So my agent called me the other day and said she’s putting me up for the newest James Bond movie and would I come up with a “take” so I can go in and pitch. Of course I said sure, because if there’s one thing I know, it’s James Bond movies. I’ve been watching them since I’m a kid, caught up with all the old ones on Netflix, and actually have a friend who’s a friend of the guy who wrote three of the best of them, which by Hollywood’s way of measuring these things means that I practically wrote them myself.
Coming up with a “take” is what we highly paid writers do out here, which translated into layman’s speak means we work for free until the studio, against its better judgment, decides to actually hire us, and even though we’re not supposed to do this, we do it anyway because beggars can’t be choosers, and when you’re a writer out here, oh brother are you ever a beggar.
So I thought about it for five minutes and came up with my take, which I’m now going to test on you before I go over to wherever the ghost of MGM is located these days and pitch it to some fresh-faced young executive who’s never even heard of Roger Moore, much less Ian Fleming. I’m calling it For Four Eyes Only: This Time, It’s Personal.
Every Bond film has a killer pre-titles sequence, an exciting but plot-wise irrelevant four or five minutes’ worth of nonstop action. Then come the titles, complete with catchy song, then comes the movie proper: Bond gets the assignment from M, heads off to some exotic locale, beds a bird or two or six, gets into some seriously life-threatening hot water, turns the tables, kills the villain, conquers the leading lady, and we go out on a trademark Bond quip, preferably a sexual double entendre. That’s it!
Exciting Pre-Titles Action Sequence
We open in Washington, D.C., where a lame-duck president of the United States has just received some very bad news. It seems that the entire U.S. economy has collapsed overnight, the stock market is plunging, houses are worth less than a loaf of bread, except in Los Angeles, where every house still costs at least a million bucks, and the Mexican peso is laughing at the dollar. Condition red!
The president, a hapless idiot I’m calling George Walker, is in a swivet. Looking like he’s making a hostage video, he goes into the Rose Garden, stares into the cameras and says that, effective immediately, he’s transferring the sum of one billion dollars to a shadowy European financier who’s threatening to destabilize the planet with “fundamental change.” The president is interrupted by a snickering press corps. He looks down at the notes he’s written on the palm of his left hand, then corrects himself. The sum of one trillion dollars, payable in cash, securities, supersaver coupons, and cereal box tops before sundown, or else . . . as we CUT TO —
James Bond (Haley Joel Osment), lying on Rehoboth Beach, a lovely on each arm. His next-generation PDA, which he’s cleverly hidden in his swim trunks, starts vibrating. “Why, James,” asks one of the beach bunnies, “are you getting a call or are you just glad to see us?”
Bond leaps into action, then a bunch of cool stuff happens and somehow in a flash he’s grappling with a horde of ninja assassins in San Francisco, all of whom he kills in the most imaginative ways possible, which I’ll have to think of later. He enters a room from which an ominous, Central European–accented voice has been heard calling him “Meester Bondt,” but when he breaks through the Krell-steel doors, there’s nothing there but a pair of reading glasses, a tuft of white cat fur, and some old French newspaper clippings about an obscure insider trading scandal . . .
London. Bond flirts with Moneypenny (Geena Davis), sees M (Harvey Fierstein in drag), and is informed that the world is not enough, that you only live twice, and that tomorrow never dies. Bond stops off to see Q (Crispin Glover), gets some cool new weapons that I’ll have to think up later, then heads for someplace glamorous, ditto, where he meets a girl, plays a few rounds of baccarat, wins big, and sleeps with the girl, who wakes up dead. During his interrogation for her murder, he’s miraculously busted out of police headquarters by a mysterious Beautiful Woman/Bond Girl who pulls up in a Testarossa.
As they drive along the corniche, they’re suddenly chased by a squad of deadly Mini Coopers. The Bond Girl, however, is too much for them, and one by one they go plunging off the cliffs, screaming, to their deaths. Only the driver of the last Mini Cooper survives long enough to be interrogated, but when Bond asks him who he’s working for, the man gets a terrified look on his face, curses Bond in a funny foreign language that mystifies even the multilingual Bond Girl — but which Bond seems to recognize — and chokes himself to death with his bare hands.
Bond and the Bond Girl make love. When Bond wakes up, he finds himself strapped to the bed, naked, and looking not at the girl but at GYÖRGY SCHWARTZ, who is holding a white cat and chuckling ominously.
BOND: Ut-wo expecto du moi to duo?
BOND GIRL (amazed): Shames, I didn’t know you spoke Esperanto.
If Schwartz is surprised by Bond’s fluent command of Esperanto, he doesn’t let on. Instead he replies:
SCHWARTZ: Expecto ich tuo to die-o.
(All Esperanto will, of course, be subtitled.)
As we writers know, this is the boring part — 70 to 80 pages of car chases, explosions, deaths of minor characters. You civilians call this part of the film “the movie.”
Varna, Bulgaria. As usual, Bond awakes in bed. The Bond Girl is beside him once more. By now, though, she’s in love with him, so she’s no longer working for Schwartz; her heart belongs to the man she calls, in her delightfully piquant former-Yugoslavian accent, “Shames.”
“Shames,” she says, “he’s going to kill us. So make love to me, like it was the last time.”
FADE OUT and FADE IN
“I know,” says Bond, lighting up a cigarette and then remembering it’s no longer politically correct to smoke. Steeling himself for the torturous ordeal he knows is coming, he stubs it out on his manly torso, singeing his chest hair. The Bond Girl falls in love with him all over again.
“Nada vas me mein selbst thru went have,” says an ominous voice. It’s Schwartz, dressed as Harvey Fierstein as M in Act One. Suddenly it’s all terribly clear . . .
At this point, we think that Schwartz is going to kill Bond and that will be that. After all, that’s what any real-world super-villain would do. But since this is a movie, we now need the obligatory scene in which he gets to explain himself.
Accordingly, he tosses a dossier at Bond and the Bond Girl. Bond glances through it, smiles a cruel little smile —
BOND (in English): You’re a Hungarian Jew . . .
BOND: . . . who escaped the Holocaust . . .
BOND: . . . by posing as a Christian.
SCHWARTZ (switching to English): Right.
BOND: And you watched lots of people get shipped off to the death camps.
SCHWARTZ: Right. I was 14 years old. And I would say that that’s when my character was made.
BOND: In what way?
SCHWARTZ: That one should think ahead. One should understand that — and anticipate events and when, when one is threatened. It was a tremendous threat of evil. I mean, it was a — a very personal threat of evil.
BOND: My understanding is that you went out with this protector of yours who swore that you were his adopted godson.
SCHWARTZ: Yes. Yes.
BOND: Went out, in fact, and helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews.
SCHWARTZ: Yes. That’s right. Yes.
BOND: I mean, that’s — that sounds like an experience that would send lots of people to the psychiatric couch for many, many years. Was it difficult?
SCHWARTZ: Not, not at all. Not at all. Maybe as a child you don’t . . . you don’t see the connection. But it was — it created no — no problem at all.
BOND: No feeling of guilt?
BOND: For example, that, “I’m Jewish, and here I am, watching these people go. I could just as easily be there, I should be there.” None of that?
SCHWARTZ: Well, of course . . . I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn’t be there, because that was — well, actually, in a funny way, it’s just like in the markets — that if I weren’t there — of course, I wasn’t doing it, but somebody else would — would — would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the — whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the — I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.
Is that dialogue great or what? The scene continues:
BOND (in perfect Esperanto): Permesso zu smoke-o?
SCHWARTZ: Naturalmento, Bondo-san.
Bond reaches into his jacket pocket and fishes out the GLASSES we saw in the first scene. In a bit of absolutely gratuitous near-nudity, the Bond Girl takes them to
Blofeld Soros Schwartz and puts them on him: They fit perfectly!
Bond jumps out of bed, wrestles with Schwartz, the two of them go crashing through a window and land on the deck of a speedboat with its motor running, killing the guy who was going to help Schwartz escape. The boat careens about the Black Sea, or whatever it’s called, as Schwartz and Bond grapple manfully with each other, but — I forgot to tell you — Schwartz has injected Bond with some sort of slow-acting poison and he gradually becomes weaker until it looks like the final curtain when all of a sudden he quips:
BOND: Me dankt dass Christmas kommen only once-o per jahr-o —
At which Schwartz suddenly starts laughing so hysterically that Bond is able to muster just enough strength to KICK HIM OVER THE SIDE OF THE BOAT and into the mouths of some hungry sharks that he’d been keeping as pets in an earlier scene that I haven’t written yet.
I’m telling you, you can’t make this stuff up.
— David Kahane is the author of Rules for Radical Conservatives. Copyright © 2010 by David Kahane. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.