Political murders, corrupt police, evil Mexican gangsters? All welcome fare for a Hollywood blockbuster. But not for the Mexican government.
To attract the latest globe-trotting James Bond film to the streets of Mexico City, Mexico reportedly wanted a more polished image, and was willing to pay for it.
Mexico allegedly offered $14 million in tax incentives and rebates to Sony Pictures and MGM Studios for a few minutes of the Sam Mendes-directed Bond film, "Spectre," but wanted to make some script changes in return, according to reports from Tax Analysts and the Mexican press that were based on the hacked Sony e-mails. According to the Tax Analysts report, the e-mails suggest "all of those requirements were met through changes to the script."
While script changes and product deals tailored to different countries are common, the apparent sensitivities of the Mexican government are what's interesting here.
The reports suggest the original script included an attempt to kill the Mexico City mayor, but Mexican officials preferred the assassination attempt be against "an international leader." And a "special police force" should take the place of Mexican police.
They wanted a "known Mexican actress" to play one of the beautiful Bond girls, according to a memo cited in the Mexican press, while adding that the villain, named Lucia Sciarra "cannot be Mexican."
(It was announced this week that the Mexican actress Stephanie Sigman would play the Bond girl, Estrella.)
Officials were willing to offer millions more if the film included scenes of the capital city's modern skyline. Other changes apparently included adding action unfolding during Day of the Dead celebrations, an emblematic Mexican holiday. Amy Pascal, the former head of Sony Pictures, allegedly wrote to MGM President Jonathan Glickman that they should "add whatever travelogue footage we need in Mexico to get the extra money."
The Tax Analysts article argued that the negotiations with Mexico went further than normal for a film, "with the studio permitting Mexican authorities to make casting decisions, dictate characters' ethnicities, and even change the occupation of an unnamed character that never appears on-screen or figures into the story outside of the opening scene."
"Such changes may have been a small price to pay for a rebate worth as much as $20 million, as a review of the script indicates that they were limited to the film's opening scene and have no impact on the remainder of the film," the article added.
The Mexican government's sensitivities to its violent reputation are no secret. When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012, he tried to minimize the focus on the drug war while emphasizing economic and political reforms. But ongoing high-profile violence, including battles in Michoacan and the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, has undercut that message.