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Tomorrow Never Dies
25th Anniversary 1997-2022


Tomorrow Never Dies 25th Anniversary 1997-2022

“Tomorrow Never Knows” - Tomorrow Never Dies at 25

In the year the cinematic James Bond franchise celebrates its 60th anniversary KEVIN HARPER looks back at the production of Tomorrow Never Dies, released 25 years ago as the eighteenth entry in the long-running 007 series. Starring Pierce Brosnan in his second film as James Bond, Tomorrow Never Dies had a troubled production, but consolidated the future of the franchise for a new generation.

Pierce Brosnan as James Bond 007 with Teri Hatcher (Paris Carver) and Michelle Yeoh (Wai Lin)

Following the huge international success of GoldenEye (1995), the James Bond films were back on track following their six-year hiatus from cinema screens. New Bond Pierce Brosnan proved popular with audiences, particularly in the USA, who had failed to engage with Timothy Dalton’s second outing Licence To Kill (1989), which struggled to hold its own against the blockbuster releases that year. The rights to make James Bond films were then shared between DANJAQ and MGM Studios. In 1969, Kirk Kerkorian (1917-2015) had bought 40% of MGM, and dramatically changed the way the company operated. After hiring new management, Kerkorian reduced the studio's output to about five films per year; and diversified its products, creating MGM Resorts International and a Las Vegas-based hotel and casino company. In 1980, the studio had acquired United Artists, who then owned the rights to James Bond, after producer Harry Saltzman had sold his share in DANJAQ in 1975 in order to resolve his personal financial difficulties. Kerkorian then sold the entire company to Ted Turner in 1986, who kept the rights to the MGM film library as Turner Entertainment, sold then the studio lot in Culver City to Lorimar, and sold back the remnants of MGM back to Kerkorian the same year. After Kerkorian sold and reacquired the company again in the 1990s he expanded MGM by purchasing Orion Pictures and the Samuel Goldwyn Company, including both of their film libraries. Italian promoter Giancarlo Parretti then acquired MGM/UA in late 1990, and decided to sell the television and video rights to the James Bond films in order to help finance his $1.4-billion purchase of the studio from Kirk Kerkorian. As part of their 1962 contract with United Artists, DANJAQ had originally owned 50% of the rights to make the James Bond films. In 1986, Albert & Dana Broccoli had acquired United Artists’ stake in DANJAQ and assumed complete control of the company, with MGM/UA receiving an exclusive distribution deal as part of the sale. DANJAQ then filed suit against Pathé Communications (MGM/UA's parent company), claiming that then-owner Parretti had breached their original 1962 contract by selling the distribution rights. A long legal battle ensued and effectively prevented any new James Bond films being made until GoldenEye (1995). Kirk Kerkorian repurchased MGM in October 1996 and set about rebuilding the company again.

Screenwriter Bruce Feirstein | Page from BOND 18 script

ABOVE: (left) Screenwriter Bruce Feirstein circa 1997, (right) A page from Feirstein's first draft script for BOND 18 dated August 23rd, 1996. Some of the dialogue between M and Moneypenny made it to the finished film, although the scene took place in a speeding car, not an MI6 office. A character called Jenny Wu became Professor Inga Bergstrom played by Cecile Thomsen in the finished film. At this stage the villain was named Elliot Harmsway (later changed to Carver). The script also mentions Valentin Zukovsky's stunning victory in the Ukranian elections - a reference to the character from GoldenEye (1995) and played by Robbie Coltrane, who reprised the role in the next film in the series The World Is Not Enough (1999) - also co-scripted by Bruce Feirstein.

With the legal dispute resolved and GoldenEye a huge hit, the pressure was then on EON Productions to follow up on the success and deliver a new James Bond film with Pierce Brosnan, which would have a release date of December 1997. MGM were unwilling to move this date now that 007 was back as one of their money-making franchises, and wanted to reap the rewards as soon as possible. Both previous attempts to follow up a successful debut with a new James Bond actor had not lived up to the expectations of their predecessor, with The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) and Licence To Kill (1989) significantly underperforming at the box-office. GoldenEye (1995) screenwriter Bruce Feirstein came up with the idea of a storyline centred on a Hong Kong media baron. On August 23rd, 1996, Feirstein delivered his draft of the script that included the terrorist arms bazaar (which appeared as the pre-credit sequence of the finished film) and introduction of the media baron, then named Eliot Harmsway, with the story focussed on Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China. American crime writer Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008) then worked on two treatments in collaboration with co-producer Michael G. Wilson, both of which featured a villain who planned to destroy Hong Kong with explosives on the eve of the transfer of sovereignty to China on July 1st, 1997. Although the Westlake treatment went unused by the Bond filmmakers, the author developed the ideas into a novel written in 1998 that went unpublished until 2017 - almost a decade after his death. The novel was first published in the USA by Hard Case Crime as Forever And A Death - one of the titles Donald E. Westlake had suggested for the James Bond film. Although Westlake was unable to use the character of James Bond, Forever And A Death had a Bond-style cover with artwork by Paul Mann. The American artist and illustrator has produced many James Bond poster tributes in the style of Robert McGinnis and Frank McCarthy.

Forever And A Death (2017) Donald E. Westlake's novel based on his story treatment for BOND 18

ABOVE: (left) Forever And A Death (2017) Donald E. Westlake's novel based on his story treatment for BOND 18 with cover artwork by Paul Mann. (right) Prolific American novelist and screenwriter Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008) wrote  more than a hundred novels and non-fiction books under a variety of pseudonyms, in addition to publishing works under his own name.

On June 27th, 1996, original James Bond producer Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli passed away aged 87 at his home in Beverley Hills. The future of the franchise was now completely in the control of his daughter Barbara and stepson Michael G. Wilson. Work continued on the script for BOND 18 with many of the elements familiar from the finished film now in place. Feirstein introduced Bond’s ex-lover Paris and the underwater drill, which was originally deployed by the villain to steal British gold, before threatening to destroy Hong Kong with a nuclear weapon in retaliation for Britain’s handover of the city back to China. GoldenEye director Martin Campbell declined to return to the series at that time and the job went to Roger Spottiswoode (pictured below left), who had made his name as Sam Peckinpah’s editor before turning to directing himself. MGM then had reservations about the developing script, realising that it would not necessarily be as topical unless the film was released to coincide with the handover of Hong Kong. With this in mind, Spottiswoode and a team of seven new writers went to work revising the storyline; among those involved in various new drafts were Hollywood screenwriters Daniel Petrie Jr. and David Campbell Wilson. Writer-director Nicholas Meyer, who had twice previously revitalised the Star Trek franchise, was also hired to do a rewrite before Bruce Feirstein came back to do the final polish.

Roger Spottiswoode and Pierce Brosnan as James Bond Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

The production base for the 18th James Bond film was originally to have been based at Leavesden Studios – the huge Hertfordshire complex where GoldenEye (1995) was filmed. However, at the last minute it was announced the entire facility had been leased to George Lucas for the production of his first Star Wars prequel, which was released in 1999 as Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace. An alternative venue was found for BOND 18 at a disused supermarket warehouse in Frogmore near St. Albans, which EON Productions once again converted into a working studio in just eight weeks.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) director Roger Spottiswoode | Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver with Gotz Otto as Stamper

In early January 1997 the core production team undertook a six-day location scout in the Far East. Filming for the pre-credit sequence began in the French Pyrenees with second-unit director Vic Armstrong coordinating the spectacular opening to the film, supported by special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, and stunt supervisor Dickey Beer. As shooting of the film’s opening sequence wrapped, a revised script was submitted by Daniel Petrie Jr. and Jonathan Pryce was cast as the villain, now named Elliot Carver (Anthony Hopkins had reportedly turned down the role), with American actress Teri Hatcher in the pivotal role of Carver’s wife, Paris. The script was now formally titled Tomorrow Never Dies. Legend has it that the title was originally ‘Tomorrow Never Lies’, putting the emphasis on the name of the newspaper ‘Tomorrow’ operated by the main protagonist. Allegedly this title was mis-typed in a fax communication to the studio who thought ‘Dies’ was a much a better title. Alternatively, writer Bruce Feirstein says that driving to work one day he heard The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows on the car radio, and that was the genesis of the title for BOND 18. Whatever the origin of these urban myths, the title Tomorrow Never Dies was chosen and a teaser poster released to announce the start of principal photography. German actor Gotz Otto (pictured above right with Jonathan Pryce) was cast as Stamper, Carver’s head of security, with Chinese action star Michelle Yeoh rounding out the international cast as Wai Lin. Despite all the necessary permissions to film in Vietnam, the production was forced to relocate the location shooting to Thailand after the Vietnamese Prime Minister withdrew support for the film. The crew returned to Bangkok and several of the locations featured in The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) were used.



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