The name's Bond… but not for much longer
As he bids farewell to every actor’s dream role, we look at the legacy Daniel Craig’s James Bond has left behind.
To equate his Bond experiment to the process of the average gymgoer, Daniel Craig is showered, moisturised, halfway towards being dressed and grateful for the occasional glimpse in the changing room mirror… one which flashes back reflections that his 007 persona might casually approve of with a muttered, “good job”.
Speculation that the actor was saying his farewell to James Bond has been circling for some years, but now, unequivocally, he is done. And as the furore builds towards the deafening crescendo that is the somewhat bland and clumsily named No Time To Die, the final instalment of Daniel Craig as James Bond, the 52-year-old emerges with a few things – a life-defining imprint on the CV, a multimillion-pound war chest, and the knowledge that he has influenced a generation of cinemagoer in refining the definition of the modern-day hero… a warrior, a sleuth, but more and more now someone inspired by health, fitness, vitality and self-improvement.
These role models are not just the domain of the male species either. From Lara Croft through to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Brie Larson’s turn as Captain Marvel, the era of athletic accomplishment as a defining voice in our perception of ‘the hero’ has been supercharged over the past decade or so.
That Daniel Craig has ridden through multiple iterations as Bond is testament to the actor’s ability to engage an audience in a way few others can. Never eccentric, gregarious or extroverted, the charm that emits from the softly spoken Brit is probably as a result of what he doesn’t say, rather than what he does.
“I’ve always thought the image of a good actor is someone who leaves the big gestures and sweeping statements for when the cameras are rolling,” he begins. “That should really be the beginning and the end of what we expect of our actors.
“I don’t want to be the type who puts himself on a pedestal away from that. What right do I have to comment at length on politics or society or the environment? And why should anyone take any notice of me anyway? I’m an actor!”
Much more likely then that instead of emulating his actions as a campaigner, admirers can at least be influenced by the image of a man whose physical prowess continues to inspire both sexes. Daniel Craig is impeccably toned, with muscle mass, posture and core power the envy of some two decades his junior, although the look hasn’t come without considerable time and pain investment.
The actor’s fitness regime is a competent blend of speed, strength and stamina - the key elements of which expand into a daily plan that begins on a Monday with cardio combined with full-circuit training. Tuesday takes in chest and back exercises, Wednesday is legs, Thursday is shoulders and arms, while Friday focuses on power, with sprints and treadmill activities on either Saturday or Sunday.
The curation of this plan came about by trainer Simon Waterson and most parts have been maintained without alteration by DC for now for over a decade – in short: if something works, stick with it.
It's interesting to see how far removed the modern version of Bond is compared to his immediate predecessors Brosnan and Dalton. And while Connery and Moore never strayed into dadbod mode, they represented an era where Bond smoked, drank and copulated his way through problems.
In contrast, Daniel Craig has managed to create a post-modern Bond that embraces the best of Ian Fleming while adding a sense of menace that has helped the British actor put his own stamp on 007. His Bond is gruffer, meaner and more explosive than any of his predecessors in the iconic role. Rather than playing up to Bond's tuxedoed elegance and charismatic womanising, the actor has invested heavily in the character's barely suppressed rage while endowing him with a Kierkegaardian level of existential torment.
At the heart of what defines Bond is, according to Daniel Craig, a good yarn, purely and simply. “Just stick to the old adage that a good story goes a long way…. and blow sh*t up every few minutes,” he laughs heartily. “That’s how it’s done.”
Yet what makes the man himself is something rather more complex. It begins with 007’s fear and loathing, yet ends in physical prowess that is so reflective of our wider changed attitudes towards health and fitness.
“Health, wellbeing… call it what you want – it’s not something influenced by age or access or even the amount of spare time you have in your schedule, because an hour a day should be more than enough. Mostly it’s about state of mind. You either want this thing or you don’t.
“I equate it in much the same as I do when auditioning for a role,” he says, before pausing and adding with a sultry smirk, “back in the days when I had to”, and laughing.
“If you want it too little – a great body, a great film role, a beautiful girl – you won’t get it. The same thing will happen if you want something too much - you’ll go too far the other way, burn out, overdo it, get injured. The secret is ensuring you do enough without going overboard, and that takes a little while to work out.“I was much too intense at the beginning because I was so desperate to get my career going. I was also shit-scared beyond belief whenever I would audition or even go on the set. I was such a neurotic ball of nerves that I had forgotten how to act. So much in life comes down to holding your nerve and keeping cool.”
It is to his credit that it’s sometimes become hard to separate Daniel Craig from his alter-ego James Bond. Both possess a steely, buttoned-up charm, and neither lets his guard down for a second. The epitome of discretion, Craig exemplifies Bond’s stoic approach to pain and, crucially, loves a Martini or two. “If you can find a good one – there’s nothing better. I know how to make a good one from working in bars years ago. I’m quite particular.”
The actor, who, surprisingly, of all the major awards, only has a BAFTA nomination to show for 13 years as 007, was never the obvious choice to take the baton from Pierce Brosnan back in 2006, but defied critics with his rather cruel, cold-blooded portrayal of the iconic spy, who made his curtain call in Casino Royale.
Craig, who ascended to become the UK’s highest paid actor, has impressed at every turn. It’s a long way from his breakthrough television performance in the critically-acclaimed BBC series Our Friends in the North. Compelling performances as Ted Hughes in Sylvia, a stalking victim in Enduring Love and work with future Bond director, Sam Mendes, as Paul Newman’s embittered son in Road to Perdition, increased his stock further.
As a result, the actor, who is married to actress Rachel Weisz, has certainly perfected the art of keeping it all in check. In his final act as Bond he is typically suave, effortlessly charming and perfectly poised to bid farewell to his alter ego with all the gloss, finesse and weapon-toting fieriness that we have come to expect.
“Bond has always been a combination of so many things,” he says. “He has managed to combine brute warfare with effervescent charm. I only wish I could be more like him in real life!”
With this year’s Bond taking a break from what the actor described as his “the dream team” – himself in front of the camera and Sam Mendes behind it – in favour of incoming director Cary Joji Fukunaga, who himself replaced Danny Boyle, it’s unclear if box office records are under threat. Skyfall currently sits as the highest grossing Bond movie, having reached a dizzying $1.1bn in revenue upon its release in 2012.
While the trappings of fame are obviously important, has DC taken anything additionally out of Bond that he has worked into his own career? “Definitely. When he’s knocked down, it’s how he gets up,” he explains. “He takes a lot of battering and so he should, he’s an agent; but it’s how he stands up against adversity because he’s one against many.
“We know Bond isn’t real, but it’s difficult not to carry around with you that confidence and belligerence. I’ve felt it for 13 years and that sense of invincibility does sometimes permeate into my everyday being. That’s not to suggest I’m going to go around jumping off buildings in my spare time, but there is certainly a stubbornness and guile I’ve acquired thanks to Bond.
“It’s fair to say I have thoroughly enjoyed it,” he surmises. “Every moment. At its very best, acting changes people's opinions and attitudes, and you should be trying to make a point of some sort. If you can make that to others, then you're succeeding… you’re in the lead. If you can make a point to yourself, then you’ve won.”
by Violet Wilder