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Why Rami Malek Chose Not To Watch Any Other Bond Villain Performances Before Filming No Time To Die

Any franchise that becomes as ubiquitous to pop culture as the James Bond series has will find itself subject to some degree of parody. Even in Daniel Craig’s era of Bond, which comes to an end in the climactic conclusion known as No Time To Die, there are still plenty of jokes made at the expense of the classic stereotypes of Bond girls and over-the-top villains. But when preparing to become the final baddie in the Craig run, actor Rami Malek avoided watching any of the villains that came before him. Instead, he wanted to focus on making Safin the most bespoke villain for Daniel Craig’s James Bond.

Rami Malek honed in squarely on the continuity of the Daniel Craig arc in his No Time To Die research, as well as Craig's performance as James Bond throughout his four previous films, for inspiration. Revealing this fact as I spoke with him to promote the film, Malek had his reasons for potentially shying away from any viewings of Goldfinger, Moonraker or, most importantly, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Here's how Mr. Malek described the rationale behind his process: 

For me, I thought what’s going to make this the most difficult time for Daniel’s final outing. I mean to go through Casino Royale and Quantum [of Solace], and then Skyfall and Spectre. I just watched everything he was doing, everything he had to deal with, in all those films. I tried not to look at any other villains, and made it very specific to him. For me, with Cary, I just wanted to make it more about Daniel than any other villain in the past, and what he was having to go to battle with.

Rami Malek definitely had a unique position to work from when getting into character, as he got to shape Safin with co-writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga before he even signed on for No Time To Die. This led to the collaborators speaking over an extended period of time before shooting, which built the role into what it is today. And the path to Safin’s final form was a more difficult prospect than normal, because of the parody factor.

When Cary Joji Fukunaga previously talked about creating No Time To Die’s villain, he mentioned the pop culture imprint of past Bond villains was part of what concerned him. So it was even better that Rami Malek didn’t look back on classic villains, especially the infamous Dr. No, when putting together his own vision of Safin. Of course, that didn’t stop the public from thinking Safin was a newly remodeled version of the first James Bond villain to ever grace the screen. 

That notion of "the new Dr. No" finally sees itself resolved in No Time To Die, but by the time those answers sink in, the comparisons are forgotten. Safin, if anything, is a newer spin on a different James Bond trope that the new era of 007 films has dug pretty deep trenches in: dark reflections of Bond himself. It's a concept that makes Rami Malek's focus on James Bond in his preparation all the more apt, especially considering some of the villains he was veering away from.

Particularly through antagonists like Skyfall’s Silva, and most recently Spectre’s Blofeld, we’ve seen the psyche of Daniel Craig’s James Bond examined in rather unique ways. Now with Rami Malek’s final boss in the Craig run of films, Safin is arguably the darkest inversion of Bond we’ve ever seen. It's all because Malek studied Daniel Craig's James Bond, rather than his enemies, with care; which is exactly what a true Bond villain would do.

Questions still surround Safin, especially for audiences who haven’t seen No Time To Die just yet. Whether you’re in a market that’s already showing the movie, or you happen to be gearing up its future opening weekend, there will be a lot to talk about when dissecting this ultimate Daniel Craig villain. And if you want to learn what else is coming to movie theaters throughout the year, head to the 2021 release schedule and take a look at what other villainy may be hiding in plain sight.

Mike Reyes

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