Inside Anthony Burgess’s deranged "Spy Who Loved Me" script

RevelatorRevelator Posts: 546MI6 Agent

Some excerpts from a recent article in The Telegraph by Jeremy Duns.


[It's] one of the wildest pieces of Bond literature ever written – one that somehow features Henry Kissinger, the Queen and an explosive appearance from the Archbishop of Canterbury. In early 1975, Anthony Burgess was in New York on a lecture tour when he was approached outside his hotel by producer Cubby Broccoli (Barbara’s father) and Guy Hamilton, who had directed four Bond films, the most recent being The Man with the Golden Gun

They handed Burgess “a wad of paper and a portable typewriter” and asked him to write a “totally original script” for the next film in the series, The Spy Who Loved Me. The emphasis on originality was because Ian Fleming had stipulated that only the title could be used from his novel of the same name...

In 1988, Burgess’s flat in Monaco was flooded, partially destroying his collection of manuscripts, and among those he listed on his insurance claim as “ruined by water” was a 150-page film script for The Spy Who Loved Me

But, surprisingly, some of the material he wrote for the film has survived, and since the 1990s has been sitting in the library of the Harry Ransom Center in the University of Texas along with 138 other boxes of Burgess’ manuscripts, correspondence and other items...

[What survived] was a 44-page outline for the whole film...It’s a fascinating read. Burgess’s approach was not so much ultra-violence as ultra-absurdity, although there are also echoes of the frightening nihilism of A Clockwork Orange. Instead of SMERSH or SPECTRE, Burgess created a new villainous group, the Consortium for Hastening the Annihilation of Organised Society, or CHAOS. The outline opens with the head of the organisation, Schnitzler, welcoming participants to the group’s eighth annual plenary conference. 

He announces that their dividends will unfortunately be lower this year due to inflation and recession, takes a sip from a glass of milk, and dies. His poisoner, Feratu, immediately takes over as the new head of CHAOS, saying he has removed the ‘smell of defeatism’ and that dividends will not be reduced. The doors are flung open and a newcomer enters: Theodorescu, “gross, formidable” and in a wheelchair, long thought dead by the others. He is accompanied by his beautiful daughter Elaine, the left side of whose face is covered in a red stain. She shoots Feratu between the eyes, and her father takes over as the third head of CHAOS. This is all on the first page of the outline.

Theodorescu has a different attitude to his very recent predecessors. As Elaine burns five million dollars in notes in the conference room’s fireplace, he explains that money is irrelevant and that under his leadership the group will return to its initial aims and finally bring to fruition the “Global Takeover”. His plan is to destroy civilisation for the sheer thrill of it: motiveless terror on a grand scale. The camera lingers on a design above the fireplace: “an image of a shattered world, with the title CHAOS”.

Just a couple of pages in and Burgess had already delivered a Bond idea like no other before, but the outline becomes more outrageous by the scene. CHAOS blackmails the Pope into whitewashing Michelangelo’s frescoes from the Sistine chapel (a British ambassador’s daughter will be murdered if he doesn’t), extorts several world leaders, forces Henry Kissinger to carry out what is implied to be a sexual act, and blows up a plane with the Archbishop of Canterbury moments after he has put on his earphones to watch the in-flight film – which is The Spy Who Loved Me

The world has been thrown into panic, and only one man can stop the threat. James Bond himself is rather traditionally portrayed: he wears black tie, fires a bow and arrow in a fight scene in Singapore, and makes cool quips about food and wine under pressure. However, while some scenes seem tailor-made for Roger Moore, there’s also an indication that he might not have been in mind for this. In a scene in which M congratulates Bond for carrying out his 50th successful mission, he rejects a cigarette case made from the bullets of his enemies that Q has made: “I smoke cigars now, gentlemen. You’re confusing me with my predecessor, who carried the same number. Still – I’m grateful.” This isn’t so far from the idea in No Time To Die in which a new agent takes on the 007 mantle from Bond. 

Theodorescu, who was also a character in Burgess’s 1966 novel Tremor of Intent, is very much in the classic Bond villain stamp. Working out of a tanker in the Pacific Ocean, he has instructed his agents in a clinic in Bavaria to secretly insert miniature nuclear devices into their patients during operations, with the idea that this “living arsenal” can then be remotely activated. They also find recruits among those contemplating suicide. Leading this work is Fleming, a thin, ascetic Scottish doctor. Having a character named after Bond’s creator as a prudish villain is a rather delicious touch.

To justify the film’s title, Burgess has Elaine Theodorescu try to kill Bond by trapping him above a furnace in a Bavarian dungeon, only for him to escape and the two to fall in love. They even plan to marry. It turns out she was spurned in an affair with another British agent, Tony Graham, 005, and that experience psychosomatically disfigured her. 

A rival love interest is beautiful opera singer Jean Northumberland, who helps Bond when he is ambushed by CHAOS agents in a hotel room in Rome by using the power of her piercing high notes to shatter a light-bulb in the ceiling. However, she doesn’t know that CHAOS has already implanted a nuclear weapon inside her, and plan to use her to assassinate the Queen when she is presented to her at an upcoming performance of Salome at Sydney Opera House. 

Bond swiftly operates on Jean’s stomach with acupuncture needles and a pocket knife, removing the miniature nuclear bomb. But in a TV crew van watching the opera nearby, Dr Fleming reveals that he has placed several of the nuclear devices inside Theodorescu during a routine gall-bladder operation, making him the back-up weapon to kill the Queen. Bond commandeers a motorbike from a bystander and chases Fleming and the others through the streets of Sydney. As he catches up with them, Theodorescu shoots his way through the doors of the van and his wheelchair transforms into a hovercraft. However, the bomb inside him is activated and he explodes over Sydney harbour. 

Surviving the shootout, Fleming tracks down Bond and Elaine and reveals he plans to reform CHAOS under the name the New Association of Saints, The Inauguration of an Era of Sexlessness and Sinlessness. Bond points out that this all adds up to N.A.S.T.I.N.E.S.S. (although it seems to be missing a letter). “Man must be regenerated,” Fleming tells Bond. “Man has become an abomination, a foul stinking beast.” Bond responds by setting a boxing kangaroo on him. 

The outline ends with the Bavarian clinic going up in a mushroom cloud thanks to Jean’s voice activating the correct frequency, and Elaine’s facial scar disappearing. Both women agree that they can’t restrain Bond’s life, so he flies off into the sunset. Burgess envisaged this as being the first Bond film to feature an operatic title song, and even gave a snippet of lyrics for it: “In he flew/Off he has flown/The spy who loved me/Me me, alone”. A note in the text indicates he had also written a musical treatment himself (Burgess was a prolific composer).

Unsurprisingly, the material was rejected by the Bond producers. Burgess wrote in You’ve Had Your Time that although he followed the formal pattern of the Bond films as closely as he could, “I knew from the start that it would not work, but a horrid fascination drove me on.” Most of his ideas were too outrageous, subversive or plain rude to have worked on screen (there’s a scene in which Bond performs acupuncture on Miss Moneypenny with accompanying double entendres and M tells him “this is no time for fornication”). 


  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 5,648MI6 Agent

    It's hard to beat the sentence "Bond responds by setting a boxing kangaroo on him."

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    Wilder ideas than CR67, would have been a terrible, awful film.

    I'd love to have seen it.

  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,349Chief of Staff

    I like CR67, so this sounds like….fun? 🤔🤣

    It’s a bit more Derek Flint or a sequel to Operation Kid Brother though 🙂

    YNWA 97
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 546MI6 Agent

    Part of me really wants this to be the script of the next Bond film (I didn't say it was the sane part). A big problem with CR '67 was its being a Frankenstein's monster, with body parts of varying quality, whereas this script is all Burgess's crazy vision. If played straight it could be very enjoyable.

    Incidentally, I interpret the scene of Bond talking about cigars differently from Jeremy. He says it indicates Moore might not have been in mind for the script. But in LALD Moore's Bond smoked only cigars, unlike his predecessor. So I think the film was written with Moore in mind, and the scene is an in-joke pointing out Moore's difference from Connery.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,623MI6 Agent

    The story can be compared to taking all the wildest, most bizzare elements of all the movies (Japanese Connery, Bond dressed as a clown, Bond making breakfast for his toddler daughter etc.) and filled a whole movie with that sort of scenes.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,197MI6 Agent

    Good stuff, thanks for posting this @Revelator

    In a way it's similar to a lot of these never-used Bond plots that show up - outrageous but two-dimensional, it lacks a subtext or any nuance. Maybe this would have been added later. Some of this stuff foreshadows the UK TV drama Black Mirror, namely the blackmailing of statesmen which really is too horrible, the sort of thing nobody likes to think of really.

    I suppose the supertanker idea got used out of all that.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • JellyfishJellyfish EnglandPosts: 451MI6 Agent

    "Bond responds by setting a boxing kangaroo on him."

    I was completely hooked up until that point.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent

    could there be possible trademark issues with the villains organization being named C.H.A.O.S.? a similar name has been used before!

    speaking of which, Maxwell Smart always claimed he was fighting for the cause of "niceness", so the alternate villains organisation name also seems inspired by the same show

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    That's a fascinating read. As usual, one assumes Broccoli saw the treatment [and kept a copy?] hence the regurgitation of ideas in future Bond movies?

  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 546MI6 Agent

    Good point. It's quite likely that a copy of the complete script is in the EON archives, along with Gods knows what other treasures and rarites.

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent

    I've read Jeremy Duns's new article with great interest as back in 2006 I myself wrote a short article on this subject matter which I expanded into a fuller article in 2014 on my blog:

    As you can see from the bottom of the article it was always intended as a two-parter and I hope to get that written up this year. It will look more at the content of Burgess's TSWLM script and trace influences to and from it in the later Bond films and perhaps even some of the ideas of villainy in the Fleming Bond novels and the Bond continuations as well. Jeremy's new article will be a big help in this regard but I have some fresh observations of my own to make as well. 

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent

    with all those extremely silly abandoned scripts, its amazing The Spy Who Loved Me didnt end up like Casino Royale (the "funny" version), the struggles to come up with an original story sound very similar.

    even more amazing is the guy who finally got it right was the author of Confessions of a Window Cleaner!

    I wonder what John Landis's version was like?

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent
    edited February 16

    John Landis's script? I'm sure it was a real thriller! 😉

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 546MI6 Agent
    edited February 16

    My feeling is that the scripts wouldn't have gelled without Maibaum doing the heavy-lifting (as usual). I'd love to read Maibaum's final crack at the screenplay (the Klement Kronk version) to check. Christopher Wood's contribution seems to have been an extensive script polish, including a change of locales and villains.

    By the way, I've just discovered that the Licence to Queer podcast has an episode on the script history of TSWLM:

    "Tom Mason and David Lowbridge-Ellis have read every screen treatment and script they can get their hands on - two years' worth! - and are now ready to share what they've found. Batten down the hatches for seal sex, crash zooms, a villain called Kronk, Anya's brother-lover, testicular torture and a very temperamental Lotus Esprit...Contains some strong language (direct quotes from the screenplays)."

    I wish there was a transcript, because it would take me less time to read.

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent

    I can't recall but was Tom Mankiewicz involved with the TSWLM script as well? I know he did uncredited work early on for Moonraker and came up with the centrifuge sequence among other things.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 546MI6 Agent

    That's right, I believe Mankiewicz did a script polish, though I can't remember who he polished! Yet another reason we need a book on TSWLM--to keep track of who did what.

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent

    I thought he was involved. I think I maybe read that in Steven Jay Rubin's seminal The James Bond Films. I recall reading that Mankiewicz wanted to be uncredited after TMWTGG as he didn't want to be known only as "that guy that writes James Bond films". Interestingly he was hired by Peter Falk around this time too to read over the Columbo scripts and polish them if needed. Again, he was uncredited for this too. A book on TSWLM would be great. It surely has one of the most convoluted script writing histories of any Bond film given how Cubby Broccoli almost made a contest out of writing the script.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent

    I said : I wonder what John Landis's version was like?


    Silly said: John Landis's script? I'm sure it was a real thriller! 😉


    took me a second to get the pun, since I'm more of a John Belushi fan than I am a Michael Jackson fan, so thats the films I was thinking of. But now I gotcha! We want these films to be Thrillers!

    this could be a good topic for one of Barbel's Imaginary Conversations "no, the Lotus is only pursued by one sedan, one motorcycle and one helicopter, not the entire Chicago police force! and Bond does not escape Jaws by spitting a mouthful of mashed potatoes in his face" etc"

  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,583MI6 Agent
    edited February 16

    I'm a Michael Jackson fan so that's where my mind went with it. Not all of my jokes are in Black or White. 😉

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • RevelatorRevelator Posts: 546MI6 Agent
    edited February 16

    John Landis is interviewed about his involvement with Bond in the book The Lost Adventures of James Bond. He recalled that:

    When I got to London, Guy Hamilton and I talked about having a Captain Nemo type character in an underwater city. We also talked about having a submarine. I’m not sure if that came from Guy Hamilton or someone else but we were developing all those ideas. It evolved into what you see in the movie. We didn’t have Jaws, a giant guy with steel teeth. We didn’t go to Egypt. But we did have a Russian agent. The movie that was made was not the movie I was writing.

    One other tidbit:

    The one thing I remember very well about working in London was that I had an office, which I shared with Anthony Burgess for a while. But then he was let go. He was a fascinating man, and I enjoyed him tremendously. I had a treatment written by Tony Burgess that’s on onionskin paper on an old fashioned typewriter. He wrote this very dense treatment about the abduction of the pope. I was so amused by Cubby’s reaction, which was “Are you crazy?” I had the treatment, but I just gave it to the Academy [of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] library.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    Amazing thread, guys, thanks for all the info. We def need a book on TSWLM. 😀

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