No Time To Die: We've been expecting you, Mr Bond...

After lengthy Covid-related delays, No Time To Die has finally arrived in cinemas. Laura Harding talks to Daniel Craig about playing 007 for the last time and meets the stars and creatives to discuss the long journey to releasing the movie and the future of the franchise

Undated film still handout from No Time To Die. Pictured: Daniel Craig as James Bond. See PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Bond. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/© 2019 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED/Nicola Dove. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Bond.

THERE was a time when it started to feel like we might never get to see Daniel Craig's 007 swan song.

No Time To Die has been delayed, delayed and delayed again and while other films cut their losses and were made available at home, the actor's final turn as James Bond has remained a truly big screen experience.

And now it is finally here, unveiled at a glittering London premiere attended by members of the royal family, and with the weight of expectation firmly on the spy's tuxedo-clad shoulders.

"It's a massive relief that we actually got here," Craig says frankly, dapper in a crisp grey suit, teamed with a polka dot tie and neatly folded pocket square.

"Last year, it felt like it would never happen, for obvious reasons, and you had to just be resigned to it, that was just the way it was going to be. But everyone's so proud and happy about this film, so just to get it out there and for people to go and see it is momentous for everybody."

Now 53, Craig, who first played the spy with the licence to kill in 2006's Casino Royale, has always been adamant that this film, his fifth in the role, would be his last.

He has spent 15 years carrying the mantle of the darkest and most brooding Bond, and is ready to hand over the keys to the Aston Martin to someone else.

"I'm just so grateful for the fact that I got a chance to go and make one last one, and for it be this one, and to sort of finish telling the story," he says.

"This has been a massive part of my life. I'm never not going to think about this, it's been too big a thing in my life."

No Time To Die takes place after the capture of villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, played by Christoph Waltz, when Bond and love interest Madeleine Swann, played by Léa Seydoux, ran off together at the end of 2015's Spectre.

It finds Bond after he has left active service, enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica, although it seems the couple are not guaranteed a happily ever after.

"The fact that we had this gap, and the pandemic and everything, it makes it even more emotional," French star Seydoux (36) says.

"Of course it's James Bond, and everybody's expecting this film, but it's also a reunion, and it will celebrate cinema. I think that people need some entertainment, they need some lightness, even though I don't know if it will be very light."

Indeed Craig, a devotee of the big screen experience, is hopeful his final outing will provide a shot in the arm for cinemas who have struggled to get back on their feet following pandemic closures.

"There's a great deal of expectation surrounding this film," he acknowledges.

"I believe in cinema, it's the job I do, and having this film come out right now and try and hopefully to give the industry some sort of boost.

"Cinema is here to stay as far as I'm concerned and if we can help in some way, I'll be very happy."

Rami Malek (40), an Oscar winner for Bohemian Rhapsody, who joins the franchise as the sinister villain Safin, certainly feels the same way.

"I would be devastated if we lost this great global pastime", he says passionately.

"It is, for me, one of the great arts that we have to share with with each other and with the world.

"If this film can reinvigorate our ability to go back to those places that we just have fallen in love with in our youth and throughout our lives, then I would feel a great privilege. I won't say I'd be responsible for it, but I'd love to be included in bringing that back, to be able to share with the world. We need it."

It was reported that US studio MGM held discussions with Netflix and Apple about releasing No Time To Die directly on to a streaming platform but, asked if it came close to the film bypassing a theatrical release, producer Barbara Broccoli is adamant: "Not for us."

She continues: "Fortunately, we have great partners with MGM and they stuck with us, and the pressure was tremendous on them, obviously.

"But I think we've learned many things during this 18-month period and certainly one of them is the sense of community, that we need people, we're social creatures, and we need each other.

"I think there's no better place to come together than the cinema.

"And we are hoping this is going to be a joyful return for people to come back with their friends and their families to see the film and to again celebrate, after a very long and difficult period."

Now all eyes turn to a potential successor for Craig, with questions raised about whether that person should be a woman, or a non-white performer.

On one point at least, Broccoli, who signs off on every key hiring and firing decision in the franchise, is sure.

"James Bond is a male character," she says. "I hope that there will be many, many films made with women, for women, by women, about women.

"I don't think we have to take a male character and have a woman portray him.

"So yes, I see him as male. And I'm sort of in denial, I would love for Daniel to continue forever.

"So I'm not thinking about it, that's something Michael (G Wilson, her half-brother and fellow producer) and I will discuss next year."

The franchise has taken a significant step forward in with the casting of British actress Lashana Lynch (33) as a new 00 agent, Nomi, who seems to be more than capable of giving Bond a run for his money.

While she may or may not be Bond's direct successor, Lynch sees this as a "completely significant" moment for the future of the films.

"It's a reflection of where we are right now, where I personally would like the world to go," she says.

"It's a real reminder that we need to keep having conversations about all communities around the world so that we can keep including everyone in our cinema, in our TV, theatre, radio, across the board, so that we're not one note.

"I never want to be one note with anything, and I would hope that the industry never wants to be one note.

"We want everything to be as colourful and as as open and inclusive as possible. That's partly what I think she (Nomi) represents, but also she's bold and fierce and standing up for women, black women.

"We shot in Jamaica and that is a massive deal for me. I'm Jamaican and there's just so many things that she's ticked off alone that I actually think that a lot of filmmakers, if they're going to create someone like Nomi in the future, have got a great example in her as the bold female that she is."

::No Time To Die is in cinemas now.

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