The Valley Sun News, California
August 5, 2006
Behind the Scene: Is Daniel Craig Bonded?
By Susan James
In 1939, David O. Selznick kicked off the biggest beauty pageant since Esther
caught the eye of King Ahasuerus when the director announced a nationwide
search for an actress to play the coveted role of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the
Wind." But bigger and better even than that fabled film search is the longest
running beauty contest in movie history which began in 1962. Who would be the
new James Bond? Last year's competition was for the lead in "Casino Royale" Â—
to be released this November Â— and guesses ran rife. Would it be Hugh Jackman,
handsome hunk with the hair and nail problem from the "X-Men" series? Clive
Owen, suave killer from "Gosford Park"? No way, baby, it's Daniel Craig, tormented
drug dealer "XXX" from "Layer Cake."
Craig was not the obvious choice on the glittering short list of candidates. Neither
tall nor dark nor particularly suave, he was seen recently on local cable's BBC
America in "Sharpe's Eagle," playing a rather nasty officer in Wellington's army. No
one watching that show would have shouted "eureka, it's Bond!" Never mind that
author Ian Fleming didn't have Sean Connery in mind when he created his master
spy. Never mind that the guy he really had in mind was composer-musician Hoagy
Carmichael, short, taciturn and fair. I know you don't believe that, but it's true. Never
mind any of the preliminaries, because the minute Sean Connery muttered, "Bond,
James Bond," the superspy was by definition tall, dark and handsome, with an
attractive Scottish working-class accent. Connery defined Bond for a generation
and when Roger Moore was tapped to replace him, cries of lamentation were heard
from Tokyo to Toronto.
Like the peaks and valleys on an industrial flow chart, the Bonds that followed went
from adequate to just plain awful. Roger Moore tied Sean Connery's run of seven
films, but never managed to supplant him in the affections of the audience. George
Lazenby was tall, dark and wooden as a tree stump in his one outing as Bond;
Timothy Dalton got two strikes and failed to get it right. Then came Pierce Brosnan:
tall, dark, rough edge, velvet wrapping. His combination of sweet and salty, sexy
and violent harked back to the good old days of Connery. Audiences decided
Brosnan could kill with ruthless efficiency while seducing a wily vixen with all the
skilled subtlety of a U.N. diplomat. Everyone settled in for the long haul. And
Brosnan delivered. Were there cracks in the iron man faÃ§ade? Brosnan managed
to imply there were. He held his own with winner of every-award-for-acting-under-
the-sun Judi Dench. The scenes between them snapped, crackled and popped.
Who needed gorgeous models when you had Judi Dench? But the gorgeous girls
were there, too, and Brosnan's Bond took them in stride, and like Connery before
him, still managed to save the world for humanity. He was all set to sign on for one
more outing in the Bondmobile when a casual message from producers Barbara
Broccoli and Michael Wilson suggested he hang up his martini and look for other
employment. No reason given.
So the beauty pageant paraded down the runway for the 21st time, and the surprise
winner was Daniel Craig (who?), 38, of Chester, U.K. A— shortish, blondish and
very reserved on screen.
The skinny was that the producers were looking to tweak the Bond image to make
him more accessible, more working-class, more relevant to today's audience. There
is little doubt that Craig is a very good actor. His roles in "Munich," "Layer Cake"
and British television mystery series, "The Ice House," prove that. But do we want
Bond life-sized or heroic?
One of the average Joes who works up to super spy status or a Bondian superhero,
born in black tie, rarely shaken but frequently stirred, purveyor of fantasies savored
in the theater dark?
Is Craig up to the challenge that will close the deal?
He's already signed for his second Bond movie, which swings him past Lazenby
and ties him with Dalton. Tune in this November to see if Brosnan must look to his