Leaked shots of Daniel Craig could threaten film success
Fans waiting for next year’s blockbuster, No Time To Die, have been deluged by plot leaks and scene shots in newspapers, magazines and on the internet since filming began in the spring. And bafflingly, even the people making the movie appear to want everyone to be in on it. Not only is the production leaking like a speedboat peppered with machine gun bullets, but the director himself is “getting in on the act” – posting a video from the set on social media. Of course, every film studio gives out some details of upcoming productions and MGM’s official synopsis for 007’s 25th outing reads: “Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica.
“His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond on to the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.”
But more details began to leak as early as March, when Norwegian media began running pictures of a film set in Nittedal, 18 miles north of the capital Oslo. Then paperwork from the local production company, True North, appeared online.
The scene being shot was described as: “A child shoots an intruder. She is chased by a second intruder and runs on to a frozen lake.” It is thought that this is a flashback experienced by Madeleine Swann, played by Lea Seydoux, who described just such a scene to 007 on a train journey in the last Bond film, Spectre.
A month later, the first pictures of Daniel Craig as 007 appeared when he began shooting with Jeffrey Wright, who plays Felix, at Bond creator Ian Fleming’s Jamaican retreat, Goldeneye.
‘Bond’ snapped behind wheel of Aston Martin
By June, the film’s American director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, released a video, On Set With Bond 25: Jamaica. Cynics suggested this was not so much part of a sophisticated marketing campaign as a desperate attempt to distract attention from a series of unfortunate episodes.
Craig sustained an ankle injury that required surgery, a controlled explosion at Pinewood Studios went wrong, injuring a member of the crew.
The run of bad news ended with a maintenance man jailed for hiding a spy camera in the ladies’ toilets.
By August, the cast was in the picturesque village of Matera in southern Italy – and once again, the press and tourists with cameraphones were on hand to see the filming.
Bond’s Aston Martin was seen speeding through the streets, chased by a helicopter. British actress Lashana Lynch was also spotted for the first time, with gun-toting pictures apparently confirming her role as the first black 007, having been given the service number during Bond’s “retirement”.
It also emerged the “dangerous new technology” wielded by Rami Malek’s villain concerns genetic engineering and the Human Genome Project.
All this begs the question: are there going to be any plot twists that haven’t been well and truly signposted, by the time the film finally reaches the cinemas in April?
Must we conclude that today’s Bond fan goes to watch his latest outing for the big-screen experience, rather than shocks and surprises? Few are better equipped to address this than James Chapman, professor of film studies at Leicester University and an expert on the Bond genre.
“My rather boring academic answer is yes and no,” he says. “Bond films are posited on a pattern of repetition and variation. On the one hand, we always know what to expect: action, adventure, some romance, all in photogenic locations.
“We know that Bond will shoot people, that there’ll be chases and that things will get blown up. We’ll be disappointed if we don’t get those things.
“On the other hand, we want to be surprised a bit within those parameters. So, for example, we expect Bond might have a tricked-up car, but we don’t necessarily know what the gadgets will be.
“We expect the villain to have a grand conspiracy, but knowing that doesn’t tell us how it will be used or how Bond will vanquish the villain.”
Prof Chapman, author of Licence To Thrill: A Cultural History Of The James Bond Films, adds: “I think there’s been a complete sea-change in the attitude towards spoilers since the advent of the internet, and, particularly, online social media.
Pre-internet was what might be called the age of scarcity: information about a new Bond movie tended to be drip-fed into the popular and trade press and diehard fans would search far and wide for nuggets and tidbits.
“Post-internet is the age of abundance: we’re saturated with news, official and unofficial, and a lot of fans now want to avoid it at all costs. Fans used to want details when they couldn’t get them, and now they can get them, don’t want them.”
Indeed, Prof Chapman reckons that in many ways, official publicity material tends to be far less informative and revelatory, citing the theatrical trailer for The Spy Who Loved Me.
“Every twist and surprise in the picture is in the trailer: the car turns into a submarine; Anya learns it was Bond who killed her boyfriend; and when Bond skis off the cliff, hey-ho, he’s got a parachute,” he says.
“Nowadays, there won’t be any big reveals in the trailer, which will be released online, with the opportunity for constant replay and freeze-frame, before it’s in cinemas.”
Prof Chapman dismisses “official spoilers”, such as Fukunaga’s one-minute on-set video, as not really worthy of the term.
US director Cary released details about filming on set with Bond
“The on-set video hardly tells us anything about the film,” he argues. “It might have been released to counter some media reports that Craig and Fukunaga had a falling-out on set.
“These sorts of things are usually about what a happy team it is, how everyone loves working with everyone, and what a great movie it’s going to be.”
The Lashana Lynch story is more interesting and might have been put out just to inflame the “Bond can’t be black, Bond can’t a woman” brigade, he says.
Sunday Express film critic Andy Lea says other studios are already in on the trend, with publicists focusing on this form of free publicity.
“In September last year, the publicity machine for current box office topper Joker jumped into life when detailed images of Joaquin Phoenix running through the streets of New York in costume appeared on social media,” he says.
“Photographers seem to know where to set up cameras, plot tidbits are leaked and loose-lipped crew members appear to go unpunished. The recent Bond stories may have been unsanctioned, but it’s hard not to suspect some form of espionage!”
Whoever is right, of one thing we can be sure: a certain Mr Bond will outmanoeuvre the baddies and clean up at the box office once again.