MI6 looks back twenty years at Lee Goldberg's
interview with the "A View To A Kill" screenwriters
Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson in 1985
Interview - Richard Maibaum & Michael G.
Wilson by Lee Goldberg
23rd May 2005
Computer genius Max Zorin,
the psychopathic progeny of Nazi genetic experimentation, has
a nasty scheme -- he'd like to trigger an earthquake that will
plunge California, and its "Silicon Valley," into the
sea. A monopoly on the world's microchip market will be his and,
with it, a means to achieve global tyranny.
It's an ingenious, evil scheme that could only be hatched by
a twisted, corrupt mind .. or born in the interaction between
two inspired screenwriters like Richard Maibaum and Michael G.
Wilson. "We work together like two collaborators always work,"
Maibaum says. "We argue a lot."
Maibaum got his start writing stage plays before migrating west
to Hollywood, where he wrote several Alan Ladd films, including
The Great Gatsby and Captain Carey.
When Ladd was signed for three films by producer Albert R. Broccoli,
Maibaum was asked to write them. When Broccoli acquired the rights
to Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, Maibaum was hired to do the
Since then, he's written 11 James Bond adventures, including
For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy
with Wilson, Broccoli's stepson.
For Maibaum, writing Bond films is "
a case of Walter Mitty. I'm law-abiding and non-violent.
My great kick comes from feeling that I'm a pro, that I
know my job, and that I have enough experience that I can
write a solid screenplay."
"Michael is very receptive and is the only man I've
actually worked with on the Bonds," Maibaum says. "Other
writers have come on before or after me, but never with
me until Michael. He's very receptive, he has lots of ideas
and I think we like each other, which always helps."
"Dick is very experienced in this field, he's written
many Bond films over the years," Wilson says. "I
find him a great collaborator. The actual writing we do
separately, although we work together on revising the material.
Sometimes he will lead off and write the first draft and
I'll rewrite behind him or it's the other way around."
Wilson, who studied to be an electrical engineer, left
the legal profession to join the Bond team as assistant
producer on Spy Who Loved
Me. He was upped to executive producer of Moonraker.
Both Maibaum and Wilson agree the hardest part of a Bond screenplay
is devising the all-important, villainous scheme. They are limited
by credibility -- and the evil dreams of past Bond baddies.
For instance, Auric Goldfinger
tried to blow up Fort Knox with an atom bomb, thereby destabilizing
the economy and driving up the value of his own gold. Ernst
Stavro Blofeld stole two nuclear warheads and held the world
ransom. Later, he threatened the world with a diamond laser satellite.
Karl Stromberg envisioned
an underwater dynasty of his own and nearly sparked global warfare
to make it come true. Hugo Drax
had similar dreams -- only his empire would be in space.
Maibaum and Wilson have to top the Bond films of yesteryear every
time they sit at the typewriter to create their a new caper. "That's
what drives us up the wall every time," Maibaum says. "It
must be new and contemporary. It can't be small, it has to be
of world-shattering proportions. It also must have a kind of underlying,
sardonic humor to it."
The Ian Fleming tales aren't
much help anymore. The producers depleted their supply of Bond
novels with For Your Eyes Only
and have been using Fleming's short-stories as starting points
ever since. "For all practical purposes, we've been out of
material for the last five films," Wilson says. "We
still bring in occasional Fleming elements from the books that
haven't yet been used in the films. But that's not much help when
you get down to basic plotting."
Once Maibaum and Wilson, along with director John Glen and producer
Broccoli, decided on devastating the Silicon Valley, they had
to come up with a way to do it. Originally, they thought about
"having Zorin manipulate
Haley's Comet so it comes crashing down," Maibaum says, but
opted instead for a more realistic approach.
"The Silicon Valley lies between the Hayward and San Andreas
faults," Maibaum says. "Zorin
decides to create an earthquake that will send the Silicon Valley
into the Pacific." Wilson did some geological research and,
mixing fiction with fact, worked with Maibaum to give Zorin the
means to give California to the fishes.
"Our plots tend to be fairly realistic. We will never be
believable, though. This is a fantasy film. We don't try to be
realistic. But, within the terms of our genre, the reality that
we deal in, we like them to be believable," Wilson says.
"Zorin's plot is something that could almost happen."
Or, as Maibaum says, "like all Bonds, this is documented
fantasy." A View to A Kill,
like many of the Bond films before it, revolves around Bond's
encounters with a megalomaniac bad guy. The film is replete with
the classic Bond motifs -- the villain?s kinky and lethal henchman,
the sacrifice of 007's assistant, the arctic and underwater scenes,
the villain?s super base, and, of course, the future of the world
lying in the balance. The similarities are not lost on Maibaum
and Wilson. "The villains are megalomaniacs but you want
characters that are intriguing and will work within the genre
of a Bond picture," Wilson says. "We have to be what
"We do the same thing but change it enough so the audience
doesn't object. I think it amuses the audiences," Maibaum
says. "For example, there's a scene I like with Zorin
when he presents his caper to the other microchip producers in
his blimp. One of the men objects and is, ah, taken care of. It's
like a scene in Goldfinger, It
has a family resemblance yet it's altogether different."
The audiences don't seem to mind. Each Bond film is a bigger success
than the one that preceded it.
"Well, you know, after fourteen, what can I say. We are
in the same position as the members of the US House of Representatives,
every two years they come up fro re- election," Wilson says.
"Every two years we come out with a new Bond film. People
go to the box-office and vote. We are either voted back in or
we are not." The Bond production team hasn't let success
lull them into complacency. Bond has adapted to the times -- and
the competition posed by heroic gents like Indiana Jones and Superman.
"Bond has changed with the times," Wilson says. "There
is more heart to him, and his attitude toward women is different.
In Spy Who Loved Me, he even
met a woman who could rival him for the first time. In For
Your Eyes Only, we had to convince Roger
Moore to be more ruthless than he, as an actor, feels comfortable
They have made a conscious effort in A
View to a Kill, and other Bond films in recent years, to downplay
the fantasy elements and gadgetry in favor of emphasizing Bond's
wiles. "You try to go different ways and I think we went
in that direction as far as we could with Moonraker,"
Wilson says. "The Bonds are more down-to-earth now. I think
there is a consensus now to be less fantasy oriented."
"I don't like gadgets. We've seen too many. I think those
are always a cheat," he continues. "Usually, you set
up a gadget that can only be used in a very unique situation that
wouldn't apply generally. I like it best when you set up a situation
that the gadget is perfect for and Bond really needs it. Just
as he takes it out of his pocket it's knocked from his hand and
plummets nine stories down to the ground."
"We don't want to make a non-action film, but there are
different ways to be exciting," he adds. "We've kept
gadgets to a minimum and put Bond in situations where he has to
use his own resources to survive."
As an example, Maibaum refers
to a scene in A View to a
Kill where Bond is knocked unconscious and put into
a car which is dropped into a lake. He awakens shortly after
going underwater but can't swim away -- or the baddies standing
on the shore watching his apparent demise will really kill
"In Thunderball we
gave Bond a little gadget that gave him five minutes of
air," Maibaum recalls. "This time he uses what's
available. He breathes the air from one of the tires."
While Bond's methods have changed, the amazing stunts the
007 films are famous for are still as abundant and wild
as ever. Bond's faces certain death many times in A
View to a Kill -- he faces it in a fight to the death
on the Golden Gate Bridge's towering spires, racing down
the streets of San Francisco in a stolen fire truck, leaping
ice-flows in the frozen tundra, and braving raging sea water
in abandoned mines deep in California's fragile crust.
"We do try for the spectacular, and I think that's part
of what people look for in the Bond films. I don't think a really,
well done, honest-to-goodness stunt is ever bad," Wilson
says. "We only have two or three that are really, really
breath-taking. But it's "We do try for the spectacular, and
I think that's part of what people look for in the Bond films.
I don't think a really, well done, honest-to-goodness stunt is
Wilson says. "We only have two or three that are really,
really breath-taking. But it's one thing to think the stunts up
and another to think how to do them. I won't write anything unless
I've already figured out how it an be done safely and not be a
Above: Lee Goldberg
"Sometimes we've had stunts rattling
in the back of our minds that we never got around to doing
because they weren't suitable to the plot," Wilson
says. "The Eiffel Tower stunt in this film is a good
example. It was originally in an early Moonraker script."
Bond meets a contact on the Eiffel Tower. Before the man
can talk, he's killed by an assassin who makes her escape
by parachuting off the tower. A breathless chase ensues
through the streets and waterways of Paris.
"I think John Glen, who also did For
Your Eyes Only and Octopussy,
is the best action adventure director in the world today,"
"He always has something startling, new and unexpected
in his chases and stunts. He keeps up a frantic pace. He
has a fertile imagination for stunts and has the ideas and
the ability to photograph them."
James Bond is the most successful continuing hero in motion picture
history. There have been many imitations -- from Matt Helm to
Flint to a rival 007, yet the James Bond saga endures. But after
two decades and 14 films, how much longer can James Bond go on?
"There's no reason the Bonds can't go on forever," Maibaum
says. "Some characters are immortal -- Robin Hood, The Three
Musketeers, Sherlock Holmes . . . and now James Bond."
MI6 "A View to a Kill"
Interview republished courtesy of Lee Goldberg,
images courtesy of Amazon associates and MovieMarket.co.uk