'Spectre': James Bond Film Reportedly Receiving $20M for Portraying Mexico Positively

Daniel Craig Spectre - 2015

Can James Bond fix Mexico's image problem?

Mexico's brutal drug war has left the nation with a tarnished image abroad, but agent 007 is coming to the rescue.

MGM and Sony, the producers behind 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.

Among several changes, Mexico reportedly asked that an international ambassador, rather than the mayor of Mexico City, should be the target of an assassination. Officials also requested that Mexican police be depicted as a "special force."

Additionally, Mexico demanded that the production cast a Mexican actress as a Bond girl, which was announced earlier this week. Curiously, 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 were a golden 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."

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. Speaking at the Guadalajara Film Festival this week, Mexican 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 had a different take on the film incentives, with a headline that read: "James Bond Bribes Mexico."