The film was produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and was the first James Bond film made after the death of producer Albert R. Broccoli, to whom the movie pays tribute in the end credits. Filming locations included France, Thailand, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Tomorrow Never Dies performed well at the box office and earned a Golden Globe nomination despite mixed reviews. While its performance at the domestic box office surpassed that of its predecessor, GoldenEye, it was the only Pierce Brosnan Bond film not to open at number one at the box office, as it opened the same day as Titanic, but instead at number two.
MI6 sends James Bond, agent 007, into the field to spy on a terrorist arms bazaar on the Russian border. Despite M's insistence on letting 007 finish his reconnaissance, British Admiral Roebuck orders the frigate HMS Chester to launch a missile attack on the arms bazaar. Bond then discovers two nuclear torpedoes mounted on an L-39 Albatros, and as the missile is too far along to be aborted, 007 hijacks the L-39 and flies away seconds before the bazaar is destroyed.
The media baron Elliot Carver soon begins his plans to use a stolen encoder obtained at the bazaar by his henchman, cyberterrorist Henry Gupta, to provoke war between China and the United Kingdom; he hopes to replace the Chinese government with one that will give him exclusive broadcasting rights. Meaconing the GPS signal using the encoder, Gupta sends the British frigate HMS Devonshire off-course into Chinese-held waters in the South China Sea, where Carver's stealth ship, commanded by Mr. Stamper, sinks it and steals one of its missiles, while shooting down a Chinese J-7 fighter jet and killing off the Devonshire's survivors with Chinese weaponry. The British Minister of Defence orders Roebuck to deploy the British Fleet to recover the frigate, and possibly retaliate, while leaving M only 48 hours to investigate its sinking and avert a war.
M sends Bond to investigate Carver after he releases news articles about the crisis hours before MI6 had learned of it. Bond travels to Hamburg and seduces Carver's wife, Paris, who is also Bond's ex-girlfriend, to get information that would help him enter Carver's newspaper headquarters. He also knocks out three of Stamper's men and cuts Carver off the air while he is giving a speech during the inaugural broadcast of his satellite network. After Bond steals back the GPS encoder, Carver orders Paris and Bond killed. Paris is murdered by Carver's personal assassin Dr. Kaufman, but Bond kills Kaufman and escapes, protecting the encoder. Bond learns that the encoder had been tampered with, and goes to the South China Sea to investigate the wreck (which was actually in Vietnamese waters). He and Wai Lin, a Chinese agent on the same case, explore the sunken ship and discover one of its cruise missiles missing, but are captured by Stamper and taken to the CMGN tower in Saigon. They soon escape and decide to collaborate on the investigation.
The two contact the Royal Navy and the People's Liberation Army Air Force to explain Carver's scheme; Carver plans to use the stolen missile to destroy the Chinese government, and allow a Chinese general to step in and stop war between Britain and China, although not before both sides destroy each other at sea. They find Carver's stealth ship, which has been built with stolen stealth material, in Ha Long Bay, and board it to prevent him from firing the stolen British cruise missile at Beijing. During the attempt, Wai Lin is captured, forcing Bond to devise a second plan. Bond captures Gupta to use as his own hostage, but Carver kills Gupta, claiming he has "outlived his contract." Bond detonates an explosive which damages the ship, causing it to be visible to radar to both Chinese and British navies, who have just been warned of the plot, and thus making it vulnerable to a subsequent Royal Navy attack by HMS Bedford. While Wai Lin disables the engines, and is captured by Stamper, Bond attempts to halt the missile. After killing Carver with his own sea drill, Bond attempts to destroy the warhead with detonators, but Stamper appears and attacks him after sending Wai Lin into the waters, bound in chains. Bond traps Stamper in the missile firing mechanism and dives to save Wai Lin as the missile explodes, destroying the ship and killing Stamper. Later, Bond and Wai Lin share a romantic moment amidst the wreckage as the Bedford searches for them.Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, MI6 agent 007.
Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver, a psychopathic media mogul who plans to provoke global war to boost sales and ratings of his news divisions.
Michelle Yeoh as Colonel Wai Lin, a skilled Chinese spy and Bond's ally.
Teri Hatcher as Paris Carver, a former girlfriend of Bond who is now Carver's trophy wife.
Götz Otto as Richard Stamper, Carver's henchman, who is skilled in the art of Chakra torture.
Judi Dench as M, reprising her role from GoldenEye.
Ricky Jay as Henry Gupta, an American "Techno-terrorist" in the employ of Carver. Bruce Feirstein said he named this character after a Gupta Bakery, which he passed on the way to the studios.
Joe Don Baker as Jack Wade, CIA liaison, reprising his role from GoldenEye.
Vincent Schiavelli as Dr. Kaufman, a professional assassin used by Elliot Carver.
Desmond Llewelyn in his penultimate appearance as Q.
Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenny, M's personal secretary.
Daphne Deckers as PR person of Carver Media Group Network.
Geoffrey Palmer as Admiral Roebuck, M's contentious military contact.
Colin Salmon as Charles Robinson, M's Deputy Chief of Staff.
Julian Fellowes as the British Minister of Defence, who orders Admiral Roebuck to send the fleet to the China Sea. He is the successor to Sir Frederick Gray (Geoffrey Keen).
Cecilie Thomsen as Professor Inga Bergstrom.
Gerard Butler gets one line as a crewman aboard the Devonshire.
Hugh Bonneville as Air Warfare Officer – HMS Bedford.
Following the success of GoldenEye in reviving the Bond series, there was pressure to recreate that success in the film's follow-up production. This pressure came from MGM along with its new owner, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, both of whom wished for the film's release to coincide with their public stock offering. Co-producer Michael G. Wilson also expressed concern regarding the public's expectations subsequent to the success of GoldenEye, commenting: "You realize that there's a huge audience and I guess you don't want to come out with a film that's going to somehow disappoint them." This was the first Bond film to be made after the death of Albert R. Broccoli, who had previously been involved with the series' production since its beginning. The rush to complete the film drove the budget to $110 million. The producers were unable to persuade Martin Campbell, the director of GoldenEye, to return; his agent said that "Martin just didn't want to do two Bond films in a row." Instead, Roger Spottiswoode was chosen in September 1996. Spottiswoode said he had previously offered to direct a Bond film while Timothy Dalton was still in the leading role.
As had been the case with several previous films in the series, an entirely original story was required as there remained no Ian Fleming novels or stories to adapt. The scriptwriting process was finished very late due to lengthy disputes.
Initial writers on the project included John Cork, Richard Smith, and novelist Donald E. Westlake. In 1995 Westlake wrote two story treatments in collaboration with Wilson, both of which featured a villain who plans to destroy Hong Kong with explosives on the eve of the city's July 1997 transfer of sovereignty to China. Westlake used some of his ideas for a novel he completed the next year, though it wasn't published until 2017 under the title "Forever and a Death." Director Roger Spottiswoode said that in January 1997 MGM had a script that was also focused on the Hong Kong handover; however, this plot could not be used for a film opening at the end of the year, so they had to start "almost from scratch at T-minus zero!"
Bruce Feirstein, who had worked on GoldenEye, wrote the initial script. Feirstein claimed that his inspiration was his own experience working with journalism, stating that he aimed to "write something that was grounded in a nightmare of reality." Feirstein's script was then passed to Spottiswoode, who gathered seven Hollywood screenwriters in London to brainstorm, eventually choosing Nicholas Meyer to perform rewrites. The script was also worked on by Dan Petrie, Jr. and David Campbell Wilson before Feirstein was brought in for a final polish. (Although Feirstein retained sole writing credit in the film and in the advertising, Meyer, Petrie and Wilson were given credit with Feirstein on the title page of the film's novelization by Raymond Benson.) While many reviewers compared Elliot Carver to Rupert Murdoch, Feirstein based the character on Robert Maxwell. There is a reference to the mogul's death when M instructs Moneypenny to issue a press release stating that Carver died “falling overboard on his yacht."
Wilson stated, "We didn't have a script that was ready to shoot on the first day of filming", while Pierce Brosnan said, "We had a script that was not functioning in certain areas." The Daily Mail reported on arguments between Spottiswoode and the producers with the former favouring the Petrie version, but the latter reinstating Feirstein to rewrite it two weeks before filming was due to begin. They also said that Jonathan Pryce and Teri Hatcher were unhappy with their new roles, causing further re-scripting.
The title was inspired by the Beatles' song "Tomorrow Never Knows". The eventual title came about by accident: one of the potential titles was Tomorrow Never Lies (referring to the Tomorrow newspaper in the plot) and this was faxed to MGM. But through an error this became Tomorrow Never Dies, a title which MGM found so attractive that they insisted on using it. The title was the first not to have any relation to Fleming's life or work.
Teri Hatcher was three months pregnant when shooting started, although her publicist stated the pregnancy did not affect the production schedule. Hatcher later regretted playing Paris Carver, saying "It's such an artificial kind of character to be playing that you don't get any special satisfaction from it." Actress Sela Ward auditioned for the role, but lost out, reportedly being told the producers wanted her, but ten years younger. Hatcher was seven years Ward's junior. According to Brosnan, Monica Bellucci also screen tested for the role but as Brosnan remarked, "the fools said no." Daphne Deckers, who portrays the PR Lady, also confirms that she saw Belluci the same day she herself auditioned. Bellucci would later go on to play a role in the 24th Bond film, Spectre.
The role of Elliot Carver was initially offered to Anthony Hopkins (who also had been offered a role in GoldenEye), but he declined in favor of The Mask of Zorro.
Natasha Henstridge was rumoured as cast in the lead Bond Girl role, but eventually, Yeoh was confirmed in that role. Brosnan was impressed, describing her as a "wonderful actress" who was "serious and committed about her work". She reportedly wanted to perform her own stunts, but was prevented because director Spottiswoode ruled it too dangerous and prohibited by insurance restrictions.
When Götz Otto was called in for casting, he was given twenty seconds to introduce himself; his hair had recently been cropped short for a TV role. Saying, "I'm big, I'm bad, and I'm German", he did it in five.
Second unit filming began on 18 January 1997 with Vic Armstrong directing; they filmed the pre-credits sequence at Peyresourde Airport in the French Pyrenees, and moved on to Portsmouth to film the scenes where the Royal Navy prepares to engage the Chinese. The main unit began filming on 1 April. They were unable to use the Leavesden Film Studios, which they had constructed from an abandoned Rolls-Royce factory for GoldenEye, as George Lucas was using it for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, so instead they constructed sound stages in another derelict industrial site nearby. They also used the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. The scene at the "U.S. Air Base in the South China Sea" where Bond hands over the GPS encoder was actually filmed in the area known as Blue Section at RAF Lakenheath. The sea landing used the vast tank built for Titanic in Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico. The MH-53J in the film was from the US Air Force's 352d Special Operations Group at RAF Mildenhall. Some scenes were planned to be filmed on location in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the production had been granted a visa. This was later rescinded, two months after planning had begun, forcing filming to move to Bangkok, Thailand. Bond spokesman Gordon Arnell claimed the Vietnamese were unhappy with crew and equipment needed for pyrotechnics, with a Vietnamese official saying it was due to "many complicated reasons". Two locations from previous Bond films were used: Brosnan and Hatcher's love scene was filmed at Stoke Park, which had been featured in Goldfinger, and the bay where they search for Carver's stealth boat is Phang Nga Bay, Thailand, previously used for The Man with the Golden Gun.
Spottiswoode tried to innovate in the action scenes. Since the director felt that after the tank chase in GoldenEye he could not use a bigger vehicle, a scene with Bond and Wai Lin on a BMW motorcycle was created. Another innovation was the remote-controlled car, which had no visible driver – an effect achieved by adapting a BMW 750i to put the steering wheel on the back seat. The car chase sequence with the 750i took three weeks to film, with Brent Cross car park being used to simulate Hamburg – although the final leap was filmed on location. A stunt involving setting fire to three vehicles produced more smoke than anticipated, causing a member of the public to call the fire brigade. The upwards camera angle filming the HALO jump created the illusion of having the stuntman opening its parachute close to the water.
During filming, there were reports of disputes on set. The Daily Mail reported that Spottiswoode and Feirstein were no longer on speaking terms and that crew members had threatened to resign, with one saying "All the happiness and teamwork which is the hallmark of Bond has disappeared completely." This was denied by Brosnan who claimed "It was nothing more than good old creative argy-bargy", with Spottiswoode saying "It has all been made up...Nothing important really went wrong." Spottiswoode did not return to direct the next film; he said the producers asked him, but he was too tired. Apparently, Brosnan and Hatcher feuded briefly during filming due to her arriving late onto the set one day. The matter was quickly resolved though and Brosnan apologised to Hatcher after realising she was pregnant and was late for that reason.
Tomorrow Never Dies marked the first appearance of the Walther P99 as Bond's pistol. It replaced the Walther PPK that the character had carried in every Eon Bond film since Dr. No in 1962, with the exception of Moonraker in which Bond was not seen with a pistol. Walther wanted to debut its new firearm in a Bond film, which had been one of its most visible endorsers. Previously the P5 was introduced in Octopussy. Bond would use the P99 until Daniel Craig reverted to the PPK as 007 in Quantum of Solace in 2008.
Barbara Broccoli chose David Arnold to score Tomorrow Never Dies on a recommendation from prolific James Bond films composer John Barry. Arnold had come to Barry's attention through his successful cover interpretations in Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project, which featured major artists performing the former James Bond title songs in new arrangements. Arnold said that his score aimed for "a classic sound but [with] a modern approach", combining techno music with a recognisably Barry-inspired "classic Bond" sound–notably Arnold borrowed from Barry's score for From Russia with Love. The score was done across a period of six months, with Arnold writing music and revising previous pieces as he received edited footage of the film. The music for the indoor car chase sequence was co-written with the band Propellerheads, who had worked with Arnold on Shaken and Stirred. The soundtrack was well received by critics with Christian Clemmensen of Filmtracks describing it as "an excellent tribute to the entire series of Bond score".
At first, the theme song was to be written by Arnold himself, with the help of lyricist Don Black and singer-songwriter David McAlmont, who recorded the demo. However, MGM wanted a more popular artist, and invited various singers to write songs before one was picked through a competitive process. There were around twelve submissions, including songs from Swan Lee, Pulp, Saint Etienne, Marc Almond, and Sheryl Crow. Crow's song was chosen for the main titles. Arnold's composition, "Surrender", performed by k.d. lang, was still used for the end titles, and features the same prominent melodic motif as the film's score. This was the fourth Bond film to have different opening and closing songs. Moby created a remake of The James Bond Theme to be used for the movie. Two different versions of the soundtrack album were released, the first featuring only music from the first half of the film, and the second rectifying this but cutting several tracks, including the songs, to make room for the missing score tracks. Pulp's effort was re-titled as "Tomorrow Never Lies" and appeared as a b-side on their single "Help The Aged".
The film had a World Charity Premiere at The Odeon Leicester Square, on 9 December 1997; this was followed by an after premiere party at Bedford Square, home of original Ian Fleming publisher, Jonathan Cape. The film went on general release in the UK and Iceland on 12 December and in most other countries during the following week. It opened at number 2 in the US, with $25,143,007 from 2,807 cinemas – average of $8,957 per cinema – behind Titanic, which would become one of the highest-grossing films of its time. Tomorrow Never Dies ultimately achieved a worldwide gross of over $330 million, although it did not surpass its predecessor GoldenEye, which grossed almost $20 million more.
The critical reception of the film was mixed, with the film review collection website Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 58% rating, and similar site Metacritic rating it at 56%. In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four-stars, saying "Tomorrow Never Dies gets the job done, sometimes excitingly, often with style" with the villain "slightly more contemporary and plausible than usual", bringing "some subtler-than-usual satire into the film". James Berardinelli described it as "the best Bond film in many years" and said Brosnan "inhabits his character with a suave confidence that is very like Connery's." However, in the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan thought a lot of Tomorrow Never Dies had a "stodgy, been-there feeling", with little change from previous films, and Charles Taylor wrote for Salon.com that the film was "a flat, impersonal affair".
The title song sung by Sheryl Crow was nominated for a Golden Globe for "Best Original Song – Motion Picture" and a Grammy for "Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television". The film received four nominations for Saturn Awards, with Brosnan winning "Best Actor". It also won a MPSE Golden Reel Award for "Best Sound Editing – Foreign Feature" and a BMI Film Music Award.
The original UK release received various cuts to scenes of violence and martial arts weaponry, and to reduce the impact of sound effects, to receive a more box-office-friendly 12 certificate. Further cuts were made to the video/DVD release to retain this rating. These edits were restored for the Ultimate Edition DVD release in the UK, which was consequently upgraded to a 15 certificate. However, upon the release of the Blu-ray in 2012, it was rated back down to a 12 uncut.
Tomorrow Never Dies was the first of three Bond films to be adapted into books by then-current Bond novelist Raymond Benson. Benson's version is expanded from the screenplay including additional scenes with Wai Lin and other supporting characters not in the film. The novel traces Carver's background as the son of media mogul Lord Roverman, whom Carver blackmails into suicide, later taking over his business. The novel also attempts to merge Benson's series with the films, particularly by continuing a middle-of-the-road approach to John Gardner's continuity. Notably it includes a reference to the film version of You Only Live Twice where he states that Bond was lying to Miss Moneypenny when he said he had taken a course in Asian languages. Tomorrow Never Dies also mentions Felix Leiter, although it states that Felix had worked for Pinkertons Detective Agency, which is thus exclusive to the literary series. Subsequent Bond novels by Benson were affected by Tomorrow Never Dies, specifically Bond's weapon of choice being changed from the Walther PPK to the Walther P99. Benson said in an interview that he felt Tomorrow Never Dies was the best of the three novelisations he wrote.
The film was also adapted into a third-person shooter PlayStation video game, Tomorrow Never Dies. The game was developed by Black Ops and published by Electronic Arts on 16 November 1999. Game Revolution described it as "really just an empty and shallow game", and IGN said it was "mediocre".