How James became Bond: A decade of Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

By Nicolás Suszczyk,
Guest Writer

How time flies! It was ten years ago we saw Daniel Craig rushing the Thames River on a speedboat to meet the press during his announcement as the new James Bond, on Oct. 14, 2005.

Casino Royale, set for November 2006, had many challenges: introduce a new Bond actor, reboot the series and provide a good balance between the action scenes the book lacked and the drama content that filled the pages of Ian Fleming’s first novel, published in 1953.

Directed by a familiar face, GoldenEye’s Martin Campbell, the film was the target of a lot of criticism concerning the new face of 007.

Craig, then 37, had a hard time when production started: a website boycotting him plus tabloids calling him “James Bland.” He seemed far different from Pierce Brosnan’s suave portrayal of the British spy, last seen in 2002’s Die Another Day, a movie that went too far with CGI effects and overly seen clichés.

However, the 2006 film proved to be a great box office hit and the press had to admit its misjudgment of Craig’s portrayal. The actor showed us a strong and fearless Bond. Lethal but equally weak and romantic, Craig’s Bond fell in love and tragically lost Vesper Lynd, the female lead of the movie played by Eva Green.

In Casino Royale, Craig’s 007 could balance Sean Connery’s ironies with Timothy Dalton’s violence, as well as bringing to screen a modern sense of humor. “Do I look as if I give a damn?” he says when asked if his drink should be shaken or stirred, or cuts M off the phone after interrupting her for an “urgent” call. Indeed, this was the Bond the 21st century needed.

Campbell’s crew
Much of the 2006 film success came, of course, by the expert hand of director Campbell and his crew: veteran cinematographer Phil Méheux, editor Stuart Baird, composer David Arnold and the second unit directed by Alexander Witt (who returned in Skyfall and now in SPECTRE).

Martin Campbell, director of GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

Martin Campbell, director of GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

Not to mention the cast selected by Debbie MacWilliams: Eva Green contrasting the original Vesper from Fleming’s book with a self-confident and seductive character that falls for the spy; Mads Mikkelsen bringing up a young and debonair Le Chiffre; and Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright bringing to life to René Mathis and Felix Leiter, 007’s allies in the novel.

The film wasn’t a success because it was a Bond film, but because it excelled in showing us “how James became Bond,” as the audience exploded into an applause when getting the classic “Bond, James Bond” introduction spoken by Craig in the film’s last minutes.

‘Direct sequel’
In 2008, Daniel Craig returned for the much anticipated Quantum of Solace, conceived as a “direct sequel” of Casino Royale.

Craig provided a fine performance, but the script fails to give the audiences what they wanted: Quantum of Solace was, in result, poor in comparison with Casino Royale, both technically and literary, as the script had to be completed during filming when the WGA strike affected Bond scribes Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Craig said he and director Marc Forster were de facto writers.

The film provides some nice shots of the Italian, Bolivian and Austrian landscapes courtesy of director of photography Roberto Schaeffer, as well as some original and dynamic music by David Arnold. But the story seems dull, uninteresting and full of badly shot scenes with Forster trusting many scenes to his second unit director, Dan Bradley.

Many moviegoers and Bond aficionados felt that the reboot and the idea of bringing up a redefined 007 went a bit too far with the 2008 film, that didn’t gross as much worldwide as its 2006 predecessor.

An original ending, where Bond faced of Mr .White one last time, ended up in the cutting room floor and was replaced by a final scene of the secret agent capturing Vesper’s treacherous boyfriend and throwing her distinctive necklace on the snowy ground.

Bond’s 50th
James Bond wouldn’t return until 2012’s Skyfall.

Once again, Daniel Craig returned as Bond. It was the longest gap between two Bond films with the same actor playing the main role.

As the series celebrated its 50th anniversary, the propaganda machine opted for leaving the Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace story behind and going for a completely different plot in which the secret agent would have to protect M (Judi Dench) from the hands of Tiago Rodrigues aka Raoul Silva, a dismissed MI6 field agent with a desire of revenge towards his former boss.

The first Bond movie directed by Sam Mendes promised a lighter Bond film, with many winks to the first adventures of the series and more humoristic situations: a gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 and references to an exploding pen, as well as the re-establishment of Q and Moneypenny, left apart after Pierce Brosnan was separated of the role, now played by Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris.

The idea for Skyfall was, apparently, steering away from the story arc started in Casino Royale and apparently closed in Quantum of Solace. In a very similar case that Goldfinger, Skyfall seems completely unrelated to its two predecessors: the 1964 film didn’t have SPECTRE as the enemy but the self-employed Auric Goldfinger and his plan to irradiate Fort Knox.

The 50th anniversary Bond film proved to be a great success, providing a story balanced between the classic Bond humor with dramatic and violent situations, plus elements taken from the two last Ian Fleming novels: You Only Live Twice and The Man With the Golden Gun.

The film has also had five Oscar nominations, including Adele’s main title song that got the Best Song award. The film also shared an Oscar for sound editing with Zero Dark Thirty.

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

In a couple of weeks, the 24th James Bond films will hit theatres. It’s simply called SPECTRE, as the old criminal organization led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Eon Productions convinced Sam Mendes to return one more time to the director’s chair, as well as many of his crew members. The base of the script was written by Skyfall’s John Logan, with the return of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and additional scripting by Jez Butterworth.

The script was leaked shortly after the film was announced on December 2014. While producers claimed it was only an old draft, it is understood that the story inside this leaked script featured many classic elements of the franchise, resulting in probably the most “traditionalist” Craig Bond film.

In SPECTRE, Bond travels from Mexico to London, Rome, Austria and Morocco to uncover the truth behind a criminal organization known as SPECTRE (according to Mendes, this SPECTRE is not an acronym, thus not related to Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). The organization’s leader, known as Franz Oberhauser (Cristoph Waltz) is someone from Bond’s past and has a vendetta against him.

The film apparently ties the story left over from Quantum of Solace, as 007 meets again with Mr. White, and there are a few connections with Skyfall’s plot. The movie sees the return of Ralph Fiennes as the new M, Ben Whishaw as Q and Naomie Harris as Moneypenny. New characters include Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann, Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra, the widow of a SPECTRE assassin, and Andrew Scott as Denbigh, a bureaucrat rival the new M will have to face.

Co-producer
The sixth Bond actor also is as co-producer with Andrew Noakes and David Pope. It is understood that this is due to his collaboration in the making of the film and his strong bond with director Sam Mendes, a closer friend of him since both met during the shooting of Road to Perdition.

Stephanie Sigman, playing Estrella in the upcoming film, said on an interview with News.au that she learned a lot with Craig, since we was very technical with the shooting: “He’s very experienced doing films. He was helping me with how to move with the camera.” On the other side, The Telegraph claims that the British actor saw his films as a big story arc and had the idea of introducing the Bond folklore elements gradually.

It is still unknown if Daniel Craig will return for a fifth Bond: in some interviews he claims he’ll play the character as long as he can while sometimes he points out he’s way too physically tired from playing Ian Fleming’s character.

What is true is that the blonde guy who ten years ago raised some eyebrows as he wore a life vest while being taken on boat to the HMS President vessel for his introduction has made many achievements in the franchise and became a member of the James Bond family.

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2 Responses

  1. Nicolas,
    I couldn’t disagree with more on the assessment of Quantum of Solace. Fast, Fierce and Fresh is the way to describe this largely successful ‘Art House’ style take on a James Bond film. The 22nd entry into this long running series is a blast of fresh air further underlining how the series has evolved from the days of ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ and ‘Moonraker’. While ‘Casino Royale’ is certainly in the top 3 of all James Bond films, it still has the feel and can be directly traced back to the plotting, editing and style of the before mentioned 70’s Bond films. It was merely an update of the same formula that had been in place for over 40 years. Q of S, particularly when seen as the 4th act of CR, is in many ways the direct pay off of that film. The betrayal, the loss, the anger that Bond felt after falling in love, quitting the service then having his love betray him only to find out she was being blackmailed and then – if that was not enough – watch her commit suicide knowing he could not save her, THAT is where Q of S starts. Like a bullet shot out of a gun this movie is fast and fierce.
    While the editing style is not to everyone’s liking and cry’s of ‘Bourne Identity’ copy cat are not entirely false, it is an artistic choice that does pay off. It is the only Bond film that really puts you into the action of what Bond must be feeling like. Not arm chair spectator watching from a comfortable view but RIGHT IN THE ACTION. The opening car chase – the greatest in Bond’s cinematic history – or at least tied with it- is the first time you actually FEEL that this guy could die at any moment! Hair raising, disorienting, lethal, man this is what it feels to BE James Bond in a life and death situation!
    The interrogation scene intercut with the bull run – is expertly edited to make the tension and suspense perfect. The foot chase is a little tired and does feel like a copy of CR’s fantastic opening but again the editing really puts you into action and makes it feel more real.
    I could go on but I do concede that had the writers’ strike not happed this would be a fantastic film, not merely a great one. If they had waited and made it a year later then I think it would have turned out so much better.
    Q of S is so much better than many Bond fans give it credit for and I think the test of time will reveal that.

  2. I feel the same. I thought “QUANTUM OF SOLACE” was a very original film for the franchise. My only real complaint was the unnecessarily fast pacing that marred the film’s first half. Otherwise, I enjoyed it very much.

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