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Shaken, stirred, rebooted

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A profile on Casino Royale screenwriter Robert Wade


The cinematic and literary James Bonds are very different beasts. Ian Fleming's Casino Royale introduced a jittery public servant, terrified of flying, vomiting drunkenly over a sink and whose misogyny some literary scholars have attributed to a pathological fear of women. Hardly the precision assassin and playboy we know from the films.

Producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli tried to take Bond back to basics once before. Timothy Dalton was said to be the closest to Fleming's vision, but his sensitive new age Bond failed to convince fans in two limp and insipid Bond outings.

So it's fallen to the British screenwriting duo of Neale Purvis and Robert Wade to 'reboot' the franchise. They've penned each Bond film since 1999's The World is Not Enough, and Casino Royale puts them in a scrape that Bond himself would find a challenge.

Not only do they have to avoid the sort of action sequences that have gone steadily over the top, they have to avoid the mistakes that stripped Bond's cinematic charm in the Dalton films. What's more, they have to remove most of the Bond elements we know – from the gadgets to the office flirtations with Miss Moneypenny.

In part, they also have to convince fans Daniel Craig was the right choice. Danielcraigisnotbond.com is only the sharp point of an avalanche of protest that's been rumbling since Craig was announced in the role.

Early reviews from the US and UK have mostly vindicated his casting. So did Wade have any doubts? "No," Wade answers emphatically, "he was only reviled by a handful of nerds." But surely fans will hate the idea of having Bond fall in love and be heartbroken? We're talking about one of the legendary ladies' men in the movies.

"When we did the first few drafts, it was more a case of whether we [the co-writers] would reject seeing him like that," Wade explains. "But actually seeing it on the page, we felt comfortable because by giving the character some low points to overcome, it's very stirring to see him come back fighting."

Wade adds another important point about Casino Royale – both the book and the film. Bond is not about Moneypenny, girls, outlandish weaponry or extravagantly resourced villains with hollowed out volcano lairs, but something more fundamental.

"We were lucky to get cart blanche – the producers agreed on the need to strip back the familiar elements so the audience could look at Bond's character in an uncluttered way. What sets him apart isn't the accoutrements like Q and gadgets, it's Bond himself – and in this film we get to see him for the first time."

The writer also had to be careful of the action/intrigue balance. How do you extract an action movie from a book that describes an extended game of baccarat – especially when some Craig-haters have already attacked the movie for its lack of action?

"In a film we need a bit more tension," Wade agrees. "We initially had some action occurring away from the game, but in the end we decided to keep it smaller and more claustrophobic."

In an era of endlessly bigger, louder action films, the now-54 year old character of James Bond has to work very hard to stand out – as 2002's CG-driven, superhuman Die Another Day showed. Maybe a smaller, leaner approach is exactly what Bond needs.

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