About those Bond film series gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Last week saw another delay announced for No Time to Die. That has prompted some entertainment news websites to look back at how the gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die ranks among Bond films.

With that in mind, here’s the blog’s own list.

You Only Live Twice (1967) to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This isn’t getting the attention as the others.

But You Only Live Twice came out in June of 1967 while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service debuted in December 1969. That was about two-and-a-half years. Today? No big deal. But at the time, the Bond series delivered entries in one- or two-year intervals.

This period included the first re-casting of the Bond role, with George Lazenby taking over from Sean Connery. Also, Majesty’s was an epic shoot.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) to The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): This period often is written up as the first big delay in the series made by Eon Productions.

It’s easy to understand why. The partnership between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman broke up. There were delays in beginning a new Bond film. Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct but exited, with Lewis Gilbert eventually taking over. Many scripts were written. And Eon and United Arists were coming off with a financial disappointment with Golden Gun.

Still, Golden Gun premiered in December 1974 while Spy came along in July 1977. That’s not much longer than the Twice-Majesty’s gap. For all the turmoil that occurred in the pre-production of Spy, it’s amazing the gap wasn’t longer.

Licence to Kill (1989) to GoldenEye (1995): This is the big one. Licence came out in June 1989 (it didn’t make it to the U.S. until July) while GoldenEye didn’t make it to theater screens until November 1995.

In the interim, there was a legal battle between Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, which had acquired UA in 1981. MGM had been sold, went into financial trouble, and was taken over by a French bank. The legal issues were sorted out in 1993 and efforts to start a new Bond film could begin in earnest.

This period also saw the Bond role recast, with Pierce Brosnan coming in while Timothy Dalton exited. In all, almost six-and-a-half years passed between Bond film adventures.

Die Another Day (2002) to Casino Royale (2006): After the release of Die Another Day, a large, bombastic Bond adventure, Eon did a major reappraisal of the series.

Eventually, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided on major changes. Eon now had the rights to Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. So the duo opted to start the series over with a new actor, Daniel Craig and a more down-to-earth approach.

Quantum of Solace (2008) to Skyfall (2012): MGM had another financial setback with a 2010 bankruptcy. That delayed development of a new Bond film. Sam Mendes initially was a “consultant” because MGM’s approval was needed before he officially was named director.

Still, the gap was only four years (which today seems like nothing) from Quantum’s debt in late October 2008 to Skyfall’s debut in October 2012.

SPECTRE (2015) to No Time to Die (?): Recent delays are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But pre-production got off to a slow start below that.

MGM spent much of 2016 trying to sell itself to Chinese investors but a deal fell through. Daniel Craig wanted a break from Bond. So did Eon’s Barbara Broccoli, pursuing small independent-style movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Nancy, as well as a medium-sized spy movie The Rhythm Section.

Reportedly, a script for a Bond movie didn’t start until around March 2017 with the hiring (yet again) of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The hiring was confirmed in summer 2017. Craig later in summer of 2017 said he was coming back.

Of course, one director (Danny Boyle) was hired only to depart later. Cary Fukunaga was hired to replace him. More writers (Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z. Burns) arrived. The movie finally was shot in 2019.

Then, when 2020 arrived, the pandemic hit. No Time to Die currently has an October 2021 release date. We’ll see how that goes.

It’s STFU Day for No Time to Die

The No Time to Die publicity machine apparently decided Nov. 3 was a great day to lift media embargoes for No Time to Die stories. Given how nobody can see the movie for the foreseeable future, it’s more like STFU Day.

Yes, yes, this was probably decided back when the 25th James Bond film was scheduled to come out this month. Still, given how nobody is going to see the movie until April 2021 (if then), there’s an odd feel to all this.

Example: GQ comes out with a long story about Rami Malek, with lots of photos of him wearing expensive clothes. Meanwhile, the 39-year-old actor assures us we’ll be “shocked” when the movie comes out.

Whenever that is. OK, champ. Get back to us when we can actually check it out.

Example II: NTTD director-screenwriter Cary Fukunaga boasts to The Playlist that the Safin villain played by Malek is “bigger” than Blofeld.

Earth to Cary: That’s not much of a boast. Better than Donald Pleasance? Charles Gray? Telly Savalas? Christoph Waltz? Blofeld was best on-screen in the Eon Productions series with the body of Anthony Dawson and voice of Eric Pohlman.

Example III: Harper’s Bazaar came out with a new issue with Lashana Lynch on the cover. It also has a (nominal) No Time to Die spoiler. So if you really want to see it, CLICK HERE. Later on Tuesday, the entire Harper’s story goes online with the spoiler displayed prominently, including the headline.

Yes, No Time to Die has had its share of bad luck. But this week rings hollow. “You wait and see! It’ll be really good!” Whatever. Whenever.

NTTD: Key events, dates that shaped expectations

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All they need to do is change the “3” to a “2.”

No Time to Die has become one of the longest soap operas in the history of the Eon Productions James Bond film series. But how did it get that way?

What follows are some key events and dates. All of them helped shape outside perspective of the production.

July 24, 2017: Both Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announce that Bond 25 will be released on Nov. 8, 2019. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are onboard as writers.

At this point, MGM had no way of distributing the film. As it turns out, MGM was working to get back into distribution. But that wouldn’t be firmed up for some time. MGM and Annapurna would form a joint venture, later called United Artists releasing, for U.S. distribution. Eventually, Universal would be picked for international distribution.

In any case, the announcement creates the expectation Bond 25 would be out in fall 2019.

Aug. 15, 2017: Daniel Craig, on CBS’s The Late Show, says he’s returning as Bond in the new movie. The July 2017 announcement didn’t specify who was playing Bond.

Craig’s appearance helps create the impression of momentum. The Bond film machine is stirring.

Oct. 31, 2017: MGM and Annapurna announce their joint venture. Bond 25, for now, is not part of the deal. (It would become part of it later.) But again, the news creates the image of momentum.

February 2018: Entertainment news outlets report that Danny Boyle is a contender to direct Bond 25. Ultimately, it turns out Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, have a competing idea for the film and Hodge is working up a script. If that idea gets approved, Hodge is in the director’s chair.

Boyle confirms all this in March.

May 25, 2018: Official announcement is made that Boyle is directing and Hodge is writing Bond 25.

It’s a new day. Now, that’s what you call momentum.

Aug. 21, 2018: Danny Boyle, we hardly ye. He’s out, according to a new announcement. (It later becomes clear Hodge is gone, too.) Now, that’s what you call slamming the brakes on momentum.

Sept. 20, 2018: Bond 25 has a new director, Cary Fukunaga. It also has a new release date, Feb. 14, 2020, according to an official announcement.

That’s a mixed bag, but at least work is moving ahead.

Feb. 15, 2019: New release date is announced, now April 2020. The news was a bit of a letdown to Bond fans who had started their “one year to go” countdowns the previous day.

April 25, 2019: Eon conducts a livestream event in Jamaica ahead of the start of the production of Bond 25. There are some technical hiccups. There’s still no title. But, hey, filming is starting at long last.

We’re on our way now. What could go wrong?

May 22, 2019: Eon confirms Daniel Craig suffered an injury and will have ankle surgery. It’s not the firm time Craig has gotten hurt. Eon says the April release date is still in effect.

June 4, 2019: There’s an explosion at the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. No serious injuries but the optics weren’t the best.

007 Stage after the June 4, 2019 incident.

Aug. 20, 2019: Bond 25 gets a title — No Time to Die. This helps re-establish momentum and anticipation. A title helps things seem more real. A movie is actually coming.

Oct. 25, 2019: Eon announces filming has concluded. Whatever bumps took place, the movie is done. Anticipation builds.

Over the next few months, the first trailer comes out, an expensive ad appears during the Super Bowl and plans for a world premiere get announced.

Then, on March 4, Bond 25/No Time to Die is delayed to November 2020. This week, it was delayed again to April 2021. In both cases, the actions stem from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The pandemic has slammed a lot of industries, including the film industry.

The point of bringing all this up is that Bond 25 has had 1) a lot of ups and downs and 2) had those ups and downs for an extended time.

As a result, if fans are feeling a little whipsawed, there’s good reason.

The movie is sitting there, presumably secure and ready to be shown. When that happens, anticipation will build yet again. But nobody should blame fans for feeling a little uneasy at this point.

Eon puts out a NTTD promo featuring Safin

Rami Malek in a No Time to Die trailer

Eon Productions today put out a No Time to Die promo featuring the character of Safin, the film’s villain.

“What I really wanted from Safin was to make him unsettling…thinking of himself as heroic,” actor Rami Malek says in the promo.

Director Cary Fukunaga also chimes in about how Safin is “a very frightening character.”

The promo also still lists November as No Time to Die’s release date.

The tweet with the promo is embedded below. The promo also was on Eon’s official 007 website. You can check out the promo for yourself.

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Bond 25 questions: The score edition

New No Time to Die poster

It’s still a long way off before people can see No Time to Die. But thanks to an interview with Variety, composer Hans Zimmer has provided the blog with some questions to ask about the movie’s score.

Should the title card read, “Music by Steve Mazzaro and Hans Zimmer”?

Well if you take Zimmer at his word, maybe yes.

Steve should really be the top name on the Bond film,” Zimmer told Variety.

Mazzaro is one of the composers affiliated with Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions company. In the interview, Zimmer said he asked No Time to Die producer Barbara Broccoli “if it was okay that Steve Mazzaro, who is one of the most fabulous composers I know, could do it with me, because there was very little time.”

Was Zimmer perhaps just being polite?

Maybe yes, maybe no. One way Zimmer manages to do so many film scores is by enlisting the help of other composers.

On some films, Zimmer gets the primary “music by” credit while other Remote Control composers get secondary “additional music by” credits. Examples: Man of Steel, Dunkirk, Inception and The Dark Knight Rises.

On still other films, such as Batman v Superman and Blade Runner 2049, Zimmer actually shares the “music by” credit.

Regardless, in addition to Mazzaro, other Remote Control composers who’ve helped out Zimmer include Junkie XL and Lorne Balfe. The latter got the gig to score Mission: Impossible-Fallout and is slated to score the next two M:I movies.

Anything else in that interview catch your eye?

Zimmer’s quote about how “there was very little time” is worth noting. Eon was trying to meet an April release date before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down movie theaters.

Zimmer (and Mazzaro) replaced Dan Romer, who had worked with director Cary Fukunaga on other projects. Since Skyfall, Eon Productions has generally deferred the choice of composer to the directors of Bond films. No Time to Die initially seemed to continue that pattern until Romer’s departure.

A common fan theory is that Romer produced a score deemed too extreme. Meanwhile, Eon had worked with Zimmer and Mazzaro on The Rhythm Section (Mazzaro as composer, Zimmer as music producer, with the latter getting top billing on the music title card).

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.