‘The first law for a secret agent is to get his geography right, his means of access and exit, and assure his communications with the outside world.’
The Man with the Golden Gun by Ian Fleming / 1965
[ SPOILERS ]
An apt pin in the Bond map, those first day at school nerves and tech glitches, a quiet pride the golden boy is returning, a remembrance of less globally well trodden locales, a new talent-heavy cast, a return of a supporting family, a promising premise, a youthful beat and a job to do… BOND IS BACK!
EXT. THE FLEMING VILLA LAWNS. JAMAICA – DAY
On April 25 2019 the cast and crew of the twenty-fifth Bond movie gathered in a colonial-era villa near a beach at Jamaica’s Oracabessa to officially fire the starting pistol on what will be the first bullet of James Bond’s 007th decade. That villa is known as ‘Goldeneye’.
Goldeneye holds all sorts of 007 resonance – for the books, films and beyond. Initially named after an ongoing WWII military operation Commander Ian Fleming oversaw from 1940 to monitor and protect Spain from a possible General Franco threat during the war, the ‘Goldeneye’ name was later attached to a 1946 building project on the shores of Jamaica’s Oracabessa. That project was to be the self-built home of Fleming, his later wife Ann, their many visiting dignitaries, friends, celebrities, society cohorts, exiled luminaries, and commonwealth associates. And eventually Ian’s most famous literary offspring – James Bond 007. As Matthew Parker notes in his 2014 book Goldeneye – Where James Bond Was Born – “many of the ‘ingredients’ that Fleming threw together in the warm bedroom of Goldeneye to create Bond – the high-end jet-set tourism world in which his hero moves, the aching concern with the end of the Empire and national decline, the awkward new relationship with the United States, even the Cold War – all these roads led back to Jamaica.”
It was at Goldeneye that Fleming famously wrote the first Bond novel Casino Royale in 1952. It was Goldeneye and Jamaica that formed a physical home to Bond’s literary journey and influenced the characters, observations, swagger, sexual flora and political fauna of all Fleming’s 007 novels and short stories. It was Goldeneye that Fleming would return to time and time again to write, recover and breathe. It was Goldeneye that Roger Moore visited in 1972 when shooting Live and Let Die in Jamaica. It was Goldeneye that lent its name to a 1989 British TV biopic starring Charles Dance as Fleming. It was Goldeneye where fans and Bond stars visited when Jamaica hosted 1996’s James Bond Festival. It was GoldenEye that EON Productions gave to their cinematic return to Bond after a troubled six year hiatus and the introduction of the eventual ‘someone else’, Pierce Brosnan. And it was Goldeneye where Bono and The Edge are purported to have written the GoldenEye theme tune and the name given to a landmark computer game that created a console revolution and pop-culture stamp upon its release in 1997 (so much so that the Nintendo GoldenEye game was namechecked in Steven Spielberg’s 2018 pop-culture odyssey, Ready Player One). From first novels to first shooters, Goldeneye is part of the DNA of James Bond.
Nearly sixty years since a box-fresh production company first chartered a cast and crew flight to shoot Dr. No in Kingston in January 1962, EON Productions have returned to the beaches, locales, timbres and colours of Jamaica to officially launch 007’s twenty-fifth cinematic chapter, No Time to Die. Whilst the Bond crew, local builders and heads of production have been investigating locations and facilities and eventually constructing sets for a few months now, it was only towards the end of April 2019 that the leading man himself flew in as the world’s press also descended upon Oracabessa for the golden launch of the silver bullet, Bond 25.
Under the sun-flecked trees of Goldeneye’s emerald grounds and with years of fan speculation and media headlines lending both light and shade across the beaches of social media, EON Productions have finally pulled back the silk sheets on their latest opus. “We consider Jamaica Bond’s spiritual home” remarked Barbara Broccoli as co-producer Michael G. Wilson, director Cary Fukunaga (Maniac, Beasts of No Nation) and Daniel Craig disclosed the cast, plot, locations and impulses behind the latest movie. Technical glitches and first day nerves naturally ensued from a live global feed from a tropical island – and a slight contrast to the trade paper ad that quietly mentioned Sean Connery had got the role in 1961. But, as leading man Daniel Craig later remarked to Australia’s Nine News, “I’m excited as I’ve ever been. Nothing good is easy“. A title may have satiated some fans, journalists and movie sites. Yet in an era of big franchise films such as The Rise of Skywalker and Avengers: Endgame not unveiling their identities until their first trailer, there is actually no reason why the rightly traditional EON Productions have to follow every staple of before. The script leaks and illegal hacks that plagued Sony Pictures and 2015’s Spectre have no doubt stung the House of Bond. An already fiercely cautious work ethic has now fortified itself further. And rightly so. Playing cards even closer to chests is no bad thing from the movie series which first unveiled its hero at a gaming table in October 1962. Cut to a few months later and No Time to Die is announced as the title for the film.
Besides, a few cards and a straight flush or two were thrown onto the baize of this Bond launch. With principal photography to start immediately after the press day, it is soon revealed how Jamaica is once again to host a convalescing James – a paused Bond in a state of re-assessment and just how audiences will find cinema’s golden spy when Bond 25 launches in April 2020.
Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.
Official No Time to Die press release / EON Productions
Underlining that rather delicious old-school plot premise is Daniel Craig (and his nifty Converse shoes), Spectre‘s returning Léa Seydoux (Dr. Madeleine Swann), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) and the much welcome confirmation that Ben Whishaw (Q), Rory Kinnear (Tanner), Ralph Fiennes (M) and Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter) are returning to support Bond and No Time to Die. The Whitehall Avengers are very much to assemble once again in what could well be an endgame for Craig, but maybe not for them just yet. Also joining Craig, Seydoux and Harris under the Goldeneye roof were the newest actors to join the Bond stable. Playing Paloma is Spanish-Cuban actress Ana De Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out) and in the role of Nomi is British actress Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel, Bulletproof). Both actresses continue EON’s long-held eye for casting actors on the cusp of greater things. Lynch has just been seen on movie screens as Brie Larson’s best pal in the box-office spring hit Captain Marvel (2019). Armas is now starring with Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) in Wasp Network and stole Rian Johnson’s Knives Out opposite Daniel Craig. No Time to Die also marks the first time in the franchise’s history a leading lady is returning to the same role and in the subsequent film. A long rumoured, but never used device of so many Bond films, it is the twenty-fifth chapter that finally grants 007 some romantic (or not) continuity. Early assumptions ponder how Seydoux’s Swann could be a briefer role than before – with Armas’s Paloma stepping in to take Bond’s heart for this ride. But what if it isn’t? A madeleine cake was famously referenced at the beginning of Proust’s Swann’s Way – when the subject marks how a nostalgia-making madeleine brings back a tumult of hard emotions and childhood remembrances. Swann’s Way was also the first chapter of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (À la Recherché Du Temps Perdu, 1913) which translates as the more familiar Remembrance of Things Past. What if Madeleine Swann is the first Bond woman to dominate two films and close Craig’s tenure with some soulful-minded continuity because of those things past? Time will tell.
Further roles will be filled by New York actor Billy Magnussen (Harry Haft, Bridge of Spies), French actor Dali Benssalah (A Faithful Man, Les Sauvages) and the Swedish actor David Dencik (Chernobyl, McMafia and Top of the Lake). Magnussen is already a Fukunaga veteran – having starred in his ’80s-minded Netflix drama series, Maniac (2018). He is also starring in HBO’s Sopranos prequel feature The Many Saints of Newark (2020), and has already worked with Steven Spielberg, Barry Levinson, Charlie Brooker and Ryan Murphy. Dencik not only starred in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011), he also appeared in both film versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – the latter of which starred Mr Daniel Craig.
Further underlining the Broccoli eye for talent and prescient casting, the biggest headline of the Jamaican launch was easily the confirmation that the American-Egyptian actor Rami Malek will be joining No Time to Die. Long touted in the press as being Bond’s newest nemesis, Malek is now the third villain in a row to join 007 after not long nabbing the Academy Award for Best Actor (following Skyfall‘s Javier Bardem and Spectre‘s Christoph Waltz) for his brilliantly denimed peacock turn as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). Easily the real glory of that troubled production, Malek nevertheless gave a truly soaring performance that was head and shoulders above what was essentially a narratively dubious jukebox musical. However, Bohemian Rhapsody was also a massive global hit. And that can all be rightly laid at Malek’s Adidas-wearing, strutting feet. He was no doubt circled for the Bond role way before the 2019 Academy Awards made him a movie champion of the world (curiously for a role that had first been attached to the Earl-Grey clutching quartermaster, Ben Whishaw). But, the Mercury is most definitely rising for Malek. And Bond has possibly not cast such a new, youthful household name in its six decade history. With those dominant eyes, personal calm, fashion page finery and impish charms, Malek is also not yet a known screen villain. Bardem and Waltz had already clocked up many hours of onscreen villainy when they took on the baddie baton. This bullet catcher already sees a dandy suit, a cane, tech-boy sneakers and maybe one of the more broadly drawn and arched antagonists Craig’s Bond has yet met.
Also finally confirmed at the Jamaican launch were some of the creatives and movie talent charged with taking Bond into a new decade. Swedish cinematographer Linus Sandgren (American Hustle) is already lensing No Time to Die on the streets of Jamaica and is a welcome new addition to the House of Bond. An Academy Award winner for Best Cinematography for 2016’s La La Land, Sandgren returned to work with its director Damien Chazelle for 2018’s First Man, as well as shooting Paul McCartney’s doodle-world video for ‘Who Cares’ (2018) starring Emma Stone. Having already handled the visuals for American Hustle (2013) and Battle of the Sexes (2016), First Man again proved Sandgren is adept at taking retro-minded stories and bypassing nostalgic minefields for contemporary skewed visuals that are careful with what cameras, techniques and era-specific lenses and devices they use. Whilst he steered from using 21st Century camera techniques for the 1969-set First Man, Bond 25 is part-using 2019 IMAX cameras – so make of that big screen promise what you will. His palette is often one of deep reds, old timber, sky blues, warm cornfields, glimmering asphalt and canary yellows. Sandgren’s motifs are skilled at marking a time of day – whether it is La La Land‘s purple dusks and midday Californian glows, American Hustle‘s supper time ballrooms or a dawn training exercise from First Man.
Despite the spring 2018 departure of director Danny Boyle, two of his heads of department remained on the good ship Bond. Both 007 first-timers, costume designer Suttirat Larlarb and production designer Mark Tildesley have already been hard at work designing the visual complexion of No Time to Die. Both were the designers of the 2012 Opening Ceremony for the London Olympic Games which Danny Boyle directed. In another first for Bond, American-born Larlarb (127 Hours, Steve Jobs) is also a production designer and art director. An assistant art director on Enigma (2002), theatre designer for operas across the world and not adverse to clothing men running down streets with handguns (The American, Trance), Larlarb is also versed in bigger productions – having costumed The Walk (2015), American Gods (2017) and the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire (2008). And for a 007 story that hints at a technological story world, Larlarb also designed the costumes for Sunshine (2007) and Gemini Man (2019).
Production designer Mark Tildesley has already designed a Bond film. In 2012 he worked with Danny Boyle on ‘Happy and Glorious’ – a red, white and blue overture to Queen Elizabeth II’s entrance to the London 2012 Olympic Games. Starring Daniel Craig as Bond and Her Majesty as Her Majesty, the short film was a jaw-dropping triumph marked with humour and pageantry and totally fed into the great 2012 golden anniversary goodwill that Bond and Skyfall were about to ride on a few months later. The bold idea that that made the world double-take to Double-O-Seven’s royal engagement was all down to a suggestion from Tildesley.
A British designer who has worked with key British directors of the last twenty-five years (Michael Winterbottom, Mike Leigh, Roger Michell and Boyle), Tildesley has evolved from a Brit Pop movie designer in the ’90s (Wonderland, Resurrection Man) to a bold movie visualist responsible for the larger likes of In The Heart of the Sea (2017), 28 Days Later (2002) and The Constant Gardener (2005). Tildesley gets the quirks of Britishness (The Boat That Rocked, 24 Hour Party People, Millions, Phantom Threads) that are useful for a Bond film. Yet, as his famous ceiling of three thousand bulbs for the National Theatre’s Frankenstein (2011), his new work on The Pope (2019) and his projections and sense of movement for T2 Trainspotting (2017) all suggest, he too might get the larger-than-life baroque quirks of Bond that Ken Adam so vividly initiated in 1962’s Dr. No. And if any film and its production design of the last ten years takes that Cold War, Ken Adam motif to powerful and dramatic heights it is High Rise (2015). Designed by Tildesley for director Ben Wheatley, High Rise is a soaring achievement of movie design. Set in a futuristic, but oddly late ’70s-aware London of council estates, concrete behemoths and retro apartment chic, High Rise is a visual tribute to the expansive visions of a hyper-realized ’70s Stanley Kubrick film as designed by Ken Adam.
With the early ’80s Atari-aware sci-fi visuals of Maniac (2018), the painterly and impressionistic slithers of England in Jane Eyre, the West Africa beats of Beasts of No Nation and the award winning photography and direction of gangland drama Sin Hombre, Bond 25‘s director Cary Fukunaga is already a proven visualist himself. Add to that the tracking shots and sense of space, distance and that title sequence of the ever-compelling and brutal True Detective (2014), and the look and tone of Bond 25 is already in very capable hands.
The casting of Cary Joji Fukunaga is a first for Bond for a number of reasons. It will mark the first time an American director has captained an EON 007 movie. Born in the Bay Area of San Francisco to Swedish-Japanese-American parents in July 1977 – three days after the royal premiere of The Spy Who Loved Me – Fukunaga spent a great deal of his formative years moving around the multicultural and cinematically savvy San Francisco.
Fukunaga is the first ’80s kid director to do Bond. The first to steer a Bond opus having grown up with home-made VCR movies, his formative movie years began with the ’80s, A View to a Kill and all that was circling that most pop-cultural of decades. Various interviews over recent times suggest a movie director who was obsessed in childhood with Oliver Stone’s Platoon. And in a 2015 Interview magazine chat with doc-provocateur Michael Moore, Fukunaga cites his favourite films as including Goodfellas (1990), Boogie Nights (1997), Jaws (1975), Barry Lyndon (1975), Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001). In 2004, Fukunaga won a Student Academy Award for his student short, Victoria Paro Chino. It is a 13 minute work explaining the harsh politics of immigrants, borders and children – all which informs many of his subsequent films. Fukunaga remarked to GQ magazine in 2018, “I don’t think I’ve ever been able to make something uncompromising.”
More pertinently for today’s cinema, Fukunaga is also the first Bond director from the Netflix era of streaming. He is often pinned as the director of the first original Netflix-funded feature. Beasts of No Nation became one of the initial features that Netflix ventured into funding and showcasing. That path – and gamble – of original feature content that was bolstered by the early likes of Beasts of No Nation now sees directors such as Alfonso Cuaron, Martin Scorsese and the Coen Brothers bringing their newest feature work direct to Netflix. However, the same will not happen with Bond 25. 007 is too much of a cinematic beast of many nations for that.
However, as Bond steps into a new decade Fukunaga does mark the first 007 director from a new era of film consumption and exhibition. If the markedly prime-hued and Black Mirror stylings of Maniac are anything to go by, Fukunaga’s No Time to Die could well feel, move and operate as a very contemporary, stylised and potentially wild movie. And the best Bond movies are always fiercely of-the-moment. And a bit off-centre. Not just in the tech, fashions and politics. But in the sense of movement, improvised visuals, cuts, palette and pace. If Bond films are set five minutes into the future, then maybe Fukunaga is the one to turn forward the clock. Whilst No Time to Die will no doubt not be a Trump, #MeToo or Brexit response (nor should it be), in these globally and nationally divisive times perhaps the way forward for James Bond is to make a film that is set beyond that. Engaging a brilliant writer like Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Killing Eve, Fleabag) is not about lazy nods to #MeToo or softening Bond’s blunt masculinity and predilections. It is about bringing a story economy and punch to Bond.
And already the kidnapped scientist premise of No Time to Die is deliciously ’60s. With a hint that Rami Malek’s adversary could well be a tech-minded meddler, maybe Fukunaga is really working those Zorin Industries / Silicon Valley tics of his ’80s San Francisco childhood and debut Bond bullet, A View to a Kill. Maybe. However, as those trailer voices have often remarked over OO7 teasers that ‘the world has changed’, since 2015’s Spectre that is most definitely the cold reality for this Bond bullet. Jeffrey Wright’s DC-weary Felix Leiter will no doubt make distant, barbed quips about the state of both his country and Bond’s. However, it would be hard to imagine Alec Baldwin playing the Oval Office’s orange incumbent in some SNL nod to how For Your Eyes Only ends. But cinema has been responding to the 44th president many times already (Us, BlacKKKlansman, The Last Jedi, The Post). Missing scientists and dangerous new technologies may not be strictly about the tumult in the world today. But, they are perfect for the tumult in the world of our man James. Add scribes Neil Purvis and Robert Wade and their twenty year knowledge of Bond onscreen and a twisted lemon slice of Steven Soderbergh’s frequent writing collaborator Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Laundromat) and his penchant for American security and political intrigue and No Time to Die is already in good pen-clutching hands.
This will still be a Bond film. This will still be an adventure. This will still be a stylish fantasy. The world might need a real James Bond right now. But it now needs a James Bond movie even more.
ALBERT R BROCCOLI’s EON PRODUCTIONS LTD.
as IAN FLEMING’S
JAMES BOND 007 in
ANA DE ARMAS
and NAOMIE HARRIS as MONEYPENNY
& CHRISTOPH WALTZ
Directed by CARY JOJI FUKUNAGA
Produced by BARBARA BROCCOLI & MICHAEL G WILSON
Co-Producers DANIEL CRAIG, ANDREW NOAKES & DAVID POPE
Story by NEIL PURVIS, ROBERT WADE & CARY JOJI FUKUNAGA
Written by NEIL PURVIS & ROBERT WADE
PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE & CARY JOJI FUKUNAGA
Co-Producer ANDREW NOAKES
Executive Producer CHRIS BRIGHAM
Associate Producer GREGG WILSON
Director of Photography LINUS SANDGREN
Production Designer MARK TILDESLEY
Costume Designer SUTTIRAT LARLARB
Editor TOM CROSS & ELLIOT GRAHAM
Casting DEBBIE McWILLIAMS
Music Composed by HANS ZIMMER
Featuring ‘NO TIME TO DIE’ performed by BILLIE EILISH
Second Unit Director ALEXANDER WITT
Special Effects & Action Vehicles Supervisor CHRIS CORBOULD
Stunt Coordinator OLIVER SCHNEIDER
Second Unit Stunt Coordinator LEE MORRISON
Second Unit Director ALEXANDER WITT
Visual Effects Supervisor CHARLIE NOBLE
Filmed on location at Pinewood Studios
and London, Italy, Jamaica, Scotland, the Faroe Islands and Norway.
No Time to Die will be released throughout the world from September 2021.
Mark O’Connell is the author of Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan.