Time to End a Grand Era

Making Memorable Bond Music

Paying Homage to Classic Films

Variety Streaming Room

Time to
End a
Grand Era

Some characters become so indelible they break out of their narratives — none more so than James Bond, who has resounded throughout pop culture and the global moviegoing imagination since 1962. As “No Time to Die” marks the end of Daniel Craig’s run as British Secret Service Agent 007, Bond has bested other fan favorites across genres to become the preeminent cinematic myth of this — or any — era.

After 18 months of COVID-19-related delays, “No Time to Die” opened globally this past October, a testament to filmmakers committed to a theatrical release. Their patience paid off: 35% of the film’s U.S. opening-weekend audience were adults who hadn’t seen a film in person in two years. It also attests to how beloved and acclaimed Craig’s Bond is, and the genuine sentiment this landmark finale has stirred within audiences.

As of 2022, the Bond franchise has been onscreen for an unprecedented 60 years — the most successful film series ever. Just as remarkable is the sheer volume of actors, filmmakers, artists and craftspeople who have been part of the 007 family from the beginning.

Family, appropriately, is a major theme in “No Time to Die.” A family business is what Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and his then-co-producer, Harry Saltzman, created when they formed EON Productions and launched the films with “Dr. No.” At that time — nine years after Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel was published — secret agents were, of course, part of the movies, yet none had the style and steeliness of the cinematic 007. “From Russia With Love,” “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball” provided a fusion of elegance and excitement.

The franchise helped define the 1960s, and as eras changed, Bond remained the gold standard. Broccoli’s stepson, Michael G. Wilson, and daughter, Barbara Broccoli, became the franchise’s producers, and under their guidance, the series has successfully navigated the evolving landscape of the 21st century yet honored the vision of Ian Fleming and Cubby Broccoli.

The classic and contemporary merged with Craig’s portrayal, beginning with “Casino Royale” (2006) and continuing through “Quantum of Solace,” “Skyfall” and “Spectre.” “No Time to Die,” which fittingly held its start-of-production announcement at Goldeneye (a resort that was once Fleming’s Jamaica estate), further reveals Bond’s complexity. Driving Craig’s layered performance is a sense of the spy as a loyal but conflicted human being, haunted by a life just out of reach. Bond finds love with Madeleine Swann, but, thinking she betrayed him to his enemies, leaves her for what he believes is forever. Years later, they meet again, and Bond learns they have a daughter, Mathilde. Hoping to protect them from unrelenting evil, personified by Lyutsifer Safin, he makes the ultimate sacrifice.

It’s an ingenious inversion of earlier 007 stories, and in Craig’s performance, we see emotional scars cutting deeper than physical ones. Exploring Bond’s psyche — which turns out to be more labyrinthian than a hollowed-out volcano — makes the character vulnerable and relatable. Craig’s final turn concludes an arc that also redefined characters from franchise history.

Daniel Craig’s final portrayal of James Bond marks a bittersweet farewell to the iconic character.

By Joe Neumaier

The ensemble surrounding Craig in “No Time to Die” — Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ana de Armas, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear and Billy Magnussen — continues the tradition of cast members who have lit up the series. The MI6 quartermaster known as Q, the executive operative Eve Moneypenny and CIA agent Felix Leiter represent an extended family, complete with an authority figure in the by-the-book MI6 chief called M — who, when portrayed by Judi Dench in seven films, solidified the series’ new direction. Fiennes’ subsequent turn as M added other levels while striking a vintage chord. And Lynch, as MI6 agent Nomi — inheritor of the 007 code number — and de Armas, as CIA operative Paloma, are exemplars of how the franchise continues to evolve its female characters and diversify its cast.

As Madeleine, Seydoux similarly advances the transition of the series’ female leads. Historically, Bond has fallen in love only twice: in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) and in “Casino Royale.” In those films, Bond saw the possibility of living with an unguarded heart. The tragic deaths of Tracy Draco and Vesper Lynd are echoed in “No Time to Die,” which includes Louis Armstrong’s gorgeous song “All the Time in the World” from “Majesty’s.” That callback to one of the franchise’s emotional pinnacles carries weight “No Time to Die” sustains and sharpens.

Bond songs are cultural touchstones unto themselves, with the themes to “Goldfinger,” “Live and Let Die,” “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Skyfall,” to name a few, becoming iconic additions to the 007 universe. Now Billie Eilish’s ballad “No Time to Die” resounds for a new generation, as Eilish is the youngest performer to record a Bond theme. (Wilson and Broccoli continue to have a pitch-perfect ability to select the right contemporary artist for title songs.) Eilish and her brother and co-songwriter Finneas created a haunting, melodic song that captures the arc of Craig’s final 007 outing.

Director Cary Joji Fukunaga — utilizing a script co-written with returning Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Phoebe Waller-Bridge — brought the elements together to make “No Time to Die” the highest-grossing film of the pandemic era at the time of its opening. Fukunaga led a best-in-class team, including director of photography Linus Sandgren, composer Hans Zimmer (creating his first Bond score), production designer Mark Tildesley, costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb, editors Tom Cross and Elliot Graham and special effects supervisor Chris Corbould.

That “No Time to Die” delivers a gut-punch of feeling along with kinetic action is part of the film’s embrace of everything Bond now epitomizes — including confronting adversity. It’s easy to imagine ourselves having martinis in the Bahamas or striding into a casino in Montenegro. It’s harder to face losing what we cherish most. In the film’s final moments, Madeleine starts to tell Mathilde a story about James Bond. We already love the myth it will become. *


Exploring Bond’s psyche — which turns out to be more labyrinthian than a hollowed-out volcano — makes the character vulnerable and relatable.


Making Memorable Bond Music

Despite having not yet seen “No Time to Die” when writing what would become the film’s eponymous theme, Hans Zimmer felt co-writers Billie Eilish and Finneas ingeniously captured the mood he was after with his first-ever James Bond score.

“This very quiet song went against the grain of everything the previous big Bond songs had done,” says the Academy Award-winning composer. “At the same time, I felt it was exactly the spirit that we needed to create — the poetry and nostalgia and intimacy we needed to set up at the beginning of the movie.”

Zimmer urged producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson to invite Eilish and her brother Finneas to London to see a rough cut. Their demo had been written based entirely on reading just the first 20 pages of the super-secret script.

“I was very excited not only about Billie Eilish’s style of singing and the simplicity of their arrangements, but also its effect on the younger generation,” he says. “And I really wanted a Bond song that totally fit with what was happening in the story. Once Daniel Craig heard the song and saw the reaction to it, he was on board 100%.”

Zimmer and co-arranger Matt Dunkley built orchestral settings for the piano-based Eilish-Finneas demo and recorded it with a 79-piece orchestra.

“Somehow, I wrested away the files of all three orchestrations, took them back to L.A., and Billie and I picked our favorite bits from each of them,” Finneas says with some astonishment. “They wrote back and said, ‘This is great!’ The whole process was such a joy.”

Daniel Craig’s final portrayal of James Bond marks a bittersweet farewell to the iconic character.

By Jon Burlingame

For Zimmer, that was just the beginning. Bond films demand a lot of music, much of it for intense action sequences, and he had only two months to compose before the scheduled February 2020 recording dates.

He immediately enlisted two trusted comrades: Johnny Marr, guitarist for The Smiths, who could play the original “James Bond Theme” with authority; and Steve Mazzaro, who, as a co-composer, had already scored “The Rhythm Section” for Broccoli.

They deconstructed Monty Norman’s iconic Bond theme and utilized elements of it throughout the score.

“Bond movies have changed over time, but I like the presence of the Bond theme,” says Zimmer. “Its ferocity and romanticism remind us of his history, where he comes from.”

He consulted not only with Fukunaga but also with Craig, who was wrapping his fifth and final film as 007.

“It was really important for me that, even though I was writing about Bond, I was also saying goodbye to Daniel,” Zimmer says.

The film’s dramatic, emotional finale “had to have dignity,” Zimmer says, with musical references to longtime Bond composer John Barry’s “We Have All the Time in the World.”

“But it kept circling around to what Billie and Finneas had done,” he adds. “They were part of that transition, that new voice, that new color we were adding.” *

I was very excited not only about Billie Eilish’s style of singing and the simplicity of their arrangements, but also its effect on the younger generation.

— director Cary Joji Fukunaga

It’s simply not a James Bond film without exotic locations and sets that evoke the jet-setting lifestyle that has become the calling card of cinema’s most famous spy. Production designer Mark Tildesley, who had never worked on a Bond film before this one, immersed himself in research, studying the details and intricacies of the Bond universe.

“We were looking at where Bond would be in his life if he were to be retired and what his interests would be and what would drive him on,” says Tildesley of the home where we see Bond at the beginning of the film. “The Jamaican house is an homage to GoldenEye [Ian Fleming’s estate]. Much of the furniture is a copy of Ian Fleming’s house and the desk where Bond writes is a copy of the desk where Fleming wrote the Bond books.”

Director Cary Joji Fukunaga also saw the character as not wanting to remain retired and not trying all that hard to stay hidden.

“It’s almost like he wants to be found, so we wanted to find something that’s isolated but still close to society and the house is kind of inside out,” says Fukunaga.

Nudged out of his Jamaican retreat, Bond finds himself in Cuba, a location that wasn’t available to the production. Tildesley was able to do a research trip to the country where he took note of exteriors and then built his Havana at Pinewood Studios in the U.K.

“Things aren’t redone or torn down so the buildings look a certain way,” says Tildesley. “That was something we wanted. We took our favorite buildings and put them into Bond’s world.”

Production design is both travelogue and history for Bond films. So, when it came time to design Lyutsifer Safin’s lair, Tildesley wanted something modern that referenced the spy’s showdowns with previous foes. This led Tildesley and his team to the Faroe Islands to shoot the exteriors, while the interiors were built on stages.

“There are these operatic underground spaces with concrete and rock,” says Tildesley, describing the villain’s island hideaways. “It’s rare to see industrial images on such a scale. These images are brutalist, and come from the original Bond of the 1960s. In Safin’s lair, you’ll also see these giant light wells, and they’re totally taken from ‘Dr. No.’”

This island, where Bond meets his end, and Matera, Italy, where he attempts to close his relationship with Vesper Lynd to begin anew with Madeleine Swann, also have history. The island is part of Bond’s never-ending battle with Russian spies. The Italian gravesite — located in the kind of beautiful European town you’d expect to see in a spy story — marks the beginning of the end.

“Bond is asked to sort of heal himself by going and saying his last farewell to Vesper,” says Tildesley, referencing the character’s desire to reconcile his new relationship. “We knew his enemies were going to try and attack him, so we decided to blow up the grave, which is an interesting subject in an Italian town.”

The production designer and his team built the graveyard where the explosion took place away from Matera, carving and setting about 250 gravestones. While Bond is mourning Vesper, the location also foreshadows the spy’s journey in this film.

“If you look closely on a freeze frame over Vesper’s grave, there’s a Latin inscription that, to paraphrase, says, ‘What you are, I once was, and what I am, you will be,’” says director Fukunaga. “So the writing was on the wall about what happens at the end of the movie, and those are the kinds of layers that Mark and I enjoyed putting in there.” *

By Karen Idelson

Paying Homage to Classic Films

Inside the Ending of 'No Time to Die': Daniel Craig and Filmmaking Team Discuss the Film's Shocking Conclusion, and Bond's Legacy 

Watch Variety’s Adam B. Vary in Conversation With the Team Behind "No Time to Die"


Time to End a Grand Era

Making Memorable Bond Music

Paying Homage to Classic Films