James Bond podcast is licensed to entertain, if not thrill

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You may have heard there’s a new Bond film out. The publicity surrounding No Time To Die, the 25th film in the series and the last to star Daniel Craig, feels more intense and all-encompassing than ever, exacerbated by the repeated pandemic-related delays.

When its predecessor, Spectre, came out in 2015, listening to podcasts was still considered fairly niche, and audio series about specific films and TV series were confined to amateur operations assembled by fans. Six years later, no big film franchise is complete without an “official” companion podcast in which creators give their newest project the hard sell. Such enterprises can range from nerdily detailed to fluffily adulatory.

No Time To Die: The Official James Bond Podcast is much like its subject: smooth, self-assured and, frankly, rather pleased with itself. It is hosted by the film journalist and critic James King, who is lively enough but hobbled by the fact that he is being employed by a movie studio to mythologise and rhapsodise about its product. Anyone hoping for sharp critical analysis, or an honest appraisal of the franchise’s successes and failures, should look elsewhere. What you are hearing is advertising.

But once you have taken that on board, it still makes for a diverting, if not revelatory, listen. The series comes in six parts, with themed episodes including “The Music of Bond”, “Bond Around the World” and “A Name to Die For: Allies and Enemies of Bond”. It is all studiously spoiler-free while containing occasional tantalising clips.

But the biggest advantage in making a series of this nature is access. Where an independent pod examining Bond films would be lucky to score an interview with the catering staff, this has the entire cast as well as writing and production teams entirely at its disposal. Thus, there are lengthy interviews with stars Daniel Craig, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Rami Malek, plus director Cary Joji Fukunaga, writers Neal Purvis and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, musicians Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell and many, many more.

I am no Bond nut, but I found the parts on the practicalities of filming on location and the challenges posed by big stunts and set pieces illuminating. The actors prove less interesting, with many of them practised in saying a lot while revealing very little. To his credit, Craig manages to sound alert and engaged while answering questions he has been asked repeatedly over the course of 15 years.

He reveals that his casting for Casino Royale took more than a year. When Broccoli finally phoned to say he had got the part — “Over to you, kiddo,” she said — he was doing some shopping in a supermarket. And so, he says, “I got drunk. I bought a bottle of vodka, a bottle of vermouth and a cocktail shaker and made myself three or four vodka martinis.”

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