Daniel Craig in ‘Casino Royale’ (2006)

Shaken, Stirred… and Exiting Stage Left

8th March 2019

Daniel Craig will start filming later this year for one last turn as the greatest spy of them all – but even now, is he ready to hand over the reins? Al Gordon finds out…

After all this time, it’s genuinely difficult to separate Daniel Craig from his alter-ego James Bond. Both possess a steely, buttoned-up charm, and neither lets his guard down for a second. The epitome of discretion, Craig exemplifies Bond’s stoic approach to pain and, crucially, loves a Martini or two. “If you can find a good one – there’s nothing better.” He says he knows how to make a good one from working in bars years ago. “I’m quite particular,” he adds.

The actor, who, surprisingly, has only a BAFTA nomination out of all the major awards to show for 13 years as 007, has finally agreed to don his tux for the fifth and final time in the as yet unnamed 25th Bond film (the working title has just been revealed as Shatterhand, an alias used by series villain Blofeld in an early Ian Fleming novel, although it’s frequently being referred to simply as Bond 25). Despite having indicated when filming for Spectre finished in 2015 that he was reluctant to continue, once Craig had shaken the dust of that one off his heels, he was tempted back. “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got the best job in the world,” he said at the New Yorker Festival in October 2016, not long after Bond 25 began its development (filming, although delayed several times, is scheduled to start in April at Pinewood Studios). “I’ll keep doing it as long as I still get a kick out of it. If I were to stop doing it, I would miss it terribly.”

Bond 25 will, though, be a farewell for the actor who, despite not being the obvious choice to take the baton from Pierce Brosnan back in 2006, making his debut in Casino Royale, defied critics with his rather cruel, cold-blooded portrayal of the iconic spy. Casino Royale took over £300million at the box office, claiming the crown of being the highest-grossing Bond of all time… until that figure was comfortably surpassed by all later Bond/Craig offerings, notably 2012’s Skyfall, which yielded over £1.1bn in revenue.

While Craig has been committed to Bond for the last 13 years, he has also continued with other work, so is sanguine about the prospect of life after 007.

“I’m still concentrating on the present, and that is this year’s project,” he begins. “I have enjoyed talking about and thinking about the new Bond film as much as I have any of the others, and that tends to be the way it goes. I guess it all goes back to the fact that, even as a child, I knew that if you weren’t in this game for doing something like Bond, then what would you be in it for? If an opportunity doesn’t arise to become famous, wealthy and successful, then why are you doing it? If you’re going to take on Bond, you’ve got to be able to enjoy the ride, and I genuinely think I have done.”

While so much of the success behind Daniel Craig’s portrayal of 007 has been the man himself, the Chester-born actor has the humility to admit there is so much more to the package.

“People talk about Bond, about stunning locations and death-defying stunts, but for me it’s always come down to the story. Any of the big set pieces in Bond, they evolve, and that’s how good cinema comes about. You have to trust that will happen, but that will only happen if the story holds together. If it doesn’t, you can end up with the best stunt sequences in the world and it’s not going to make any difference.

He’s adamant that most of the hard work is done at the beginning, with the story. “Then the creatives are brought in, and the production designers, stunt coordinators and special effects guys. I know I will really miss seeing such talented people doing amazing things, but you have to be honest with yourself and admit there is a time to go.”

The strapping actor’s other reason for stepping aside is, of course, because the pitter-patter of tiny feet is filling the air. In truth though, even Daniel Craig would have done a double-take at the implausibility of a film script supposing he would become a father again at the age of 50. But the birth of his daughter last autumn and a return to 3am feeds with wife Rachel Weisz leaves 007 brimming, and his Weisz thrilled at the chance to “do it all over again”. Each has a child from a previous relationship.

“It does feel like another opportunity to do all those wonderful things I’d forgotten about,” he says. “Whether I can still do them the way I used to be able to remains to be seen, but I’m glad of the time to be able to at least try!”

For the actor, shedding that sharp suit can only be a good thing: “I’m looking forward to what’s next, and in my head, the more diverse the better,” he says. “I’m trying to get on with things and look for stuff that I want to do. I’m certainly not after sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, I like to entertain people. And I’m not looking for credibility – if you do, it doesn’t work…But I am looking to explore beyond the confines of Bond, and I think I still have a lot to offer.”

And while the threat of being typecast still hovers close by, certainly you feel the actor’s modesty should be enough to guide him forward. Evidence? Well, when asked what his favourite Bond movie was across the previous 24 incarnations, he chuckles. “Certainly not one of mine…”

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