The sixth post in my “James Bond at 50” series focuses on the Daniel Craig Years. In my opinion, the reboot of the James Bond series by producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli has given the franchise new life. It was time to take Bond back to his roots and retell the story with a new generation in mind. I also have to agree with a majority of critics and fans that Daniel Craig’s portrayal of the character has revitalized Bond by making him more three dimensional and, in the process, more relatable to the audience. However, following the release of his fourth and latest film, Spectre, in November 2015, Craig made a variety of statements indicating he would not return to play 007 for a fifth time. Once again, the future of James Bond was uncertain.
On October 14 2005, Eon Productions, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and MGM announced at a press conference in London that Daniel Craig would be the sixth actor to portray Bond in the Eon series, succeeding Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan’s last Bond film, Die Another Day, had not been well received by critics. Long time producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli had passed away and his successors, Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, felt they had reached a dead end with the current incarnation of Bond. The time had come to return to James Bond’s origins. As Barbara Broccoli stated in the documentary Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007, “Cubby used to say, ‘Whenever you have a problem, go back to [Ian] Fleming, go back to the books.” And that’s exactly what they did.
Craig’s first film as James Bond, Casino Royale, was an adaptation of Fleming’s novel of the same name. Casino Royale was Ian Fleming’s first book in the Bond series and focused on introducing the Bond character, including how he earned his 00 status. In 1999, following legal action between Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM/UA, Eon Productions gained the rights to Casino Royale when Sony traded for MGM’s rights to Spider-Man. In March 2004, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade began writing a screenplay, initially for Brosnan, aiming to bring back the flavor of Ian Fleming’s original Bond novels. By returning to the origins of James Bond, Casino Royal constituted a fresh start, allowing the producers the freedom to reinterpret almost 50 years of Bond history for a new century.
Just a year earlier, Craig had rejected the offer to play Bond as he too felt the series had descended into formula. Only when he read the script for Casino Royale did he become interested. Craig subsequently read all of Fleming’s novels to prepare for the part and cited Mossad and British Secret Service agents as inspiring him because, “Bond has just come out of the service and he’s a killer. […] You can see it in their eyes, you know immediately: oh, hello, he’s a killer. There’s a look. These guys walk into a room and very subtly they check the perimeters for an exit. That’s the sort of thing I wanted.” Craig stated he “was aware of the challenges” of the Bond franchise which he considered “a big machine that makes a lot of money” but felt he could bring more “emotional depth” to the character.
Born in 1968, Craig became the first actor to portray James Bond to have been born after the Bond series started and after the death of Ian Fleming, the novels’ writer. Significant controversy followed the decision to hire Craig as there was doubt as to whether or not the producers had made the right choice. Throughout the entire production period for Casino Royale, internet campaigns expressed their dissatisfaction and threatened to boycott the film in protest. The 5 foot 10 inch blond Craig was not considered by some protesters to fit the tall, dark Bond portrayed by the previous Bond actors and to which viewers had apparently become accustomed. The Daily Mirror ran a front page news story critical of Craig with the headline, “The Name’s Bland – James Bland”.
Although the choice of Craig was controversial, numerous actors publicly voiced their support. Most notably, all five of the actors who had previously portrayed Bond – Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and George Lazenby – called his casting a good decision.
Casino Royal premiered November 2006 and grossed a total of $600M worldwide, making it the highest-grossing Bond film until the release of Skyfall. Craig’s performance was highly acclaimed with many believing him to have been the first actor to truly nail Fleming’s character as described in his books. Todd McCarthy, reviewing the film for Variety, considered that “Craig comes closer to the author’s original conception of this exceptionally long-lived male fantasy figure than anyone since early Sean Connery” and he went on to say that “Craig once and for all claims the character as his own”, while Steven Spielberg called Craig “the perfect 21st-century Bond.”
Paul Arendt, writing for the BBC, agreed, observing that “Daniel Craig is not a good Bond. He’s a great Bond. Specifically, he is 007 as conceived by Ian Fleming—a professional killing machine, a charming, cold-hearted patriot with a taste for luxury. Craig is the first actor to really nail 007’s defining characteristic: he’s an absolute swine.” James Chapman commented on the realism and violence in the film noting that Bond is seen to seriously bleed for the first time in the series. Chapman also identified a number of violent scenes which makes Casino Royale notable in the series. Raymond Benson, the author of nine Bond novels, called Casino Royale “a perfect Bond film.”
Roger Moore, who played James Bond between 1973 and 1985, wrote, “Daniel Craig impressed me so greatly in his debut outing, Casino Royale, by introducing a more gritty, unrefined edge to the character that I thought Sean might just have to move over. Craig’s interpretation was like nothing we’d seen on screen before; Jimmy Bond was earning his stripes and making mistakes. It was intriguing to see him being castigated by M, just like a naughty schoolboy would be by his headmaster. The script showed him as a vulnerable, troubled, and flawed character. Quite the opposite to my Bond! Craig was, and is, very much the Bond Ian Fleming had described in the books – a ruthless killing machine. It was a Bond that the public wanted.” So impressed was Moore that he chose to buy the DVD.
Craig describes his portrayal of Bond as an anti-hero: “The question I keep asking myself while playing the role is, ‘Am I the good guy or just a bad guy who works for the good side?’ Bond’s role, after all, is that of an assassin when you come down to it. I have never played a role in which someone’s dark side shouldn’t be explored. I don’t think it should be confusing by the end of the film, but during the film you should be questioning who he is.”
Craig has stated that his own favorite previous Bond actor is Sean Connery, but says, “I’d never copy somebody else. I would never do an impression of anybody else or try and improve on what they did. That would be a pointless exercise for me.” His own favorite Bond film is From Russia With Love. On an episode of The South Bank Show with a James Bond theme, Connery divulged his thoughts on Craig’s casting as Bond, whom he described as “fantastic, marvelous in the part”. When told that Craig had taken particular note of his performances, Connery said that he was “flattered” and that Craig really gets the “danger element” to Bond’s character.
As production of Casino Royale reached its conclusion, producers Wilson and Broccoli announced that pre-production work had already begun on the follow-up film, Quantum of Solace, the 22nd film in the Bond series. After several months of speculation as to the release date, Wilson and Broccoli officially announced in July 2006 that the follow-up film was to be released November 2008 and that Craig would play Bond with an option for a third film. On October 25 2007, MGM CEO Harry Sloan revealed at the Forbes Meet II Conference that Craig had signed on to make four more Bond films through to Bond 25.
Quantum of Solace was released on October 29 2008. Director Marc Forster noted a running theme in his films were emotionally repressed protagonists and the theme of this picture would be Bond learning to trust after feeling betrayed by Vesper Lynd, his love interest in Casino Royale. According to a December 2011 interview with Craig, “We had the bare bones of a script and then there was a writers’ strike and there was nothing we could do. We couldn’t employ a writer to finish it. I say to myself, ‘Never again’, but who knows? There was me trying to rewrite “scenes—and a writer I am not”. He said that he and Forster “were the ones allowed to do it. The rules were that you couldn’t employ anyone as a writer, but the actor and director could work on scenes together. We were stuffed. We got away with it, but only just. It was never meant to be as much of a sequel as it was, but it ended up being a sequel, starting where the last one finished.”
Pre-production was subsequently initiated on the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall, to be released April 2010. However, all production activities came to a halt on November 3 2010 when Eon Productions’ parent company, MGM Holdings, along with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and 160 affiliates, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, delaying for another two years the release of Craig’s third Bond film. Pre-production resumed following MGM’s exit from bankruptcy in December 2010. Sam Mendes would replace Marc Forster as the director and was signed on to the project shortly after Quantum of Solace was released, remaining on board as a consultant during the period of uncertainty surrounding MGM’s financial situation.
Skyfall was released on November 9 2012 as part of the year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. No. Reviewing the film, Philip French, writing in The Observer, considered that Craig managed to “get out of the shadow of Connery”, while the New Statesman thought that he had “relaxed into Bond without losing any steeliness”.
Craig’s fourth Bond film and the 24th in the series, Spectre, began filming in December 2014. Originally, in March 2013, Skyfall Director Sam Mendes announced he would not direct Spectre, although he later decided to return. The film was released in the United States on November 6 2015. The story sees Bond pitted against the global criminal organization Spectre, marking the group’s first appearance in an Eon Productions film since 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever and tying Craig’s series of films together with an overarching storyline. Several recurring James Bond characters, including M, Q, and Eve Moneypenny return, with the new additions of Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, marking the character’s re-introduction into the series.
Bond 25 began pre-production in early 2016 with Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli returning as the producers along with screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. However, Sam Mendes has stated he will not return to direct a third Bond film. In July 2017, it was announced that the film would be released on November 8 2019.
Following is a brief description of each of Daniel Craig’s James Bond films.
— Casino Royale (Released November 2006): A reboot of the series with Bond winning his 00 status in the pre-credits sequence. Bond is instructed to investigate the funding of terrorism. He tracks down and kills a bomb-maker and takes his mobile phone. Searching through the phone, Bond discovers a text message which he traces to Alex Dimitrios, and then on to financer Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). Le Chiffre’s investments involve short selling stock in successful companies and then engineering terrorist attacks to sink their share prices. Bond foils Le Chiffre’s plan to destroy the prototype Skyfleet airliner which forces Le Chiffre to set up a high-stakes poker tournament at the Casino Royale to recoup his fortune. Bond is instructed to beat Le Chiffre and is aided by a member of HM Treasury, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).
Bond beats Le Chiffre at the poker table but Lynd is kidnapped by Le Chiffre after the game, as is Bond, who is captured whilst pursuing them. Lynd is ransomed for the money and Bond is tortured. Le Chiffre is subsequently killed by Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), a liaison between Le Chiffre and a number of his clients. Bond learns that his poker winnings were never repaid to the Treasury, which Lynd was supposed to have done, and Bond establishes that she was a double agent. Bond pursues her and is attacked by members of White’s organization; he survives but White takes the money and Lynd commits suicide. Bond subsequently finds and captures White.
Casino Royale, directed by Martin Campbell, premiered in the US on November 18 2006 and received largely positive critical response with reviewers highlighting Craig’s performance and the reinvention of the Bond character. It earned over $600 million worldwide on a budget of $150M. Campbell was directing his second Bond film but his first since 1995’s GoldenEye. Casino Royale established a new timeline and narrative framework not meant to precede or succeed any previous Bond film, allowing the producers to show a less experienced and more vulnerable Bond. Additionally, the characters “Q” and Miss Moneypenny are, for the first time in the series, completely absent.
— Quantum of Solace (Released November 2008): Along with M (Judi Dench), Bond interrogates Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) regarding his organization, Quantum. M’s bodyguard, Mitchell, a double agent, attacks M enabling White to escape. Bond traces the organization to Haiti and a connection to environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) through his lover, Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko). While observing her meeting with Greene, Bond learns that Greene is helping an exiled Bolivian General, Medrano (Joaquin Cosio)—who murdered Camille’s family—to overthrow his government and become the new president in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of desert.
Bond subsequently uncovers a plot between Greene and Medrano to put Medrano in power in Bolivia in exchange for Quantum having a monopoly to run his country’s water supply. Bond and Camille ascertain that Quantum is damming Bolivia’s supply of fresh water in order to force the price up. Bond infiltrates the hotel where Greene and Medrano are finalizing their plans and confronts Greene. Meanwhile, Camille kills Medrano, avenging the murders of her parents and sister. Bond captures Greene and interrogates him about Quantum before leaving him stranded in the desert. Bond then finds Vesper Lynd’s former lover and member of Quantum, Yusef Kabira (Simon Kassianides), but decides not to exact revenge for Lynd’s death allowing him instead to be arrested by MI6.
Quantum of Solace, directed by Marc Foster, premiered in the US on November 14 2008 grossing $586.1M worldwide on a budget of $200M. For Foster, Quantum of Solace was his first Bond film; the youngest director in the Bond series at age 39. The film gathered mixed reviews, mainly praising Craig’s gritty performance and the film’s action sequences but feeling that the film was not as impressive as its predecessor, Casino Royale.
The title was chosen from a 1959 short story in Ian Fleming’s For Your Eyes Only though the film does not contain any elements of the original story. The movie is related to the title in one of its thematic elements: “when the ‘Quantum of Solace’ drops to zero, humanity and consideration of one human for another is gone.” Both the Bond and Camille Montes characters are looking for their “quantum of solace”, closure, in the death of their loved ones.
— Skyfall (Released November 2012): In Istanbul, Bond and Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) chase a mercenary, Patrice, who has stolen a computer hard drive containing details of undercover agents placed in terrorist organizations by NATO states. Patrice wounds Bond in the shoulder and, as the two men fight atop a train, M (Judi Dench), the head of MI6, orders Eve to fire a distant shot with a rifle at Patrice. Eve misses and inadvertently shoots Bond, allowing Patrice to escape. Bond falls into a river and goes missing, presumed to be dead. In the aftermath, questions are raised over M’s ability to run the Secret Service and she becomes the subject of a government review over her handling of the situation.
The Service itself is attacked prompting Bond’s return to London. His presence assists MI6’s investigation in uncovering a lead and Bond is sent to Shanghai and Macau in pursuit of Patrice. There, he establishes a connection to Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent, who was captured and tortured by Chinese agents. Blaming M for his imprisonment, he sets in motion a plan to ruin her reputation before murdering her. Bond saves M and attempts to lure Silva into a trap at Skyfall, Bond’s family estate and childhood home in Scotland. While Bond is successful in repelling Silva’s assault and Silva is killed, M is also mortally wounded. Bond returns to active duty under the command of the new M, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes).
Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes, was released in the United States on November 9 2012 and was Mendes’ first Bond film. Skyfall’s release coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Bond series, which began with Dr. No in 1962. It was positively received by critics, being praised for its acting, particularly that of Craig, Bardem and Dench, as well as its writing and script, cinematography, Mendes’ direction, Thomas Newman’s score, and the action scenes. In addition to the reintroduction of the Moneypenny character, the “Q” character, played by Ben Whishaw, also made his debut for the first time in the rebooted series.
Skyfall became only the 14th film to gross over $1B worldwide ($1.1B on a budget of $200M) and the first Bond film to do so. It was the seventh highest grossing film at the time, the highest grossing film in the Bond series, and the second highest grossing film of 2012. The film won several accolades, including two Academy Awards and two Grammys, one for the film’s theme song, Skyfall, by Adele.
Finally, Skyfall would be the final film for Judi Dench, who had played the character “M” since 1995’s GoldenEye. Dench was one of the few actors who were carried forward when the series was rebooted in 2006. In the series reincarnation, “M” has worked for MI6 for some time, at one point muttering, “Christ, I miss the Cold War”. According to Skyfall, M was previously in charge of MI6’s operations in Hong Kong during the 1990s. She is also revealed to be a widow. After her death at the end of Skyfall, she is succeeded by Gareth Mallory, played by Ralph Finnes. Mallory was the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee prior to his assignment as the new “M”.
— Spectre (Released November 2015): On a mission in Mexico City unofficially ordered by a posthumous message from the previous M (Judi Dench), Bond gives chase to an assassin, Marco Sciarra. In the ensuing struggle, Bond steals his ring, which is emblazoned with a stylised octopus, and then kills Sciarra. Meanwhile, M (Ralph Finnes) is in the midst of a power struggle with C (Andrew Scott), the head of the privately backed Joint Intelligence Service, consisting of the recently merged MI5 and MI6. C campaigns for Britain to form alongside 8 other countries “Nine Eyes “, a global surveillance and intelligence co-operation initiative and uses his influence to close down the ’00’ section, believing it to be outdated. Bond travels to Rome to attend Sciarra’s funeral where he encounters Sciarra’s widow Lucia (Monica Bellucci), who tells him about Spectre.
Bond infiltrates a Spectre meeting, where he identifies the leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). Moneypenny informs Bond that the information he collected leads to Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), former member of Quantum, a subsidiary of Spectre. Bond travels to Austria to find White, who is dying of thalium poisoning. He admits to growing disenchanted with Quantum and tells Bond to find and protect his daughter, Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux), who will take him to L’Américain; this will in turn lead him to Spectre. Bond locates Swann at the Hoffler Klinik but she is abducted. Bond rescues her and the two meet Q, who discovers that Sciarra’s ring links Oberhauser to Bond’s previous missions, identifying Le Chiffre, Dominic Greene, and Raoul Silva as Spectre agents.
Swann reveals that L’Américain is a hotel in Tangier. The two travel to the hotel and discover White’s secret room where they find co-ordinates pointing to Oberhauser’s operations base in the desert. After arriving at the nearest train station, Bond and Swann are escorted to Oberhauser’s base. There, he reveals that Spectre has been staging terrorist attacks around the world, creating a need for the Nine Eyes programme. In return Spectre will be given unlimited access to intelligence gathered by Nine Eyes.
Oberhauser discusses their shared history: after the younger Bond was orphaned, Oberhauser’s father became his temporary guardian. Believing that Bond supplanted his role as son, Oberhauser killed his father and staged his own death, subsequently adopting the name Ernst Stavro Blofeld and going on to form Spectre. Bond and Swann escape, destroying the base in the process, leaving Blofeld to apparently die during the explosion. Meanwhile, Bond and Swann meet M, Q, and Moneypenny back in London. After Q succeeds in preventing the Nine Eyes from going online, a brief struggle between M and C ends with the latter falling to his death.
Meanwhile, Bond and Swann are captured and taken to the old MI6 building, which is scheduled for demolition. Bond frees himself and, moving throughout the ruined labyrinth, he encounters a disfigured Blofeld, who tells him that he has three minutes to escape the building before explosives are detonated or die trying to save Swann. Bond finds Swann and the two escape as the building collapses. Bond shoots down Blofeld’s helicopter, which crashes onto Westminster Bridge. As Blofeld crawls away from the wreckage, Bond confronts him but ultimately leaves him to be arrested by M. Bond leaves with Swann.
Spectre, the second consecutive film to be directed by Sam Mendes and the first director to do so since John Glen, was released in the United States on November 6 2015. With a budget around $245 million, it is the most expensive Bond film and one of the most expensive films ever made. To date, it has grossed approximately $880M in box office receipts worldwide, falling short of the $1.1B generated by its predecessor, Skyfall.
Spectre received mixed reviews, with many reviewers either giving the film highly positive or highly negative feedback. Many critics praised the film’s opening scene, action sequences, stuntwork, cinematography and performances from the cast. Typical of the reviews is one from Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times. He stated: “This is the 24th Bond film and it ranks solidly in the middle of the all-time rankings, which means it’s still a slick, beautifully photographed, action-packed, international thriller with a number of wonderfully, ludicrously entertaining set pieces, a sprinkling of dry wit, myriad gorgeous women and a classic psycho-villain who is clearly out of his mind but seems to like it that way.”
So what is to be the future of 007? On September 8 2012, Bond producers announced that Daniel Craig had signed on for two future Bond films, including Spectre, meaning he is scheduled to star as 007 in at least five films, making him the third longest-serving Bond after Roger Moore, who starred in seven films, and Sean Connery, who starred in six. However, the always candid actor told Time Out London on October 8 2015 that he can’t imagine doing another James Bond movie after Spectre. “I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists,” the 47-year-old actor says of playing the British spy, adding, “I’m over it at the moment. We’re done. All I want to do is move on.”
Asked if he wants to move on from the role once and for all, the Critics’ Choice Award winner says, “I haven’t given it any thought. For at least a year or two, I just don’t want to think about it. I don’t know what the next step is. I’ve no idea. Not because I’m trying to be cagey. Who the f–k knows? At the moment, we’ve done it.” Craig explains that he’s ready to do something new. “I’m not in discussion with anybody about anything,” he says of reprising the iconic role. “If I did another Bond movie, it would only be for the money.” Does he care who replaces him? “Look, I don’t give a f–k. Good luck to them! All I care about is that if I stop doing these things we’ve left it in a good place and people pick it up and make it better. Make it better, that’s all.”
However, in October 2016, Craig stated that he may indeed return after all, saying, “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got the best job in the world. I’ll keep doing it as long as I still get a kick out of it. If I were to stop doing it, I would miss it terribly.” Finally, on the August 15 2017 episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Craig publicly confirmed he will return to his role as James Bond for his fifth, and possibly final, picture, the 25th film in the series produced by Eon Productions. For now at least, it appears the Daniel Craig era will continue.
To end this post, I’ve included a compilation video showing Daniel Craig’s “40 Great James Bond Quotes” including Bond’s famous introduction; “Bond, James Bond”. Also attached is a compilation of the best scenes from the 24th Eon Productions James Bond film, Spectre. Enjoy!
As always, your feedback is appreciated!