With the announcement that True Detective’s Cary Joji Fukunaga will take over from Danny Boyle as director of James Bond 25, the franchise’s problems may be solved. The latest entry in the long-running and iconic James Bond series has been through a turbulent journey before production has even begun. After Skyfall and Spectre director Sam Mendes announced he would not be taking on a third film in the series, gossip ignited over who would be chosen by the very precise Broccoli family to take over the job. Rumors continued to swirl that actor Daniel Craig would be stepping down from the role, with fan casting and the ever-present Idris Elba speculation going into overdrive.
It was eventually confirmed that Craig would be back for his final outing, with Trainspotting director Danny Boyle in the director’s chair. However, that didn’t last very long, and soon Boyle had left the project due to “creative differences”. The exact nature of these clashes is unknown, but it is thought that Boyle, who won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire, was unwilling to adhere to the demands of the Broccoli family, the long-time producers of the franchise. It’s also been rumored that Boyle’s choice for the villain had been vetoed by the producers. Losing Boyle was a major blow to the franchise, as the director seemed like the perfect fit for the job: An award-winning auteur with experience in the studio system who could handle big budgets and massive set pieces.
A job like directing a Bond movie, or indeed any new addition to a major franchise, is a tricky one for any director and the production team looking for the right hire. It’s a job that requires immense skill and experience on such a scale but also a willingness to surrender one’s own creative vision to the horror of studio notes. One of the reasons Marvel and DC hire lesser-known indie darlings like Taika Waititi and Patty Jenkins to direct films is because, while they’ll bring their own flair to the work, they don’t have the major industry clout to talk back. The Bond 25 job had all these problems and more, especially since Boyle, a man used to dealing with big studios, decided to tap out. Directing a Bond movie may be a dream job for some, but it may not be worth it for those unwilling to play the game.
These circumstances meant most critics were predicting the safest choice possible for the job – the equivalent of tapping in Ron Howard to direct Solo: A Star Wars Story. Yet what we got was a far greater surprise, and one that could fix Bond’s problems: Cary Joji Fukunaga.
- This Page: Why Cary Fukunaga Is Oddly Suited For James Bond
- Page 2: How Cary Fukunaga Fixes Bond 25 Problems
Cary Fukunaga is an Auteur (Like Boyle)
Fukunaga is arguably best-known as the Emmy winning director of the first season of True Detective. He's also the man behind the 2011 version of Jane Eyre, starring Michael Fassbender, the first Netflix original movie, Beasts of No Nation, and the upcoming Netflix series Maniac, with Emma Stone and Jonah Hill. While the director has his fans, he wasn’t a name many had even shortlisted for the Bond 25 job, much less predicted to be chosen by the Broccoli family. In a press release, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson praised Fukunaga's "versatility and innovation". Filming will begin Pinewood Studios on 4th March 2019, with a release date of February 14, 2020.
Producers are showing an immense dedication to Fukunaga. On top of being a left-field choice for the job, he will also be the first American to direct a Bond movie. Given the franchise’s stalwart dedication to Britishness, or at the very least a refusal to adhere to Hollywood standards, this is a big deal. Clearly, they see Fukunaga as being worth it, and with good reason.
While Fukunaga’s body of work is relatively small (three feature films and two seasons of TV), his critical acclaim has been strong. His first film, Sin Hombre, won the directing award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and for his season of True Detective he won the 2014 Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. Maniac has yet to air but it has already received a slew of glowing reviews. Fukunaga has been consistently praised for his earthy approach to stories like Jane Eyre, eschewing expected genre tropes in favor of a fresher approach. His work is notable for its defined visual style – he has also worked as his own cinematographer on Beasts of No Nation – and his ability to get career-best performances out of his ensembles. He’s not the safe choice for a Bond movie but he also wasn’t the safe choice for Jane Eyre and True Detective. That may be why this was such a right choice for the Bond team to make.
Cary Fukunaga Will Accept Studio Notes (Unlike Boyle)
While many have praised Fukunaga's distinct and auteur-driven approach as a director, the man himself has been hesitant to accept such labels. In a 2015 interview with IndieWire, he discussed the "tricky notion" of authorship in film-making, saying, "The crazy thing about auteur theory is that even the early auteurs, most weren’t writing their own movies. It’s always been a collaborative medium. That doesn’t even make sense."
Fukunaga has already walked away from one major project when creative differences became too much. He was the original director of Stephen King’s IT and is still credited as a screenwriter on the 2017 movie. However, he’s also expressed a willingness to listen to what his highers-up have to say on any given project. In a recent interview with GQ, Fukunaga said "They thought they couldn't control me. I would have been a total collaborator. That was the kind of ridiculous part. It was just more a perception. I have never seen a note and been like, F*ck you guys. No way. It's always been a conversation."
Read More: The Original Script for IT Was Insane
He went on to say that this is doubly true when working with Netflix’s mysterious algorithm, which influenced micro creative decisions on Maniac and may be a better primer for the old-school studio system than even a Marvel or DC movie. It’s certainly ideal preparation for making a Bond movie, given the franchise’s historical lineage and decades-old formula that hasn’t evolved all that much since its origins.
The Broccoli family and assorted Bond producers know exactly what they want from a Bond movie and they’re unlikely to let even their chosen directors stray too far from the formula. There will always be gadgets, Bond girls, big set pieces, a classic opening theme, the one-liners and an Aston Martin to die for. Certain things have evolved but audiences still know the basics of a Bond movie when they see them. That’s something Fukunaga will have to deal with, and he seems very willing to do so.