By Matthew Field & Ajay Chowdhury
No Time To Die will hit the US screens this week after breaking box office records around the world for its international debut last week. Launched at a spectacular Royal World Charity Premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 28 September, Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 has wowed critics and audiences alike.
However, this success was not always assured. In fact, many felt this Bond film to be cursed more than any other in the series.
An all time high
Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the 25th EON James Bond film was on a rocky road. After the phenomenal success of Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015) both directed by Sam Mendes, Bond was at an all time high. The films had been not only critically acclaimed but grossed nearly $2bn (£1.5bn) worldwide. Craig was the Bond of a generation. But not for another time.
Read more: Looking back at Spectre
The first hurdle it would seem was to find another James Bond. In July 2015, towards the end of an arduous eight month shoot in which the then-47-year-old current 007 incumbent severely damaged his knee, Craig was asked if he’d like to return as Bond. "Now?" he told Time Out. "I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists."
Craig’s comments caught on like wildfire. The press went into overdrive suggesting possible replacements. Craig subsequently said, "I was asked two days after I just finished shooting for eight months, 'Would I do another one?' and I said what was on my mind. But as I’ve said I reserve the right to change my mind."
Nobody does it better
In August 2017, Craig appeared with Stephen Colbert on the US chat show The Late Show. To a standing ovation, he told the audience he’d agreed to do another Bond film. Craig was back.
The next stage was to find a director to helm the historic film. After a search amongst talented independent filmmakers, the job went to acclaimed director, Danny Boyle. The Oscar-winning man behind Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire had had a brief history with Bond. Having previously helmed Daniel Craig in the extraordinary 2012 London Olympic 007 short, Happy And Glorious, co-starring the Queen.
Read more: Looking back at Skyfall
Working with long-time writer, John Hodge, they came up with an idea said to be ‘pure movie gold’. In May 2018, pre-production began with some location scouting in Canada and Namibia.
The as-yet untitled film was due for release on 25 November 2019. However, the fiercely singular filmmaker came up against the Bond machine.
That same August, Twitter announced: "Due to creative differences Danny Boyle has decided to no longer direct Bond 25."
Another way to die
The film release date of the film had to be put back, this time to 14 February 2020, Valentine’s Day. The Bond producers need to rapidly source a replacement. Time was ticking.
Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig today announced that due to creative differences Danny Boyle has decided to no longer direct Bond 25. pic.twitter.com/0Thl116eAd
— James Bond (@007) August 21, 2018
Eventually they found 41-year-old American-Japanese director, Cary Joji Fukunaga. Fukunaga was best known for directing high-quality TV like True Detective and his award-winning Netflix film Beasts of No Nation. With a new director announced, the project needed to be retooled and they went through a re-write. The release date was moved again to March 2020. Third time lucky.
Read more: Looking back at Quantum of Solace
During the shoot Craig again got injured. Were the odds against the 25th Bond ever being released? In fact, a lot of Bond films in the past have been affected by delays and unfortunate circumstances.
The writing's on the wall
The very first film, Dr No in 1962, was afflicted by unseasonably bad weather in Jamaica causing delays and budget overruns. So much so that the completion bond company were nearly called in to finish the film.
The boat chase in From Russia With Love had to be shot in Crinan, Scotland due to bad weather in the Balkans where it was supposed to be filmed. In the Scottish shoot, director Terence Young nearly perished in a helicopter accident.
Thunderball had to have its premiere pushed from October to December 1965 to overruns. Sean Connery’s penultimate Bond, You Only Live Twice, suffered delays when the aerial cameraman Johnny Jordan had his leg amputated by a helicopter rotor blade whilst shooting the famous Little Nellie autogyro sequence.
During the No Time To Die shoot, there was an explosion at Pinewood Studios. Bond’s faithful home in Buckinghamshire, however, was no stranger to incident. The famous 007 Stage first caught fire when shooting the Liparus interiors for The Spy Who Loved Me as stuntmen struggled to escape the noxious smoke.
Prior to shooting A View To A Kill in 1984, the stage burnt down completely. However, due to the skill of designer Peter Lamont, the facility was rebuilt in record time allowing no delay. In June 2006, at the end of Craig’s 007 debut, Casino Royale, the stage once again burnt down. It was rebuilt into the state-of-the-art facility it remains.
Another element cursing No Time To Die was the uncertainty of the studio ownership. MGM, who own half the Bond franchise, had been in constant financial difficulty. Production could not commence until a distributor had been found. It was not the first-time studio paroxysm had caught Bond in the crossfire.
Read more: Looking back at Casino Royale
When original partners in Bond, Albert R “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman split up in 1975, their business dealings took a while to sort out. This delayed production of The Spy Who Loved Me then due for release in 1976.
After 1989’s Licence To Kill, Timothy Dalton’s promised third 007 film was put on hold. Broccoli went to war with the new MGM chief who had been selling Bond assets at an undervalue. Eventually the Bond producer prevailed. In 1993, development of what became Pierce Brosnan’s first film GoldenEye began.
For his second film, Tomorrow Never Dies, Brosnan faced a number of challenges: no studio space being available — hence the construction of a brand-new studio, the sudden loss of Vietnam as a location — the film eventually shot in Thailand and a rapid production schedule so the film could be released in December 1997 to coincide with a financial refloat of the studio. The film opened the same day as Titanic: the then-biggest movie of all time. Bond survived this iceberg.
No Time To Die
MGM was then purchased in May 2021 by Amazon founder and space pioneer Jeff Bezos for $8.45bn.
The pandemic caused No Time to Die to be postponed in November 2020, then April 2021. However, now the film is upon us.
The huge commercial juggernaut of a new Bond film is washing over re-calibrated cities and cinemas. The release of the now-ironically titled No Time To Die has become much more than a story about a film.
No curse beats Bond. The wait is indeed over. We earned this 007 movie.
Matthew Field & Ajay Chowdhury are the authors of Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films
No Time To Die is in UK cinemas now, and in US cinemas from 8 October. Watch a trailer below.