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?

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

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.

A review of No Time to Die’s scripting process

Dramatic re-enactment.

Earlier today, I was reminded by @_SpringY84 that Aug. 21 is a notable anniversary in the development of Bond 25/No Time to Die.

A brief discussion broke out how all this came to be. In turn, that got me to thinking how the scripting developed. So here’s a quick review.

As far back as March 2017, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported veteran Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were being hired for Bond 25. The duo’s return was confirmed July 24, 2017 in announcements by Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn Mayer stating Bond 25 would have a U.S. release date of Nov. 8, 2019.

Those announcements have since been stripped from the websites of Eon and MGM. In any event, the involvement of Purvis and Wade was made official before the return of star Daniel Craig. The latter wouldn’t take place until mid-August 2017.

In December 2017, Purvis and Wade were still on the project. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli told a Hollywood Reporter podcast that the writers were “busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

Well, apparently it wasn’t that fantastic.

By early 2018, Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge put their hands up, saying they had some great ideas for Bond 25. Evidently, it was a great pitch because Hodge was commissioned to turn it into a script. If that script got approval, that would be the new path ahead for Bond 25.

Boyle (vaguely) commented about the process in March 2018.

Apparently, the script was OK with Eon in the spring of 2018. A May 25, 2018, announcement about the movie includes Boyle as director and Hodge as screenwriter. No mention of Purvis and Wade.

As noted at the start of this post, such bliss didn’t last. By Aug. 21, it was so long Danny and John, welcome back Neal and Robert. The writers would soon work with a new director, Cary Fukunaga.

Here’s how the process was described by an article in Total Film.

Boyle’s script, written by Trainspotting’s John Hodge (which contained “some extraordinary ideas, they just needed a little pulling together,” according to production designer Mark Tildesley) was scrapped, with Purvis and Wade brought in to pick up where they left off a year prior. “Effectively, we went back to what we’d done,” says Purvis. “And then we changed things with Cary over several months in the attic at Eon.” As well as being the first American, Fukunaga is the first director to have a writing credit on a finished Bond film. “He’s fresh to it,” Wade says of Fukunaga. “He’s open to doing things differently, and wanted to push the boundaries as much as he could. This film feels quite different to the last one, even though it’s got elements that connect it.”

Things weren’t quite that simple. The release date would be pushed back into 2020 with Fukunaga coming onboard. COVID-19 would push the release into 2021.

Meanwhile, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (with Daniel Craig taking credit for recruiting her) and Scott Z. Burns did rewrites at the word processor. Burns’ arrival was initially hyped by The Playlist in February 2019. Rodrigo Perez of The Playist said Burns was doing “an overhaul and I won’t be surprised if Burns is ultimately given first screenplay credit.”

As it turned out, Burns received no writing credit on No Time to Die. Savior one day, forgotten man the next day.

All this time later, we don’t know what spectacular ideas Boyle and Hodge came up with to spur Eon to ditch a script in the work for months. The ones who do know have probably signed non-disclosure agreements.

Regardless, today’s anniversary calls to mind a rather involved process. Let’s hope No Time to Die’s final script is as involved as the work performed to create it.

Total Film provides a behind-the-scenes look at NTTD

No Time to Die poster from 2020

Total Film is out with an article taking a behind-the-scenes look at No Time to Die.

Here are some non-spoiler highlights:

–Cary Fukunanga, who would eventually direct the movie, wined and dined Eon’s Barbara Broccoli before Danny Boyle was hired as the film’s first director.

“At that point Daniel (Craig) said he wasn’t doing another one, so we spit-balled all the potential new Bonds – that was exciting,” Fukunaga told Total Film. “I just told her what I loved about Bond and what it meant to me growing up. And just that I’d be honoured if they’d consider me for the next one.”

–After Boyle (and his writer John Hodge) exited the project, writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade went back to a script they were working on before Boyle was hired. That’s not terribly surprising but there has been hype that *everything was new* after Boyle left.

“Effectively, we went back to what we’d done,” Purvis told Total Film. “And then we changed things with Cary over several months in the attic at Eon.” Over time, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who got a credit) and Scott Z. Burns (who did not) also worked on the script.

–Michael G. Wilson of Eon describes the Craig era as “a little miniseries within the series.” Broccoli added: ““This film feels like a good bookend to Casino (Royale), because his emotional evolution gets to a place where we’ve never seen Bond before. So that’s pretty exciting.”

–Craig describes the theme of No Time to Die as “love and family.”

–Funkunaga says that only goes so far. “No one’s trying to say some sort of long sentimental goodbye. It’s just another Bond film. The credits still say: ‘Bond will return.’”

There’s a lot more, including some comments about Safin, the villain played by Rami Malek, that get into spoiler territory.

Eon’s 007 Twitter engages in revisionist history

The official 007 Twitter feed engaged in some revisionist history. In a tweet today, it referred to “the iconic Skyfall DB5.”

Skyfall DB5? Director Sam Mendes insisted the Aston Martin DB5 be the GOLDFINGER DB5.

Originally, scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had it being the DB5 that Daniel Craig’s James Bond won in 2006’s Casino Royale. But Mendes wanted the Goldfinger car, and the Goldfinger car it was.

That was the entire point. And, when Skyfall went into theaters in 2012, it indeed got a rise from audiences.

You can view the tweet for yourself:

Bond 25: How we got to this point

No Time to Die poster

David Leigh of The James Bond Dossier and I chatted on a livestream on Feb. 19. We reviewed how No Time to Die arrived at its current point, a movie costing almost $290 million in a holding pattern.

This is mostly a summary of what we discussed. This also is my own phrasing and analysis. If you have objections, send them my way.

2016’s black hole: In 2016, there was a three-cornered game that would ensure a new James Bond movie wouldn’t happen quickly.

MGM, Bond’s home studio, was busy trying to sell itself to a Chinese buyer. That didn’t work out.

Barbara Broccoli, the leading force at Eon Productions, had other irons in the fire. Eon wanted to make movies such as Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, Nancy and The Rhythm Section. None of the three would be popular successes.

Daniel Craig, the Bond star of record, wanted to do other projects. One of them was titled Kings (Halle Berry was the co-star) and set in 1992 Los Angeles. It wasn’t a hit. Craig also did a new play based on Shakespeare’s Othello.

–Le affaire de Danny Boyle: After the principals got all that out of their system, MGM, Eon and (apparently Craig) were wowed by a pitch by director Danny Boyle and one of his writers, John Hodge.

By early 2017, Eon Productions had hired Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But the Boyle-Hodge team pitched a new idea. Supposedly this idea was so FANTASTIC, the Purvis-Wade effort was tossed aside in 2018.

In May 2018, the Boyle-Hodge effort was now the way to go. Until, a few months later, it wasn’t any more. “Creative differences” (as noted in a press release).

So long, Danny. Hello search for a new director. That would end up being Cary Fukunaga. Hello, more writers, including Fukunaga (who’d get a credit), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (ditto) and Scott Z. Burns (sorry, Scott).

Coronavirus: Some delays for No Time to Die have been due to COVID-19. But the bulk of delays stem from other reasons.

So it goes.

UPDATE (Feb. 20): Here’s a replay of most the livestream, at least after we got some technical issues out of the way.

Jinx spinoff script performs comics homages

Die Another Day poster

This week, @007inLA came across a 2003 script of a proposed Jinx spinoff from Die Another Day. The resulting tweets give a viewer the idea of what Neal Purvis and Robert Wade’s ideas ideas of what a Bond film spinoff would have looked like.

For one thing, P&W seemingly went into the comic book world. In a big way.

At one point, in a flashback sequence, Jinx’s parents are killed. This is similar to how Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered by criminals in Gotham City.

Still later, Jinx discovers her parents were spies. This is how (years after his introduction), Peter Parker’s Spider-Man discovers his long-lost parents were SHIELD agents.

The script is dated 2003. In real life, MGM canceled the Jinx project. One suspects Eon has been annoyed every since.

The P&W script also has various other complications. The thread that provide details STARTS HERE.

NTTD costume designer describes working on the film

No Time to Die logo

Suttirat Anne Larlarb, the costume designer for No Time to Die, was interviewed last year on the Behind the Seams podcast about her career.

She made limited comments about the 25th James Bond film but she shared some observations.

Script state of flux: “The script changed countless times,” she said. “The settings, the locations, all that stuff was kind of in flux for a while. It was in terms of a costume process quite difficult.”

The movie has four credited writers (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, director Cary Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Scott Z. Burns did uncredited work. One script, by John Hodge, apparently went unused.

Size of the costume crew: “On any one day we had 56, or 57 people full-time…On big days, that could double or triple.”

Time spent on the project: “It was kind of a bumpy start. I was on it all told for 18 months.”

Larlarb is a collaborator with director Danny Boyle, including the films Slumdog Millionaire and Steve Jobs as well as the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics in London.

Boyle originally was hired to direct No Time to Die but departed over “creative differences.” Hodge worked on the script while Boyle was on board as director. Hodge left the project with Boyle. After all that, Fukunaga was hired to helm the movie.