It’s been over four years now since a James Bond movie was shooting – and we still seem no closer to James Bond 26.
The release last year of the reality TV show 007: Road To A Million was quite a savvy ploy on behalf of Eon.
Eon is, of course, the company that oversees the James Bond saga, with producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson rightly in control as to the direction and pace of the productions. They can and have resisted James Bond universes, and selling No Time To Die to streamers. They retain enough power to keep things moving at their pace.
Still, they’re also in the real world.
One of the other key stakeholders in the world of James Bond is the studio MGM, which is now part of the Amazon. Amazon thus has a substantial interest in the James Bond franchise, but not a controlling one. If it had such control, we wouldn’t still be waiting for a James Bond movie, at a time when the company has fast-tracked the likes of the upcoming Road House do-over.
Whatever your thoughts on 007: Road To A Million, it felt like a bit of a half-way house. Something to keep Amazon happy, whilst Eon slowly pursued its plans for what to take James Bond next.
It’s been a long time, certainly, since Daniel Craig was last in front of the camera as James Bond, wrapping up his run as he did so. No Time To Die opened in the UK on September 30th 2021. It finished filming some time before that, in December 2019. The Eon team knew full well that it’d be Craig’s swansong in the tuxedo as the final shots were called, and as such, that it was going to need a successor. It’s known for pretty much five years.
More than that, given the narrative direction that No Time To Die took, it was going to need what looked like a full creative reset of the James Bond saga. With Craig exiting, that was always likely. But also, the idea of how to end his run in the role was circling back when Danny Boyle was attached to direct No Time To Die back in 2018. A pretty much complete sea change for Bond was going to have to happen.
This is not new, and the series has enjoyed successful resets before. The tonal jump from 2002’s Die Another Day to 2006’s Casino Royale is as stark as the 007 saga has ever undertaken. Lest we forget too, Bond went from Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever to Roger Moore in Live & Let Die in the space of two years too (albeit in that case with the same director behind the camera). Reinvention is part of the DNA of 007.
Reinvention this time though is certainly taking its time. So much so that we’re soon to rival the longest ever gap between 007 adventures. Twice in the history of the series we’ve had to wait six years for a new James Bond outing: most recently, the gap from Spectre to No Time To Die was elongated due to the Covid pandemic. Previously, the chasm between 1989’s Licence To Kill and 1995’s GoldenEye was down to extensive legal shenanigans that threatened to derail the whole franchise.
This time? A mix of factors have got us to three years so far, with at least the best part of two to go.
Firstly, had a pandemic not engulfed the world, there’s a sporting chance a new Bond would at least be cast by now. Furthermore, there’s the aforementioned Amazon purchase of MGM, that at least must have made a few meetings happen. The production of 007: Road To A Million presumably took some resources too.
But the underlying reason, I’d suggest, why we don’t have news on the next Bond yet is where we started: producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson can and will take their time.
James Bond isn’t a cinematic universe, and as the model of franchises that require such universes comes under scrutiny, the time taken to make 007 movies is almost being envied. Broccoli and Wilson have been close guards of the films, and under their watch, they’ll remain single films, years apart.
Not that they’re not being challenged on that. Amazon knows the deal. It was lucky to got a spin-off TV series.
The two producers, Broccoli in particular, are experts in the forward defensive stroke when it comes to interviews about their intentions. Absolutely movie junket champions of not telling anything until they have to. Ask ‘em as many times as you like, and the party line for the last few years has been that work hasn’t started. Not even a variant of that: the message for Bond fans has been stark.
Nobody believes them, of course. But still: the only official comment they’ve been willing to give about the status of James Bond 26 is that casting is underway for the lead role.
There have been hints, of course.
Broccoli is believed to be at least having some conversations with regular Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, to determine which way to point 007 next. In fact, she admitted as such towards the end of 2022.
Yet whilst bookmakers continue to speculate about who the next Bond is, and rumours (seemingly false) circulate about Christopher Nolan being lured to the saga, we sit at the start of January 2024 with nothing more substantive than we had in January 2023. Or 2022.
It’s not as if others aren’t being asked. Ralph Fiennes confirmed back in 2021 that he’d like to reprise the role of M, and that feels feasible: Judi Dench seamlessly transferred timelines as she went from the Pierce Brosnan to the Daniel Craig era. Naomie Harris has declared she’d love to come back to play Moneypenny again. Those left standing at the end of No Time To Die are very much options.
Of course, that’s dependent on which direction is picked for Bond. When the Christopher Nolan rumours were surfacing, the suggestion was for a 1960s Bond, going right back to the Ian Fleming source novels. But Nolan himself shot down the rumours last November.
What we’re left with is a franchise that’s clearly continuing – like we needed the reminder at the end of No Time To Die to tell us that – but with no announced or strongly rumoured screenwriters, no announced or realistically linked directors, and certainly no James Bond.
Behind closed doors? It’s hard to think that the script or at least the framework for the next Bond hasn’t been identified. They’d need that in place to complete the casting for the role, and given Broccoli has basically admitted that they’re onto the casting now, they’ve got some template hidden in Eon HQ to work to.
Still: even if the role was cast and announced by the end of this month – extremely, extremely unlikely – then the earliest we’d realistically see the film is at the end of 2025. Sure, that’s only four years since No Time To Die came out (although it’s not too long ago that these films were two years apart), but it’s six years since Craig filmed those final scenes.
For a series that’s not been deliberately mothballed, it’s taken a fair amount of time to find its fresh direction. Most Bond fans are resigned to a 2026 release now, too. Again though: guesswork.
On the brighter side, once a new 007 is in place, it’s hard to think that Eon would want to keep the gaps as long as they’ve been. Daniel Craig’ll happily tell you how physically taxing the role of James Bond is, and assuming an actor in their 30s is cast, to get four or five films out of them before the next 007 comes alone will require a faster rate of production than two movies a decade. Playing Bond in your 30s is a lot more doable than beating the shit out of people in your later 50s.
Furthermore, there are areas to explore. I still think the missed opportunity of the Daniel Craig era was the gap left between Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall. That we had a raw, edgy, almost novice 007 in Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace, before he jumped to pretty much the finished article in Skyfall onwards. If Casino Royale was Bond Year One, if you like, then where are the stories around Bond Year Three, when 007’s contacts book is less refined, and where his foes are slightly less aware of him? Just throwing that in there.
Yet as recently as October 2023, Barbara Broccoli was still telling The Guardian that “I think these movies reflect the time they are in, and there’s a big, big road ahead reinventing it for the next chapter and we haven’t even begun with that.” We know the drill.
Heck, one of the best James Bond news sites – perhaps the definitive one – is MI6-HQ. Just look at its list of recent stories on James Bond 26 here. The paucity of information is testament to a franchise very, very tightly controlled.
At least when the starting gun is fired, Bond films move fast. A lot of the preparation is done in secret, so that when a start of production is announced, and a cast confirmed, the film itself is on screens in under a year. I’d expect that to be the modus operandi again.
But sooner or later, all concerned have to take the plunge here. Whether it’s James Norton or Henry Cavill (Argylle might just put a stop to his chances), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (the current favourite at the time of writing) or long-time candidate Rege-Jean Page, the new 007 has to emerge. We were promised James Bond would return, after all. Turns out though that rising from the dead takes a bit more time than we’d like…