Daniel Craig didn’t like Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s No Time To Die theme song at first, according to the music producer who worked on the theme. Siblings Eilish and O’Connell wrote and performed the 25th James Bond theme, “No Time To Die,” alongside producer Stephen Lipson. Writing the song in three days on a tour bus, the siblings worked with Bond composer Hans Zimmer, who wrote the film’s score. The song was released back in February 2020, two months before the film’s initial release date.
Over 18 months later, the song will finally receive its cinematic premiere when No Time To Die hits cinemas in October. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and starring Rami Malek as the villainous Safin, No Time To Die marks Craig’s final adventure as 007. Starting his tenure with 2006’s Casino Royale, Craig is the longest-serving Bond, edging Moore out by three years. Craig recently spoke about the perks being Bond has afforded him, for instance using his 007-influence to secure his stormtrooper cameo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Alongside this, it also appears that Craig has influence over wider aspects of Bond’s production, including the theme song.
Speaking with CinemaBlend, UK music producer Stephen Lipson, who worked with Finneas and Eilish on the theme, recalls how Craig wasn’t initially sold on the song. Apparently, the actor wasn’t sure the theme provided the right “emotional climax” for his 007 swan song at first. It was only after Lipson played the song for Craig in the ideal environment of his studio that he really enjoyed the piece, and the “wheels were set in motion.” Read the quote below.
“I asked Finneas and Billie to give me a climactic vocal moment which Billie wasn’t too sure about, but when I heard it I knew it would deliver. Most important was getting Daniel’s approval. I finished the mix and everybody was happy but we still had to get Daniel on board. From the start, quite understandably, he wasn’t all that sure that the song delivered the right emotional climax for his final Bond outing, so satisfying him was key … I suggested that [Craig] come to my studio as I knew that, compared to any other location, it was without doubt the best sonic environment in which to hear it.
… Listening to it as if I was Daniel, I realised that the climax needed to be enormous … I sat Daniel in the chair between the speakers, hit play and waited for his response. When the song finished he didn’t look up but asked to hear it once more. Barbara and I had no idea how he felt until the end of his second listening, when he looked up at me and said something like, ‘That’s f*****g amazing.’ As soon as he’d approved it the wheels were set in motion and the news that Billie Eilish was doing the Bond theme song appeared everywhere.”
The Bond theme became an essential part of the 007 tradition with Shirley Bassey’s iconic 1964 Goldfinger theme, but it can also be a perilous journey for the musicians who take it on. Artists have recorded themes over the years only for them to be thrown out in favor of another, while others have turned down the chance to soundtrack a Bond adventure. Nancy Sinatra’s classic theme for You Only Live Twice was originally offered to her father, Frank Sinatra, who turned the opportunity down. Now it appears that it’s the other way around, with the cast and crew holding the power to reject the artist, as Eilish’s song wasn’t signed off until Craig had given the go-ahead. Until then, even with the song recorded and ready to go, the artist’s involvement was kept under wraps from the public. It suggests that alongside his performance as a grittier version of the iconic British spy, Craig also had a big say in molding the entire franchise, including the theme song, in his Bond’s image.
While Eilish’s theme has so-far been well received, there’s also the risk of some people disliking the song when it debuts to a wider audience. Alicia Keys and Jack White’s “Another Way to Die” is the most recent example of a theme that drew many fan’s ire. Fortunately for Eilish, this hasn’t been the case with “No Time To Die,” which Eilish recently said aims to pay homage to Bond music of the past. Like the theme, the film has received strong reviews, with critics praising Craig’s final outing for its action, cinematography and emotion. Audiences can hear the new theme for themselves in cinemas when No Time To Die is finally released.
Next: James Bond: All The Daniel Craig Era Theme Songs Ranked