“Do you want a clean kill – or do you want to send a message?”
Martin Campbell . 2005
Bond is re-Bourne,
For 44 years, the Bond makers studiously avoided all suggestions from any of their LA backers – UA, MGM, Sony – about hiring a US director for their super-Brit hero. Then, along came The Bourne Identity, 2002. The hero was a US agent who had no idea who, what or why he was. The star, Matt Damon, was a mere 31. And the action hurt…
After all the Hollywood copy-Bonds – Derek Flint, Matt Helm, Jason Love, Boysie Oakes, Harry Palmer – a US director, Doug Liman, had finally shown Bond up for being too old, too set in his (producers’) ways.
By the time Irishman Paul Greengrass even improved on the Liman model for the sequel, The Bourne Supremacy , 2004, Bourne was the new Bond.
“He’s tarnished. He’s not a superclean hero.
He’s not a white knight. He drinks, smokes.
He suffers from this thing… called accidie,
a moral malaise or confusion
which makes him... thoroughly like us.”
That was Tim Dalton, circa 1987, on Bond. He could have been talking about Bourne.
It was not just Bourne… There was this other fella: Jack Bauer, the toughest, no-nonsense spy ever seen on TV, saving the world… well, the US… well, LA… in 24 . Most of the first season had Kiefer Sutherland (35) directed by a previous potential 007 helmer, Stephen Hopkins.
The real-time series arrived on screen a year before Bourne, but the Bond team was not about to be overly influenced by a TV fad. When Bourne underlined the Bauer message, in fact, the new, post 9/11 heroics, Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli (not getting any younger themselves at 57 and 41) sat up and took note. For once.
After all, these new guys were not initialled JB for nothing. They were showing the way forward for the Bonds. Younger, leaner, less gimmicks, more grit…
And so, bye-bye Brosnan, the best Bond since Sean.
Which seemed rather a bizarre move, considering he had started that grittier move – or as much as he was able, given the constraints of producers stuck in 70s’ aspic and scared to tamper with the tried (and tired) formula. He’d even been talking about Royale with possibly the most perfect US director – Quentyin Tarantino. When Brosnan was dropped, Quentin berated the producers and refused to have anything to do with the project – not that he had been asked.
Variety editor Peter Bart said the Irishman had priced himself out of the market: his agent had suggested $45m. Considering his four Bonds had been the most successful in the 20-film series, topped byDie Another Die , raking in $456m, that did not seem to be asking that much.
It was never the money. It was the age thing. Pierce Brosnan was 52 to Matt Damon’s 35…
“It… sucks,” said Brosnan. “Completely. It would have been sweet to go back for a fifth. I was just getting the hang of it, you know. It would have been wonderful to go out there for one last game and pass the baton.”
He was shooting After The Sunset when he got the bad news. “I’m about to do Scene 58 with the lovely Salma Hayek where we roll around on the beach naked … and the boys are telling me the negotiations have stopped. The producers had rethought the role. They wanted to go younger. They wanted to put a whole new spin on it and reinvigorate the part. Whether they made the right choice, who knows? ”
And later: “That’s it. I’ve said all I’ve got to say on the world of…”
By 2014, Brosnan was confesssing to the UK’s Daily Telegraph that he was never content with his Bond. “I felt caught in a time warp between Roger and Sean. It was a very hard one to grasp the meaning of, for me. The violence was never real, the brute force of the man was never palpable. It was quite tame, and the characterisation didn’t have a follow-through of reality, it was surface. But then, that might have had to do with my own insecurities in playing him… I’ve no desire to watch myself as James Bond. ’Cos it’s just never good enough. It’s a horrible feeling.”
007 . Now, of course, all the tabloids began hurling names around like confetti. The good, the bad and the downright insane. From Rupert Everett, Friends’ Matthew Perry and little singer Robbie Williams to Bollywood’s Hrithik Roshan, known as “the Indian Sylvester Stallone, Brad Pitty and Michael Jackson. rolled into one.” Sounds lumpy.
“I can be the best James Bond there is,” claimed Roshan. Yes, but headlines would have killed him… AN INDIAN 007 – GOODNESS GRACIOUS ME!
The Anglo-Ghanian Colin Salmon – M’s chief of staff Charles Robinson in the previous three films – was even “announced” as the first black Bond.“I only knew I’d lost when Daniel got it.” Not so. The rumour was fanned because, yes, Colin made several tests as Bond but, like Michael Billington for years before him, Colin was only helping to testpossible Bond Girls. Awful chore, but somebody had to do it!
“The speculation came out of nowhere and was a heartening and humbling experience that still gets mentioned on a weekly basis.,” saids Salmon. “Public support was amazing and the debate was very illuminating. I didn’t realise how open the public were to a black Bond.”
Looking back, he commented: “Bond was like Christmas: can’t wait for it to come around. Being in the films brought me to a global audience and I had the opportunity to meet incredible people.”
Michael Wilson revealed they
checked 200 actors in two years.
Including Ralph Fiennes for an inexplicable third time – plus Jeremy Northam and Dougray Scott for a second. And: Rupert Friend (who became very Bondian in TV’s Homeland), Ioan Gruffudd (such interest helped him become became a quarter of The Fantastic Four), Julian McMahon (a later sexual smoothie in TV’s Nip/Tuck), Australian Alex O’Loughlin (who would head up the new Hawaii Five-O series), Goran Visnjic (the handsome Croatian from ER), Sam Worthington (the future Avatar franchise hero, Jake Scully) and the sole American in the mix, Alexis Denisof, from Salisbury, Maryland – aka Wesley Wyndham-Pryce in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its spin-off, Angel, during 1999-2004.
Dominic West turned up at Eon in jeans and tatty tee-shirt, unlikle so many others in their tuxes. He then overheard a rumour that Brosnan was not being dropped, after all – “and ruled myself out.” (He went on to a tele-triumph in Barack Obama’s favourite show, The Wire – and few viewers realised West and Idris Elba were Brits). Remembered from his GoldenEye test, Paul McGann was invited back, having been seen in ’94 as a possible Brosnan replacement whenever necessary Paul tested anew, but this time he had his fame (and following) as the eighth Doctor Who hanging over his head. Like a vulture.
There were two Scottish Ewans – McGregor and Stewart – the Irish Colin Farrell and Chris Feeney plus New Zealanders Martin Henderson and Antony Starr. And for the really much younger reboot idea, Matthew Goode and Luke Mably, 27 each.
Aussie Hugh Jackman was asked. “At the time I was just about to do X-Men 2 and I was like, ‘Ah, I don’t think it’s the right time.’. But it was not an easy one to give up.” In the unlilkely scenario of being asked again? “I’d seriously consider it.” Of course, he would. But no, his Bond moment has passed.
One inexplicable absentee was Rufus Sewell, ultimately BBC’s ultra cool and sexy Rome police detective, Zen, in 2011 – ironically, opposite the Casino Royale Sardinian beauty Caterina Murino).
Gerard Butler was in his London flat, wrestling with a busted shower, when he heard a news report that he was going to be 007. “Ifonly it were true,” he thought. “But I have to fix this shower.” The Scottish Butler had a bit role of a sailor on HMS Devonshire in Tomorrow Never Dies before playing Attila, Beowulf, Dracula and the Opera’s Phantom. Butler best summed up the hunt… Anyone, he said ,with “a cock and an accent” was in contention.
Most of them were
A Danjac e-mail surfaced in the media, explaining why some hopefuls were tossed aside Aussie Eric Bana was “not handsome enough.” Brosnan’s suggestion of fellow Irishman Colin Farrell (“He’ll eat the head off them all”) was “too sleazy”! (The nearest Farrell got to 007 was when he was seen reading The Spy Who Loved Me in his Total Recall retread in 2012, in which, incidentally, he showed exactly why Brosnan thought he’d make a great Bond).Bond… and kissing Mrs Craig, Rachel Weisz, for 30n seconds or more in The Lobster, 2014.
Hugh Jackman was “too fey,” the 5ft 10ins Ewan McGregor “too short” and, paradoxically, given the final outcome, Paul Bettany was “too blond.” Adrian Paul was unavailable, making the 20th anniversary Highlander film (The Source), in Vilnius, Lithuania. Besides, immortal or not, he was now 47.
After GoldenEye, James Purefoy was seen again at Bond HQ near Hyde Park Corner. “The room is very Bondesque: wood pannelling, big table. You sit there trying to be as serious and panther-like as you can, just letting them look at you. They asked what I thought should be changed and I was eight minutes into my soliloquy when I noticed they were all staring at my legs. Being a ludicrous, over-excited boy of 42, I was kicking them like a child. I realised there was no hope.”
They did, though, ask him back, by which time he was Marc Antony in the BBC-HBO Rome series. “I’d love to do it but it’s too life changing. Bond is my childhood. Live and Let Die was the first movie my dad took me to. We watched it two and a half times in a Dublin cinema.” Next time? “I’ll be too old – 45 – when Daniel had done his three films. Anyway, I’m sure they thought I was Pierce Brosnan lite.”
“There’s something very secretive about the way they cast that role,” said Hugh Jackman. “I’ve never had an official call asking: ‘Are you interested?’ But there’s no guy who wouldn’t want that role – and that includes me. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.”
Swarthy Clive Owen, the public’s favourite, insisted he wasn’t interested. Nor was Danjac, saying he lacked “the necessary lightness of touch.” An alternate account says Eon was not willing to provide gross profit points with him. Plus the suits were not amused when he was too light when debunking 007 in an 006 cameo in Steve Martin’s abysmal Pink Panther re-hash.
However, Wilson surely admired the sheer gall of Owen’s amazing Bondian sequence(if made by Ringo Lam) in Michael Davis’ comic-cuts Shoot ‘Em Up, 2007, with a definite Bond Girl possibility, Italian Monica Bellucci. Both were stark naked, interupted in mid-coitus, and him standing tall, striding, falling, rolling around the bedroom with Monica forever firmly in place atop him, as he took out all the baddies with a gun in each mitt. (But Wilson obviously hated it when Owen jettisoned a jammed Walther PPK, daring to call it “a piece of shit.”).
Ironically, when director Antoine Fuqua wanted Daniel Craig when taking over King Arthur from Michael Bay in 2003. No way, said producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “It must be Clive Owen – because he’s going to be the new James Bond” and that would add extra life to the royal DVD. Hah!
Back in the director’s saddle, Martin Campbell (who fought hard to keep Brosnan – claimed Brosnan) confirmed he tested: Daniel Craig (37), ER’s Croatian doctor, Goran Visjnic (33), and Australian Sam Worthington(29). Sam did not help his cause by telling Campbell that his take on 007 was all wrong. (Oh no, not another Lazenby!)
Plus the guy who almost won it from Craig. “Almost.” Again.
Henry Cavill saw himself as
“The unluckiest man.”
Losing Bond was the beginning of a long run that positioned him as runner-up: He missed out on lead roles in Tristan + Isolde, Twilight, Batman Begins and an early Superman movie that never happened.. (It was Man of Steel when it did wih Cavill in the cape in 2011). “I wasn’t ecstatic about not getting these things but I was so used to disappointment from the acting business, and also from boarding school. ‘No, you’re not good enough’- that wasn’t anything new to me.”
The problem: Henry was 22 – too young! A plausible successor when Craig asks for too much money – er, gets too old!
And he did admit to messing up his Bond test. “I probably could have prepared better,” Cavill said. He had to walk out of a bathroom wrapped in a towel and enact the usual test scene – a From Russia With Lovesequence. “I remember the director, Martin Campbell, saying: Looking a little chubby there, Henry,” he told Men’s Health magazine. “I didn’t know how to train or diet. And I’m glad Martin said something, because I respond well to truth. It helps me get better.” (Campbell didn’t want him for Green Lantern, either).
Indeed, Cavill was “actually very close to throwing in the towel before the Bond screen test happened. The test kept me in the industry. I thought: There’s a reason to stick around. I’m not just wasting my time here.” And soon enough, he was Superman. And in 2013, he was Ian Fleming’s telly-Bond, Napoleon Solo, in the big-screen reboot of The Man From UNCLE. Much good they did him, alas. The Witcher was much better for him in 2019.
Short or not, blond or not,
Daniel Craig always topped
Barbara Broccoli’s list.
She had seen Craig in his perfect 007-test – a gangster study called Layer Cake, 2004, and in the UK mini series, Our Friends in the North, thought him extraordinary, destined for stardom rather than Bond. ”I always say when you’re making a James Bond film it’s like being married, you’re not thinking of who your next husband is going to be.”
Michel Wilson said Babara had to talk Daniel into it. He was “very reluctant” and that intrigued Barabra.“There was a period of trying to woo him. We had several meetings… We talked him through his concerns… and he understood it’d be a long commitment, over at least a decade. He was the only one we offered the film to. There’s been some speculation that we offered it to other people but that’s not accurate.”
Should he accept? “You’d have to be stupid not to consider something like that. But there’s an awful lot of pros and an awful lot of cons. It would go: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore,Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan… Daniel Craig? I wouldn’t want to have to carry the rap for destroying such an amazing sequence… I was like: This is silly. I’ve got a career. I mean, lovely, thank you very much, I’m very honoured that you would even consider it, but I can’t do it – sorry. But… it was a good script!
While shooting The Invasion in Baltimore with Nicole Kidman Craig got The Call… Barbara Broccili told him he was Bond and could get some time off for the media announcement back in London, please…? His other Baltimore co-stars were the Felix Leiter actor, Jeffrey Wright, the Italian girl who would be Solange, CaterIna Murino… and Jeremy Northam, up for 007 in both Bond-changers: GoldenEye and Casino Royale.
Craig said before he signed on, he ran into Brosnan at an awards ceremony and asked what to do. “Go for it,” said Pierce. “You’ll have the ride of your life!” (Craig’s own favourite Bond was Sean; his favorite movie, Goldfinger).
And talked it over with his Munich mentor Steven Spielberg. “I knew he’d give me a straight answer because he’s a straight guy. I just said: ‘You know the kind of films I do, Steven, they’re not, you know, this .’ He just said: ‘If the script’s right and if the deal’s right, do the job.’ I asked him straight out: ‘Should I do it?’ He said: ‘Of course, you fucking should.’ I don’t know if he said, ‘Of course you fucking should,’ but something along those lines. He sent me an e-mail when I finished, saying: Don’t worry, the family will be there watching on the first day.”
Craig also checked with Roger Michell, who directed him in The Mother and Enduring Love. “He was very ambivalent about taking it on. It’s a life sentence, after all. I think he was initially excited by the work but also daunted by the attendant tap-dancing – the constant attention, the public speaking. He found that all pretty oppressive.”
“Oddly enough, I wasn’t sure about Daniel at first,” recalled Martin Campbell. “My vision of the character was steeped in that handsome, Sean Connery/Pierce Brosnan image. Daniel’s good-looking in a more rugged way. I tested other actors for the part, but Barbara Broccoli had no doubt at all that Daniel would make a terrific Bond. She was the one really pushing for him.”
Then, Campbell saw Layer Cake and all was well. “He has a charm in that movie, a sense of mischief, that convinced me he could be Bond.”
“The press complained because he was blond, said he looked like Vladimir Putin. I asked Daniel: Do you listen to all this crap? He said: Yeah. What I do is I make sure I’ve seen it all and that everyone on set knows what’s been in the press, then there’s nothing to hide. I thought that was a very perceptive way of dealing with it.”
The first Bond younger than the series,
was announced, on October 14, 2005
... Roger Moore’s 78th birthday
Eon had said it would still be Pierce as late as February 16.
Vesper Lynd . As if to underline the fact the Bond21 marked the 44th year of the Bonds, among the actresses seen for Craig’s main squeeze was Australian Kimberly Davies, who voiced the heroine in the 007: Nightfire video game – and Rachael Stirling, 29-year-old daughter of Lazenby’s leading lady, Diana Rigg!
South African’s 2003 Oscar-winner Charlize Theron was favourite once AngelinaJolie wanted the role “toughened up.”Then Eva Green, Bernardo Bertolucci’s find for The Dreamers, became the fifth French actress to be a Bond co-star. She beat two compatriots: Cécile De France and Audrey Tautou (still shooting The Da Vinci Code). Eva also beat Olivia Wilde to Vesper… and five years later, Wilde beat Eva (still opposite Daniel Craig) in Cowboys & Aliens, 2010.
When Angelina Jolie was invited aboard she told the Bond team: “Actually, I’d I’d rather be Bond.” It was a joke… kind of. Three years later she played the CIA spy originally designed for Tom Cruise in Salt. “In so many spy films women are femme fatales and we wanted to avoid that. My character doesn’t use her sexuality to get anything. It’s the roughest I’ve looked. When we fight, it gets ugly. Somebody breaks my nose in the film. It’s not pretty. I think when people write things for women – at least with the films I’ve done in the past, such as Tomb Raider, 2000- they’re not serious. They’re not raw. They’re not hard. So when we wanted a real female action hero, we looked towards something that wasn’t written for a woman.”
Other contenders for the heroine reputedly inspired by the glamorous and courageous British WWII spy Christine Granville (ex-Krystyna Starbek from Poland) were from Hollywood: Rose Byrne, Vera Farmiga, Natasha Henstridge, Scarlett Johansson, Rachel McAdams, Thandie Newton, Jessica Simpson, Naomi Watts (she had a date with King Kong). Plus Bollywood’s Aishwarya Rai and from two different versions of the Casanova legend: New Yorker Sienna Miller (then Daniel Craig’s lover) and Sardinian Caterina Murino (from the French comedy smash, Les Bronzès 3). Of the various French actors seen only Murino and Simon Abkarian made the final cut as Dimitrios and his wife, Solonge.
Representing the flag, wasthe BBC EastEnders soap star Michelle Ryan. And Britain’s new Julie Christie – the revelation of Bend It Like Beckham, 2002, and Johnny Depp’s co-star in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. However, Keira Knightley failed here – and for Strawberry Fields in the next chapter – for much the same reason as Christie was rejected for the first two 007 movies. Small breasts.
Cubby was gone,
yet his Tit Test lived on…
Politically incorrect or not.
Wanting to escape the tag of “that sex girl from The Dreamers,” Eva Green refused Vesper until reading a character rewrite by Paul Haggis, Oscar-winning writer of Crash and Million Dollar Baby. Green tested twice, the second time in (after vomiting) in Prague – in costume (and decors).
“The only film of mine they know is Bond,” said Eva, daughter of French actress Marlène Jobert, “because it made lots of money. I’m The Bond Girl. It’s as though it’s written on my forehead.” It bred her rich, international career – including the John Logan-Sam Mendes Victoriana horror series, Penny Dreadful, 2014, opposite…Timothy Dalton.
Le Chifre . Martin Campbell auditioned French star Vincent Cassel – he joined George Clooney’s Ocean’s 12 and 13 capers, instead. Despite his stunning work in De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté, 2005 (Jacques Audiard’s French re-make of James Toback’s Fingers, 1978), Romain Duris was rather too young.And David Suchet too old – or too well known (since 1989) as TV’s Hercule Poirot. Ulrich Matthes had to pass on his first international movie offer as he was tied to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on-stage. The German was replaced by a not so great Dane, Mads Mikkelsen.
It was 27 years since an official Bond was based on a Fleming book and although Cubby Broccoli voted against asimilar origins talefor the firstfilm after Moore’s departure, the third version of Casino Royale succeeded in finally gettingback to basics (promised for 30 years!) andliterally startingthe Bond saga over.
For Timothy Dalton,the reboot was a huge leap forward. “It’s great and Daniel is terrific. He got a lot of stick when he was doing it. A lot of negative press. He was criticized by people who didn’t have a clue what was in the script or what he was going to look like in the film, which was deeply unfair. I said how wrong everyone was at the time because he’s a very gifted actor. I’m pleased that the movie turned out as well as it did.” (Craig succeeded Dalton a second time when he played Lord Asrail in The Golden Compass, the 2006 screen version of Dalton’s stage role).
Craig, the youngest and shortest 007 (Dalton was tallest), wanted “to take Bond somewhere he’s never been before…If it had failed miserably, I could’ve walked away with my head held high: ‘Well, I gave it a go.’
“The franchise changes with the times.
It redefines itself andit’s always of its time.”
But yes, it was this time. Brilliantly.
“In the first book, Casino Royale,” said Craig, “Bond gets described as a blunt instrument, and that’s how I played it.”
Matt Damon disagreed. And he had every right to. After all he is Jason Bourne.’”They could never make a James Bond movie like any of the Bourne films. Because Bond is an imperialist, misogynist sociopath who goes around bedding women and swilling martinis and killing people. He’s repulsive.”
“I like Bourne,” added Damon’s director Paul Greengrass, “because it’s not Bond!”
“It’s great and Daniel’s great,” said Timothy Dalton. “He got a lot of stick when he was doing it… a lot of negative press. He was criticized by people who didn’t have a clue what was in the script or what he was going to look like in the film, which was deeply unfair. I said how wrong everyone was at the time because he’s a very gifted actor. I’m pleased that the movie turned out as well as it did… A huge step forward – a leap forward.”
Barbara Broccoli showed the film to Tom Mankiewicz, by now a friend of the 007 family after penning four-and-a-half Bonds. He gave her his notes. “Do a better song. Cut 20 minutes – but every movie is 20 minutes too long today.
“Daniel? Keep him. Lock him in a cellar
and don’t let anybody else have him.
He should do 50 of these!”
“The most difficult work on this current version of Bond was a character was done by Martin Campbell, and in the casting of Daniel Craig,” said director Sam Mendes, of the encyclopedic devotion to the books and films (talking to Mike Fleming Jr at Deadline Hollywood, November 5, 2015). “The key factor there was, they worked on a script from an Ian Fleming novel, which they had never really done, not like that. And in that one movie, they eradicated camp. They eradicated Q, and Moneypenny. There were no self-reflexive jokes and no sense he was there with one foot inside and one outside the movie, simultaneously. That had been the lifeblood of the franchise for 20 years, Roger Moore through to Pierce Brosnan. Bond became this eyebrow-raising, knowing figure, unaffected by any kind of emotional journey. Those were wonderful action adventures that spanned the globe and Bond was the glue, but he had no emotional journey. And then suddenly, the character bled, literally and metaphorically, and fell in love with somebody and lost them. It was kind of creation of how Bond became hardened as a younger agent and after that never looked back. Quantum Of Solace was the second half of that story, and by the end of that he’d fully gotten over her. He became the machine and inherited a much more complex character.”
Ian Fleming knew all this. Obviously. His first title for Dr No was… The Wounded Man.
Anthony Horowitz, author of the 25th non-Fleming 007 novel, Trigger Mortis, 2015, thought Craig and the movie were terrific. “A total return to the gritty seriousness of it.” Lewis Gilbert, who directed of Connery and Moore’s Bonds did not agree. “There’s no humour. Without humour, Bond is nothing.“
You want humour…? The director Antoine Fuqua wanted Daniel Craig as King Arthur in 2003. His producer Jerry Bruckheimer insisted on Clive Owen – “because he’s going to be the new James Bond.” D’oh!!