A few quirks in the development of No Time to Die

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

Every movie has its quirks on the way to the silver screen. No Time to Die certainly had its share. Here are a few.

The writing

July 2017: Eon Productions announces Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are writing Bond 25. At this point, Daniel Craig’s return as Bond hadn’t been announced yet.

December 2017: Eon boss Barbara Broccoli says on a Hollywood Reporter podcast that Purvis and Wade were “busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

May 2018: John Hodge is announced as the sole writer of Bond 25, to be directed by Danny Boyle.

August 2018: Boyle departs Bond 25 over “creative differences.” Hodge leaves also. Purvis and Wade end up returning.

Boyle vs. Fukunaga

Spring 2020: Production designer Mark Tildesley worked under both Boyle and his replacement, Cary Fukunaga. Tildesley says during Boyle’s time on the project, the art department had built a 350-foot rocket and a Russian gulag set in Canada.

February 2019: The MI6 James Bond website says for most of the Hodge/Boyle script, Bond was imprisoned by the villain.

September 2021: Fukunaga tells The Hollywood Reporter that the Boyle-Hodge project was “more tongue-in-cheek and whimsical.”

Query: If all of this is correct, did Boyle want a “whimsical” story set in a Russian gulag? A sort of modern-day Hogan’s Heroes?

Bond 26 questions: The (eventual) search for a new Bond

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions were interviewed on a BBC Radio show on Sept. 27. The duo indicated they weren’t in a hurry to find a successor for Daniel Craig as James Bond.

“We’re not thinking about it at all,” Broccoli said, according to a Variety summary of the interview. “We want Daniel to have his time of celebration. Next year we’ll start thinking about the future.”

Naturally, the blog has questions.

How seriously should we take these remarks?

In general, a CEO always is supposed to be thinking about the future. Barbara Broccoli certainly qualifies as a CEO.

On the one hand, there are signs that Broccoli has at least thought about a post-Craig future for Eon’s Bond film series.

No Time To Die director Cary Fukunaga told Total Film that he had a meeting with Broccoli before he was named to helm the 25th James Bond film.

“At that point Daniel said he wasn’t doing another one, so we spit-balled all the potential new Bonds – that was exciting,” Fukunaga said in that interview.

On the other hand, there are signs that Broccoli is really, really reluctant to let go of Craig. “I’m sort of in denial,” she said in the BBC interview. “I would love for Daniel to continue forever.”

Personally, I take her at her word. She is not anxious to move on from Craig.

Will the search (whenever it starts) be complicated?

Searching for a Bond actor is never easy. The next search will have additional complications.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, has agreed to be acquired by Amazon. But that deal hasn’t been completed and is subject to regulatory review.

It remains to be seen what Amazon will do with MGM assuming the deal goes through. Eon likes some current MGM film executives and has lobbied for Amazon to keep them on board.

Regardless, assuming Amazon completes the deal, that will be an additional piece of complication.

What’s more, Eon has its own issues. Wilson turns 80 next year. There are popular fan theories that he may retire after No Time to Die. Who knows whether that’ll be the case. Still a new Bond isn’t the only succession issue facing Eon.

No Time to Die becomes reality this week

No Time to Die teaser poster

After an almost six-year wait, the 25th James Bond film made by Eon Productions becomes a reality this week.

No Time to Die, after many, many hiccups (to put it kindly), will be seen by its first audiences this week.

The official premiere is Sept. 28 in London. There will be other showings in other countries. At long last, Daniel Craig’s Bond farewell will be seen by audiences.

The project was announced on July 24, 2017, with no distributor, no director, and even no star. The only creative crew attached were writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

Daniel Craig, who had starred in the previous four Bond films, finally said on the Aug. 15, 2017 telecast of The Late Show on CBS that he was coming back. Earlier in the day, in radio station interviews, he claimed nothing had been decided.

“No decision has been made at the moment,” Craig told Magic 106.7 at the time. “There’s a lot of noise out there. Nothing official has been confirmed. I’m not like holding out for more money or doing anything like that.”

Since then, the radio stations took down the original links to the interviews. Evidently, radio stations are low on the media totem pole and there are no problems with lying to them.

No Time to Die (as the movie eventually would be titled) went through many rewrites. Besides Purvis and Wade, the likes of Scott Z. Burns, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and director Cary Fukunaga took a whirl at the script.

Also don’t forget for a time that John Hodge was supposed to be the main writer. He and Danny Boyle, the first announced director, had pitched an idea. A script in development for a year was set aside when Boyle and Hodge (supposedly) had a great idea that wowed Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

Then, all of a sudden, the Boyle-Hodge take was found wanting. Members of FOE (Friends of Eon) tried to reassure fans everything was still on track.

Except it wasn’t. The original fall 2019 release date got pushed back to February 2020 and then April 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused further delays. Fall 2020. Spring 2021. Finally, the impending fall 2021 dates.

Nevertheless, Bond is a hard man to put down. Bond never conquered COVID. But he’s coming out this week in the U.K. (and elsewhere) as well as North America next week.

No Time to Die was conceived during the pre-pandemic era. That’s when expensive movies were brought out by studios. If audiences liked them, a box office of $1 billion was possible. No Time to Die, which had production spending approaching $300 million, sought that target.

The new Bond film is coming out in a new world. Maximum movie box office achievement is well below $1 billion.

Maybe Bond can change that. But, personally, I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Regardless, Bond fans are excited. And they should be. The gentlemen agent is back after a long hiatus.

Will this be a “cinematic masterpiece” in the words of Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli? That’s up to the audience.

The fact is, the audience finally gets a chance to judge. The hype is over. Let’s see how it goes.

Bond 25 questions: THR’s Fukunaga story edition

No Time to Die’s back story is often opaque

The Hollywood Reporter has come out with a big feature story about Cary Fukunaga, the director of No Time to Die.

But there are elements that don’t square up previous tellings of No Time To Die’s back story. Naturally, the blog has questions.

Whose idea was it to bring aboard Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a writer for the 25th James Bond movie?

According to THR, it was Fukunaga’s, of course.

At Fukunaga’s suggestion, Phoebe Waller-Bridge was brought in to work on the draft he wrote with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have worked on every Bond film since 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

Except, supposedly it was the idea of star Daniel Craig. For example, there’s this story from IndieWire in February 2020:

 The “Fleabag” creator, whose Amazon Prime Video series picked up six Primetime Emmy Award wins last year, was brought onto the film back in 2019 at the behest of star Daniel Craig.

Oh. Well, the winners get to write the history. Both Fukunaga and Waller-Bridge were among the winners of the No Time to Die saga.

How big a factor was #MeToo in No Time to Die’s development?

Apparently, a lot. We won’t really know until the movie comes out shortly. But THR’s story has some clues.

A quote in the THR story from Lashana Lynch: “Cary had big discussions with Barbara (Broccoli) and Daniel about how to give the female characters equity, how to keep them in charge of themselves, how to give them solo moments where the audience learns who they are.  It was really important to empower the female characters as stand-alones. And I think that he kept that in mind throughout the whole shoot.”

A quote from Barbara Broccoli in the new story:

“I think people are coming around — with some kicking and screaming — to accepting that stuff is no longer acceptable. Thank goodness. Bond is a character who was written in 1952 and the first film [Dr. No] came out in 1962. He’s got a long history, and the history of the past is very different to the way he is being portrayed now.”

Finally a quote from Fukunaga himself in The Hollywood Reporter:

“Is it Thunderball or Goldfinger where, like, basically Sean Connery’s character rapes a woman?” Fukunaga told THR. “She’s like ‘No, no, no,’ and he’s like, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ That wouldn’t fly today.”

Why did Bond 25 switch from Danny Boyle to Cary Fukunaga as director?

Bond 25 has a complicated history. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, long-time Bond screenwriters, were hired in 2017 to develop a script. They worked on it for months. Then, in 2018, it became known than director Danny Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, made a pitch.

An announcement came out in spring 2018 that the Boyle and Hodge team were hired. The initial script was set aside.

But later that year, they were gone. Fukunaga would soon be hired.

The key excerpt from THR’s story:

With Boyle, there was a deviation of visions. His version was more tongue-in-cheek and whimsical. Broccoli and Wilson wanted something more serious for Craig’s final outing.

This leads to a lot of questions. Did Eon, which at one time loved the Boyle-Hodge pitch, not realize the tone was different? Did Eon not vet Boyle and Hodge?

We’re less than a week before the premiere of No Time to Die. Many fans don’t want to hear about this.

Still, The Hollywood Reporter raises more questions than answers

THR: Boyle’s Bond 25 was more whimsical

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of No Time to Die

Danny Boyle, the original director for Bond 25, had in mind a project that was “more tongue-in-cheek and whimsical,” The Hollywood Reporter said today in a feature story about Cary Fukunaga, who ended up helming the 25th James Bond movie.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson “wanted something more serious” for actor Daniel Craig’s final turn as Bond, according to the entertainment news outlet.

After Boyle’s departure, Fukunaga told THR, “I emailed Barbara and was like, ‘Is there a chance to talk about this?’ She responded right away, and we set up a meeting the next week. I didn’t have a pitch or anything, just asked them what they’re after and what wasn’t working.”

This raises all sorts of questions. In 2018, Eon put aside a script it had been developing after Boyle pitched a supposedly great idea that wowed Eon and executives at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In May 2018, it was announced Boyle was directing with John Hodge doing the script.

The main question is did Eon and MGM vet Boyle and Hodge and the great idea? Boyle apparently did not vet how Eon works.

In the article, Fukunaga is credited with suggesting Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a writer for No Time to Die, Bond 25’s eventual title.

Some Bond 25 notes about the official podcast

No Time to Die poster

We’re now two-thirds of the way through the episodes of the official No Time to Die podcast. What follows are some observations.

Steve Mazzaro gets a shoutout: Hans Zimmer has made it known that his work on No Time to Die was in collaboration with Steve Mazzaro.

The Eon Productions publicity campaign has not referenced either Dan Romer (the composer originally chosen by Cary Fukunaga) nor Mazzaro (who Hans Zimmer has described as a collaborator).

But in episode 4, “The Music of Bond,” Zimmer again says he worked *with Mazzaro on the score.

Zimmer said long ago it was a joint arrangement. Meanwhile, I’m puzzled why once Romer was sent away why Eon didn’t get five-time Bond composer David Arnold to fill in.

I suspect it’s because Zimmer is more of a brand name than an actual film composer these days. But, who knows?

Fukunaga says he thought about the score “early on:” This comes up in episode 4. It’s probably true but likely reflects why Dan Romer was (initially) called in.

The similarities between Never Say Never Again and No Time to Die keep multiplying: Haphazard Stuff put together an amusing video about 1983’s Never Say Never Again. Both movies feature an aging James Bond. In Sean Connery’s case, it was a last chance to stick it to Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli:

Dan Romer talks (briefly) about NTTD

Dan Romer talked very, very briefly about his involvement on No Time to Die on season 4, episode 9 of Score the Podcast.

The composer got into few specifics. He was retained for a time to compose the score for the 25th James Bond film. He was replaced by Hans Zimmer and his fellow composers.

Among the few comments about the Bond film by Romer were these:

“That film was essentially me and my old friend (NTTD diector) Cary Fukunanga. Cary and I will continue to work together. That situation was really amicable at the end. Everybody is trying to do the right thing.”

Romer seemed to indicate the Bond experience was not a bad one.

“You can’t let that kind of stuff stop you from being creative,” he said. “At the end of the day, you’re an artist and you’re making art.

“I don’t announce a job generally until right before it’s coming out,” he added. “The Bond thing leaked….You never know how things are going to go.”

You can listen to the entire episode by CLICKING HERE. Go about one hour, 40 minutes and you’ll get to the brief exchange about No Time to Die.

h/t to reader Patrick Donahue

Bond 25 questions: The unanswered questions edition

Scott Z. Burns

With the debut of the final U.S. and international trailers for No Time to Die, a majority of James Bond fans are jacked up. It’s less than a month before the world premiere.

Admittedly, the blog’s attention is wondering to unanswered questions — which may never be answered. So here goes.

What did Scott Z. Burns contribute to the script? Burns is a high-priced “script doctor” who brought in to work on the script a few months before filming began.

Eon Productions briefly referenced Burns’ participation. Here was a tweet from Eon’s official James Bond feed on Twitter on April 25, 2019.

However, after the Writer’s Guild of America weighed in, Burns was out. Burns is highly paid. It’s doubtful the scribe did nothing.

How much of the score *really* is by Hans Zimmer and how much is by Steve Mazzaro (and others)?

In the advertising materials, we’re told, “Music by Hans Zimmer.” But Zimmer is on record that his colleague Steve Mazzaro did a lot of the work and should get top billing on the music credit. Of course, Zimmer is more of a brand than a composer. Most fans will ignore this, but the blog remains interested.

Why was Dan Romer, the original No Time to Die composer, sent packing?

Romer had worked with director Cary Fukunaga on other projects. Romer was listed as No Time to Die’s composer for a time. Then, all of a sudden, his name was gone. Zimmer’s name was his place.

The conventional wisdom is that Romer’s work was too “out there.” OK, but what does that mean? For that matter, is Zimmer & Co.’s replacement score truly a “Bond” score, a la John Barry, or is it a typical Zimmer piece of work?

How much input did Eon’s Michael G. Wilson have with No Time to Die?

For the better part of a decade, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli has been depicted as *the* leader of the Eon effort. Her half-brother, 18 years her senior, doesn’t get mentioned that much.

Is that true? Is he just collecting a paycheck? Is he taking it easy these days. Or did he make significant contributions to the project.

Questions, questions.

Bond 25 questions: Are we set for real?

No Time to Die poster from some time ago

No Time to Die’s final international and U.S. trailers are out. After five delays, it would seem the 25th James Bond film is a lock to come out soon.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is this really it?

No Time to Die is scheduled to come out on Sept. 30 in the U.K. (and other countries). It’s scheduled to come out in the U.S. on Oct. 8. There are 28 days before the movie’s world premiere. There are likely fewer days before movie reviewers get to see it to do their reviews.

It would seem to be more than difficult to push it back a sixth time (twice because Danny Boyle was replaced as director, three times because of COVID-19).

Still some Bond fans recall this image from the Peanuts comic strip.

Many Bond fans won’t believe it until they’re in the theater watching No Time to Die.

What does this tell us?

It tells us there’s a limit how many times you can kick a movie down the road. At least that’s what studios (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal) as well as production companies (Eon Productions, which makes Bond films) apparently have concluded.

But is this the best time to release movies?

No. COVID-19 became a factor in early 2020. The pandemic has become more complicated as the virus has evolved. Viruses do that. At the same time, the money types evidently have concluded, at least in No Time to Die’s case, this has gone as far as it can.

Any other thoughts? I will repeat something I’ve said multiple times. No Time to Die was conceived in one era — studios could spend a ridiculous amount of money but get bailed out if the films generated billion-dollar global box office results.

That was supposed to happen with No Time to Die. Skyfall had a $1.1 billion global box office. SPECTRE fell short. But No Time to Die was intended to be the climax of the Daniel Craig era for Bond.

At this point, a $1 billion box office for No Time to Die seems a distant dream. The money people, it would seem, have decided to get what they squeeze from the production.

Bond 25 questions: The Total Film edition

One of the many No Time to Die posters

This post includes spoilers. Stop reading now if spoilers aren’t your thing.

Total Film this week published a detailed story about No Time to Die. Naturally, the blog has questions

Did Daniel Craig really say No Time to Die’s theme was “love and family”?

He did. Sounds almost like a Fast and the Furious movie, doesn’t it? In this case, Craig told Total Film that Bond’s family is Moneypenny, M and Q with Lashana Lynch’s Nomi “a distant cousin who you’re not sure about.”

One of the most hyped aspects of the movie was how Phoebe Waller-Bridge was among the screenwriters. Any additional details?

Of course. “Phoebe came on, and she injected some brilliance into the situation, and a tone I was really after,” Craig told Total Film.

“What we wanted to do was… not ridicule (Bond). It’s sharing in the fun with the audience,” Craig told the magazine. “But you’ve got to be respectful of what it is.” 

According to Total Film, Waller-Bridge “punched up Ana de Armas’ character Paloma – a fresh-faced CIA field agent who Bond crosses paths with in Cuba – and brought a myth-pricking irreverence to the story.”

What about agent Nomi and her relationship with Bond?

“Bond is going to be Bond no matter what happens,” Lashana Lynch told Total Film. “But it’s about how people react to him. That’s the difference between the earlier films. In this film we are vocal. We are opinionated. We know how to stop [Bond] in his tracks, and to teach him something.”

What about the sets?

“We have really gone out of our way to make some really gorgeous big sets,” says production designer Mark Tildesley. The designer originally was recruited to the film by Danny Boyle, the project’s first director who departed over “creative differences.”

What about Rami Malek’s Safin?

“Safin is pulling all the strings,” Eon boss Barbara Broccoli told Total Film about the character. “He’s controlling all of those megalomaniacs out there. He’s created them.”

What does that mean?

I suppose that in Quantum of Solace that Quantum was BIG. In SPECTRE, SPECTRE was BIGGER. Perhaps Safin is EVEN BIGGER!