The new James Bond “No time to die”, women in the spotlight

October 11, 202144117 min

Instead of the villain, James Bond could have been the villain’s pet monkey in Dr. No, the first film in the nearly 60-year-long James Bond series. It’s possible that everyone was speaking in a Chicago gangster slang instead of the classic spy fiction dialect. As a result of Johanna Harwood, a woman whose influence on Bond was enormous but little acknowledged, Bond’s debut in 1962 may have turned out quite differently had the screenplay for Dr. No been altered during the development of both of these plot twists.

Johanna Harwood

As a result, when you Google Harwood’s name now, the first image you’ll see is of Phoebe Waller-Bridge rather than of Harwood. Fleabag and Killing Eve writer-producer Nicole Holofcener, who came up with the ideas for No Time To Die and Fleabag, has now joined Harwood as the only other woman to write a Bond screenplay.

The film’s lead, Daniel Craig has praised Waller-Bridge as a crucial part of the new picture’s personality and nominated her for the award “Much of the film is shaped by her presence. She walked a fine line between keeping it a suspenseful read and making it quite humorous “This is what he told Radio Times in an interview that aired earlier in the week. The actress behind the Bond franchise, Waller-Bridge, has indicated that she was not hired to make significant changes to the Bond brand.

Bond’s long-lost love interest

The fact that Waller-name Bridge has been prominently displayed in the lead-up is encouraging. Comparatively, Hollywood opted for the sides when it came to Harwood, who worked on Dr. No and From Russia With Love and may have had a hand on Goldfinger, although being uncredited.

Lisa Funnell, a gender politics expert and author of For His Eyes Only: The Women of James Bond, states that she is a vital contributor whose work remains mostly unrecognized. While helping to build the cinematic persona of one of pop culture’s most recognizable figures, she worked to ensure that the first Bond films accurately represented Ian Fleming’s source novels. Also, in his autobiography One Lucky Bastard, former Bond actor Roger Moore emphasized the importance of Harwood’s saga. The whims of film history and the egos of people within the industry have obscured her essential role.

“Continuity girl” (as they were called back then) was an uncommon production role for women in the 1950s, and Harwood, who was originally from County Wicklow, Ireland, held it. With some reluctance, she went to work with the theatre producer Harry Saltzman after a stint at the talent agency Famous Artists. She only agreed to stay if she could continue to write. Mark Edlitz, the author of several books on the Bond franchise, including The Lost Adventures of James Bond, thinks that was her true passion. As a way to write films, “she did those other things including working as his assistant and ensuring script continuity.” The producer acquired the majority of Fleming’s works early in her collaboration with Saltzman. When Harwood found out who was behind the franchise and running it, his turbulent relationship with them officially began.

Dr. No was initially written in rough form by Harwood. “Eon [Productionsfirst ]’s James Bond script was written with this in mind. This must be emphasized again and again. Edlitz makes the point loud and clear. For her, the most important thing was staying true to the Fleming novels, which was critical when figuring out what in them could make for fantastic films. She agreed. Other authors might have felt compelled to diverge from Fleming’s wtor to create something even more outlandish.”

Other authors undoubtedly made an effort. Harwood had no idea that Saltzman had agreed to compose the final script of Dr. No as part of his arrangement with producer Wolf Mankowitz. Mankowitz penned the screenplay’s inclusion of the monkey, which prompted United Artists to enlist Harwood’s help once more in salvaging the script. To make the dialogue more manly, the studio engaged Indian army commander Berkely Mather, who, according to Harwood, temporarily changed the characters’ speech to sound like Chicago hitmen. With director Terence Young on board, she was again able to get the script into shape in the final eight days before filming began.

For the aspiring author, the experience would be utterly debilitating. As a result of her experiences working with Young, Funnell claims that Young and others] have] mostly ignored or drastically curtailed her contributions. Young rehired Harwood to work on his next film, From Russia With Love, but he and she couldn’t agree on anything, and she ended up leaving the project with simply an adaptation credit rather than a complete screenwriting one. Dr. Monica Germana, historian and author of Bond Girls: Body, Fashion and Gender, argues that her narrative was so emblematic of gender roles and what was happening to them. Her ambitions were thwarted by the way she was treated.

The reasons why women screenwriters should be given more recognition

What’s remarkable – and unfortunate – is that Harwood comes from a long line of women who have contributed to some of Hollywood’s most profitable and acclaimed films and franchises, from Star Wars to Sister Act to The Lego Movie, but who have received little credit for their work.

As one of Hollywood’s most outstanding “script doctors,” Carrie Fisher was brought in to modify defective screenplays without their name appearing on the credits, which made her a household figure.

Before Return of the Jedi, Fisher had been dabbling in script development by adding her language into the films she had made for Star Wars. She would become increasingly involved in screenwriting with her semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge. Steven Spielberg was drawn in by the novel and hired Fisher to work on the Peter Pan prequel Hook. As Fisher explained to the Phoenix New Times, “They said they wanted me to rework Tinkerbell’s part. But if Tinkerbell interacts, you’re writing scenes.”

After then, her portfolio grew to include a wide range of projects, and her specialties included anything from enhancing female characters onscreen to handling complicated interpersonal interactions in the background. She rewrote Rene Russo’s role in Lethal Weapon 3 and authored the romantic comedy The Wedding Singer’s heroine, which starred Drew Barrymore. When she was filming Sister Act, she called Whoopi Goldberg and asked her to mediate a conflict between her and producer Jeffrey Katzenberg. Although Fisher only had a few official writing credits to her name, one of which was for the screenplay for the movie adaptation of Postcards from the Edge, some of Hollywood’s most productive men used her ability to write strong, witty women.

Lindsay Doran

Lindsay Doran is another woman who has helped mould a Hollywood blockbuster, almost unnoticed, earning her the nickname “The Script Whisperer” in the business for her largely unheralded labour. Doran, formerly an executive producer on films including This Is Spinal Tap and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, is now more concerned with revolutionizing screenwriting by changing her perspective towards it rather than saving it.

The psychology book Flourish by Martin E. P. Seligman exposed Doran to positive storytelling and the realization that characters’ relationships top their achievements, as discussed in her Ted Talk Saving the World vs Kissing the Girl. It’s because of the accomplishments of the main characters’ loved ones that films like Dirty Dancing, The Karate Kid, and The King’s Speech persist, according to her,

Her last official film credit was Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang in 2010, and her employment includes teaching and consulting work with studios and filmmakers. Doran’s influence on Hollywood is tough to quantify. Doran has worked extensively on honing his winning combination of absurdity and earnestness with the likes of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. They have collaborated on films like 21 Jump Street (2012) and The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Shrek writer Terry Rossio called her a “Pied Piper, dragging all those nasty, gloomy and violent screenplays in town over the cliff” in an interview with the New York Times.

It’s becoming easier to find women in positions of power now that campaigns like #MeToo and Time’s Up have shifted the landscape for credited women’s representation.

 

Larger productions like Ridley Scott’s period epic The Last Duel have recognized female screenwriters like Nicole Holofcener. She was hired to write from the feminine perspective, while longtime colleagues Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote the other half of the screenplay.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

These alterations, however, are insufficient for some people. The inclusion of Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the No Time To Die scripting process after the fact raises issues about why she wasn’t part of the team from the beginning.

When she was brought in so late in the process, Funnell found it annoying that Waller-Bridge had to “spot shot” and “fix” certain screenplay areas that needed elaboration and enlivening. As a result, “diversity in scriptwriting necessitates complete participation from creative professionals from conception and development of characters through final delivery.”

The gendered responsibilities placed on female screenwriters can limit their ability to contribute to films in creative ways. As Germana points out, “We shouldn’t just be pigeonholing female writers as female writers.” “Because they’re excellent writers, we want to work with them, not because we have to check a box. As a talented writer, Waller-Bridge deserves to be on the list.” Waller-Bridge has made it plain that her gender was not a consideration in her selection for the role, which is heartening in this regard. “But the truth of the matter is that I received a phone call from Barbara Broccoli and Daniel asking if I would be willing to come in and help them out because they liked my work. When it came to ‘the ladies,’ she explains that there was never any discussion about whether you may step in and help.

No matter how big a part she plays, however, her presence in the Bond franchise is essential. Her presence is both a boon for the series and a reminder that more needs to be done in Hollywood to give female screenwriters the opportunity and respect they deserve.

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