When Daniel Craig was announced as the sixth James Bond, the media had a field day. He wasn’t tall enough, good looking enough, lackluster, underwhelming, a “Blond Bond?” Rubbish. In the mind of a vocal minority that was blown way out of proportion, Craig did not fit the traditional stereotype of what a Bond actor should look like and took a thrashing for it. Nevertheless, he held his head high because he knew the work they were doing on “Casino Royale” was something special and would immediately shut down the naysayers. Sure enough, it did and that was the first time Daniel Craig subverted the Bond expectations. Perhaps it’s therefore fitting that the man who was unlike anyone who came before would go on to continue reinventing and revitalizing the almost 60-year-old franchise culminating in the most Ian Fleming, yet least traditional Bond film “No Time To Die.”
Over five movies and fifteen years, Daniel Craig pushed the boundaries of not just what a James Bond movie should be, but what it can be. He proved to a world inundated with cheap, monotonous looking blockbusters that you can recruit people like Sam Mendes, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Roger Deakins, Javier Bardem, Naomi Harris, Lea Seydoux, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Hans Zimmer, and countless others—some of the best filmmakers in the world—to make these movies. To prove that while not every film is guaranteed to be a “Skyfall” or “Casino Royale,” you shouldn’t settle for anything less than the very best. Blockbuster cinema can be prestige cinema if you try. With each of his five films, Craig, and to their credit EON Productions, helped bolster the artistic value that all modern blockbusters should have.
“These movies cost a lot of money and if we’re going to spend that money, let’s spend it on the best we can get,” said Craig. “I mean, from the very beginning I was thinking like that and wanted desperately to achieve it probably no more so than on ‘Skyfall.’ Finding Sam [Mendes], and getting him involved, and then getting Roger Deakins involved, and everyone. It was important because A) eventually I’ll stop making these movies, which I have, and B) they’re event cinema. People celebrate cinema when they go to see these films and they should be rewarded with the very best we’ve got to give.”
Craig’s sentiment was echoed by his co-star Jeffrey Wright. “There’s no franchise like Bond. There’s Marvel who is massive and doing incredible things, people are hugely committed to it and passionate about it, I’ve done a little bit here as well and I love being a part of it. I’ve also done ‘The Hunger Games,’ another big franchise, now in Batman, people are incredibly passionate about Batman. But still, none of those franchises has the legacy that Bond has and so when we came on fifteen years ago now to restart the franchise with Daniel, there was a fair amount of pressure to bring something to the table that merited out being there, and I think we have. And the only way I know that, is because fans have been incredibly appreciative of what we’ve been able to do.”
“No Time To Die” picks up after the events of “Spectre” with Bond and Madeline (Lea Seydoux) living in tranquility before it’s all uprooted. Five years later, living peacefully in retirement, Bond is thrust back into the world of international espionage after his friend and colleague Felix Leiter (Wright) calls for his aid.
While so much care is put into physically crafting these films, what separates Craig’s tenure from the rest is the equal amount of care that goes into character and story. It wasn’t always the plan to make each of Craig’s five films interconnected, but as the series progressed, it felt inescapable to ignore the natural progression of the character. In so doing, Craig managed to get to the heart of Ian Fleming’s iconic superspy mining the psychology of the character, comprehending the prose in Fleming’s words, and having a fearless vision that says, within the trappings of a Bond movie, anything is possible, and it shouldn’t be beholden to the exact same things that have come before. The way Craig interrogated the character and made bold choices that serviced his arc as a human being, thrusting him into our world, whether popular or not, is what resonates.
“I’ve never tried to shy away from the Fleming of it all,” said Craig. “I think you’re kind of off to a losing start if you judge the character. The attitudes of 1952, most of them don’t exist anymore, of course in some places they do which isn’t great, but we don’t operate in that way anymore, thankfully. Having female characters in a Bond movie that are as complicated, as flawed, as interesting as Bond himself, why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you want characters to share the screen that are as interesting of people as he is and that goes for all the characters across the board, but especially the female characters. But, we have to keep it in a Bond world and that’s the challenge of it. He represents something a lot of people have a problem with today and I’m very aware of that, but I don’t think that means he doesn’t exist anymore because of course, he does exist, we just have to throw him into the midst of the modern world and that’s just a challenge, it’s a good challenge.”
In many ways, it’s these deeply flawed and complicated individuals that we find pieces of ourselves reflected in. We see the status quo challenged, the changing landscape of our world represented on screen and the different ways in which we as humans choose to engage with it. These stories and these characters allow us as audience members to learn and grow from their experiences because we know and understand them. We trust them as Wright puts it.
“The spy world is very dynamic as drawn in these films, but it transcends the jurisdictions that they represent for fans,” said Wright. “It becomes about who these characters are and who Bond is as a hero, who he is as a man. Not who he represents, but what he represents, the values, the characteristics, and those are the things the fans trust. They trust him, not what he represents, but who he is.” Wright continued, “We make these films as artists, as creative people, and we’re allowed to make these films, and it’s about our freedom to do this, our freedom to be creative, our freedom of expression as expressed through these films and through these characters that people are drawn to. At a time when there is a repression of expression within our society and other societies around the world, that’s a seriously powerful thing. It’s films like ‘No Time To Die’ or ‘The Batman‘ and heroes like Bond or Batman that in some ways, may be our most powerful exports.”
During our respective conversations with Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright, we also discuss the legacy of the Craig era, the camaraderie between Felix and Bond, Ian Fleming, bringing the story of Craig’s Bond full circle, that mind-blowing oner in the stairwell, and much more!
“No Time To Die” hits theaters on October 8 and you can listen to our full conversation below!
Additional reporting by Brody Serravalli