BRIAN VINER: Goodbye to the Bond who saved 007


Time To Say Goodbye would be a feeble title for a Bond film, but that’s what it is. From today, as audiences trail away from No Time To Die reflecting on the most explosive ending ever to a Bond movie, they must also come to terms with another ending: Daniel Craig’s 15-year, five-film stint as 007.

It’s been a heck of a ride. When Craig replaced Pierce Brosnan as the world’s most famous secret agent, he administered not quite the kiss of life but certainly a shot in the arm to a franchise that had grown stale.

It’s easy to forget now that many people rate him the best-ever Bond, or maybe just a yard behind Sean Connery, but at the time he was a controversial choice.

From today, as audiences trail away from No Time To Die reflecting on the most explosive ending ever to a Bond movie, they must also come to terms with another ending: Daniel Craig’s 15-year, five-film stint as 007

From today, as audiences trail away from No Time To Die reflecting on the most explosive ending ever to a Bond movie, they must also come to terms with another ending: Daniel Craig’s 15-year, five-film stint as 007

Too short, too blond, too rough, too thuggish, said some. And too working class, they added, doubtless forgetting that Connery had been the son of a cleaner and a lorry driver.

Moreover, Craig grew up in a creative household. His father had been a steelworker who went on to run a pub, but following his parents’ divorce he lived on the Wirral with his mother, an art teacher, who took him to the theatre.

While the sceptics carped, Craig had a different set of doubts. He thought Bond might impinge too much on his private life and resisted producer Barbara Broccoli’s overtures. But she was determined to get her man and we should be grateful she did.

Craig, no less than the writers, thought Bond’s image needed an overhaul. Just under half an hour into his first outing, Casino Royale (2006), it got one.

When Craig replaced Pierce Brosnan as the world’s most famous secret agent, he administered not quite the kiss of life but certainly a shot in the arm to a franchise that had grown stale

When Craig replaced Pierce Brosnan as the world’s most famous secret agent, he administered not quite the kiss of life but certainly a shot in the arm to a franchise that had grown stale

When Craig’s 007 emerged from the sea, torso ripped and glistening, wearing what would be called budgie-smugglers but for the fact that budgies are quite puny, a new Bond was born. Ursula Andress had famously done the same thing in Dr No (1962), but Craig didn’t want his tenure as Bond to be about the objectification of women. Why not turn that scene from Dr No on its head?

And why not make his alpha-maleness more about his body than his hard-drinking or promiscuity?

Although he reportedly turned up on his first day holding a cigarette and a bacon sandwich, he insisted on having an intensive training partner, a former naval man who stayed with him through all five films. Even Adonis has to work at it.

As Bond, he was also gritty, sardonic and troubled, angrily confronting internal demons as well as external, and knowingly moving the character away from the innuendo-tossing smoothies best exemplified by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan.

It’s easy to forget now that many people rate him the best-ever Bond, or maybe just a yard behind Sean Connery, but at the time he was a controversial choice

It’s easy to forget now that many people rate him the best-ever Bond, or maybe just a yard behind Sean Connery, but at the time he was a controversial choice

Craig has said that when Broccoli sent him the Casino Royale script, still trying to woo him, a single line of dialogue persuaded him to set aside his misgivings and take the part. A barman asked Bond whether he’d like his vodka martini shaken or stirred. ‘Do I look like I give a ****!?’ was the reply, and the F-word wasn’t fig.

In the film it was changed to ‘damn’. But the point was that Craig looked like he really didn’t give a damn, and it turned out that audiences were ready for his brand of moody subversion. Casino Royale made more than half a billion dollars at the box office. Skyfall (2012) made well over a billion. Craig, the pivotal player in those huge commercial hits, is estimated to have earned more than £50million by playing Bond.

The role he didn’t want has made him an enormously wealthy man, and in the same year that Skyfall came out, he cemented his burgeoning popularity with another kind of skyfall — the culmination of an unforgettable double act with the Queen as part of the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

There have been a few crash-landings along the way. His second film as Bond, Quantum of Solace (2008), was deemed a disappointment. And when in 2015 he declared after finishing work on Spectre that he would rather ‘slash my wrists’ than play Bond again, plenty of fans who had invested in his portrayal of 007 felt disdained and betrayed.

The role he didn’t want has made him an enormously wealthy man, and in the same year that Skyfall came out, he cemented his burgeoning popularity with another kind of skyfall — the culmination of an unforgettable double act with the Queen as part of the opening ceremony of the London Olympics

The role he didn’t want has made him an enormously wealthy man, and in the same year that Skyfall came out, he cemented his burgeoning popularity with another kind of skyfall — the culmination of an unforgettable double act with the Queen as part of the opening ceremony of the London Olympics

It was a stupid, disrespectful thing to say, as he subsequently conceded, while also pointing out that he’d broken his leg on that shoot and was feeling duly sorry for himself. It’s certainly true that not many actors put their bodies on the line quite like Craig does. He fearlessly tackled many of Bond’s stunts himself.

If Broccoli was offended by his wrist-slashing remarks, she didn’t show it. She fired up her powers of persuasion again, dangled another enormous pay cheque, and back he came for No Time To Die.

This one is irrevocably his last performance as Bond, and practically by definition an exceedingly hard act to follow for whoever comes next.

That word ‘act’ is sometimes overlooked when people assess what Craig has brought to James Bond. He is, on top of everything else, a truly excellent actor. It is strange to think that he was by a distance the least well-known of the four leads (the others were Christopher Eccleston, Mark Strong and Gina McKee) in the brilliant 1996 BBC drama Our Friends In The North.

But he was superb as the volatile, luckless Geordie Peacock, the role that brought him to Broccoli’s attention.

Craig, no less than the writers, thought Bond’s image needed an overhaul. Just under half an hour into his first outing, Casino Royale (2006), it got one

Craig, no less than the writers, thought Bond’s image needed an overhaul. Just under half an hour into his first outing, Casino Royale (2006), it got one

In the quarter-century since then, he has gone from strength to strength as an actor. Indeed he has a scene in the new film, opposite the ever-wonderful Ralph Fiennes as M, when you realise that you’re watching a pair of absolute masters at work. Broccoli still considers herself, and her production company Eon, to have been ‘very, very lucky’ to get Craig on board all those years ago.

But he got lucky, too, when Eon chose to team him up with the best in the business. Fiennes’ predecessor as M was the incomparable Judi Dench. And even those of us with extremely fond memories of twinkly old Desmond Llewellyn can recognise how perfectly Ben Whishaw fits the role of Q.

Such astute casting plays into the hands of the writing team — to which, evidently at Craig’s request, Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge was added for No Time To Die. It means they can go to town with characterisation, not always a strength of Bond films.

None of that need concern Craig any more as he prepares for the next phase of his working life which, as it happens, is set to be even more insanely lucrative than Bond.

He has signed a contract with Netflix, said to be worth more than £70 million and making him the highest-paid actor in the world, to film two follow-ups to the 2019 comedy-thriller Knives Out, in which he glittered as private detective Benoit Blanc.

That word ‘act’ is sometimes overlooked when people assess what Craig has brought to James Bond. He is, on top of everything else, a truly excellent actor

That word ‘act’ is sometimes overlooked when people assess what Craig has brought to James Bond. He is, on top of everything else, a truly excellent actor

But before that he will star on Broadway as Macbeth, opposite the Irish actress Ruth Negga. One of the producers, incidentally, is Barbara Broccoli. Seemingly, she can’t get enough of him.

Whether or not that is so of Craig’s real-life wife of ten years, actress Rachel Weisz, has been the subject of recent speculation, especially when she wasn’t spotted at the Royal Albert Hall for Tuesday night’s lavish world premiere. But conflicting reports claim that their marriage is completely sound; they’re just very private about it.

The couple, who live in New York, each have one child from previous relationships and a daughter together.

Possibly mindful of the indignation he stirred up with his wrist-slashing comments six years ago, Craig isn’t saying whether, on reflection, he thinks that playing Bond has been worth the impact on his family.

In any case, he must surely be aware that it’s no time to cry.

Gun-toting gal who shot to fame from communist poverty

By Jane Fryer for the Daily Mail 

Life must feel pretty bloody marvellous right now for actress Ana de Armas. She’s the latest Bond girl, a CIA rookie called Paloma, who shoots, kick-boxes and karate chops — all in stilettos and a dangerously low-cut dress — and rather puts the wind up craggy old 007 in No Time To Die.

Her biggest fans include Jamie Lee Curtis, Steven Spielberg and Daniel Craig; she spent lockdown very publicly snogging her then boyfriend Ben Affleck; was nominated for a Golden Globe last year in her breakthrough role in Knives Out; is about to appear as Marilyn Monroe in a Netflix biopic; and has movie offers coming out of her ears.

She’s also exquisitely beautiful, with a body to die for, has a refreshingly relaxed attitude to nudity, loves a drink and a late night party. To top it off, she’s an ambassador for all sorts of worthy brands including Natural Diamonds.

Life must feel pretty bloody marvellous right now for actress Ana de Armas

Life must feel pretty bloody marvellous right now for actress Ana de Armas

All of which would make most of us feel pretty perky, but Ana, 33, must be pinching herself. Because her life started a very long way from red carpets, Bond premieres and Hollywood — in communist Cuba.

The family home in Santa Cruz del Norte was a stark, breeze-block apartment in a tatty back street, awash with rubble and stray dogs. Her bedroom was a stark pink-painted concrete box and she and her brother had no television, nor access to the internet, newspapers or magazines.

So Ana and her friends entertained each other by acting, dancing and singing until, by the age of 12, she knew her future lay as an actress. At 14, her parents allowed her to enrol her at Escuela Nacional de Teatro, Cuba’s only national theatre school to which she made the daily 70-mile round trip alone. ‘I would hitchhike every single morning… and tell people where I needed to go,’ she said in a recent interview.

She was talented and made her debut in the hit Cuba-set 2006 movie Una rosa de Francia. But more importantly, thanks to her Spanish grandparents, she had joint nationality. So the minute she was 18 and eligible for national service she fled Cuba, alone again and with just $300.

She’s the latest Bond girl, a CIA rookie called Paloma, who shoots, kick-boxes and karate chops — all in stilettos and a dangerously low-cut dress — and rather puts the wind up craggy old 007 in No Time To Die

She’s the latest Bond girl, a CIA rookie called Paloma, who shoots, kick-boxes and karate chops — all in stilettos and a dangerously low-cut dress — and rather puts the wind up craggy old 007 in No Time To Die

Within weeks of arriving in Madrid, she’d picked up a part in El Internado, a hit TV series about a boarding school that ran for seven series and, soon after, a dishy Spanish husband — actor and model Marc Clotet.

Sadly, within a few years, she’d outgrown them both and, propelled by talent, ambition and a inner belief, set her sights on Hollywood. As she put it: ‘I’ve never seen my life in two ways, the way I wanted it and Plan B. There was only ever the way I wanted it.’

But she barely spoke English. In the early days in California, she could hardly communicate with her agent, let alone shine in auditions. In one session, the casting director wrapped up with: ‘Well, we’ll talk again in a couple of years.’ But feisty Ana replied: ‘No, we’ll talk in two months and promptly enrolled herself in a seven-hours-a- day, two-month intensive English course.

And her talent shone through. Even when the film wasn’t the best, reviewers eulogised about her ‘hugely charismatic presence’, her ‘warmth’ and how joyous and bewitching she was. After a brief engagement to Hollywood agent Franklin Latt, she and Affleck got together in 2020 while filming ‘erotic thriller’ Deep Water and seemed to be forever kissing, both on set and off.

She’s also exquisitely beautiful, with a body to die for, has a refreshingly relaxed attitude to nudity, loves a drink and a late night party

She’s also exquisitely beautiful, with a body to die for, has a refreshingly relaxed attitude to nudity, loves a drink and a late night party

Her career went from strength to strength, with her real breakthrough in Knives Out, a 2019 film in which she co-starred with Daniel Craig, Chris Evans and Jamie Lee Curtis. But Ana stole the show. Curtis compared her to Sophia Loren and was so impressed she pinged a series of emails about her to Spielberg, who already knew of her.

Craig himself had requested Ana as his final 007 co-star. But Bond director Cary Joji Fukunaga had also long been a fan and, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, wrote the part specifically for her.

Sadly, Ana’s love life has never been as consistent as her career and, early this year, she and Affleck split. She is reportedly now dating Tinder executive Paul Boukadakis, and working harder than ever.

Next year, she’s back as Marilyn In Blonde. The accent took her nearly a year to master but, of course, she did it. After that, she’ll surely have her pick of movie scripts.

Perhaps one will be about a beautiful, talented, ambitious girl who flees Cuba with dreams of conquering Hollywood…

All of which would make most of us feel pretty perky, but Ana, 33, must be pinching herself. Because her life started a very long way from red carpets, Bond premieres and Hollywood — in communist Cuba. Pictured: Ana's childhood home in Havana, Cuba

All of which would make most of us feel pretty perky, but Ana, 33, must be pinching herself. Because her life started a very long way from red carpets, Bond premieres and Hollywood — in communist Cuba. Pictured: Ana’s childhood home in Havana, Cuba

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.