Hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nicolás Suszczyk has been a James Bond fan since 1998, when at the age of seven, he first watched GoldenEye on the television, followed shortly after by Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough on the big screen. Since then, he has gone on to create and manage three Bond fan sites: The GoldenEye Dossier, dedicated to the 17th James Bond; Bond En Argentina, an online archive of James Bond publications from his home country; and The Secret Agents Lair, a blog dedicated to the fictional spies of cinema and literature, with Jack Walter Christian.
Following the success of his first two books The World of GoldenEye and The Bond of the Millennium, Nicolás has published his third book A View To A Thrill: A Closer Look At The James Bond Trailers and its Spanish translation Licencia Para Promocionar: Un Vistazo a los Tráilers de 007.
Before beginning work on this book, did you have a favourite James Bond movie trailer? Has that changed since researching and completing this book?
Not really, I’m particularly fond of the GoldenEye one and those of the Pierce Brosnan era, but mainly because we’re talking about my favourite Bond films. However, I’d say most of the trailers are great in their own way, although the Skyfall teaser needed a little bit of the James Bond Theme. The You Only Live Twice teaser trailer feels very cheesy for today’s idea of an action movie (Bond and beyond) but I guess it worked back in the day.
In your opinion, what makes for a good Bond trailer?
I would say it needs to have the Bond iconography at some point: the 007 logo, a remix of the James Bond Theme, and a good mix of the usual glamour and dynamism of the Bond movies. We should have a short idea of what the film can offer us. There’s also the importance of the title card, which in my opinion was quite lame in the later films. I hoped for the title next to an image of Bond as in Quantum of Solace or The World Is Not Enough. In the case of Skyfall, SPECTRE and No Time To Die, the title goes against a black background. Yes, we have that nice way of forming the letters of the logo, but still, the black background feels a little bit dull and unengaging.
But to answer the question, I think a Bond trailer has to leave you hungry. Misdirect you a bit. They have to offer you something that instead of satisfying your doubts, gives you more things to think about. Just look at No Time To Die, the same with all the recent Bond films (which in the matter of trailers are a huge improvement of the past): all you see is a fast-paced edit of action scenes and locations. Do I know what it’s all about? I may have an idea now about where the film is heading and I certainly have more answers than when the cast and synopsis of the film were unveiled in April 2019, but I have a million of more doubts: what is Bond doing in that nightclub when a spotlight focuses on him? Why has Madeleine “betrayed” Bond if she really did? What does Nomi mean with shooting Bond’s “working” leg, did he have an accident? And how is Safin “playing God”? Far from being spoiled as in the 60s or 70s trailers, I’m even more lost and expectant for the movie.
Since the release of the first James Bond film, Dr. No in 1962, the films have traditionally been accompanied by a UK and US trailer release, with subtle differences between the two.
Why the need to release two different trailers for the UK and US markets? Is it down to audience trends and appetites, or a familiarity, or lack thereof, with the character and Ian Fleming’s novels? How important are these differences when promoting the films to different markets and audiences?
Well, I am under the impression that the Americans maybe prefer more adventure than mystery, so the Dr No US trailer goes more to the point and has a funny flair on Bond instead of focusing on the mysterious villain as in the British trailer. Same with Skyfall, the British trailer begins with M mourning Bond while writing his obituary and the US one takes us to the first major action scene in Turkey. I think this is a very clever way to engage different audiences. It’s probably not as equally important now in a globalized society where with YouTube you can see a trailer for a different territory, but in 1963, long before Bond was a success, you had to find a clever way to introduce this very British hero to the other side of the Atlantic. So you have to emphasise somehow that Kennedy read his novels (“The favourite of millions from Hong Kong to Hyannis Port“) and that this was a dashing and clever action hero who dressed well and could easily beat the bad guys. The American trailer has a certain “action film” feeling while the British has a certain noir feeling.
No longer presenting the character [James Bond] as “the hero from the Ian Fleming novels” or “Dr. No’s secret agent”, Goldfinger (1964) was the first trailer to detach from both Ian Fleming and the previous films.
How important was this departure from the original source material in setting up an independent character, capable of carrying their own film? Did this move set the very foundations for the future success of the franchise, one that could survive long after Sean Connery left the role?
Very important, I think. It was the first acknowledgement that James Bond survived his maker and that what made the character popular worldwide were more the films than the novels. In many countries, the novels were translated after the films were successful and the covers had an illustration based on Sean Connery’s face or with stills of the films. Thankfully, Ian Fleming wasn’t completely left out as the credits keep introducing our hero as “Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007“, but I think that by You Only Live Twice onwards the producers understood that the success and responsibility of keeping Bond alive was theirs and after four successful movies they didn’t need to rely on Fleming’s name.
Back in the 60s people were expecting to see the adaptation of novels they have read, now that doesn’t happen too frequently and in most cases people read the novels after watching the movies. I think the man on the street first relates James Bond to the EON film series, and then he’ll remember the Fleming novels, the comics and the video games. The truth is that well into the 70s and 80s we were waiting for “the next James Bond film” and not “the next adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel”, so that explains pretty much why the credit of Fleming got smaller and smaller in time.
How much influence did the change in character direction away from Ian Fleming’s “blunt instrument”, to the ultimate desirable man have on the success of the franchise? Would the franchise have lasted as long if it had continued the tone of the first two films, Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963)?
I often wonder what would have happened if EON was able to adapt the Ian Fleming novels in chronological order and faithfully from Casino Royale to The Man With The Golden Gun and the short stories as, say, TV productions. I don’t think that would have allowed the phenomenon Bond is now, mainly because the rules of the cinema are more dynamic and visual than the novels. For example, Martin Campbell and the scribes Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis did a splendid job in Casino Royale: that is what I call understanding the rules of cinema. They kept the heart and soul of the novel but they fought hard to make a tame and slow-paced film and came up with all this original background story of Mollaka and Dimitrios and the Miami Airport scene which helps a lot, and adding a fistfight in the middle of the poker game to engage audiences and an action finale in Venice.
I think that pretty much applies to the early Bond films as well, the 60s were a revolution, man was exploring outer space, landing on the moon, so I think Cubby and Harry knew they had to adapt to the times and raise Bond’s womanizing antics and making him a winner instead of the troubled and reflexive man of the novels. It was pretty much the idea of exploiting a male fantasy where Bond could drive fast cars, seduce beautiful women, visit exotic locations … all elements already present in the Fleming novels, only that exacerbated in films like Goldfinger or You Only Live Twice.
The best thing that could happen to EON was not having the rights of Casino Royale in 1961 and having to find their own way to adapt Bond and reconfigure the order of the novels. That made them understand, I think, to not fully rely on a source material, a leading actor, a director or a screenwriter. That led them to understand Bond could have great original adventures as GoldenEye or The World Is Not Enough and take references from Fleming here and there, but they didn’t face a scenario where they said: “Oh, we have reached the last Fleming novel. After The Man With The Golden Gun we are done with this series”. That would have probably been the end for Bond, at least as we know him.
Following his casting in Dr. No, Sean Connery had become synonymous with the character, with audiences largely seeing him as James Bond. How important was it that the trailers for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Live and Let Die separated the character from the actor, and showed audiences that the character was bigger than any one actor?
It all relied on the production team, I think. By 1969 and 1973, James Bond had a musical and visual identity: the Bond theme, the gun barrel, the 007 gun logo … that made things easier. It’s like the Batman theme or the Batmobile, there is a point where you can expect a new actor in the role and be certain that what we are seeing is part of the same series and the same people, so everything isn’t really new. The action, the girls, the stunts, the locations was all there, and that was it.
How much impact did Casino Royale (1967) and the casting of George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) have on the promotional material for Bond? How much pressure was the marketing department under to ensure the continued success of the franchise in light of the release of rival films and the casting of a new, unknown, actor in the lead role?
Casino Royale was a real challenge for the You Only Live Twice campaign, it made them remind audiences that “Sean Connery IS James Bond, the one and only” even when we were talking about a comedy. Someone else could legally use “James Bond 007” to sell their films so it can confuse audiences and back then we didn’t have internet or that many movie magazines to understand what was behind Charles K Feldman’s production.
The same scenario taking place today, imagine someone is allowed to make a Bond film outside EON and screen it in 2020 before or after No Time To Die, we could read interviews and production notes to understand why this “unofficial” movie is being made and why it has nothing to do with the real “James Bond”. But back in 1967, there were two James Bond movies in the big screen. That alone made EON emphasise who was the real James Bond.
In the case of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, that’s even more curious: the graphic campaigns tried to hide Lazenby’s name and the fact there was a new Bond, but the trailers didn’t. On the contrary, trailers were very specific that he was “The new Bond, the different 007”. I guess it was a marketing strategy to establish there was something special in this Bond, that he fell in love, he was more human but also quite deadly.
By the time of his casting in 1973’s Live and Let Die, Roger Moore was already a household name, thanks largely to his roles as Brett Sinclair and Simon Templar in the televisions series, The Persuaders! and The Saint.
How important were the trailers for Live and Let Die in establishing, not only, the Roger Moore era, but also the more humouristic, tongue-in-cheek, portrayal of the character, one that differed greatly from that of Connery and Lazenby era’s? Would audiences have accepted this tonal shift had Moore not already been known for playing this type of character? Or had audiences come to expect this type of character from him?
I think it was certainly expected and the change really happened in Diamonds Are Forever, still with Connery in the role. While today is greatly appreciated, in 1969 people were a bit puzzled about the emotional Bond of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and its tragic ending. So they went back to the Goldfinger formula for the 1971 film: escapism, action, explosions and beautiful girls with little clothes. That naturally led to the Roger Moore era and the fact that Moore was associated to the adventurous feeling of The Saint and The Persuaders. So it was a mix of the both. The producers also try to balance when a Bond is too dark and some lightness is needed and vice versa. Look at GoldenEye after Licence To Kill or Skyfall and SPECTRE after Quantum of Solace: the gadgets were back, Bond made jokes again, there were some gags. It all depends on what the audience demands when a film is released in a determined era.
Equally, could a Roger Moore take on Bond that differed in tone from his well known and loved humouristic style have been as successful and enduring? Or would audiences have been disappointed, or perhaps, even rejected, his portrayal of the character, had he approached it in a far more serious manner, one akin to that of the pages of Fleming, or that of his predecessors?
I doubt it, Tom Mankiewicz pointed out that having Moore slapping a girl in the Connery style wouldn’t feel right with his portrayal. It looks forced when he does it in The Man With The Golden Gun. I don’t think the audiences would have bought a gritty take on Moore’s Bond. I think Pierce Brosnan can be tough as Craig or Dalton (see The Fourth Protocol and Butterfly On A Wheel), more toughness in the role could have worked if audiences demanded it, but in the case of Moore, people wanted a more adventurous relief. A Bond oriented for teenage audiences, if you like.
How much pressure did proclaiming each new Bond adventure to be “the biggest” and “the best”, put the filmmakers under to follow through with these claims? At what point does it become self parody?
There was some logic to it in Thunderball, You Only Live Twice or The Spy Who Loved Me, I think. Those films were really extravagant when compared to prior adventures: sets became bigger, threats affected human race, and those films were generally more expensive than the others. But many times it was just a saying. Octopussy and A View To A Kill, for example, you don’t feel those are out of this world adventures and the “bigger” and “better” is just a promotional stunt.
The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill could be seen as the introduction of the modern James Bond trailer, which featured the intercutting of scenes, action and dialogue, instead of the narration, repetition and the use of full clips favoured in the 1960s and 70s. And, for the first time, the trailers made no mention of the character’s creator, Ian Fleming.
How important was this modernisation in keeping the franchise relevant, and ensuring the future success of the franchise? What impact did this change in style to a darker, more minimalistic and narrator less trailer have on the introduction of Timothy?
It was the first acknowledgement of more serious and dramatic takes on Bond I think, where you let the action speak for itself and you make the audience focus on it. You have an idea of the plot and then it’s just a blast of action sequences. I think it was very important, because this not only established a darker Bond in tone with the times but it also promised a spectacular action movie and satisfied the crave of the action/adventure audiences. It wasn’t important anymore if Ian Fleming wrote the text in which the film is based or who are the co-stars of the film, now the fact that we are watching a James Bond movie with lots of action comes first and then you have all the rest. That was pretty much the idea in the Dalton and Brosnan films, I think.
Tomorrow Never Die was the first Bond film to debut its trailer on the internet. What considerations were taken into account when creating a trailer that would be released to both a cinematic and online audience? Were changes made to style and content to attract both audiences, or was the technology still new to effect much change?
Well, with the arrival of the Internet, audiences are waiting for the trailers. They can watch it at any time and any place as long as they have a computer or a cell phone with internet connection. Now you don’t have to watch a whole film or wait for the trailer to be shown on TV, the internet made everything more dynamic and No Time To Die, for example, proved how much we are on the lookout for the day and time to be the first to watch it and share it. I think that’s why Tomorrow Never Dies and the following movies had teaser trailers made of rapid edits before the film was wrapped, so that with the immediacy of the internet we became more satisfied with the product.
The visuals have changed very much in the Brosnan era: editing became more professional, dialogues were intercut to different scenes, there’s all this intentional misleading where a line could belong to a different scene from where we hear it. New technological tools has made magic into trailers, I think. They also have to be conscious not to give themselves away and to give some misleading clues to the watcher to make him speculate and analyse. See how much speculation has there been from the trailers of the latest Bond movies, even entire articles written on blogs. Ah, there’s also the freeze- framing thing! You can now “own” the trailer, freeze-frame it and analyse all the little things, something you couldn’t do when you got it at the cinema. I think that’s in part the reason why the editors and marketing team wasn’t so worried with letting one or two spoilers spill into the trailer, because they didn’t count with people noticing or that they’d forget between the first trailer and the film.
Would the reintroduction of James Bond during the Daniel Craig era have worked with a Brosnan style trailer, featuring martinis, girls and guns? Or did the films tonal change require a toned down trailer to launch the new iteration of the character in the modern era? How important was this toned down teaser trailer in establishing the new direction of the character in the Daniel Craig era?
Probably not, after all they wanted to focus on the dark side of Bond and not introducing him as the ace of the secret agents but showcase him as a more complex character that doesn’t enjoy his life that much. Drama and mystery was the turning point of the Craig era, what they wanted to sell is what harsh trials will this new Bond endure, how much he would bleed and suffered apart from all the usual action sequences. Casino Royale, for the first seconds, introduces to us a noir-film style assassin and is the gun barrel sequence and the Bond theme the one that tells us that we’re watching the beginning of Bond. Even when I say that the Brosnan era was much more gritty and revolutionary than what people think it is, I think that from a marketing point of view the idea was to give us a more relaxed and traditional Bond, a Connery for the 90s. The Craig films, on the other hand, reworked the flair of Dalton’s Bond for a more aggressive and insecure world, and I think it fits right now as the Brosnan trailer fitted the style of the 90s perfectly.
How much impact do you think the trailer(s) had on the success of SPECTRE? Many fans felt the trailer was misleading and promoted a different type of film from the one ultimately released in cinema’s. Do you think this was intentional? Was it intended to make the final film feel stronger and more mysterious than it ultimately was? Or was it an attempt at damage control following the Sony hacks which leaked a late version the films script?
Probably, getting two drafts of the script leaked must have confused them and thinking of reworking many ideas to surprise people. However, I think the teaser trailer resembles the synopsis pretty accurately: we see Bond getting a cryptic message from his past and pitting him against a mysterious organization, led by someone he knew well. I think the script had very good ideas that probably were scrapped due to the leaks: a poker match with Blofeld and a better development of Bond and Madeleine, also more on the Blofeld-Mr White background. Perhaps in the attempt to give us a surprise they touched things way too much.
Previously, the official James Bond web and social media accounts have released a video counting down the release of the films trailer, this time however, a short trailer tease was released ahead of the first official No Time To Die trailer.
Did forgoing the release of an official teaser trailer, opting instead, for a trailer tease, create a greater sense of anticipation for No Time To Die, and as such, a stronger first official trailer?
I was certainly surprised about not getting a teaser trailer. But eight months have passed between the cast announcement and the first trailer, the film wrapped, stills and posters came out so it would have been weak to release a teaser trailer in the style of SPECTRE. Maybe they wanted to add more of Rami Malek and Ana de Armas, two very popular stars now, and that led them to extend the running time of a teaser trailer too much, so they went for what could be a “theatrical” trailer.
Speaking for myself, I feel the exact anticipation for this trailer than the one I would have felt if a teaser was released in August or September, because it has to do with the production times. Fans have been waiting for so long that a teaser trailer wouldn’t have been engaging, I think.
A teaser trailer for No Time To Die was recently released by Village Cinemas Greece, featuring Q (Ben Whishaw) addressing the audience from his home office, intercut with scenes from the first trailer.
Up until now, why haven’t we seen a character address the audience in such a direct manner during a trailer since the Roger Moore era? Why the return after such a long absence?
I actually see that as more of a tie-in promotion than a trailer, like a Heineken or Smirnoff tie-in. So I can understand and see it as an original idea to have Q talking to the audience, because Q is inviting people to watch the film at Village. I wouldn’t see this happening on a proper Bond trailer anymore unless they decide to go back to the Brosnan route for Bond 26 with a new actor in the role. Having Bond or a character breaking the fourth wall as Moore did in The Spy Who Loved Me would give the movie a more adventurous and less dramatic feeling and I don’t think they want that in the Craig era or if they go on with the dark Bond route. It all depends on the style of the plot and the mood of the movie. Perhaps we might have small fourth-wall breaking moments as Dalton in the Licence To Kill teasers or Craig in Casino Royale, giving a deathly look at the audience.
A recent article by Scott Mendelson in Forbes, analysed the condensed marketing strategy and campaign for No Time To Die, stating that “If ‘No Time to Die’ is any good, then five months is enough time to promote the film”, and noted that, “other than a few exceptions, five months is the new normal, with yearlong marketing campaigns largely being phased out“.
How do you think this well affect No Time To Die’s release, especially given the negativity toward the film by the tabloid media, proclaiming it as “a cursed production”?
Only time will tell, I’m afraid. I can assure you that No Time To Die was one of the most excruciating and unpredictable Bond campaigns I have covered. You’ll never know what can happen next and we had a couple of delays of the release date now. If the film is good, if the fans and critics like it, all the delays and mishaps will be forgotten. But if the film is not, EON will have to find a very clever way to reintroduce the character. This is almost like the Licence To Kill–GoldenEye gap but with the same actor, so people are more expectant, tense and worried. And you know that after this one they’ll have to look for a new Bond, so it’s not like a new era is about to begin and after all this long delay you’re back into the two year cycle.
Don’t forget that Cubby told Dalton that after a long gap he couldn’t just return for Bond 17 alone, people would want more. That’s why Dalton didn’t go for the deal. I wouldn’t call No Time To Die a “cursed” production and for what I’ve seen the film looks very good and exciting, but a part of me also feels this film should have been out in 2018 or 2019.
I think Mendelson is talking about a new normal and we, as fans, will have to understand it as we have understood many changes. But speaking the truth I’m more comfortable with traditional promotional cycles: film title and cast announced in December, trailers and posters around April or May, then the theatrical trailers and posters in September or October and, weeks before the film is released in November, the song and the soundtrack. It feels as if No Time To Die had a lot of comings and goings, indeed!
Following the research and completion of this book, which Bond film(s) do you think have had the most effective and/or successful trailer campaigns? Has a certain style of trailer proved more successful than others? Equally, have any been less successful? Why?
All the trailers were good in their own way, depending on the tone of the film and the release year. I think GoldenEye had a brilliant teaser trailer, and I’d say the same of the other Brosnan films. Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were very good. In the Connery and Moore era, I like the trailers for what they are, but rationally speaking they were just a huge fanfare. They are somehow repetitive, particularly in the Moore years. But I’m analysing them with today’s point of view, because I’m sure that back then people were attracted and the campaigns were successful.
The only trailer I really find completely bland is Never Say Never Again. On YouTube you can have much better trailers. Even if they couldn’t use the Bond theme or gun barrel, they could have sold it as an action thriller focusing on nuclear disaster. But right from that trailer you can see the laziness of the production: “Sean Connery is James Bond” and that’s it. Some girls, some motorcycle action. But don’t worry, Connery is Bond and that’s why this movie will be great. Wrong. That sets the difference between EON and the rival productions. You may agree that Octopussy is a bit carried away with the humour, but at least the production understood that Bond was more than the star.
I’ll take my favourite Bond film as an example: Pierce Brosnan was fantastic in GoldenEye, but if he had the wrong direction, he could have been a bad Bond. If GoldenEye only relied on “Brosnan is (finally) Bond” as Never Say Never Again relied only on “Connery is back”, the film would have been really bad. There’s the star, the set design, the girls, the villains, the cinematography, the editing, the script and a lot more than just having the guy everyone wants to be Bond. Honestly, even in the 1967 Casino Royale trailer I noticed more passion. Yes, the production was a mess, but the trailers announced and sold us this mess. Never Say Never Again’s trailer sells us a school project with Connery as Bond, and outside a couple of good things, that’s pretty much what the film ended up being.
** Please Note: The interview questions were submitted to the author prior to the announcement that the ‘No Time To Die’ release date had been pushed back from April to November, 2020.