As Skyfall becomes the most successful Bond film in its 23 film history, British screenwriting duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade took part in a master class at the fourth Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) to lift the lid on writing for one of the iconic film franchises of all time.
“When we were originally asked to come in to meet the Bond people, we weren’t expecting to be walking straight into a meeting with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson” said Neal Purvis, describing the moment they first started collaborating with franchise’s producers. “Usually there are many other layers of people that stop you getting to the head honchos and we certainly were not expecting to be kept around for 15 years”
“When we met Eon Productions, only two of our screenplays had been made into films. It just seemed preposterous to us that they wouldn’t have other writers on the project” added Robert Wade. “But they’d read a few of our other scripts and liked our sense of character and action. If there’s action without a story or a character angle, then it’s just boring.”
Meeting at 22, the pair who has been writing together for 28 years wrote their first script during the Los Angeles Olympic Games.
“The British Film industry in 1984 was not in a great shape. We’d write pop video’s to make extra money,” said Purvis. ”The tragedy is we were getting paid in the 80’s what screenwriters are still being paid today”
Since then, they’ve written a total of 41 scripts, with ten being made into films. Wade said “We were told don’t expect anymore than one in ten of your screen plays to be made. She was right. We thought yes, that’s probably true, however that won’t apply to us.”
“Now were on our 41st script and have have ten films made. You wouldn’t write each day if you didn’t believer that your scripts were going to be made,” added Purvis.
Addressing the production delays this latest outing, the duo shed light on how important this additional time was “We benefited from the delays as we hadn’t gotten the story right. The film would not have been made without them,” explained Wade.
“The third act wasn’t right. We gave ourselves a few weeks to come up with a new concept, which ultimately became a metaphor for our journey working on these movies – our own Skyfall” added Purvis.
When pushed on if the partners were intending to write more Bond films Wade said “We’re very happy to have done five Bond movies, I think we’ve gotten it to a good place. I know that John Logan and Sam Mendes have come up with a plot for another one, which takes the pressure off because these films take up a lot of time.”
Purvis added, “We were going to stop with Quantum of Solace, but it’s good to go out on a high with Skyfall.”
Asked about other projects outside of Bond, Wade divulged “We did get hired to write a script about Elton John stealing 11 of the best footballers in the world, to play against a team of robots on another planet. “That was our second paid job,” explained Purvis.
And what’s the only thing as a bond writer you can’t do? “Time Travel” says Purvis. “And killing him off” said Wade, before adding “although we have been tempted”