THE SPY WHO LOVED ME: A TREMBLE…SIGH…WONDER Script-to-Screen Comparison

By James Kenney

A fair number of Pierce Brosnan James Bond scripts have leaked online in various forms, I (and many) have a copy of the Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies scripts (the Tomorrow Never Dies script that leaked is rather different from the final film, which speaks to the production troubles often mentioned in relation to that film). But otherwise it is quite hard to get your hands on a Bond script without paying a great deal, they just don’t seem to be out there the way so many screenplays are.

So when I got my hands on the screenplay to The Spy Who Loved Me, written by Richard Maibaum and Christopher Wood, which is my favorite of all the Bonds and top five for many, I figured it would be interesting to look a bit closer and see how the script translated to the screen, what was dropped, altered, etc.

Well, the line “if it ain’t on the page it ain’t on the stage” comes to mind as the script is very impressive, largely presenting the film as it was to be seen on screen. 

After the middling-to-weak The Man With the Golden Gun, Eon Productions worked hard on this one right from the outset to make it something special as the August 23rd, 1976 draft has all the elements in place, from the pre-credit ski battle and parachute jump to the big finale at Stromberg’s underwater lair. Good show, fellas.  But the devil is in the detail and Bondophiles (of which I am one) should find what was changed or dropped bsolutely fascinating!  (If not, then carry on, nothing to see here).

Right off the bat, on page one, the reader is alerted that

THROUGHOUT THE SCRIPT PLEASE
ALTER THE NAME OF THE TANKER
FROM……LEPARUS
TO…………LIPARUS

Will do, fellas!  Obviously some sort of legal issue, similar to whatever issues they came up with so late they couldn’t change the name of Zorin in making A View to a Kill and had to add a jarring disclaimer at the beginning of the film.  Oops!  But not the crack The Spy Who Loved Me squad, they knew they were making something special and did all the leg work before this final draft of the script!  That changed vowel makes all the difference!

No, it appears it was just a typo that was nagging at someone.  Fair enough. There are several other amendments on the first page, mostly correcting typos, it seems.  In the scene where Stromberg tells Sandor “Every person who even comes into contact with that microfilm is to be eliminated” the amendment page tells us that when Sandor says “Yes, sir?” what we should actually read is “Yes, Sir.”  So no question mark and capitalization revealing that Sandor really respects Stromberg, as it should be!  So lots of that kind of stuff on this first page of amendments.

The first really interesting curio is that while Eon spares no expense, they were apparently too cheap to turn an extra into a speaking role, as during the pre-credit chess sequence one of the poor fellas actually has a line and some business in the screenplay (I always thought it was curious Maibaum and Wood didn’t come up with something for one of those guys to say).

In the script, one of the naval crew (Fraser) apparently loses, and the other (Jones) corrects the information on a chalk slate hanging near them to read “JONES 149, FRASER 3” (boy, Fraser is bad!) and then adds “Don’t worry. You got another whole month to find out the Bishop moves diagonally.”

Ouch. 

Otherwise this early sequence is impressively scripted, ending with the Captain, Talbot, muttering “My God!,” as in the film, while also being directed to give “a sudden sharp gasp of incredulity.”  I don’t know if he quite does this, but well done anyway, Brian Marshall, a solid British character actor also seen in The Tamarind Seed and a bunch of other stuff, who passed away not so long ago.

The description of the Submarine Base in the script hints at the fact they were willing to spend money on this one as it is described as a “long room, with big windows, giving an extensive view over the estuary” as opposed to walls covered with maps or something cheaper.  Ken Adam comes up with something different that doesn’t provide the view but provides the expensive expansiveness, and all is good.

Rubelvitch, Gogol’s secretary is described as “a Russian Moneypenny” which gets to the point. There should be fan-fiction written from Rubelvitch’s point-of-view.

James Bond’s high-tech ticker-tape watch is right there in the script, minus any product-placement mention of the brand.  But in proof they keep working on these things right to the very end, when the girl he’s leaving asks Bond “What’s happened? Where are you going?” Bond, the cheeky devil, does not say “Something came up!” as he does in the cinema.

Instead Bond can only muster an apologetic “Sorry. Another time,” which certainly counts as “Placeholder until we can think of something better” time. 

However the glorious “So Does England!” button to the scene, Bond’s response to the girl’s “But James! I need you!” is right there on the page, so Maibaum and Wood did earn their pay despite the missed opportunity on the earlier line (curiously, this draft lists no writers’ names on it, it’s clearly an Eon Production and that’s all you need to know, folks).

There is much detail in the description of the skiing sequence, which makes me wonder if the 2nd unit had already shot some/all of this and then it was transcribed into the script given to the 1st unit – I have no idea, just that the scene is written in great detail right down to the “parachute opens into a great Union Jack as BOND drifts downwards” leading into the titles.

The scene at the submarine base is done faithfully on screen, with the nice detail that the authors describe Q as “enjoying himself” as he explains his whole “heat signature recognition” bit about tracking submarines to an audience described as “bemused.”

There is an additional bit in the Egyptian desert where an “Arab Guide” tells Bond “The oasis lies yonder, Effendi” which gives Bond a chance to show off some of his Arabic that didn’t make the final cut.

The murder of the pretty assistant who has betrayed Stromberg is written in a bit more bloody detail than shown in the final cut, her “face distorted as she screams” as “the water froths and foams and becomes streaked with red” – just as Moonraker responded to Star Wars, it’s clear Jaws wasn’t far from the writers’ minds as they devised this scene especially as within a moment our Jaws shows up and bares his teeth for Stromberg, happy to learn he has to kill everyone who gets near that damn microfilm.

There is a bit more dialogue between Stromberg and the understandably wary Bechmann and Markovitz before they leave on the helicopter.  Curiously, there is no mention in the script of the helicopter blowing up – meaning Stromberg trusts these two? Meaning we never get the brilliant “their funeral was at sea” line? I don’t know, but at least in the scripted universe Stromberg’s poor helicopter pilot lives to fly another day for his unloyal boss, and these guys apparently do pocket their cool million each for helping to cripple the world’s superpowers! Hopefully they got hit by a bus later that week since they did not have their deserved “funeral at sea” Stromberg promises in the final version of SPY.

When Bond goes to Fekkesh’s apartment and a woman named Felicca in the script sort of seduces him only to get shot by Sandor, the staging is a little different – in the script Bond tries a bit harder to save them both when the shot is fired – he’s described as “[flinging] her and himself on to the floor beside the divan” where in the movie he either spasmodically or purposefully flings her around to use as a shield to take the bullet – gee, I though Roger Moore was the nice Bond?

However, the scene on the roof after this where Sandor battles Bond is a bit different.  It’s interesting that Moore is on record complaining about how tough his character comes across in For Your Eyes Only when there is similar behavior exhibited by him in Spy that isn’t in the script.  In the script, Sandor falls off the roof and is hanging from the guttering as Bond questions him, holding him by his sleeve…his sleeve starts to rip and finally does, sending Sandor to his death.  But Bond actively doesn’t kill him, whereas in the film, Bond swats at his own tie that Sandor is hanging on to, knowing it will kill Sandor, much like him pushing the car off the cliff in Eyes Only.

It’s a better bit of staging than in the script and a memorable bit, but why was Moore okay with this but not the “murder” in Eyes Only?  Anyway, in the script, when the sleeve rips, Bond says to no one, save the nearby birds, “Not a tailor I’d recommend.”

At the Mujaba Club, the filmmakers partake of a bit of product placement, as Bond names Anya’s favorite drink as “gin and bitters on the rocks” in the script, where in the film it becomes “Bacardi on the rocks” which is a bit of conspicuous consumerism from communist Anya, a foreshadowing that she’ll hop into bed with capitalist Bond later despite his having killed the love of her life.

As Anya and Bond ride in the back of Jaws’ truck through the desert there is a bit more banter.  Anya, discussing all the dead bodies Bond finds, says “You’re always too late, aren’t you, Mr. Bond?” but Bond isn’t having it, responding “True. But always one step ahead of you, Major,” making her cry. 

Okay, she doesn’t cry, but apparently Bond is sensitive not only about her bringing up his wife’s death earlier, but also to Anya making fun of his secret-agenting skills.

A nice touch in the finished film is after Anya has bashed Jaws against the wall with the truck, she says “Shaken but not stirred,” as in the script, but in the script we are told “Bond grins” whereas in the film he looks a bit taken aback to have his own line used against him.  Good job, director Lewis Gilbert for demanding the eye-roll!

Later, after Bond throws Jaws through the window of the train, Anya asks “is he dead?” and Bond answers “I doubt it. He’s probably eating the rails for dessert” which Gilbert et al show their continued good sense to drop.  I wish Brosnan et al on Die Another Day had showed such discipline and dropped, oh, about 234 groan-worthy lines that sneaked in!

At this point, I just want to report that my favorite line in the whole movie, Bond deadpanning “Where there’s an ocean, a marine biologist is never on holiday” is there in all its glory on page 66 of the screenplay.  Made me laugh when I read it again, too.  Keeping the British end up, Maibaum and Wood!

There is, however, a kind of dumb line as the Lotus Special moves through the sea where Bond says “welcome to Wet Nellie.  I wouldn’t call her that in front of Q, by the way” to Anya, which they rightfully removed because it doesn’t sound debonair, just dorky, like he’s trying too hard to make her laugh, and would have led to Anya never sleeping with him, ever. I don’t ever want to think of the Lotus Special as “Wet Nellie” ever again.

The legendary moment where Bond hands a beachgoer a fish upon driving up onto the beach isn’t on the page, replaced by a volleyball player getting hit on the head by a ball as he stares in bewilderment. Oy. That’s something I would have written as a 12-year old doing Bond fan-fiction.

By this point we’ve reached the action climax where, with some minor dialogue variations things go as they do in the film. This film really buzzes because they knew what they were doing from the get-go! They knew they had a good script, and Eon spent to get the scope of the script on the screen.

However. 

The resolution is a bit different.  Mission accomplished, Bond and Anya have only reached the “Escape Chamber” on Atlantis when he turns to see her, gun pointed at him.  He steps toward her..and she FIRES!  The bullet thuds into the wall beside Bond’s head.  She warns “I won’t miss with the next one” and Bond reasonably answers “You couldn’t have missed with the first one – if you’d really wanted to kill me” as he moves towards her.  He doesn’t go for the gun, he just puts his hands on her shoulders and draws her close.  She “shakes her head as if waking up.”  Then their escape from Atlantis resumes.

It’s a pretty interesting bit and gives Anya a bit more to do in the action climax, even if it’s simply trying to kill Bond. I wonder if they shot this exchange?  The similar, less tense scene in the escape pod is in the script too, meaning they originally had two scenes dealing with Anya wanting to kill Bond at the end. Interesting.

However, one very cool bit is in the script that turns Fleming’s original novel on its head!  Bond asks Anya why she changed her mind about killing him and she says “Isn’t it supposed to be a woman’s privilege?” 

He raises his glass to her and says “To the Spy Who Loved Me.”

Wow!  That’s cool!  They used the title in the movie, and the Spy referred to is Anya, not Bond, as in the novel. I’m going to pretend he says that in the escape pod from now one every time I watch the film (which is about four times a year!).  I won’t imagine the whole “Wet Nellie,” bit, though, or the volleyball player.

And then, the Escape pod surfaces; M says “Double O Seven!” and Gogol stammers “Triple X!” as they’re caught in bed together, and Gray demands to know what Bond is doing.

Bond does NOT say the immortal line “Keeping the British end up, Sir!” but instead says the rather wordy “Gentlemen – we have just entered a new era of Anglo-Soviet co-operation,” echoing Gogol’s line on page 55 when all the Russians and the British have gathered in Egypt plotting their course of shared action (which is in the finished film).  So the line in the script is at least a payoff, and makes sense on that level, but, no.  Moore and Gilbert and whoever knew it wasn’t strong enough and pulled out another cheeky classic, ending The Spy Who Loved Me on a note of triumph (we won’t mention the campy boy’s choir who suddenly start singing the theme song on the soundtrack).

So it is interesting to see how close the final film hews to the screenplay – this was NOT a troubled production saved by on-set rewrites and reshoots; what Maibaum and Wood wrote is what Gilbert shot. But it is pretty interesting to see the little bits changed and dropped here and there.

Subscribe to Tremble…Sigh…Wonder…. below to get more groovy content like this; I’ll be looking at the Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies scripts soon, as well as one of the unproduced Sean Connery and Kevin McClory scripts, among other stuff.

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