No Time To Die is nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Original Song – here’s a look at the James Bond movies’ history with the Oscars so far.

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This year marks the 60th anniversary of Dr No, the first James Bond film. The year that film came out, Lawrence Of Arabia swept the 35th Academy Awards and the prospect of an British spy runaround making any impression at the Oscars must have seemed remote at best.

60 years later, 007 has 005 Academy Award wins to his name, and various nominations spread thinly between the last 24 films. The 25th instalment, No Time To Die is up for three Oscars this weekend – Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, and Best Original Song for Billie Eilish’s title song.

The last is a pretty sure thing, partly because both of the most recent Bond songs by Adele and Sam Smith won in 2013 and 2016 respectively, and mostly because everyone’s favourite song from Disney’s Encanto (we don’t talk about “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”, no, no, no) isn’t nominated, so there’s a good chance of a win for Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s music and lyrics.

If it wins one of the other two awards as well, this year could bring Bond’s Oscar tally to double-oh seven, which will make a nice headline at stupid o’clock on Monday morning.

While the AMPAS conversation seldom crosses over with Bond discourse in the main, (unsurprisingly, the movies tend to fare better at the BAFTAs than they do over the pond) there’s still a history of Oscar-winning actors getting involved in the franchise, not to mention the films themselves bringing home some little gold fellas.

Actors in supporting roles

To date, Sean Connery is the only James Bond actor to win an Oscar, for his supporting role as Jim Malone in 1987’s The Untouchables. Some of the other surviving actors might still manage to match that feat in years to come, (come on, Lazenby!) but frankly, nobody is going to win an Oscar for playing 007 – Daniel Craig had the best chance so far, with his BAFTA Best Leading Actor nod for Casino Royale, but it’s tough to imagine anyone else getting close.

Still, the sheer longevity of the series meant that eventually, people who had been Bond fans since childhood were in the casting pool for later movies. By the time of Roger Moore’s swan song, 1985’s A View To A Kill, the Bond producers were looking for a different type of villain, first going out to stars like David Bowie and Sting, and found it in the shape of Academy Award winner Christopher Walken.

Walken was not short of stage or screen work when the offer came, but having been a fan since the 1960s boom of popularity in the US, (President John F. Kennedy famously recommended From Russia With Love, leading to a surge of sales for Ian Fleming’s series as well as a lot of interest in the new film adaptations) he jumped at the chance to play a Bond villain. A View To A Kill didn’t earn any attention from the Academy, but it was quite a casting coup nonetheless.

The reinvention of Bond for the 1990s gave us a female M, played by the mighty Judi Dench. She was a couple of years off her Supporting Actress win for 1998’s Shakespeare In Love when she appeared in GoldenEye, but she’s had several more Oscar nominations during and after her stint as a Bond regular, including this year’s Belfast.

Also during the Pierce Brosnan era, EON played a blinder in securing Halle Berry to play NSA agent Jinx in 2002’s Die Another Day when they did. During production, she learned that she’d been nominated for Best Actress for her role in Monster’s Ball and later won. The day after she accepted the award, she was back on set, and she figured as prominently in the marketing of the film as Brosnan. Indeed, EON at one point hoped to have Berry return to lead a spin-off franchise, which we’ve written about elsewhere:

Read more: Die Another Day’s Jinx, and the lost James Bond spin-off franchise

Aside from Dench, another past winner in the running this year is Javier Bardem, (for Being The Ricardos) who represents something of a watershed moment in the casting of Bond villains in the current era. His Raoul Silva does continue in the line of Le Chiffre and Dominic Greene from the previous films, representing more personal and emotional stakes than the usual global bastards.

On the other hand, Bardem is an Oscar winner having a lovely time in a Bond villain guest spot, which prefigures the work of fellow winners Christoph Waltz and Rami Malek in the most recent films. Like Silva, both their characters are only fully unveiled some way into the runtime, but to rather diminished effect.

Waltz is given over to reams of expository dialogue and further reams of inkjet printouts of publicity pictures for some reason, dulling the malice of his mischievous performance. Meanwhile, Malek’s mumbly, Peter Lorre-inflected performance should be a bigger stumbling block to No Time To Die than it is, because in a momentous Bond film, he’s one of the weakest-ever villains. Looking at the pool of recent winners, at least neither of them was Jared Leto instead.

On another note, there are a few Oscar winners who were in Bond movies before they won the gold too. Benicio del Toro has a memorable role as Sanchez’s sadistic henchman Dario in 1989’s Licence To Kill, and you can hear Best Directors-in-waiting Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro making vocal cameos during an airborne action sequence in 2008’s Quantum Of Solace.

 

Technical achievements

Onto the franchise’s actual honours then, and unsurprisingly, they’re more on the technical side of things than acting, writing, or directing. The first ever win for the series came in 1965, when Goldfinger won Best Sound Effects. 29-year-old sound technician Norman Wanstall was given the VIP treatment as he accepted the award to the strains of the (somehow not-nominated) Shirley Bassey theme song.

The following year, Bond was back at the Oscars for a Best Visual Effects win for the underwater action on display in Thunderball. In 1972, Diamonds Are Forever scored a Best Sound nomination (and still nothing for Bassey!).

Later in the decade, The Spy Who Loved Me counted a Best Art Direction nod for Ken Adam and Peter Lamont among its series-best trio of nominations (we’ll come to the other two shortly). A year or two after that, Moonraker was up for Best Visual Effects, but lost to Alien, and that was pretty much it for Bond in the craft categories until the 21st century version came along.

In the meantime, the Academy did recognise 20 years of continuous production at the 1982 ceremony, by awarding executive producer Albert R. Broccoli the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for excellence in the industry. Broccoli was deeply moved by the honour, and in interviews during the making of the very next Bond film, Octopussy, he was more content with the series’ security appealing to audiences rather than awards voters in the main.

The movies moved back towards more prestigious territory again with the reinvention of the series. Oscar-winning writer Paul Haggis was instrumental in writing both Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace alongside Daniel Craig-era regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, though the latter film was notably affected by the Writers’ Guild of America strike in 2008.

Things escalated with Bond’s golden-jubilee film, Skyfall. Starting with Sam Mendes, who won Best Director for American Beauty and was reportedly offered the gig by a slightly tipsy Craig at a party, the film is stacked with Oscar winners and nominees, from cinematographer Roger Deakins to composer Thomas Newman.

Unsurprisingly, Skyfall marked a series-best showing in the nominations, appearing in five categories and winning two (the film tied with Zero Dark Thirty for Best Sound Mixing and Adele’s title anthem won Best Original Song outright), crowning a 50th-anniversary victory lap for the franchise.

Mendes returned for another outing with Spectre, at once more retro and more prestigious than its predecessor, and at one point, Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle was set to direct the film that became No Time To Die, but parted ways with EON due to creative differences. But again, we sense that nobody is likely to win Best Director for one of these movies.

Broccoli’s award for the 20th anniversary is nice, but there can be no doubt that if the long-mooted Best Stunts Oscar had existed at any point in the past 60 years, the Bond movies would have bagged many more than five awards.

Somehow, those wins for visuals and sounds don’t do justice to a franchise that has pushed the envelope so often with action sequences ranging from The Spy Who Loved Me’s death-defying parachute jump to Casino Royale’s construction-site parkour chase. The more recent Mission: Impossible movies would surely give the series a run for its money if such an award were introduced in the future, but it’s the one bit of continual production excellence that is seldom acknowledged properly. Going forward, most of these categories won’t even be broadcast live, with eight categories relegated to pre-recording for Sunday’s telecast.

 

Music and lyrics

We’re not just ending on a song, but several songs. On the scoring side of things, many of the Bond series’ composers – including John Barry, Marvin Hamlisch, Bill Conti, Michael Kamen, Thomas Newman, and Hans Zimmer – have Best Score Oscar wins and nominations under their belts for one thing or another, but no one has yet won for a Bond score.

Besides Burt Bacharach’s “The Look Of Love”, (we don’t talk about 1967’s unofficial James Bond spoof Casino Royale, no, no, no) the first Bond theme to show up in the Best Original Song category was “Live And Let Die”, by Paul McCartney and Wings. It lost to the title theme from The Way We Were, written by Marvin Hamlisch.

Probably not coincidentally, Hamlisch was drafted to score and write the theme for The Spy Who Loved Me when regular composer John Barry was unavailable. His cheeky, disco-inflected score bagged him another nomination in Best Score, but he also gave us Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better”, one of the greatest theme songs in the series’ history.

It didn’t win (the theme from You Light Up My Life took the gong) but a further Best Original Song nomination followed the next time EON turned to an Oscar-winning composer, Bill Conti.

Sheena Easton’s live performance of “For Your Eyes Only” at the ceremony happened to come in the same year as Broccoli received the Thalberg Award, and as part of the anniversary celebration, she was accompanied on stage by a bananas visual display involving lasers, a Lotus Esprit, and what looks like pyrotechnics by Gonzo The Great. Plus, past henchmen Richard Kiel (Jaws) and Harold Sakata (Oddjob), are marched out in much the same way as you get actors in Dalek and Cyberman costumes at those Doctor Who-themed BBC Proms shows.

The next anniversary celebration at the Oscars gave Shirley Bassey (somehow never nominated!) the stage for a rendition of “Goldfinger”, the same year as Adele took home her Oscar for “Skyfall”. Those of us who watched the BAFTAs last week and saw Bassey perform “Diamonds Are Forever” for Bond’s diamond anniversary tribute might be laying odds on Bond 26 being called Platinum Blonde or Ruby Flipper to keep themselves in Bassey songs for the 70th and 80th anniversaries too.

Sam Smith made it a second win on the bounce with their Spectre title song “Writing’s On The Wall”, though not without some controversy around their mistaken comments about being the first “openly gay” winner.

We reckon a hat-trick of Best Original Songs is a fairly safe bet, especially if Eilish has been booked to perform the song live as part of some anniversary celebration during the telecast. It’s already been well publicised that the Academy are looking to recognise more mainstream films and blockbusters during the telecast, so we’ll probably see that too.

The more recent precedent suggests we’ll probably have quite a tasteful clip package along with a performance of the nominated song. But wouldn’t it be more in keeping with both Bond and Oscar history to have Eilish interrupted by a dance-fight between Daniel Craig and Christoph Waltz, picking up a laser gun and firing it at backing dancers, and then resuming her ballad like a pro? Nobody did it better than Easton!

 

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