After playing cinema’s most famous secret agent for nearly a decade, the legacy of Daniel Craig as one of the best James Bonds is certainly already cemented. However, back in the day his casting was initially met with pessimism from certain segments of the fanbase. Interestingly enough, Sam Mendes, the director of the series’ upcoming entry, Spectre, reveals that he also thought Craig was wrong for the role.
In an interview with The BBC, Mendes looks back on a rather fascinating change of opinion going back to the initial proposal within industry circles that Daniel Craig was inheriting the James Bond mantle from Pierce Brosnan. With snarky memes referring to Craig as "James Blonde" after it went public, the proposal was not widely seen as an auspicious acquisition, a sentiment that Mendes, who even had a working history with Craig, once shared. As he explains:
I had cast Daniel Craig in this film I made in Chicago called Road To Perdition about 15 years ago, and it was his first big American film. The role of Bond came up four or five years later and I was called by Entertainment Weekly, a showbiz publication, and they said 'your old friend and collaborator Daniel Craig has been suggested as Bond, what do you think?' and I said 'terrible idea – he shouldn't do it'. For me at the time I thought Bond had become the opposite of what Daniel is – a slightly disengaged, urbane jokey eyebrow-raising, you know, a pastiche in a way, and I felt Daniel's reality and his passion and honesty as an actor would not work.
It turns out that Mendes’ doubts were more of a testament to his respect for Craig, who performed in his 2002 directorial effort, Road to Perdition. He believed that the flat, living caricature into which the James Bond character had devolved by the end of Brosnan’s tenure left the role as something that did little to elevate Craig as an actor. While Brosnan had proven himself to be a great portrayer of Bond, the series, by 2002’s Die Another Day, had become a juvenile and superficial showcase of pseudo-technology and plot points that were equally nonsensical. Thus, it was hardly the kind of platform that he wished to see his former collaborator showcase his acting talents.
Fortuitously enough, Craig saw the potential in the script adapting Ian Flemming’s very first James Bond story, Casino Royale. With the directorial talents of Martin Campbell returning to franchise after having impressed with Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s GoldenEye, Craig’s coming out party with Casino Royale in 2006 was a success. The film was a much-needed gritty, action-infused reinvention of the franchise. Likewise, the powerful, angst-filled, tragedy-prone presence of Craig’s rendition of the high-rolling, martini-sipping globe-trotter with a license to kill silenced most of the initial doubters. Mendes openly counts himself as one of those folks who now stand corrected on that particular point.
After providing the James Bond franchise a bit of a thematic upgrade of his own with the celebrated, $1 billion-earning Skyfall in 2012, Sam Mendes is spending his days putting the final touches on what he claims will be his last Bond effort with Spectre. With the title providing all the indication one needs, it’s clear that this next film will be a game-changing moment for Craig’s tortured Bond, as he will come face-to-face with a modernized take on the classic killer cabal and its yet-to-be-revealed mastermind.
Spectre will see Daniel Craig’s James Bond use one of Q’s fancy gadgets to slash away at the sinister tentacles of the titular organization when it hits theaters on November 6.