Daniel Craig’s Best Performances, Beyond Bond and Blanc

Daniel Craig Best Performances
Sylvia: Focus Features/Everett Collection; Layer Cake: Daniel Smith/Sony Pictures Classic; Logan Lucky: Fingerprint Releasing/Amazon/Everett Collection

Even before he was James Bond, Daniel Craig was making a name for himself as a talented actor on the rise. He’d already been in an action blockbuster (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”) and an acclaimed period piece (“Elizabeth”) years before 007 came calling. And while he’s best known for his work in two franchises — Bond and “Knives Out,” which just wrapped the second of three planned films — here are some of his other roles that are worth checking out.

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DreamWorks/Courtesy Everett Collection

Road to Perdition (2002)
If Craig were to make this film today, he would be heralded for being cast against type — as Connor Rooney, the weak and sniveling son of a mob boss (Paul Newman) whose unpredictable nature sets the entire plot in motion. First, he botches a simple meeting by killing an associate. Then, out of jealousy and spite, he tries to kill his father’s beloved enforcer Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) and his family. Connor is an immature, incompetent screw-up, and Craig is shockingly good at playing him.

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Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

Sylvia (2003)
Craig garnered raves for his performance as English poet Ted Hughes, the husband of Sylvia Plath, played here by Gwyneth Paltrow. His chemistry with his Oscar-winning co-star was notable, and he brought a humanity to the role.

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Paramount Classics/Courtesy Everett Collection

Enduring Love/Layer Cake (2004)
The one-two punch of leading roles in acclaimed films proves Craig was well on his way to stardom with or without Bond. After producing films for Guy Ritchie, Matthew Vaughn made his directorial debut with “Layer Cake,” in which Craig plays a cocaine distributor known only as XXXX who operates with his own code of honor. In “Enduring Love,” he plays the more grounded object of Rhys Ifans’ growing obsession. And in both films, you can’t take your eyes off him.

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Fingerprint Releasing/Amazon/Courtesy Everett Collection

Logan Lucky (2017)
Craig is having such a good time as Joe Bang, a bleached-blonde, tattooed safecracker with a hillbilly accent in Steven Soderbergh’s comedy caper, it’s completely contagious. Reportedly Soderbergh told Craig he could do whatever he wanted with the role, and the result is insanity. Kudos to Craig for cutting loose and credit to his co-stars, who managed to keep a straight face during filming.

Saturday Night Live (2012, 2020)
Anyone surprised by Craig’s comic skills clearly missed his self-effacing turns as “SNL” host in which he proved he was more than in on the joke. In his 2012 stint, he parodied his most famous role in a commercial about some of the lesser-known Bond Girls — including Fred Armisen as Penny Marshall — and played a zealous construction worker terrible at heckling. But it was his March 7, 2020, turn, in which he truly shined. With concerns about COVID growing, the cast of the daytime soap “The Sands of Modesto” tries to find a way to keep the actors safe. This includes Craig lovingly stroking Kate McKinnon’s hair with a lengthy fake arm before covering her in kisses on the other side of plastic wrap during a love scene on the couch.