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After long delay, ‘No Time to Die’ director can’t wait to hear reactions

Cary Fukunaga rushed to finish the James Bond film, only to see it languish for a year and a half during the pandemic.

“No Time to Die” director Cary Fukunaga (right) appears with the film’s stars — Lashana Lynch (from left), Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux — at its world premiere in London on Sept.28
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

The film business is inherently full of starts and stops, but few have experienced the phrase “hurry up and wait” quite like “No Time to Die” director Cary Fukunaga.

Fukunaga, the 44-year-old filmmaker of “Beasts of No Nation” and the first season of “True Detective,” took the job directing the 25th Bond film after Danny Boyle dropped out. What followed was, for a big-budget movie like “No Time to Die,” a sprint to rewrite the script, begin production in spring 2019, wrap by the fall and have the film ready for release in April 2020.

But when the pandemic arrived, the fittingly titled “No Time to Die” was put on ice for a year and a half while MGM and United Artists Releasing awaited the right conditions to open a film that cost at least $250 million to make.

Fukunaga, the first American to direct a Bond film in the franchise’s 58 years, has since moved onto other projects. But the wait for the biggest movie of his career has been — like most things during the pandemic — discombobulating. The movie now is scheduled to be released Wednesday.

Q. What’s this experience been like, waiting for “No Time to Die” to be released?

A. I’ve never experienced anything like this. There have been releases that come out later but never by that much — especially because we broke our backs just trying to get done in time. So it’s been strange. You want to watch it with an audience and see how people react. But you just kind of put it behind you. What I haven’t gotten on this one is the satisfaction of anyone else seeing the film and saying “I hated it” or “I like it.” That’s the part you’re waiting for.

Q. Hollywood has been struggling during the pandemic to decide what’s best for its most expensive films, like “No Time to Die,” which need to sell a huge amount of tickets to break even. Do you feel that pressure?

A. Of course. You want the film to perform as best it can. You have the industry professionals telling you everyone’s optimistic, but no one really knows what’s going to happen. You have the out to say COVID is the reason it underperformed. You want to be the exception and have people show up in mass. You don’t want a pandemic to be the reason people didn’t show up to see your film.

Q. The film has been called more a psychological thriller. Is that accurate?

A. If there’s a needle that bent one way or the other based on genre, it’s still categorially a Bond film. But it would lean to the psychological side.

Q. It seems there were some Bond traditions you and your collaborates were set on losing or inverting, like the old-fashioned Bond woman.

A. I think we all wanted — and I would say Barbara included — that we didn’t want to fall into the trope of abandoning the last girl and moving on to the next one. There’s even a technical term for that, which is called “fridging,” which is just an awful word. It was actually pretty fun to play with the expectation of the disposability of the Bond woman. The fun part is to not feel like you’re being reactionary to the currents of the time but nodding to the currents of the time with respect and awareness to character, story and place.