In October 2004, Pierce Brosnan—who’d played James Bond four times—was told his 007 services were no longer needed. A different leading man was anointed: Daniel Craig. Problem is, Craig didn’t want the gig.
So there he was, being chased down a faked-up Cuban alleyway in England on a dank autumnal night. He was being paid a reported $25 million. It was what it was. Every Bond shoot is its own version of chaos, and the making of No Time To Die, Craig’s fifth and final film in the role, was no different. The first director, Danny Boyle, quit. Craig got injured. A set exploded. “It feels like how the fuck are we going to do this?” Craig said. “And somehow you do.” And that was before a novel virus swept the globe, delaying the movie’s April release by seven months, to November.
About 300 people were working on the final stretch of filming at Pinewood, and everyone was pretty fried. The director, Cary Fukunaga, had shot the movie’s ending—the true farewell to Craig’s Bond—a few weeks earlier. The last days were about collecting scenes that had gotten lost or were flubbed in the previous, exhausting seven months. It was just an accident of the schedule that in his very final frames as Bond—a cinematic archetype that Craig transformed for the first time since the ’60s—he was in a tuxedo, disappearing into the night. The cameras rolled and Craig ran. That bulky, desperate run. “There was smoke,” he said. “And it was like, ‘Bye. See you.… I’m checking out.’ ”