Bond 25 questions: Where did the money go edition

No Time to Die teaser poster

Well, everybody knew going in that No Time to Die wasn’t going to be cheap. But a recent U.K. regulatory filing by B25 Ltd., a subsidiary of Eon Productions, gives an idea of how expensive it was.

A movie and a half? 

The filing said for 2019 the “work in progress” (No Time to Die is the only work in progress B25 has) was 199.47 million pounds. The conversion rate between pounds and dollars varies, but that’s more than $240 million.

The filing also listed a figure for 2018: 17.44 million pounds. The MI6 James Bond website said that may be pre-production costs when Danny Boyle was attached to direct before departing in August 2018 for “creative differences.” He was replaced by Cary Fukunaga.

Regardless, production designer Mark Tildesley in a Masterclass video interview posted May 10, said a 350-foot rocket had been built and a Russian gulag set in Canada constructed during Boyle’s time on the project.

Tildesley also said the production continued to lease the pricey 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios after Boyle left. Part of the space was used as a construction workshop.

Expensive cast

Variety previously reported that Daniel Craig was due a $25 million payday for No Time to Die. The film then brought on Rami Malek as the villain. He was coming off winning a Best Actor Oscar. He’s probably getting considerably more than scale. That probably applies to the returning MI6 cast of characters played by Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw.

Expensive crew

Phoebe Waller-Bridge was brought in as a writer at a cost of $2 million, The Hollywood Reporter said last year.  Scott Z. Burns, a pricey “script doctor” also did uncredited work on the script.

Bond 25 questions: The production designer edition

Rami Malek on a No Time to Die set designed by Mark Tildesley that certainly appears inspired by a Ken Adam set from Dr. No.

Mark Tildesley, production designer for No Time to Die, has gone public with some tidbits from the 25th James Bond film. Naturally, the blog has some questions.

Homages? Again?

So it would seem.

Tildesley, in a Masterclass video interview, said “we’ve heavily lent on previous films and the designers of previous films for some of the shapes and stuff…We went through all the films. Let’s take everything we love.”

It’s not like we haven’t been down this route before. Die Another Day (2002), Quantum of Solace (2008) and Skyfall (2012) all had their share of homages to previous 007 film adventures.

There were already signs it was happening again with No Time to Die.

One of Tildesley’s sets had a circular grille in the ceiling, similar to a Ken Adam-designed set for Dr. No. Stills emerged with Rami Malek’s villain Safin at the set.

And, of course, the Aston Martin DB5 is back, which gave the production designer a chance to tweak its design.

The car is actually a replica of the DB5 (with a carbon fiber body and BMW engine) and the designer moved the placement of the machine guns to the headlights. That’s been a prominent part of No Time to Die trailers and TV spots.

What was Danny Boyle up to?

Tildesley said a rocket and a Russian gulag were among the things being built for a Danny Boyle-directed No Time to Die.

He didn’t give away a whole lot more. But his comments suggesting various reports that Boyle wanted to cast a Russian villain were correct. Also, the MI6 James Bond website reported in February 2019 Bond was imprisoned by the villain for much of the Boyle version of No Time to Die.

So it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that a Russian villain would imprison Bond in a gulag.

Boyle’s hiring was announced in May 2018 and he left because of “creative differences in August 2018. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace Boyle.

Fukunaga also is listed as one of the writers of No Time to Die. His version of the movie is a sequel to 2015’s SPECTRE, even bringing back Lea Seydoux as Madeline Swann.

Anything else interesting?

In parts of the interview, Tildesley talks about how having a low budget forces the creative team to be more creative.

No Time to Die doesn’t have a low budget. The estimated production outlay is $250 million.

The designer said the challenge with a large budget film is to stay creative.

“The thing about doing a bigger film is to try and keep light on your feet,” he said. “I’m always trying to think of. like, arresting images that will burn onto your retina.”

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

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.

Hindsight: Boyle-directed Bond 25

Danny Boyle

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20-20.

So, if Danny Boyle and Eon Productions hadn’t parted ways in August 2018, Bond 25 presumably would have made its original November 2019 release date.

Of course, it didn’t play out that way. Cary Fukunaga was hired as Boyle’s replacement.

Once that occurred, Bond 25 (later No Time to Die) was scheduled to come out Feb. 14, 2020. But that didn’t work out and the release was pushed back to April 2020 — this month.

That’s the comfort of hindsight. Maybe Bond 25 would have been handicapped by an Odd Couple relationship between Boyle and Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions.

There’s no way to know for now. All fans know is Boyle exited because of “creative differences” between himself and Eon Productions.

The best evidence of a better alternative is the Fukunaga-directed No Time to Die, currently being stored where ever it may be. Fukunaga says the movie is locked down and won’t be tweaked until its current release date of November.

Movies evolve. Directors and writers come and go. For Bond fans spending their time at home because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), they can only wonder what could have been — and anticipate what is to come.

Fukunaga says NTTD is done, won’t be tweaked

Cary Joji Fukunaga

The director of No Time to Die, in an exchange that’s part of an Instagram post, says the 25th James Bond movie is done, with no further tweaking.

“(W)e had to put our pencils down when we finished our post production window which was thankfully before COVID shut everything else down,” Fukunaga wrote.

He made a separate response to another question of why not use the delay in the movie’s release date to do polishing.

“(S)hort answer is money,” the director said. “And although Bond is a big movie, we still have to weigh cost with value.” Fukunaga added the movie “is great as it is.”

The exchanges were spotted by @antonvolk, who included it in a tweet.

In early March, No Time to Die’s release date was moved to November from April. Since then, movies have been delayed as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) caused movie theaters to close and many businesses to be shut down.

Some YouTube channels suggested the real reason was the movie needed reshoots. However, since the early March announcement, production of movies and many TV shows has been shut down because of COVID-19.

@antonvolk’s tweet with a screenshot of Fukunaga’s comments is below.

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Bond 25 questions: The potpourri edition

New No Time to Die poster

We’ve had a few No Time to Die developments recently. Naturally, the blog has a couple of questions.

Will the gunbarrel be at the beginning?

Hard to say, but this week’s Cary Fukunaga video suggests it’s a strong possibility.

“The white dots on the screen…the adrenaline starts pumping,” Fukunaga’s voiceover says, accompanying the Daniel Craig gunbarrel from SPECTRE. “Settle in and get ready for a ride.”

That sounds like a description of the first 20 Bond films when the gunbarrel was at the start of the movie. Things got changed up with 2006’s Casino Royale, which began a new, rebooted timeline. The gunbarrel appeared at the end of the pre-titles sequence.

Then, for Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, the gunbarrel appeared at the end of the film. There was some pushback from fans. That generated pushback to the pushback where other fans questioned how dare fans question the artistry of the films. The comments section of this 2012 post demonstrates both sides of the argument.

The gunbarrel was back at the start of SPECTRE, although it wasn’t the best executed, including having Daniel Craig swinging his arm wildly showing he’s holding a gun.

In any case, Fukunaga at least sounds more appreciative of the gunbarrel logo than his Bond directing predecessor Sam Mendes. We’ll see.

Why didn’t Scott Z. Burns get a script credit?

Supposedly, the ace Hollywood “script doctor” in early 2019 was on his way to save No Time to Die’s script. Certainly, The Playlist website made it sound that way in a February 2019 story.

To give credit where credit is due, The Playlist was the first to report Burns participating in the writing of the film. Saving the script? Not so much. Burns ended up not getting a credit while Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, director Fukunaga and scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge did.

Ultimately, script credits are decided by the Writers Guild of America. The rules are a bit complex but in general favor the early writers over those who rewrite. There is also a cap on the number of credits available. In this case, Burns had no seat when the WGA musical chairs of writing credits ended.