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The James Bond Movie That Left Cary Joji Fukunaga ‘Blown Away’ In His No Time To Die Research

As the world continues to unfold the mysteries of No Time To Die at their own pace, the James Bond franchise has reached another massive milestone. With Daniel Craig’s departure from the role that he’s held for the past 15 years, a new era is set to dawn. It’s an occasion that brings to mind the time Sean Connery left the 007 saga, making way for the changes that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would embody. That’s no coincidence either, as in his research to craft No Time To Die’s story, co-writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga was so "blown away," he knew it had to be the cornerstone of the 25th James Bond film. 

Coming into the Bond world as a creative collaborator, Fukunaga was already a fan of the famed franchise. Citing A View to a Kill as an important childhood favorite in his 007 education, No Time To Die’s helmer coincidentally embraces the humor of the Roger Moore era by injecting it back into the franchise. But as you’ll see in his remarks from my interview with Cary Joji Fukunaga, his recent viewings of 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service were planted so firmly in his mind that the influence on the finished product was unavoidable: 

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was one of those Bond films that sort of slipped through my general knowledge of the series. I knew it existed, I knew there was the kind of singular Bond film from George Lazenby. But I’d never seen it until I was doing the research for the screenplay. So once I got this job, (what was it, September 2018?) I started rewatching … multiple viewings of different films and going back to scenes from all the Bond films. Not just looking for inspiration, but also looking for the threads that were put out there: characters, villains, themes, anything I could that would kind of inform how we were going to handle this final chapter for Daniel Craig’s Bond. And I was actually really blown away by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

It’s not unlike James Bond fans of more recent generations to skip over On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so the historical significance of the film tends to be understated. This being George Lazenby’s single Bond film, it was released at the time when Sean Connery departed the role and the 007 series was riding high. So the unexpected curveball into emotional drama, mixed with a new actor and the longest James Bond movie at the time, was something that shook fans up. All of which are factors that sound very familiar in the wake of No time To Die’s theatrical opening. 

Over time, the entry that was once considered a huge let down, and enough of a motivation to win Sean Connery back for his final official James Bond film, has been the subject of much reevaluation. Even throughout the classic run of films, there are certain installments that use On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as a touchstone for the events at hand. For Your Eyes Only saw Roger Moore’s 007 educating Carole Bouquet’s Melina Havelock about the need for revenge, while Timothy Dalton’s second Bond movie, License to Kill saw David Hedison’s return as Felix Leiter referencing how “he was married once. But it was a long time ago.” 

Even Tomorrow Never Dies seemed to allude to Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond sharing that same burden, through his inability to maintain a relationship for too long. Embodying a loose continuity launched by the black sheep of the Bond family, these films took their cues from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s huge swing at something different. As Cary Joji Fukunaga further explains, that stuck with him, inspiring some very specific choices made in No Time To Die’s content: 

It felt kind of like a film that was outside of the franchise in a lot of ways, even just the style and execution, the cinematic style, the craft, I was just really moved by it. And then again, the storyline with Teresa and what happens at the end of that film, is also heartbreaking. I was like, ‘There’s something here to play with.’ Louis Armstrong’s theme song became one of my favorites, and every time I saw it in the other successive Bond films and recognized it, it kind of moved more, and I knew I wanted to use it in this one.

The influence of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has never totally been lost on the James Bond franchise. However, nearly 60 years and 25 entries later, one can’t be blamed for focusing on some of the more popular stories in the Bond pantheon. But those digging for the last time the long-running series met an Avengers: Endgame-style event don’t need to look any further than the George Lazenby-starring tale of heartbreak and romance. And after seeing No Time To Die, younger fans will be able to see just why it’s recommended to watch that very film either before, or after, Daniel Craig’s big finale. 

In a movie that went to great lengths to not only show us the pinnacle of what a Bond woman could be like through Léa Seydoux’s Dr. Madeleine Swann, as well as creating the most bespoke villain for the Daniel Craig era in Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek,) No Time To Die clearly took its cues from this still underrated gem. Once again, a huge swing has been taken in the James Bond series, and Cary Joji Fukunaga has delivered an appropriate end to the serialized story we’ve been watching since 2006. We still have time to wait and see who will be the next James Bond, which means that No Time To Die, and the Craig films in general, will definitely be dissected and discussed in the meantime. 

Depending on where you live, No Time To Die is either in theaters or on its way to the big screen in the coming weeks. So check your local listings carefully and be cautious that spoilers are now out in the open. For all of you looking to plan your next night out to a theater near you, check the 2021 release schedule and see what’s in store throughout the rest of the year. 

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.