Cary Fukunaga on how being the first American Bond director gave him an edge on No Time To Die

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In the almost fifty years since 1962’s Dr. No introduced movie audiences to the world’s most famous spy, James Bond, there has been one constant that has repeated itself in all of the first 24 movies – no American has ever directed a tale of one of Britain’s most famous cinematic exports, until now.

What makes director and Japanese-American filmmaker Cary Fukunaga’s involvement particularly significant is that the 25th movie in the billion-dollar franchise will also be the end of an era, as No Time To Die marks actor Daniel Craig’s fifth and final installment in his Bond Pentalogy.

Surprisingly, in this day and age of fans taking umbrage over actors and directors taking on projects deemed unsuitable due to cultural differences, fans didn’t have much negativity over Fukunaga’s appointment in 2018.

Perhaps they too recognised that someone of his caliber, known for his work on Beasts of No Notion, Sin Nombre and True Detective, would be great for such an iconic character, and the 44-year-old has been tirelessly working to get No Time To Die off the grounds and onto the silver screen for over three years now. Development for the film began as early as 2016, when noted British director Danny Boyle was attached to direct, before departing in 2018.

The result is a departure from earlier Bond films, and one that borrows heavily from Fukunaga’s unique positionality as a biracial individual. While the director doesn’t lean too much into his identity when making the movie, he asserts that it’s his diverse background that allows him to find a commonality between various audiences that will keep fans, well, bonded to Bond. 

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“Getting out in the world and seeing things from outside the lens of just my own country has been important in my formation as a creative and a lot of my stories have aimed to show that, you know, despite being from different nationalities and cultures or religions, many people around the world essentially want the same things – have a life, and the same protections and and have the same heart,” noted said the director in an exclusive interview with Geek Culture. 

“I think as an international man of mystery, Bond obviously travels around the world for the interest of the Queen and country, but I do think his moral compass goes beyond Queen and Country, it’s to humanity – especially those who are closest to him.” 

The focus on friends and more importantly, family, hasn’t been covered in 007’s cinematic history, even as it has significantly defined the spy-action genre to a global audience, from the first time Sean Connery uttered the immortal words, “Bond. James Bond.”, George Lazenby’s single forgettable outing, Roger Moore’s mischievous shenanigans, Timothy Dalton’s brooding, and Pierce Brosnan’s playful cockiness.

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What made No Time To Die more challenging to make was Craig’s prior adamance to never returning to the role, to his injury while filming, and then dealing with Covid-19, as the pandemic grounded productions. Plus, Craig’s ankle injury later added to the delay. 

Filming during the pandemic also meant that planning ahead was necessary and that everything from location to crew had to be accounted for, which has left a pretty hazy series of events for Fukunaga, even as the shoot brought him to Italy, Jamaica, Norway, the Faroe Islands and London. 

“Most of my memories were just about racing against time, you know, several weeks in advance of sets and locations we had to shoot in and trying to keep all the units sort of moving in sync,” said Fukunaga. 

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Nonetheless, Fukunaga still left the project with positive memories such as being able to visit beautiful locations, working with an amazing crew and departments that made the movie possible and of course, working closely with Craig himself. 

“It was also pretty exciting, you know, when Daniel came to Pinewood and you felt the energy shift. It’s like Bond has arrived, Elvis is in the building! It was just a real joy to see all these amazing crafts people, in terms of the department heads of the film, coming together with the cars and the stunts, these beautiful sets and costumes and these crazy devices,” shared the director. 

“It was like Santa’s workshop! The magnitude of the production was pretty exciting and amazing. And you know when we got to fly to these amazing places like whether it be Norway or Scotland, being up in the highlands was just pretty amazing.” 

Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are no strangers to shaking things up whenever a new Bond movie is in the making. After proving everyone wrong by hiring blue-eyed, blonde-haired Craig as Bond after a long streak of tall, dark and handsome men taking on the role of 007, No Time To Die also sees the debut of a female 007 agent, Nomi, played by Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch. 

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The film also see’s Oscar winner Rami Malek as the movie’s big bad villain Safin. Joining Craig in his farewell is Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw ad Q, Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, Christoph Waltz ad Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Ralph Fiennes as M.

Leading up to the movie’s eventual release, Fukunaga has expressed excitement for fans to see the female characters step up from their one-dimensional roles and notice how that affects Bond, as well as the world around him. 

“I think [fans] can look forward to some of the women in No Time To Die, they are very interesting multifaceted characters. Madeleine, we get to see much more about her and what makes her tick and see the kind of agency involved in their decision making and having a voice,” smiled Fukunaga. 

“I also think it’s interesting just, purely on a time schedule to look at you know, if Bond retired six years ago, what’s changed in the world since he’s been gone? If people are still double 0s – like Lashana Lynch playing a new double 0, what is it that she can say about how the world has shifted since he’s left?” 

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Having teased how the Bond we see in the film is going to be different from past Bonds we’ve seen in Spectre and Skyfall, Fukunaga hopes that fans will enjoy this new story arc he’s created for the character. 

Although hesitant to share too much about what triggered this change in Bond, Fukunaga assures that the change isn’t exactly drastic. In fact, the change is a gradual one that will only make sense when fans watch the movie.

These changes, according to Fukunaga, are also reflective of the times we live in right now. This comes after his recent critique of Connery’s portrayal of the agent in Goldfinger, where he refers to Bond as a rapist after how he treats a woman. 

“I don’t necessarily think they’re very big changes. I think they’re just reflecting the times,” said Fukunaga.

“I think Bond films have always, in some way, reflected the times they’re in for better or for worse. I’m very proud of this one. When I think of where we got to with the character and especially if you think of the journey from the casino to here, it feels like a complete arc for that character.” 

No Time To Die is now showing in cinemas. 

This article was first published in Geek Culture.