Warning: This post contains spoilers about No Time to Die and the fate of James Bond.
After five Bond films, Daniel Craig has officially handed in his license to kill. But the British actor says he sealed his character's fate just as his first 007 outing, 2006's Casino Royale, was hitting theater screens.
“I was driving away from the Berlin premiere of Casino Royale with [producer] Barbara Broccoli,” the 54-year-old actor tells the Sunday Times in a new interview. “I had genuinely thought I would do one Bond movie, then it would be over. But by then we knew we had a hit on our hands. I realized the enormity of it, so I said to Barbara, ‘How many more? Three? Four?’ She said, ‘Four!’ I said, ‘OK. Then can I kill him off?’ She said, ‘Yes.’”
And that's just what happened with Craig's fifth and final turn as James Bond, No Time to Die. Released last year after an 18-month-long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the franchise's 25th film ended with the secret agent dying, having chosen to sacrifice himself for the sake of his family.
"I said, ‘This is it. I don’t want to do any more,’” Craig says of going into his final film. Even so, he wanted to give the spy a noble death, tasking Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who worked on the film's screenplay, with creating an ending that showed Bond's humanity. infected with nanobots programmed to kill his lover and their young daughter, Bond stays behind on an island he knows will soon be struck by missiles.
"Real tragedy is when you have absolutely no choice,” Craig notes. “We had to find a way to make his death no choice. It was the happiest Bond had ever been because he’d found exactly what he was looking for. Like everyone on Earth, he was just looking for love.”
Bond's death also presented an opportunity for the beloved franchise — even if the studio wasn't quite ready to accept it.
"If we kill Bond, we can begin again,” Craig says. “I think Barbara thought that too. But, bless them, the studio, MGM, were, like, ‘What are you talking about? Are you out of your minds?’ There was reluctance. So we had to do it in secret, really.”
While it remains to be seen when and how the Bond series will be refreshed, Craig — now starring in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery — seems happy with his ability to shake up the 60-year-old franchise.
"I came in guns blazing and everyone got angry," he says of the controversy surrounding his casting, which he admitted being "bothered" by in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment last year. "‘His ears stick out! He’s blond! Blue eyes!’ I’m hardly the tall, dark stranger Fleming wrote, but I thought, ‘We have to make it new.’ We can’t just go, ‘Here, audience, here’s the same old stuff we always did.’
“I know that sounds massively arrogant,” he continues. “But it was a creative disruption. I felt Bond was big and tough enough to take just about anything. If I’d ended up doing more [Bond], I really would have pushed it. But Bond can take it! It is not fragile. It’s robust. Sean Connery personified that character in a way that will never go away, so I thought, ‘What do I do to it?’”