The screenwriting duo of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade - the team that’s written, co-written, or rewritten the last six James Bond films - have an interview in the Telegraph this week about their new miniseries, an adaptation of Len (The Ipcress File) Deighton’s SS-GB, a “what if?” alternate reality story detailing a Nazi-occupied Britain set in 1941. It’s a passion project for the writers, who also serve as executive producers.
But of course, as will be customary from now until the end of their lives, the pair were also asked about the Bond franchise. And it’s within that conversational albatross that the duo dropped a rather sobering bomb. It seems that current events (Brexit, the election of reality TV star Donald Trump to the office of President) have rendered these dudes unable to even THINK of how you could possibly make a Bond film in the current political landscape. That’s right: the screenwriting team behind the invisible car in Die Another Day are straight-up stumped when it comes to topping the ridiculousness of reality itself. Purvis elaborates:
“The thing is...I’m just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now. Each time, you’ve got to say something about Bond’s place in the world, which is Britain’s place in the world...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.”
Here are two seasoned writers, who’ve provided franchise highs and lows in their 16-plus years with the property, just at a total fucking loss when faced with the goddamn nightmare circus that is Planet Earth circa 2017. I think at least 65,844,954 of us can relate.
The rest of the Telegraph interview is worth looking at; some tidbits are dropped that won’t surprise Bond fans (Skyfall started as director Sam Mendes wanting a riff on Ian Fleming’s novel You Only Live Twice, in which M sends a down-and-out 007 on a mission that will either redeem him or kill him). Other bits are new to this writer: Purvis and Wade came aboard Spectre so late in the game that construction of the Westminster Bridge set with Climactic Helicopter Crashing Action™ was already underway, so their revisions needed to include that bit of action. It should be noted that the scene they devised ends with Bond choosing between MI6 at one end of the bridge, and Madeleine Swann on the other - and Purvis and Wade’s draft had 007 choosing duty over booty. They were overruled, and in their opinion that seems to signal an end to the current iteration of Bond: "...Spectre felt like it closed off a certain way of doing Bond. And I think whatever happens next will be quite different.” The interview also touches on Purvis and Wade’s upcoming collaboration with Nicolas Winding Refn, The Avenging Angel, which we’re stupid excited to see.
What do you guys think? We’re all sick to death of stories in which Bond goes rogue, but the world has made doing "a good old-fashioned Bond story" kind of tough. It’s getting increasingly difficult to root for a blunt instrument of an establishment seemingly hell-bent on plunging the world into darkness, and if the franchise is to continue (psst: it will), its creative team must figure out just what 007’s place is in this strange new world. Again.
(Thanks to The Spy Command for putting this interview on my radar.)