First reported as a rumour on the message boards at Absolutely James Bond, CBn is now hearing from multiple independent sources close to the production that the current draft of Bond 21 by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade is based on Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale.
Whether or not the film will be called Casino Royale is still not known. Purvis and Wade last used the Ian Fleming novel Moonraker as the basis for Die Another Day.
Casino Royale was first published in 1953. A year later it was adapted as a one-hour TV teleplay by CBS with American Barry Nelson playing the screen’s first 007. Because Fleming had already sold the film rights to his first novel, Casino Royale was not part of the 1961 Cubby Broccoli/Harry Saltzman film rights purchase deal that was the foundation of the James Bond/Eon Productions franchise. The rights passed from hand to hand until Charles K. Feldman announced he’d produce a rival Bond film to the Eon series. But this was at the height of Bondamania, and Feldman decided he couldn’t compete with Sean Connery, so in 1967 he and Columbia Pictures turned Casino Royale into a farce comedy starring David Niven and Peter Sellers. (Kaleidoscope, an excellent thriller made in 1966, used plot elements so strikingly similar to Casino Royale that it could almost be called an unofficial adaptation.)
Fast forward to the late 1990s when Sony (who acquired the Casino rights when they purchased Columbia Pictures) locked horns with MGM over disputed rights to the Bond film Thunderball. The settlement in favour of MGM not only returned the Thunderball rights to Eon, but Sony also surrendered their long-held rights to Casino Royale. This cleared the way for Eon to finally adapt the first Ian Fleming James Bond novel, and it looks like this is exactly what they are doing now.
Set entirely in Royale-les-Eaux, a resort village in N.E. France, Casino Royale is a rather small scale Bond novel. No doubt the plot and scope will be expanded by Purvis and Wade. While Prague has been reported as a possible Bond 21 location, CBn has learned these Prague rumours may prove to be false. But a Bond Girl named Vesper Lynd and a villain named Le Chiffre are distinct possibilities.
While Eon is said to have a director in mind and would like to get production rolling on Bond 21/Casino Royale, the sale of MGM is complicating the situation. Apparently, little can go forward until the studio is sold, and if they can’t start production by January then it’s possible the film will be delayed until 2006. Ironically, Sony was in the lead to buy MGM (and thus getting back their surrendered Casino rights), but reports are now saying that it’s more likely Warner Bros. will become the new home of Eon Productions and James Bond.
Keep watching CBn for the latest news on Bond 21/Casino Royale.