Warning: Beware SPOILERS for No Time to Die Below
No movie character is in danger more often than James Bond. From the machinations of Blofeld to attempts on his life by henchmen such as Jaws and Oddjob, somebody has been trying to kill the world’s number one spy ever since his cinematic debut back in 1962.
The decision to finally kill James Bond had to be perfect. Bond, after all, is an iconic figure, and his final scenes would need to be suitably impressive both visually and emotionally. However, the decision to kill off the character was taken 15 years ago, with Bond actor Daniel Craig believing that his fourth movie would see the superspy’s demise. That, of course, turned into a fifth when Craig signed on to do No Time To Die.
Talking to Variety alongside writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, Craig says it was essential to “create a situation of tragedy” surrounding Bond’s final moments.
“It couldn’t feel like a random act,” said the actor. “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.”
While the final details of Bond’s death wouldn’t be decided for a long time, the decision to make it happen goes back to Daniel Craig’s earliest days in the role.
“Barbara [Broccoli] 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.
“Many iterations” of James Bond’s death were considered
No Time To Die director Fukunaga, meanwhile, says that there were “many, many iterations” of Bond’s death discussed before they settled on something. In the movie, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) comes to possess Heracles, a British weapon designed to target specific people through DNA-directed nanobots. After the villain modifies Heracles to attack millions, Bond orders a missile strike on Safin’s island base to stop him. But before Bond can escape, Safin infects them with the weapon and reveals he engineered it to kill Bond’s love Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and her relatives, including Mathilde (Lisa-Dorah Sonnet), the 5-year-old daughter she shares with Bond. Bond sacrifices his life to ensure their safety.
Fukunaga recalls that “blowing him up in a rocket” was discussed, as was a random act of bad luck, which Craig was adamantly against. “A bullet, like an anonymous bullet, I remember that one,” the director said. “But it just seemed like a conventional weapons death didn’t seem appropriate. 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.”
Producer Michael Wilson points out that dying isn’t as unusual for Bond as it might seem, with creator Ian Fleming having tried to end the career of the superspy twice himself.
Fleming… tried to kill him off in From Russia With Love and almost killed him off in You Only Live Twice. But I think it’s the fitting way to deal with a situation where a person is risking their life all the time. Eventually, the odds catch up with you. I think Fleming saw it, and I guess ultimately, we came to that realization, too. It’s also emotionally very important to understand the risks that people like Bond engage in.
Barbara Broccoli agrees that the death of Bond brings in an element of realism. She also praised how most fans kept the ending secret even once they’d left the theater, an impressive feat in the age of social media.
“It’s the ultimate sacrifice. As Michael [Wilson] says, it’s very appropriate because people in this line of work put themselves at risk all the time,” Broccoli said. “The amazing thing was that the audience managed to keep this secret, and that’s really a testament, I think, to the Bond fans, that they didn’t want to spoil other people’s enjoyment by telling them the end of the story.”
No Time to Die is available now on DVD, Blu-Ray, 4K Ultra HD, and streaming platforms.