LOS ANGELES—Things could have gone badly for Daniel Craig. Unlike his predecessors in the role of James Bond, Craig had established himself as a film actor with potential when he was tapped to be 007 in Casino Royale. He had received acclaim for performances in several films, including Munich, a best-picture-Oscar nominee, and had won British Independent Film Award nominations for three other films. It appeared that Oscars and a lengthy career were his for the taking.
Instead, he chose to be the new face of a franchise that has not been particularly kind to its stars. Although Sean Connery managed to find lead parts after abandoning the role in 1971, he had to reinvent himself in films like 1987’s The Untouchables in order to have a lengthy career. (He took on the role of Bond again in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, but the film was not sanctioned by then–franchise owner Albert “Cubby” Broccoli.) George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton were casualties of the role, while Roger Moore went from Bond to semiretirement. The jury is still out on Pierce Brosnan.
Craig, like Moore’s successor, Dalton, was brought in to bring an edge to a role that had become somewhat campy. Fortunately for him, Casino Royale was a hit. His debut Bond movie was the biggest box-office success in the franchise’s 21-film history. In a Los Angeles hotel’s interview room, he says he expects that the 22nd film, Quantum of Solace (which opens Friday [November 14] ), will also do well and that the franchise will continue to have success as long as it tells innovative stories.
“People keep talking about the films supplying answers as to who the character is, but I think that what we have to do is not worry about the answers so much as inventing more questions,” Craig says. “We have had discussions about the future, and we want creative input. We want the writers to say, ”˜I have a good idea.’ I think there is more room to move now in terms of where we can take the character and the movies. There are strict guidelines with a Bond film that you have to adhere to, but within those parameters you can muck about. That is what is great about doing these films. I think that comes right from the books, which are great, and the fact that Connery set the movies up and that [founding producers] Broccoli and [Harry] Saltzman put the money on the screen and took him on location and made him stylish. Then the [Broccoli] kids [stepson Michael Wilson and daughter Barbara Broccoli] picked it up. They love the franchise and they protect it fiercely. It [the franchise] is an unusual situation, but it’s a very exciting situation as far as filmmaking is concerned.”
Quantum of Solace is an unusual film for the franchise in that it is less self-contained than most of the movies. It is a sequel of sorts in that Bond finds himself still mourning the loss of Vesper (Eva Green), who died at the end of Casino Royale. He tells his boss, M (Judi Dench), that he isn’t out to avenge her death, but he follows a path that puts him in contact with several suspects. Eventually, M decides that she has seen enough and tells him to either take a break or leave MI6.
Craig says that he doesn’t see the film as being about retribution as much as it is about Bond trying to find out who he can trust through a journey of self-discovery. “I don’t think he is after revenge,” he says. “I think he is finding his place in this new world and trying to figure out who his allies are. I think by the end of the movie the audience will think, ”˜It’s Bond; he is back.’ So I think now we can do anything we want.”
If the audience does feel that way, Craig could be steadily employed for several years. He says that he can’t imagine a better job. “It’s just incredible. It’s a really good job. I know I could be doing so many other things apart from this, but I prefer it. I think the favourite part of this for me is the collaboration, because we are working with so many people who are the best in the world in special effects and stunts and we have access to great directors and writers and actors. As long as we are keeping the quality up and the money on the screen and audiences interested, I will be happy to do this. I can’t predict what will happen, but even if we are fighting an uphill battle, I would think it would still be a challenge I would want to be a part of.”