By Sean Tuohy
The Name is France. Michael France.
You may have never seen his name before, but you know his work. James Bond fan boy-turned- Hollywood screenwriter Michael France penned films that have grossed nearly a billion dollars. Yes, you read that correctly, billion with a big ole “b.” France brought James Bond back to life on the big screen, unleashed The Punisher, and hung Sly Stallone off a cliff.
As a movie nerd growing up in South Florida, I was thrilled to discover that France was not only from Florida, but lived in the Sunshine State while writing Hollywood blockbusters. It’s no surprise that he was one of my idols. France started out in Saint Petersburg, Fla., where in school he was the president of a magazine devoted to James Bond (for our younger readers, a magazine has glossy pages filled with pictures and words). France went off to University of Florida and then moved on to Columbia to finish his degree.
He caught the limelight early with his spec script sale to a major Hollywood studio in 1991. Within the next year, the film had a major star, a big name director, and the green light to start filming. “Cliffhanger” ended up as one of the biggest hits of the year.
France then began pumping out screenplays for major Hollywood studios. He penned the first drafts of “The Punisher” and “Hulk.” His early insight on the scripts made those films pop, but it was his next project that really cemented his legacy.
In 1994, James Bond was a relic of the Cold War. The last film had been produced in 1987 and the franchise had been in limbo ever since. France was hired to pen the draft the newest installment of the saga. He obviously knew Bond well from his schoolboy days, so he gleefully took the assignment. France attacked the script as if it was his version of War and Peace. His research for the film included traveling to the former Soviet Union in order to tour army bases, KGB stations, and a even a casino! To write a worthy James Bond film, France became Bond.
“GoldenEye” was a smash hit and one of the highest grossing films in the series. France also penned a good chunk of “The World Is Not Enough,” but did not get a credit.
A guy with salt air and sunshine in his veins stayed close to home and eventually bought a movie theater in Saint Pete for $800,000 cash that for many years ran classic films.
In 2013, Michael France passed away at the young age of 51, likely from throwing a martini in someone’s face and instigating an epic gunfight.