STILL SHAKEN, BUT STIRRED, BY BOND
The ink may be drying on their seventh Bond screenplay, but writers Robert Wade and Neal Purvis are still pinching themselves. Robert explains why.
I am often asked how I came to be involved with the James Bond films, so much so that I have considered getting a T-shirt printed with the answer on it. The problem is the lettering would have to be so small that no-one would be able to read it…
Suffice to say that somehow, having languished in obscurity for many years, my writing partner Neal Purvis and I came to the attention of producers Barbara Broccoli and her brother Michael G Wilson, and they asked us to their incredibly intimidating office on Piccadilly.
Now, normally important people don’t actually sit down with unimportant people – they have a buffer to stop them getting through. But that is where Barbara and Michael are different, and I’m sure it’s part of the secret of their success; they’ll talk with anyone who cares about the same thing they do. Namely, making the next Bond film better than the last.
We thought it must just be some clerical error, so with no expectation of actually getting the job, we weren’t afraid to throw out some silly but amusing ideas – but eventually after jumping a few more hoops with the studio (MGM,) we suddenly found ourselves in the hot seat. They must have liked us.
It was very daunting to be entrusted with shepherding through the next chapter of a character we’d grown up in awe of. We were fans, just like any other young British men our age, and had each read most of the Ian Fleming novels as a rite of passage to manhood but had never really thought about James Bond; he was just there as you grew up.
And as we grappled with it, we became aware of how tricky a bill it is to deliver on – you have to create something that feels new (when there have been so many already made – not to mention all the imitators), yet also feels the same, not straying too far from what’s gone before. A huge creative challenge, even if it is merely an entertainment.
We took it seriously, tried to imagine this extraordinary character as if he was real. The essential elements for us were:
• Wherever he goes, Bond has impact. He is a man with a shadow over him.
• If he walked into the room you were in, it would lower the temperature.
• He’s not gloomy, but the exposure to death and betrayal has worn away any innocence.
• His appetite for the good things is borne out of knowing how short life can be – and leads to an almost oppressive intensity. In fact, he would tire you out very quickly.
But because in the movies and books we’re with Bond, we don’t notice it. We’re riding along beside him, with the swoop that only James Bond has. There is no glance back to the damage he leaves behind…
It was not always easy to put this into practice, but when the opportunity came to adapt Ian Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale, it allowed us to properly approach the character in line with that view. And Daniel Craig was perfect to step into those slightly darker shoes.
What is amazing to us is that we are now doing our seventh James Bond film. It was never our plan (and how could it even be a hope?) to become so involved in so many international misadventures…
But the next one is coming – to a Chichester Cinema at New Park near you.
Neal Purvis and Robert Wade