James Bond: 'Reinvention' has always been 007’s greatest gadget

Watch: The next James Bond film is 'at least two years away'

In the week that 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson receive a long overdue BFI Fellowship in London in the Claridge's ballroom surrounded by 150 colleagues, friends, family and collaborators, a very loose clarification of James Bond's movie future hit the headlines.

Talking at the event to movie industry site Deadline, producer Broccoli opened up on where the 007 franchise and the future of the character is right now following the release of No Time To Die in 2021.

“Nobody’s in the running,” she disclosed to reporter and noted Bond fan, Baz Bamigboye.

“We’re working out where to go with him, we’re talking that through. There isn’t a script, and we can’t come up with one until we decide how we’re going to approach the next film because, really, it’s a reinvention of Bond.

"We’re reinventing who he is and that takes time. I’d say that filming is at least two years away.”

Read more: 16 actors who could be the next James Bond

Cue an online panic about the alleged shortcomings of a sixty-year-old franchise and how one of pop-culture's biggest successes straddling two centuries doesn't know what it is doing, has lost the plot and is disrespecting audiences.

James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson awarded BFI Fellowships at the BFI Chair's Dinner at Claridge's in London. (Suzan Moore/PA Images via Getty Images)
James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson awarded BFI Fellowships at the BFI Chair's Dinner at Claridge's in London. (Suzan Moore/PA Images via Getty Images)

The kneejerk response automatically wondered loudly — and wrongly — just what Bond HQ had been doing since No Time to Die wrapped production.

One can only imagine they were understandably safeguarding their product in wholly precarious and unknown times for the distribution, exhibition, entertainment and production sectors.

They were working on Bond's myriad of industry, licensee and distribution partnerships left in costly limbo after March 2020. They were no doubt examining the knock-on effects of pandemics on all facilities and film production contexts two or four years down the line.

They were monitoring how exhibitors were on the ropes in 2020 with the realisation that tentpole movies like Bond may be their only substantial salvation (cue the big box-office successes of No Time to Die, which then inspired the even greater gains for Spider-Man: No Way Home and Top Gun Maverick).

The Ritzy Cinema in Brixton, London, which is temporarily closing its doors after owner Cineworld shut hundreds of sites following the financial impact of the pandemic. (Photo by Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Ritzy Cinema in Brixton, London, which temporarily closed its doors after owner Cineworld shut hundreds of sites during the pandemic. (PA Images via Getty Images)

They were keeping the release heat up high for a film that had to wait a year and a half to fly the nest. No one was more anxious than Bond HQ when a globally wanted product was sat on a shelf in a store no-one could visit. And whilst the 007 series holds a certain degree of box-office might regardless, no next Bond film or era could be fully developed until No Time to Die had finally got in — and out — of its lane.

And all this is before we even consider the complex and involving process of Bond’s studio partners MGM being bought up by Amazon Studios in one of history’s biggest media buyouts. At twice the cost of Disney buying up the Lucasfilm properties, the new Amazon deal was clearly predicated on the might, fortunes, and global reach of the Bond franchise.

Read more: No Time To Die is the sixth highest-grossing movie in the UK ever

Incidentally, from the Lucasfilm merger with Disney being announced in 2012, it was not until three years later that the first title – The Force Awakens (2015) – was released. Even if we take Broccoli’s ‘two years’ suggestion to task, already the next Bond and Bond film are surely on a similarly promising schedule.

The Broccoli phrase that has fired at some fans and movie commentator minds like a spinning DB5 loaded with gatling guns is ‘reinvention’.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: James Bonds Aston Martin car at the World Premiere of
James Bond's Aston Martin at the World Premiere of No Time To Die at the Royal Albert Hall. (Getty Images for EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Universal Pictures)

No doubt loaded with that fictional fear of things being ‘woke’ and daring to make a 2020s film in a 2020s world, the idea of Bond being regenerated panics some folk. Some idle tabloids like to add a ‘woke’ veneer to any new development in our TV and movie franchises — usually by railing against casting women, gay men, or any non-white actor.

Yet, the Bond headline fever always overlooks just how Dr. No itself had a multi-racial cast, how You Only Live Twice was an early mainstream hit to showcase Asian actors, that Live and Let Die was The Godfather with a fantastic black cast and that a gay ‘Q’ was pre-dated by forty years by the (still) only leading LGBTQ couple in a leading franchise to be seen to be in love onscreen: Diamond Are Forever’s divinely homo-cidal Wint and Kidd.

Actors Bruce Glover (left) and Putter Smith in Amsterdam for a location shoot on the latest James Bond film 'Diamonds are Forever', 4th July 1971. They play assassins Mr. Wint (W. Winter) and Mr. Kidd (Charles Kidd) in the film. (Photo by Jack Kay/Daily Express/Getty Images)
Bruce Glover (left) and Putter Smith play assassins Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd in Diamonds are Forever. (Jack Kay/Daily Express/Getty Images)

The cinematic Spider-Man has reinvented himself at least five times since Tobey Maguire first web-spun the web twenty years ago. Three changes of Peter Parker and two multi-verse adventures are nothing but shrewd reinventions on the part of Marvel. And how many times now has the character of Darth Vader been repurposed and repointed?

The upshot for Bond is that the 007 franchise has always reinvented itself. That is one of its secrets to its seven-decade prowess. The first Bond film Dr. No (1962) was a reinvention – a reworking for movie audiences of a literary success that had to redress and modernise Ian Fleming’s post WWII spy to be less of a mid-century study of empire and more of a 1960s cool cat for baby boomer kids.

Read more: How each actor landed the role of Bond

Reinventing the Universal Exports wheel has always been Bond’s biggest success. And hardest challenge. Yet, by introducing a pre-title sequence and a title song, surely the second Bond film From Russia with Love (1963) immediately sees the franchise in the reinvention game?

When Shirley Bassey delivers one of cinema’s best signature tunes with 1964’s 'Goldfinger' that was the series repurposing its sound after just two films. Likewise, when Paul McCartney and Wings delivered ‘Live and Let Die’, Louis Armstrong gave us ‘We Have All the Time in The World’ and Carly Simon gifted the series ‘Nobody Does it Better’ these were all total reinventions of the Bond sound. And they became the benchmarks of 007 ever since.

British actress Shirley Eaton plays the role of Jill Masterson in French director Guy Hamilton's 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger, based on the novel by Ian Fleming. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Shirley Eaton plays the role of Jill Masterson in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger. (Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Director Guy Hamilton came onboard to direct 1964’s Bond classic, Goldfinger – a film whose reinvention became the Bond template forever more. Looking at the rather Kennedy era, late 1950s trappings of Dr. No and From Russia with Love, Hamilton and his key creatives gave a spy-fi texture and sense of movement to Bond that was not there before. Suddenly we have an Aston Martin DB5, a villain’s lair and sense of physical caper all missing in Dr. No — yet is all over the 007 DNA ever since.

What are George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig if not brilliant examples of the Bond project reinventing itself?

James Bond actors (from left) Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan arrive for today's (Sunday) memorial service for film producer Albert 'Cubby' Broccoli, at the Odeon, Leicester Square. Photo by Fiona Hanson/PA   (Photo by Fiona Hanson - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
James Bond actors (from left) Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan at the memorial service for Cubby Broccoli. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Cinema may have seen a few Tarzans and Sherlock Holmes by the time Bond emerged on movie screens. But Lazenby, a returning Connery and then Roger Moore proved that the lifeblood to Bond’s future was reinvention. And instead of derailing the franchise, it immeasurably safeguards it.

If how we consume and experience our movies and favourite franchises evolves, then surely the 007 franchise must too?

Read more: James Bond 60th anniversary event announced

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson now suggesting they are re-evaluating the role is genuinely great news. A new Bond film is being loaded into the gunbarrel.

The audience's knee-jerk dismay at timings and dates is always understandable, and a marker of the brilliant passion and commitment so many have for our man James. But did anyone in 1977 say the Star Wars series was doomed because fans have to wait three years to see The Empire Strikes Back? Oh, and no movie producer with their eye on a new lead actor is going to mention they have found him until each and every white dot is ready to fire across movie screens. Bond is allowed to hold his cards close to his tuxedo, but his producers are not?

LONDON - OCTOBER 14:  Actor Daniel Craig (C) poses with Barbara Broccoli (L) and Michael G Wilson (R) as he is unveiled as the new actor to play the legendary British secret agent James Bond 007 in the 21st Bond film Casino Royale, at HMS President, St Katharine's Way on October 14, 2005 in London, England. Speculation as to who might replace Pierce Brosnan (who played Bond from 1995-2002) has been fierce, with Clive Owen, Jude Law, Ewan McGregor, Colin Salmon, Colin Farrell and Goran Visnjic in the running, but the most likely candidates were whittled down to Craig and Henry Cavill until today's decision.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Daniel Craig (C) poses with Barbara Broccoli (L) and Michael G Wilson (R) as he is unveiled as the new actor to play James Bond 007 in the 21st Bond film Casino Royale, 2005. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

What if 007’s future is not just with the next film — tentatively titled Bond 26? What if the Amazon partnership represents new horizons, plans, arcs, deals and projects that not only have to see Bond regenerate himself, but also get right what the next actor’s entire tenure could involve?

As a post 9/11 world proved for the character, Bond reflects his era. Not just the genres around him at the time, but the timbre, the palette, tone and colour of where the world is right now.

The forward planning on a new Bond film is not about new locations and new stunts. It is about where our villainy, heroism and escapism will find itself in times to come. The world is very much no longer in a 2005 world when Craig took on the role.

Necessity is the mother of Bond reinvention after all.

Watch: 60 Years of James Bond trailer