Phoebe Waller-Bridge: I was not hired for Bond because of my gender

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Fleabag creator says she was never told 007 script role was to help with female characters

Mark Brown Arts correspondent –  The Guardian

Phoebe Waller-Bridge will be only the second woman ever credited on a Bond movie script but she has insisted gender was not the reason she was hired.

The Fleabag creator said it was “mad” and “exciting” to work on No Time to Die, in which Daniel Craig will play 007 for the final time. But there was never a conversation about her being there to help with the film’s female characters.

“It was a really mad job to get,” she told an audience at the Southbank Centre in London. “I actually said to my producer once while we were making Fleabag that would be a cool thing to do one day … and then it was only a month later.”

Waller-Bridge was being interviewed by Deborah Frances-White, the comedian and writer best known for her podcast, The Guilty Feminist. Frances-White said she could not think of another woman being asked to work on a Bond script.

“I think the very first Bond film there was, but not since,” Waller-Bridge said. “But that didn’t really come into the conversation. That’s only really the press that have made that thing, in terms of me being a woman, you can see it is a button-pressing thing.

“The reality was I got a call from Barbara [Broccoli, the film’s producer] and Daniel saying, ‘We like your work, can you come in and help us?’. There wasn’t ever really a conversation about can you come in and help us with ‘the ladies’.

“They are proper, amazing producers and writers and actors and suddenly they are reduced to those people?

“They said, ‘It will be your take, can you come aboard and help us polish the script?’ The characters were there, the story was there, it was just really exciting to be a part of it. There was a bunch of writers, I was a small contribution to this thing.”

Asked if audiences would recognise the lines she wrote, she said: “I have no idea. I left long before it had finished filming and they are rewriting all the time, so … I hope so.”

Before Waller-Bridge, the only woman with a Bond writing credit was Johanna Harwood on Dr No (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963).

Waller-Bridge was speaking at an event celebrating the publication of Fleabag: The Scriptures, and much of the conversation dug deep into this year’s rapturously received second and final season of the BBC show.

It will be remembered by many for the hot priest” character played by Andrew Scott. Waller-Bridge revealed that she spent a long time talking to a real priest, a monk called Fr William, as she prepared to write the series.

“He was a huge part of the process,” she said. “I needed to talk to a priest who would talk to me openly and with candour about celibacy and about what happens when you’re tempted, what goes through your head as well as the choices that you make.

“Father William was just an open-hearted, brilliant, brilliant man who had found faith later on in his life, who spoke about it openly and was incredibly inspiring and really gave me a new perspective on why people reach for certain things in their lives. He was just so open. We had long Skype sessions.”

Despite her fame as a result of Fleabag, Waller-Bridge could still travel on the tube, she said. “People don’t really care that much. On the tube people don’t really look at other people and even if they do they don’t care.”

Fortunately, Fleabag fans “are the most polite fans”. She did not get the “you’re mine!” experience. Instead “I always have ‘sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, so sorry, so sorry … I don’t want anything, I just want to say … goodbye, thank you.”

 

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