At this point, James Bond has pretty much done it all. He’s fought all the bad guys, he’s been with all the girls. You’d think at this point they’d be running out of ideas. It turns out, however, that there are actually ideas that they’ve had to turn down, even in recent James Bond films. The script that eventually became the blockbuster Skyfall was once a very different movie, and it included a scene where James Bond does something that would have turned the franchise on its head. He killed M.
Peter Morgan, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of The Queen, tried his hand at writing a James Bond screenplay once upon a time. His script, entitled Once Upon A Spy, would have included flashbacks of Judi Dench’s M as a young MI6 agent herself. During this period, she had an affair with a KGB agent. Back in our modern day the agent’s son is blackmailing M and she brings in Bond to deal with the situation. The situation eventually culminates in Bond being forced to kill M. It’s not entirely clear from the story in The Guardian why he has to do it. Whether he’s actually being compelled by some outside force, or if he simply sees no other choice. And you thought Skyfall was already dark enough?
While Morgan’s script was rejected overall, it was the launching point that eventually led to the movie that Skyfall would become. The idea of a mistake from M’s past coming back to haunt here as the primary driver of the plot was kept, though the secret was drastically changed. Also, the fact that M does not survive the film remained as well, though Bond’s hands were kept clean. The final version of the script would go on to be the most successful film in the history of the franchise.
Robert Wade, one of the screenwriters who turned Once Upon a Spy into Skyfall says that that the original script was more of a John Le Carré spy story than it was Ian Fleming. This implies a much more dramatic and less action-focused film than we traditionally see in James Bond. Le Carré’s stories are generally much more about the politics involved in the spy trade than the people or the conflicts. It may have very well been a very good movie, but possibly not a good James Bond Movie.
Can you picture James Bond killing M? It’s interesting to imagine how this would have changed the impact of Skyfall and potentially the trajectory of the entire series if they’d gone ahead with it. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as good as Skyfall but maybe Spectre would have been better.
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