Why Danny Boyle's James Bond film could be a radical departure for 007

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
What would a Danny Boyle Bond film look like? We have some ideas. (Sony Pictures/Fox Searchlight)

It’s official: Danny Boyle is in talk to direct the next James Bond film.

Codenamed Bond 25, the next 007 adventure is coming to cinemas in November 2019, and all we know for certain is that Daniel Craig will return as James Bond, probably for the last time.

Boyle, the Oscar-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire, confirmed that he hopes to direct Bond 25 at the end of 2018, after he completes work the Richard Curtis-scripted musical he’s directing for Universal, but there are still a lot of moving parts that need to align before production can begin.

“We’ve got an idea, John Hodge, the screenwriter, and I have got this idea,” Boyle explained at a Q&A for his new TV series Trust in New York, “and John is writing it at the moment. And it all depends on how it turns out. It would be foolish of me to give any of it away.”

In this March 6, 2017 photo, director Danny Boyle poses for a portrait at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., to promote his film, “T2: Trainspotting,” a sequel to the 1996 film, “Trainspotting.” (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

A recent report on Deadline suggested Hodges’s script is competing with a script from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, whose 007 credits include Skyfall, Spectre, and Casino Royale, who have been developing a story since the release of Spectre in 2015.

Assuming things work out between the Trainspotting director and EON, the company that makes the James Bond films, what would a Danny Boyle-directed Bond 25 look like?

A lower budget Bond?

HRH The Queen appears in a sketch with Daniel Craig as James Bond for the ‘Opening Ceremony of The Olympics’ Shown on BBC 1 HD England – 27.07.12 Supplied by WENN.com

Danny Boyle has ruled himself out of directing a James Bond film a number of times in the past.

His name had been linked with the gig after he directed Daniel Craig as 007 for a skit with the Queen as part of his opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics, making him an obvious choice to take on Spectre after Sam Mendes’ Skyfall.

However in 2013, before Mendes had officially signed on for Spectre, Boyle dismissed the idea telling Collider, “They’re not really for me. The budgets are too big. I’m better working at a lower level of money really because I like that discipline of not having enough money to pull off whatever it is you want to pull off. So I wouldn’t be the best person to do those. No.”

He later told PA, “I like working under the radar a bit more, so you can take risks.”

The last two Bond films have had astronomical budgets (leaked emails revealed Spectre’s budget had ballooned to $300m before being cut back to $250m), so it’s possible that Boyle has proposed a more frugally-minded Bond film.

This would certainly appeal to investors with an eye on profit margins. Don’t forget: Bond 25 still doesn’t have an official distributor. MGM is currently in the process of shopping the rights to potential bidders, with Sony, Warrner Bros., and upstarts A24 reportedly in the mix, and they’ll all be keen to get a good deal on Bond 25.

A more vibrant Bond

Danny Boyle won Best Picture and Best Director for Slumdog Millionaire, starring Dev Patel. (Fox Searchlight)

Danny Boyle has an eclectic back catalogue that ranges from gritty realism (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting) to horror (28 Days Later), sci-fi (Sunshine), biopic (Steve Jobs, 127 Hours), and bollywood (Slumdog Millionaire), but one thing that unites them all is a vivid vibrancy that leaps off the screen.

This, for the most part, is down to Anthony Dod Mantle, Boyle’s regular cinematographer, who works with a rich colour palette, and a frantic, handheld camera style.

If Boyle teams up with Mantle for Bond 25, we can expect a different look than we’ve grown used to in Skyfall and Spectre, that were lensed by Roger Deakins and Hoyte Van Hoytema respectively.

Deakins and Van Hoytema, both great cinematographers in their own rights, have a more classic, painterly approach to their work than Mantle, and so Bond 25 could feel very different to the last two films.

In fact, it could bring Bond more in line with the Bourne films’ handheld, shaky cam style.

A Bond less ordinary?

Danny Boyle’s trippy heist thriller Trance wasn’t a hit with critics or audiences. (Fox Searchlight)

Another aspect of Boyle’s filmmaking style that sets him apart from other Bond directors is his use of magical realism and fantasy.

Be it the ceiling-crawling baby in Trainspotting, the video-game sequence in The Beach, or more recently the trippy hypnotherapy sessions in Trance, Boyle is not afraid to lean into the absurd for dramatic effect.

While it’s easy to imagine how Boyle’s eye for the unusual could be deployed in the Bond 25 title sequence, it’s harder to imagine how he would apply it to the grounded reality we’ve grown used to in the Daniel Craig Bond era.

Sir Roger Moore as 007 in The Man With The Golden Gun (MGM)

One example of a 007 film that explored the edges of reality is Roger Moore’s The Man With The Golden Gun with Bond’s fairground-styled duel with Scaramanga.

With Boyle on board, we might expect him to inject some levity into Craig’s final Bond adventure. And who wouldn’t want a return to the giddy heyday of Roger Moore-era Bond?

Ewan only live twice

Jonny Lee Miller and Ewan McGregor in T2: Trainspotting (Sony Pictures)

OK, this is a long shot, but given Danny Boyle’s long history with Ewan McGregor, we’d love to see the Scottish actor take a starring role in Bond 25.

McGregor was Boyle’s leading man of choice in Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, and A Life Less Ordinary, before they fell out over The Beach. The studio made Boyle cast Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead for his Alex Garland adaptation, and McGregor never forgave him.

They recently patched things up again for T2: Trainspotting, so as long as Ewan’s not too busy shooting the rumoured Obi-Wan Kenobi movie, we want him in Bond 25, preferably as another 00-agent in the mould of Sean Bean’s double-crossing Alec Trevelyan in GoldenEye.

MrGregor and Craig both studied under Ken Rea at the London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, so we’re sure they’d be keen to reunite on film as adversaries… and so would we.

Bond 25 is coming to cinemas in November, 2019.

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