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Topic: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

Here's the next part of this series- an article about my researches into Brosnan's cancelled fifth film, a particularly intriguing 'lost Bond'. To be clear, this isn't about Tarantino's concept for Casino Royale, but rather the abandoned Bond 21 Eon briefly had in the works in 2004. It's a mysterious and murky tale...


In November 2002, Die Another Day was released. Coinciding with the franchise’s fortieth anniversary, Brosnan’s fourth Bond film rode a new wave of public nostalgia for the series. A variety of Bond parodies were released in the late 1990s and early 2000s, ranging from the classic Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery to Spy Kids and Johnny English, while the fortieth anniversary celebrations were marked by a premiere at the Royal Albert Hall attended by Queen Elizabeth II along with several former Bonds. Despite the film’s eventual notorious reputation, at the time it was warmly received and swiftly became the highest-grossing Bond adventure yet, making in excess of $430,000,000 at the international box office.


Pierce Brosnan’s era had provided the franchise with the shot in the arm it badly needed after the shaky critical and commercial disappointment of Licence to Kill in 1989; now, thirteen years later, James Bond again ruled the world of pop culture, recalling the days of Connery’s dominance in the mid-1960s. A large part of that appeal was undoubtably dependent on Brosnan himself, and it was logical that Eon Productions would seek to retain the services of such a globally successful star. While promoting Die Another Day to Empire magazine, Brosnan confidently declared: “I’d like to do another, sure. Connery did six…” With these assurances dispensed, the next step was to capitalise on Die Another Day’s record-breaking achievements with a fifth Brosnan Bond, presumably set for release in 2004 or 2005. The stage was set…


Behind the scenes, though, all was not well. Unlike the situation faced by Albert R. Broccoli in 1967 with regards to Connery, Eon appeared to be encountering the exact opposite problem. Brosnan was clearly genuinely interested in making a fifth film, and ambitious to secure a longer run of instalments that would rival Connery’s six or Moore’s seven. While proper documentation is scarce here, it can be inferred that producers disagreed with Brosnan’s plans for the future, and it is not implausible (though speculative) to suspect that there was some kind of personal tussle between Brosnan and Michael G. Wilson or Barbara Broccoli. There was also the factor of age to consider. Brosnan was now approaching fifty, and visibly a little older than in GoldenEye; were investors or executives fearing a repeat of Roger Moore’s performances in Octopussy and A View to a Kill, the subject of cruel mockery in newspaper cartoons and lambastings from critics in the 1980s?


The Bond 21 juggernaut was supposedly in production for a target date of November 18th, 2005, yet in reality little was actually happening. In March 2004, a frustrated Brosnan told the US television network AMC that “we’re in a very opaque land at the moment…a certain kind of paralysis has set in and, er, they don`t know where to go, how to go with this one." The vague, sweeping tone suggests that Eon were kicking their heels, and at this stage a number of possibilities present themselves for investigation. Firstly, there is the suggestion that Brosnan entered formal contract negotiations for Bond 21 which permanently stalled, leaving Broccoli and Wilson with no option but to let him go from the Bond role. This is strongly implied by Roger Moore in his book Bond on Bond (2012), and other reports suggest that Eon baulked at Brosnan’s demands for a significantly higher paycheque. Secondly, there may be an alternative explanation for why the pace of work was so slow on Bond 21; creative problems. On Monday 8th March 2004, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade gave a talk at the British Library, revealing that they had worked on a screenplay “for three weeks” at that point. No specific plot details were discussed, but this event does appear to confirm that, in early 2004, Eon Productions began serious work on a fifth Bond screenplay with Pierce Brosnan still touted to play 007.



After this stage, events moved quickly. Pierce Brosnan would indeed return as Ian Fleming’s James Bond on the screen, in 2004- but only in the videogame Everything or Nothing. In July 2004, Brosnan was unceremoniously fired, the only Bond actor to be sacked rather than depart by mutual agreement with producers. According to Brosnan, the deed was done via a cursory phone call with Broccoli and Wilson, and by the end of the month he had informed newspapers such as the Guardian that: “Bond is another lifetime, behind me.” Only four months before, Brosnan had been fervently re-stating his desire to make a fifth film:  “I’m certainly willing to come back…” However, by late July Brosnan was repeating the same formula when interviewed, criticising Eon as unimaginative and stale “they don’t know how to move on” before deflecting further enquiries with a coolly blunt variation of “That’s all I’ve got to say.”  What had gone so drastically wrong that in the space of less than half a year, Brosnan had gone from being ‘the current Bond’, with a new screenplay in development, to condemning his former employers at MGM in innuendo-laden press barbs?



Whatever the truth was, Bond 21 was radically reworked to become Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale. Its sadly unlikely that Purvis and Wade’s aforementioned script will ever see the light of day, and attempting to research the project becomes more difficult when one considers the contrasting accounts put about by different sources. Ultimately, Brosnan’s Bond 21 remains one of the most shadowy and mysterious lost Bond films…



Does anyone else know anything about what this film would have involved? What were the true circumstances of Brosnan’s firing? Should Brosnan have been given a chance to return? What do others think?

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

Should Brosnan have been given a chance to return? Unequivocally yes. The perceived problems with DAD were nothing to do with him; he remained popular with audiences; he didn't look too old (see other films he made at this time) as yet.
As to what went on between him and Eon, we simply do not have enough detail to make more than guesses. Did any bad feeling between him and MGW/BB precede his being dismissed or (understandably on his part) follow it? Did he just ask for more money than they were prepared to pay? There are hints but little more. Eon's official story that the world had changed and they wanted to make a different kind of Bond film has some merit, but may be a retroactive rationalisation.
I'm sure there were threads about this at the time, but it would need some digging to find them.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

"Should Brosnan have been given a chance to return? Unequivocally yes. The perceived problems with DAD were nothing to do with him; he remained popular with audiences; he didn't look too old (see other films he made at this time) as yet."

In agreement here. I think Brosnan really drew the short straw with Bond; despite his films being hugely successful and his version of Bond very popular, he was fired, apparently through no fault of his own. Since then, he's had the unenviable experience of being painted as "angry" and "bitter" in the public memory, as well as DAD's awful reputation souring critical reception of his entire tenure (for instance, a 2014 Guardian appraisal of his era summarised his performances as "flat, lackadaisal...sheer laziness.")

What shouldn't be forgotten, I think, is that GoldenEye singlehandedly saved the Bond series, and Brosnan deserves a large part of the credit for that. TND and TWINE are decent Bond films as well.


"As to what went on between him and Eon, we simply do not have enough detail to make more than guesses."
As I noted, in 2004 Brosnan tended to shut down interviewers' questions about the exact reasons for his firing, and Eon Productions weren't exactly talkative about it either. Possibly there were lawyers involved, making sure that nothing too interesting got out?


The story, as Brosnan tells it, reflects pretty badly on the producers, with the abrupt phone call. Did the rumours about Brosnan greedily wanting more money actually originate with Eon, as a form of retribution to make him look bad? There are all sorts of intriguing directions here... Any other thoughts?

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

I hope time is kind to the Brosnan films. They may not have been the best for various reasons (script, casting) but they do feel like proper action adventure Bond films and Pierce is a classy James Bond who really fits the bill.

Uninformed, lazy journalists are quick to bash Brosnan due to some of his films not being Top 5 or even Top 10 material and DAD admittedly probably the poorest of the series (DAF also vies for this spot in my opinion).

Because Craig became the new hard edged, younger, freshfaced reboot of the franchise after Brosnan's tenure, people often forget that Pierce was the people's choice and filled Bond's Church's admirably in what was challenging period for the franchise, keeping Bond fresh and relevant at the end of the 20th Century.

"Any of the opposition around..?"

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

Pierce Brosnan has several resons to be bitter (I'm not saying he is) about his history with Bond. First he was chosen as the next Bond for TLD, but was screwed over by the producers of Remington Steele. The years later he becomes the only actor to leave the role aganst his will, and he's even sacked over the phone  ajb007/crap

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

Number24 wrote:

The years later he becomes the only actor to leave the role aganst his will, and he's even sacked over the phone  ajb007/crap

Agree N24. Compare their handling of Pierce in this regard to the esteem Daniel is held in by them.

Pierce has been mild mannered compared to Sean.

"Any of the opposition around..?"

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

"Because Craig became the new hard edged, younger, freshfaced reboot of the franchise after Brosnan's tenure, people often forget that Pierce was the people's choice and filled Bond's Church's admirably in what was challenging period for the franchise, keeping Bond fresh and relevant at the end of the 20th Century."

Very well put. When Craig was brought in for CR, his Bond was constantly emphasised as new, fresh, gritty, daring, exciting, but this had the unfortunate side effect of implying that Brosnan's era was, by contrast, old, stale, tepid and unexciting. Eon's publicity, and the huge success of Craig's interpretation,  essentially created a revisionist myth that the franchise had no choice but to evolve or die in the wake of DAD's ridiculousness. In fact, Brosnan remained well-liked by fans and critics and could easily have made another film or two. The popularity of Craig nowadays tends to obscure this.


Can anyone who was a Bond fan at the time in 2004 remember how they felt about Brosnan's departure? Did it come as a big shock, or not so much? I'd be interested to canvas some contemporary reactions to his firing...

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

Addendum:

Also, a more minor question, does anyone know, was Hugh Jackman really a serious contender for Bond after Brosnan left? Apparently he was under consideration at some stage but I can't work out when...

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

SpectreOfDefeat wrote:

... In March 2004, a frustrated Brosnan told the US television network AMC that “we’re in a very opaque land at the moment…a certain kind of paralysis has set in and, er, they don`t know where to go, how to go with this one." ...

On Monday 8th March 2004, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade gave a talk at the British Library, revealing that they had worked on a screenplay “for three weeks” at that point. No specific plot details were discussed, but this event does appear to confirm that, in early 2004, Eon Productions began serious work on a fifth Bond screenplay with Pierce Brosnan still touted to play 007.

In the Taschen 'James Bond Archives', Jamie Russell (who contributed the DAD and CR entries) interviewed Barbara Broccoli, who stated "When the rights [to Casino Royale] became available to us, Michael and I decided to do it." Bear in mind the rights moved from Sony to MGM/UA in 1999.

Russell goes on to note: "Robert Wade and Neal Purvis began work on the screenplay [for Casino Royale] in early January 2004. A first draft was delivered in July. However, during this period Sony was trying to buy MGM/UA, so there were question marks over the movie's financing" to which Anthony Waye adds "It held up our preparation because we couldn't get any answers. This went on for several weeks."

The next announcement was Martin Campbell's appointment as Director on 3rd February 2005, citing "he was impressed by the franchise's new direction".

Were P&W working on a separate fifth outing for Brosnan that was unconnected to CR? It seems unlikely. Perhaps BB and MGW felt that some of the more outlandish elements of DAD required a reboot, much like that of FYEO after Moonraker, when it was said that after being in space, Bond could only go one way - back down to earth.

Given that CR in '54 and '67 had muddied the waters, I think it's more likely that BB and MGW wanted to make a definitive official version, and that entailed a new actor as well as a grittier new direction. P&W may have been working on a CR script for Brosnan but just couldn't make it work, given that audiences would wonder why an older Brosnan was suddenly playing 'baby Bond'. I doubt that pay negotiations would have been an issue, given the success of DAD and Brosnan's other outings.  ajb007/martini

Last edited by Charmed & Dangerous (30th Jun 2020 13:12)

"How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

Thanks, C&D- all this is interesting new info.


In particular...


"Russell goes on to note: "Robert Wade and Neal Purvis began work on the screenplay [for Casino Royale] in early January 2004. A first draft was delivered in July."

So a rough draft of Wade and Purvis' Casino Royale was started in January and this script was still being worked on when P and W briefly discussed Bond 21 in March. The complete first draft arrived in July- the same month Brosnan was forced to quit. Coincidence?


Maybe not. If we join the dots, and assume that P and W were only working on a version of CR, then Broccoli and Wilson had firmly decided to adapt the novel several months before Brosnan's departure. We know that they wanted to film Casino as soon as possible, to make use of their new assets. We also know that Michael G. Wilson had wanted to pursue a 'rookie Bond' prequel angle for the series for years, as he suggested this idea to Cubby Broccoli during early development for TLD in 1986. With this in mind, when it became clear that adapting CR properly would require a change in lead actor for the origin story direction to be convincing, Broccoli and Wilson prioritised making this plotline work and promptly fired Brosnan in order to cast a younger, tougher type of leading man.


Again, all of the above paragraph is just conjecture, but I think it fits the facts...


Anyone else have any thoughts re Brosnan's Bond 21/the nature of P and W's script/the acrimonious firing?

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

SpectreOfDefeat wrote:

Can anyone who was a Bond fan at the time in 2004 remember how they felt about Brosnan's departure? Did it come as a big shock, or not so much? I'd be interested to canvas some contemporary reactions to his firing...

Yes, and yes. I thought it was what is now called fake news at first- I'm pretty sure there's a post from me saying that this was just a negotiation stage, and everything would work out right in the end. Since it didn't, I had no alternative but to launch danielcraigisnot....  ajb007/embarrassed  er, accept the situation and hope that I would grow to enjoy Craig's Bond as I had learned to love Moore's all those years ago. Who knows, maybe one day that might happen.

https://i.postimg.cc/ThXtnbd7/images.jpg

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

Barbel wrote:
SpectreOfDefeat wrote:

Can anyone who was a Bond fan at the time in 2004 remember how they felt about Brosnan's departure? Did it come as a big shock, or not so much? I'd be interested to canvas some contemporary reactions to his firing...

Yes, and yes. I thought it was what is now called fake news at first- I'm pretty sure there's a post from me saying that this was just a negotiation stage, and everything would work out right in the end. Since it didn't, I had no alternative but to launch danielcraigisnot....  ajb007/embarrassed  er, accept the situation and hope that I would grow to enjoy Craig's Bond as I had learned to love Moore's all those years ago. Who knows, maybe one day that might happen.

https://i.postimg.cc/ThXtnbd7/images.jpg

Ha! I was open to Craig, and I enjoyed Casino Royale the first time I watched it. Craig's Bond films are the only ones I like less on repeat viewings.

I was shocked to hear that Brosnan was fired, since he certainly wasn't too old for another few films. After seeing how Craig looked in Skyfall I was even more upset that the youthful Brosnan was not still Bond.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

"I'm pretty sure there's a post from me saying that this was just a negotiation stage, and everything would work out right in the end."
Funnily enough, while I was researching this I found a serious news article from 2004 alleging that it was all "just part of the negotiations." I guess that reaction stems from shock at the very sudden nature of Eon's decision...


"Since it didn't, I had no alternative but to launch danielcraigisnot....er, accept the situation and hope that I would grow to enjoy Craig's Bond as I had learned to love Moore's all those years ago. Who knows, maybe one day that might happen."


Cheer up, NTTD will almost certainly be Craig's last. He'll be too old by 2022/3 for yet another go round...unless he pretends to quit and then changes his mind, like what happened after SPECTRE...oh well...keep your fingers crossed... ajb007/smile

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

I really don’t get this Brosnan love-in. For me, he is by far the worse Bond by a long, long way. He looks like he’s “pretending” to be James Bond. GE, TWINE & DAD sit firmly in my “don’t ever want to watch again” list along with QOS.

I do like TND because it’s a proper Bond story.

Brosnan to me, is like Dalton is to Higgins  ajb007/lol , except Higgins likes Dalton more than I like Brosnan  ajb007/biggrin

I love this site, such varying points of views, I mean, some people actually don’t rate OHMSS  ajb007/confused

Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

from what i recall during the time of Brosnan's sacking...

i was younger then and still playing video games. I absolutely loved the game Everything or Nothing, it felt like a real Bond movie and felt that Brosnan in the role was perfect, happy memories!

I loved Die another Die, i thought Brosnan was perfect as Bond and fell in love with his clothes in that one. I promptly went out and bought some Turnbull and Asser shirts and a new grey suit. Brosnan was Bond when i came upon the series, so there was really no other Bond in my mind. It was odd thinking he was no longer going to be Bond, but not necessarily a shock.

I remember Clive Owen's name being thrown around for the next Bond and i honestly felt he may do a decent Bond. When Daniel Craig was announced as the next Bond i had no idea who he was. Then he was escorted via royal navy thru the Thames river at his official welcoming and i thought "this is somewhat cool, if a non-Brosnan kind of way". They dressed up Craig for that press conference in what seemed to be one of Brosnan's suits and ties.
Anyhow, i remember Craig being charismatic enough, although in hindsight it appears that it was Bond's character that gave him that appeal.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

CoolHandBond wrote:

I really don’t get this Brosnan love-in. For me, he is by far the worse Bond by a long, long way. He looks like he’s “pretending” to be James Bond. GE, TWINE & DAD sit firmly in my “don’t ever want to watch again” list along with QOS.

I do like TND because it’s a proper Bond story.

Brosnan to me, is like Dalton is to Higgins  ajb007/lol , except Higgins likes Dalton more than I like Brosnan  ajb007/biggrin

I love this site, such varying points of views, I mean, some people actually don’t rate OHMSS  ajb007/confused

I too love that we all have such varied opinions CoolHandBond. "One man's wine is another man's poison". "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

I like all the Bond actors. QoS has many detractors but I like it and it has some truly great Bond moments

"Any of the opposition around..?"

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

SpectreOfDefeat wrote:

Can anyone who was a Bond fan at the time in 2004 remember how they felt about Brosnan's departure? Did it come as a big shock, or not so much? I'd be interested to canvas some contemporary reactions to his firing...

I actually think physically Brosnan was just growing into the role, he was too skinny when he started, he needed to fatten up a bit. I definitely could not imagine 1987-er Brosnan in the role.
And Craig might have been younger but did not look it, he certainly did not look like the impulsive rookie the script kept telling us he was.

But at the time, my lingering impression was much as CoolHand's, I saw Brosnan as a department store mannequin lacking personality, and his plots as by-the-numbers pastiches.
I welcomed the idea of a straight adaptation of Casino Royale with a new actor so much I got all excited and joined a webforum so I could talk with other BondGeeks about how excited I was!

Note that before the era of dvd, i had only ever seen those four Brosnans once at the cinema, so it was the lingering impression that stuck. Now that I've rewatched them many times at my leisure, I see a lot of good stuff I missed or forgot. But in real time, the last half of DAD was what was clearest in my memory when the announcement came.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

Charmed & Dangerous wrote:

In the Taschen 'James Bond Archives', Jamie Russell (who contributed the DAD and CR entries) interviewed Barbara Broccoli, who stated "When the rights [to Casino Royale] became available to us, Michael and I decided to do it." Bear in mind the rights moved from Sony to MGM/UA in 1999.

they traded the rights for SpiderMan didnt they? thats what I remember.
Good trade. Both films turned out much better than I had any reason to expect at the time.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

caractacus potts wrote:
Charmed & Dangerous wrote:

In the Taschen 'James Bond Archives', Jamie Russell (who contributed the DAD and CR entries) interviewed Barbara Broccoli, who stated "When the rights [to Casino Royale] became available to us, Michael and I decided to do it." Bear in mind the rights moved from Sony to MGM/UA in 1999.

they traded the rights for SpiderMan didnt they? thats what I remember.
Good trade. Both films turned out much better than I had any reason to expect at the time.

That’s correct...

YNWA 96

The Unbearables

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

SpectreOfDefeat wrote:

Can anyone who was a Bond fan at the time in 2004 remember how they felt about Brosnan's departure? Did it come as a big shock, or not so much? I'd be interested to canvas some contemporary reactions to his firing...

To be honest I wasn’t overly bothered about Brosnan leaving at that particular time...the second half of DAD is just so bloody awful it left me indifferent...

YNWA 96

The Unbearables

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

Brosnan could have played Bond well into the 2010s given the right script-circumstances.
And I would trade the whole Craig-era for that. ajb007/bond

The name is Walker by the way.

IG: @thebondarchives
Check it out, you won’t be disappointed ajb007/smile

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

AugustWalker wrote:

Brosnan could have played Bond well into the 2010s given the right script-circumstances.
And I would trade the whole Craig-era for that. ajb007/bond

ajb007/cheers  Agreed 100%

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

I disagree. CR-06 alone is good enough reason to want Craig as Bond.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

Number24 wrote:

I disagree. CR-06 alone is good enough reason to tolerate Craig as Bond.

Fixed that.  ajb007/smile

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Pierce Brosnan in Bond 21…

AugustWalker wrote:

Brosnan could have played Bond well into the 2010s given the right script-circumstances.
And I would trade the whole Craig-era for that. ajb007/bond

Same for me. Brosnan could have done a wonderful Casino Royale (though not Tarantino's version).