MANKIEWICZ, TOM

Entry Source: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin


(June 1, 1942–July 31, 2010): Sophisticated American screenwriter who cowrote Diamonds Are Forever and The Man with the Golden Gun with Bond veteran Richard Maibaum, and received solo credit on Live and Let Die. Known for his wit and his tongue-in-cheek approach to storytelling—later well suited to the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies—Mankiewicz was just what the James Bond series needed in the early-to-mid 1970s, when Bond was slowly and inexorably moving away from the serious approach of the first few Sean Connery films.

After the relative box office failure of the very serious On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, starring George Lazenby as Bond, the next films in the 007 series were destined to become globe-trotting extravaganzas with fantastic villains, incredible production design, and a light touch. The new direction was a good fit for the strengths of actor Roger Moore, who took over the Bond role in 1973, but even Sean Connery’s return in Diamonds Are Forever two years earlier was a fantastic romp, with elements of pure whimsy—much of it supplied by Mankiewicz.

Mankiewicz wrote his first feature film in 1967, a surfing movie titled The Sweet Ride that starred a young Jacqueline Bisset. He followed it up with some work on Broadway, but Bond beckoned the young writer. “It turned out that Dick Maibaum had done a draft on Diamonds and was through with it,” recalled Mankiewicz. “Cubby and Harry were thus looking for a young American writer—because this Bond took place largely in the United States—who had been around and also could write English dialogue. [United Artists executive] David Picker, who had seen my Broadway musical Georgy Girl, recommended me for the job.”[1]

On a crisp fall morning in 1970, Mankiewicz arrived at Cubby Broccoli’s mansion on Hillcrest Drive in Beverly Hills, and was greeted by both Broccoli and director Guy Hamilton, who had just flown over from England. Within moments, the young screenwriter was signed to a two-week contract guaranteeing him $1,250 a week. After two weeks, Mankiewicz turned in the first forty pages of his script and was put on an indefinite retainer. For the next six months, he was completely engrossed in the world of James Bond. His relationship with 007 would continue for three more years.

A native of Los Angeles, Mankiewicz came from Hollywood royalty. His father was multi-Oscar-winning writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve), and his uncle was Herman Mankiewicz, the cowriter of Citizen Kane. In addition to his stylish work on the Bond movies, Tom Mankiewicz also wrote The Eagle Has Landed (1976); Superman (1978), uncredited; Superman II (1980), uncredited; Ladyhawke (1985); and Dragnet (1987).


[1] Tom Mankiewicz, interview by Steven Jay Rubin, Los Angeles, November 7, 1977.