No Time to Die

January 3, 2022

For Bond 25 – also the final movie starring Daniel Craig as 007 – producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson signed Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) to direct and Tom Cross, ACE (Whiplash, La La Land) and Elliot Graham, ACE (Milk, Steve Jobs) to edit the film. Graham was brought in by Danny Boyle but had also worked on Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation. Cross was hired by Fukunaga. Both are Bond nuts. “I’ve been a huge Bond fan since I was about 5 years old,” says Graham. “I knew from watching Bond on TV that I wanted to work in film. It’s also the most iconic of British films, so to get to work on one is a dream come true.”
Cross also grew up watching the Sean Connery movies on TV. “My first cinema Bond was The Spy Who Loved Me.

I had an insatiable appetite for them. Getting to work on a Bond film was definitely on my bucket list.” Cross didn’t know anyone directly connected to the franchise. That changed when Fukunaga considered signing director Damien Chazelle’s regular cinematographer Linus Sandgren, ASC, to shoot his Bond. “I believe Cary and Barbara saw a private screening of First Man (a Chazelle-Sandgren-Cross collaboration) before its release and I can only surmise that while going in to think about Linus they noted my work too. I kind of rode on Linus’ coattails to get the job!” Bonds have always been large-scale productions shot with multiple units all over the world. Cross says the schedule and scope of this picture required the work of two editors. Graham calls their relationship ‘organic.’ “It was just good casting!

Tom and I were both respectful of each other and we both had the opportunity to cut action and drama. There was an openness to our work. Tom gave me feedback even before I showed a cut to Cary and I’d welcome his perspective.” Perhaps more than any previous entry in this evergreen franchise, No Time to Die, is driven by emotion. Specifically, the pain and loss that Bond still carries for Vespa who was murdered by Spectre in Casino Royale (2006), but whose legacy resurfaces dramatically here.

“This is a drama first and an action film second,” Graham says. “It’s about what happens to this man and his psyche influenced by what has happened over the course of the previous Daniel Craig films.” He continues, “What’s different for this Bond is the emotional stake of what happens. It’s a giant action-oriented movie. It’s pretty cool – there’s a lot of fun but it’s arguably a tragic love story.” Essential prep included rewatching all the Craig Bonds (Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Spectre). “We studiedthem,” Cross says. “There are character and story arcs that carry over and need to be tied up (notably in Bond’s relationship with Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann). We also got a directive from Barbara. She came to talk to us and said, ‘We want it to be emotional.’ Naturally, we have all the suspense and spectacle of a big-screen epic but we’re focused on the emotion.”

Cross describes Craig as “a wounded Bond.” He says, “He’s had his heart broken and we feel that. A lot of the action is a weaponized element of his emotion. So, we knew it would be a very fragile balancing act between sequences that are not merely dark and moody and gritty but also have levity and light moments to bring the audience in closer.

“A lot of that was in the script and a lot came down to Cary. He did a lot of rewriting in a short amount of time. Partly as he juggled with the logistics of filming, to stay on schedule and to accommodate Daniel’s injury. The thing you can’t do is stop the ocean liner midstream!” Already complicated action sequences got a lot tougher with Craig himself out of action for several weeks early in production. That impacted a major sequence set in Cuba between Bond and an army of Spectre agents.

“Other actors were involved whose schedules couldn’t be shifted,” Graham says. “So, we had to shoot elements of the sequence with certain actors at one point and other actors at another – plus second unit footage. All of that evolved at various points over months. It was quite a challenge.” They worked with stunt coordinator Olivier Schneider on the set at Pinewood to previs storyboards that they would edit and show to Fukunaga in order to continue working on the scene in Craig’s absence. When Craig regained fitness they all had to be ready to go.

“There was an urgency to have the plan worked out as perfectly as possible so that everyone knew what the missing pieces of the puzzle were,” says Cross. All the signature Bond tropes are present including trips to glamorous locations. While the edit team spent most of production adjacent to the 007 stage at Pinewood, they both got to travel to the stunning ancient hilltop town of Matera in Italy. “For that section Cary wanted us to be on location with him,” Cross says. “They were shooting with multiple units and it was important to Cary that he have cuts as quickly as possible to know how to match footage together.

“We went out to Matera with the editorial crew and that time was some of the most fun I’ve had working on a movie.” Their edit rooms were set up in the basement of a hotel which Graham refers to as a wine cellar. “Cary likes to shoot with long, fluid camera movements,” he says. “You want to be able to edit but within the nature of this fluid language.”

The action sequence in question involved an Aston Martin DB5, the classic car first seen in Goldfinger. “This was so exciting because one of my earliest memories, not just of cinema but of anything at all, is seeing Thunderball on TV,” says Cross. “Specifically, the sequence where Bond fires a water cannon from the DB5 and water sprays on the camera lens. Working on this material was like coming full circle.”

The gritty, hard-hitting nature of the Craig ‘Bond’ series is maintained with a production relying heavily on incamera FX, coordinated by the legendary special effects expert Chris Corbould. “When you see a shot of the Aston Martin with Bond driving and evading assassins, rotating in the town square and shooting with bullets hitting the car and you see its machine guns recede into headlamp well, all that is, [except for] a few VFX bullets, shot in-camera. It’s designed by Cary and Chris to reflect the gritty realism that touches on the style that the producers and Daniel wanted for his tenure as Bond.” The Matera-set action forms part of the pre-credits sequence which is longer and richer in story than in any other Bond movie. “The teaser story is very expansive and speaks to how epic the film is,” Cross says. “We know the meter is running to meet our story obligations so there was a lot of pressure to really cover all the story beats, including flashbacks, before we roll the credits.” Naturally, the action in Bond is very reliant on sound andmusic for which reason the editors monitored their cuts in 5.1. Cross explains, “We were sending rough cuts to [sound supervising editor] Oliver Tarney and his sound crew to fill out temporary sound and that helped support our cuts in return.

Cary wanted the audience to really feel a 360-degree sound field in certain sequences. It was especially helpful for cutting the action sequences to hear things in a polished way.” While Hans Zimmer composed the film’s score, the editor were encouraged by their director to dive deep into the Bond musical locker for temp cuts, some of which made [their] way rearranged into the final mix.

“We leaned on the Bond library for temping, playing around with everything from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to David Arnold’s music from the Craig era,” Cross says. “Cary wanted this movie to have its own ‘emotion feel,’ to not sound like Spectre or Skyfall, but to resonate with previous scores.” The film is also the first Bond to be shot on IMAX and that includes the famous ‘down the gun barrel’ view originally designed by Maurice Binder. Cross says, “Martin Corbett, my first assistant, is not justa great first but he knew all the right people (Corbett had assisted on Quantum of Solace). I asked Martin to find out when they were shooting the gun barrel and sure enough he did. We walked to the set and there was title designer Danny Kleinman with Barbara and Linus. While they were waiting for Cary and Daniel to finish on another part of the stage, they staged the sequence for lighting with an acting double. When Daniel came in in full tux he made four takes and nailed it. I remember Barbara saying, ‘This is history’ since it would probably be his last. Moments like that give me goosebumps.” Editorial was wrapped in the U.K. in March 2020 – and in the nick of time. Cross flew back to L.A. just as the state went into lockdown.

There’s no escaping the fact that No Time to Die is (probably) Craig’s last outing as the spy. It carries unusual weight as the end of an era. “I remember cutting Daniel’s last scene in the movie and I cried when it came together,” Graham says. “This film is a completion to Daniel’s journey as Bond and I think we all had a feeling of wanting to honor his legacy. This last scene I realized was his goodbye to the role. When Cary sent it to Barbara she too cried. As an editor it’s rare to become so involved in the story that you are moved. It’s one of the happiest moments of my career.”

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