I remember when Daniel Craig was announced as the next James Bond in October 2005. Like many others, I was completely put off by his casting, an actor I never needed to see to know he wasn’t right to play James Bond. I never needed to see him speak, move, or do anything—he didn’t look the part. James Bond photographs tall. Daniel Craig doesn’t. The color of his hair isn’t as important, but blond? Even Roger Moore was pushing it with red. I remember hearing about the “protest site” danielcraigisnotbond.com, a futile attempt to prevent the inevitable. Who knew Craig would not only play Bond for five films—bested only by Sean Connery and Moore—but inhabit the role for 15 years?
After completing Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino began courting EON Productions, Barbara Broccoli, and Pierce Brosnan about writing and directing Casino Royale: a decade earlier, he was raving about the book and its ice-cold final line (“The bitch is dead”) on Charlie Rose, and in the mid-2000s, he could’ve properly “rebooted” the franchise. But as much as I love Tarantino and his work, his idea for what a proper Bond movie would be makes me run for the door: no theme song, no gun barrel opening, absolutely nothing campy or silly. Brosnan and Craig are right: Austin Powers effectively ruined James Bond, with all three Mike Myers’ films coming out in the same year as a new Brosnan Bond movie. Maybe that’s why his first, 1995’s GoldenEye, is perhaps the best Bond movie.
After the release of Casino Royale—eventually directed by GoldenEye director Martin Campbell—Tarantino told the press that “the producers took my ideas” on how to “reboot” the franchise, but “they were worried I was going to make it too good and fuck up the series!” He might be right, especially considering how well-received the Daniel Craig movies have been, and how quickly animosity toward him as Bond evaporated. But I never bought it, and until recently, I’d never seen a Craig Bond film. But when I was a kid, I loved James Bond—a good rule of thumb is that your favorite Bond film is the first one you saw in theaters—for me, The World is Not Enough—but I knew in 1999 that was kind of a dog. GoldenEye was my favorite because of the N64 video game, arguably better than the film.
I left James Bond in 2005 after dressing like him as a young boy. Finally catching up with the Craig movies confirms everything I’ve been able to infer from them over the years: dull, colorless, “realistic,” aping the Jason Bourne movies, self-serious, afraid of coming off like Austin Powers. Even if Tarantino succeeded in properly adapting Ian Fleming, I’m not sure I still wouldn’t prefer the Brosnan era and Moore’s For Your Eyes Only and The Spy Who Loved Me, recent discoveries for me that really hit the sweet spot for what I think Bond should be: fun, sexy but PG-13, colorful, action-packed, glorious sets, a wise-cracking actor playing Bond loving playing Bond. Craig publicly complained about playing the part as early his third film, and by pre-production for his last (and best) Bond film No Time to Die, he said he’d rather “slash my wrists” than do another one—before adding that, “if I do another one, it’ll be for the money.”
Roger Moore complained, but Brosnan is still depressed about being turned down for a fifth film. The franchise is at a strange place now: I remember someone named Aaron being announced as the next Bond, but could it be? Wouldn’t I have heard it by now? Maybe they’re still waiting. But until James Bond returns to the pure cinema glory of Sheena Easton opening the Bond 1980s with her opening title sequence, to date the only time a Bond singer has appeared in the opening title sequence. Nothing expresses what the series is, and what it should be, than Easton’s classic song:
For your eyes only can see me through the night
For your eyes only I never need to hide
You can see so much in me, so much in me that’s new
I never felt until I looked at you…
For your eyes only
Only for you
You see what no one else can see
Now I’m breaking free for your eyes only
Only for you
The love I know you need in me
The fantasy you freed in me
Only for you
Only for you…
Can you imagine anyone singing this about Daniel Craig? With those watery 1981 synths? Come on.
—Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @nickyotissmith