To audiences around the world, and especially in the last month leading up to the release of no time to die, Daniel Craig is James Bond. By the time his successor is finally named, the British actor will have played the character for almost two decades, with five feature films to his name. But when Casino Royale was looking for the man to replace former Bond Pierce Brosnan, Craig’s casting left much of the 007 fandom with intense reservations. And one of those fans was former and future director who would reintroduce the world to Bond, Martin Campbell.
While promoting her latest film, the action thriller Maggie Q The protected, I had the honor of speaking with Mr. Campbell on behalf of this particular work. But when you’re sitting with the man who twice helped update the James Bond franchise, it’s too tempting for a prospect not to discuss the progress of this global cultural touchstone. And as part of that conversation, Martin Campbell not only revealed his reservations about the initial casting of Daniel Craig, but he also gave huge credit to the decision-maker 007 who truly believed in his potential from the start:
Run by the children of original James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, affectionately known as ‘Cubby’, EON Productions is the center of the James Bond universe. With Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson acting as stewards of the Bond franchise, their say is final on everything from product placement to casting decisions. Taking over the reins fully after the death of their father in 1996, Broccoli and Wilson had already been working in the 007 field since the 1970s.
By the time die another day was released in 2002, the James Bond series was 40 years old, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have been part of it for almost three decades. And at that point it was decided that a change needed to be made, resulting in that fateful phone call where James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan was fired. The way to the future was clear for Daniel Craig, who would be announced as the next James Bond on October 14, 2005.
Martin Campbell was not in the minority with his reservations about his Casino Royale Leading man. Brought on the project in February 2005, Campbell would see several promising actors for the role, including one Henry Cavill. But eventually, Daniel Craig was selected, prompting headlines such as, “The name is Bland, James Bland.” Explaining his eventual conversion, Campbell cited his own image of James Bond, and how Craig ultimately made the deal in his mind:
Again, while Martin Campbell was not totally convinced by Daniel Craig at the start of their Casino Royale trip, it wasn’t for the wrong reasons. For 20 movies, the character had seen Sean Connery introduce the world to a womanizer with ice in his veins, and from that point on the continuity was pretty loose, but connected. We’ve seen James Bond engage in tragedies, both romantic and tonal, and by the time Pierce Brosnan got the role, a mixture of tragic romance and pithy double-meaning formed the character’s basic makeup.
Without a doubt, the decision to take Casino Royale a soft reboot of the Bond franchise required hiring someone like Daniel Craig. If the 21st movie in the line was going to be a fresh start, the powers that be couldn’t just keep casting someone who fit the traditional mold described by Martin Campbell. In a way, breaking with public expectations, as well as Campbell himself, was the only way to give 007 the new lease of life he would eventually find.
When Casino Royale begin, which at the time was the only original Ian Flemming novel not to have been adapted into an official EON Productions film, James Bond found itself rebooted in the modern context we know today. Starting over with his first mission after reaching Agent 00 status, Daniel Craig and Martin Campbell had the chance to redefine what kind of man Bond really was. Maintaining a lifestyle where the intricacies of luxury intersect with a world where “life goes away with just the turn of a wheel”, Craig’s version of the character was the deadliest in quite some time.
In a highly competitive field that has seen many 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 finally understood these feelings and saw himself becoming a true believer as well. And eventually, the rest of the world would jump on this bandwagon as well, setting up the Craig era as the cornerstone of why James Bond is still allowed to kill to this day.
The clock keeps ticking until no time to die, which will be released on September 30 in the UK and October 8 in the US. So if you want to rediscover Daniel Craig’s previous James Bond movies, there’s still time. And if you’re looking to reflect on Casino Royale, ahead of his 15th birthday in November, keep an eye out for the future in this interview with Martin Campbell.