Filmmakers roll the dice with new 007
in Casino Royale
Nov. 15, 2006
Filmmakers roll the dice with new 007 in Casino Royale

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

The real gambling in Casino Royale is not what James Bond
does at the poker table.

EON Productions, which has made 21 Bond films since Dr. No
premiered in 1962, is doing what Warner Bros. did very
successfully with Batman Begins and Superman Returns:
taking an old series with an iconic hero and starting over.

Smooth Pierce Brosnan is out, rough Daniel Craig is in.

Craig's James Bond does not make bad puns about death or
sex. He doesn't get cool gadgets from Q or flirt with Miss
Moneypenny. (In Casino Royale, both characters are MIA.)
Other familiar elements — the martini recipe, the "Bond,
James Bond" intro, the gun-barrel opening and the theme
song — are gone or reconfigured.

And Bond, for the first time, is blond.

"I watched every Bond film four times," Craig told the New
York Times, "but then I let it all go flying right out of my
head. Why make this movie unless you really want to do
something different with the role? That would be the biggest
waste of time in the world. I think it's time to take Bond into
the next century."

Will this approach recharge the series, or is it a huge

Unlike Batman & Robin, which in 1997 showed dwindling fan
interest, or Superman IV, a box-office dud in 1987, the last
Bond film was a hit. Die Another Day in 2002 provided 007
with his biggest payday ever, a worldwide gross of $432

It also had a massive budget of nearly $150 million.
The producers are putting it all on the line to do what
hardcore Bond fans have long wanted: to see the character
author Ian Fleming created in his first novel, Casino Royale,
in 1953 — 007 at the beginning of his career.

"We felt at the end of Die Another Day that we had taken
Bond along a fantastical journey and that we had kind of
reached the point of no return, in terms of CGI (computer
generated images), with the invisible car and all that,"
producer Barbara Broccoli, daughter of the late Albert
"Cubby" Broccoli, who shepherded Bond through his first 17
films, told the Toronto Sun. "And we felt the world had
changed. The world was much more serious, and we were
trying to figure out where to go."

To long-time Bond watchers, this sounds very familiar.

Social upheaval, new leading men and market trends have all
influenced the Bond series over the years. At times, those
influences made for a tougher film (For Your Eyes Only,
Licence to Kill), or a more comic Bond (Diamonds Are
Forever, A View to a Kill). Other times, 007 skewed more
toward science fiction (You Only Live Twice, Moonraker). In
the early years of the AIDS epidemic, Bond was (briefly)
more romantic and (slightly) less promiscuous (The Living

Seventeen years ago, the producers took Bond in a darker
direction with Timothy Dalton and Licence to Kill. Broccoli's
stepson Michael G. Wilson called it "gritty ... more like the
traditional early films."

Just one film removed from the silliness of the Roger Moore
Bond era, Licence to Kill was a revenge film, the toughest,
most serious Bond movie since Dr. No. And has remained so
until Casino Royale.

Licence to Kill made $156 million worldwide but only $35
million in the U.S., where viewers still missed the easygoing
Moore. When Bond reappeared six years later, Dalton had
been replaced by Brosnan and a glossier style.

As Casino Royale opens, Bond is just beginning his 00 career.
(Even Fleming's novel did not portray Bond earning his 00
license to kill; he was a veteran agent at the start of the

The wishes of the very vocal Fleming fans have played a key
role in the latest change. Just as the Batman fans disparaged
the excesses of Batman & Robin (including a Batsuit with
nipples) so Fleming fans hated 007 surfing on tidal waves
and driving an invisible car in Die Another Day.

No Bond film has ever been a flop. Even lesser successes
were still big moneymakers.

So how will this new Bond — star and style — fare? Casino
Royale is packed with action, excitement, scenery, beautiful
women and many other elements that define the series. So
far, critical response has been overwhelmingly positive and
serious fans have been enthusiastic. But will it satisfy the
casual fans, those who filled theaters for Die Another Day
and thought an invisible car was cool?

If not, expect changes in November 2008 when Bond, James
Bond, returns.