5 Facts (& 2 Rumors) About Danny Boyle’s Abandoned James Bond Movie

Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) was announced as the director of Bond 25 in May 2018. EON Productions reportedly loved the pitch from Boyle’s writing partner John Hodge

The screenplay in development by long-time Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade is dropped. But just a few months later, in August, Boyle and Hodge quit Bond 25 over “creative differences”. The duo leave just four months before the scheduled kick-off of shooting in December. 

At the time, the media portrayed Boyle as the bad guy: the director who wanted to kill 007.

After Boyle left, everyone thought Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson had saved Britain’s top spy from the unthinkable. But they hadn’t.

When No Time To Die finally hit theaters in 2021, it became clear–painfully for many–that Bond’s death had made it into the final film. More importantly, the plan to kill 007 had been in place before Boyle and Hodge signed on.

According to the James Bond and Friends podcast, the death of James Bond was a “stipulation” by Daniel Craig to return to the role. This was seemingly confirmed by Hodge.

“My understanding was that that twist had been decided even before we came on board because Daniel Craig wanted it,” Hodge told The Guardian in 2022. 

Boyle left the project when Broccoli and Wilson wanted to sideline Hodge and bring in new writers. The producers later abandoned his film completely despite casting a villain and building sets in London and Canada (and even blowing one up at Pinewood Studios).

Slowly over the last few years, Boyle, Hodge, and production designer Mark Tildesley shared interesting tidbits about Boyle’s version of Bond 25. As you’ll see, it’s vastly different from Cary Joji Fukunaga‘s No Time To Die. There are some interesting ideas, some rumors, and even a revelation that suggests Fukunaga may have begun filming Boyle and Hodge’s script before abandoning it.

1. A “Modern-Day Cold War” Plot Set in Russia

In 2022, Boyle told Esquire that Bond 25 was “all set in Russia, which is of course where Bond came from, out of the Cold War. It was set in present-day Russia and went back to his origins, and they [EON Productions] just lost, what’s the word… they just lost confidence in it.”

Described as a “modern-day Cold War plot”, Hodge’s script involved a mad Russian who wants to return to the days of the USSR with himself as the new Soviet leader. He’s modeled himself on Stalin, even re-building Russian gulags for dissidents and a certain British agent.

In an unusual twist, the Russians capture Bond and he spends most of the film in a gulag. Having 007 imprisoned for most of the film to only end up dead at the end, might have been too much for EON. 

2. The Construction of a Missile Silo, a Rocket & a Gulag Set

In a 2020 interview with MediaFilm LPSB, No Time To Die production designer Mark Tildeseley revealed that a gulag set was partially built in the Canadian mountains, which is why there is a Canadian credit in No Time to Die’s closing credits.

Tildeseley also completed a missile silo set that was blown up on the Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios in June 2019.

A long-time collaborator of Boyle, Tildesley continued to work under Fukunaga on new sets after Boyle left. 

The designer said his missile silo set, which included a 350-foot rocket, looked “tiny” inside the vast expanse of the emptied water tank inside the 007 Stage. But when blown up, the explosion damaged the stage and injured a crew member outside the building.

“What we didn’t account for was that the explosion would ricochet off of the concrete walls of the tank driving the force of the blast north which would then take the roof of the Bond stage apart, yeah. And so there were some miscalculations there and so the roof blew up and the sides, the tops of it blew out.”

The sets and the cost of renting the 007 Stage to house and blow the missile silo sky-high are two reasons why the budget for No Time To Die was so high (a phenomenal $300 million). 

The timing of the explosion is interesting. Fukunaga took over as director in September 2018, and the explosion happened on June 4, 2019. Did Fukunaga film part of Hodge’s script before changing direction? Nothing is confirmed. The official stand is that Fukunaga was offered the chance to repurpose the missile silo set, but refused.

3. The Main Villain Is Cast, Then Fired

Tomas Kot (left) was Danny Boyle’s first choice to play the central Russian villain. Then, Said Taghmaoui (right) was hired by Boyle, but let go after Boyle left the project.

Casting calls were sent out in 2018 for Russian actors to play the villain and his wife (who would also presumably be a femme fatale for Bond), and a Maori actor aged between 35 and 55 to play a loyal henchman who possesses “combat skills”.

While no confirmation exists on the casting of the villain’s wife or the henchman, Boyle considered two actors for the lead villain: Tomasz Kot and Wonder Woman alum, Said Taghmaoui.

Boyle’s first choice was Kot, but his selection allegedly caused conflict with Craig, who thought the Polish actor just wasn’t well-known enough, even after his recent success on Cold War.

Rumors spread that this conflict was the reason for Boyle’s exit, but the story remains unconfirmed.

Kot did, however, issue a public statement through his agency confirming that Boyle considered him to play the Russian mastermind. 

“It is true that Tomasz Kot was asked by the director to prepare a couple of scenes where he showcased the latest Bond villains and he did that with great pleasure,” read the statement.

Boyle then cast Said Taghmaoui. But the actor’s involvement was soon in limbo when Boyle departed.

“We don’t know who the director will be, and the producers don’t know if they’re going to go Russian or Middle East with the baddie right now,” Said told The National. “I literally just received a message saying: ‘If they go Middle East, it’s you. If they go Russian, it’s someone else.’ It’s the story of my life. Always on that line between something that could change my life and something that disappears.”

Unfortunately for Taghmaoui, the villain was neither Middle Eastern nor Russian. Hodge’s script was dropped, and Purvis and Wade resumed work on their version of Bond 25, which became No Time To Die.

After his Oscar-winning turn in Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami Malek would sign up to play lead villain Lyutsifer Safin in February 2019.

4. Hodge introduced Bond’s Child

In No Time to Die, Bond meets his five-year-old daughter Mathilde. The safety of Mathilde and her mother, Madeleine Swann, is the main impetus behind Bond’s demise at the film’s end. But the idea of Bond’s child originally came from John Hodge.

“The idea that they used in a different way was the one of [James Bond’s] child, which [Hodge] introduced [and which] was wonderful,” Boyle told Esquire.

Neither Hodge nor Boyle elaborated, but early rumors suggested Bond would be reacquainted with a female villain with a “personal connection” to Bond. Could she have been the original mother of Bond’s child? Who knows, but there is no mention of Madeleine Swann in Hodge and Boyle’s version of Bond 25.

5. No Way Out: Bond Hitches a Ride on the Rocket

Bond dies in No Time to Die. At first, rumors suggested Boyle was let go for wanting to kill Bond. Then, it was suggested Craig only returned to the role if Bond died. And finally, the claim was made that Boyle left the project because he did not want to kill Bond.

In fact, the death of James Bond is in Boyle and Hodge’s screenplay. And it teases a far more spectacular send-off than Bond received in No Time To Die. 

Their ending has shades of Fleming’s novel, Moonraker, in which Hugo Drax plans to drop a new nuclear missile on London. But unlike the novel, Bond can’t stop it from the ground in Hodge’s screenplay. Instead, he has to hitch a ride on the rocket and has to destroy it or alter its course before the missile reaches its target, dying in the process. 

The no-way-out situation that Boyle and Hodge concocted would still have displeased audiences because few want to see Bond die. It’s a Hobson’s choice for Bond. He can’t choose himself over civilization, nor would he. At least it would not feel suicidal like his demise at the end of No Time To Die.

6. Does Abandoned Concept Art Show the Inside And Outside of a Russian Gulag & Missile Base?

While Boyle, Hodge, and Tildeseley revealed the basic plot, villains, and Russian locations and sets (including a gulag and missile silo), No Time To Die’s concept artist Tim Browning quietly published early concepts for the film on his website.

So far, Browning has not discussed the context of these designs. But they are intriguing because they hint at an expansive movie quite different from No Time to Die. There’s a solar farm in Africa, an Arctic train, a submerged lab, a building in the middle of a rainforest or jungle, a rocket in a silo, and a man exploring subterranean tunnels dressed in a protective suit and a helmet with a mining light (could this be Bond?).

Two images are immediately recognizable concept art for Boyle’s film. The Arctic train heads towards a gap between a mountain range, which is likely the entrance to the gulag set partially constructed in the Canadian mountains.

Image: krop.com/timbrowning

Unexpectedly, the missile lies in a horizontal silo (rather than vertical), and there are two figures – a man and a woman – wearing protective suits walking underneath it.

Image: krop.com/timbrowning

The subterranean missile silo matches the other images of a subterranean sequence of tunnels, rooms, and a submerged bio lab. Could this be part of the Russian gulag connecting to an underground missile silo? If the images are indeed linked, then the payload of the missile may have been a bioweapon rather than the standard nuclear warhead Bond disables.

Many of these images may have nothing to do with Boyle’s proposed film. Hopefully, Browning will discuss these images soon.

7. Bond’s Rumored Female Protégée Resuces Him?

Reddit user “CahleyPersia” reported in early March 2018 that Bond’s female protégée would be introduced through flashbacks of Bond training her and she would come to his rescue, presumably freeing him from imprisonment inside the gulag.

Reddit is hardly a reliable source, but the site has been the source of accurate leaks on major film productions in the past, nonetheless. 

This rumor can not be given much substance and, perhaps, can be ruled out because of its similarity to the relationship between Keri Russell’s IMF agent to Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible 3. Her character is incarcerated, and her training by Hunt is also revealed in flashbacks.


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