An open letter to Peter Morgan
News broke last week that ‘Frost/Nixon’ and ‘The Queen’ writer Peter Morgan is to join regulars Robert Wade and Neal Purvis in scripting the next James Bond movie. With the damp squib of ‘Quantum of Solace’ still fresh in his mind, Tom Huddleston decided to pen an open letter to Morgan laying out a few friendly dos and don’ts...
While we at Time Out are thrilled that you, one of our country’s most talented and inquiring screenwriters, have accepted the challenge of penning the next James Bond movie, there are a few salient points we feel you might like to keep in mind while writing what will inevitably become one of 2011’s most important and, we hope, enjoyable movies. We trust you accept our advice in the friendly spirit with which it’s intended…
Please give the characters room to breathe
Perhaps the greatest stride writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and erstwhile colleague Paul Haggis made with ‘Casino Royale’ was giving Bond and his companions a real sense of life, depth and emotional conflict. We’re used to Bond the wisecracking automaton, but with an actor like Daniel Craig in the role this approach is a terrible waste. ‘Quantum of Solace’ reduced Bond to little more than grunts and sneers – a smart thug who faces off against a loquacious but rather pathetic villain. You’ve already proved your worth as a master of verbal sparring in your previous scripts, so we’re sure you’ll have the murderous banter down pat. The challenge will be to make us care about Bond again.
Please respect your audience
There’s no doubt that the best of Bond is revealed when there’s a strong storyline packed with twists, switchbacks and double crosses: just think of Sean Bean’s deception in ‘Goldeneye’, or Vesper’s betrayal in ‘Casino’. As long as your action sequences are gripping and your characters convincingly motivated, there’s no crime in keeping the viewer guessing.
Please don’t waste your Bond girls
Another of the great pleasures offered by ‘Casino Royale’ was the chance to see Bond confronted by female characters who could hold their own: not just Eva Green’s scheming Vesper, but Judi Dench’s fractious, commanding M. Dench was the best thing in ‘Quantum’, but she was let down by Olga Kurylenko’s fiery but underused Camille. It’s a lesson the makers of Bond have been long in learning: these women can be more than just eye-candy. A strong female lead doesn’t just centre the film, she allows writers and audiences a chance to get to the core of Bond himself.
Please don’t remake the Bourne series
Both ‘Casino’ and ‘Quantum’ were clearly inspired by the downbeat realism of the Bourne trilogy, but while the former balanced gritty action sequences with a wry streak of self-deprecating humour, the writers and director of ‘Quantum’ seemed content with an endless parade of repetitive shakycam punch-ups in grimy locales. So, while action is clearly the lifeblood of the series, remember that Bond always benefits from a moment of levity amid the mayhem.
Please show us something we haven’t seen before
It’s hard to think of anywhere Bond hasn’t been (Antarctica? Everest? Leamington Spa?), but one of ‘Quantum’ director Marc Forster’s better accomplishments was picking some stunning international locations, from the seedy streets of Panama and the barren Atacama Desert in Chile to the grandiose opera house at Lake Constance in Austria. While the old Bonds were increasingly confined to traipsing between MI6 and Moscow battling the same faceless, jabbering Russkies, the global nature of the new films’ mysterious conspiracy means that Bond can now head just about anywhere, and beat up just about anyone.
Finally, we await the Bond producers’ choice of director with bated breath. Some interesting names have been rumoured, though we understand Danny Boyle has officially denied all knowledge and Christopher Nolan is busy with all that Batman business. But the Bond films have never been about the big-name directors; in fact, with names like Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl and Paul Haggis, you could say it’s one of the few major film series where the choice of writer actually matters more than the choice of director. Which is where you come in, Mr Morgan.
Yours in anticipation,
Author: Tom Huddleston
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