NTTD production designer spills a few secrets

007 Stage after the June 4, 2019 explosion.

Spoilers, of course.

Mark Tildesley, the production designer for No Time to Die, described some of the work he did for the 25th James Bond film. Among the topics: Set built while Danny Boyle was slated to direct and how an accident occurred that damaged the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios.

Work he did when Boyle was director

“I started working with Danny Boyle,” Tildesley says during an interview in the Masterclass series of videos. “I’ve been working on that film for two, two-and-a-bit years.

“We started to build sets. We had a rocket, a 350-foot rocket being built in the Bond stage. We had a gulag, a Russian gulag going up in the mountains in Canada.”

The announcement of Boyle’s hiring was made in May 2018. But in August, Boyle departed because of “creative differences.”

In February 2019, the MI6 James Bond site reported that for much of the script written by John Hodge (Boyle’s writer), Bond is imprisoned by the villain. There were also reports that the Hodge script had a Russian villain.

Cary Fukunaga was hired as Boyle’s replacement and he saw the project through completion of filming and post-production.

The June 2019 007 Stage explosion

Hiring the 007 Stage is expensive, Tildesley said. So the production team sought to get the most out of the time the stage was hired. “We had to use it to start making it pay,” he said. Half of the space was used as a construction workshop so another workshop didn’t need to be hired.

In addition, “we built a really tiny set inside this enormous space.”

The small set was blown up on June 4, 2019. Problem: the 007 Stage contains an enormous water tank encased in concrete.

“What we didn’t account for was the explosion would ricochet off the concrete walls of the tank,” the production designer said. That sent the force of the explosion upward and taking off the roof of the 007 Stage, he said.

“So, yeah, there were some miscalculations.”  The accident also took off some exterior side panels from the 007 Stage. The explosion soon became big news.

Homages to previous Bond films

“We haven’t copied but we’ve heavily lent on previous films and the designers of previous films for some of the shapes and stuff,” Tildesley said. “We went through all the films. Let’s take everything we love.”

The interview is below. The No Time to Die material starts around the 35:40 mark. h/t @NO_TIME_TO_DIE

The New Yorker picks at a No Time to Die Scab

New No Time to Die poster

The New Yorker magazine for decades has made penetrating comments about politics and the arts. In a May 1 article, writer Anthony Lane picks at a scab involving No Time to Die.

One of the first signs that covid-19 would play havoc with our moviegoing habits came with the news that 007 was running scared. The world première of the new James Bond film, bearing the deeply unfortunate title “No Time to Die,” was meant to take place at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, on March 31st. Oh, to be in England, now that Bond was there!

Harsh words? No. Lane was just getting started.

One of the first signs that covid-19 would play havoc with our moviegoing habits came with the news that 007 was running scared. The world première of the new James Bond film, bearing the deeply unfortunate title “No Time to Die,” was meant to take place at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, on March 31st. Oh, to be in England, now that Bond was there!

There’s more, of course. But there’s only so much cynicism to go around. If you want to read the entire article, you can CLICK HERE.

In the big picture, COVID-19 (the preferred AP Stylebook way to refer to the novel coronavirus) has shut down life as we once we knew it for the past few months. Movie theaters have been shut down. They’re not exactly sure how to revive operations. And many in the general populace aren’t sure when they actually want to see a movie in a theater for a long time to come.

No Time to Die is one way for a New Yorker scribe to make a bigger point. Yet, for Bond fans desperate to see a Bond film — ANY Bond film — after a five-year absence, they’re not really wanting to engage in subtle debate.

The New Yorker didn’t. Here’s one more passage.

The chance to revel gaily in the latest Bond production, and then to lament that it wasn’t as good as the last one, or the one before that, or the one with the Japanese volcano, comes along every four or five years, and is connected to the great circle of life. Without 007, how shall we endure the spring?

Of course, a volcano hideout was used in exactly one Bond film, 1967’s You Only Live Twice. But hey, if you’re a Very Important Writer, it’s a trope. It’s a trope people remember. It may not be subtle, but who cares?

In real life, there are not many James Bond things actually happening. So it’s good if The New Yorker actually remembers. Right?

Maybe. For now, it’s like a big-time publication picking off a scab. for effect

About that No Time to Die release date

Well, maybe.

The blog asked March 20, “How confident are you of No Time to Die’s new November release date?” The answer: “Get back to me when we know how the coronavirus plays out.”

The picture hasn’t cleared up much since. Movie theaters still are mostly closed in a number of major markets.

Even when they reopen, the theaters may have to strictly limit the number of tickets sold for each showing of a film. A “packed” house may consist of perhaps 25 percent of the seats sold.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executives, in a March call with investors, said delaying the movie to November from April was a bold and necessary move.

Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer, said 007’s home studio was “able to secure Bond’s place on the release calendar…This was the right decision for MGM and the storied James Bond franchise.”

Of course, that assumed theaters would be operating normally and audiences would feel comfortable going to films again. Neither can be assumed right now.

This week, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, wrote that “some studio executives are now thinking its release should be pushed back even further — into next year, if an available date can be found. So many blockbuster release dates have already been shunted into 2021 that available screens are scarce.”

Bamigboye over the past decade has seen a number of his Bond-related scoops proven correct. While he doesn’t write about Bond as much as he used to, he still draws attention when he does report on 007. Other outlets quickly summarized his report (which was one item in a weekly column).

The thing is, the novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is causing plenty of other uncertainty. There’s still no cure, no vaccine and few treatment options.

An example of the real-life impact: Manufacturers are trying to restart operations but likely will have to deploy workers further apart. They may have to run more shifts while making fewer products.

COVID-19’s impact is huge. There have been more than 1 million confirmed cases in the U.S. alone, with tens of thousands of deaths.

Revisiting that March 20 post question — how confident are you of No Time to Die’s new November release date? — there isn’t much reason to feel more confident. But, as ever, we’ll see.

NTTD stumbles into a long-term theater-video conflict

Universal logo

No Time to Die, through no fault of its own, has stumbled into an inflection point concerning the future of entertainment.

Namely, will traditional movie theaters remain a key player? Or has the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) forced a shift to video on demand (VOD)?

This week, AMC Theaters, which also owns the Odeon chain in the U.K., said it won’t show any more movies from Universal.

The latter, because theaters are shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, brought out the animated movie Trolls: World Tour on premium VOD. Universal executives declared the move a success after charging consumers directly for viewing it.

That rubbed AMC the wrong way, prompting the financially troubled theater chain to make its declaration about banning Universal movies. (CLICK HERE to read The Hollywood Reporter’s story on the conflict.)

How does No Time to Die figure into this? Universal is distributing the 25th James Bond film internationally, including the U.K., while United Artists Releasing (co-owned by Bond home studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) handle North American distribution.

If AMC sticks to its guns, that means the Odeon chain won’t be showing No Time to Die, currently scheduled for release in November. Odeon theaters and the Bond film series have a long history together.

To be sure, AMC’s stance may end up being the opening salvo in a long negotiation. Theaters currently have a 90-day window to show films before they go to home video. Perhaps AMC and Universal negotiate a “new normal.”

The conventional wisdom is that big, expensive “tentpole” movies such as No Time to Die, or the Fast and the Furious or Jurassic Park movies (the latter two Universal products) need both a theatrical as well as home video releases. Less expensive movies can get by with VOD alone.

But will that be true in a post-COVID-19 future? Hard to say for sure.

People have been predicting the end of movie theaters since at least the 1970s. At least, that’s the first time I heard such predictions.

Movie theaters have hung on. Still, when change happens, it doesn’t wait. Both Jack Lugo of the James Bond Radio website and the MI6 James Bond website published stories on May 29 analyzing the trends involved.

The thing is, had No Time to Die met its original release date (fall 2019) or its second (February 2020, before COVID-19 was a factor), none of this would really matter.

Instead, the delays put the Bond film into the middle of an entertainment industry debate on how to proceed. COVID-19 has shaken everything up. Walt Disney Co., less than six months ago, seemed to be an unstoppable juggernaut.

Today? Not so much. Disney’s movie release schedule is scrambled, its theme parks are closed and its ESPN network has few live sports events to telecast. Life comes at you fast.

At this point, the answers about the future of cinema aren’t certain. The fate of No Time to Die is just one of many variables.

Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 get pushed back

Tom Cruise

The release dates of Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 have been pushed back because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Variety reported.

The seventh installment of the film series with Tom Cruise is now scheduled for Nov. 19, 2021, delayed from July 23. The eighth movie in the series is now slated for Nov. 4, 2022, delayed from Aug. 5 of that year.

The new dates were announced by Paramount, one in a series of release date changes disclosed by the studio, Variety said.

The coronavirus has shut down movie theaters and other businesses in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease. Various films have been affected, including No Time to Die, which is now set for a November release. It had been set to come out this month.

M:I 7 had been slated to be filming in Venice in February. Italy was hit hard by COVID-19 and filming was postponed.

Christopher McQuarrie, director of Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible-Fallout is directing M:I 7 and 8.

Fukunaga says NTTD was a tough shoot

Cary Joji Fukunaga

Director Cary Fukunaga, in a new interview, describes No Time to Die as a tough shoot.

“It’s felt like climbing up a mountain every day without ever seeing the summit,” Fukunaga told Interview magazine.

“During the shoot, I feel like I stopped moving as an animal and started slowly becoming some kind of inanimate object,” he said. ” I could feel my body deforming.”

In fact, the director said he sought a delay in the movie’s release date. No Time to Die originally was scheduled to come out in fall 2019. That got pushed back to Feb. 14. Then it was put back to April. But COVID-19 caused another delay to (as of now) November.

“I came onboard, there was a whole reset,” Fukunaga said of when he replaced Danny Boyle. “So we pushed it back to March [actually Feb. 14, editor], and then I was fighting to push it back even further, because I just didn’t think we had enough time to finish it. Something I hadn’t realized, even until now, is how far in advance studios swoop up these windows for their films to come out, in order to give them the best chance of having a good box office.”

Other highlights of the interview:

A (hopefully unused) Fukunaga idea: “I swear to god, I had an idea that this movie could all be taking place inside the villain’s lair from the last film. There’s this scene where a needle goes into James Bond’s head, which is supposed to make him forget everything, and then he miraculously escapes by a watch bomb. And then he and Léa (Seydoux) blow up the place, and go on to save the day. I was like, ‘What if everything up until the end of act two is all inside his head?'”

That idea has been expressed before on fan forums. Fukunaga, in previous interviews, has mentioned “the joy of continuity.” This would take that to new heights.

Barbara Broccoli’s influence on No Time to Die’s female characters: “Feminism is something she has slowly been turning up the dial on for decades. The inclusion of a new female 00 agent had come from Barbara. …The female characters in the film, who they are and what they stand for, was definitely something Barbara had already had in mind.”

Fukunaga, 42, relatively, is a new Bond fan: “I don’t think I’d seen every single James Bond film, but I was pretty well-versed on it. I don’t think I became a fan of the franchise until Casino Royale. Prior to that, my only in-depth James Bond experience was at my cousin’s house playing Golden Eye” the video game.

The blog’s complicated feelings about Moonraker

Moonraker teaser poster

This week, I participated in an upcoming episode of the James Bond & Friends podcast where everybody watched Moonraker and commented about it in real time.

Afterward, I reflected on my own conflicted feelings about the 11th James Bond film.

When Moonraker came out in the summer of 1979, I was all in. The Spy Who Loved Me two years earlier had re-energized the franchise. Producer Albert R. Broccoli promised he was going all out with his next effort.

When the movie came out, Broccoli delivered. It even got favorable reviews from The New York Times (Vincent Canby wrote it was “one of the most buoyant Bond films”) and Time magazine, which likened Broccoli to the proverbial Jewish mother who doesn’t let anyone go away hungry. And it was a big hit.

Later, after the initial hit waned, I noted the lack of Fleming material in the movie. And, yes, that double-taking pigeon was a reminder the movie went for comedy in places.

I probably felt the lowest toward the movie in the 2000s. I was a contributor to the now-offline site Her Majesty’s Secret Servant. The site asked its contributors to rank all the movies up through 2006’s Casino Royale. We were also asked to write some remarks and mine about Moonraker were pretty tough.

Since then, my opinions toward the movie have mellowed. Here in the 21st century, there’s been a lot of bad news, including two major financial recessions a decade apart. Escapist entertainment, such as Moonraker, looks a lot better now. I appreciate it a lot more for what it is.

My stock line about Moonraker is, whatever you think of it, is it’s not pretentious. That’s not true of all Bond films.

Also, at this point, we have 25 Bond films from Eon Productions. The fact we can’t see the 25th (because of the release delay because of COVID-19) is another indicator of just how the 21st century has a lot of bad news.

That’s yet another reason why escapist entertainment like Moonraker is better appreciated.