No Time To Die - The Waiting Game Again 

Thanks to circumstances beyond the control of anyone, No Time to Die did not make its projected early 2021 release date. The long wait continued to drag on and on but it wouldn't last forever. At some point they were going to have to bite the bullet and take a gamble on releasing No Time to Die in cinemas around the world. Millions of dollars had already been spent on aborted promotional campaigns but the publicity drive was far from over. In fact, another huge promotional campaign would still be needed prior to the next (and hopefully last) release date. This cumulation of all of this was obviously now going to eat into any profits the movie would eventually accrue.
Some industry insiders were now very doubtful that No Time to Die would see any profit at all after all the money that had already been spent during the on/off promotional campaigns. The still uncertain nature of the cinema industry in these troubled times was another worrying factor. The pandemic stipulations and overall situation was not the same in all countries so an 'across the board' release for No Time to Die was by no means certain. Things were still gloomy and up in the air when it came to No Time to Die and its theatrical release and potential in terms of cinema revenue. This is why there had been so much speculation about a home streaming release.
The main James Bond news was eventually the revelation that Amazon intended to purchase the ailing MGM in a deal worth billions. A major factor in Amazon's desire to go through with this transaction was the fact that ownership of MGM would obviously give them a sizeable stake in the James Bond franchise. Why else would Amazon be so enthusiastic to buy MGM? It's not as if Amazon were buying MGM to get the rights to make new Pink Panther movies! It was a slice of James Bond - one of the most famous and enduringly popular entertainment brands in history - which primarily motivated Amazon in this deal.
The commodity that all film companies and studios crave more than anything is a franchise. If you make a new movie with all original characters and an original script there is always the unavoidable element of the unknown. You don't know for sure how people will respond. More to the point, you don't know if they will respond at all. However, if you own something like James Bond or Star Wars then that element of risk is taken out of the equation. This is why studios love franchises and tend to flog them to death when they have one. Look at all these new Star Wars shows that are constantly appearing out of the woodwork now that Disney owns the rights. You can bet your life that there will be new Star Wars movies in the future too.
If you make a James Bond movie it may or may not make as much money as you projected or hoped for but you can sleep easy safe in the knowledge that it assuredly won't bomb. A huge number of people will come out to watch a new James Bond film - no matter what the film is about or what the reviews are like. The same goes for Batman, Harry Potter, The Fast and the Furious, Spider-Man, and so on. There were soon a number of alarming articles fearing the worst from this proposed deal between MGM and Amazon. Scenarios were painted where Amazon launched endless Bond television shows, spin-offs, and maybe even Young Bond movies for their streaming service and generally ran the franchise into the ground.
The thought of the James Bond franchise being turned into Star Wars with TV shows, cartoons, and Moneypenny spin-off films was worrying to say the least. It was all though highly unlikely and more a case of slow day clickbait than probable reality. John Logan, who wrote on Skyfall and Spectre, was moved to pen a newspaper article in which he said the aquision of MGM by Amazon gave him chills and that he had nightmares thinking about bungling Amazon executives clumsily meddling with the Bond franchise and trying to turn it into something it was never designed to be. What these stories and articles seemed to completely forget was that EON hadn't gone anywhere. Amazon would have to work as a studio partner to the formidable Barbara Broccoli and Barbara definitely wasn't the sort of person who would take a quiet back seat when it came to James Bond.
EON were quick to dispense calming quotes in which they promised that, despite the prospect of Amazon (who obviously have a big streaming service) purchasing MGM, Bond would remain on the big screen and there would not be a tidal wave of James Bond themed spin-offs. EON asurred fans they had ironclad guarentees they would retain artistic control of the franchise. EON's deal with MGM was always that they would split the profits but that EON made the really big creative decisions (like, for example, choosing which actor would play James Bond). EON clearly expected their arrangement with Amazon to run on similar lines. The chances of anyone not named Barbara Broccoli having the final say on the next Bond actor was unthinkable.
Not to say everyone was alarmed though by the news that Amazon now potentially had a stake in James Bond. In fact, some even saw this as a good thing because with Amazon's money behind them EON now had no excuses not to get these films out on a much more regular basis. And you could bet your life this is exactly what Amazon wanted. Amazon bean counters would clearly not be too thrilled or happy if EON maintained their recent pace of making a Bond film once in a blue moon. Bond fans who were long tired and bored to tears of the 'gritty' melodramatic backstory Bond approach of EON in the Daniel Craig era could probably be forgiven too if they actually welcomed anything at all that might signify a slight change of direction.
A change of direction was coming though with or without Amazon. The next film (Bond 26 - though at this stage we were still waiting for Bond 25!) would have a brand new Bond actor. It seemed highly unlikely and illogical that the next iteration of Bond would seek to overtly mimic the Craig era in any shape or form. The next era of Bond would have to forge its own path and do its own thing. No Time to Die was explicitly promoted as the final film for Daniel Craig and the concluding chapter in his saga. One (somewhat grating) teaser promo even pompously billed No Time to Die as the 'epic' conclusion as if it was the last part of a Star Wars or Lord of the Rings series.
There were a couple of risks in this strategy. The first risk was that most people probably couldn't even remember what happened in Spectre let alone the rest of the Craig era. The second risk was that No Time to Die might be overshadowed by the slowly escalating churn of articles concerning who might replace Daniel Craig as 007. There was the possibility that Bond 25 might lose some lustre and focus as eyes turned steadily towards Bond 26. In the end though none of these potential pitfalls proved to be major problems. Casual audiences didn't seem to care too much that the Craig films were not episodic and did not exist in isolation from one another in the way that the old Bond films mostly did. As for the background noise of Bond 26, the fanfare surrounding the long delayed Bond 25 proved more than sufficient to drown that out in the end.
It was reported that some edits were now required on No Time to Die to update the commercial product placement in the film. No Time to Die had sat in mothballs for so long that some of the technology gadgets involved in the movie were now at risk of being out of date. One tedious but unavoidable detail in modern Bond films is making sure that 007 has the absolute latest mobile telephone. No wonder some fans occasionally yearn for a period Bond film set in the Cold War where such tiresome matters were irrelevant.
It was reported in Febuary that Mission: Impossible 7 (which was going to be split into two parts) was to take a production hiatus due to the pandemic. This was good news for MGM and EON because Mission: Impossible 7 was originally slated at one point to open only weeks after No Time to Die. This would now be (ahem) impossible. EON would obviously want as few big films as possible opening in the same period as No Time to Die - lest they should chip away at the potential box-office numbers.
Around this time, Christoph Waltz and Ralph Fiennes were both interviewed in the media. They confessed that - much to their frustration - they still hadn't been able to watch No Time to Die for themselves. They said they were as eager as the fans to see what the actual film was like. No Time to Die was like the gold in Fort Knox. It was firmly under lock and key. We knew that Daniel Craig had been able to watch a (not completely finished) print of No Time to Die but that evidently still wasn't the case for the rest of the cast.
Waltz echoed the views of Barbara Broccoli by saying that, in his opinion, James Bond films should stay on the big screen - where they belonged. Waltz definitely wasn't in favour of streaming No Time to Die. Waltz said that streaming No Time to Die at home would be as illogical as watching a TV show on the big screen. We understood his point but it didn't have perfect logic because a lot of television shows (like Stranger Things and Amazon's Lord of the Rings) were now lavish productions and better than most movies. They wouldn't be out of place at all on the big screen.
Many reports at this time indicated that No Time to Die would open at the end of September in a number of countries. That was certainly encouraging although Bond fans were probably reluctant to get their hopes up too high after all the previous false dawns. It was reported that Daniel Craig would be going on a worldwide media tour to promote the film and that MGM still had hopes it could top one billion dollars at the box-office. You could probably forgive Daniel Craig if he felt weary at the mere thought of this media tour but then this would be the last time. The next time a Bond film came out it would fall to his successor to do the endless rounds of chat shows, radio interviews, and press junkets. As for MGM's alleged hope that No Time to Die might top one billion dollars, that seemed vey unrealistic.
New stories in the media suggested that a £10 million premiere for No Time to Die was now being planned. EON were said to be very determined that, despite these troubled times, No Time to Die would not miss out on the traditional fanfare and extravagance of a Bond premiere. They wanted to give Daniel Craig one last special party and big night before he officially joined the ranks of ex-Bond actors. In the summer of 2021, there were also stories in the media that MGM were planning to campaign for No Time to Die to get an Oscar nomination for best picture. That seemed rather optimistic to say the least (with the best will in the world, a Bond film is never going to be in contention for a best film Oscar - no matter how good it might be) but did at least suggest that the studio had a lot of confidence in the quality of the film.
The cast interviews for No time to Die continued to trickle forth - despite the fact that there was still no sign of the actual film. Léa Seydoux talked about how Bond Girls had become Bond Women in the Craig era (it often seems that no modern Bond actress can do an interview without being discourteous all the Bond actresses that have come before them) and Michael G. Wilson chipped in to say that Madeleine Swann's relationship with Bond in the new film was complex and heart-rending. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli promised us that No Time to Die would be an epic love story sure to leave us in an emotional whirlpool.
The interviews all confirmed - not that any confirmation was really needed by this point - that No Time to Die was going to be a very direct sort of sequel to Spectre. We knew by now that Madeleine and Blofeld were both going to return. Michael G. Wilson promised that Blofeld would be bigger and badder than ever in the new film. We still had to wait though to see if this promise would be fufilled. It's probably safe to say that EON were in one of their more pretentious moods in the long and winding preamble to No Time to Die. Broccoli and Wilson made it sound like they'd just produced The Godfather Part II.
You certainly couldn't accuse EON of not talking a good game. Still, this was all part of their job. They had to keep No Time to Die firmly in the public eye and as good a way as any to do that was to conduct a lot of interviews and constantly say how brilliant the film was. Broccoli and Wilson seemed to be rather enjoying this last bittersweet go around with Daniel Craig. It was evident that they would miss their leading man. Daniel Craig was much more than an employee to Broccoli and Wilson. He was a friend and even a co-producer on the films. The challenge EON would soon face would be to find the right replacement for Daniel Craig. Who that next actor might be was still in the unknown realm of complete guesswork at this point.
Cary Fukunaga was now interviewed by Total Film as part of the endless promotional campaign for No Time to Die and revealed that before Danny Boyle was hired he had gone out to dinner with Barbara Broccoli to discuss potentially directing the next film. Fukunaga, intriguingly, said that at the time they assumed that Daniel Craig wasn't coming back so actually discussed who might replace him. Bond fans would doubtless have loved to be a fly on the wall for that conversation! Fukunaga was diplomatic enough not to divulge to Total Film any of the names they discussed as potential successors to Daniel Craig. Despite initially being overlooked, Fukunaga evidently made a good impression on Barbara Broccoli over dinner because he was drafted in fairly swiftly when Danny Boyle departed Bond 25.
Articles purporting to having any insight into who the next 007 might be at this point continued to be inconsequential and meaningless. Tom Hardy, as ever, was endlessly touted - despite the fact that he was 44 years-old and liable to be three or four years older than that by the time Bond 26 saw the light of day. Tom Hardy was simply not a viable contender anymore. Age also disqualified Michael Fassbender - another fixture in these next Bond ruminations. No one disputes that Fassbender is a fine actor who probably would have been a very good James Bond (look how suave and polished Fassbender is as Lieutenant Archie Hicox in the Quentin Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds) but Fassbender was a year older than Tom Hardy and so could now be filed as another potential Bond who aged out of contention during the Daniel Craig era. Fassbender had already ruled himself out of contention anyway in a 2016 Esquire interview. He appeared to be bemused that anyone even thought he was in the running.

James Norton (an unremarkable English actor who must have an exceptionally talented agent to constantly feature so prominently in next James Bond articles) was mystifyingly ubiquitous once again in such puff pieces. Many articles had him as the favourite and Norton, if his comments are anything to go by, certainly seemed up for playing 007. A relatively new name in these escalating clickbait temptations was Regé-Jean Page. Page is best known for his role in the period drama Bridgerton and now found himself heavily touted to be the first black James Bond actor. Page was the perfect age (not too old but not TOO young either) but did he have the neccessary acting chops and screen presence for Bond? Questions like this would be for EON and their casting director to endlessly ponder and debate over in the months and (knowing EON) years to come as they waded through the sizeable male acting pool in Britain and beyond.
One name who seemed to fallen completely by the wayside in the great game of next Bond casting bingo was Tom Hiddleston. Hiddleston seemed to be rarely mentioned anymore. It suddenly seemed a long time ago now when that flurry of speculation post-Spectre gave the impression that Hiddleston was at EON's HQ having his tux fitted. Many of the names dubiously linked to the part in the media continued to be unrealistic red herrings. The respected and always busy Irish actor Cillian Murphy, thanks to Peaky Blinders, was frequently touted for Bond in the media but Murphy was even older than Tom Hardy so very unlikely to be feasible. Though a fine actor, the diminutive Murphy was even shorter than Daniel Craig at 5'7. He definitely wouldn't have passed Cubby Broccoli's famous height criteria.
One man who wasn't shy in touting himself for Bond was the Outlander star Sam Heughan. In fact, Heughan rarely seemed to shut up about his aspiration to be the next 007. Heughan was certainly familiar to EON because he'd been one of the actors they'd looked before Daniel Craig was cast in Casino Royale. The problem for Heughan was that EON never seem too keen on actors who suggest themselves for the part (see Gerard Butler or Tom Hiddleston) and it is therefore best for potential Bond candidates to play coy and hard to get. Just avoid the subject altogether and keep your mouth shut is the most logical advice. The other problem facing Sam Heughan was that he was in his early forties now and liable to be far too old to be starting out as Bond by the time that Bond 26 finally began to rumble towards any sort of start date. It was highly doubtful that EON were going to plunge straight into Bond 26 once No Time to Die's release, promotion, and cinema run was finally done and dusted.
The one name above all who continued to dominate the next Bond article fluff so beloved of tabloids and clickbait entertainment sites was Idris Elba. Iris Elba was British and a versatile and charismatic actor with a commanding screen presence. He could be tough, convincingly do action, and handle humour. He was also a proven leading man. On the face of it, Elba seemed to possess most of the qualities one would look for in a James Bond actor. He ticked most of those 007 boxes. There was one big problem though - and it was a problem that these clickbait articles curiously seemed to completely gloss over or ignore altogether. The problem was that Elba was only about four years younger than Daniel Craig. What would be the point in replacing Craig with an actor who was nearly as old as him? That would appear to be almost completely pointless. 
The Craig era had mined heavily into the theme of Bond being old, tired, retired, and clapped-out so it seemed very logical that the best way for the next iteration to distinguish itself from the previous era (and therefore immediately establish its own sense of identity) would be to cast a much younger actor than usual and go for someone in their mid to early thirties - or even younger. While there is obviously an enjoyable cinema tradition of older male action stars (John Wayne, Liam Neeson, Charles Bronson, Harrison Ford, Sly Stallone etc) it didn't seem like a wagon that the Bond franchise should seek to permanently attach itself to.
If Idris Elba were to be signed up as the next Bond at this juncture he would be about the same age Roger Moore was in Octopussy or A View to a Kill by the time his second film came out. That would be a very short-sighted and strange sort of casting strategy and as such remained - despite the endless speculation - very unlikely. In her many quotes concerning the next Bond actor, Barbara Broccoli was always at pains to explain that when you cast Bond you are casting someone for four or five films. You need to find someone who can play James Bond for a decade or more. It was very doubtful then that Barbara was sitting in an EON office watching showreels of Tom Hardy or Idris Elba. Her gaze was much more likely to be the rising generation of British actors still in their thirties.
The main concern at this time for MGM and EON was still the possibility of story leaks. Call sheets had revealed that Madeline would have a child in the film and so there was naturally much speculation that this would turn out to be Bond's child. There had also been details that Billy Magnusson’s CIA agent Ash would be a villain. Most of the really big secrets (chiefly the ending) of No Time to Die were still under wraps though - which was no mean feat given how long ago this film was actually completed.
The real doomsday scenario was that a copy of the film would somehow leak online before its release. This is not completely unheard of in the modern film industry. Films like Super 8 and Zombieland were leaked online before they hit cinemas. A print of The Expendables 3 turned up online a few weeks before its release and was downloaded millions of times (which was a complete disaster for that film's box-office). The security surrounding No Time to Die was stringent enough though to prevent this digital nightmare scenario from happening.
Most of the speculation concerning No Time to Die naturally surrounded its ending. There was a lot of anticipation concerning the way the Craig era would end. Would it be a happy ending? Would it be a downbeat Logan style ending? There were even somewhat fanciful rumours that No Time to Die would end by seaguing into the start of Dr No - thus bringing the Bond series full circle. All bets were off at this stage. No one quite knew how No Time to Die was going to end. There were stories too that Cary Fukunaga had shot (rather like 'who shot J.R' in the TV soap opera Dallas!) several different endings to the movie in order to obfuscate the real ending he planned to use. Daniel Craig said that No Time to Die went through four different scripts before the cameras started rolling so many different endings were considered or proposed begfore the final decision was made.
Purvis and Wade, the regular (and often much maligned) writers on Bond for many years now, were interviewed at this time. They said they spent months in an EON 'attic' with Cary Fukunaga trying to knock the script by John Hodge (which was obviously written for the aborted Danny Boyle film) into shape. What they basically ended up with was a completely new story. Boyle's Russian themed script was kicked into the long grass. Fukunaga said that coming up with the ending for No Time to Die had caused the biggest headaches in the writer's room. Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig both had some input into this ending - which suggested it was rather bold and atypical as far as Bond films go. Nothing went into a Bond film these days unless it was approved by Daniel Craig. It seemed impossible to think that another James Bond actor would ever wield such power in the franchise again.
Purvis and Wade promised that No Time to Die would feel completely different from the previous films - despite the fact that it would be heavily connected to the last movie (Spectre) in particular. This was a theme that Michal G. Wilson articulated in a press interview around this time. Wilson said the delicate balancing act with a Bond movie is to give people what they want but also a few things that feel different. You have to, according to Wilson, straddle both the needs of Bond loyalists and the sensibility of the times. It was certainly a gamble making such an overt sequel to Spectre because that film, certainly in comparison to Skyfall, was quite poorly recieved. Spectre would also be ancient history by the time that No Time to Die finally arrived. Who can remember the precise details of Spectre anymore? Bond fans maybe (at a stretch) but certainly not casual audiences.
Not to say that Spectre doesn't have its fans. That film, while hardly classic Bond, was at least slightly less angsty than other Craig entries and somewhat more of a straight forward adventure. Spectre did struggle though with the Craig era obsession of connecting all of these films together into one big story. Whether or not EON were ultimately successful in this artistic strategy this is open to question. It was apparent on Spectre that Sam Mendes was always groping somewhat to find a reason for the film's existence or his own participation. When he made Skyfall, Mendes had a solid concept and clarity of purpose. He never quite seemed to find any of that raison d'etre on Spectre and admitted as much in later interviews.
The connected story arc on the Craig film was clearly influenced by modern trends - most famously seen in the Marvel universe. The Marvel films are all connected. If you are making, for example, a Star Wars trilogy then your story has to be connected (the recent Star Wars trilogy plainly failed to connect all the dots in a satisfying way in the end after a promising start) with a beginning, middle, and end. James Bond has never required this approach though and got by perfectly well with largely disconnected stand alone adventures. In a sense then the Daniel Craig era was something of an experiment. It felt very self-contained when contrasted against the franchise as a whole.
In a Total Film piece, Michael G. Wilson described the Daniel Craig era of Bond as a 'miniseries within the series'. That was as good a way as any of putting it. The Craig era was obstinately its own thing in the end. Craig's era would be the first time an incarnation of James Bond got both a beginning and a full stop. With the other Bond actors we just join their 007 somewhere in the middle of their career and their age is never mentioned. Roger Moore does not play Bond any differently in a View to a Kill - despite the fact he is knocking on a bit and clearly at the end of his tenure. A View to a Kill makes no reference at all to Bond being old or near retirement.
Never before No Time to Die had a Bond movie been so explicitly promoted as the last hurrah for an actor. Daniel Craig was rather unique in the franchise in the way that he was able to do things on his own terms - even to the point of having a special farewell movie. The only other time in the history of the franchise when it was fairly (though not conclusively) apparent that an actor was making his last film was Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. Given that Roger was nearly 58 years-old at the time it was probably inevitable that he wouldn't be back. The film was not marketed as Roger Moore's last film though. It was simply marketed as another Bond movie.
In an interview, Daniel Craig described the themes of No Time to Die as 'love and family' (which felt like pretty odd sort of themes for a Bond movie!) and said he decided to come back and do one more because he was promised the film would have some emotional heft and drama and complete the story his character had begun in Casino Royale. Craig was persuaded by Barbara Broccoli that there was still some story left to tell. He liked the idea of putting a big full stop on his era. Craig was clearly not entirely satisfied with Spectre and had therefore been tempted by the offer to have one more final go around which would definitively end his era. He had unifinished business and No Time to Die would rectify that and give him closure.
Though the production of the films in Daniel Craig's era was increasingly sporadic and never really threatened to beat Roger Moore's seven film record, Craig's longevity in the role was still fairly remarkable. He became Bond in 2005 and here we were in 2021 with him still officially the 007 of record. One could argue that the intermittent and sporadic nature of Bond films in the Craig era as a whole (prior to No Time to Die, EON had only delivered two Bond films in about ten years) had made them feel more like big events because they arrived so infrequently! It would certainly be interesting to see if Bond films on a more regular basis (every two years - as was custom in the old days) again in the future would affect their box-office or sense of importance in any way.
Specifically because of the infrequent nature of Bond films these days, not everyone was gloomy about the box-office challenges facing No Time to Die in these precarious times. In fact, some analysts argued that the many frustrating delays the film had endured might actually work to its advantage. The theory suggested that the long wait might serve to make No Time to Die a bigger event. The on/off nature of the promotional campaigns had kept the film in the public eye for many months now. No Time to Die was sort of like a anticipated dinner that had been simmering in a pot for hours. So, to continue my somewhat clumsy food/Bond metaphor, maybe by the time the dish was eventually served perhaps everyone would be much hungrier than usual and more grateful for the dinner?
The question of why the Bond films had become so sporadic in the Daniel Craig era was certainly interesting. It plainly wasn't a case of laziness and inertia because Barbara Broccoli was still energetic and ambitious. She had produced other movies outside of the 007 franchise and also worked in the theatre. It wasn't as if Barbara made a Bond film and then sat in her house in her pjamas watching television for five years before reluctantly dragging herself off the sofa to begin work on the next one. The sporadic nature of the modern Bond movies was a confluence of four factors. The first was some mild background studio turmoil - though this was a picnic compared to the litigation which kept Bond off the big screen in the early 1990s. Things were not entirely stable behind the scenes but EON had endured worse in the past.
The second factor was Daniel Craig's increasing reluctance to commit himself to another film. This was most evident after Spectre. Exhausted and nursing a number of injuries, Daniel Craig was more than happy to walk away from 007 in 2015 and spend more time with his family. The third factor was connected to the second factor. The third factor was Barbara Broccoli's refusal to countenance anyone other than Daniel Craig playing James Bond. This meant that Barbara was perfectly willing to keep the franchise in stasis for years while she waited for Craig to make a decision on whether to come back. This is definitely not something you could imagine Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman putting up with. If they had a reluctant 007 actor who wanted increasingly long breaks between movies and complained about being tired then they would have strapped him in the ejector seat and cast someone more enthusiastic for the role.
The fourth factor in the frustratingly irregular arrival of modern Bond films was a sense that Barbara Broccoli had a tendency to overthink everything. She always seemed to act as if a Bond film took years of torturous preparation, writing, and creative soul-searching before it could go before a camera. In reality, it needn't be that complicated. Look at the way they churn out the Marvel movies on a regular basis - and most of those have been pretty good too. While no one would want a film to be rushed, most Bond fans would probably suggest that EON should be (now that the pandemic seems to hopefully behind us) getting these movies out on a much more regular basis. Besides, it isn't as if the longer gestation periods have even guarenteed precise or perfect preparation. Spectre and No Time to Die were both subject to last minute script revisions.
Total Film were impressed by the sets they witnessed during the Pinewood studio visit they were allowed. The production and set designers on No Time to Die had clearly done an amazing job creating some beautiful sets. The Cuban set was quite incredible and there was a happy retro whiff of Ken Adam to some of the other interiors they caught a glimpse of. By this stage though Bond fans were getting a bit tired reading about Cuban themed sets, Daniel Craig's injuries, Madeleine Swann, Billie Eilish, and how tough and complex Bond Girls, sorry, Bond Woman, were these days. They simply wanted to watch the film before they died of old age. Thankfully, the end was almost in sight now. The waiting game didn't have too much longer to play out.
Regarding the media rumours that Rami Malek’s mysterious villain Safin was really Dr No, both EON and Malek were remaining coy for now on that front. EON seemed to be enjoying the speculation and theories concerning No Time to Die. They were still the only people who knew if any of these theories were actually true. In July, Ana de Armas did a magazine interview and we were subjected to yet more waffle about how she would play a different type of Bond girl for the 21st Century (whatever that is supposed to mean). Ana de Armas said that Paloma was quite unlike any other Bond Woman we'd seen before because she was (wait for it) tough and complex. Ana de Armas could evidently be chalked up as yet another modern Bond actress who had apparently never heard of Diana Rigg or Honor Blackman.
New posters at this time stated that No Time to Die would be released in October. At this stage, No Time to Die was like the Bond film that cried wolf when it came to release dates but things were certainly looking far less bleak than they had done before. The James Bond Twitter then put out a No Time to Die 'sizzle reel' confirming that it was all systems go for an October release. There were stories too around this time about how No Time to Die would have to make one billion dollars to show any profit because of its enormous production costs and lengthy stop start promotional campaigns. Given the uncertain nature of the box-office (and the cinema industry as a whole) this would be a stern (and most likely impossible) challenge to say the least. One advantage Bond did enjoy though was that it tended to skew towards an older demographic. It wasn't quite so reliant on young audiences in the way that other movies sometimes were.
There was more sign of light at the end of a very long tunnel when news emerged that No Time to Die would have its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London on the 28th of September. The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall on the northern edge of South Kensington. It was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871 and has been for many years the venue for the BBC Proms. This grand and beautiful building has been host to pop concerts and even boxing matches over the years. The likes of Lennox Lewis, Prince Naseem Hamed, and Frank Bruno all had fights there. Muhammad Ali also once famously boxed an exibition at the Royal Albert Hall. The afterparty for No Time to Die would take place at the Natural History Museum. EON were certainly pushing the boat out for this premiere.
Cinemas in Britain and Japan soon began selling tickets for No Time to Die screenings. It wasn't Bond fans who were the most impatient to see No Time to Die released by this point but cinema owners. Cinema owners in Britain (where modern Bond films traditionally did very big business - around $100 million) in particular were desperately relying on No Time to Die to save their businesses and perhaps even the industry as a whole. James Bond was being counted on to provide the shot in the arm that this flagging industry was in dire need of. Cinema owners had absolutely everything crossed that No Time to Die would be able to enjoy a long and uninterrupted theatrical run.
During the pandemic many wondered if cinemas, in an age of home streaming and televisions the size of garden sheds, would increasingly become a thing of the past - even when things did go back to normal. We've all had bad experiences at the cinema. Some idiot behind you constantly talking or eating throughout the film. Someone in the next seat endlessly checking their phone. Bored kids. People constantly getting up to use the toilet. Going to the cinema can be annoying. Watching a film in comfort at home has some obvious advantages. However, nothing will ever beat the big screen experience. If you've only ever watched films like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Gravity on the small screen then I'm afraid to say that you haven't truly watched those films. The big screen was where James Bond belonged and where he would stay so long as Barbara Broccoli had anything to do with it.
A new official synopsis for the film was now released by EON. There wasn't much that was new in this synopsis but, encouragingly, it was evidence that this latest release date seemed on much firmer ground than the previous aborted ones had been. 'James Bond (Daniel Craig) has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) from the CIA turns up asking for help, and M (Ralph Fiennes) also looks to bring 007 back for a new mission. When Bond encounters a new 00 named Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who has replaced him as the top agent, he learns she isn't impressed by his past achievements. The mission, which is to rescue a kidnapped scientist, turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain named Safin (Rami Malek), who is armed with dangerous new technology.'
By now, a raft of new trailers were emerging in different territories and it was announced that the film had been rated PG-13 in the United States. No Time to Die was finally - FINALLY! - nearing an actual release. One factor worrying the studio bean counters at this point though was that No Time to Die still had no scheduled release date in China. China is an increasingly important film market these days - as one might expect of such a populous and increasingly wealthy country which is destined to become the largest economy in the world. In some circumstances a film can even bomb in North America but then recoup its production costs in China. That was something which was completely unheard of not so long ago. Spectre had made nearly $90 million in China and No Time to Die was desperately hoping for a decent wedge of that Chinese money too because it would need every penny it could muster.
At this time the No Time to Die merch was ramping up too. The 007 Store had begun selling Safin No Time to Die Noh masks. They were priced at £295. Nearly £300 for a Safin mask? I think I'll pass on that one thank you very much. No Time to Die merch would include Cashmere clothing, an Aston Martin diecast model, Funko Pop figures, Tote bags, coins, an Aston Martin toy model with Playmobil figures of James Bond, Goldfinger, and Oddjob (what Bond fan wouldn't be tempted by that one?), and much more besides.
All the enthusiasm now generated by the imminent release of No Time to Die did not fly by without one party pooper though. The Hollywood Reporter ran a gloomy article in which they said that No Time to Die's projected release date was risky because a resurgence of the pandemic could wreak havoc if it arrived at the worst possible time. That worst possible time would obviously be shortly after No Time To Die had finally opened - a disaster of a scenario indeed. The Hollywood Reporter suggested that MGM and EON now had no choice though but to stick to the 'risky' September/October release date because things might be even worse early next year in terms of the pandemic.
Another salient factor in why MGM and EON couldn't delay No Time to Die forever (No Time to Die Forever sounds like a title for a Bond film!) was the fact each time a release date was aborted this cost the studio many extra millions because they then had to launch ANOTHER fresh promotional campaign when the next release date swung around again. The delays were in danger, if alarmist reports were true, of crippling the finances of MGM. This would not be a problem if they were owned by Amazon. There was also the very real risk of people getting bored of No Time to Die - despite the fact that they hadn't even seen the film! After several aborted promotional campaigns people could be forgiven if it sometimes felt as if they HAD seen the film and that it was already yesterday's news.
One disadvantage faced by No Time to Die is that, unlike big Disney movies, it didn't have the option of a simultanous streaming release to maximise profits. Barbara Broccoli would never have agreed to such a strategy. Broccoli and Wilson were interviewed yet again at this time (in fairness it might have been an old interview held back for months) and made clear that, despite the Amazon deal, they had no interest in Bond television shows and spin-off films. Wilson said they had always been against such projects. Michael's memory was clearly playing tricks on him because he was involved in the 1990s James Bond Jr cartoon and he and Barbara tried to make an aborted Jinx spin-off film with Halle Berry. *
There were inklings of potential trouble for No Time to Die when it was announced that Australia and New Zealand had pushed their release dates of the movie back to November because of the pandemic. This was a pain for Bond fans in those countries because their chances of avoiding spoilers were now greatly impacted. MGM had everything crossed that this wasn't a portent of things to come. Late in August it was announced that MGM planned to release Addams Family 2 in both cinemas and on pay-per-view at the same time. This was seen as reasonable evidence for the theory that MGM would have been happy to employ the same strategy for No Time to Die but that this strategy had been vetoed by EON.
* The aborted Jinx spin-off film had a script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and Stephen Frears was signed to direct. It had a $90 million budget. Halle Berry was apparently enthusiastic for the project and Michael Madsen was being lined up to reprise his role from Die Another Day in support. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade said the story was a Bourne style thriller set in Europe. MGM pulled the plug on the Jinx project in the end. They are alleged to have got very cold feet after the poor box-office returns of female led action movies like the Lara Croft and Charlie's Angels sequels.
It could be the case that the backlash against Die Another Day (a film which earned decent reviews upon release but became increasingly disliked and picked apart thereafter) was also a factor in the Jinx movie being cancelled. The scrapped Jinx movie is definitely a strange footnote in the history of Bond. It never sounded like a very good idea in the first place so it isn't surprising at all that it got canned in the end.
The film getting as far as it did was probably a result of Barbara Broccoli liking both the idea of doing a female fronted action film and also working with Halle Berry again (Berry was a pretty big star at the time). The decision to axe Jinx had unforuntate consequences for Halle Berry because she signed up to make a 2004 Catwoman movie instead - which bombed. The only thing anyone really remembers about Catwoman now is that Halle Berry (gamely) turned up at the Razzies to collect her award.
The above article is an excerpt from the book No Time To Die - The Unofficial Retrospective

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