About that fuss over Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

The fuss about writer-actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge working on No Time to Die’s script isn’t going away. In part that’s because it’s getting hyped by various parties.

Case in point: The Sunday Times this week published an interview with star Daniel Craig. The actor said Waller-Brige is a great writer and there’s no reason she shouldn’t be on the project.

“Look, we’re having a conversation about Phoebe’s gender here, which is f****** ridiculous,” Craig told the newspaper.

The online entertainment site IndieWire decided to add some drama to the proceedings.

The IndieWire story ran with the headline, “Daniel Craig Shuts Down Reporter for Asking if Phoebe Waller-Bridge was a Bond Diversity Hire.”

A headline on Entertainment Tonight’s website boosted the hype a bit more. “Daniel Craig Claps Back At Reporter’s ‘F***ing Ridiculous’ Question About Whether Phoebe Waller-Bridge Was A Diversity Hire.”

That was an interesting take, especially given that the scribe for The Sunday Times didn’t feel shut down after Craig’s comments about Waller-Bridge.

It was then that I realised the more Craig shouts at you, the better things are going. He enjoys this sort of debate and, by virtue of the energetic rate he punches out words, nothing comes across as rude as it seems on the page. He is, instead, brusque and open. Just a really big fan of ironing things out and, like a friend in a pub during a fourth pint argument, any bad blood will be forgotten by the journey home.

Hence, we got a little drama where it perhaps really didn’t exist.

In a perfect world, Waller-Bridge’s gender would have nothing to do with her work on No Time to Die. But that’s not going to happen for a variety of reasons.

First, not that many women writers have worked on Bond films until now and only Johanna Harwood received a credit (Dr. No and From Russia With Love).

Second, Waller-Bridge is also a performer as well a scribe and has more visibility than most writers, female or male.

Finally, Waller-Bridge’s participation in No Time to Die may become a talking point for the movie.

The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye had a September story quoting an unidentified executive (described as being close to the production) as saying Waller-Bridge’s “great” contribution to the script was “the savior of Bond, really.”

If Bamigboye’s source really is “close to the production,” then expect to hear more of this sort of thing.

Meanwhile, the notion of Waller-Bridge as No Time to Die’s savior is amusing given how another entertainment website, The Playlist, earlier this year essentially hyped another No Time to Die screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, as saving the movie.

Who knew Bond needed so much saving?

For her part, Waller-Bridge hasn’t said much about No Time to Die. She said in a Deadline: Hollywood interview that Bond doesn’t have to change but the movies need to treat women better

In any case, expect more fuss related to Waller-Bridge between now and April when No Time to Die comes out.

Scott Z. Burns talks (a little) about No Time to Die

Scott Z. Burns

Scott Z. Burns, one of No Time to Die’s screenwriters, discussed the 25th James Bond film as part of a longer feature story in Variety.

“It was being able to throw in with a group of really talented people on a franchise that had a huge impact on me,” Burns told Variety.

“I mean, it’s a dream come true to have grown up in Minnesota watching James Bond movies, and then you look at your laptop and you’re writing the name Bond and then writing dialogue underneath it. If anybody would have told me that was ever going to happen, I would have never believed them.”

The writer received Variety’s 2019 Creative Impact in Screenwriting Award. The outlet’s article was a look at Burns’ screenwriting career.

Burns’ credits include scripts for The Bourne Ultimatum and Contagion. He also has a reputation as a top “script doctor” in Hollywood.

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.

Burns coming aboard initially created a buzz. It later got overshadowed when it came out that actress-writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge was also working on the movie. The original No Die to Die writers were Bond veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

Familiar face to return for Bond 25, Baz says

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

If you haven’t guessed, this is a spoiler. I even wrote the headline to not give it away. So scram if you don’t like spoilers.

SPACE….OK….

Christoph Waltz will again play Blofeld in Bond 25, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye said on Twitter.

Waltz played Blofeld in 2015’s SPECTRE.

Exclusive:Hello Mr Waltz… we’ve been expecting you.#ChristophWaltz is back as #Blofeld in ⁦@007 #Bond25 , shooting scenes at Pinewood studios,” Bamigboye wrote . “When a visitor spotted him , Waltz insisted , ‘You haven’t seen me.'”

Bamigboye had a number of scoops proven correct on Skyfall and SPECTRE. He has been relatively quiet on Bond 25.

Bamigboye also is not the first scribe to say Waltz was returning as Blofeld. Rodrigo Perez, editor of The Playlist, said as such in an April 25 tweet.

Perez was the first to report that Scott Z. Burns had been employed as a Bond 25 screenwriter. That was confirmed in the late April “reveal” event Eon Productions had in late April.

Waltz said in 2017 he wouldn’t be back as Blofeld. Then again, he originally said he wasn’t playing Blofeld in SPECTRE.

As I write this, Bamigboye only has his tweet out. The post will be updated if and when the Mail posts a story.

Here’s Bamigboye’s tweet:

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

UPDATE (8:20 p.m. New York time): Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist does a victory lap.

There was more and something I revealed on The Words Are Not Enough podcast ‏—a 007 podcast run by Playlister Griffin Schiller and pal Brody Serravalli—back in April: Christoph Waltz would be returning to the series and reprising his role as Blofeld. Tonight that’s been confirmed by trusted U.K. writer Baz Bamigboye.

Personally, I find it odd that Perez wrote about Waltz on Twitter and mentioned it on a podcast but never got around to doing a story. “Twitter scoop I shoulda posted as a story long ago, but life got in the way and I’m way too exhausted now,” he wrote in that April 25 tweet linked above.

Anyway, since we’re in spoiler territory, Perez adds this in tonight’s story.

” I’ve heard that Blofeld returns in a kind of “Silence Of The Lambs”-like appearance; Clarice Starling (in this case Lea Seydoux), visiting him in prison and trying to mine him for information about (Rami) Malek’s sadistic character.”

“I’ve heard” isn’t the strongest attribution. Heard according to people associated with the production? You can still provide an idea of how strong your information is without identifying your sources. But all the story provides is “I’ve heard.”

UPDATE II (10:15 p.m.): Bamigboye’s story was posted by the Daily Mail earlier in the evening.  Here’s an excerpt:

Waltz’s involvement as Blofeld has been kept top secret . . . until now. When visitors to the set spotted him, the Austrian-born star put a finger to his lips and in hushed tones told them: ‘You haven’t seen me. I’m not here.’

An executive on the film told me: ‘There’s unfinished business between Bond and Blofeld. If I told you any more, I’d have to kill you.’ That may not even have been a joke.

As noted above, it hasn’t been top secret “until now.” And once again, we get a variation on the “I can’t tell you or I’d have to kill you” cliche. Whatever.

The scribe did add one tidbit: “Extra post-production technicians and other experts have been drafted in to ensure that Bond 25 makes its scheduled April 3 release date next year.”

Bond 25 questions: Miscellaneous edition

Denis Villeneuve, one-time contender to direct Bond 25

We (apparently) are on the cusp of Bond 25 production getting underway. Before that happens, the blog has a couple of questions (for entertainment purposes only).

Did anybody think Dune would start production before Bond 25? 

You may recall that director Denis Villeneuve said in November 2017 he’d been asked to direct Bond 25 but took a pass because he wanted to direct a new film version of Dune.

Dune was seen as a difficult, ambitious project and one that might take a long time to get going — if it could get started at all.

However, it got underway last week. See stories from UPI and Screen Rant for details. The film’s cast includes the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin among others.

Dune has a Nov. 20, 2020 release date, or more than seven months after Bond 25’s April 8, 2020 release date.

Speaking of Bond 25, what’s the state of its script? 

Scott Z. Burns was brought in to rework Bond 25’s script, The Playlist reported last month. He was scheduled to work four weeks.

After roughly four weeks, Burns wrapped up work, the same outlet said last week.

Easy peasy, right?

Not so fast. The more recent Playlist story also talked about cast members such as Ralph Fiennes saying they haven’t seen any script pages.

The writer, Rodrigo Perez, said “the screenplay seems to be a work in progress, and isn’t complete yet enough for producers to circulate it to the cast, despite being just weeks away from filming.” (emphasis added)

“Seems” is a long way from “knowing.” Still, that passage didn’t go unnoticed among 007 fans.

I suppose it should be remembered that Eon Production has always been loosey goosey when it comes to Bond scripts. Two extreme cases:

–Richard Maibaum was still at work during filming of From Russia With Love in 1963. It was after the start of filming that he got the idea of showing Red Grant shadow Bond in Istanbul. That was a move that caused the story to come into focus, according to the documentary Inside From Russia With Love.

–Bruce Feirstein was reworking Tomorrow Never Dies script during filming. He wrote the first draft, others had a go at it and then Feirstein was brought back. Supposedly, Feirstein was writing scenes shortly before they would be filmed.

Scott Z. Burns completes Bond 25 work, The Playlist says

Bond 25 writing update.

Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns has completed his work on a Bond 25 rewrite, The Playlist said.

The story was part of a broader Bond 25 piece. But, toward the end, there was this passage:

More soon, but the latest I’ve heard is Scott Z. Burns handed in his draft and but then had to leave to direct an episode of “The Loudest Voice,” the Roger Aisles mini-series starring Russell Crowe as the former Fox mogul. What’s next for the spy film? I’m told there’s more work to be done still, but Burns is booked and had a tight deadline to begin with.

The article was penned by Rodrigo Perez, who broke the news in February that Burns had been hired to revamp the script. Perez’s original story cast the Burns rewrite as a major overhaul and not just tweaking dialogue.

What’s next? Nobody really knows. Perez’s new story is a slightly broader look at the film but doesn’t have a lot of hard details.

So far, multiple scribes — including Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Hodge and others — have had a turn on Bond 25.

About that killing James Bond off in Bond 25 thing

Danny Boyle, a sort of spectre over Bond 25.

Some time back, it seemed the memory of Danny Boyle, briefly the director of Bond 25, had dissipated. But, for some reason, that memory is hanging around like a spectre that won’t leave a haunted house.

The catalyst of this was a story in the Daily Star proclaiming that Boyle had gotten the boot because he wanted to kill off 007 in his version of Bond 25. The story got picked up and Bond fans were aghast about it.

The thing is, this wasn’t the first time — not by a long shot — that this notion had made the rounds. The Playlist’s Feb. 16 story about the hiring of Scott Z. Burns as a Bond “script doctor” also alluded to this idea. That piece said “there were rumors that Boyle wanted to kill Bond in the end…and this was a bone of contention. Having heard about the ending of the current, non-Burns version of the script (which I can’t reveal), I can say there’s likely some truth to that rumor. ”

Of course, the idea goes even further back. The Sun, in an August 2018 story, had it the other way around — that Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig wanted to kill Bond off but Boyle didn’t.

It makes your head hurt either way.

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 2018, Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge made a pitch that intrigued Eon.

Suddenly, the Purvis and Wade story seemed expendable.

Three months later in May 2018, Eon announced that Boyle was onboard and Hodge was writing the movie. Another three months later, Boyle and Hodge were gone.

Now, if Boyle wanted to kill Bond off, when did he present that idea? During the pitch? In a treatment by Hodge? When Hodge turned in his first draft? Still later? (“Oh by the way, we’ve got to kill Bond off.”)

If Broccoli and Craig wanted to kill Bond off, when did they present that notion to Boyle? When they were having their pitch meetings? After Hodge did his script or….well, you get the idea. Killing off James Bond would be a big deal. You would think it would have happened early in the discussions. If it was deal killer (which you’d think it would be) it’d be something to resolve right away. Oh well…..

About those Bond 25 script stories: The Rashomon Effect?

Can’t keep all these writing scenarios straight? Relax with a drink.

In the space of days, we’ve gotten two wildly different scenarios about the progress of Bond 25’s script.

The Playlist, in a Feb. 16 story, said noted script doctor Scott Z. Burns was doing an “overhaul” of Bond 25’s screenplay. “Burns, like Tony Gilroy and Christopher McQuarrie, is known as one of the top emergency rescue script doctors in Hollywood. If your script is hemorrhaging, he’s one of the first people you call.”

Later, on Feb. 27, Variety did an imitation of Kevin Bacon in Animal house and reassured everyone all is well.

Bond 25 director Cary “Fukunaga turned in his recent draft at the beginning of the year, and while reports surfaced that major rewrite work was done to the script, sources say no significant changes were made,” according to Variety, “and the producers and (star Daniel) Craig were excited with what Fukunaga had delivered.”

This might be an example of what’s known as The Rashomon Effect. That’s defined as “a phenomenon where different people have contradictory accounts of the same event.”

Rashomon was a 1950 movie directed by Akira Kurosawa where the characters have wildly different memories and impressions of the same story. The film was quite influential. In the 1960s, a plot on some television situation comedies in the U.S. was to depict the very different recollections of characters of the same occurrence.

Maybe, just maybe, The Playlist and Variety have different sources with different outlooks on the progress of the Bond 25 story. Both sources cited “sources” they didn’t identify.

The Playlist played up Burns’ record as a script doctor. “It’s an overhaul and I won’t be surprised if Burns is ultimately given first screenplay credit,” wrote The Playlist’s Rodrigo Perez.

Variety’s Justin Kroll specifically said Fukunaga had a turn writing the script himself. Fukunaga often writes his own scripts. There’s been plenty of fan speculation this would take place with Bond 25. Variety was the first place I saw that said that had happened. The Variety story doesn’t mention Burns by name.

Scripting efforts on Bond 25 began when 007 veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired in 2017. There was a detour last year when Danny Boyle was hired to direct the movie, bringing along his writer, John Hodge. Boyle and Hodge departed.

So now we’re where we’re at — where ever that is. Maybe it’s time for a drink to relax after trying to evaluate the different scenarios.