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No Time to Die: Behind the troubled production of Daniel Craig’s swansong as James Bond

The 25th installment in the James Bond film franchise, No Time to Die, is finally here. The film will be the fifth and final time Daniel Craig will don the tuxedo. This Cary Joji Fukunaga directorial has had one of the most troubled — if not the most — productions in James Bond history. The Covid-19 pandemic was just another interruption.

Here is a brief history of everything untoward that transpired before No Time to Die releases.

2016’s Spectre, a Sam Mendes directorial and the last Bond film, was a lukewarm critical success, but became a huge worldwide hit anyway. Craig had made it clear that he will not return in the role of British super-spy. He famously told Time Out while promoting Spectre in 2015 that he would “rather slash my wrists” than play the coveted role one more time. This sparked reports suggesting he is done with the character and a new actor will take over the role.

In the following year, as per a few reports Craig was offered huge salary figures to be James Bond. However, later that year he denied those reports. It appeared he would inhabit the character at least once more.

Sony had distributed every Bond movie starring Craig, but the studio’s contract expired with Spectre. While Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions are the production companies behind James Bond movies, distribution is handled by traditional studios. The fierce bidding war ensued between Warner Bros, Universal, Fox, Annapurna, and Sony. Eventually, Universal won the international rights. No Time to Die will be the first Bond movie to be distributed by Universal. United Artists Releasing won the North American release rights.

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Danny Boyle was hired as the film’s director. But the Slumdog Millionaire director left the project in 2018 over “creative differences”. He later hinted to Empire that the reason may have had to do with the script. He said, “What John Hodge [his co-writer and frequent collaborator] and I were doing, I thought, was really good. It wasn’t finished, but it could have been really good.”

“You have to believe in your process and part of that is the partnership I have with a writer. It’s like saying ‘Hey, we are going to give you a different editor…’ Those fundamental partnerships are vital,” he added.

Joji Fukunaga, best known then for directing the first season of HBO’s True Detective, was hired as director. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, veteran Bond scribes, joined the project as writers. Later, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the Fleabag creator and actor, was recruited to inject humour into the script on Craig’s request. Paul Haggis and Scott Z Burns also acted as script doctors.

Interesting aside: Phoebe Waller-Bridge is only the second woman to contribute to a script of a James Bond movie other than Johanna Harwood, who co-wrote the first-ever movie in the franchise, the Sean Connery-led 1962 film Dr. No.

Everything was going fine. The film was set for a 2020 release date. And then the pandemic struck.

Like many big movies scheduled for release in 2020, No Time to Die saw several postponements. A tour in Beijing was cancelled, prompting UK’s The Times to write a piece with what can be termed as the headline of the year: “Coronavirus: James Bond cancels Beijing tour because this is No Time to Die.”

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After numerous production hiccups and multiple release delays, No Time to Die is finally here, and it promises to be the cinematic event of the year (until Dune, at least).

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