Reports surfaced last night: the 25th James Bond movie is being delayed. Pushing off from its intended Valentine’s Day 2020 release date, MGM will now open the movie two months later on Easter, April 8, 2020. ‘Bond 25’ is looking down the barrel of a gun: an impending April start date (originally March, recently pushed) and a script that no one is entirely happy with.
Sources close to the project tell us that Scott Z. Burns, the writer of “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Contagion,” Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming heavyweight A-list ensemble drama “The Laundromat” and Academy Award-winning producer of “An Inconvenient Truth,” has been hired to rewrite the ‘Bond 25’ script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. It’s an overhaul and I won’t be surprised if Burns is ultimately given first screenplay credit.
Burns, like Tony Gilroy and Christopher McQuarrie, is known as one of the top emergency rescue script doctors in Hollywood. If your script is hemorrhaging, he’s one of the first people you call. He’s done uncredited fix-it work on “Ocean’s 12,” “The Bourne Supremacy,” “Widows” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” to name just a couple, and top-shelf filmmakers and producers have him on speed dial.
He also wrote the unproduced “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” script for David Fincher, the unproduced version of “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” for Soderbergh, an early draft of “Dawn of the Planet of The Apes” and dozens and dozens of high profile scripts over the years (he was also hired to take over Martin Scorsese’s “Vinyl” as the series’ showrunner, but then HBO canceled season two before lift-off). When Ridley Scott was plotting a return to “Blade Runner” for what ultimately became “Blade Runner 2049,” Burns was one of the first writers he consulted.
Burns’ hiring almost never happened. Bond producers have been courting him for months knowing the script needed work, but the writer/director was busy with “The Report,” his latest feature-length directorial effort that premiered to much critical acclaim at this past Sundance in January and was bought by Amazon Studios for nearly $15 million (our review). Now that Sundance is over, “The Report” is sold, likely eyeing a fall awards bow, and Burns is sitting pretty. The filmmaker is now in London and will be spending at least 4 weeks rewriting the ‘Bond 25’ script for what I’m told is a king’s ransom sum. Burns’ reputation precedes him; producers have approached him in the past to punch up ‘Bond’ scripts, but the timing has never worked out.
“True Detective” director Cary Joji Fukunaga stepped in to film the Daniel Craig-starring 007 movie after Danny Boyle decided to leave the project just weeks before it was scheduled to begin. Boyle reportedly clashed with Daniel Craig, there were rumors that Boyle wanted to kill Bond in the end (Craig is leaving after this) and this was a bone of contention. Having heard about the ending of the current, non-Burns version of the script (which I can’t reveal), I can say there’s likely some truth to that rumor. It was previously reported that Paul Haggis did rewrite work following Boyle’s exit, but based on my intel, it doesn’t sound like it’s being used.
Cast returning for the Eon production include Ralph Fiennes, Lea Seydoux, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw. 2012’s “Skyfall” remains the highest-grossing Bond movie with $304 million domestically, $1.1 billion worldwide, and it’s a good bet that MGM would like to come close to that mark for Craig’s final outing. Universal is distributing the movie overseas, and MGM/Annapurna are handling it stateside via the new United Artists label.
A similar situation happened with “Spectre,” and Sony Leaks revealed a lot of last-minute writing was done to salvage that movie. Will ‘Bond 25’ make its April start date? Burns is a surgeon and a pro, but the production is working against the clock.