‘Casino Royale’ was released over 10 years ago now, so we look back the crazy anti-Craig fan reaction that greeted the announcement he would take over from Pierce Brosnan as 007.
The trolling began the moment he was announced, but it was cemented as a “thing” when Daniel Craig arrived by speedboat at the London press conference unveiling him as the new James Bond – wearing a life jacket.
Immediately, so-called 007 fans started whinging that James would never be such a wuss, clearly confused that the ‘Layer Cake’ star was a 37-year-old actor from Chester and not a real secret agent.
But the hatred didn’t stop there. Critics argued he didn’t have the charisma, classical looks and above all, dark hair that was essential for the role.
“I’m sure a blond could play James Bond,” read one brutal online bulletin board comment, “but not someone who’s so ugly and uncharismatic as Daniel Craig.”
“Bring back Pierce!” wrote another. “Daniel looks like a villain in a Bond movie that gets killed by 007 in the opening sequence.”
Yet while it had never been quite so vociferous, this wasn’t the first time the spy’s casting had caused a furore.
“Most of them caused a stir, if not as much as Craig,” says Sean Egan, author of ‘James Bond: The Secret History’. “Because there’d been no Bond before Sean Connery, George Lazenby was on a hiding to nothing. When Roger Moore was cast, a lot of people thought he was too soft. Timothy Dalton was a bit equine for some people’s tastes and a bit northern. It was only Pierce Brosnan who didn’t create any controversy – probably because he actually looked like almost a parody of the Bond archetype.”
As ever, dozens of actors had been considered after producers decided to reboot the franchise. Henry Cavill and Sam Worthington are thought to have made up the final trio from which Craig was chosen after Rupert Friend had taken himself out of contention. In fact, then-23-year-old Cavill was director Martin Campbell’s initial favourite until the new film’s script development led them to needing someone older.
Craig was a rising star who’d made his name on TV in ‘Our Friends in the North’ before impressing in movies like ‘Road To Perdition’, ‘The Mother’ and ‘Enduring Love’. Still, he was probably best known at the time for his off-screen love life. He’d become a tabloid staple – something he hated – for his relationships with Kate Moss and Sienna Miller.
In fact, the star’s transition to becoming James definitely wasn’t helped by his patent disinterest in courting the media. Monosyllabic answers at that first press conference (sample Q: “Why do you want to play Bond?” A: “Why not?”) annoyed his detractors - the Daily Mirror immediately nicknamed him James Bland – while he was also unfortunate to be the first 007 of the then-nascent social media era.
Perhaps the most notorious insult came in the form of an entire website called CraigNotBond.com. It had a single goal – to denigrate the actor, as they describe, “credited with single-handedly ruining the Broccoli family business. The public relations nightmare that is Daniel Craig.”
Writing that “fans can’t stand him and the press love to hate him,” it collected evidence from around the web of the star’s wrongness as 007 and threatened to boycott ‘Casino Royale’.
“It’s the kind of crusade that happens in these days of the internet,” says Sean Egan. “[But] it serves to exaggerate the extent of such feelings because it gets so widely reported. You could say that the silent majority express their feelings at the box office.”
That they did. ‘Casino Royale’ became the most successful Bond film ever at the box office, earning £479million worldwide. Craig was very different to most of his predecessors, though was perhaps most similar to Dalton, whose grim almost callous portrayal has since been praised as being ahead of its time, as well as being most like Ian Fleming’s original vision for the character.
What’s more, Craig helped re-legitimise the franchise after the invisible car crash that was ‘Die Another Day’.
“[He] has made it more worthy,” says Egan. “Bond films are much more serious and brooding films, although still enough fun to be successful at the box office. These days, Oscar-winners direct and star in Bond films.”
CraigNotBond.com shut down in late 2006, nevertheless a similar site with similar aims danielcraigisnotbond.com still exists, posting 15-part critical dissections of ‘Spectre’ with titles like ‘The Last Train to Drecksville’. And the tepid reaction to the most recent movie has fired up those who think it’s time for Craig and his brand of Bond to be replaced, even if his contribution to the canon has been recognised as important.
At the time of writing, he has yet to commit to a new film, with actors like Aidan Turner (‘Poldark’), Jack Huston (‘Ben-Hur’) and Idris Elba apparently in the running (though don’t be surprised by Rupert Friend or Henry Cavill circling back to the role). Whatever happens next, it’ll be interesting.
“All Bond continuity was rebooted with ‘Casino Royale’, which pretended all the previous films never happened, so the Craig films are a self-contained quartet,” says Egan. “When a new actor is cast, are the Bond films going to carry on the Craig continuity, or are they going to reboot again? And will that confuse the public?”
Image credits: PA, OutNow, Getty