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Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale Director Explains Why He Had ‘Reservations’ About Casting The Actor As James Bond

To audiences far and wide, and especially in the final month leading to the release of No Time To Die, Daniel Craig is James Bond. By the time his successor is eventually named, the British actor will have played the character for almost two decades, with five feature films to his credit. But back when Casino Royale was looking for the man to replace previous Bond Pierce Brosnan, Craig’s casting left a large portion of the 007 fandom with intense reservations. And one of those fans was the once and future director that would reintroduce the world to Bond, Martin Campbell.

During the promotion of his latest film, the Maggie Q action thriller The Protégé, I had the honor of speaking with Mr. Campbell on behalf of that work in particular. But when you’re sitting down with the man who helped update the James Bond franchise twice over, it’s too tempting of a prospect to not discuss the progress of this worldwide cultural touchstone. And as part of that conversation, Martin Campbell revealed not only his reservations about Daniel Craig’s initial casting, he also gave massive credit to the 007 decision maker who really believed in his potential from square one:

Barbara Broccoli, who’s one of the producers, she’s Cubby’s daughter. The two producers are Barbara Broccoli, and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson. Both terrific producers. And she was the one that really pushed for Daniel Craig, her instincts were 100% correct. … So it was Barbara [that] was the one who really championed that, quite correctly, and he turned out to be a terrific Bond.

Run by the children of original James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, affectionately known to some as simply “Cubby,” EON Productions is the center of the James Bond universe. With Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson acting as the stewards of the Bond franchise, their say is final on everything from product placement to casting decisions. Taking the reins fully after their father’s passing in 1996, Broccoli and Wilson had already been working in the realm of 007 since the ‘70s.

By the time Die Another Day was released in 2002, the James Bond series was 40 years old, with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson having been a part of it for almost three whole decades. And at that point, it was decided that a change was to be made, resulting in that fateful phone call where then James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan was let go. The path to the future was cleared for Daniel Craig, who would be announced as the next James Bond on October 14, 2005.

Martin Campbell wasn’t in the minority with his reservations on his Casino Royale leading man. Brought onto the project in February 2005, Campbell would see several up and coming actors for the role, including one Henry Cavill. But eventually, Daniel Craig was selected, prompting headlines such as, “The name’s Bland, James Bland.” Explaining his eventual conversion, Campbell cited his own image of James Bond, and how Craig eventually fit the bill in his own mind:

Even at the time I had certain reservations, only because there was no doubt he was a terrific actor. He was a superb actor. But of course I’d been brought up in the tradition of Connery, and Roger Moore, and Pierce, all great looking guys. You know, there was a stereotype, if you see what I mean, with those three characters. And Daniel, of course, is much more like Ian Fleming’s conception of that part. I think it was Hoagy Carmichael he said would be the perfect Bond. He was a Bond for the time, basically whenever we started. I think in 2006 we made Casino [Royale], and he was just perfect for the complete reboot, to be honest. Which was much more reality based.

Again, while Martin Campbell wasn’t totally sold on Daniel Craig at the beginning of their Casino Royale journey, it wasn’t for the wrong reasons. For 20 films, the character had seen Sean Connery introducing the world to a womanizer with ice in his veins, and from that point on the continuity ran pretty loose, yet connected. We saw James Bond engage in tragedies, both romantic and tonal, and by time Pierce Brosnan got the role, a mixture of tragic romance and pithy double entendre made up the character’s basic makeup.

Undoubtedly, the decision to make Casino Royale a soft reboot of the Bond franchise necessitated hiring someone like Daniel Craig. If the 21st film in the line was to be a fresh start, the powers that be couldn’t simply go on casting someone that fit the traditional mold described by Martin Campbell. In a way, breaking from the expectations of the public, as well as Campbell himself, was the only way to give 007 the new lease on life he would eventually find.

When Casino Royale got underway, which at the time was the only original Ian Flemming novel to have not been adapted into an official EON Productions film, James Bond found himself rebooted into the modern context we know of today. Starting fresh with his first mission after attaining 00-agent status, Daniel Craig and Martin Campbell were given a chance to redefine what type of man Bond really was. Maintaining a lifestyle where the finer points of luxury intersected with a world where “life is gone with just a spin of a wheel,” Craig’s version of the character was the most lethal in some time.

Out of a very competitive field that saw numerous leading men attached to its prospects, Daniel Craig won the day to become James Bond because Barbara Broccoli truly believed in his talents. Martin Campbell eventually caught onto those feelings, and saw himself becoming a true believer as well. And ultimately, the rest of the world would mostly jump onto that bandwagon as well, installing the Craig era as a cornerstone to why James Bond is still licensed to kill to this very day.

The clock continues to tick down to No Time To Die, which will be released on September 30th in the UK and October 8th in the US. So if you want to get reacquainted with Daniel Craig’s previous James Bond films, you’ve still got time. And if you’re looking to reflect on Casino Royale, prior to its 15th anniversary this November, keep an eye out for more to come from this interview with Martin Campbell.

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.