The James Bond Films That Never Were: The 90s to Today - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The James Bond Films That Never Were: The 90s to Today

Matthew Kresal completes his look back through the James Bond films that never were.

Over the last 58 years there have been many aborted or planned James Bond films that never saw the light of day but reached various stages of production. We've already explored six of the those films from the early days of the franchise here, and followed this with a selection from the 70s & 80s. Today we complete the journey through the James Bond films that never were with three more proposed cinematic outings, bringing us right up to date before the twenty fifth official Bond film, No Time To Die, arrives.

Bond 17
Before legal troubles derailed a third Bond film starring Timothy Dalton, plans were already underway for a it to come out in 1991. By the time work stopped and was eventually scrapped, a plot was beginning to come together for a film set in Hong Kong that would start shifting 007 into a post Cold War world. Details remain sketchy even now but a basic plot summary can be found at the page about the project:
“After terrorists target a Scottish nuclear facility, 007 is deployed to the Far East to investigate the prolific businessman Sir Henry Lee Ching. In Hong Kong, James Bond rendezvous with retiring spy Denholm Crisp, crosses paths with the Chinese Secret Service and teams up with jewel-smuggler Connie Webb to get to the bottom of Ching's shady past and prevent global pandemonium that could spark World War Three.”
Behind the scenes issues caused the film to be postponed and eventually shelved. United Artists was sold to the Australian broadcasting group Quintex who wanted to take advantage of the Bond franchise by selling the films for TV broadcasting. Danjaq quickly entered into a legal battle against the company that wouldn't be settled in full until 1993. By that time the work on the film done in 1990 was thrown out and new writers were brought in to write would eventually become Bond's 1995 return in Goldeneye.

Tomorrow Never Lies
Before Bond 18 became Tomorrow Never Dies, it went by a slightly different title and a considerably different script. The film focused on Sir Jonathan Harmsway being involved with a plot that included the stealing of gold from a British warship as well as the destruction of Hong Kong on the eve of its 1997 handover from the UK to China. This draft saw a number of major differences including a lengthy section set in Venice (as opposed to Hamburg) as well as Robbie Coltrane's Valentin Zukovsky having been elected the leader of the Ukraine. A version of Paris Carver also featured.

The script included an expanded role for Joe Don Baker's CIA agent Jack Wade as well as Q who comes into the plot quite late in. It would also see a very different Bond girl from Chinese spy Wai Lin: Sidney Winch, a salvager who becomes involved with Bond following his discovery of the sunken British warship and her connection with Harmsway. After a car chase involving the Kuala Lumpur towers, the film's finale revolved around the attempted meltdown of a nuclear reactor, with Bond flying a helicopter to Harmsway's yacht which is moored off Hong Kong where a gun battle ensues.

Many of the ideas used in Tomorrow Never Dies can be traced to this early script. However changes were quick to come as Eon got nervous over using the Hong Kong handover as a plot point, even more so after being advised by none other than Henry Kissinger who warned that if an incident did occur that it might hurt the film. Ian Fleming Publications apparently had no such worries as Raymond Benson's Bond novel Zero Minus Ten (published the same year) featured an attempt to destroy Hong Kong as part of its plot.

Danny Boyle's Bond 25
Perhaps no "Bond Film That Never Was" has been quite so high profile in recent years as Danny Boyle's aborted effort to make Bond 25, now known as No Time To Die. Boyle's involvement was first officially announced in March 2018, with him and screenwriter John Hodge working on the script. Yet, within six months, the pair both exited the project and their screenplay was thrown out, with delays to both production and the film's eventual release date ensuing (the latter further delayed by Covid-19).

What would Boyle's Bond 25 have featured? As of this writing in mid-August 2020, details continue to be comparatively few, but we have enough to suggest a strong Russian focus. A July 2018 casting call looked for actors to play a Russian villain, his wife, and a Maori henchman. A May 2020 interview with production designer Mark Tildesley revealed that both a 350-foot rocket and a Russian gulag set were in construction, the former on Pinewood's legendary 007 Stage and the latter in the Canadian Rockies, when Boyle exited the project.

Why did Eon and Boyle have a parting of the ways? Officially, "creative differences" were cited but, not surprisingly, speculation has been rife. There have been suggestions that the Boyle/Hodge script killed off Craig's Bond, which is a possibility since, as the MI6-HQ site confirmed in February 2019, that at least one draft of their script concluded with 007 in the gulag. The Russia focus, too, has been a subject of debate with a school of thought that, in a repeat of Hong Kong's removal from Brosnan's second Bond film, it would have harmed the film, at least at the international box office.

It may well be years, if ever until we know fuller details about Boyle's Bond 25. Until that day, Bond fans will speculate. Particularly if No Time To Die's release receives another delay, which seems a distinct possibility.

Previous "BOND: Revisiting..." articles
Dr. No - From Russia With Love - Goldfinger - Thunderball - You Only Live Twice - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Diamonds Are Forever - Live And Let Die - The Man With The Golden Gun - The Spy Who Loved Me - Moonraker - For Your Eyes Only - Octopussy - A View To A Kill - The Living Daylights - Licence To Kill -

Never Say Never Again

The James Bond Films That Never Were: The 50s & 60s - The 70s & 80s -

Matthew Kresal lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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