Spectre: James Bond Film Gets Paid for More Positive Portrayal of Mexico

MGM and Sony, the producers of the new Bond film Spectre, are receiving up to $20 million in incentives for rewrites that depict positive aspects of Mexico, according to a report by Taxanalysts.com, a website that covers tax news and analysis.

Shooting this month in Mexico City, Spectre will receive at least $14 million, and up to $20 million for script rewrites that portray “modern Mexico City buildings” and a generally favorable image of the country. Among Mexican officials requests, the villain cannot be Mexican, according to Taxanalysts.

The report cites a hacked Sony memo titled “Considerations for Cuts” in which Jonathan Glickman, president of MGM’s motion picture group, mentions script changes required to qualify for Mexico film incentives.

Mexico reportedly asked that an international ambassador, rather than a Mexico City mayor, should be replaced as the target of an assassination, and officials also requested that Mexican police should be depicted as a “special force.”

Additionally, Mexico demanded that the production cast a Mexican actress as a Bond girl, which was announced this week.  Mexican actress Stephanie Sigman is best known for her starring role in Gerardo Naranjo’s crime thriller Miss Bala, which is set in Mexico’s criminal underworld.

The Mexico film incentives are great opportunity for a production that was seeking cost-cutting measures to reduce its initial budget of $300 million.

The website says the film got $14 million for what amounts to roughly four minutes of footage, and possibly more money for additional shots of the Mexico City skyline.

Taxanalysts quotes Glickman as writing: “By all accounts we can still get the extra $6M by continuing to showcase the modern aspects of the city, and it sounds like we are well on our way based on your last scout. Let’s continue to pursue whatever avenues we have available to maximize this incentive.”

The Hollywood Reporter suggests that Mexico is battling an image problem due in large part to a war on drugs that has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 2006.

Ttis week, Hollywood-bMexican director Guillermo del Toro compared his native Mexico to the “Old West,” saying drug-related violence and corruption have left the country in “social decay.”

Taxanalysts says that permitting Mexican authorities to make casting decisions, dictate characters ethnicities and change the occupation of an unnamed character “goes well beyond” the normal strings attached to qualify for film incentives.

The question now is whether Mexico’s multimillion-dollar PR investment in the Bond shoot will pay off.

Ioan Grillo, an expert on Mexico’s drug war and author of El Narco, believes it won’t help significantly.

“The government has been struggling to change Mexico’s international image to attract more investment and tourism, so these changes it asked for in the movie are not surprising,” Grillo said. “It might help to improve Mexico’s image a little, but if the government really wants a better image, it needs to change the reality and stop mass disappearances and massacres.”

The Mexican daily Reforma was more blunt about the film incentives with a headline that read: “James Bond Bribes Mexico.”