You don’t expect 007 to cave.
But that is what is said to have happened when makers of the latest James Bond film reportedly capitulated to Mexican government demands for script changes — in exchange for $20 million in “incentives.”
The changes that Mexico supposedly sought were aimed at improving its image and how its people were portrayed, according to a report by Taxanalysts.com, a website that provides information on tax policy and related news. The report said that executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. were eager to rein in the picture’s budget and saw the incentives as a way to do that.
Taxanalysts said the report about the Bond film "Spectre," due out this year, was based on memos and other documents at Sony that were hacked into and leaked by a group that the U.S. government has said was tied to North Korea.
Sony officials did not return a phone call and several emails from the Los Angeles Times on Thursday seeking a response.
According to the Taxanalysts report, the Mexican authorities, whose names and exact affiliations were not mentioned, had a curious list:
-- The villain, a female killer named Sciarra, could not be a Mexican.
-- A woman from whose hotel room Bond starts his search for Sciarra must be played by a “known Mexican actress.” (It was recently announced that Mexican actress Stephanie Sigman, who starred in the hit “Miss Bala,” will play “Bond girl” Estrella.)
-- The assassination target, written originally as the mayor of Mexico City, must be changed to be an international official.
-- Mexican police should be replaced by a “special force.”
Apparently Mexico features only in the first few minutes of the movie. Yet according to the report, the Mexican government was willing to give Sony $14 million for making these changes.
Taxanalysts also quotes correspondence between studio executives suggesting they could get an additional $6 million from Mexico if the film features “modern” aspects of Mexico City, like its skyline, and adds shots of the country’s colorful Day of the Dead festivities.
The website quotes Amy Pascal, then chair of Sony’s motion picture group, as writing that the studio should insist that the filmmakers “add whatever travelogue footage we need in Mexico to get the extra money.”
Although the report did not identify the Mexican officials purportedly involved in the deal, the Mexican government -- once known for its slick handling of PR -- has been struggling to repair its image after a string of atrocities and mass killings attributed to authorities as well as corruption scandals.
Taxanalysts says it is not unusual for governments or local officials or other entities to attach strings to incentives they offer movie studios to attract productions. But, it says, the changes to “Spectre” “appear to go well beyond” the norm, “with the studio permitting Mexican authorities to make casting decision, dictate characters’ ethnicities” and order other changes.
For more news out of Mexico, Latin America, follow @TracyKWilkinson.