Theoretically, No Time To Die is slated to premiere next week before opening in North America on October 8. I sort of won’t believe it’s happening until I am actually watching it, but it seems the time for Daniel Craig’s final Bond movie has come at last. Ahead of its premiere, director Cary Joji Fukunaga covers The Hollywood Reporter, talking the long, strange trip to get Die into theaters, and also his meandering path to 007 in the first place. It’s a solid interview, touching on his Japanese-American roots and the intergenerational trauma of American internment, hop-scotching through other projects like It, which was eventually directed by Andy Muschietti, and taking over Die when Danny Boyle jumped ship. There are two real highlights worth addressing, though, the first of which is Fukunaga’s time on True Detective and leaving the show before season two.
According to Fukunaga, he was sold on the series as an “independent film made into television”, in which he and writer Nic Pizzolatto—which keeps getting autocorrected to Nic Pizza Lotto—would be equal partners in the endeavor. But television is famously the writer’s medium, and Fukunaga found himself edged out by the brass at HBO, who favored the writer over the director.
Of Nic Pizza Lotto, he says, “Nic kept positioning himself as if he was my boss and I was like, ‘But you’re not my boss. We’re partners. We collaborate.’ […] Nic is a really good writer, but I do think he needs to be edited down. It becomes too much about the writing and not enough about the momentum of the story. My struggle with him was to take some of these long dialogue scenes and put some air into them.”
Is this what the youths call spilling the tea? When True Detective came out, there was a lot of praise for Fukunaga’s direction, especially for that single-take action sequence that made everyone obsessed with single takes, but Nic Pizza Lotto—I’m sorry, that’s his name now, I don’t write the rules—was hailed as a new generational voice, here to transform television a la Matt Weiner and David Chase. Subsequent seasons of True Detective, made without Fukunaga to “put some air into” the dialogue scenes, saw diminishing returns. The second season was so uneven it ended up costing the show about half of its audience by season three. So, maybe Fukunaga has a point that someone needs to leaven Nic Pizza Lotto’s bread.
The second highlight is when Fukunaga addresses bringing in Phoebe Waller-Bridge to work on the No Time To Die script: “…you have to be willing to lean in and do the work to make the female characters more than just contrivances.” Of the effort made to bring fullness to the women, who are usually just set dressing at best in a Bond movie, co-star Lashana Lynch says, “I didn’t feel like Nomi, as a young Black woman, was constantly standing behind the white guy, which, for me, is job done. And that was a very conscious decision for Cary.”
Great! But we are now having the same conversation we had nearly two years ago about doing something different with the next Bond. In an interview with Radio Times, Daniel Craig said, “There should simply be better parts for women and actors of colour. Why should a woman play James Bond when there should be a part just as good as James Bond, but for a woman?” This echoes what Bond producer Barbara Broccoli previously said about keeping Bond male and making great spy movies for women, instead.
And I will say the same thing now that I said then—Great! Where are those spy movies starring women? Broccoli’s EON Productions made The Rhythm Section with Blake Lively, but it was budgeted at $50 million, a literal FIFTH what a Bond movie costs (not to mention it was sent to die on Super Bowl weekend, a literal graveyard for new releases). Given all the “Idris Elba for Bond” talk, the constant “should we try Jane Bond next” merry-go-round, my brilliant idea to make Dev Patel the next Bond (which he apparently doesn’t want, but he would still be GREAT AT IT), the audience is clearly itching for something new from Bond. But the party line is “James Bond is a dude, he is a certain way, make something equally good for women instead”.
You know what’s going to happen, right? We’re going to get a new James Bond. He’s probably going to look a certain way. But will Lashana Lynch or Ana de Armas, both playing new spy characters, get spin-offs of their very own? Would those spin-offs be resourced at the same level Bond is? Because that is what consistently fails to materialize. Everyone attached to Bond so stridently believes that women deserve something of their own, but then that thing keeps not existing. And there are options! Barbara Broccoli once had designs on a Jinx spin-off starring Halle Berry. There was brief talk of a Moneypenny movie with Naomie Harris. Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas have entered the chat. Sometime after No Time To Die is finally released, and Daniel Craig has closed out his time as Bond, we’re going to hear who will next play 007. I would like to also hear about the large-scale, jet-setting spy movie starring an original female character, but something tells me not to hold my breath.