'The Report' director Scott Z Burns reflects on writing for Bond 25: 'the most significant movie character of all time'

Sam Ashurst
Contributor
Adam Driver in The Report. (Amazon Studios)

Amazon Studios’ The Report is released in UK cinemas this week, and it’s a spy thriller based on real-life events.

Written and directed by Scott Z Burns, it follows the true story of whistleblower Daniel J Jones (Adam Driver), as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee, as they investigate the CIA's use of torture following the September 11 attacks.

Driver doesn’t bear a physical resemblance to Jones, but Burns says he can’t imagine anyone else in the role.

“One of the great things that Adam brings is a Jimmy Stewart quality that I really love. There’s an openness to him, and his ability to react to things the way a human being would and should is a real gift,” Burns says.

“So there was that, and the fact that Adam had been a marine after 9/11, he went into the marines much in the same way as Dan, who was going to graduate school at Harvard, he changed his trajectory and wanted to serve the country after 9/11, so there’s a parallel there.”

Scott Z. Burns, right, writer/director of "The Report," posing with former FBI investigator Daniel J. Jones, left, and actor Adam Driver. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“But even beyond that, I think being in the marines taught Adam a lot about chain of command and how you can’t just walk in and start pounding a table in outrage, because you’ve found out something outrageous. You have to draw within the lines of your position. Adam brought that understanding with him.”

“He does a remarkable job of the Kafka-esque arc of his character, of having one obstacle after another get in the way of him accomplishing a task he was sent to do. I think he’s really great at allowing that frustration to accumulate. You see it on his face, you see him pushing down his anger.”

Read more: Phoebe Waller-Bridge says she added 'little spices' to No Time to Die

Despite its dark origins, The Report is actually fast-paced and entertaining, much like another spy series that’ll be returning to cinemas next year: Bond.

And Burns was involved in 007’s new adventure, No Time To Die, after being hired as a script doctor by director Cary Joji Fukunaga. The film is credited being written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Scott Z. Burns and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

But what’s it actually like to write a Bond film?

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Léa Seydoux and Daniel Craig pose as they arrive on set of the James Bond last movie "No Time To Die" in Matera, Italy. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

“It sounds really corny,” Burns tells Yahoo Movies UK, “but if you’re a screenwriter, and you’re working in Final Draft, and you type in the character ‘Bond’ and you get to write dialogue: You do have to chuckle.”

“To me, it’s the most significant movie character of all time. It’s a privilege to work on that. You just can’t be cynical about it. And the work that Daniel has done to evolve the character is so great.

“Cary has all sorts of ideas about where he wants to take the story, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge and I overlapped a bit, and I’m a huge fan of hers.”

Daniel Craig is Ian Fleming's James Bond 007 in No Time To Die, previously codenamed Bond 25. (Universal Pictures/EON Productions)

How does it feel to have another iconic writer come on to your project?

“When you’re brought in to rewrite something, it’s all hands on deck. Your job is to solve a set of problems. I was brought in late in the game, and we were barrelling towards production. And so, you know, you just want there to be ideas.

“It’s one thing when it’s a character you’ve created, when you have that pride of authorship.”

Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the Emmys with her Outstanding Leading Actress in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series awards for “Fleabag”. (REUTERS/Monica Almeida)

“When you’re hired to fix something, your job is to fix it and it’s really easy to put your ego aside when it’s someone like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and working with her is as much of an honour as working on Bond itself, she’s such a rare talent.”

Read more: Daniel Craig bristles over Phoebe Waller-Bridge writing 'Bond' questions

But Burns doesn’t just have Bond out next year, he’s also involved with the new Steven Soderbergh film, Planet Kill (“Wow, how do you even know about Planet Kill?”) - it’s a project shrouded in mystery, but what’s it actually about?

“We had an idea after Contagion, along with a guy named Jim Greer, who’s a writer and used to play in bands in the States like Guided By Voices and The Breeders, Jim’s a really talented writer. The three of us had this idea that’s almost like a continuation of Contagion, but instead of people getting sick, the planet is getting sick. And angry.”

The Report is in UK cinemas on 15 November 2019, streaming on Amazon Prime Video from 29 November 2019. Watch a trailer below.