A typist’s error changed the title from Tomorrow Never Lies to Tomorrow Never Dies; the producers and director didn’t speak; writers were hired and fired; Pierce Brosnan was unhappy; Teri Hatcher had morning sickness; George Lucas co-opted Eon’s new studio; government officials in Beijing tried to scuttle the production at the last minute. One thing was clear, there was no way “Bond 18” would make its December 1997 release date.
But just how true were the “troubles” reported from the set of Tomorrow Never Dies? While no one denies it wasn’t a tight production schedule with some unforeseen events (like a facial injury to Pierce Brosnan, a scar of which still shows today), it turns out much of what was reported in the press was greatly exaggerated and/or ill-informed (imagine that).
Tomorrow Never Dies did meet its December release, opening on the same day as Titanic in the U.S. and came within a few million of besting that film’s opening weekend. (Ironically, Titanic was also savaged in the press all year long as being a troubled production). Eon and Spottiswoode now admit to overdoing it with the action, but most fans agree the first hour of the film is excellent, with Vic Armstrong’s “backseat driver” parking garage sequence perhaps the best action sequence of the entire Brosnan era. There are even some fans who consider it Brosnan’s best film.
So with the film now in retrospect, and with the prospect of another production year ahead of us, CBn offers some choice TND press stories from November 1996 to summer 1997. Perhaps this will prepare us for what the media has in store for us when cameras start rolling on Casino Royale. Because, remember, no matter what you read about casting troubles or location conflicts or unsatisfactory scripts, in the end, James Bond will return.
“Sleaze” for 11/4/96 (online gossip website)
Paranoid producers on the eighteenth JAMES BOND movie have become stuck in their own web of intrigue. The handful of film executives have been so wrapped up in keeping the latest spy story top secret from the world’s media, they have apparently forgotten to work on the film. And with just two months to go until the start of shooting – the latest 007 installment is untitled, without a leading lady or villain, and the script is still in the laboratory. So, panicking producers jetted in to British-based LEAVESDEN STUDIOS this week for crisis talks. Bond makers EON PRODUCTIONS admit they have left it rather late to scout for co-stars to appear alongside the film’s only confirmed actor PIERCE BROSNAN. Eon spokeswoman AMANDA SCHOFIELD reveals, “It is all a bit hectic at the moment. Producers are dashing in from America and trying to get things organized.” Brosnan, who starred as the suave agent in the last box office bond blockbuster, is waiting with bated breath for the script from GOLDENEYE writer BRUCE FIRSTEIN. But sources say Brosnan is fuming he is still in the dark on who he will be working with. An aide says, “Producers seem more concerned about shrouding the movie in complete secrecy rather than working on it – it must seem all very amateur for someone like Pierce.” Meanwhile, newspaper reports that 1960s icon TERENCE STAMP was to take on the role of the bad guy in the film and that the movie was to be titled AVATAR were described as “news to us” by sources at Eon. Hmmm?
The following article from Weekly Variety offered the best and most accurate information on the early troubles of Tomorrow Never Dies, especially in regards to securing studio space (the article has been edited for space).
Latest Bond Production Shaken, Stirred
From Weekly Variety (Dec. 8-15, ’96)
By Rex Weiner and Adam Dawtrey
James Bond is being shaken, if not stirred, as preparations for the 18th installment of the film franchise inch forward without a start date, without firm locations, without completed sets and without a final script.
The suave British secret agent regularly saves the world from catastrophe, but his mission has taken on an added importance since it could determine the fate of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Inc., the struggling studio that makes the Bond films.
Resuscitating Bond has been a top priority at MGM the past 6 years. Getting “Bond 18” off the ground is especially fraught with urgency now, as studio management strives to prove itself under the new ownership of Kirk Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corp. and Australia’s Seven Network.
But after the death of Bond producer Albert (Cubby) Broccoli in June, the urgent question is whether the franchise’s revival was a fluke or a repeatable phenomenon.
Brosnan is aboard to reprise his starring role, but GoldenEye director Martin Campbell opted not to return and is now making Zorro. Anthony Hopkins was tentatively set to play a villain, but dropped out. Meanwhile, several locations have fallen through and the script process has been tortuous.
Neither United Artists production executive Jeff Kleeman nor Eon Productions, now headed by Broccoli’s daughter Barbara and his stepson Michael Wilson, would comment. Sources close to the project insist that Bond 18 is on track to begin in the first quarter of 1997, as previously announced.
Cliffhanger scribe Michael France was penning GoldenEye in May 1993, while two other writers were assigned to work separately on scripts for future sequels. It was routine, said Bond production veterans, for two or three scripts to be in the works in order to crank out a Bond every 2 years.
“When you get up to 17 in one series,” longtime Danjaq spokesman Charles Juroe said at the time, “you do things differently. You don’t wait until 17 is a success to say, ‘Oh, we’d better do another one.’ This 2-year cycle does not give Danjaq the luxury to wait another 10 or 11 months down the line to get started on the next one. They’ve learned to be ahead of the game. When United Artists says they’re ready to do another one, they’re expected to have one ready.”
That principle, along with those scripts, appears to have fallen by the wayside. And Bond has encountered several setbacks, such as losing a studio in which to shoot.
Eon was set to film Bond 18 at Leavesden, the abandoned Rolls-Royce factory north of London where Eon crews hammered together sound stages for GoldenEye. Leavesden was for sale and the production company had an option to buy. But before it could move, the 1 million-square-foot-property was sold to Third Millennium, a Malaysian company.
Still, Eon and UA were in talks with Leavesden about Bond 18, but were again beaten to the punch, this time by George Lucas, who plunked down a deposit and secured the facility for the next Star Wars installment.
Leavesden Development Corp. executive Mark Pinkstone said discussions continued with Eon about using 400,000 square feet still available. When it became clear the Bond shoot would overlap with Leavesden’s plans to redevelop that part of the site as an entertainment complex, Leavesden offered to delay that project if Eon would compensate it. Talks broke down.
Eon now is improvising soundstages at another derelict industrial site not far from Leavesden, dubbed Frogmore Studios. Time also has been secured at the Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage, the large space at Pinewood Studios that was booked but never used for GoldenEye, due to scheduling problems.
Although no deal had ever been struck for Hopkins to star, the actor expressed an interest in playing a Bond arch-nemesis when the revival got under way in 1993. His enthusiasm was still strong, sources said, on the basis of the original script handed in this summer by GoldenEye co-scribe Bruce Feirstein and approved by Calley. But in the past few weeks, Hopkins opted instead for a role in Zorro.
That film is shooting in January in Mexico under Campbell, whose deft execution of the patented Bond formula of action plus humor plus girls was well-received. The fact that he has not returned for a second go has had some industryites questioning why Bond’s producers failed to nail him down.
It appears the decision was Campbell’s. “Martin just didn’t want to do 2 Bond films in a row,” says his agent, Martha Luttrell, at International Creative Management.
Eon and UA agreed to bring Roger Spottiswoode aboard in mid-September. The director has a few unsuccessful action pictures under his belt, including Under Fire and Air America, and one successful comedy, Turner and Hooch. He was widely praised for directing And the Band Played On , the AIDS drama for HBO.
After a month on the job, Spottiswoode convinced Eon and UA to fly seven Hollywood screenwriters to London for a weekend brainstorming session. “I would describe it as fun,” said Robert Collector, one of the invited scribes put up at London’s pricey Athenaeum Hotel.
“No one was paid,” Collector said, “and it was made clear to everyone that no writing was to be done. It was a free weekend in London.”
The weekend paid off for one of the writers. A close friend of Spottiswoode’s, Nicholas Meyer (who penned The Seven Percent Solution and directed the second and sixth Star Trek pictures), was hired to perform rewrite chores. With original scribe Feirstein still slated to do a final polish, Spottiswoode’s brainstorming session did not bring the production any closer to a start date.
Meanwhile, Spottiswoode has been spotted in Vietnam and other exotic locales in search of sites for Bond’s exploits. Designers at Frogmore are sketching sets. And Hollywood talent agents report that Bond’s casting directors are making offers to actors with availability in February or March.
Assuming 007 is possessed of his usual luck, Bond 18 stands a decent chance of keeping the franchise on its year on-year off schedule by making it to the screen for Christmas. But with lean days ahead at the box office, MGM may be wishing that James Bond arrives sooner than Santa.
This New York Daily News story is a bit sensational in its implication of a Chinese “conspiracy”, but the essence of the story is true; Eon lost its Vietnam location at the last minute. Note the leaking of the title Tomorrow Never Dies.
China Resists Western Efforts to Bond
From New York Daily News (March 10, ’97)
Rush and Molloy column
Did Chinese operatives sabotage James Bond’s latest Far East mission? In a plot twist worthy of Ian Fleming, Vietnamese officials have blocked the next 007 movie from shooting in their country – supposedly because the script offends friends in Beijing.
For 2 months now, producers of the 18th Bond thriller have been laying the groundwork for what was to be Hollywood’s first major invasion of Vietnam since American troops pulled out in 1973. But last week, word came from Hanoi that the visa for the MGM picture had been rescinded.
“The Chinese put pressure on the Vietnamese to kick them out,” claims one source who believes Beijing got wind of the new Bond storyline. It deals with corrupt Chinese generals who do the bidding of a Rupert Murdoch-like media tycoon.
In real life, it happens that Murdoch and the Chinese government have a major satellite deal. This wouldn’t be the first time China has frowned upon Tinseltown entertainment. Disney execs are already concerned that the company’s long-term interests there could be jeopardized by Martin Scorsese’s movie about the Dalai Lama.
Bond spokesman Gordon Arnell insisted the Vietnamese had no problem with the 007 script, but hadn’t bargained on the crew and equipment needed for the movie’s pyrotechnics. “They just found us a bit too ambitious for what’s still a rather sketchy infrastructure,” said Arnell.
An official with the Vietnamese culture ministry said permission was denied for “many complicated reasons.”
Bond location scouts have since found sets in Thailand. Due to get rolling in April, the film stars Pierce Brosnan as Bond and Jonathon Pryce as the Murdochian mogul who threatens to blow up Hong Kong. Roger Spottiswoode is directing the closely guarded script, first drafted by Bruce Feirstein. The new Bond girl will be Michelle Yeoh, Hong Kong’s top “chop socky” star.
The title of the movie is due to be announced today. Among the rumored names: “Shamelady,” “Avatar,” “Shatterhand,” “Aquator,” and “Zero Windchill.” We hear the most likely is “Tomorrow Never Dies.” We’ll see.
The following article in the Daily Mail is probably 100% nonsense. Nevertheless, the tabloid press was filled with stories like this during the entire production of Tomorrow Never Dies.
New Bond Shaken And Badly Stirred
From Daily Mail [London] (April 25, 1997)
by Baz Bamigboye
Tensions are mounting on the set of the new Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. Several of the leading cast members are unhappy with their roles.
Film villain Jonathan Pryce has clashed with the film’s director Roger Spottiswoode, claiming that his character lacks depth and bears no resemblance to the role as it was first described to him.
His screen wife Teri Hatcher, star of TV’s Superman, is just as livid. Having flown in this week from the U.S., she has discovered that her part has been reduced to 3 small scenes.
As a result, she has complained vigourously that it was not the role she had signed on the perform. For once, these are not just the whinings of temperamental movie stars. They are valid criticisms of a picture that at the moment, is said not to be up to scratch.
New script writers have been hired urgently to beef up and re-write several scenes featuring Pryce, Hatcher and Pierce Brosnan, who is making his second outing as 007.
Mr. Brosnan has observed to friends that, so far, filming has been a total shambles and certainly not as enjoyable as GoldenEye, his first outing as 007, which grossed more than any of the previous Bond movies.
Until a few days ago, the production was shooting in Germany and there were several bitter and vocal run-ins between the actors and the production team.
Another example of a highly questionable “report” of on-set tensions, this time from America.
No Bonding On This 007 Flick
New York Daily News
Rush and Molloy column (May 23, 1997)
The evil forces at S.P.E.C.T.R.E. couldn’t concoct any more trouble than what is reportedly consuming the production of the new James Bond movie. Well-placed 007 operatives say that Tomorrow Never Dies is over its projected $85 million budget and that its director, stars, producers and writer are all at odds with each other.
One L.A. source who’s getting intelligence from the flick’s Thailand set claims that actors Pierce Brosnan and Jonathan Pryce find director Roger Spottiswoode “indecisive.”
“The cast shows up at 6:30 a.m. and Spottiswoode doesn’t put them to work till 2:30 p.m.,” charges the source.
A Spottiswoode defender argues, “It doesn’t make a difference when he starts, the fact is the film is ahead of schedule.”
But even a friend of the director admits United Artists is not happy that the film is over budget, possibly pushing $100 million. The blame for that, according to the friend, goes to producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, “who haven’t been able to contain the cost” of the pyrotechnic extravaganza, which is shooting in five countries.
The producers have also reportedly clashed with Spottiswoode over the casting of TV star Teri Hatcher, who was favored by UA, and the rehiring of original screenwriter Bruce Fierstein. Even though the producers have asked Fierstein to do last-minute script changes, Spottiswoode reportedly is refusing to talk with him.
“Roger feels he has a script already,” says a source, who corroborates that the producers “aren’t on the same wavelength as the director.”
United Artists, which is releasing the picture, had no comment on any of this. One UA exec did say, “From what we’ve seen of the footage so far, it looks great.”
At the end of he day, UA had the final word and delivered the film to theaters on time as promised.
BOND WILL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
By Michael Williams
AMSTERDAM (Variety) – MGM is denying rumors that the latest installment of its James Bond franchise, Tomorrow Never Dies, won’t be ready for its December release.
Word on the street had suggested that the mega-buck (around $100 million) picture might not be ready for its holiday slot, particularly if weather considerations during shooting in Asia forced delays.
However studio executives say the Pierce Brosnan starrer will be in the hands of British cinema owners in time for its Dec. 12 world premiere, before launching in most of the rest of Europe and the U.S. one week later.
“This film will be ready, and anyone who says it won’t is either wrong or showing considerable bad faith,” said Guy Laurence, MGM’s executive vice-president of international distribution and marketing. He said getting prints to theaters will be “tight but manageable.”