Connery, Moore, Lazenby, Dalton, Brosnan ... and Craig? The newest James Bond has been announced in a high-profile public ceremony, ending three years of intense speculation and leaving fans all over the world shaken — and more than a bit stirred.
After emerging into the world's spotlight riding shotgun on a British military boat along the Thames River (and wearing a very un-Bond-like life jacket), Craig flashed a brooding grin for an army of photographers Friday (October 14).
"It is a huge iconic figure in movie history, and those things don't come along very often," the star commented to The Associated Press in regards to the grueling interview process. "It was difficult [to decide], but I tried to think about [Bond] like any other job. We have got an incredible script, and that is my first line of attack. Once I read it, I knew I did not have any choice. ... It is a huge challenge, and I think life is about challenges."
Craig, a 37-year-old British actor whose wide-ranging résumé includes turns in "Road to Perdition," "The Jacket" and the recent thriller "Layer Cake," will step into 007's trademark tux with nearly 30 films behind him. His profile will undoubtedly continue to grow in the next several years, as his Bond appointment joins an already impressive list of upcoming projects including Steven Spielberg's "Munich," Nicole Kidman's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" remake, "The Visiting," and Gwyneth Paltrow's Truman Capote drama, "Have You Heard?"
Immediately following the official announcement that Craig would be earning his license to kill in the 21st Bond film, "Casino Royale," longtime devotees of the franchise buzzed with an equal mixture of anticipation and frustration.
"He isn't the sort of person that I see as being the Bond that the general public has become used to," offered Graham Rye, editor/designer/publisher and founder of the 25-year-old publication 007 Magazine. "[Bond is] a wise-cracking guy who can kill any number of bad guys and bed any number of luscious ladies, but has always got a quip on the end of it. He's not the type to be very serious."
"He's obviously not the best-looking actor in the world," Richard Schenkman, an independent filmmaker who founded the world's first James Bond fan club in the 1970s and published the 007 magazine Bondage for two decades, said of Craig. Like Rye, Schenkman feels that the new actor's appointment is worrisome since he comes from so far outside the Bond mold; he did admit, however, that certain aspects of the appointment intrigue him.
"They've gone a Timothy Dalton-route, hiring a solid actor, a guy with a really solid career and an enormous amount of range," Schenkman observed. "Remember, he played a weasely American in 'Road to Perdition,' and a babbling lunatic in 'The Jacket.' ... It's an interesting choice, because [Bond producers] went very pretty with Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan, and even to a degree George Lazenby, because he was a professional model at the time they hired him to be Bond. ... This guy's ruggedly handsome; it's just that he's not a looker."
Both Rye and Schenkman agreed that hardcore Bond fans have recently felt as unappreciated as an anonymous SPECTRE henchman, beaten down by a series of Brosnan films that enjoyed enormous box-office success while making the franchise louder, dumber and more generic. "The scripts of the last few Bond movies have been absolutely abysmal," Rye fumed. "The last film, [2002's] 'Die Another Day,' regardless of how much money it made ... I think was the worst Bond film of the entire series."
"The problem is that they really got into the 'top this' game," Schenkman lamented. "What can we do next? How can we top this?"
"From already reading stuff on Web sites all over the Internet, I think [Craig] is going to fall into two camps," Rye speculated. "There's going to be one set of people who will throw their hands up in the air and say, 'Oh my God, not this guy. Please, anybody but him.' And a second group will say, 'This is just what these films need, a harder edge and a harder-looking actor."
Remaining as optimistic as their hero when inevitably tied to a death machine, both men view Craig as a possible olive branch from longtime gatekeepers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, who may finally be willing to lose the gloss and return to the basics of the original Ian Fleming source novels.
"I can't imagine for one moment that they would actually have Daniel Craig being a full-on blond James Bond," Rye insisted, slamming the media ballyhoo over the actor's natural differences from his predecessors. "Like for many other roles he's already played, he'll most certainly have his hair dyed black."
"It would seem to be an indication that they intend to get grittier and dirtier, but I don't trust them," Schenkman barked. "Michael Wilson really thinks he knows what's best. ... Until he's decided to make a complete change from what he was doing before, you're not going to see it, no matter who they hire."
"['Casino Royale'] is really the arc in which he becomes Bond," director Martin Campbell (who also directed 1995's "GoldenEye") said after the Craig announcement. "He starts out just having earned his double-0 stripes, and comes out at the end the Bond we know and love." The director also added that the movie will be "tougher and grittier" with "more character and less gadgets," all of which is music to the ears of Bond fans.
"When the 'XXX' movies are being made, Bond can either lump himself in with that kind of filmmaking, or go the other direction," Schenkman urged Campbell. "Go back to 'From Russia With Love,' go back to the books. The fact that they're doing 'Casino Royale' is potentially very interesting, because the climax of [the 1953 novel] 'Casino Royale' is Bond being tortured, nearly to death, via his testicles. ... It's basically a game of cat-and-mouse between Bond and this double agent with a gambling addiction, and Bond has to outdo him at the baccarat table."
"Is it going to be a cat-and-mouse game?" Schenkman wondered of the movie plot point that could very well define Craig's tenure. "Or is [the villain] going to have 47 nuclear bombs around the world in silos, aimed at all the world's capitals?"
"If you're a Bond fan of any sort, you're going to be interested," Rye conceded. "It's something that gets into your blood, and you just have to see what happens next."
These two lifelong fans ultimately admitted that they'll likely see "Casino Royale" during its opening weekend in 2006, and they then agreed to participate in a Bond game as timeless as the counting of his conquests. So, we asked them, how many movies will Daniel Craig make before they move on to the next guy?
"I say two," Schenkman offered.
"If, after they've gone to the cinema and they've seen it, [audience members] think 'I much preferred Pierce Brosnan, or anyone else for that matter,' it could be the kiss of death," Rye speculated, saying that Craig may end up a one-timer. "It could be the case."
According to the consensus worldwide, there will never be another Connery, another Moore, or even another Pierce Brosnan. Then again, if there's one thing Bond fans know all too well, it's to never say never again.
Check out our feature "Saving Agent Bond" for 007 ways to revive the long-running franchise.
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