The 24th entry in the James Bond franchise, Spectre, opens on Monday, October 26. It’s Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as the maverick MI5 spy, putting him on par with Pierce Brosnan, two places behind Sean Connery on six and Roger Moore on seven. If he makes another Bond film after Spectre, he’ll be the third longest-serving 007 in history – but rumours are rampant that he’s planning on quitting, after he recently told one interviewer, “I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists” than make another Bond film now.
Grey’s Anatomy lead actor Ellen Pompeo tweeted in reaction, “This dude needs a reality check”, and the newspaper thinkpieces about his insensitive use of language were numerous. But what Craig said next was largely ignored. “Not at the moment.”
The distinction is important. After Skyfall, Craig signed up to a contract worth £31m, which stipulated his involvement in the next two Bond films: Spectre and whatever comes next. It doesn’t seem as though he really has a choice in the matter, but one thing he is able to do is to make it widely known that he doesn’t want to make another one straight away.
It’s a pretty punishing task, being Bond. Craig has emphasised how much he misses having time, telling Esquire “I have a life and I’ve got to get on with it a bit. But we’ll see.” To Time Out, he said, “It takes an awful amount of time.” He nimbly avoided a similar line of questioning in Jonathan Ross’s TV special last weekend, too.
Then there’s the training. Craig is 47 years old, and he’s played Bond for the last 10 years. To get in the appropriate physical form for 2006’s Casino Royale he stopped smoking and trained with Simon Waterson (of Commando Workout fame) every weekday until he could bench his own weight. Just before Skyfall’s release, in 2012, he told Shortlist, “I don’t bounce as well as I used to, so I have to be careful.” After an on-set injury in April this year, he underwent knee surgery and shooting shut down for two weeks. “I’m all right,” he commented, before clarifying, “I’m a hell of a long way from perfect.”
Speaking to The Daily Mail’s Event in September, he told them that although the physical demands of Bond mean “it’s getting harder”, he has the attitude that “such is life. I’ll keep going as long as I’m physically able. I’m contracted for one more – but I’m not going to make predictions.” This would suggest that Craig is thinking not just about doing a fifth, but perhaps even a sixth or seventh stint as Bond. “These movies don’t get made very often,” he continued. “It’s just the fourth time for me, a spit in the ocean. If you don’t get excited about making a movie of this size with this cast, with Sam Mendes… then go home.”
Look back to Skyfall’s promo interviews, and you’ll find exactly the same spread of feeling towards the Bond franchise from Craig. To Esquire: “Today, just contemplating another one is fucking beyond my imagination. All I want to do right now is go home.” To the BBC: “I’ll keep going until they tell me to stop”.
But if Craig does stop, the actors looking to replace him are already lining up. The bookmakers’ favourite Tom Hardy at 5/2. Idris Elba sits at 4/1, Michael Fassbender at 7/1 and Nicholas Hoult at 10/1. Whatever happens, the only surprises would be if Bond didn’t continue to be a heterosexual white man. Pierce Brosnan recently commented that he would welcome a gay Bond, but said he couldn’t see it happening any time soon. “Let’s start with a great black actor being James Bond,” he added.
Considering Craig’s contractual obligations, though, it looks like he’ll have to stay on as 007 for at least one more film, whether that gets made now or in a few years’ time. And judging by today’s critical reaction – essentially a uniform thumbs-up, including from NME – there’s no real reason for him to step down yet. But perhaps the box office results will be the deciding factor, in which case we will have to wait and see.