Japanese American makes Bond’s latest blockbuster
LOS ANGELES (Kyodo) – It’s hard to imagine the world’s most famous spy with a license to kill would ever respond to a Yank across the pond. After all, he works for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But “No Time to Die”, the 25th James Bond film, is the first in a long series where an American, director Cary Joji Fukunaga, has taken the lead.
Perhaps best known for his HBO mystery series “True Detective,” Fukunaga brings a similar sullen tone to the last and final installment starring Daniel Craig as Secret Agent 007.
Fukunaga, who spoke to Kyodo News in a recent interview, said he had no qualms about taking on a British icon.
“Not in terms of being American. I didn’t even learn that fact until I delved into the project,” he said, referring to the fact that he became the first American director of Bond (l American Irvin Kershner directed “Never Say Never Again,” but The 1983 film was not part of the official 007 film franchise.)
“But, you know, I wouldn’t have accepted the job if I didn’t think I had something to add and if it wasn’t going to be a challenge. And it clearly manifested itself on the challenge front.”
The biggest challenge was the weather. “When I got on board a few weeks after Danny Boyle left the project (in 2018), the producers and Daniel (Craig) made it clear that they wanted to start from scratch,” the director said. “So we had about 10 or 12 weeks to not only come up with a preview, but a version of a script that we could show Daniel and the studio.”
Craig’s Bond debut, “Casino Royale” and George Lazenby’s unique photo “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” are Fukunaga’s favorites of the series and were essential to the making of “No Time to Die. “, did he declare.
“’Casino’ for me was the movie that brought me back into the franchise as an adult. I kinda disconnected as a young adult,” Fukunaga said.
“I love what Daniel brought to the character. The Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) story arc that she had with Daniel and the love that eventually blossomed from it became a touchstone important to how we would conclude this story. If this was the first chapter, then mine will be the last chapter, and therefore tie together the themes that were established in (director) Martin Campbell’s film. ”
As for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” Fukunaga said he loved “the way it’s been built, what’s going on with (Bond’s wife) Theresa and, of course, the music in that movie. . I think the song by John Barry and Louis Armstrong (“We have all the time in the world”) is one of my favorites. ”
Unusually for a Bond soundtrack, the song from that film and its opening theme is repeated in “No Time to Die”, alongside Billie Eilish’s new title track.
Returning to the series, Bond’s love interest Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) and nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), both of whom first appeared in “Specter” in 2015. This time around Here, however, 007’s biggest threat comes in the form of a new nemesis, Safin.
Portrayed by Oscar winner Rami Malek, the disfigured-faced Safin has a penchant for mass murder as well as an affinity for Japanese culture and interior design. At the start of the film, he dons a ghostly white Noh theater mask. Later, inside his lair, Safin is seated on a tatami mat floor while wearing a kimono. A large bonsai tree and a miniature “kamidana” household altar can be seen in the background.
Fourth generation Japanese American, Fukunaga said, “I think ‘You Only Live Twice’ was one of the biggest influences in history,” referring to Ian Fleming’s novel and the film adaptation by Sean Connery, both set in Japan.
Another item taken from Fleming’s book is Safin’s Zen Stone Garden, in which he grows a plethora of deadly plants. “(Producer) Barbara (Broccoli) has always wanted to find a way to bring in the poisoned garden. There are a few other things in this book that are also making their way into history,” Fukunaga explained. “So it was interesting, you know, how the book differed from the movie in so many ways and how it might be for fans of the books to see it.”
In 2012’s “Skyfall”, Japanese audiences may have been surprised to see that the villain’s hideout was heavily inspired by Hashima from the abandoned coal mine island of Nagasaki Prefecture. In “No Time to Die”, Safin has a secret base on one of the disputed Kuril Islands, territory claimed by both Japan and Russia. The film takes a light approach to this real-world and politically complex problem.
“The idea that this family, although linked to Specter, might have lived on the fringes of a disputed island between Russia and Japan seemed interesting. And so, due to this type of geographic location, cultural influences were brought from Japan. ”
The Japanese influence does not stop there. Safin’s lair is in part based on Tadao Ando’s architecture on Naoshima, an island in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, known for its many contemporary art installations.
“I saw the Tadao Ando museum buildings on Naoshima. They themselves seemed to come straight out of the Bond universe. And so that was one of the many inspirations (production designer) Mark Tildesley and I have looked to make this missile base, “Fukunaga said.
When asked if elements of Japanese set design could be misinterpreted as a statement about the country that has rights to the islands, Fukunaga offered a diplomatic response. “I think there is just as much of the Soviet aesthetic in there, including being almost entirely made up of Russians,” he said with a smile.
Since Connery created the role with “Dr. No” in 1962, the 007 nickname has been passed on to five white male actors: Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Craig.
Almost 60 years later, there has been a lot of speculation in the media as to whether a black or female actor should succeed Craig. More recently, Ben Whishaw, who is reprising his role as MI6’s gadget supplier “Q,” said he would like to see Bond play the role of a gay character.
Could an Asian bond also be on the horizon? “I think the most important thing is the DNA of the character that Fleming wrote and that conflict and that damage. It’s the most important part that has to be there,” Fukunaga said. “In terms of who it would be, I’m just thankful that I didn’t have to make that decision.”