When you make the decision to kill off one of the most enduring film characters for the very first time in their 59-year history, you need to ensure that the mode of death is absolutely perfect — both thematically and emotionally. This was the conundrum faced by Cary Joji Fukunaga, who made James Bond history by shepherding Daniel Craig’s 007 into the afterlife at the very end of No Time to Die.
Speaking with Variety, the filmmaker, who co-wrote the screenplay for Craig’s swan song, admitted that the creative team went through “many, many iterations” of Bond’s death before settling on the spy’s decision to go down with Safin’s doomed island once he’s sprayed with a host of deadly nano-bots that would lead to the demise of everyone he loves, should he ever come into contact with them. It really underscores that his death-defying lifestyle was always bound to catch up with him sooner or later. In short, 007 doesn’t get a happy ending. His struggle against the forces of evil is eternal and in a lot of ways, Sisyphean.
The director revealed that one of the scrapped ideas involved “blowing him up in a rocket,” while Craig joked that they considered having the super-spy perish from a “bad oyster.”
Fukunaga also made mention of “an anonymous bullet,” though the concept joined the discard pile because “a conventional weapons death didn’t seem appropriate,” the director continued. “Given how much he had been able to escape from everything else, the fact that it would just be a bullet that always had your name on it from the beginning, as a sort of the thematic element seemed, while realistic, for Bond it had to be something even beyond that — like the impossible, impossible situation.”
“I think the important thing was that we all try to create a situation of tragedy,” Craig added. “The idea that there’s an insurmountable problem, there’s a greater force at play, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. And the greater force being Safin’s weapon. And that it [kills] the only thing that Bond wants in life, is to be with the people he loves and that he can’t be with them, and therefore, there’s nothing worth living for. And he would in fact endanger their lives, and that’s the last thing on earth he wants to do. So that element was incredibly important to sort of thread in there, because it couldn’t feel like a random act. It had to have weight — without it, it wasn’t gonna work. And if we hadn’t have got that weight, I don’t think we would’ve done it. We would’ve found another way of ending it.”
This unexpected and unprecedented farewell to the Craig era actually goes back 15 years to a conversation the actor had with longtime Bond producer Barbara Broccoli around the theatrical bow of Casino Royale in 2006.
“Barbara and I were sitting in the back of a car driving away from the Berlin premiere of Casino Royale. Everything was going well,” he recalled. “People liked the movie. And it looked like I was gonna get a chance to make at least another movie. I said to Barbara, ‘How many of these movies do I have to make?’ Because I don’t really look at contracts or any of those things. And she said, ‘Four,’ and I went, ‘Oh, okay. Can I kill him off in the last one?’ And she didn’t pause. She said, ‘Yes.’ So I struck a deal with her back then and said, ‘That’s the way I’d like it to go.’ It’s the only way I could see for myself to end it all and to make it like that was my tenure, someone else could come and take over. She stuck to her guns.”
“And I had go and tell Michael and we waited to tell the studio!” Broccoli reportedly said with a laugh. “We wanted to get rid of him. That was the reality. It was like, make sure that this was the way that we get rid of Daniel.”
No Time to Die is now available to rent and/or purchase on Digital, DVD, Blu-Ray, and 4K Ultra HD.