At their Doha Tribeca Film Festival Masterclass, which took place on the rooftop of a hotel on the edge of the city's old souk (with a fighter jet screaming overhead to add to the 007 vibe), British screenwriting duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade revealed why “Skyfall” will mark the satisfying conclusion to their five-film James Bond journey. The ride began nearly 15 years ago with “The World Is Not Enough” and continued with Pierce Brosnan's final 007 excursion, “Die Another Day,” as well as all three of Daniel Craig's outings, “Casino Royale,” “Quantum Of Solace” and “Skyfall.”
“We're very happy to have done five Bond movies and I think we've got it to a really good place now,” said Wade. “What happened was that, because John Logan worked closely with Sam [Mendes] after us, they came up with a plot for another one and John's going off to do that on his own. And that was a relief for us because it takes up more and more of our time.”
“We were going to stop after 'Quantum,'” added Purvis, “but we thought we'd do one more. I think it's good to go out on 'Skyfall' because it's the best.”
Purvis and Wade collaborated with Mendes on multiple drafts of “Skyfall,” working in close quarters with the filmmaker to shape the story in 15-page chunks which went off for notes while they ploughed on with the next section. “It's an annoying, unsatisfying way of working,” admitted Wade, “but it's a ship that's moving and that's why it's a miracle when one of them ends up a good movie.”
Although it's set to become the franchise's most lucrative chapter, the duo call “Skyfall” the toughest of their five Bond outings. Their eureka moment came when they moved what had been the third act to an earlier point in the story. “It was only in the last couple of weeks when we had to hand it in that we were told, 'You're right, the third act's not working, do what you like,'” said Purvis. “We knew that we were going to be off the case then so we had to dig deep,” added Wade, with Purvis chiming in: “We killed ourselves to do what was required. But coming up with the Skyfall house and the background made the whole thing make sense.”
“And then we realized that it was all a metaphor for our journey working on the movies,” said Wade with a wry smile.
In a wide-ranging discussion on their craft and what it's like working on a franchise behemoth (they were fired and rehired more than once by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson), Purvis and Wade revealed that the most bizarre commission of their careers was being asked to write a script in which Elton John steals the greatest footballers in the world and pits them against his team of robots on another planet. They also discussed their next project, “Cocaine Nights,” which they've adapted from J.G. Ballard's 1998 novel about a dystopian resort community filled with dark secrets. The duo will produce and are on the verge of attaching a name director, they say.
“'Cocaine Nights' is a kinky, screwed-up, nutty story that we thought had some really good roles in it,” says Wade. “That makes it a makeable movie but it's also a J.G. Ballard [adaptation], which are notoriously difficult to get off the ground. We're being a bit perverse there but we'll get an interesting director who wants to take on the challenge.”
They also have their passion project, 'Corsica 72', on the go. The script for the crime epic ended up on the Black List, and is inspired by real events on the Mediterranean island in which 50 people died during a 10-year, tit-for-tat vendetta. Alison Owen (“Tamara Drewe”) is on board to produce, although they recently lost their director, Park-Chan Wook “'Oldboy”), to another project. “It's a silly thing for two British guys to have written,” chuckled Wade. “We've made problems for ourselves with that one. It's a good script but it's not easy to get made.”