The naysayers immediately lamented the “blond Bond” and criticized his blue eyes. The London Daily Mirror on Oct. 15, 2005, ran his photo with the headline “The Name’s Bland … James Bland.”
Two days later, the Mirror interviewed a man actually named James Bland. He had a statement for Craig: “I’d make a better Bond than you.” Bland added, “He must be the most boring 007 ever.” This was nearly three months before filming had begun.
At Craig’s first meeting with the press, he arrived via a speedboat on the Thames; he was wearing a lifejacket, which led to endless media mockery. Reporters were even more appalled that he chewed gum during the press conference.
Websites immediately sprang up with names like DanielCraigIsNotBond .com, CraigNotBond .com and blondNotBond.com
British tabloids and anonymous posters can be harsh, but even “respectable” news organizations picked up on the negativity. Variety’s Ian Mohr wrote that Craig’s “casting made him the target of grouchy bloggers — with the mainstream media giving a surprising amount of credence to a few noisy naysayers.”
When the actor started filming “Casino Royale” on Jan. 3, 2006, the hostility shifted into high gear. The British Sun said Craig was “hit by a nasty bout of prickly heat” in the Bahamas, plus, he suffered sunburn — not too suave.
It also was reported he didn’t know how to drive a stick-shift. (Headline: “Craig’s 007 Can’t Get in Gear.”)
“Craig confessed he doesn’t like guns,” said one British tabloid, while another reported he lost two teeth in a fight scene with “minor actors” (apparently more humiliating than being punched by major actors).
At another press conference, in Prague, Variety reported that Craig “fielded with good humor questions that became increasingly bizarre.” One reporter asked if he was aware there had been an earlier film called “Casino Royale.” Another wanted Craig to address media speculation about his “orientation.” Craig responded, “I didn’t know they had but thanks for the information.”
On March 6, 2006, in the midst of the six-month shoot for “Casino Royale,” Variety countered the badmouthing. The article by Nicole LaPorte began with a quote from producer Barbara Broccoli: “His teeth are fine, he doesn’t have heat rash, and he’s not afraid of the water.”
Broccoli said she and producing partner Michael G. Wilson were “dealing with around-the-clock Bond gossip.” She added, “We’re aware of it but it doesn’t mean anything to us.”
There were bigger challenges facing Broccoli, Wilson, director Martin Campbell and new distributor Sony. As LaPorte wrote, “A 20-film legacy must be simultaneously preserved and updated. Bond is at a critical juncture in its history.”
The film was promised to have “a grittier, 21st century feel.” The $100 million-plus “Casino Royale” was going to downplay special effects and gadgets. Wilson added that there would be no gimmicks like invisible cars, a reference to “Die Another Day” (2002).
The skeptics insisted that the Jason Bourne films had made 007 obsolete and that Austin Powers movies pointed up 007’s absurdity.
However, showbiz loves happy endings. “Casino Royale” premiered Nov. 14, 2006 — and audiences were wildly enthused about the new direction and about Craig.
“Casino Royale” raked in $616 million worldwide, becoming the highest earning Bond film to date and regarded by many as Craig’s finest Bond outing. (By comparison, the final Pierce Brosnan film, “Die Another Day,” had earned $431.9 million).
The 2012 “Skyfall,” Craig’s third Bond film, broke all 007 records again, earning $1.1 billion worldwide. Of the 25 official Bond outings, Craig’s quartet — also including “Quantum of Solace” and “Spectre” — are the four highest earners.
Clearly, movie fans embraced Craig, and so did the industry. He was nominated for a BAFTA for “Casino Royale” and he proved his versatility with films like Rian Johnson’s 2019 “Knives Out,” which made $311.6 million and has a sequel in production.
Craig also earned strong reviews onstage, starring on Broadway with Hugh Jackman in “A Steady Rain” (2009), with his wife Rachel Weisz in “Betrayal” (2013) and with David Oyelowo in “Othello” (2016).
“No Time to Die” began its global rollout Sept. 29 and opens in the U.S. on Friday.
Craig is the longest-serving Bond, at 15 years; that’s partly due to the long gaps between films, including the multiple delays of “No Time to Die” due to COVID.
Craig has been so popular as Bond that it’s easy to forget how much flak he got at the beginning.
Back in 2006, Variety quoted Broccoli as saying “There’s always a heightened interest in Bond and every time we recast the role, there’s even more. It’s in keeping with what we’ve been experiencing.”
So let this be a reminder for Craig’s successor as 007: Everyone may learn to love you, but don’t expect a warm welcome right away. The knives are indeed out.