Bond. James Bond. Very few words evoke as much cinema history as this famous introduction. Over the years only a select few actors have had the privilege to utter those words in an official capacity, the most recent being Daniel Craig, the first Bond actor to have been born after the fan-favourite film franchise began with Sean Connery’s debut in the role in 1962’s Dr. No.
Ever since Ian Fleming’s super spy was first brought to the big screen, audiences have been treated to a parade of high-action, explosive spy thrillers featuring an exclusive club consisting of some of the world’s most beloved onscreen personalities. From Connery to Supanova alumnus George Lazenby, to Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and, more recently, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, this elite collection of actors have all brought something different to a role that is far more than a fictional member of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but is probably also the most well-known cinematic protagonist of all time.
Like all of his predecessors, Craig certainly placed his indelible mark upon the character, offering audiences a Bond that was both familiar and yet uniquely his own. Fittingly, Craig’s tenure as Bond began with an adaption of Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel which began it all – Casino Royale. What many people may not know, however, is that as well as previously being adapted in 1967 as a parody starring David Niven and Peter Sellers, Casino Royale had a former life as a television adaption in 1954, eight years before Connery ever donned James Bond’s signature suit. Filmed as part of an American anthology television series known as Climax!, the original live-action James Bond was rewritten as an American “Combined Intelligence” agent played by actor Barry Nelson.
It would take another 52 years for Fleming’s debut novel to be given the treatment it rightly deserved with Craig introducing a far more serious, internalised version of the British MI6 agent who had dominated the box office for decades. Stripping back the reliance on gadgetry in favour of a more-grounded take on the character, Craig’s reinvention of the franchise was an enormous success, often dubbed as the ‘best Bond film’ and earned over $616 million US in worldwide box office.
Craig would continue to break Bond records, also becoming the first Bond actor to star in a direct ongoing sequel to a former film, with 2008’s Quantum of Solace picking up directly after the events of Casino Royale. While other Bond films had a number of recurring characters and connective elements, each of the previous entries in the franchise were largely conceived as stand-alone adventures which did not rely on major continuing plot points. Craig’s Bond, however, was proving himself to be a very different beast compared to those who had gone before him. Not only was he far more serious, but he was also more violent with Quantum of Solace often regarded as the most violent entry in the entire franchise.
2012’s Skyfall would continue to mark changes in the franchise, this time revealing much more of Bond’s own elusive personal history and also marking the end of Judi Dench’s run as Bond’s boss M. The film also provided a new origin for the new M’s secretary, Moneypenny, a character which had been a central figure in every previous iteration of the franchise.
Three years later, Craig would return in 2015’s Spectre, a film that would also seek to reinvent the origins of another long-running Bond character, that of the villainous Ernst Stavro Blofeld who first made his debut in 1971’s Diamonds are Forever. This film would turn the head of the criminal syndicate SPECTRE into Bond’s own foster brother, and the figure behind many of the misfortunes he had experienced in earlier films, including the murders of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale and M in Skyfall.
Now the time has come for Craig to hang up his Walther PPK and licence to kill, but not before one last outing in No Time to Die. Craig’s fifth and final outing as Bond, No Time to Die picks up five years after the capture of Blofeld and the events of Spectre. In this outing Bond has retired from active service, and the 007 code-name has been assigned to another agent, played by Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch. However, when Bond is approached by his friend and CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to assist in locating a missing scientist, it quickly becomes apparent that Bond may not be as far out of the espionage game as he had hoped.
No Time to Die will be fans’ last chance to see Daniel Craig play the world’s best-known spy before the mantle inevitably gets handed on to its next owner. With Amazon’s recent acquisition of MGM Studios, along with the rights to the James Bond franchise, it is not yet clear what the future may have in store for James Bond after Daniel Craig exits the role, but it is probably safe to assume that while Craig may be saying goodbye, filmgoers will likely see much more of James Bond in the years to come.
‘No Time to Die’ is in cinemas now.