In an unprecedented turn of events for the James Bond franchise, Danny Boyle has stepped down from directing Bond 25.
The next 007 adventure is due to hit cinemas in October 2019, so with just over a year to go before Daniel Craig’s swan song as Bond is released, Eon Productions finds itself cast adrift with no director or script in place.
The news was announced unceremoniously on social media on Tuesday with the simple statement citing “creative differences”.
This is the first time ever in the film series’ 50 years plus history that Eon has parted ways with a director after they have been officially announced. James Bonds have come and go, but directors have always been safe once they’d been hired.
“Story and scale might have been the key points of debate but it is pure speculation at this stage,” says Ajay Chowdhury, spokesperson for The James Bond International Fan Club.
Scriptwriter John Hodge will likely also follow the director out the door, alongside Boyle’s long-time production designer Mark Tildesley who only joined pre-production in July.
Can Bond 25 still feasibly hit its release date?
Let’s take a look at the plates that Eon, who’ve produced every official 007 film to date, have to keep spinning to make the date.
They need a director… fast
Bond 25 is due to start shooting in December this year, with Croatia one of the film’s rumoured locations. Sound stages at Pinewood will have been booked for years after all, the release date was announced back in 2017.
Daniel Craig will have kept his schedule clear, as will all of the key personnel who return to Bond year in, year out like special effects coordinator Chris Courbould and stunt coordinator Gary Powell.
So, it seems unlikely Eon will want to move the production date, but they desperately need a director, and one that can hit the ground running. Many people online have suggested Chris Nolan, Mission Impossible Fallout’s Christopher McQuarrie, or even Idris Elba as potential replacements. But with such little time to be able to put their personal stamp on the project, it seems unlikely they’d want to sign on.
It’s more likely that Eon will turn back to their original shortlist of directors for Bond 25 before the Boyle-Hodge script came into play. Those names include Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Blade Runner 2049), Yann Demange (’71), and David Mackenzie (Outlaw King).
Demange is the bookies’ favourite right now to replace Boyle, as he has a fairly clear slate beyond the release of his next film White Boy Rick.
Star Wars is the other big name franchise that has fired directors recently, but they did it halfway through production on Solo: A Star Wars Story, parting ways with Phil Lord and Chris Miller again citing “creative differences”.
That film drafted in Ron Howard, which is exactly the sort of director Bond 25 needs right now – a safe pair of hands. Could this be his next project?
They need a new script… and they already have one
When the Boyle-Hodge partnership first came into the picture for Bond 25, it was clear their script was competing against another one that had already been written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.
Purvis and Wade have written every James Bond film since 1999’s The World Is Not Enough onwards, and so they’ve been writing the follow up to 2016’s Spectre since that film was released.
So with Boyle out, out goes Hodge’s script too, this paves the way for the Purvis-Wade script to be resurrected.
Another option would be a completely new script, but this seems highly unlikely. Quantum of Solace and Spectre both suffered from starting with an unfinished script, a situation Daniel Craig – who is now a producer on the film – will want to avoid for his final outing as 007.
“On Quantum, we were f***ed,” Craig said in an interview with Time Out (via Indiewire). “We had the bare bones of a script and then there was a writers’ strike and there was nothing we could do. We couldn’t employ a writer to finish it. I say to myself, ‘Never again,’ but who knows? There was me trying to rewrite scenes – and a writer I am not.’”
Could Daniel Craig quit Bond 25?
During the press tour for Spectre, Daniel Craig said he would rather “slit his wrists” than think about making another James Bond film.
Eventually he relented, signing on for Bond 25, but he declared it would definitely be his last time playing the secret agent. It probably had something to do with the massive payday he’s in line for, now that he’s a producer on the films too, but with Bond 25 derailed could this be the last straw for the 50-year-old actor?
Craig had worked with Boyle before shooting a james Bond sequence for the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, so you’d imagine he was fairly instrumental in bringing the Trainspotting director on board for Bond 25.
With Boyle out, and Craig’s Bond finale now in jeopardy, he could decide to bail out rather than going out on a weak film. Spectre, although not beloved by fans, is a better film than most previous Bonds have ended their tenure on – Die Another Day anyone? – so could it be time for Craig to pass the baton? Perhaps so.
The protracted development process on GoldenEye, which came out a full 6 years after Licence To Kill, led to Timothy Dalton quitting the role after just two films paving the way for Pierce Brosnan to assume the mantle.
Maybe now is the time for Craig to do the same.
Will they hit the release date?
This is the big question for Eon right now. The family-run production company headed up by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson recently re-negotiated deals for the lucrative distribution rights on Bond 25. Sony Pictures had distributed the every Bond film since Casino Royale collecting $3.5 billion at the worldwide box office, after adjusting for inflation.
For Bond 25, MGM will release the film theatrically in the US in a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures, while Universal Pictures will handle international distribution for the rest of the world. All partners will have paid a heavy price to land the deal, and will want to see a return on investment sooner rather than later.
Any delay beyond the October 2019 release (November in the US) will hit the investors hard, so Eon will move heaven and earth to hit the date.
What will happen next?
We expect an announcement about the future of Bond 25 will come fairly quickly following Boyle’s departure. As we’ve explored, all parties have a vested interest in getting this film off the ground, so for Eon right now: it’s everything or nothing.