When Ian Fleming’s first spy novel “Casino Royale” hit bookstores in the UK in 1953, the world was introduced to the soon-to-be iconic British spy James Bond. The book detailed the exploits of the martini-drinking secret agent with a license to kill, becoming an instant hit in the publishing world, and soon more novels would follow.
Fleming was a former spy himself, working for the Naval Intelligence Division for Britain during World War II, and ran such covert units with colorful names such as 30 Assault Unit and T-Force. These covert units consisted of commandos trained in hand-to-hand combat, safe cracking, and lock picking, and primary objectives were obtaining enemy documents and securing personnel and equipment behind enemy lines.
Soon Fleming’s popular books would make it to the big screen with the premiere of the film “Dr. No”, released in 1962 and starring Sean Connery. The cinematic world was thus introduced to Agent 007 and this film would start one of the most successful movie franchise of all time, which has been going strong for nearly 60 years.
Originally the producers wanted Cary Grant to play the role of James Bond, but the famous actor would only commit to one film so the producers hired a young 30-year-old Sean Connery to play the role. The casting was perfect because Connery had a physically imposing presence, giving the impression he could easily kick ass while at the same time possessing dapper good looks, making him the perfect James Bond. Connery also played Bond as a dark anti-hero who would have no problem sacrificing anyone to achieve his objective of completing the mission.
After Connery retired from playing Bond, he cast a huge shadow over the other actors that would follow in his footsteps. Roger Moore had the most successful stint playing Bond after Connery; the actor reinvented the character by giving a campy performance sprinkled with satire, but toward the end of his run, the Bond films began to suffer in quality.
And once Roger Moore retired from the role, hanging up his license to kill, the actors that followed who played Bond – Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan – were victims of bad scripts that used Bond films as vehicles to show off exaggerated stunts and gadgets instead crafting quality stories.
The producers of the franchise decided to reboot the Bond franchise and when they picked up-and-coming actor Daniel Craig, the reaction was mixed; many recognized Craig as a great actor after his breakout performance in the film “Layer Cake”, released in 2004, but could he play the iconic spy? When “Casino Royale” was released in 2006, Craig silenced the naysayers by delivering a great performance as 007 and after appearing in four Bond films, Craig is widely recognized by some as the best Bond to date, eclipsing Sean Connery.
And after some doubt, Craig has signed on to yet another Bond film and rumor has it the producers of the franchise are negotiating with Christopher Nolan to direct the upcoming installment. If this dream production comes true, Craig might cast a shadow over the role that no other actor will overcome, making him the best James Bond of all time.
1. Three classic Bond films under his belt
Craig has only starred in four Bond movies to date, but with “Casino Royale”, “Skyfall”, and “Spectre” under his belt, not only has Craig starred in some good Bonds films, he has made some of the best in the franchise. In “Casino Royale”, Craig delivered a solid performance as Bond, giving hope to the fan base that the franchise was in good hands when the actor took over for Pierce Brosnan.
When “Skyfall” was released, this film was a much-needed jolt for the franchise. This movie reminded audiences how much fun Bond films can be when they’re done right and Craig’s performance was solid, slowly staking his claim as the best Bond with this film. While “Spectre” received mixed reviews from critics, this is Craig’s best performance as Bond, playing the role effortlessly by giving the character a more nuances and a human portrayal. Craig elevates the material with his acting, making “Spectre” another classic in the franchise.
2. Great actor
Craig began his acting career in the early 90s playing supporting roles in small films and television shows broadcast on BBC. It wasn’t until his breakthrough performance in the 2005 British gangster film “Layer Cake” that Craig caught the attention of both audiences and critics with his acting abilities.
Playing the unnamed character who happens to be a successful cocaine dealer in the British underworld, Craig proved that aside from being a good actor, he also had the qualities of being a good leading man and becoming a future big star in the business. After “Layer Cake”, Craig co-starred in Steven Spielberg’s “Munich”, giving a solid performance as a Mossad agent tracking down the terrorists responsible for the Munich massacre.
It was a big shock to James Bond fans when the producers of the franchise chose Craig to take over for Pierce Brosnan. The casting choice seemed odd to many; usually bigger named actors were chosen to play the iconic spy, and Craig would be the first actor in franchise history to have blond hair. Many fans also felt the actor didn’t physically resemble the 007 made famous in the novels and movies of the past. However, people familiar with his work knew he was a good actor, but could he pull off playing James Bond?
When Casino Royale was released, Craig silenced all the critics, giving a robust and promising performance as James Bond. Craig wanted to bring more emotional depth to the character and he plays Bond with a calm intensity, and when the character breaks out into fits of rage it’s more believable because Craig is not just playing a one dimensional character. The producers were wise to bring in an actor who could do more then just throw a punch or deliver witty and sarcastic dialogue – they went looking for a good actor and found him with Daniel Craig.
3. Less Stunts and Gadgets
Over the years, Bond films were known for death-defying stunts and clever gadgets that Bond utilized to get him out of sticky situations. After awhile, this predictable formula became boring, and thankfully under Craig’s turn to play Bond, the franchise seems to have fewer stunts and gadgets in the films. Of course there are still car chases, brawls and tools given to him from Q, but we no longer have stunts that seem to drag on forever or gadgets that just add campiness to the story.
The franchise also rebooted the Q character as well having a younger actor, Ben Whishaw, play the role with wry humor, and the younger Q has even ventured out in the field with Bond, especially in “Spectre”. The more toned-down Bond films are refreshing and instead of watching a stuntman play 007, the audience gets a chance to focus more on Craig’s performance and the actor doesn’t disappoint, giving us the most realistic and charismatic James Bond to date.
4. Sam Mendes
The Oscar-winning British director best known for such films as “American Beauty”, “Road to Perdition”, and “Revolutionary Road”, seemed an unlikely choice to direct a Bond film because he’s a filmmaker not known for directing action films. But if you’re an actor, Mendes is the perfect choice to help you bring out a great performance. Mendes started his career in theater before jumping to film, and this background helps him guide his actors into delivering great performances.
Craig and Mendes worked previously together on “Road to Perdition” and when the two reunited for “Skyfall”, they delivered one of the best Bond films in decades and one of the highest grossing Bond films of all time, grossing a billion dollars at the box office worldwide. After the huge success of “Skyfall”, you would think Mendes would call it quits because it would be hard to top the film’s critical and commercial success.
The director had this to say about the creative decision to return to the franchise: “It was a much more difficult process for me to decide to do the second than to decide to do the first. But I had a bit of time to think about it and about the narrative. My hook for ‘Skyfall’ was M’s death. The thing that lured me into Skyfall was a lot of the mythology of Bond, the iconography of Bond from the ’60s and ’70s, and I felt like there was an opportunity with Spectre to perhaps reimagine on a more epic scale some of the darker characters and organizations that had haunted Bond in in the early part of the franchise, which are all of course rooted in Ian Fleming’s novels. The thing about the novels is that they’re much darker than the movies that were made of them, because by the ’60s and ’70s, dark was not commercial. And that has changed. People are much more willing to go to different and more interesting places in commercial features now. So there’s a lot to be rediscovered from the Bond back-catalog.”
Mendes has announced he won’t be directing another Bond film and there have been rumors that Christopher Nolan might helm the next Bond film, but Nolan has stated he would only take over if the franchise needed him, giving a subtle acknowledgment that Mendes has been the best director to ever direct a Bond film.
Craig has benefited greatly for having Mendes as the director on the last two films because in “Skyfall” and “Spectre”, Craig has given his best performance as Bond, and Mendes has this to say about Craig: “For me, Bond is Daniel, and I think he does everything as a director that I wanted the character to do, that he’s capable of doing and more.”
5. Smooth and savvy portrayal of Bond
Craig said the following about his approach to playing Bond: “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?’” This is what gives his portrayal of Bond its edge; after Sean Connery made the role famous, all the actors that followed played the character as a one-dimensional Boy Scout with a drinking problem and who is also a frequent womanizer.
Craig plays Bond as a smooth and savvy operative. He doesn’t intimidate with a physical presence; he uses intensity with his eyes and with great delivery of his lines, making Craig’s Bond a more realistic and believable character. Sean Connery, who happens to be Craig’s favorite Bond, said the actor gets the danger element right.
While Craig loves Connery’s portrayal of Bond, the actor wanted to create his on take on the character and had this to say about being original while playing the iconic character: “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.”
The actors that followed Sean Connery did the opposite; to some degree they resembled Connery with their hair color and height and tried to copy Connery’s brawling style, but there’s only one Sean Connery. By becoming his own Bond, Craig has created something we haven’t seen in decades, and that’s an original take on a role that has been stale for quite some time.
With the 25 Bond films now in the works, Craig becomes the second longest actor to play the role in the history of the franchise, and if the next Bond film is good as the last four, it will definitely be hard for another actor outdo Daniel Craig as Bond, and at the moment Craig has wrestled the title of best Bond away from Sean Connery. Connery will alway be beloved as the first Bond but Craig is just a better actor. When you watch this current franchise of 007, you don’t see Daniel Craig playing a role – you just see James Bond.