Last week, Sony celebrated as Paul Haggis turned in a finished draft of Bond 22 ahead of the impending writers’ strike. This week, the writers are on strike, and Haggis is walking the picket line outside Sony. And now he says the script’s not quite done. "They haven't gotten the polish finished yet," Haggis revealed to the Los Angeles Times, going on to call the dispute "another example of corporate greed" [on the part of the studios] and declare, "It's my job as a member of the Guild to be here." [on the picket lines]. So if what Haggis says is true, what does that mean for Bond 22? It means that Daniel Craig’s second Bond film, the all-important follow-up to the most critically-acclaimed entry in the series, the BAFTA-nominated Casino Royale, might go into production this January without the best possible script.
Would Danjaq cross the Writers’ Guild of America and get someone else to finish it? Would Michael G. Wilson (who must be a WGA member, what with all his writing credits on the Bond series) turn scab and polish the script himself? Are Purvis and Wade Guild members, being British? Even if they aren’t, I highly doubt they’d cross picket lines, even proverbial overseas ones. [UPDATE: The Literary 007 spotted an ad in Variety in which Purvis and Wade, along with Goldeneye scribes Bruce Feirstein and Michael France, vow to do no writing "until all writers get a fair and reasonable deal."] So that leaves the option of delaying production until after the end of the strike (which could potentially be a long way off), or going into production with an unpolished screenplay and no writer on set to make last-minute tweaks. Neither option should appeal to fans, but I certainly hope the producers would opt to delay the movie rather than make a potentially sub-par one, especially after everything they did to get the franchise back on track. That seems unlikely, however, as they would risk losing director Marc Forster if the schedule changes drastically, or losing both him and Daniel Craig if the directors and actors strike next summer when their contracts expire. Neither option is a pleasant scenario.
The only good thing for the future of the Bond franchise (and for all the other big movies going into production between now and next summer, for that matter), is for the WGA and the AMPTP (American Association of Movie and Television Producers) to resume talks, come to an agreement on a contract, and end the strike.
Which means that the studios will have to compromise, something they’ve not yet shown any inclination to do.
Paul Haggis is right, and as much as I want a new Bond movie in theaters on time next Christmas, I also believe that the writers’ demands are perfectly reasonable. (Learn more about what the writers want and why here.) The Double O Section whole-heartedly supports Haggis and the Writers Guild of America in their efforts to get a fair contract. Furthermore, I think it’s important for other fan sites to do the same.
Yesterday’s Hollywood Reporter aptly calls the strike "a battle for hearts and minds," and it’s true. A massive work stoppage, especially a long one, will affect the product in theaters and on television, and will ultimately affect every filmgoer and TV watcher in America. Both the WGA and the AMPTP are trying to make that seem like the fault of the other party, and so far the AMPTP seems to be doing a better job with getting timely press releases out. (And it certainly helps that most major newspapers and magazines that report on entertainment just happen to be owned by the same media conglomerates, like Fox and Time-Warner, that the AMPTP represents.) Therefore, it is important for fan sites, especially influential ones with larger readerships than my own, to support the writers, the creators of the very product they’re dedicated to. It’s important that the American public understand the reasons for the strike, and understand that it could all end if the studios would simply agree to pay writers some meager residuals for "new media reuse" of the creative material they create.
I’m really not sure right now how best to convey that stand to the studios (although Aintitcool has linked to a petition, for what it's worth), but the first step is clear to me: the fan community must vocally support the people who write the movies and shows that they are fans of.
In this case, that’s spy movies. So how will the strike affect upcoming spy movies and shows? Here’s a sampling:
Daniel Craig’s next movie is scheduled to begin shooting in January as of now, but writer Paul Haggis, one of the men responsible for the franchise’s successful reboot, claims it’s not ready. I’ve already covered the ramifications of that above.
Apparently there are eight episodes of 24 in the can. As the show’s format doesn’t really lend itself to airing just eight episodes and then disappearing for who knows how long, Fox has decided to delay the seventh season (which was set to bow in February) indefinitely. That means the popular spy show might end up skipping a whole season altogether, and we might not see any more of Jack Bauer until sometime during the 2008-09 season, depending on the duration of the strike. Also, with the shooting schedule thrown off by the strike, it’s unclear if star Kiefer Sutherland’s jail time for DUI will still be compatible. That may delay things further.
USA’s runaway summer hit was supposed to start shooting its second season in January. Obviously, with writers not currently generating scripts, that will have to be delayed at least somewhat, or else rushed, even if the strike is resolved soon. Since it wasn’t set to start airing until next summer, Burn Notice has a little more leeway than 24, but if the strike continues until next June as some pessimists prognosticate, we might not learn who really burned Michael Weston for quite some time. Would USA air it in the fall instead if circumstances so dictated? I hope so. The alternatives (delaying till summer ‘09, or giving up on the series altogether) are not appealing.
Next summer’s tentpole comedy has already wrapped, but star Steve Carrell (a WGA member himself) has refused to cross picket lines on his hit show The Office, effectively shutting down production on the sitcom. Does that mean he would be unavailable for reshoots on Get Smart should they be deemed necessary? Honestly, I’m not sure. But it’s something to consider. It’s not uncommon for big studio comedies to undergo some reshoots, and I hate to think that director Peter Segal might not be able to deliver the best product possible because the studios refuse to throw a little money the writers’ way.
In the initial Hollywood Reporter story on the new Eliza Dushku show, Joss Whedon said, "I'll hit the ground running, and I'll work until I'm supposed to, then I'll stop dead in my tracks and will pick up my picket signs. I think the issues are extremely serious, and I think the studios are extremely entrenched. No one wants a strike, but it has to happen because (the studios) would not listen. I support it and will do anything to fight for the creative rights that the people deserve." So I guess that means that development of the new series is delayed indefinitely. Luckily, this wasn't supposed to debut until Fall 2008, so there's plenty of time to get things worked out and get the show up and running.
(If you know how the strike is affecting other spy-related entertainment in production, please contact me so I can keep people up to date.)