This article contains spoilers for No Time to Die.
With the MCU continuing to dominate cinemas, much talk has been directed at producer Kevin Feige and his ability to maintain a popular franchise of 14 years. But before Feige, there was Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, producer of the James Bond franchise. Since the first Bond feature film, Dr. No, released in 1962, the Broccoli family has remained at the helm, ensuring that the beloved secret agent remains his essential self, even as he keeps up with the changing times.
For that reason, it was a bit of a surprise when, in 2018, Broccoli’s children, Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli (who have managed the franchise since 1995), announced Danny Boyle as the director of the 25th Bond film, taking over from Skyfall and Spectre director Sam Mendes. The director of everything from the blockbuster hit Slumdog Millionaire to offbeat classic Trainspotting, Boyle seemed like an unlikely but daring choice for Bond’s landmark movie.
And ultimately, the filmmaker did indeed prove to be too bold of a choice for the Broccolis, with the director exiting the project due to creative differences just a few months after being tapped to helm the movie. In an interview with Esquire UK, Boyle explained why his Bond film never came to fruition.
“I remember thinking, ‘Should I really get involved in franchises?’” Boyle said, acknowledging the problem with the blockbuster franchise model. “They want you to freshen it up a bit, but not really challenge it, and we wanted to do something different with it.”
According to Boyle, his version of Bond 25, which he developed with longtime writing partner John Hodge, included elements that eventually made it into No Time To Die, directed by Cary Fukunaga. The introduction of Bond’s child, for example, was originally an idea developed by Boyle and Hodge, per the director, although No Time to Die “used it in a different way.” According to Esquire, it was also their idea to kill off Bond at the end of the film.
However, Boyle and Hodge’s story would have also brought the character back to his Cold War roots, a first for the Daniel Craig series of films, which rebooted with 2006’s Casino Royale. “It was set in present-day Russia and went back to his origins,” Boyle says of his planned story. But despite his grand plans, Boyle failed to impress the Broccolis. “[T]hey just lost, what’s the word … they just lost confidence in it.”
Although Boyle’s time working on the Bond franchise didn’t have a happy ending, he still praised No Time to Die during his chat with Esquire. He also offered some suggestions for the next actor to become 007, including I May Destroy You’s Paapa Essiedu and the Batman himself, Robert Pattinson.
Cordial though it may be, Boyle’s exit does not bode well for those who want a little more flavor from their franchises. Although Mendes and Fukunaga have more flair than most working at that level, the Bond series has made it to 25 entries in part because of the work of yeomen like Martin Campbell, John Glen, and Guy Hamilton. That said, the current king of the franchise wars, Marvel, has found some success by letting more distinctive directors such as Sam Raimi and Taika Waititi handle its big-name characters.
Will the Broccolis ever let an auteur dole out a Bond mission? Maybe, but if they do, it won’t be Boyle behind the camera. When asked if he would ever consider returning to the world of MI6, Boyle just responds with a polite but firm, “I don’t think so.”