No Time To Die pushes needle forward for Bond thanks to these women
25th Bond film marks many firsts, not least is the depth, significance of its female characters
The final Daniel Craig-starring Bond film, No Time To Die, is also one of many firsts – and a second.
Zoomed into a Sunday morning in London, The New Paper spoke to two of the much-delayed, long-awaited sequel's firsts – Lea Seydoux and Lashana Lynch.
At the time of the interviews, very little is known about No Time To Die, which opens in cinemas here on Sept 30.
It is the longest Bond film at two hours and 43 minutes, and it has the franchise's first American director in Cary Fukunaga.
Seydoux's character Madeleine Swann is the first female lead to return for a second film (we last saw Swann and Bond drive off into the sunset in 2015's Spectre) – yet she is quite different this time around.
"The relationship has developed," said the 36-year-old French actress.
"She is more mature, more complex and that was nice to explore."
She added: "People are craving (No Time To Die). It's entertainment, but it is also a very beautiful film – beautifully shot. At the same time, it is also very funny, very witty."
After pointing to her scenes in Scotland and Matera, Italy as her favourites, Seydoux got to the tricky subject of trying to tease the story while keeping to the cast's code of silence.
But as the trailers show, not all is well between Bond and Swann.
"There is more to their love story," Seydoux offered, her eyes occasionally going off-camera as though to check not too much is being revealed.
With a knowing grin, she added: "This will be a romantic James Bond. Our relationship is the centre of the film. And that's why it was really nice to return and develop Madeleine. This time, we have access to who she really is."
For a near 60-year-old franchise, until now, only one woman had been involved in writing the films – Johanna Harwood for Bond's initial outings, Dr No and From Russia With Love in 1962 and 1963 respectively.
This time, Craig brought in British actress-writer-producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge to bring a fresh perspective.
Seydoux found an affinity with the Fleabag creator, saying: "Phoebe is a great screenwriter and actress. We are the same age, and our generation is more affirmed. We want to make a stand for our equality."
These changes were key to making the 25th Bond stand out.
"That approach actualises in the writing. The women are more interesting in the film. They become real characters, with real depth, and not just in the service of James Bond."
Lynch is another of the film's firsts, playing Bond's 007 successor, Nomi.
The 33-year-old British actress found Waller-Bridge brought a particular focus to her character.
She said: "Phoebe has a really special way of presenting awkwardness and authenticity that I really enjoy watching, so I was already a fan."
While the meetings were brief, they were productive.
"I knew we were going to have a connection, and we did. She was on the same page as me and saw Nomi as this juxtaposition of a straight-down-the-line, confident yet slightly awkward character who often says things without thinking – but then it lands so comedically that you can't help but love her."
The franchise's progression is also played out onscreen between Nomi and Bond.
"It goes to show how far we've come gender-wise," Lynch said.
"That dynamic between Nomi and Bond represents the conversations people are having on gender norms that make sense to my brain on how the world – and the industry – should be changing.
"Whether that means in political spaces or writing rooms on films like No Time To Die, we're pushing that needle forward and I'm really proud to be part of it."
Lynch, who played fighter pilot Maria Rambeau in the 2019 superhero blockbuster Captain Marvel, is not just in the movie to argue with Bond. There is, of course, plenty of action she throws herself into.
"I'm new to this stunt world, so even before the shoot I was diving into wushu and boxing."
While she is grateful to the film's stunt team for unleashing her "inner stuntwoman", her dedication on set was not just to add a new skillset to her CV.
"I cleaned my diet and was in the stunt room nearly every day just to make sure I was physically and mentally prepared to take on this role and convey it in a way I think not only the franchise deserves, but that the audience deserves too."