This has been the weekend of James Bond 007, with No Time To Die opening wide in North America and our screens full of ads, trailers, interviews with the stars, and reviews — including mine. I also took a look back at Daniel Craig’s run in the role.
The internet cottage industry built on the future casting of James Bond has once again kicked into gear. It revved up back in 2015 when it looked like Craig was letting his licence to kill expire after Spectre. Once again we’re beset by a proliferation of articles musing on the possibilities.
I wanna get in on that action, too.
Idris Elba and Tom Hardy may be frontrunners, holdovers from six years ago, though now are a little long in the tooth at 49 and 44, respectively.
They’ve been joined by thesps both well-known and up-and-coming, including Henrys Cavill and Golding, Tom Hiddleston, Daniel Kaluuya, Dev Patel, Michael Fassbender, Richard Madden, Dan Stevens, Riz Ahmed, and even young Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland. All seem like reasonable contenders.
I’d pay good money to see Emily Blunt play James Bond.
Eon Productions— the company that makes Bond movies, run by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson — has a terrific record for choosing the right actor at the right time, whether a performer who worked almost exclusively on TV like Roger Moore or a theatre and film veteran like Timothy Dalton. I’m confident whoever they find, however the 007 story continues in the years to come, Bond will convince as a ruthless killer with a quick wit who looks terrific in tailored evening wear.
But what Eon (with their Hollywood partner, MGM) has implied with the past few movies is the possibility of more creative freedom in the directors’ chair.
And so maybe that’s the most intriguing question going forward: Who will direct Bond?
The Craig Bond movies have reinvented the character and reimagined the tone of the entire franchise. Yes, longtime screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade’s fingerprints are all over No Time To Die, but directors Sam Mendes and Cary Joji Fukunaga have with the past three Bond movies helped change the look and deepen the movies’ cinematic qualities. This final Craig film takes narrative risks, and while I don’t think they all work, it shows an encouraging willingness to update the formula that some will argue has grown stale over almost 60 years.
I’ll argue it’s time for Eon to bring in auteurs to take 007 into the next era, starting with the ones who’ve already expressed an interest in the job:
Last week Canadian director of Dune, Blade Runner 2049, and Sicario, Denis Villeneuve, told podcaster Josh Horowitz he’s a huge Bond fan. As reported by Variety, he said, “I would deeply love to one day make a James Bond movie. It would be a big challenge for people to try and reboot it after what Daniel did. It’s true that it would be a dream to do 007. At the end of the day, that would be pure cinematic joy.”
Also on the record as a fan of 007, and perhaps the one filmmaker who’s been working his whole career to prepare to direct a Bond movie, is Christopher Nolan — and I’m certainly not the first person to suggest he deserves a shot. Elements of Inception seem to have been inspired by Bond, and some have said Tenet is Nolan’s take on a Bond movie — with added time travel.
Quentin Tarantino pitched his version of Bond to Pierce Brosnan about 20 years back. He reportedly wanted to adapt the Fleming novel Casino Royale, to set it in the 1960s and shoot it in black and white. The idea never got a chance, but given his singular interest — once upon a time in Hollywood — maybe Tarantino’s ego would be stoked by Eon’s approaching him to helm one of these movies.
Finally, Eon could mend its falling out with Danny Boyle and frequent collaborator, writer John Hodge. They were once to have brought No Time To Die to the big screen, but left the production before Fukunaga came on board. Boyle, the talent behind Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Slumdog Millionaire lives and breathes a distinct brand of kinetic filmmaking that would seem well-suited for Bond. Give him back the keys and let him take the brand for a spin.
And what about Steven Spielberg? It’s been reported in the past he offered his services to Eon, but was turned down. Now he says they couldn’t afford him, but come on — couldn’t they come to an understanding? How exciting would it be for the director of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Munich (starring Daniel Craig, above), and Bridge of Spies, to offer his own take on 007?
All of these filmmakers have the kind of proven track record and built-in fanbase that would set the Bond box office on fire if Broccoli and Wilson provide them with the licence to thrill. In self-contained, one-and-done pictures, with maybe less of an overarching mythology, there’s little doubt we’d get the most unexpected and potentially exciting James Bond movies ever made.
But maybe the best decision Eon could make would be to decolonize James Bond.
In this time of political change, imagine handing the franchise over to international, independent filmmakers who could reimagine the British spy in an entirely different light.
How about Chaitanya Tamhane, Indian director of the wonderful films Court and The Disciple? Or Senegalese-French filmmaker who made Atlantics, Mati Diop? Imagine a 007 envisioned by Julia Ducournau of Raw and Titane fame. Or the Oscar-winning director of Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi.
All it would take is for the folks running Eon Productions to extend the courage we’ve seen in their brand new movie, No Time To Die. This is no time to stop trying something new.