The Bond 25 Conundrum
22nd January 2017
Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade discuss fiction becoming fact
By MI6 Staff
Cubby Broccoli always said that the James Bond films should be five minutes into the future. But what happens when the future overtakes fiction? The villains in recent films have tried to manipulate governments through mass media, use phony environmental policy to control third world countries, hack governments to influence elections, and abuse mass surveillance and digital snooping deployed under the guise of anti-terrorism. If these sound familiar, it's because reality has caught up with fiction. Although we have yet to see a billionaire try and light up the night sky with a satellite made of diamonds, most of the recent plot lines have, in some form or another, been echoed in real life.
Where does that leave Bond 25? With Brexit, Trump, Wikileaks, Putin, LulzSec, Rupert Murdoch, Snowden, North Korea, and the likes all being huge news cycles, where does the next villain's plot come from?
That conundrum is not lost on long-time 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who are wrapping up their work on adapting Len Deighton's novel 'SS-GB' for a BBC television five part mini-series. "The thing is," Purvis told the Telegraph, "I'm just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now." Purvis and Wade have worked on every Bond film from 'The World Is Not Enough' through 'SPECTRE'. "Each time, you've got to say something about Bond's place in the world, which is Britain's place in the world. But things are moving so quickly now, that becomes tricky. With people like Trump, the Bond villain has become a reality. So when they do another one, it will be interesting to see how they deal with the fact that the world has become a fantasy."
"They" in the past-tense. Although work on Bond 25 is on ice at the moment as EON Productions are busy wrapping up non-Bond passion project 'Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool' and Daniel Craig is performing in 'Othello' in New York City, it appears that Purvis and Wade are no longer involved in the creative process. It was rumoured last year that an early treatment by the pair for Bond 25 had been rejected.
The interview also confirms long-running stories that Purvis and Wade were parachuted in to re-write the third act of John Logan's wonky script for 'SPECTRE' at the behest of a very nervous Sony Pictures in the summer of 2014. They prepared several alternatives over a period of six months until the final script was locked just before filming started in December.
Purvis explained: "People were already in pre-production on the film and they wanted to see things all the time. And sometimes they couldn't decide what they wanted until they'd seen it written."
Case in point - the helicopter crash on Westminister Bridge at the end of the film. Construction on the set at Pinewood had already begun, so they had to find a way of using it as a set piece. The ending they wrote had Bond walking off the bridge back to the only life he knows at MI6 with M, Moneypenny and Tanner. They were over-ruled for a happier ending with Madeleine.
"So you write scene upon scene upon scene. You write so much. But how it finally got shaped was probably down to Sam Mendes, the director."
The pair originally planned to bow out with 'Skyfall' but were pulled back for one last mission to clean up 'SPECTRE'. Will they ever come back again? "Never say never," said Wade. "But for sure, Spectre felt like it closed off a certain way of doing Bond. And I think whatever happens next will be quite different."
'SS-GB' will broadcast on BBC One in the UK next month.