Terence Young, Guy Hamilton, Lewis Gilbert, Peter Hunt, John Glen, Martin Campbell, Roger Spottiswoode, Michael Apted, Lee Tamahori, Marc Forster and Sam Mendes…
Now those that have directed a James Bond film might well be adding a twelfth disciple to their illustrious roll-call of 007 movie captains – Danny Boyle.
Like titles, title singers and lead actors, the speculation over who could be or is directing the next Bond film is always an ever-key stage of the game of 007 anticipation – with tabloids, social media and fan forums regularly awash with easy casting and wish-list fantasy. Not at all coinciding with certain director’s new films emerging in theatres, Blu-Ray and the interview circuit (not at all), this Bond season’s debutante rumours were Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk, The Prestige), Yann Demange (‘71), David McKenzie (Starred Up), Paul McGuigan (Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) and Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049). But it is Mancunian Oscar winner Danny Boyle who now admits he has every intention of steering the good ship HMS Bond on its latest adventure and what will be the twenty-fifth bullet in 007’s movie barrel.
The 61 year old Danny Boyle is a perfect fit for Bond. He became Britain’s sweetheart in the Olympic summer of London 2012 for handling The Isles of Wonder – the 30th Olympiad’s critically successful and aptly pitched opening ceremony. Beijing 2008’s equivalent overture was artistically overseen by Steven Spielberg. It is not bad company. But Spielberg never got to direct a Bond film (yet). But Danny Boyle already has. Sort of. In the form of his short Happy and Glorious, his six-minute 2012 film featured Daniel Craig’s 007 reporting for royal duty at Buckingham Palace amidst a wealth of visual British tropes, tailors, and Churchill before cutting to our man James and The Queen ‘parachuting’ into the Olympic Stadium together (from a helicopter piloted by Bond aerial veteran Marc Wolff).
Happy and Glorious formed part of the Opening Ceremony which – under Boyle’s steerage – was acutely aware of British cultural history through a contemporary eye. That the moment when the 2012 Games officially started as IOC dignitaries entered the Stratford stadium to The James Bond Theme and a Bond ’77 savvy display of Union Jack parachutes was not only homage. And if it is Boyle who gets to shout “Action!” on the 007 Stage before 2018 is out, it has now proved to be a possibly foreboding moment in the history of the Bond franchise (and would maybe make the backdrop to a marvellous Peter Morgan-penned episode of The Crown VI). The whole sequence was never a given. Boyle and his team had to carefully negotiate protocol and the monarch’s time – and did so in a way that caught the nation and the globe unawares. Might he do the same for Bond 25?
Whilst it is very doubtful that the Bond of 2019 will stumble upon Liz II on a shared mission and end up in a San Franciscan spa jacuzzi reminiscing about the old days whilst the bubbles tickled her royal majesty’s Elgar, nevertheless – Boyle’s CV is a rich, apt one for Bond. A rare British director who can straddle multiple genres, locations and social consciences, the new Bond director’s career has curiously echoed the second wave of Bond’s own success. Both came onto the global scene in 1995 when GoldenEye and Shallow Grave exploded onto British screens. Both made early casting use of Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, The Beach), Michelle Yeoh (Sunshine) and Naomie Harris (28 Days Later). And whereas GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies surfed that wave of Brit pop cool and the renaissance of the cool and very British suited hero, it was Boyle who arguably helped create and nurture that movement onscreen. As his home city Manchester was already spearheading a music and club-scene revolution at the Hacienda and beyond (and creating the musical momentum whose DNA feeds into the famed music of Trainspotting), Boyle’s 1996 look at heroine, football and 007 addicts in Edinburgh changed both British cinema and movie soundtracks of the 1990s.
Partly due to a lack of production and the nostalgic grip of the Merchant Ivory dynamic, it was 1996’s Trainspotting where Boyle almost single-handedly kicked the corsets off our multiplex screens, made editing and pace important again and made a chart-topping star of the soundtrack – not bad credentials for a director reportedly taking on Bond. This could now well be the first Bond movie where the soundtrack is as eagerly awaited as the film itself – and possibly one that utilizes existing tracks for suitable effect. Boyle has a proven record for mashing up different sounds, artists, eras and genres – and many of them British. And which tunesmiths could Danny Boyle bring to the Bond table? The Underworld is not enough if the director’s allegiance to the electronica duo throughout his CV is anything to go by. Furthermore, Bond composer David Arnold scored Boyle’s A Life Less Ordinary (1997), once made a cracking version of We Have all the Time in the World with Lust for Life’s Iggy Pop and worked alongside Boyle as musical supervisor for the London 2012 Olympic Games closing ceremonies (whilst Underworld handled the Opening Ceremony). Just saying.
Blessed with an efficiency, style and great soundtrack of its own (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Wolf Alice, Iggy Pop, Queen, Blondie and Underworld amongst others) 2017’s T2 Trainspotting suggests Boyle was no 1990s flash in the movie pan either. Always someone to make a visual mark with his opening titles (not bad for Bond), Boyle’s films open pause within themselves for visual flourishes, projections and graphical asides. If the Bond of the 1960s started that panther-on-the-prowl template for 007, then the always kinetic Danny Boyle is perfect. A strong visual artist aware of the old and the new, Boyle’s work also contains both humour and soul. Whilst the Mumbai shanty towns and Leith tower blocks are somewhat removed from the Whitehall machinations and European casinos of a 007 adventure, Boyle also brings a cool conscience to his work. His new FX series Trust – which looks at the same moment in time when John Paul Getty III’s grandson is kidnapped in 1970s Rome as covered in Ridley Scott’s recent All the Money in the World – is dripping with a rich sense of place, time, glamour, and fun. Likewise, his next movie All You Need is Love (tentative title) is a British minded, Beatles inspired modern day musical written by Richard Curtis (War Horse, Four Weddings and a Funeral) for Working Title. As Boyle himself has recently suggested – he plans to be shooting the Beatles movie before his duties for EON and country begin with Bond 25. EON Productions are of course deep in production on The Rhythm Section – a new revenge thriller based on the book by Mark Burnell starring Blake Lively and Jude Law which is soon set to resume production after its leading lady suffered an injury on-set. The Rhythm Section is gearing up for a February 22nd 2019 release.
It might be impossible for some nowadays to fathom, but in the mid-1990s Danny Boyle was the British Tarantino – a cool movie cat whose name transcended his cinematic output. Expectancy was rife – and which led to the unavoidable backlash that accompanied A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach – but Boyle matured away from that Brit pop template. Soon he was making 28 Days Later, Sunshine and the multi Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire.
Despite being strongly courted for what became 1997’s Alien Resurrection, Boyle has yet to take on an existing franchise. But with the sharply written T2 Trainspotting (2017), Boyle has recently proved himself adept at going back to movie tales already told and crafting new reason to visit those worlds and characters again – a perfect skill for Bond. He also has a grand habit of working with notably strong writers. Frank Cottrell Boyce (Millions), Alan Clark (Elephant), Alex Garland (Sunshine, 28 Days Later), Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, Trust), Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs), and of course John Hodge (Shallow Grave, Trance).
Danny Boyle was not what I expected. Where were the jodhpurs, the beret, and the megaphone? In conversation he came across as a man of sensitivity and endless patience but with a thuggish streak and a certain low, animal cunning: in short, a man who could work with actors.
John Hodge, Shallow Grave & Trainspotting, Faber & Faber, 1996
As has already been reported, Scottish born John Hodge is hard at work on the script for Bond 25. With a few ideas and story notions that have allegedly perked the interest of studios and the Bond management alike, Boyle is still cautiously suggesting he hopes to be directing Bond’s silver movie and is waiting on Hodge’s script to move forward at the tail end of 2018. However, a lot could well change before premiere night.
Hodge is also no stranger to Bond references in his work – with both Trainspotting and T2 Trainspotting playing with John Barry and his 007 Theme, Sean Connery impressions and the real-life curiosity that leading man Jonny Lee Miller is the grandson of the first M, Bernard Lee.
Whilst it always a challenge to take the helm of a Bond movie in any decade, Bond 25 has a more curious global atmosphere than usual. The Blofeld and SPECTRE plot has now been left wilfully hanging – a perfect place to pause it for another spin of the Bond movie dice. And would Boyle want to take on a story arc with others fingerprints on it? Judging by the purported excitement over Hodge and Boyle’s own original story suggestion, possibly not. This could well be a Bond movie that follows the grand tradition of 007 films simply moving on from Blofeld and that White Persian cat. Besides, not only is this EON Productions’ silver bullet and the twenty-fifth opus in cinema’s grandest project, Bond 25 will emerge in a 2019 that from this side of 2018 is – cue the trailer voiceover man voice – uncertain, divisive, globally fragile, and majorly concerning for a great many people in the world. Whilst the Bond narrative often – and quite astutely – steps slightly to the side of real politics, personalities and issues, the very real realm of gender inequalities, cyber terrorism, cyber currency, fake voting, dubious presidents, spy poisonings, death to spies and environmental disquiet are no bad backdrop for our man James. There could well be no better time than 2019 to dust off Bond’s tuxedo, fire-arms, swagger, and Vesper clutching skills.
Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose no family. Choose a f*cking big volcano. Choose Lektor decoding machines, cars…
Choose a Bond life less ordinary.
EON Productions’ Bond 25 will be released in November 2019.