Film history has proven time and again that the reactions from passionate fans towards a new casting announcement of their favourite character can be extreme to the point of comical.
From fans burning effigies of Michael Keaton after he was cast as the Caped Crusader in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie, to Wonder Woman fans complaining that Gal Gadot did not have the right “body type” to portray the Amazon super-warrior, examples of over-the-top backlash from fans have been legendary in their petty silliness.
At the moment, speculation over who will be the next actor to take up the mantle of James Bond – arguably the most famous character in film – has almost reached fever pitch. Daniel Craig has left some pretty big shoes to fill… But fans didn’t always see things that way.
Indeed, one of the most memorable fan freakouts was when Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond in the film series relaunch Casino Royale. When it was announced that Craig, who at that point had garnered strong notice as the villain in The Road to Perdition and as a drug-dealing gangster in Layer Cake, would be the next James Bond, the 007 faithful and the British tabloids were aghast that a blond-haired, blue-eyed actor of rugged look would be the successor to suave fan favourite Pierce Brosnan.
Looking back on that now, that seems ridiculous. But as we wait eagerly to find out who’ll be the next Bond, let’s take a look back at how Craig entered the role.
The ‘Blond Bond’ Meets The Press
When Craig first met with the press in 2005 after arriving via speedboat on the Thames, the media mocked the actor for wearing a lifejacket. Even more appalling in their eyes is that he chewed gum throughout the press conference. Three months before filming Casino Royale, The Mirror interviewed a man named James Bland, who was quoted as saying “I’d make a better Bond than you”, before adding “he must be the most boring 007 ever!”
History has proven, of course, that the hand-wringing around Craig’s casting as Bond was a misguided overreaction, as seen in his explosive debut in 2006’s Casino Royale to his emotional farewell in 2021’s No Time to Die. Throughout his tenure as Bond, Craig would receive rave notices from critics, while his five 007 films would make $4 billion at the global box office.
“Of course, I was bothered by it,” said Craig in a 2021 interview with Yahoo Entertainment. “But there was nothing I could really do.”
“It’s like [the saying goes]: ‘Control the things that you can control’. All I could do was make a good movie, or attempt to make a good movie and say, ‘There you go’. And if they didn’t like it, then I don’t know, that’s all I had to give.”Daniel Craig
Long-time Bond producer Barbara Broccoli was much more upset about the reaction to Craig’s casting. “It was so ridiculous. It was absurd,” Broccoli said in the same interview. “But you know, it was the beginning of the whole Internet bonanza. I mean, the fact that they were complaining that he was blond stupefied me because Roger [Moore] was blond. I didn’t know what they were talking about.”
“It was distressing but we were only really concerned about him, because he was being attacked, so virulently, when he was killing himself making the movie,” she relates.
Creating A Body To Kill
Broccoli, of course, was referencing Craig’s intense preparation transforming his body to “license to kill” mode, while also dealing with a raft of injuries that would often have the actor questioning whether he would return to the franchise.
Simon Waterson, a celebrity trainer and former Royal Marine, would describe how he got Craig into Bond shape for Casino Royale. “Daniel always has a clear vision of what he wanted and how to evolve the character physically and mentally,” Waterson explained to GQ. “With Casino Royale, it was quite big, imposing, shocking: ‘I can do this. My physique is capable of doing the job that I’m portraying.’”
“Luckily, Dan was no shirk when it came to hard work, so I devised a programme that had diversity and would suit the role of Bond, pushing him to his limits and beyond, like the character demands. Dan had briefed me on his goals and was determined to get stuck in.”
“No stone was left unturned in terms of developing speed, strength, stamina, and a sharp, focused mind.”Simon Waterson
Craig’s workouts for Bond involved a blend of powerlifting and a lot of compound exercises (exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time). After a few months, Craig was lifting and performing like an athlete, combining intense focus and discipline to execute his desired outcome. “Even now, I still can’t believe the physical changes he achieved” continued Waterson. “It just shows that with willpower and dedication, you can achieve anything.”
Craig also had to undergo a psychological battle, when the actor faced his fear of heights while filming the now-famous crane chase sequence in Casino Royale, a white-knuckle scene that was as intense to shoot as it was to watch.
“The crane sequence in Casino Royale was one of the most challenging and fun scenes,” says Craig. “I had to go up about 60 feet onto scaffolding and walk along beams that were about six inches across. No, run across beams that were six inches across 60 feet up in the air, which was… It wasn’t fun, but it was challenging.”
No Time For Injuries
Then, of course, was the extensive list of injuries that Craig would endure throughout his Bond tenure. On Quantum of Solace, he tore his labrum (the connecting cartilage) in his right shoulder, and then reinjured it again later in the shoot. On Skyfall, Craig ruptured both of his calf muscles. Then on Spectre, he tore his ACL (a key ligament in the knee joint) during a fight scene with co-star Dave Bautista. It was this injury that made Craig seriously ponder his future with the Bond franchise at the time.
“I had a lot of fun on [Spectre] but part of the problem was that I broke my leg,” said Craig in the ITV documentary Being James Bond.
“We had a choice: we could shut down for nine months and I could go and get an operation; or I could crack on with the movie and I didn’t want to shut down for nine months.”Daniel Craig
“I had to psychologically juggle my physical state,” he explained. “At the beginning of the movie, I climb out of a window and walk down a ledge… I am literally going, ‘Don’t give way, don’t give way… I have a wire on, but it’s very traumatic. I am trying to be cool, but my leg is shot.”
With the Bond producers currently looking for a new actor to take on the role of 007, any prospective actor should look to the preparation, pain, and sacrifice that Craig endured to live up to the mantle of perhaps the greatest action character of all time.
As for Daniel Craig himself? Sit back and enjoy a martini, sir. You deserve it.