Finneas O’Connell discusses origins of NTTD song

Finneas O’Connell, older brother and collaborator of Billie Eilish

Finneas O’Connell, co-writer of the No Time to Die title song with his sister Billie Eilish, described the creative process in an interview with GQ.

“We wrote No Time to Die on a tour bus. Specifically, in the bunks of our tour bus,” told the magazine.

“We were given the first 20 pages of the script. I guess that’s up to the point when the song comes in during the movie, right? That’s how all the Bond films open up.

“So we were able to read the first 20 pages, which was obviously incredible. It gave us such a good steer and such insight into where the song would fall, and the tone. It makes it easier than having to write the whole song based on the entire movie; or in fact none of the movie.”

That sounds like the duo read the script’s pre-titles sequence. The general rule of thumb is that one page of script equals about one minute of screen time.

That suggests the pre-titles sequence may run about 20 minutes, although no one will know for sure until editing of the movie is complete.

O’Connell described what happened next.

“So Billie and I wrote the song, recorded the demo, sent it to them and then we finished it in London with Hans Zimmer doing the orchestral arrangements and also Johnny Marr from The Smiths,” he said. “I mean, James Bond? Hans Zimmer? Johnny Marr? Mind blowing.”

The interview covers other subjects. You can read the interview by CLICKING HERE.

Bond 25 questions: The Rhythm Section/Super Bowl edition

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Separate events over the weekend — the debut of a non-Bond Eon film and a Super Bowl spot for No Time to Die — have generated some questions at the blog.

Are these events related?

Yes, in one respect.

The Rhythm Section and No Time to Die will have music from the same group.

The music credit for The Rhythm Section says the score was “produced by” Hans Zimmer while the music was by Steve Mazzaro, a composer affiliated with Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions.

After the No Time to Die commercial aired on the Super Bowl, Zimmer put out a tweet that said, the spot “doesn’t have my music (still working on it with my friend Steve Mazzaro!) but you’ll hear what we come up with soon.”

So, Zimmer is working with Mazzaro on No Time to Die. Meanwhile, Mazzaro’s score for The Rhythm Section sounds very much like the Zimmer-credited scores for Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. BROOOOOOMMMMM!

Are you saying No Time to Die’s score will sound like that?

Not necessarily. But the Mazzaro (channeling Zimmer) score for The Rhythm Section didn’t break new ground. We’ll have to see what the duo come up with for No Time to Die.

What was new in the Super Bowl spot?

Actually, quite a lot. There were a few shots that appeared in the trailer released in December. But there was new material, including Daniel Craig’s James Bond and Lashana Lynch in an unusual aircraft.

That plane looked similar (but larger) compared with the mini jet seen in the pre-titles sequence in 1983’s Octopussy. The idea originally was in the first draft script of Moonraker where Bond and Holly Goodhead flew his and her mini jets.

What happened with The Rhythm Section’s box office?

The Paramount-released movie was not just a flop. It was a historic flop. It had the lowest box office (not adjusted for inflation) of any movie opening with more than 3,000 screens. The Rhythm Section broke a 14-year record in that regard.

Deadline: Hollywood published a story over the weekend about various things that went wrong, including test screenings that went over badly, financing issues and behind-the-scenes disagreements.

Movies with more problems have been hits. If Deadline is to be believed, there was a lot of bad luck involved for The Rhythm Section. Regardless, the numbers are the numbers. Numbers can be very unforgiving.

REVIEW: The Rhythm Section (2020)

A poster for The Rhythm Section

With The Rhythm Section, Eon Productions wanted to show what it could do with the spy genre without James Bond.

In terms of craftsmanship, it’s a respectable effort. The photography is good. The actors give it their all. Director Reed Morano shows off multiple locations. The movie also runs less than two hours, almost a rarity these days.

But when it comes to connecting with the audience, not so much.

Blake Lively’s lead character, Stephanie Patrick, has lost her family after an aircraft crash. She has fallen apart, becoming a drug-addicted prostitute.

Patrick finds out the truth and becomes an avenging angel, diving deep into the world of international espionage and terrorism. She goes after one of her targets by pretending to be a prostitute.

The point is to show a diamond in the rough and what she had to accomplish. Stephanie Patrick is more Jason Bourne than James Bond, and a not very confident (at least at first) Bourne figure at that.

By the end of the film, Patrick has become the new Bourne. She evens things out. She’s ready for new adventures by the end of the movie.

Still, it’d be better if there were more audience investment in Patrick’s story.

Some of Eon’s Bond mainstays show up behind the camera. Chris Corbould, a long-time special effects wizard for the Bond series, is present as second unit director, for example.

Hans Zimmer did not do the score. But he gets the first music credit for producing the score. Steve Mazzaro, one of the composers affiliated with Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions, gets the actual “music by” credit.

Nevertheless, parts of the movie’s score resembles Zimmer’s work on Christopher Nolan-directed movies. Zimmer has been announced as composer for No Time to Die, Eon’s newest Bond film.

An anecdote: I was the third person to buy a ticket at my theater for the first showing of The Rhythm Section on Thursday night. One of the two people who bought tickets before me stopped as the end titles were playing.

“It wasn’t so good, was it?” she said.

Not so much. GRADE: C.

NTTD title song took a year to sell, co-writer says

Finneas O’Connell, older brother and writing collaborator of Billie Eilish

It took about a year to sell Eon Productions on the idea of a James Bond title song performed by Billie Eilish, Finneas O’Connell, who co-wrote the No Time to Die song with his sister, said in an interview with Billboard.

“We fought it out for a year,” O’Connell said in the interview. “We’ve always wanted to write a James Bond theme song. And you know, it’s a legendary franchise, so we had to convince a lot of people that we were the right choice.”

The interview was about O’Connell’s career with in general. But there were details about No Time to Die. O’Connor described the selection process.

“And then we had to write a song that everybody liked,” he said. “So it was a hard-won process. But everybody that we worked with on it, Barbara Broccoli, the producer of the Bond franchise (alongside Michael G. Wilson), we got to work with Hans Zimmer… it was a real joy.”

O’Connell reflected on the publicity about last week’s announcement concerning the No Time to Die title song.

“But uh, yeah, it’s so funny, ’cause some of the headlines have been like, ‘Billie Eilish and Finneas are writing the James Bond theme.’ And I’m so glad we’re no longer writing it — I’m so glad we wrote it a couple months ago, because, oh my god, if it was like, announced that we were doing it and we still had to write it, I would have such writer’s anxiety, you know?”

O’Connell described the ups and downs involved.

“It’s, in my experience, in my limited experience, as a songwriter and producer, it’s the hardest playing field I’ve never been on. … There were so many points where I was like, ‘I don’t know, maybe we don’t have this!’ (Laughs.) Like, it’s just like such a big deal. And you know … the whole pairing is very authentic to my and Billie’s relationship with those movies.”

Billie Eislish talks briefly about No Time to Die

Billie Eilish talked briefly about No Time to Die in a video interview, indicating she has worked on the movie’s title song for “a couple of months.”

Eilish told ALT 98.7 FM she was contacted about the Bond song “a while ago…It was a crazy call and a crazy last couple of months.”

The singer also said she was excited to have the gig. “Bond is so dope, it really is,” she said. “It’s like the coolest movie franchise in the world.”

Eilish said she’s “working on it with Hans” Zimmer but didn’t go into detail. Eilish is co-writing the song with her brother Finneas O’Connell.

Separately, The Guardian, a sister publication of The Observer, ran a feature story on Eilish.

The story includes  this quote from Popjustice founder Peter Robinson: “She’s not Shirley Bassey. There’s a real power in the understatement of her music. When one of her songs comes on the radio, it sounds like some alien transmission has taken over Capital or Radio 1.”

The video interview is embedded below. The No Time to Die discussion starts around the 1:50 mark.

NTTD roundup: Add to music team, running time questions

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Here’s a quick roundup of No Time to Die developments:

Music team adds a recruit: Musician Johnny Marr will work with Hans Zimmer on the No Time to Die score, NME reported, citing comments from Marr.

“Part of the legacy of the Bond films is iconic music, so I’m very happy to be bringing my guitar to No Time to Die,” Marr told NME.

Marr has worked with Zimmer on previous films, including Inception, where Marr was a guitarist and Amazing Spider-Man 2, where Marr contributed to the score along with Zimmer.

A three-hour Bond? The MI6 James Bond website examined recent developments that may (or may not) point to the 25th James Bond film having a running time of almost three hours.

@ImAFilmEditor tweeted back on Dec. 4 that No Time to Die may end up being the longest Bond film but there weren’t any details beyond that. He reminded people of that in a Jan. 16 tweet.

This week, @antovolk did some more detective work. He provided caveats that the movie is still in post production and that a final running time isn’t locked down.

Bond films during the Daniel Craig era have tended toward longer running times, except for 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which had a 106-minute running time. SPECTRE’s running time was 148 minutes, the longest so far for the film series.

Billie Eilish will perform, co-write NTTD’s title song

Billie Eilish photo that was included in Eon announcement

Billie Eilish will perform and co-write the title song for No Time to Die, Eon Productions said on its official Twitter account.

The song’s other co-writer is her brother, Finneas O’Connell, who performs under the name Finneas, according to the announcement.

Eilish’s Twitter account also had an announcement but it didn’t mention her brother’s participation in writing the song. Finneas O’Conell had his own comment on Instagram.

Prior to the announcement, Eilish had earlier posted images of Bond actresses on the story portion of her Instagram account.  The MI6 James Bond website reported Jan. 12 that Eilish, 18, would perform the song, becoming the youngest singer of a Bond title song.

Earlier in the morning, Variety ran a story concerning whether Eilish would be retained as title song performer. It included this analysis of how Eilish compares with previous Bond song performers.

If true, the choice of Eilish would be a dramatic change of direction for the legendary franchise’s long history of theme-song performers, which have progressed from Shirley Bassey to Paul McCartney and Duran Duran over the decades. More recent films have featured younger artists like Adele — who sang the smash hit “Skyfall” — and Sam Smith, both of whom, while contemporary artists in their 20s, are both British and create more adult-leaning music than Eilish: Her music is innovative and enormously popular, but her audience skews much younger than those artists’.

Eon yesterday announced that Hans Zimmer will do the score for the 25th James Bond film.

No Time to Die will continue a pattern where the title song is done separately from the score. A Bond film composer hasn’t been involved with a Bond title song since 2006’s Casino Royale, when David Arnold collaborated with Chris Cornell.