including for his performances in 1963’s Tom Jones and 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express.

One of his early highlights was 1960’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, a “kitchen sink” drama from producer Harry Saltzman, who a year later co-founded Eon Productions with Albert R. Broccoli.

In Skyfall, Finney played Kincade, who the actor described as “an old retainer of James Bond’s family.”

Skyfall director Sam Mendes told The Huffington Post in 2012 there had been consideration of trying to cast Sean Connery, the original film Bond, in the part. ” So, it was a very brief flirtation with that thought, but it was never going to happen, because I thought it would distract,” Mendes told the website.

Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote in a November 2011 story that Mendes surprised the Skyfall cast during a script reading with the news that Finney was joining them.

The story, however, had one key error: “Finney, who has been in remission from cancer of the prostate for several years, will play a Foreign Office mandarin with powers over the Secret Intelligence Service, described to me as a reasonably big role and full of class.” That would turn out to be Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes. Mallory takes over as the new M following the death of the Judi Dench M at the climax of the film.

Below is a brief video with Finney in costume talking about Skyfall.

Broccoli tells The Guardian 007 ‘probably’ will remain a man

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli told The Guardian that the cinematic 007 “probably” will remain a man.

“Bond is male,” Broccoli, 58, told the British newspaper. “He’s a male character. He was written as a male and I think he’ll probably stay as a male.

“And that’s fine. We don’t have to turn male characters into women. Let’s just create more female characters and make the story fit those female characters.”

Over the past few years, various publications have speculated about women who could play Bond. Among them: Vogue (“6 Women Who Would Make a Killer 007”), The Independent (“James Bond: The Women Who Could Play a female 007 When Daniel Craig Steps Down”), Maxim (“10 Amazing Actresses Who Could Play a Killer James Bond”) and Newsday (“Jane Bond: 10 actresses who could play a female James Bond”).

A number of recent pieces along this line were published when Broccoli and her leading man, Daniel Craig, were taking an extended break from the 007 film series. The most recent Bond film, SPECTRE, came out in the fall of 2015 while Bond 25 won’t be released until February 2020.

Still, the question has come up long before now. In the late 1990s, there was a gathering at Northwestern University near Chicago where 007 continuation author Raymond Benson spoke. One of the questions from the audience was when Bond would be played by a woman or a person of color.

In The Guardian interview, there was also this passage:

Yes, she concedes, Bond cannot be considered a feminist property, but mostly because people tend to “reference those early (Bond) movies. It was written in the 50s, so there’s certain things in [Bond’s] DNA that are probably not gonna change.”

“But look at the way the world has changed. And I think Bond has come through and transformed with the times. I’ve tried to do my part, and I think particularly with the Daniel [Craig] films, they’ve become much more current in terms of the way women are viewed.”

Broccoli previously has taken credit for updating the way the film 007 interacts with women. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,” she said in a 2012 interview with the London Evening Standard.

Bond 25 questions (Danny Boyle edition Part IV)

Danny Boyle

Apologies. The blog is suffering from Lt. Columbo-itis. Little things bother it. So here are some more questions about Bond 25.

Why did Danny Boyle go public with his involvement with Bond 25 now?

Without a mind reading machine, there’s no way to know for sure. But Boyle’s behavior is a lot different than his predecessor in the 007 director’s chair, Sam Mendes.

In January 2010, The Wall Street Journal interviewed Mendes mostly about other topics. But the paper asked if it was true he’d be directing the next James Bond film.

“It’s only speculation and, you know, at the moment there isn’t even a studio to make the James Bond movie, because MGM is for sale.”

The thing was, at almost the same time, Mendes’ U.K. publicist, Sara Keene, confirmed to The Guardian that Mendes was in talks about directing what would become Skyfall. “I can confirm that he has had a meeting, but Sam always has lots of projects on the table that he might direct next,”

In contrast, Boyle’s comments to Metro and other outlets were relatively straight forward. He said he planned to direct Bond 25 if a script being written by John Hodge is accepted. If that occurred, the plan would be to start production toward the end of 2018.

Just to be clear, the blog likes straight forwardness. Meanwhile, if you don’t want to comment, you say, “No comment.” That’s because when you deny things that turn out to be true (i.e. Ben Whishaw was playing Q in Skyfall, etc.) it hurts your credibility in the long run.

On the other hand, intentionally or not, Boyle may have pressured Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer a bit. If the Hodge script were rejected (and Boyle ended up not directing Bond 25), both would get questions about what happened.

Do you think Eon/MGM will turn down the script when Hodge finishes it?

Not likely. Supposedly, actor Daniel Craig is really keen on Boyle directing. For now, the blog suspects Eon boss Barbara Broccoli will move heaven and earth to keep him happy.

She’s repeatedly expressed her admiration for Craig. If Hodge delivered 110 pages of chicken tracks as a script, sure it’d be rejected. But if the Boyle-backed story is even remotely acceptable, it will get approved and off we go. At least, that’s the blog’s guess.

How does the pace of Bond 25 development compare with recent 007 films?

It’s lagging.

Bond 23 (Skyfall) was suspended because of MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy. In January 2011, there was an announcement the movie was back on, finally confirming Mendes’ involvement. Principal photography started in November 2011.

Bond 24 (SPECTRE) had a first draft script submitted in March 2014. Principal photography originally was slated to begin in October 2014, but was pushed back to December 2014.

At this point, Hodge is still writing his first draft. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had worked on a Bond 25 script for the better part of a year, but that’s been put aside for the Boyle-backed Hodge script.

Also, at the start of 2011 and 2014, it was known what studio (Sony Pictures) would be distributing Skyfall and SPECTRE respectively. No announcement has been made concerningt what what/which studio(s) will be distributing Bond 25.

Favorite of 007 scribes: Roger Moore safari suits

Roger Moore in Moonraker

Being a movie critic or writer about movies involves making observations and expressing opinions in the most witty way you can.

When it comes to James Bond films starring Roger Moore, the term safari suit it too tempting for some scribes to pass up.

Here are a few examples that have come up over the years.

STUART HERITAGE, THE GUARDIAN, JULY 5, 2010: “James Bond actually died long ago, when Roger Moore strapped himself into his first male girdle and started wheezing around in a safari suit.”

ANTHONY LANE, THE NEW YORKER, NOV. 16, 2015: “By custom, (James Bond films) have been stacked with beautiful people, and tricked out with beautiful objects, but the outcome was often unlovely to behold, with a gaucheness that ran far deeper than Roger Moore’s safari suit.”

MICHAEL HANN, THE GUARDIAN, OCT. 3, 2012: “Instead, (The Man With the Golden Gun’s) setting is just a background, as if the film were just a Duran Duran video with extra guns and safari suits.”

SIMON REYNOLDS, DIGITAL SPY, MAY 28, 2017: “When Roger Moore found out he was not only older than his Bond Girl co-star Tanya Roberts but older than her mother too, he knew it was time to hang up the safari suit.”

HELEN O’HARA, THE TELEGRAPH, AUG. 19, 2015: “Talk tailoring in the movies, and most will think immediately of James Bond, the super-spy with impeccable taste in practically everything. From Roger Moore’s safari-wear to Daniel Craig’s shawl-collar cardigan and chukka boots (a look modelled on Steve McQueen), he’s rarely to be found underdressed.”

JONATHAN SOTHCOTT, GQ.COM, MAY 20, 2014: “More recently, the hardcore Bond fans who were so vocal in their condemnation of Roger Moore’s playboy Bond have softened in their views, perhaps because Moore has become a bona fide national treasure, or perhaps because some of his Bond films are actually amongst the best in the series once the blinkers come off. Even his safari suits are beginning to become style touchpoints.”

For more information, check out The Suits of James Bond website’s 2015 infographic about about the actor’s “Infamous Safari Jackets and Shirts.”

How to write a ‘Time to End 007 Movies’ essay

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Something you can count on, at least every so often, is for the appearance of an essay saying it’s time for James Bond to put up his shoulder holster up for good.

The blog was reminded about this during an exchange on Facebook. A reader posted THIS JULY 5, 2010 ESSAY BY THE GUARDIAN.

At the time, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, was in bankruptcy and the future of the 007 franchise was more uncertain.

Still, the essay by Stuart Heritage provides a template for the next time a scribe wants to declare the cinematic Bond is dying.

With that in mind, here’s an excerpt from the 2010 story altered to fit 2017.

Bond 23 25 – the Sam Mendes Bond, the Peter Morgan Bond, the Bond that was going to right all the wrongs of Quantum of Solace  SPECTRE – is no more. Although its status had been set to “indefinitely delayed” since April, the continuing financial mess at MGM means that the film has now been cancelled altogether puttering around. It also means that we’re back in a situation where the next 007 movie could feasibly be several two or three years away.

The ramifications are huge, not least for Daniel Craig who, at 42 49, may have slipped into the old tuxedo for the last time. But maybe it’s time that a bigger question was asked. Should James Bond’s enforced hiatus be turned into a permanent retirement?

(snip)
James Bond isn’t James Bond any more. He’s a tedious exercise in relentless product placement transparently modelled on Jason Bourne the Batman films of director Christopher Nolan. James Bond actually died long ago, when Roger Moore strapped himself into his first male girdle and started wheezing around in a safari suit. The Connery films will still exist no matter what happens at MGM. Do people really want anything else?

Just to be clear, this isn’t an endorsement of the 2010 Guardian piece. The alterations are intended as parody of a genre that, sooner or later, will return “with the inevitability of an unloved season.”

The Guardian’s daft 007 proposal

Carmine Infantino's cover to Flash No. 123, "The Flash of Two Worlds."

The Guardian’s proposal for alternate-universe 007s sounds a lot like “The Flash of Two Worlds” story published by DC Comics in 1961.

The Guardian has come out with a story in effect saying don’t choose between Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba as the next James Bond but do movies with both — at the same time.

The British newspaper cited how, “We are, after all, living in the era of Marvel’s highly successful expanded universe of interconnected movie and TV superhero stories. Star Wars’ take on the concept is moving forward apace, and Warner Bros has 10 films based on the DC Comics back catalogue planned between now and 2020.”

That sets up the meat of the proposal:

But Bond is just as big as any of the above, and right now seems even more suited to being split into multiple strands. Elba fans reckon the Hackney-born Londoner would make the perfect 21st-century 007, while Hiddlestonians see their Eton-educated man as the epitome of traditional Flemingesque toff sophistication. So why not take the opportunity presented by Craig’s mooted departure and give both versions screen time?

Here are two reasons why the Guardian’s idea is daft.

–Expanded universes and multiple/alternate universes are not the same thing.

To use Marvel as an example, the Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man co-exists in the same fictional universe as Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Evans’ Captain America. The characters have been featured in separate films and have also been in movies together. That’s what Warner Bros. is moving toward with the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie that opens this week.

What The Guardian is calling for are movies featuring alternate universe versions of Bond. Eon Productions opened the door to this concept when it rebooted the 007 series ten years ago with Casino Royale. The production company decided to start over, but kept the popular Judi Dench as M, with the explanation that Dench is playing a different version of the character than she did previously.

The Guardian is calling for an Elba 007 set in the present time and a Hiddleston Bond set in the time of the original Ian Fleming novels. Unless the two Bonds suddenly develop super powers, like the two versions of DC Comics’ The Flash, the two Bonds can never meet because they’re in separate universes.

Still, some fans might be intrigued with watching alternate takes. So let’s look at the second reason.

–Eon has trouble enough producing one James Bond movie every three years. Do you really expect it to produce, in effect, two series at once?

Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss, has talked since at least 1999 about how exhausting it is to make Bond movies. Barbara Broccoli, the other co-boss, told the Los Angeles Times in November 2012 that she didn’t want to hurry future 007 installments.

“Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that,” Broccoli said. “But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with ‘Skyfall,’ we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures.”

Also, even with a three-year gap between Skyfall and 2015’s SPECTRE, the scripting process was chaotic. So imagine that situation squared as Eon produced twin Bond series. And that doesn’t take into consideration other ideas put forth by The Guardian, including a Netflix series (similar to the Netflix shows featuring other Marvel characters) featuring Moneypenny.

Finally, on top of all that, Broccoli and Wilson are interested in various non-Bond projects. In that respect, they’re more like Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman than they are the other co-found Albert R. Broccoli, who never did a non-Bond film after 1968.