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HOW JAMES BOND DIRECTOR CARY JOJI FUKUNAGA CRAFTED THE PERFECT ENDING FOR DANIEL CRAIG

- Mark Daniell Postmedia News mdaniell@postmedia.com

When it came to landing one of the most coveted jobs in Hollywood — directing Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond in No Time to Die — filmmaker Cary Joji Fukunaga will tell you: Timing is everything.

After marvelling at Craig’s turn as the suave British spy in 2015’s Spectre, the 44-year-old director behind Beasts of No Nation and the first season of True Detective had taken a shot in the dark and cold-called series producer Barbara Broccoli to throw his name in the hat for the then-untitled 25 th Bond film.

Fukunaga didn’t know Eon Production­s had already tapped Danny Boyle to helm the picture. But when Boyle departed over creative difference­s, Fukunaga again raised his hand.

Their first chat led to another and then more meetings. Broccoli and co-producer Michael G. Wilson gave him a loose premise of what they were looking for to help shape a “great ending and a real final chapter” for the character Craig has played since 2006.

Along with the veteran Bond team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-bridge, Fukunaga started from scratch crafting a story that finds Bond facing the film’s main villain, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek).

“I loved Casino Royale. So for me, I was trying to make a satisfying companion piece to that film,” says Fukunaga. “The movies that came between (Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Spectre) would be the body of the work, but Casino and then this film could act as first and last chapters.”

After a 16-month delay due to the pandemic, Craig’s celebrated run as Bond is now at a definite end. Broccoli and Wilson will start the search for a new actor to front their next 007 blockbuste­r next year. Like the rest of us, Fukunaga wonders who will take over.

“I think whoever ends up being Bond has some very big shoes to fill,” he says. “I think it’s going to be a tricky decision. There’s a lot of scrutiny over it, and we’re all aware of that. I just feel lucky I don’t have to make that decision.”

Q How did you want to put your own stamp on the franchise?

A My main goal was to make an ending that was powerful and was satisfying and had all the elements that we were looking for. But I also wanted something surprising and refreshing. I don’t know if you agree, but I think endings are usually the hardest thing to do. So it presented an interestin­g and unique challenge.

Q The decisions you make in this movie are unconventi­onal by Bond standards. What made you want to take such bold swings?

A Bond has always been the epitome of cool. He’s doing all the things we wished we were doing: rolling into casinos, spending lots of money, driving cool cars, meeting beautiful women, getting into deadly situations and then walking out with panache. He faces the worst of the worst and always knows what to say. We’ve seen that and we’ll continue to see that in some version of Bond, but ... it’s surprising to see different sides of his character. That’s part of the joy of it. We play with what people expect and want, but tease others. I really wanted to knock it around a bit.

Q How has the franchise been able to evolve with this iteration of Bond?

A Daniel’s reset with Casino Royale was a pretty major one when you look at in comparison with (Pierce Brosnan’s) last film. Although they are both Bond films with some of the same characters, they were very, very different movies in terms of tone and genre. It definitely resonated with me as an adult fan. That opening parkour scene is one of the best ever. But I think what makes these films stand apart is the humanity Daniel brings and the fact that these films are interconne­cted dramatical­ly, which makes them feel like an even deeper, longer and more engaging story. I was able to benefit off of that for this film. I was able to build off those four films and the characters that we’ve come to love and know and to try to continue that story in a way that hopefully people will remember. I wouldn’t have had that opportunit­y if all those movies existed as isolated episodes.

Q Some think Rami Malek’s Safin was Dr. No. How did you create that antagonist? A The poison garden in You Only Live Twice — the book — was a big inspiratio­n as to where we were going to end up with the story in terms of the villain. Obviously Blofeld is a much bigger part of that book, but he was used in Spectre and he’s already in

Belmarsh (prison) by the time we get to this film. So a new villain needed to be made and since we were coming full circle ... I thought it would be interestin­g to tie all the pieces together so that it all ends up that in this story there was a series of events that led us here.

Q Why do you think Bond has endured?

A I’ve had to ask myself that a lot. It has one of the largest and most loyal fan bases ever as a character that has evolved and changed over time and has been refreshed by amazing talent from across Hollywood and cinema, both on the screen and off, in terms of writing and directing and the actors. I think Daniel was a big part of it surviving the last 15 years and even growing the character’s fan base because of what he brought to it. He definitely brought me in as a contempora­ry fan. I was a fan as a kid, but not on the same level. That groundedne­ss and grittiness was an important step.

Q I think the opening is a classic Bond beginning. How did that come about?

A It’s a story we’ve heard — Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) talks about it on the train in Spectre — but to bring it to life was a joy. I’m just happy with our shots and the pace and the surprises. The informatio­n we learn about her connection to Safin right from the get-go. That’s like a version of Hitchcock’s “bomb under the table.” We’ve shown you the bomb: Now watch the movie.

 ?? PHOTOS: MGM ?? No Time to Die writer-director Cary Joji Fukunaga, right, wanted to make sure audiences see different sides
of James Bond in Daniel Craig’s final outing as the British spy.
PHOTOS: MGM No Time to Die writer-director Cary Joji Fukunaga, right, wanted to make sure audiences see different sides of James Bond in Daniel Craig’s final outing as the British spy.

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