Back in 1995 I was sitting in the courtyard of the Cat & Fiddle restaurant on a warm evening in Hollywood, immediately adjacent to my office at RGA/LA (now Imaginary Forces) thinking about the Umberto Eco book, The Name of the Rose. I was reflecting on how Eco had created a Medieval Sherlock Holmes, and I was wondering how the Sherlock Holmes story benefited from such a change of venue. As I let my mind wander I asked myself what other stories could be similarly transplanted. I wondered what it would be like if there were a Medieval... James Bond.
My mind started to race. I knew a fair amount about the history of technology from courses in college, and from an excellent series created by James Burke that I saw as a teenager back in '78 called Connections... What if I took James Bond and set him not in Medieval times, but in the Renaissance? Then I could make Leonardo da Vinci his 'Q' and supply him with all kinds of high tech 15th Century spy gear.
I couldn't believe it. It was so obvious, and yet no one had already done it.
We think of Bond as 'evergreen,' but he was languishing a bit then. Critics wondered if he had a future. I thought this might be a great way to re-imagine not the franchise, but the surrounding genre. There have been a lot of alternative spy stories since then, but in '95 they weren't so prevalent as they are today.
The 500th anniversary of Columbus's trip of 1492 had just past a few years back. The Renaissance was in the air. Women were wearing wrought iron cross jewelry. Bands like Enigma were paving the way to Clockpunk by combining medieval and Renaissance music with modern beats. The unofficial soundtrack in my mind to this film as I wrote it was the 1994 Vision: The Music of Hildegard von Bingen - particularly the song, Praise For The Mother (O Virga AC Diadema) In 1996 Renaissance Magazine was formed. A Renaissance-themed furniture store called Leonardo's opened on the 3rd Street promenade.
For me Steampunk, or more specifically in my case, Clockpunk, was a reaction to the 80's.
If you looked at the colors on the magazine covers on newsstands, they all seemed to warm up and lighten up almost simultaneously after 1989 ended. It was as if people we ready to let go of dark futures, and blues and blacks and silvers, and embrace sunny warm gold and brass and wood.
I thought selling this script would be a no brainer. But I never did sell it.
I had offers to sell the pitch, but I was holding out for a screenplay sale. I had a fair amount of access from my work in the visual effects industry, and the script got optioned here and there. One thing I did get from it was an offer to write and direct an animated CG feature based on a Sega Genesis videogame character called Vectorman. More on that here.
I have seen pop culture catch up to this story, and I don't see any reason to sit on it anymore. I discussed it a bit on the Da Vinci Automata web site, but with this post today I am making the script itself public.
At the head of this post is a link to a pdf. The screenplay at that link is the original version of Fury. The plot is as follows:
A Renaissance-era superspy, equipped with the latest 15th Century high tech espionage gear courtesy of a young Leonardo da Vinci, must stop a madman who has inadvertently stumbled across germ theory centuries early and realizes he can hold cities for ransom by threatening them with the return of the Plague.
Post 9/11 I felt the need to rewrite the script and tone down some of the Venetian / Ottoman, Christian / Muslim conflict.
In a later draft (not presented above), the villain, the first mafia don, is inventing the concept of organized crime when he discovers an ancient and highly destructive Chinese magnetically-powered rail gun called by various names throughout history, but most famously called 'The Horn of the Ram,' when it brought down the walls of Jericho. The Bible mistranslates it as Joshua blowing a ram's horn to bring down the walls.
I also added the military group The 10 of War, headed by Machiavelli. (In addition to Machiavelli's own writing, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene was a great resource.) The villain's 'woman' in the revised screenplay is Lucrezia Borgia.
At first I thought I might not have anything but paper versions of the screenplay, which would be a drag to put into postable condition, but I found my old Powerbook 520, fired it up, and found the earliest draft still intact on the hard drive. Talk about Clockpunk!
Fury ©1995 Joseph A. Francis & Norma M. Jenckes
I just caught wind of this David S Goyer project, The STARZ Original Series, Da Vinci's Demons. You can imagine how thrilled I am to see how closely the tone and subject matter resembles my own work from nearly twenty years ago.
Came across one of the original Writer's Guild of America, West tonight while going through some boxes. Registration 590043, effective 4/14/95. Working title: Twilight in Byzantium. I must have had Irwin Shaw's Evening in Byzantium in the back of my mind when I came up with that title.