Tony Black on Daniel Craig’s future as Bond…
We all knew this was coming. By we, I mean the legion of James Bond fans and aficionados who have followed the bizarre media whirlwind that seems to forever cascade around 007 himself, Daniel Craig. The Daily Fail (sorry, Mail!) apparently claimed Craig is done – that soon after the release of Spectre he turned down (say it like Dr Evil) 100 million dollars to return not just for Bond 25 but also Bond 26, claiming to Eon Productions and MGM bosses that his tenure was over. Everyone clamoured over this scant piece of pure rumour, to the point almost of hysteria, until the BBC later waded in and claimed what we all suspected all along – that Craig hasn’t made his mind up yet, and likely won’t for quite some time. Why should he? Bond 25 is a long way off, given the recent confirmation by Eon that the series will now run in three to four year cycles, meaning the earliest we’ll see 007 next is the latter half of 2018. Danny boy has plenty of time to decide if he wants a fifth run at the world’s most iconic action hero. Here’s the key point to bear in mind, however, amongst all the online chatter: it’s ok if his answer is no.
Like I said, the media have treated Daniel Craig extremely strangely in recent months. First there was how much they leaped down his throat at the mere tongue-in-cheek suggestion that he didn’t immediately want to start filming Bond 25, with almost everyone taking him at face value when he claimed “I would rather slit my wrists” than play Bond again. What everyone failed to add was how he’d just finished a mammoth, almost year long shoot for Spectre, a film not without its production difficulties, including an enormously tight shooting window and the fact Craig broke his knee during the intensive filming schedule. He’s famously commented before that if you don’t break a few bones, you’re not doing Bond properly, but this one really knocked him for six for some time. After spending a whole year travelling the globe kicking the shit out of people, anyone would want some time off!
Inevitably, most of the media went to extremes in response – Craig hates Bond! Craig won’t do another film! And so on and so forth. It’s no wonder Craig is often reticent at talking Bond, in much the same way Sean Connery has been over the years, given how intrusive and wilfully open to misinterpretation the entertainment media are. It’s almost as if they *want* him to bite the hand that feeds, as if the entertainment websites have been infiltrated and controlled by those ‘blonde not Bond’ nobheads who hated on Craig before Casino Royale came out, before he demonstrably proved he’s probably the best 007 since Connery, and arguably he’s perhaps the closest interpretation to Ian Fleming’s character from the books ever committed to celluloid.
The next media turn looks like it’s going to be aimed at Craig’s premature departure. In the last week, people have been practically talking up Tom Hiddleston as a done deal for the next 007; bookies have suspended betting after his very Bondian appearance in The Night Manager BBC series, and indeed how he was spotted recently having dinner with director Sam Mendes and Bond producer Barbara Broccoli in London. Don’t get me wrong, this is suggestive, and it’s a reasonable deduction that Broccoli could well be scoping Hiddleston out as the next 007. She might well know Craig isn’t coming back and wants to lock down his successor before they announce his departure. Mendes could well even be considering a third Bond film, perhaps excited at the idea of not just climaxing Craig’s run but establishing an entirely new Bond era. Hiddleston too has commented favourably when the suggestion of him playing Bond has trickled out of interviews. All this is possible… and then equally it’s not.
It was later determined he was only having dinner with Mendes, not Broccoli, and Hiddleston even denied the whole thing. Craig, indeed, may not have made his mind up at all, even though admittedly he’s talked generally in terms about how he feels Spectre closes off his 007’s story, and you know what? It’s hard to disagree. Spectre may have left Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld on the table but it let Bond sail off with Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann for a seemingly happy life, which no previous Craig-Bond has ever done. Seydoux is reputedly contracted for Bond 25 but in real terms the only way to continue Craig-Bond’s story is to kill or put her in jeopardy, and undo the very closure Craig seems to appreciate. Would he want to undo that, after four films of development? It’s hard to say.
If the media seem to be feasting on his carcass before he’s even expired, the fans are very much in a state now of flat denial and refusal to accept a Bond world without Craig. To them, at 48, he’s got at least one more film in him. Spectre took the series back to the roots many have missed since the grittier reboot in the post-Bourne landscape. We have a male M. We have a (pretty awesome) new Blofeld. We have a fun Q, a cool Moneypenny. We have the old office, the gadgets, the henchmen. We have Bond back and now… he’s going. Fans just don’t want to lose what Spectre gave them but the truth is, they have to start accepting the end is coming. If Craig does commit to Bond 25, it likely won’t start shooting until at least mid-2017 (probably later), by which time he’ll be 49. He’ll be 50 by the time it comes out.
Sure, Roger Moore did well over this age. Pierce Brosnan got into his 50’s with it, and indeed Connery came back and had another crack at it at that age, but does anyone really look back on the films with an aged Bond fondly? A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Never Say Never Again – they’re not exactly the creme de la Bond, are they? Now I’m not suggesting Bond 25 or 26 would be as creatively dodgy as they were, but an older Craig means we could start to see the Bond we adored begin losing his step. Remember when Connery started phoning it in by Diamonds Are Forever when he was bored to death of it? Would you want the same for a Craig who no longer does it for the love, but for the money? I know I wouldn’t. Because despite what the media might try and paint, I’m sure Craig has loved playing James Bond. I’m just not sure he’s in love with him anymore.
That’s fine. That’s genuinely fine. Dan, if you’re listening, it’s ok. If you are mulling it over, know this: everyone would love to see you do Bond 25, and give us another exciting blast of fun like Spectre or a critical great like Skyfall or Casino Royale. You’re not too old, and you’d give us what we want. But if your heart isn’t in it, I’d rather you step away now. Forget all the media putting words in your mouth, or twisting those words, or claims about rejecting millions of dollars, forget all that – just make your choice for the right reasons.
If you still love 007 like we do, keep on remembering the first rule of mass media – give the people what they want. If you don’t, then move on with your head held high, knowing very few have ever done it better. For many people, you’ll always be ‘their Bond’. That’s more than a great enough legacy.
Tony Black is a freelance film/TV writer & podcaster & would love you to follow him on Twitter.