News has emerged that the former James Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who came up with the central story themes and main title for Skyfall, have been working on an adaptation of SS-GB, a thriller written by spy author Len Deighton.
Sources close to the project have revealed to the JBIFC that the adaptation will form the basis of a new movie for NNC Television. Len Deighton’s best-selling wartime novel, first published in 1978, is an ‘alternate history’ story, set in a Great Britain that has been invaded and conquered by the Nazis.
The gritty story, based largely in a rather grey and rain-soaked London in 1941, has Superintendent Douglas Archer, a Metropolitan Police detective at Scotland Yard, as the main character. Archer is trying to pursue a police career and solve crime against the difficult backdrop of an occupied Britain, where his bosses are constantly looking over his shoulder. The title ‘SS-GB’ stands for the special branch of the German S.S. that has overall control of the recently defeated country.
Archer is given the tricky task of investigating the murder of a well-dressed man, but what appears at first to be a simple murder case turns out to be much darker. Archer discovers the murdered man was actually a physicist named William Spode, who was working on a secret German project to develop a Nazi atomic bomb. It also emerges that Spode was connected to the British Resistance, and involved in a complex plot to free the English King from the Tower of London, after the Monarch was imprisoned there by the Germans.
Archer also becomes aware that the case is beginning to attract the unwelcome interest of key officials at the highest levels of the S.S. and German government, and he begins to witness a power struggle between rival factions in the regime, which inevitably puts his own life at risk.
As well as being a leading espionage author, Len Deighton (who lived as a teenager in wartime London) has become a respected expert on the Second World War, and carries out meticulous background research on all of his military-related works of fiction and non-fiction. When writing his war books, such as Bomber (1970), Declarations of War (1971), Blitzkrieg (1979) and Goodbye Mickey Mouse (1982), Deighton took the opportunity to personally quiz some of the last surviving leaders of the German wartime regime, including Albert Speer.
Write Another Way
Starting with The World Is Not Enough in 1999, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade worked on the scripts for five 007 movies. Since announcing that they were stepping down from Bond script-writing duties after the release of Skyfall, the talented veteran screen-writing duo have been involved in a number of new projects, including new big-screen adaptations of the 1960s sci-fi film Barbarella and the 1970s TV police series Kojak.
The busy pair have also worked on a gangster movie script entitled Corsica ’72, based on the true story of two Corsican childhood friends, Marco and Sauveur. The former joins the Mafia, while the latter chooses a quiet life with his lover. But when the Mob kills Sauver’s brother, he is set on a path which inevitably brings him up against his old friend.
Interestingly, in some of their last Bond-related interviews, even though they said it was ‘time to move on’ from Bond (having thoroughly enjoyed themselves since 1999), Purvis and Wade did not completely rule out returning to James Bond at some point in the future.
In February, 2013, for example, the pair were interviewed when they travelled on the special Skyfall train from London’s King’s Cross to Edinburgh in Scotland. Neal Purvis said it was good for them to take a break ‘because we’ve been doing it for longer than Ian Fleming was writing Bond’. Robert Wade added: ‘We’ve done five of them, and they really do take up a lot of your energy’. Now they were doing stuff they couldn’t do because they were ‘always doing Bond’. But Purvis also said that ‘it would be nice to look at it all again’ one day.
John Logan, who worked with Purvis and Wade on the screenplay for Skyfall, has been carrying out solo writing duties on Bond 24, which is expected to start production in the autumn of 2014, for a 2015 release. It is also believed that Logan will be writing the story for Bond 25.
Trivia Note: Len Deighton, whose first novel was the spy thriller The Ipcress File (made into a hit movie by 007 producer Harry Saltzman, starring Michael Caine), became involved himself in Bond scriptwriting duties in the mid-1970s, when he worked on the script of James Bond of the Secret Service (later titled Warhead), with Sean Connery and Irish producer Kevin McClory, as part of McClory’s ambitious plan to produce an independent non-EON Bond movie.
More recently, Deighton has written a short e-book about his memories of both Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory, entitled James Bond: My Long and Eventful Search for His Father (2012). Deighton actually met and had lunch with the James Bond creator in March, 1963, after Fleming had chosen The Ipcress File as his ‘Book of the Year’ in 1962.