All of a sudden, 2006 seems like a long time ago – that was when Daniel Craig exploded into cinemas as a new James Bond 007 for the 21st century in Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale, but with an incarnation that nevertheless brought Ian Fleming’s original vision of the character back, namely a sophisticated, cavalier, merciless but scarred and haunted professional assassin.
As Craig told Interview magazine: “When I accepted the job to work on Bond, I genuinely did it to change my life. I knew that it would flip everything on its head… I’ve never made movies for money – I’ve always made them because I truly wanted to do them.”
With Sam Mendes’ Skyfall, Craig’s third take on James Bond, currently cutting a swathe through the box office and being showered with critical bouquets, and Craig’s contractual 007 obligations to two more films, it would appear that Bond is set to remain blonde for some time to come. But how has stepping into the shoes of the world’s most famous secret agent changed Craig? As Sam Mendes told the Financial Express: “He puts 100 per cent of himself into it. He doesn’t leave anything at home. But it’s very odd, because I’ve never directed an actor in a role which, in a sense, he knows better than I do. Here it’s like, ‘Well he’s played Bond already, so I’m the newcomer’.”
So, is Craig living the part then?
As he told The Times: “In fact, I find it very easy playing Bond. I think he’s hilarious. He gets himself into some extraordinarily funny situations… The idea of regretting not doing this seemed insane to me. Sitting in the corner at a bar at age 60, saying: ‘I could’ve been Bond. Buy me a drink.’ That’s the saddest place i could be. At least now at 60 i can say: ‘I was Bond. Now buy me a drink.’ ”
It forms an interesting contrast with the Bond predecessor to whom Craig is most frequently compared, even increasingly as an equal or superior, namely Sean Connery, whose own attitude to the part, which became something of an albatross for the great actor, he summed up as follows: “I have always hated that damn James Bond. i’d like to kill him.”
And, while Craig has not toured with the media circus to the same extent as Sir Roger Moore or even Pierce Brosnan did when the role was theirs, he has certainly made his cameos count, not least of which with his guest appearance escorting her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll, no less, to the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony… by parachute. In fact, according to the Daily Mail, Craig was a little put out: “[Her Majesty] was fun, incredibly game,” he told the Mail. “We had a short space of time and I was a bit grumpy as it was my day off and suddenly I am at the Palace with the Queen at her private chamber.”
And even Sir Roger himself, while dismissing Craig’s second film as Bond, Quantum of Solace (2008) as a “long, disjointed commercial”, has written in his latest book, Bond on Bond: “I loved Casino Royale and Daniel Craig. He is a wonderful actor, certainly the best actor to play Bond.”
For this writer, reviewer and confessed Bond-oholic, who grew up during Moore’s reign, while there is no doubt that I loved the humour of that era, I am certain that the Bond who is now in town should be the franchise’s template for the next generation – as Connery has by and large been declared the best Bond for most of the series’ 50 years, Craig is bidding fair to be held in similar esteem well into the 21st century. As Orson Welles once famously said of Sherlock Holmes, “he is the man who has never lived, and will never die” – and it is only to be hoped that subsequent Bonds follow Craig’s lead. What do you think of that, danielcraigisnotbond.com?
Of his immersion into the part, Craig has said: “I can’t do all the things I’d like to do, but I have a normal life. My family and friends treat me as they always have. I want people to treat me as normally as they can. Anybody who doesn’t, I feel awkward with.”
And, according to Craig’s recent interview with Variety, there are other more Bond-specific challenges: “It’s amazing,” he said, “how many times I’ve sat in interviews like this in a bar or a hotel, and it’s 11 o’clock in the morning and someone sends a martini over. And it’s like, really? It’s 11 o’clock! Cheers! I’m not going to drink it.
“I’ve got to be high-class. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but you have to think in that way, which is sad, because i like bars. I’m not going to be the poster boy for this. Although I am the poster boy.”