ALTERNATIVE 007


No Time To Die - The Production Begins

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The first reported day of shooting on Bond 25 took place in Jamaica. Daniel Craig was seen shooting some scenes with Jeffrey Wright - who was back as Felix. Craig and his stunt double Jean-Charles Rousseau were required to drive a battered Land Rover in some street market sequences. Lashana Lynch also shot some scenes during the Jamaica shoot. While the crew was in Jamaica they also shot some scenes that doubled for Cuba. These days it is impossible to make a film in secret and so there were copious photographs and reports in the media of Daniel Craig (in Barbour x Engineered Garments Graham Jacket and Vuarnet Legend 06 sunglasses) shooting his first scenes. MGM and EON were happy for for these early reports because it was good publicity for the film and let fans and audiences know that - FINALLY - a new Bond film was now in production.
Craig was wearing an Omega Seamaster watch in the first leaked set reports. Bond was seen driving a blue Land Rover Series III in Port Antonio (where the producers and cast stayed during the shoot). This Land Rover had been seen in the Bond series before when it featured in the pre-title sequence on Gibraltar for The Living Daylights. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson gave an interview to the local newspaper while they were in Port Antonio. They said that shooting in the West Indies was a wonderful experience. It was great to finally get underway - although Bond 25 had already shot some scenes in Norway. It was a shrewd ploy to shoot some scenes in Norway before the official press conference. This had made it easier to avoid too much publicity and potential spoilers in Norway.
Daniel Craig said that Bond 25 went through four scripts before it started shooting. Baz Bamigboye, known for some fairly accurate Bond scoops in the Daily Mail, reported that even though shooting had begun, the script was still a work in progress and that everyone, including Daniel Craig, was working on the screenplay. The Daily Mail's source described Bond 25 as a 'well polished s***show'. Bond films (and films into general) going into production with the script still in flux is by no means new though. The 1997 film Tomorrow Never Dies had its entire script jettisoned as it entered production. Jonathan Pryce, who played the villain in that film, complained that he was suddenly given a new script that bore little resemblance to the one he had signed on for. Judi Dench also complained of having to learn an entirely new script at the last minute on Tomorrow Never Dies. 2008's Quantum of Solace, which was affected by a writer's strike, also began production with a script that wasn't completely finished.
Two weeks into May 2019, the Daily Mirror reported that there was tension between Daniel Craig and Cary Fukunaga. The vague evidence for this were some blurry photographs of the pair in conversation that seemed to feature some shoulder shrugging and finger pointing. At this time it was also reported that Daniel Craig had injured his ankle and flown to New York to have x-rays. He would be out of action for a while - leading to fresh speculation on whether this would delay the film again. Craig was shooting a dock scene when the injury occurred. This marked the second time in a row that Craig had injured himself early on in a Bond film. No wonder his wife was apparently fed-up with him making Bond films and going home all battered and bruised. Injuries on films like this were nothing new. Pierce Brosnan was injured sprinting on the set of Die Another Day and Tom Cruise broke his ankle shooting a rooftop stunt for Mission Impossible: Fallout. You can't wrap actors up in cotton wool on an expensive action film.
Making a Bond film represents a fairly unique physical and mental challenge for an actor. Production lasts about six months and as James Bond is obviously going to be in virtually every scene you can't expect to get too many days off. Factor in the stunts, fight scenes, and generally getting battered and smashed around and you can see why Daniel Craig came to enjoy making a new Bond film about as much as a trip to the dentist. He had two teeth knocked out making Casino Royale, suffered a bad leg injury making Spectre, and now he'd busted his ankle on Bond 25.
Craig was 51 when Bond 25 finished shooting. Only Roger Moore had been older while making an EON Bond film. Pierce Brosnan was 49 when he made his last film. Timothy Dalton was 44. Sean Connery was 40 when he shot his 'official' swansong Diamonds Are Forever. George Lazenby was 29 when he made his one and only Bond film. While Daniel Craig had never exactly relied on youthful boyish good looks (Craig was one of those people who looked mature even when he was young) and didn't ever seem to change much facially, his body was another matter altogether. This was the main reason why he had been reluctant to sign up to Bond 25 in the first place. He wasn't sure his body could take the strain. Even when shooting ends on a Bond film the Bond actor is then required to hit the chat show circuit, do endless magazine interviews, attend premieres and press conferences, and shoot commercials. The promotional side of playing James Bond was something that Daniel Craig (who is a very private person) would not miss in the slightest.
Despite the concern, Craig was soon sighted back at Pinewood Studios and EON were quick to stress there would be no delay to the film. They simply had to shoot whatever scenes they could around the lead actor while Craig was injured so that the production did not get behind schedule. It was reported that Craig would require about two weeks of rehabilitation. The press reported that he had been operated on by the doctor who recently treated England football captain Harry Kane. Craig was seen with a cast on his foot at this time but images of him in the gym were soon released to signal his imminent return to action. For any medical buff eager to know more about the injury - Craig had an ankle ligament operation on his left ankle and suffered two ACL tears in his knees. The Sun's 'source' described Craig as a medical miracle man for fighting back from injuries that would have wrecked the career of world class athletes. Cary Fukunaga's main concern at this time was whether or not his leading man would actually be able to run in the film.
If anywhere can be called the physical home of James Bond it is Pinewood Studios. Pinewood is a film and television studio located in the village of Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire. 'The studio opened on 30 September 1936,' wrote The Guardian, 'with owners Sir Charles Boot and J Arthur Rank inspired by Hollywood to create a thriving British film industry, a desire that led to a series of mergers with other studios over the years - the first in 1938, when Pinewood took over Alexander Korda's Denham Studios. Pinewood quickly established itself as a location for great British films. The Red Shoes, starring Moira Shearer, was one of two Powell and Pressburger films to be shot there (Black Narcissus was the other). A year later, the first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant, was filmed at the studio. It marked the start of 20 years of Carry On filming at Pinewood. Pinewood's greatest association, however, is with the James Bond franchise. The first film, Dr No, was shot there in 1962, and despite fires destroying sets in 1984 and 2006, Bond films have continued to be filmed at the studio. The Bond stage was rebuilt in 1985, the year before Pinewood's 50th birthday, and renamed the Albert R. Broccoli Bond stage in honour of the 007 producer.'
The news that Bond 25 was back shooting at Pinewood was like a historic dockyard hearing that the biggest ship in the fleet was moored there again. It wouldn't quite be the same without some shooting at Pinewood. There was trouble at Pinewood though in June when a Peeping Tom was discovered. A convicted sex offender (working as a maintenance man on Bond 25) planted a spy camera in the ladies’ toilets of the studios. He was later tried at Aylesbury Crown Court and given 16 months in prison.
It was reported in the media that Bond 25 would have an 'intimacy' coach for any love scenes. This was not officially confirmed by anyone though. Cary Fukunaga continued to do interviews at this time and said he was working 120% on the script to knock it into shape. The Bond production crews, like two allied army groups fighting on different fronts, were now simultaneously in Norway and back at Pinewood. The Norway scenes that had been shot so far were rumoured to be part of a pre-credit sequence featuring a young Dr Madeleine Swann. As of yet, Lea Seydoux had not shot anything for Bond 25. She was still busy on other films.
There was a lot of speculation that Madeleine Swann was going to be killed off early in Bond 25 - even though it was clear by now that this film wasn't (as had been feared) planning to reheat OHMSS and serve that up to fans again in a different guise. The speculation that Madeleine was going to take a very early bath in the story was unrealistic and wide of the mark. It appeared unlikely they would go to all the trouble of hiring Seydoux (who is not exactly short of work) again and then kill her character off early. Her role in Bond 25 was going to be pivotal and important. The gamble of course was that Bond 25 was investing a lot in a character (Madeleine) and relationship (between Bond and Madeleine in Spectre) that most people had probably forgotten about already.
Bond fans on forums were talking about this stuff because they knew all the films by heart and love to speculate on all the story intricacies but casual audiences (who were expected to make up the majority of the box-office takings), unless they had recently rewatched Spectre, were liable to walk into Bond 25 without the faintest idea who Madeleine Swann was or why she was deemed to be so important to Bond. This, as Cary Fukunaga was well aware, was going to require some delicate exposition that had to be informative but not clumsy. The Daniel Craig era has what you can only describe as an awkward chronology in that Craig's Bond seemed to go from green agent to world weary veteran in the space of about one film. The Craig era seems curiously light on Bond just being an agent undertaking missions. It feels like a chunk of his career is missing.
The only previous Bond films that deviated from the formula of Bond simply being a super agent in favour of a more 'personal' type of story were OHMSS and Licence To Kill. In the former Bond got married and in the latter he went rogue to avenge an attack on Felix Leiter. Bond films had brought back characters before (like Blofeld and Jaws) but they'd never attempted an ongoing continuity before in the way that the Daniel Craig films did. Licence To Kill makes no reference to The Living Daylights. There is no major ongoing thread in the Brosnan films. The Roger Moore and Sean Connery films are episodic. The one film that cried out for a direct continuation, OHMSS, did not get one. OHMSS ends with the death of Bond's wife. However, in the next film, Diamonds Are Forever, Sean Connery was back in place of George Lazenby and Bond's 'revenge' on Blofeld for the death of his wife is confined to the pre-title sequence. It is not even fully established though that Connery's Bond is the same Bond who went through the events of OHMSS.
Never before in the history of the franchise had the tenure of an actor attempted to tell one long story in the way that the Craig films did. Bond 25 was an attempt to thread all the Craig films together and give them some sort of definitive conclusion. If Cary Fukunaga considered this to be a hindrance to writing and directing Bond 25 it wasn't something he ever complained about. The opposite seemed to be the case. Fukunaga appeared to enjoy the fact that he had to pick up the threads of a story seeded in the previous films. The question of whether or not this experiment in continuity (if at times a vague continuity) through the Craig films was successful is a matter of personal opinion. It was fine for a Bond marathon but more casual viewers could be forgiven for not having the faintest idea who Mr White was or barely remembering that Blofeld was in the last film.
Making the Daniel Craig films connected (as opposed to traditional stand-alone adventures) was not really something that was planned or mapped out from the start. It was decided after the positive critical reception to Casino Royale the next film (Quantum of Solace) would be a direct continuation and reference its predecessor. The producers felt a lot of goodwill after the reception to Casino Royale and so (understandably perhaps) chose to make the next Bond film connected to its predecessor in a way that the Bond franchise had never really attempted before. Michael G Wilson, in interviews for Quantum of Solace, constantly reminded audiences that this film was a direct continuation to Casino Royale. His subtext was obvious. If you loved Casino Royale you'll love this one. Sadly though, things weren't quite that simple. Quantum of Solace was affected by a writer's strike and something of a mess (though no doubt the film has its defenders). 
The fact that Quantum of Solace referenced the previous film was something that would become a staple through the Craig era. All of the Craig films would be connected - in a fashion. One of the awkward things about Quantum of Solace was that it created a crime syndicate known as the Quantum Organisation to essentially act as a replacement for SPECTRE. SPECTRE and Blofeld were unavailable to EON for many years thanks to Kevin McClory. The Quantum Organisation then became redundant two films later when SPECTRE and Blofeld returned to the series. The Quantum Organisation was a clumsy adjunct to the title Quantum of Solace - a genuine Fleming title that shouldn't have had to justify itself. That was all in the past now though. Bond 25 would be the last chapter in this experimental era and Bond 25 would, to get the most out of the experience, require some knowledge and perhaps even an emotional investment in what had gone before.
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It's probably not completely accurate to say that the Bond films had never been connected before the Daniel Craig era. The Connery Bonds slowly develop Blofeld until he is revealed. Lazenby's Bond, upon his apparent resignation from MI6, is reminded of past (Connery) adventures through items in his office. The title sequence for On Her Majesty's Secret Service also connects to the past by showing us clips of characters from the Connery films. The intention is to assure us that while the Bond actor has changed this is still the same character. Even the Roger Moore films have some modest connective tissue when Jaws returns in Moonraker (as a consequence of the character proving to be so popular in The Spy Who Loved Me). The Craig era though was the first time the Bond series had attempted anything other than a very vague continuity. The Craig era relies on audiences to remember more about the previous films than you ever had to do in the past.
Rami Malek suggested in a June interview that he had already been to Norway to shoot a few bits and pieces for Bond. Malek said Cary Fukunaga was in Norway too when he was there. Leaked photos revealed Safin wearing a Phantom of the Opera style mask. Malek said this mask was important to the character. "We didn’t pick a mask off a wall willy-nilly. We had to think extremely specifically as to what would make the most sense. If it doesn’t make sense to the story and to the character, then arguably it loses impact." Cary Fukunaga said he drew on some Japanese aesthetics to create Safin's look and background.
Some of the Norway sequences were being directed by Alexander Witt for the 2nd unit. A second unit director will typically shoot establishing location shots and some action sequences when the director is busy working with actors in the studio. Malek was shuttling back and forth while he completed his obligations to the television show Mr Robot. This was exhausting but he found the excitement and energy of being part of a Bond production invigorating and very rewarding.
Cary Fukunaga, in interviews for Bond 25, talked about how he had an idea that the end of 2015's Spectre all took place in Bond's head while he was being tortured by Blofeld in that chair. The end of Spectre could be a fever dream and Bond could wake to find himself still in the chair. This would be like the classic 1890 short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. It's hard to know if Fukunaga was joking (he probably was) but this was clearly an idea too far. You can't imagine that Sam Mendes would have been too thrilled to see the last act of Spectre written off as a bad dream. Fukunaga was not alone in apparently finding Bond's all too easy escape from Blofeld in Spectre to be oddly strange and dreamlike. It was one of the many elements in Spectre that didn't quite make sense.
Ben Whishaw did an interview in the middle of June in which he said he was due to start shooting his scenes for Bond 25 in two weeks but he still hadn't seen a script. Whishaw, with some dry understatement, described this as a 'bit alarming'. The newspapers also reported that, because of scheduling commitments, Rami Malik and Daniel Craig might not be able to actually shoot any scenes together. Well, look on the bright side, suggested a few wits, you never saw Captain Kirk and Khan together in Star Trek II and that turned out ok in the end. Malek said that the stories about him not being able to shoot 'key' scenes in person with Daniel Craig because of scheduling problems were completely bogus and not true at. "The key scenes is something that was fabricated. But the thing is, Daniel was injured, so they are shooting what they can. I talked to Cary yesterday and the schedule has been altered. I know that. But with a franchise like this, I think they have it together. They have it figured out by now."
In June, a Bond 25 Behind-The-Scenes Featurette was released. This was a short promo that featured some behind the scenes glimpses of the film in production. The promo concentrated on the West Indian parts of the shoot. A happy and relaxed looking Daniel Craig was seen laughing a couple of times in the featurette - just to counter tabloid stories that he was a miserable so and so who didn't even want to be here. The aim of the promo was obviously to counter some of the mischief and negativity in the media. The message from EON was that Bond 25 was underway, it was all going fine, and everyone was happy and getting along with one another. While it was difficult to discern too much from such a short look at the film, there did seem to be an impressive amount of colour in the shots that we saw. It would be an impressive looking film if this promo was anything to go by.
Set visits to Bond 25 at Pinewood around this time revealed a lot of toxin vial props - which led to the obvious conclusion that biological or chemical warfare or terrorism featured in the plot. There was a mishap on the set in June when a controlled explosion damaged the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios and left a crew member with minor injuries. The stunt was for a scene where a fireball rips through a laboratory. The resulting explosion damaged part of the roof of the 007 stage and blasted off five huge panels from the outside of the building. The British Health and Safety Executive, according to press reports, launched an investigation and gave the Bond 'bosses' a telling off. The Sun newspaper managed to get some photographs taken inside the sound stage as part of their story. The photographs merely seemed to show some scaffolding though. There wasn't much evidence of the laboratory set.
The Sun told its readers that there had been three loud deafening bangs and one crew member had almost been crushed by debris. It was 'utter chaos' The Sun reported via the usual unverified 'insider'. The Daily Mail went even further and said that Daniel Craig had said 'this isn't going to blow me up is it?' prior to the accident. Bond fans could rest easy though. Daniel Craig had not been blown up on the set of Bond 25 like Wile E. Coyote in a Road Runner cartoon. The newspaper reports were inconsistent and didn't really seem to know what had actually happened in the studio. In the end no official investigation was launched by the authorities - although a number of fire engines and ambulances had rushed to the studio after the explosion. EON nearly blowing up the 007 sound stage at Pinewood led to more idle newspaper speculation over whether or not the production might be cursed. These short memories are illustrated by the fact that MOST Bond productions (and film productions in general) are like this anyway.
Meanwhile, it was reported that Phoebe Waller-Bridge had finished her work on the Bond 25 screenplay and was no longer required for any rewrites. A lot of shooting was done in London in the back end of June 2019. Whitehall and Hammersmith were among the locations. Daniel Craig and Ralph Fiennes were seen outside the Rutland Arms in Hammersmith shooting a scene where Bond has a secret meeting with M. Rory Kinnear was also seen on the set. A still released by EON showed Daniel Craig getting out of an Aston Martin V8. These images confirmed that Bond would be wearing Tom Ford suits in the film. He also had a pair of Barton Perreira Joe sunglasses. The eagle-eyed would have spotted that Bond had a Benson & Clegg Plain Slim Rhodium Tie Slide.
Aston Martin confirmed that the DB5, DBS Superleggera, and Valhalla models would feature in the film. Daniel Craig had clearly recovered well enough from his busted ankle to get back into the swing of things. He didn't really have much choice in the matter. They could hardly finish Bond 25 without Craig. As before, Daniel Craig would have to ignore the pain and keep going until the film was in the can. After four Bond films he was starting to get used to it.
* The above article is an excerpt from the book No Time to Die - The Unofficial Companion.
Buy No Time to Die - The Unofficial Companion.
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