The Heart Specialist: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Cary Joji Fukunaga wasn’t originally slated to direct the new Bond, but the decision turned out to be a stroke of luck. A conversation about pre-title sequences and strange film titles.
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Photo Universal

A fall in the French Alps ended Cary Joji Fukunaga’s dream of becoming a professional snowboarder. By then, the California native was in his mid-twenties. So Fukunaga switched to filmmaking – a fateful decision, it must be said. His feature debut, Sin Nombre, won two awards at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, which was followed by the acclaimed HBO TV series True Detective. The forty-four-year-old’s pick to direct No Time to Die was another such unexpected turn of events.

Danny Boyle had originally been attached to the film, but he backed out due to artistic differences. So the job went to Fukunaga. For the son of a Japanese American father and a Swedish American mother, it was a great honor: “When do you get the opportunity to work with a legend like James Bond?” Fukunaga will never forget his last day on the set: “You could feel that an era was coming to an end. First the makeup people teared up, then the stunt double, and finally producer Barbara Broccoli.”

The car chase through the Italian town of Matera was truly a spectacular opening sequence. Congratulations!
Thank you! What I was trying to do there was to deepen our understanding of the relationship between Bond and Madeleine Swann, played by Léa Seydoux. After all, the film brings Daniel Craig’s Bond story to a close. So we had to do a lot of work to set up the story right at the beginning.

What did you want to focus on for the James Bond character in this film?
It was important for me to build a fifth chapter that fit into an interconnected storyline. And I thought the key there was the relationship with Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green in Casino Royale, and the betrayal and the hurt built on top of whatever damage she brought into it as a double agent. And to see where we find Bond in this iteration fifteen years on. Where has his heart led? What state is it in? Is it even still beating?

Fans can now watch No Time to Die all over again at home. Which scenes will they be most excited about?
It’s tough to say. There is so much great dialogue, whether it’s Safin, played by Rami Malek, and Madeleine Swann in the psychologist office or even Blofeld and Bond in Belmarsh. There are always these little Easter eggs to discover.

Just one more thing: Who came up with the movie title?
I would like to take credit for that, but it wasn’t me. That definitely came from the producer, Barbara Broccoli, who probably has a whole archive of notes with possible 007 titles. But it’s true, coming up with the title is one of the hardest things to do. There’s a certain sort of structure to a James Bond title that is what I like to call “fifteen degrees of weird”. They’re just slightly different and off. I don’t know how, but I’ve never been good with coming up with titles. [laughs].

"It was important for me to build a fifth chapter that fit into an interconnected storyline."

Cary Joji Fukunaga

→ Read this interview and many more stories in the soon to be published ramp #56. "No Time to Die" is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD.

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