Following a long-awaited, star-studded world premiere, "No Time to Die" finally hits theaters in the U.S. on Friday, Oct. 8. It's been 18 months for us, but in the movie, a retired James Bond (Daniel Craig), chilling out in Jamaica, has been waiting five years to get back in on the action. In real life, after 15 years, Craig is filling the shoes — and tailored suits — of the iconic 007 for the last time. Naturally, this film is going out big.
Along with nostalgic callbacks to Craig's preceding four installments, starting with 2006's "Casino Royal," a number of firsts happen in this blockbuster, too — like "Maniac" and "Beasts of No Nation" (starring my Bond, Idris Elba) auteur Cary Joji Fukunaga becoming the first American to direct a movie in the British franchise. Then, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge ("Fleabag") joining as a co-writer, "No Time to Die" promises fully-developed female characters that also invert the tropes of the "Bond Girl" archetype, which has been a staple since the franchise's 1962 big-screen debut with Sean Connery: We have returning love interest Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), now a psychiatrist, MI6 field agent-turned-executive assistant Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and two new kick-ass contemporary operatives, Nomi (Lashana Lynch) and Paloma (Ana de Armas).
"All of our lead female characters have a very particular, strong professional angle — they're not just decorative side dishes," says Emmy-winning costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb. "In the history of Bond films, all the women have always been incredibly glamorous, elegant and very much on display in one way or another, even if they have a more active role in the plot or as a double agent ... or something."
While Bond has been fishing and catching up on some reading in a tropical paradise, a new MI6 superspy has entered the game — and she has even taken over Bond's signature code number, while mastering updated fight skills and enjoying even more hi-tech gadgets, because a lot can happen in five years. In the production notes, Nomi is described by Lynch as "strong, whip-sharp, witty and brave. She's playful, very cheeky, very sarcastic and dry. I think she's a nice match for Bond because he can be very serious, especially when he's on a mission."
After meeting under somewhat-concocted circumstances in a nightclub, the former and current 007 initially clash, with Nomi reminding the retiree to "stay in your lane." She's wearing a ruched white cotton gauze halter top, with ruffles, sculptural overlays and eyelet detail (below), because, according to Larlarb, "she needs to embed in the environment we need her in, which is a nightclub in Jamaica."
"It's very much a 'going-out' look and [speaking to] the heat in the tropics, but also then lifting it to the level of an MI6 agent in the field, looking as hot she can possibly can and at the ready to be as mobile and physical as she needs to be," she says.
Just when Bond thought he was out, he gets pulled back in (sorry, wrong franchise), thanks to the threat of a biological weapon being unleashed upon the world. In another homage to Bonds past, baddy Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) must somehow be involved, and his organization, SPECTRE, resurfaces in the most appropriate way: a spectacular ball, packed with an opulently eclectic assortment of nefarious types, in Havana, Cuba (or Jamaica and Pinewood Studios, where the scenes actually filmed.)
Production designer Mark Tildesley created a seductively grand Art Deco-style old Cuban theater, setting the stage, so to speak, for Bond's return to action. Amidst the glamorously ominous mood lighting and romantic backdrop, Bond meets the intriguing Paloma, a CIA agent who's brought him an outfit change. Her airy, slinky A-line slip dress by Michael Lo Sordo looks fire, simultaneously meshing with extravagant ball-goers and jumping out visually, so the camera and audiences — and, of course, Bond — notice her. Paloma's there for more reasons than to just enjoy a martini, though.
"It needed to be a dress that had a lightness to it, but close-fitting enough so that she could have mobility — and have super long leg slits," says Larlarb. "She can't be constricted by a lot of heavy fabric [for arm mobility]."
As for the color of the dress, the costume designer explains that Paloma needed to be set up as "a foil agent to Bond there": "I want her to have the same gravitas that Bond has when he walks into the room."
De Armas, too, focused on her character's professional duties, as she wrote in the production notes: "[Paloma] looks great, but that's not what she's about. She knows Bond is a big deal, but she's really focused on doing her job."
Of course, a covert mission conveniently taking place at an extravagant black-tie party offers a perfect opportunity for Bond, who presumably hasn't donned formalwear in awhile, to rediscover his tailored aesthetic.
"When he first dons a suit, it's got to look like everything," says Larlarb, about a sequence involving Paloma more focused on getting Bond changed into a dress-code appropriate suiting than the opposite.
Behind-the-scenes, the costume designer — who just finished shooting Disney+'s "Obi-Wan Kenobi" — labored over designing the perfect bespoke tuxedo, complete with a bow-tie (top), for Bond's grand re-entry.
"I spent a good day looking through all of the fabric samples available at Tom Ford," she says. "I'm not exaggerating: I went into a room with 15 or 20 giant binders that were a foot thick, with fabric samples on each page — 1000s of fabric samples to hone in on what I thought would be the iconic first suit for him."
Larlarb collaborated with the American fashion designer, who's helped outfit Craig's Bond since 2012's "Skyfall," on a capsule of three "day suits," including a gray Prince of Wales check two-piece, plus the rakish navy tuxedo with black shawl lapels. "I wanted there to be a story with progression, with the gray checked suit and then a tuxedo," she says. "I was definitely trying to build a fabric story and a color story in there, as well."
In the opening sequence, Bond begins his wardrobe evolution in a jaunty tan corduroy suit by Massimo Alba, worn with suspenders and a blue Brunello Cucinelli button-up shirt. To close out his — and Craig's — arc, Larlarb collaborated with British cashmere knitwear label N. Peal to design a rugged yet elegant ribbed navy military sweater (above).
Bond does briefly veer off-brand into his most casual (possibly ever) era during his soon-to-be-halted retirement in Jamaica. His beach-wear perhaps also honors Craig's bombshell debut as Bond, in tiny blue swim-trunks in "Casino Royale."
"The expectation that Bond is always this well-turned-out, suited fashion plate, it's true, when that's required," says Larlarb. "But in that context [in tropical island retirement], you're not going to get away with it. We really wanted to say that he had left his other life behind — in some ways, you could take it as, 'This is not a Bond that you recognize.'"
"This could just be a guy who has a very amazing, relaxing, stress-free life now, so his clothes are sort of a reflection of that," she continues. "He's in an old T-shirt and an old pair of swimming shorts — and not much else."