About the buzz over a Bond title song performer

John Barry (1933-2011)

Whenever a new James Bond is being made, there’s a lot of interest in who will be doing the title song. On Sunday, the MI6 James Bond website reported that American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, 18, will have the honors.

While unconfirmed, naturally fans are commenting about it. Calvin Dyson, who runs an entertaining YouTube channel centered on Bond asked the following in a tweet.

Reacting to news that Billie Eilish is likely doing the #NoTimeToDie theme do you:

A: Feel good about it
B: Acknowledge she isn’t really for you but reserve judgement until release
C: Grumble “Never heard of her” for 3 months
D: Froth at the mouth that it’s not Shirley Bassey

For me, the answer is none of the above. Just a personal reaction, but for a while now Bond title songs have been more part of the marketing but tacked on to the films themselves.

It wasn’t always that way. John Barry’s first Bond score was From Russia With Love. He didn’t write the title song (Lionel Bart did). But Barry incorporated it into his score with different arrangements, tempos and orchestrations.

Of course, once Barry started writing Bond title songs with Goldfinger, he layered them into the scores — sometimes quietly, sometimes with a loud, brassy sound. In the case of Thunderball, Barry incorporated two songs: Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (written first but rejected) and Thunderball.

Barry wasn’t around for Live And Let Die. Paul and Linda McCartney wrote the title song. George Martin, who had helped McCartney produce the song and who negotiated with producer Harry Saltzman, did the score. Martin incorporated instrumental versions of the song into his score. Other Bond composers, such as Marvin Hamlisch and Bill Conti, also worked the title songs they helped write into their scores.

In other words, the song was more than just something performed for the titles. A title song became part of the movie itself, playing a role in establishing mood and emotion.

Things change. One reason Barry finally walked away from the series for good was he would not be allowed to write the title song for Tomorrow Never Dies. He’d already been away from Bond for a decade. That was simply the last straw.

The last time a title song got the Barry treatment was “You Know My Name” for 2006’s Casino Royale. David Arnold, composer for the score, collaborated with performer Chris Cornell on writing the song.

In the 2010s, both Skyfall and “Writing’s on the Wall” from SPECTRE won Oscars for best song. Instrumental versions appear in the two movie scores but, to my ear, seem placed because that’s what’s expected.

Nothing stays the same. John Barry died in 2011. David Arnold, who updated the Barry/Bond music template, hasn’t worked on the series since 2008.

The new title song, whoever writes and performs it, may be great. It may be OK. It may be mediocre. There’s no way to know until it’s released.

But, speaking only for myself, I find hard to get excited about it. Your mileage may vary.

What we know (and don’t know) about NTTD’s music

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

(Corrects to note Dan Romer listed in August press release.)

One of the main unanswered questions about No Time to Die is who will do the music. There’s been a lot of smoke but no definite answers.

So, here’s a recap.

1. IndieWire reported July 2 that Dan Romer had the job. The same day, Romer put out a tweet thanking IndieWire and said he was “very excited for this year.”

2. An August press release about the title No Time to Die lists Romer as composer.

3. The James Bond Radio fan website on Nov. 1 says it has heard Romer has departed the project. But the website also says to take the development with a grain of salt. Romer’s Twitter account is of no help. Its last post was on Sept. 6.

4. David Arnold, a five-time Bond film composer (and a fan favorite), says Dec. 4 on Twitter he hasn’t been approached about working on No Time to Die. “I can sit back and enjoy it with everyone else,” he writes.

5. Anton Volkov, founder of TrailerTrack (@antovolk), posts a Dec. 27 tweet saying “there’s some smoke” that someone affiliated with Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions may be doing the No Time to Die’s score.

One of the sources is a message board at Zimmer’s website. The site administrator reportedly is close to Zimmer.

6. One question is whether we’re talking about Zimmer himself or another composer affiliated with his Remote Control Productions company. For background about Remote Control, CLICK HERE to view a 2014 story by Variety.

7. James Bond Radio comes back with a Dec. 28 tweet saying it doesn’t know who the composer is, just that it’s not Zimmer but “one of his guys” at Remote Control. The tweet includes a link to composers affiliated with Remote Control.

One of the 63 composers shown on the Zimmer website page is Tom Holkenborg, known professionally as Junkie XL. Holkenborg and Zimmer shared the composer credit for 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Holkenborg was supposed to score 2017′ Justice League but got replaced by Danny Elfman.

Another one of the Remote Control composers is Lorne Balfe, the credited composer for 2018′ Mission: Impossible-Fallout.

UPDATE (10:15 a.m., New York time, Dec. 29): On Dec. 25, Film Music Reporter had a story about Dan Romer’s latest project, Wendy. It does not list No Time to Die as among Romer’s credits. h/t MI6 James Bond website, which mentioned in a story.

Bond 25 questions: The miscellaneous edition

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

We seem to have completed a wave of No Time to Die marketing that included the release of the film’s first trailer. However, as is often the case, the blog has some questions.

How long will the movie be?

The Daniel Craig era of the James Bond film series has been known for long movies.

2006’s Casino Royale came in at 144 minutes, edging out On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (142 minutes) for the longest film in the series up to that time.

Six years later, Skyfall came in at 143 minutes, according to its IMDB.com listing. Then, in 2015, SPECTRE seized the crown of longest-running Bond film at 148 minutes.

The one exception in the Craig era was 2008’s Quantum of Solace at a slender106 minutes, the shortest movie in the series made by Eon Productions.

Based on recent history, it would seem a longer movie is more likely than a shorter one. But how long? Two-and-a-half hours? Longer? Is three hours a possibility? There’s no way to know, obviously, at this point.

Who will do the title song?

To be honest, this isn’t something I personally get excited about. It used to be the title song was an integral part of the movie. Now, it seems to be little more than part of the marketing.

The last time a Bond film composer helped write a title song was Casino Royale’s You Know My Name, where David Arnold collaborated with singer Chris Cornell. When that happens, the composer can weave the title song into the movie’s score.

Now? Music from the song does show up in the underscore, but it doesn’t sound particularly smooth.

When No Time to Die’s title song composer is announced, it’ll get a lot of attention. But, speaking only for myself, it’s hard to get that excited. Which leads up to the next question….

Who is scoring the movie?

In July, IndieWire reported that Dan Romer, who had worked with director Cary Fukunaga on some projects, was the composer. Romer put out a tweet that appeared to confirm the report.

Then, in November, fansite James Bond Radio said it heard Romer had left the production.

Nothing has been heard of since then. There has been no announcement about a No Time to Die composer. So who knows at this point?

Bond 25 questions: The composer edition (again? maybe?)

No Time to Die teaser poster

On All Saints’ Day 2019, the James Bond Radio podcast raised the question whether Dan Romer may not score No Time to Die after all.

On posts on Twitter and Facebook, the fan site said it heard from a source that Romer has left the 25th James Bond film. Romer has worked with No Time to Die director Cary Fukunaga on other projects.

At this point, there’s no way to know. In the James Bond Radio post on Facebook, there was this caveat: “Our source does seem credible, but of course you never know for sure until we get an official word.”

With all that in mind, the blog has some questions:

Is Romer really gone?

There’s no way to know. Eon Productions isn’t likely to say until a replacement is lined up.

Is this sort of thing unusual?

Not really. Bernard Herrmann scored a number of films for producer-director Alfred Hitchcock. But Herrmnn delivered a score for Torn Curtain (1966). Hitchcock hated it and that was the end of the long collaboration between director and composer.

More recently, Warner Bros. superhero film Justice League (2017) started out with a score by Junkie XL. But the powers that be rejected it and Danny Elfman came in Elfman included his own theme for the 1989 Batman movie as well as John Williams’ theme for the 1978 Superman movie.

If (repeat IF) Romer is gone, who might replace him?

A lot of Bond fans would love to have five-time Bond film composer David Arnold back. Arnold hasn’t scored a Bond film since 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Arnold has a following among Bond fans, many of whom have been wishing he’d return. Director Sam Mendes insisted on Thomas Newman to compose the scores for Skyfall and SPECTRE. Then, Romer was the man for No Time to Die, presumably because he worked with Fukunaga before.

Another fan favorite is composer Michael Giacchino, who has worked in John Barry-style flourishes in a number of scores including The Incredibles (2004) and other films. His credits include one Mission: Impossible movie and a number of Marvel Studios films.

Any other thoughts?

Not really. The James Bond Radio social media posts quickly spread among fans. It remains to be seen what’s really happening. That’s not a criticism of James Bond Radio. We just don’t know what’s happening.

Dan Romer to compose Bond 25’s score, IndieWire says

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

Dan Romer, who has previously worked with Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga, will compose the score for Bond 25, IndieWire reported. The entertainment website didn’t specify how it obtained the information.

Romer previously composed the score for Maniac, a 10-episode television mini-series directed by Fukunaga. Romer also scored Beasts of No Nation, a 2015 film directed, written and photographed by Fukunaga.

“Romer excels at finding the appropriate vibe with quirky, eclectic unpredictability,” wrote IndieWire’s Bill Desowitz.

On June 25, Eon Productions released a Bond 25 promotional video featuring behind the scenes shots filmed in Jamaica. Romer’s style, according to IndieWire is “in sync with Fukunaga’s reel, which was luscious, dark, and frenetic.”

If the IndieWire report pans out, it will continue a 007 trend begun under Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall and SPECTRE. Thomas Newman, who scored both films, was Mendes’ choice.

In the 1960s, beginning with From Russia With Love, John Barry was the to-go composer for the series regardless of director. Barry had arranged the final version of The James Bond Theme in Dr. No. Once in the composer’s chair, he established the Bond musical template.

Barry did six consecutive Bond films from 1963 through 1971. He eventually did 11 007 scores, ending with 1987’s The Living Daylights.

David Arnold, who followed the Barry template while trying to update it, did five consecutive Bond scores from 1997 through 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Some fans had hoped that Arnold would return for Bond 25.

h/t @CorneelVf on Twitter

UPDATE: Dan Romer put out a tweet related to the news.

 

007 questions before Bond 25 starts filming

So how do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25?

In less than two months, Bond 25 is scheduled to start filming in time for a Feb. 14, 2020 release. Naturally, the blog has a few questions.

001: How do you transition from the end of SPECTRE to the start of Bond 25? Cary Fukunaga, the director of Bond 25, has said that Bond 25 will continue a “character arc” that began with 2006’s Casino Royale.

At the end of 2015’s SPECTRE, it appeared the Daniel Craig 007 had retired as an Double-O agent. So how do you get from there to a new adventure?

002: How do you reconcile the various Bond 25 scripts? The current effort began with a treatment (i.e. detailed outline) by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Then, that was put off to the side because director Danny Boyle and his writer John Hodge pitched an idea that supposedly was great. Then, a few months later, Eon thought better and Boyle and Hodge walked away.

There were many stories published during 2018 (See the blog’s sister site, The Bond 25 Timeline for details).

But Eon owns all those ideas. Will the final script reflect some or all of those ideas? In some cases, ideas from submitted scripts end up in Bond films years later. Also, it was reported last week that Paul Haggis (involved with writing Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) had worked on Bond 25’s script.

We’ll see how this plays out for Bond 25.

003: How much leeway does director Fukunaga have for Bond 25? Eon Productions gave Sam Mendes a lot of leeway for Skyfall and SPECTRE, including granting Mendes his choice of composer (Thomas Newman in both movies) and director of photography (Roger Deakins in Skyfall). Does Fukunaga get that kind of love from Eon for Bond 25?

004: If the answer to 003 is not so much, does David Arnold get a chance to return to score Bond 25? Arnold, composer of five 007 scores (behind only John Barry’s 11) has been away for more than a decade. Much of that absence stemmed from Mendes’ relation with Newman. Does Arnold get a chance to come back?

005: Does Bond 25’s budget grow, stay the same, or shrink from SPECTRE’s? During the Sony hacks (hacked emails and other documents), it came out that SPECTRE’s budget was on pace to go past $300 million. Supposedly, the budget was closer to $240 million (after factoring in all the product placement and Mexico tax credits). It’s always easier to spend more — as long as a studio is willing to cut checks.

006: How energized are Bond 25’s lead producer and star? Over the extended break, Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has worked on “indie-style” small films while star Daniel Craig has worked on other projects. Meanwhile, Craig said back in 2016 that “everybody’s just a bit tired.” Is everybody rested up now?

007: Does Universal’s involvement with Bond 25 change things? Sony Pictures (through its Columbia Pictures brand) released the last four 007 films (2006-2015). Now, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures will handle U.S. distribution while Universal will handle international distribution. Does Universal change things? There’s no way to tell for now.

MI6 Confidential looks at 007 film music

Cover to the Dr. No soundtrack cover

MI6 Confidential is out with a new issue that includes a number of features about James Bond music and songs.

Included in issue 48:

–An interview with Monty Norman, composer of The James Bond Theme. (Yes the blog knows about how John Barry did the arrangement and the argument has been made Barry added bits from his own previous compositions.)

— A look at David Arnold’s score for Quantum of Solace, his fifth (and for now now, at least) his final in the Eon-made 007 series.

— A look at connections between Paul McCartney and Bond.

There are non-musical articles, including one about Latin American politics as explored by Quantum of Solace.

The price is 7 British pounds, $9.50 and 8.50 euros. For more information about the contents and ordering, CLICK HERE.