MONDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:
WHEN YOU WANT TO HURT THE WORLD
Your villain has spent his entire life hurting people one by one, and now he's ready to move
on to world destruction and/or domination. He wants to blow up Cleveland or wipe out his
enemies' family lines. How do you make such massive destruction personal?
Everyone thought that Daniel Craig was going to be the downfall of the Bond series. He's blond,
he's short, he has blue eyes, he gets his teeth kicked out in fights, he can't drive a stick, he's just
not anything like James Bond! Ends up that all of that message board angst was meaningless -
Craig turns out to be a great Bond, and CASINO ROYALE has re-energized the series... at least until QUANTUM OF SOLACE killed it for a moment before SKYFALL brought it back full force. But let's forget QUANTUM even exists. CASINO ROYALE *was*
your father's James Bond - Craig brings the same savage brutality to the role as Connery did, but unlike QUANTUM, CASINO still had the gloss and wit and travelogue elements we expect from a Bond movie.
M calls him a "blunt instrument" and that's exactly what he is - a sledgehammer slamming anything
that gets in his way. A bull in a china shop (as opposed to QUANTUM, where he is a bull in an ugly crap filled bull ring - no contrast). Craig is no pretty boy, he shows his acting chops by having Bond move like
a gorilla (in the Ursula Andress scene) and later in the film you can see the emotional pain from
betrayal on his face... before he puts his armor back on.
The first film with a new Bond is usually pretty good, then they tend to get silly. GOLDENEYE
breathed new life into the series, but a couple of films later Brosnan was doing shtick right out of
a Roger Moore Bond movie. I hope this time around they keep on track and keep the rough
edges. THUNDERBALL opens with Bond paying his respects to the widow of a French spy... by
savagely slugging her in the face! Knocking off her wig, and exposing her as the supposedly dead
French spy in drag! What follows is a *brutal* fist fight using everything in the room as a
weapon - the kind of realistic fight scene that looks like stuntmen may have been injured while
filming it. The kind of stuff we expected to see in a Connery Bond film. I think that fight scene
may have been a model for the fight scene in BOURNE IDENTITY in Bourne's apartment,
where they use everything on the desk as a weapon (pen shoved through a hand!) That kind of
realistic action scene is what made BOURNE a hit... and made BOND movies seem silly and
CASINO ROYALE is obviously in response to BOURNE - bringing us back full circle. If past
Bond films would have been more like this the series would have never produced all of those
duds they had to package with a couple of good films to get you to buy them. We start out in
black and white with a savage fight scene in a men's room where not a single piece of porcelain
isn't smashed by somebody's face. It's ragged and bloody and real. Then we get the cooler side
of Bond as he dispassionately shoots a traitor. Now that he has his second kill, he's officially a
double 0 agent - licensed to kill (I guess the first two were on a learner's permit).
SMALL AND PERSONAL
The rest of the action scenes in the film keep it small and personal - we get a fantastic foot chase
instead of a less-personal car chase. Bond chases a bomb maker through Madagascar - the bomb
maker using parkur - that French urban running discipline where you run *over* obstacles like
cars and fences and buildings and climb up the sides of cranes - this is one of the most exciting
chase scenes I've ever seen in a Bond movie. Keeping with the idea of Bond as a blunt
instrument, he uses a bulldozer at one point to smash through a fence and a stack of building
materials. In a great bit of role-reversal, Bond and the bomb maker end up on the top of a crane
high over the city - the bombmaker empties his gun at Bond - missing him - then does what the
hero does in this situation: throws the gun at Bond's face. Bond catches the gun and throws it
back! That's a great action gag!
We also get a great fight scene *inside* a tanker truck that is reminiscent of the truck fight in
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - lots of amazing stunts all over a speeding truck. Plus an
amazing fight scene against one guy with a gun and another with a machete in a stairwell. The
machete *sparks* off the railing when it isn't slicing through Bond's shirt. Both are savage,
realistic, brutal fight scenes that have more energy than the last three Bond films combined. A
great combination of writing, direction, stunts and acting. The only gadget is Bond's fists (if you
can excuse the ridiculous glove box defribulator - why didn't they just have him use one in the
hotel? Public buildings are more likely to have a defribulator than a car). This is the most
exciting Bond film in decades... so why does the end seem to drag on forever?
All of the attention seemed to be focused on reinventing Bond, and none seemed to be focused
on the Villain's Plan - and the most important thing in any action film is the Villain's Plan.
Le Chiffre's plan is... A reasonable rate of return on investment.
He's a banker to terrorists and third world dictators. Though CASINO ROYALE never falls into
the trap of discussing banking, the way PHANTOM MENACE spends too much time on taxes,
having a banker as villain is still kind of dull. Mads Mikkelsen gives a marvelous performance as Le Chiffre,
who has some of the standard Bond Villain quirks: he uses an inhaler and has tears of blood due
to some injury that corrupted his tear ducts. Plus he's a ruthless banker, and not entirely honest.
He tells his terrorist clients that he will not risk any of their money... and then gambles it all by
selling short on an airline stock. Of course, he has a plan - to blow up the prototype of a new
SkyBus style super plane. Bond prevents this from happening, and now Le Chiffre has to recoup
the money before the terrorists and third world dictators notice it missing - so he organizes a
game of high stakes poker in Montenegro's Casino Royale. Now the villain's plan is to win at
poker - only slightly better than banking.
M sends Bond in to play poker against Le Chiffre, warning him that, "If you lose our government
will have directly funded terrorism".
THE "OR ELSE FACTOR"
When James Bond plays a friendly game of poker with Le Chiffre in CASINO ROYALE, the
fate of the world should be in his hand. If he's dealt the wrong cards, he needs to find some way
to play them to win. The problem with the film is that there is no "or else factor" - no concrete
consequences. If Bond loses the poker game, he will have funded terrorists... but to do what?
That's a vague consequence. We don't have specific terrorist act that winning this poker game
will prevent. It would have been better if the terrorists had a mission they were going to use the
missing money for - and when Le Chiffre lost the money in the stock market, that was a big
problem. This adds even more motivation for Le Chiffre to win the poker game, and more
motivation for *Bond* to win the game. It's not just about some money that terrorists might use
someday, winning the game means preventing the terrorists from doing something awful.
That makes the game itself more exciting.
So when Bond wins at cards, he prevents a *specific* terrorist act.
A good villain's plan is something that threatens the audience sitting in the cinema. We want our
hero to stop the villain because if he doesn't bad things will happen to *us*.
In the script for my HBO World Premiere film CRASH DIVE!, a group of terrorists have
hijacked a 688 Attack Class nuclear submarine, and are threatening to nuke Washington DC.
Because I realized that might sound like a good idea to some audience members, I added the
threat of firing at a random "small town" target as well. Like the very city where you're watching
the movie CRASH DIVE! on HBO... in the "safety" of your own home. Wasn't so safe after all!
Now you, the viewer, have a stake in the outcome.
In CASINO ROYALE, if Le Chiffre wins the card game... well, something somewhere might or
might not happen. Not a threat to the audience in the cinema, and really not much of threat at all.
Bond must win the card game or else... ?
Since the Villain's Plan is to win the poker game, that turns a game of cards into the pivotal
scene in the movie... and they don't make the card game very exciting. We've had all of these
great action scenes, and the best they can do in the card game is have Bond gamble recklessly in
order to spot Le Chiffre's "tell". Not much tension built with the gambling itself - even though
poker can be an exciting game to watch (which is why at any time of day or night you can turn on
ESPN and watch people playing poker). They just decided it wasn't important to make this
pivotal game exciting... nor to give any of the others at the table any character. There are ten
people playing poker against each other, but only Bond and Le Chiffre seem to matter. The others
get almost no dialogue and no character at all! Hey, Bond has to win against *them*, too!
Keeping the other eight players out of the story really becomes silly when one of them ends up
being CIA agent Felix Leiter (who helps Bond in almost every film). You mean that dude in the
background of the poker game shots was *important*?
Bond does get the greatest line in the movie in this scene - after almost getting killed in an action
scene between hands, he asks the waiter for a martini. "Shaken or stirred?" Bond replies, "Does it
look like I give a damn?"
Okay, so after the poker game, which Bond wins, Le Chiffre kidnaps the really hot British
Treasury gal Vesper Lind (the love interest) and sets a trap for Bond... which Bond falls into!
Now Le Chiffre gets to torture Bond using the same methods that kids use on their dads in about
half the clips on AMERICA'S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS - trying to get him to tell the secret
password for the bank account where the poker winnings have been deposited. Despite the overused
torture (which was brutal and fresh when the book was published in 1953), it's a pretty good scene because it allows Le Chiffre and Bond to face off against each
other. But once the poker game is over, the film is pretty much over... and this torture scene ends
with some dude walking through the door and killing Le Chiffre. Since the villain is the driving
force in any action film; once the villain is dead, the movie is over. We're grabbing our coats,
preparing to leave...
Except there are almost 40 minutes left in CASINO ROYALE!
And that's the problem.
What has been moving at a good clip so far, now grinds to a stop. There is no villain, no
villain's plan, nothing for Bond to prevent. The story is basically over - except for almost 40
minutes of stuff happening. Bond has nothing to do.... and no pressing reason to do anything.
There is no longer an "or else factor". He has the money in a numbered Swiss account - so the
terrorists didn't win. They can't do something somewhere someday... whatever that might have
With no threat, no consequences, no "or else factor", we end up with a protracted and dull third
act. CASINO ROYALE turns into a romance. We get a never ending sequence of Bond
recuperating in a hospital as Vesper stays by his side. A lose end tied up with a possible double
agent captured. A love scene in the rain. A love scene on the beach. Bond tells Vesper, " I have
no armor left, you've stripped it from me." A love scene on a sailboat. Bond tells Versper that he
loves her. Another love scene in a Venice hotel... and we "get it" after the *first* love scene! In
fact, we got it much earlier in a scene during the poker sequence where Bond comforts Vesper in
the shower after an action scene - it's a tender and romantic scene. Bond shows that he has
feelings for her that aren't just about her amazing cleavage.
The film drags on and on and on! Eventually they introduce a *new* villain, some dude with half
sunglasses that we know absolutely nothing about. But the Half Sunglass dude allows us a final
action scene in a crumbing building - but there is still no "or else factor" - no consequences. It
really doesn't matter if Bond wins the fight or not. He kidnaps Vesper at one point, but at that
point their relationship is over and Bond actually wants to kill her for betraying him. If he just
walks away, nothing happens - in fact, Half Sunglasses will kill Vesper - and save Bond the
trouble. All of the cards were played half an hour ago, and nothing that Bond does at this point in
the story really matters.
All of this could have been prevented if the terrorists had an actual mission they were going to
use the missing money for... so that we still has something for Bond to do after Le Chiffre is
dead. If, from the very beginning we knew the terrorists were going to use the money for something
like buying a nuke from North Korea and detonating it in Venice at the height of tourist season
(you know, Venice gets so many tourists that they're thinking about charging around $3 per
person to enter the city). That way, preventing Le Chiffre from wining the poker game prevents that very
tangible act of terrorism. When Vesper screws him out of the money, the terrorist act is back on.
This makes the terrorist leader the new villain for act 3... but the villain's plan is pretty much the
same throughout the story.
Now, you can decide whether Bond just gets the money back and kills the terrorist leader dude
before they buy the nuke (preventing it financially) or whether he gets to make that choice
between cutting the red wire or the blue wire like in every other Bond film. Either way works.
But the film right now has no consequences if Bond fails. And the only "terrorist act" we see on
film is an attempt to blow up a completely empty plane in order to drive a stock price down...
not something that really matters to the audience. No threat... unless you were invested in that
mythical airline, too. Oh, and sold short on the same day. Hmm, okay, there's no possible threat
to anyone in the audience.
Any movie idea (regardless of genre) is going to have an *or else factor*. The protagonist must
resolve the conflict, *or else*...
These are the consequences for failure. If there are no consequences, the stakes are meaningless.
What happens if your protagonist doesn't solve the problem? What is your protagonist risking in
your screenplay? The greater the risk, the greater the reward... and the more interesting your
The reason why we seldom see a standard murder mystery on screen is that there is no "or else
factor" involved. If the hero fails, what happens? The killer just isn't caught. The dead guy
remains dead - no change in his condition. This probably explains why, when we do have a
detective story, it's about a serial killer. If the detective doesn't catch the killer they will kill again.
A movie like SEVEN is all about preventing the next murder by solving the current murder.
What is the *or else factor* in your story? How will not resolving the conflict bring about the
end of the world for your protagonist? Will he end up alone and unloved because his one true
love has married somebody else? Will the forces of evil take over The Shire? Will LeChiffre's
winning fund terrorist acts that will kill millions of people? Look at your story and ask yourself
Of course, in retrospect, the Villian's Plan in CASINO ROYALE is pure genius compared with whatever was going on in
QUANTUM - cornering the market on water? Pretending to be environmentalists in order to fiendishly buy and clearcut forests? The Villian's Plan
in QUANTUM is almost as silly as the villain's henchman - Bowl Cut! (like Odd Job... but pathetically weak and with a bad haircut).
SKYFALL made the Villain's Plan personal - but used the exposure of deep cover agents to create a global threat.
The Villain's Plan doesn't have to be world domination, but it needs to be something worth sending out James Bond to prevent.
Does your Villain's Plan make sense? Does it affect the audience? Are they included in the threat (either through
active participation or vicariously through your protagonist)? If not, you need to re-think your Villain's Plan... that's the most important element in an action or thriller script.
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E BOOKS PAGE
E BOOKS: New Blue Books and Novelettes!
I am expanding all of the Blue Books from around 44 pages of
text to around 200 pages! Some are over 250 pages! See what is availabale and what is coming soon!Also, I've been writing Novelletes and there
will soon be novels.
E BOOKS: BLUE BOOKS & NOVELLETES
MY OTHER SITES
B MOVIE WORLD
Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.
FIRST STRIKE PRODUCTIONS
Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.
NAKED SCREENWRITING CDs
The NAKED SCREENWRITING CLASS ON CD!
The 2001 London Class on 8 CDs! Recorded *live* the morning after the Raindance Film Festival
wrapped. The two day class on 8CDs, plus a workbook, plus a bonus CD with PDFs.
The 2 Day Class on CD!
Every screenwriting book in the world!
In Association With Amazon.com
From the latest screenwriting book to
guides for finding agents and producers... all with at the
BOOKLETS & PRODUCTS
FIRST STRIKE BLUE BOOKS
Each Blue Book is 48
pages and focuses on a different aspect of screenwriting. Dialogue. Visual Storytelling. Your First Ten Pages. Act 2 Booster. Protagonists. Great Endings.
Seventeen Blue Books now available!
THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING The Best Nuts & Bolts Screenwriting Book On The
nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines,
several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
CLASSES ON CD
CLASSES ON CD! Take a class on CD! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 CDs). Full length classes on CD. Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
Take classes on CD!