In July 2019, the movie formerly known as “Bond 25“ attracted scrutiny after reports that British actor Lashana Lynch will take over the alias of 007 from Daniel Craig, who has said that this film will be his last playing the role of the elusive spy. The reported news of Lynch’s ascension spread rapidly across social media, as the character of James Bond has been played exclusively by white men since the first film in the long-running franchise, starring Sean Connery in 1962. Though Lynch is said to be taking on the alias 007, and not the role of Bond, the notion of a black woman taking on any aspect of the secret agent’s identity would mark a historic transition.
The 25th installment in the British series, starring Rami Malek as the film’s villain alongside Craig and Lynch, has never been far from headlines. With one director departing due to “creative differences,” on-set explosions going awry and a serious injury causing filming to be suspended, “Bond 25” has had its share of offscreen drama. Here’s a look at its tumultuous journey so far.
On Aug. 20, 2019, it was announced that the official title of the 25th James Bond film will be No Time to Die, with a U.S. release date scheduled for April 8, 2020. Since then, its release has been delayed twice. After being delayed to November, it was postponed again on Oct. 2, when No Time to Die‘s producers announced the new release date of April 2, 2021, “in order to be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience.” The initial decision to postpone the film comes amid the spread of coronavirus, which has already impacted the film industry worldwide. China, where the outbreak started, was predicted to become the world’s largest film market this year, but theaters have been shuttered, major film releases canceled and production on new projects delayed since the start of January. (The last Bond movie, 2015’s Spectre, grossed around 10% of its worldwide box office total of $880 million in China.) Box office revenues have also slumped in Italy and South Korea, the two countries most affected by the virus outside China.
The film’s plot involves an old friend asking Bond for help to rescue a kidnapped scientist, pitting the secret agent against “a mysterious new villain armed with dangerous new technology.”
Why did Danny Boyle leave No Time to Die?
From the early development days of No Time to Die, a series of screenwriters have revolved in and out of the project, as well as one major director.
Screenwriting duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who had written or contributed to the scripts of six Bond films including Spectre, were initially tapped for the job in July 2017. In May 2018, however, Danny Boyle — whose previous work includes The Beach, Slumdog Millionaire and Yesterday — was announced as No Time to Die‘s director with a script penned by his long-time collaborator John Hodge.
Just a matter of months later, in August 2018, it was announced that Boyle would no longer be directing No Time to Die due to “creative differences.” Boyle had only started work on the project earlier that year, and shooting was due to begin imminently, with the film originally scheduled for release in autumn 2019.
Since his exit from No Time to Die, Boyle has been pretty tight-lipped about his reasons for leaving, but he has dropped hints, saying that he is “not cut out” for working on franchise films in one recent interview. There has been speculation that Boyle’s vision for the film’s storyline was at odds with producers’, and that he wasn’t prepared to split up his professional partnership with Hodge in order to continue directing the film. “It would have been…well, really good. What John and I were doing, I thought, was really good. It wasn’t finished, but it could have been really good,” Boyle told Empire this past March. Boyle said he wishes new director Cary Joji Fukunaga the best, but that “it is just a great shame” he left the project.
Following Boyle and Hodge’s departures, it was reported that original scriptwriters Purvis and Wade were drafted in to rework the script in September 2018. In yet more changes, Bourne Ultimatum screenwriter Scott Z. Burns and Crash filmmaker Paul Haggis, a contributing screenwriter to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, were also reported to have been hired in early 2019.
In an interview with the Sunday Times in November, Craig said it was his idea to bring in Emmy-award winning writer and actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge to add her trademark flair to the dialogue in April 2019. “I had my eye on her ever since the first Fleabag, and then I saw Killing Eve and what she did with that and just wanted her voice. It is so unique — we are very privileged to have her on board,” Craig said. The actor then vigorously dispelled any myth that Waller-Bridge was hired to make Bond 25 appear more representative and inclusive. “Look, we’re having a conversation about Phoebe’s gender here, which is f-cking ridiculous. She’s a great writer. Why shouldn’t we get Phoebe onto Bond? That’s the answer to that.”
Why was filming on No Time to Die suspended?
Although most of the film’s plot has been kept under wraps, producers have said that No Time to Die begins with an out-of-service Bond enjoying himself in Jamaica. But it doesn’t appear that the character’s life there will be peaceful for long. During the filming of an action sequence on the Caribbean island in May, Craig reportedly slipped and fell while running, sustaining an injury to his ankle. Shooting was suspended, according to the Guardian, as Craig was flown to the U.S. for treatment and took two weeks out to recover from ankle surgery.
It was then reported that the suspension meant that Malek, who will be playing the film’s villain, was unable to film key scenes with Craig due to scheduling conflicts. Malek was simultaneously shooting the fourth and final season of Mr. Robot and had to shoot his scenes for No Time to Die during his breaks from production on the USA drama series.
Malek was keen to dispel the rumors of trouble in a recent interview, saying “The key scenes is something that was fabricated,” and that the injury required rearrangements, rather than delays, to the shooting schedule. Reportedly due to the delays on the script, the film had previously been pushed to February 2020, and then again to April — before Craig sustained his injury. The accident also didn’t stop Craig from hitting the gym, as the film’s Twitter account informed its followers.
What other setbacks has the film experienced?
Before work even began on No Time to Die, rumors were swirling around whether Craig would even return to the franchise. In an interview he gave shortly before the release of Spectre, his fourth film as Bond, in October 2015, Craig said he would rather “slash my wrists” than do another Bond film, adding that if he did another Bond film, “it would only be for the money.” After much speculation, Craig eventually confirmed he would play Bond in No Time to Die to Stephen Colbert on The Late Show in August 2017.
According to a statement on the official 007 website, one crew member was injured outside the 007 stage at Pinewood Studies in early June, where the filming of a controlled explosion on the set of No Time to Die caused extensive damage to the stage. The explosion wasn’t the only on-set drama at Pinewood; later that month, a man was arrested and charged with voyeurism after a hidden camera was found in the women’s bathrooms at the studio.
How has director Cary Joji Fukunaga responded to these controversies?
Fukunaga, who previously directed the movies Jane Eyre and Beasts of No Nation, as well as the first season of the TV series True Detective and the Netflix show Maniac, was announced as Boyle’s replacement in September 2018. Director and scriptwriter Fukunaga will be the first American filmmaker to direct an official Bond film. Fukunaga himself was identified as the source of disruption on set according to U.K. tabloid reports, with unnamed sources claiming that he was “several hours” late to filming because he was playing video games, causing fury among cast and crew members.
In response, Fukunaga posted a photograph of No Time to Die‘s production designer on his Instagram account, accompanied by a detailed caption with thinly-veiled comments addressing the media reports. “There’s not a minute on this job that isn’t scheduled…no one sleeps on this kind of job,” he wrote. “So sure it’s hard, but it’s still the best job in the world and I’d never disrespect the hardest working cast and crew. We’re all in this together.” In a tongue-in-cheek nod to the video-game rumors, Fukunaga added that he had been “stunted at 63%” for months on the PlayStation 4 game Red Dead Redemption 2.