Inside the Sets of the New James Bond Flick No Time To Die

Far removed from the tense, high-octane world of James Bond is his home in Jamaica, perched on the edge of a lagoon. This is where No Time To Die picks up, following Bond who is now retired from active service, cocooned in the tranquility of his island-life. It’s not long before the film unfolds, pulling both Bond and the audience into a rapturous new adventure, packed with the edge-of-the-seat action that is synonymous with Bond’s world. But before it does, in a moment of quiet respite, we get a glimpse of the life he’s built for himself since leaving MI6. 

Jamaica, a key location in the film that is often considered Bond’s “spiritual home”, is also where the character came to life. The island is the birthplace of 007, where writer Ian Fleming created and wrote the Bond novels. As the film opens, look closely, and you’ll find a replica of Fleming’s iconic desk from his Jamaican villa Goldeneye—which is now a luxury hotel—tucked away in a corner in Bond’s bedroom. “We wanted his house to feel authentic and normal. Well, as normal as possible for a guy like Bond,” says the film’s set decorator Véronique Melery, who designed the interiors of the home.

The making of the sets was nothing short of an adventure for Melery. From creating a bar inspired by the painting ‘Nighthawks’ by Edward Hopper, injecting more life and flavour into M’s office to covering the walls of a Cuban hotel in large frescoes, her team had their hands full. Through a series of images, she takes us inside the sets of No Time To Die.

Drenched in sunlight, the open-to-the-elements house looks on to the sweeping lagoon. The warmth of the location is captured in the material palette of the house, its wooden louvred windows, handwoven fabrics and jute rugs. The furniture, almost spartan, yet elegant. “We wanted the house to feel very lived in, welcoming and devoid of any luxurious flourishes,” says Melery. “We used a mix of traditional objects and furniture that come from different parts of the world. Bringing it all together was about creating a natural, tropical place, which was at the same time, very subdued and elegant.”

Melery and her team joined forces with local craftsmen to assemble many pieces on site, often recreating some iconic pieces from design history. In the living room sits a version of Cité—an armchair designed by a French designer and engineer Jean Prouvé—splashed in red. Next to it, a recreation of the Tripe armchair by Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi. “For his bedroom, we commissioned Jamaican artists to create a basic bed with local wood,” says Melery. “The idea was to blend into the tropical mood of the location and create a very laid-back place.” Little details, like his clothes and hats hanging from simple wooden pegs are indicative of the unhurried pace of Bond’s retired life.

For the living room, the rug was sourced from Mali. “The house was built on a spectacular lagoon, so the tropical mood is felt very much through the space,” says Melery.

Circular skylights and open spaces near the roof let in pools of sunlight. Large chunks of wood, sourced locally from the island, were used to make the sofa and the coffee table. A wooden deck, that frames the house, opens up to the lagoon.

“Decorating his house was about bringing different objects together to make the space feel like a home,” says Melery. “We worked with only the essential pieces that give a sense of peace and authenticity to his house.”

A ground floor bar of a grand hotel in Cuba. “Like many buildings of Cuba, it has the splendour and majesty of years past; now it’s almost decrepit, but the faded beauty still conveys the great times of the island,” says Melery. 

The Art Deco sconces on the wall were designed and made by Melery’s team. On the left, a recreation of a painting from the 1950s that was made to fit the size of the arches built into the wall. The chairs were sourced and reupholstered to fit the mood of the space.

The courtyard leading to a grand ballroom in the same hotel, decorated in a semi-traditional Cuban style. The rattan furniture was sourced from Jamaica and then customised for the courtyard, which is punctuated by sculptures and tropical plants.

A view from the top of the bar, with a staircase leading up to the first floor and smoking room. “This was the first space where we introduced frescoes on the wall,” says Melery. “I had gotten inspired by the frescoes I’d seen in an old theatre in Morocco. We started with a few panels; it worked so well that we added a bit more, and then before we knew it, we’d painted all the walls.” The painting was done by local artists from Jamaica. “I was so lucky to work with the most gifted team; people who knew their craft so well and are so fantastic at what they do,” adds Melery. “However good an idea I would have had, it would have been nothing without this team recreating that imagined dream. 

A part of a bedroom in Italy where Bond spends time with his girlfriend, Dr Madeleine Swann. “We tried to make it as romantic as possible, almost like a dreamscape. I wanted to make this space feel very Italian so we added the murals,” notes Melery. “Throughout the film, we are in Bond’s world, which can be harsh and difficult, but when they step into this room, it’s like being transported to a different world.”

A look inside M’s office. “We’re familiar with M’s office from the previous movies; we’ve seen it so often. It was interesting and challenging to recreate the space, giving it the same feeling, and yet adding a different flavour to it,” says Melery. “We used the paintings in the room to add a whiff of M’s personal taste to the room, and his rich palette of interests.” The office features furniture in natural wood, in deep, rich shades, leather-upholstered armchairs, a book shelf built into the wall and many antique objects.

A Paul Nash painting ‘Battle of Germany’, an abstract work from 1944 of a city under attack, was selected to hang on M’s wall; it hints at some of his emotional conflicts through the film.

Safin’s lair. “This is what we call the ‘Meeting Room’, where a very important scene unfolds,” says Melery. With this space, Melery and production designer Mark Tildesley wanted to reference the kind of architecture that’s reminiscent of Ken Adam’s work (the franchise’s first production designer). “A traditional Japanese interior of amazing proportions, with low windows offering views on the flowers and the plants (outside), where beauty meets death in a contradictory zen garden,” notes Melery. The room features traditional tatamis that are laid out on the concrete floor, a low Japanese credenza in a corner, and a 5-meter-long low table. An antique Japanese shrine is seen in the distance. “The strong brutalist architecture of the room required very few items of furniture,” says Melery. “These pieces had to be of the right proportions to not compete with the lines of the building, or disappear in the space.”

Safin (Rami Malek) in his lair.

Bond (Daniel Craig) and Paloma (Ana de Armas) sitting at the El Nido bar, in an ancient hotel in La Havana. “This hotel was a composite set, with a grand entrance, a theatre, a ballroom, and some bars,” says Melery. “The feeling of this place is of an old palace, all faded glory. The frescoes’ patina lends to the nostalgic atmosphere, and the elegance of the dated Art Deco furniture shows signs of age, like so many places in Cuba.”

Bond in the reception of the same hotel, with the bar behind him. “We chose an Art Deco style for the decoration, with some 1950’s touches, as these places, where the improvements happened over the years, reflect the styles of the different epochs,” says Melery. The furniture, lights and chandeliers were all made, upholstered, and aged by her team.

This story originally appeared in AD India.

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