No major Hollywood movie has faced a more hectic release schedule than “No Time to Die.” The 25th entry of the James Bond franchise was originally scheduled for theatrical release in November 2019, but that date was pushed to February 2020 and then April 2020 after original director Danny Boyle departed the project.
By then, filmmaker Cary Joji Fukunaga had completed production, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced distributor MGM to postpone the release until November of last year. With the pandemic raging on, the date shifted to April 2021, and then October 8. It ultimately wound up opening internationally last week, and — barring some unfathomable last-minute change — opens in North American theaters this week. Last month, a satirical headline in The Onion joked, “MGM Pushes ‘No Time to Die’ Back to November 2019.”
The experience has left Fukunaga in the strange position of promoting a movie he finished long ago. “It feels like the last three years have been a blur,” he said in a phone interview with IndieWire this week. “It was all of these things, one after another.”
However, Fukunaga said he was relieved to find that MGM remained committed to releasing “No Time to Die” exclusively in theaters, rather than turning to a day-and-date release strategy as some studios have done. “You have companies like Warner Bros. doing day-and-date releases for their films,” Fukunaga said. “I don’t think that’s the future, but I understand why the studios are thinking that way. They care more about subscriptions than they do about ticket sales.”
Fukunaga said he worried at times that the studio would follow that same path, especially once the news broke that MGM had been acquired by Amazon Studios for $8.45 billion. “I was not part of the decision-making at all, but there was concern on my part during Covid that this might be the end result if the studio just needed to cash in and cut their losses,” he said. “So I’m just really thankful that we got a chance to wait until some people felt safer about coming back.”
He credited producer Barbara Broccoli, whose family has maintained the rights to the Bond franchise since its inception, with fighting for the theatrical life of the franchise and avoiding further development of the IP. He found it unlikely that she would allow that to change, even as the future of Bond lands with one of the biggest streaming entities in the business. “I don’t see Barbara allowing it to be an online release at the same time,” he said. “She still holds the control of this property. They’ve been very good about not diluting the brand. They’ve been offered television shows, spinoffs, LEGO movies, and they haven’t done any of that stuff yet. They’ve kept it a very pure, with a traditional release. I don’t see that changing anytime so soon.”
Then again: “I’ll never say that anything’s impossible, because I’d love to see a LEGO Bond film,” Fukunaga said with a laugh. “But at the same time, I understand their love of cinema and protecting cinema is really important. The fact that people in the United Kingdom and other foreign territories are showing up for the film in a way we haven’t seen during the lockdown, during the re-emering of the pre-Covid norm, is really amazing to see.”
“No Time to Die” grossed over $119 million during its opening weekend at the U.K. box office, a greater initial sum than any Bond film in history. Fukunaga said he couldn’t imagine the movie released any other way. “We shot this on IMAX to be on the big screen,” he said. “Bonds are meant to be experienced in the cinemas. People should be going with their parents, their kids, their friends. It should be an event. That has happened going back generations. There’s no version of this film premiering on a streaming format.”
Stay tuned for more from IndieWire’s interview with Fukunaga later this week.
MGM opens “No Time to Die” in theaters this Friday, October 8.
As new movies open in theaters during the COVID-19 pandemic, IndieWire will continue to review them whenever possible. We encourage readers to follow the safety precautions provided by CDC and health authorities. Additionally, our coverage will provide alternative viewing options whenever they are available.