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Daniel Craig: The reluctant James Bond

In late 2004, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson offered Daniel Craig the role of every British lad’s dreams: They wanted him to be the next James Bond. Craig, however, was dismayed over the absence of a script and the too-polished nature of the part, and so, after a brief negotiation, the 35-year-old son of an art teacher and a publican told the producers to sod off.

And thus began the saga of Daniel Craig, Reluctant Bond.

A classically trained graduate of Guildhall School of Music and Drama (where he studied with Ewan McGregor and Joseph Fiennes), Craig had worked fairly steadily since his 1992 debut in John G. Avildsen's “The Power of One.” He’d appeared in numerous British TV dramas, survived a few Hollywood duds (e.g. “A Kid in King Arthur’s Court” and “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”) and earned critical acclaim for supporting turns in “Elizabeth,” “Love Is the Devil” and “Road to Perdition.” He’d finally made a leading-man splash as a high-end drug dealer in Matthew Vaughn’s “Layer Cake,” and was now being asked to succeed Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.

Craig's initial reticence stemmed from his distaste for mayhem-laden studio action films (he once lamented, “There are only so many ways you can look surprised at crap blowing up”), but spending time with Mossad agents on Steven Spielberg's “Munich” gave him a new perspective on Bond. After too many years of laughably unrealistic gadgetry (Brosnan's last film, "Die Another Day," featured an invisible car), he wanted to bring Bond back to his stone-cold “killer” roots. He wanted to play the remorseless secret agent of Ian Fleming’s novels.

Still set on Craig, Broccoli and Wilson returned a year later with a new script tailored to fit the star's exacting specifications. Craig finally relented and, in 2006, dazzled audiences in “Casino Royale” as a rough-and-tumble Bond who still looked smashing in a blazer. The film dethroned “Die Another Day” as franchise’s top grosser, auguring a long 007 run for Craig.

The British tabloids have egregiously overstated Craig’s love/hate relationship with the part over the last decade, but the actor has certainly done his part to fan the flames of discontent. There were grumblings during contract renegotiations before “Skyfall” and “Spectre,” and a certain air of surliness when journalists asked about his personal life (“I say, 'F***off! I read books, go to the pub and drink'”), but never anything more than light grousing.

The first sign of serious discontent surfaced in a 2015 TimeOut interview prior to the release of “Spectre” where Craig declared, “The Bond Bank is dry.” When asked if he’d sign on for a fifth installment, Craig shot back that he’d rather “slash my wrists” than do another. The press had a field day with that dire remark, speculating that everyone from Idris Elba to Jamie Bell were on the cusp of being named the seventh James Bond.

Craig let this uncertainty play out in the tabloids for almost two years before re-upping for the as-yet-untitled 25th Bond adventure — to be released Nov. 8, 2019 — last summer. He'll be 50 by then, the same age as Roger Moore was when he made "Moonraker." As for whether this will be the fifth and final go-round for the blonde Bond, Craig informed Stephen Colbert, “I think this is it. I just want to go out on a high note.”

As for what advice he’d like to pass along to his successor, the defiant 007 bluntly stated, “Don’t be s***.”

Jeremy Smith is a freelance entertainment writer, and the author of "George Clooney: Anatomy of an Actor". His second book, "When It Was Cool", is due out in 2020.

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