All the respected movie sites – not this one – are running with headlines and stories claiming that Daniel Craig is still the first choice for James Bond. This flurry of posting comes hot on the heels of some comments made from James Bond Producer Callum McDougall.
“We love Daniel, we would love Daniel to return as Bond. Without any question, he is absolutely Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson’s first choice and I know they are hoping for him to come back.”
But my main take away from this is: of course Daniel Craig is the first choice for Bond. The franchise has been utterly financially and generally critically successful under Craig’s reign but wanting someone back and having someone back are too different things entirely.
Financially, bringing Daniel Craig back makes perfect sense for MGM. Despite Spectre grossing less than Skyfall by the end of its’ run, Spectre had grossed over $880 million whilst Skyfall grossed $1.1 billion, MGM and Sony were very happy with Spectre’s performance and rightly so.
Daniel Craig has been a very bankable James Bond, with Skyfall breaking the £100 million mark at the UK box office, thus setting a record, and a total of $1 billion worldwide. Casino Royale, which arrived with many audiences still unsure on the casting of Craig as Bond, nearly grossed $600 million worldwide. Even Quantum of Disappointment grossed $580 million across the globe. It’s clear to see, however bad or good the movie, Craig’s James Bond movies have been a box office hit. MGM will look at this and Craig’s large wage demands and decide it’s a good decision to bring him back one last time. Indeed, Craig has said that if he does one more James Bond movie it will only be for the money.
Incidentally, recent rumours claim that Craig has been offered a whopping $150 million for two more films after turning down a supposed opening offer of $100 million.
This brings me to Spectre and Daniel Craig’s performance. With a character like James Bond and the rich universe that surrounds him, it can actually be very easy to ignore the lead and focus on the supplementary cogs. I fell for this slip when viewing Spectre having been enchanted by its cinematography and Christoph Waltz’s giddy performance. On reflection, Craig wasn’t just lazy as James Bond, he was actually pretty bad.
Granted, Craig is the best Bond physically but emotionally and theatrically, he has fallen very far from his Skyfall/Casino Royale heights.
What makes Daniel Craig’s performance even worse in Spectre is the caliber of performer he has to act against and the substance he acts in. Sam Mendes and Director of Photography Hoyte Van Hoytema delivered some beautiful, engrossing and fluffy shots but Craig took this as an invitation to phone it in. Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw melted so well into their roles that Craig left the acting to them. Essentially, Craig’s performance boiled down to looking somber at just the right moments and keeping a sweaty straight face the next. When he needed to look worried it wasn’t his face it was the pre-applied sweat. When he needed to be funny it was the reactions of Whishaw and Naomi Harris respectively. When he needed to show pain it was actually seeing a needle drill into his head rather than his screams. He sleepwalked through this movie and I don’t want him to sleepwalk through another one, no matter how much they pay him.
And Craig reprising his role is not only potentially detrimental to the character but also the franchise and what it can offer the audience. Craig has participated, actually headed, four Bond films now. Sean Connery had six official Bond films, George Lazenby has but one, Roger Moore has seven, Timothy Dalton has two and Pierce Brosnan had four. The accepted Bonds, remember I said accepted not best, seem to stay in the role for four to six films before their films get too self-reflective and self-referential. Craig’s time is up. If he doesn’t even accept himself as Bond anymore, without a briefcase of money, why should we? And this isn’t some philosophical idea that actors should love their roles. Quite the contrary, Craig deserves the money he gets for Bond but MGM can pay another guy less money, use the Bond name, and capitalise on a greater profit.
It also makes sense narratively. Spectre ends with the misogynist James Bond walking away from the license to kill to walk off into the night with the woman he ‘loves’. Not only does that subvert everything James Bond is about, and not in a good way, it was a cop out ending to an otherwise haunting and beautiful movie. With Bond leaving his job and taking the classic Aston Martin, Craig’s time as Bond has a finality to it, despite the lunacy of its conclusion. MGM needs to take the franchise and bring another British star into it and change the tone a little.
Look, Craig doesn’t want to come back and I for one don’t want him back. Cast one of the many names that comes up week after week and evolve the franchise before Craig’s reign sticks around far after it’s sell by date.