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  1. Tom Mankiewicz On Writing James Bond Films

    James Bond fans best know Tom Mankiewicz as the screenwriter who worked on Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun screenplays… but what about The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker?

    In a recent interview online at Superman Cinema, Mankiewicz discussed getting the job, working on the films and much more. Presented are snippets from the interview:

    How did you get involved with the Bond series?

    Mankiewicz: ‘…United Artist was having dinner with Cubby Broccoli in New York. Cubby said, “Here’s the deal: I need a total rewrite on Diamonds Are Forever. I need an American writer and I want him to be young. Most of the picture takes place in Vegas. The Brits don’t write people in Vegas well, but I need someone who can write in the British idiom and it’s impossible. David Picker said, “I was at a musical two nights ago, Georgy Girl, all the characters are British and I thought the book was really terrific. It was written by a Mankiewicz–I don’t know remember his first name but he’s got to be a young Mankiewicz because I know all the older ones. So, he’s American and he wrote all these British people just great.”‘

    ‘So I went up to see Cubby Broccoli and they had such confidence in me that they signed me up on a two week guarantee. Two weeks to turn in the first 30 pages, and the greatest phone call I ever got in my life was from Cubby, “Keep going.”‘

    Was it a conscious decision to make Diamonds Are Forever more comedic?

    Mankiewicz: ‘Yes it was and Sean liked it that way too. I became a big hero on the Bonds because they sent the first 60 pages when I had done the first half–Sean had said that I was not going to do it unless he got a script he liked and they had John Gavin waiting in the wings, who was going to play Bond if they couldn’t get Sean back–he was an American.’

    In the original script it had a different ending, Tiffany Case being tied to the bed whilst Wint and Kidd.

    Mankiewicz: ‘Yes, we decided that it was too S and M. It was very weird thing because in those days, and it still holds true, largely, the Brits cared a great deal about violence in terms of your ratings. I had originally had Mr Wint and Mr Kidd put a scorpion down the mouth and the Brits said, “The kids will not be allowed to see that.” Although it’s fine with the Americans. Then you saw Lana Wood’s breasts for about a quarter of a second and the Americans said, No, no, no and of course that’s fine with the Brits cos they are more healthier about that, but the tying her to the bed got a little hot for the censors.’

    For Live And Let Die, you changed a lot of things…?

    Mankiewicz: ‘John Barry, who everybody loved and came back later on to the series, was deemed inappropriate because his themes were so connected to Sean, I mean everybody would see Sean in the John Barry themes.’

    ‘And Paul McCartney, uh, here’s a good story: Paul McCartney writes Live And Let Die. Cubby says to me, “Boy didn’t we get taken, listen to this,” And plays Live And Let Die, which he hates, and I said to him, “Cubby, this is terrific.” Jerry Moss of EMI records was in London at the time; Cubby loved him, and I said, “Let Jerry have a listen to this.” Jerry listened to it and he said, “Cubby, I can guarantee you that this record will go platinum and it will become the number one song in the world. If you don’t like it, I’ll be happy to give you one million dollars for your rights to the song right now.” Cubby just stared. Starting the next day, Cubby said, “We have this great song by Paul.”‘

    Then you did The Man With The Golden Gun

    Mankiewicz: ‘I was not that happy with it, and some people really like it, I don’t like it so much. I left that picture half way through. To be frank, I and Guy started snapping each other; we became great friends again later. Guy was responsible for bringing me back on Live And Let Die. We went on location scouts to Thailand and Hong Kong and Iran and all over the place. I finished the first draft and I went to Cubby, “Cubby, I really think my usefulness is done on this picture.” And he said, “Okay, if you feel that way.”‘

    ‘I rewrote The Spy Who Loved Me at Cubby’s house for no money and no credit because they had already given out the credits — you could only have two non Brits in the main titles. Cubby paid me cash under the table to rewrite the picture and when Roger Moore started getting the rewrites in England, he said, “This is Wankiewicz, Wankiewicz wrote this.” He could tell right away, “Good, he’s on the picture.” Cubby said, “No, no, no, no, no one is suppose to know he’s on the picture.”‘

    The Spy Who Loved Me was all at Cubby’s house. I had a typewriter and I was at the cottage down by the pool.’

    So a lot of your work is in the final picture?

    Mankiewicz: ‘Oh yeah, a lot of the dialogue is mine. They kill off a Dr Markowicz in the beginning.’

    ‘Cubby asked me to kick off Moonraker because they didn’t have any idea how to kick it off. Lewis, Cubby, and I went to NASA. We got in those machines and we thought about some things. I wrote three or four pages for Lewis to kick off the thing because I was never going to write it.’

    So, you never wanted to go back to Bond?

    Mankiewicz: ‘There comes a certain time in your life, you know. Including The Spy Who Loved Me and the little bit on Moonraker–I had done five of them and that was enough…

    There’s much more. Head over to Superman Cinema for the entire interview.

    Keep watching CBn for all the latest James Bond news.

    Devin Zydel @ 2007-05-02
Follow @cbn007