The former James Bond music composer David Arnold recently presented a special multi-part series on The Music of James Bond for the UK’s Scala radio classical music station, and the final show included his views on the songs and soundtracks of the Craig-era 007 films.

David Arnold

Interestingly, Arnold – who composed the music for three Brosnan Bonds and two Craig adventures – gave some fascinating insights into his overall involvement in the Bond production process. He revealed that, when he first read the script for Casino Royale in 2006, the new production still had no actor to play Bond.

Arnold explained to Scala’s listeners: ‘When I read the script for Casino Royale we had no Bond. The audition process was under way, and I had been providing music for the finished audition sequences, so I’d seen what the potential Bond actors were like’. He continued: ‘Daniel Craig’s audition was so natural and confident it felt like a Bond we had never seen – one you could actually be scared of’. Arnold added: ‘Martin Campbell and I had both enjoyed Henry Cavill’s audition. He had all the swagger and physicality but maybe, as he was in his early twenties, felt just a little bit too young. We  thought he had great presence and we weren’t at all surprised when he turned into Superman, sadly not in front of us or in a phone box, just several years later – in a film!’

On the question of the selection of the late singer Chris Cornell for the title track (You Know My Name), Arnold said that when Cornell was first suggested (by Lia Vollack, president of worldwide music for Sony) it was ‘a very left-field suggestion’ and ‘not what you would expect for a Bond film’, but when Arnold thought of how he wanted this new Bond film to sound like ‘it was a perfect choice’. Furthermore, Cornell was the ‘perfect writing partner’, they performed live together on stage at least three times, and Cornell became a friend rather than just a colleague: ‘I am still immensely sad I don’t get to see or speak to him anymore…’.

In another interesting set of comments, Arnold also offered some background context to the music for Quantum of Solace (2008), confirming that the award-winning singer Amy Winehouse had been his leading first choice for the title song. Arnold had worked with Winehouse’s music producer Mark Ronson on song ideas, and Winehouse was to have written the lyrics. She never did, though, ‘as her illness took over. It was a real tragedy she could not overcome her demons’. Arnold also offered strong praise for the music composed by Thomas Newman for the next two Craig movies, Skyfall and Spectre, pointing out to Scala’s listeners just how skilled Newman had been in combining aspects of traditional Bond music with his own distinctive composing style.

As Arnold pointed out, when he had originally discussed with Scala Radio the outline for his The Music of James Bond radio series, the plan had been to include discussion of Hans Zimmer’s new music for No Time To Die. Sadly, of course, with the current coronavirus crisis, this was not to be. However, Arnold revealed that Scala Radio will repeat the entire series later this year, in November 2020, with the added bonus of an extra special episode devoted to the music of No Time To Die. The JBIFC thinks that sounds like a great plan.

Watch this space for further news as it develops. You know the name, and you know the number.