In the week of Casino Royale’s 10th anniversary we take a look at how the 21st Bond film came into being and the introduction of Daniel Craig as 007.
After Die Another Day (2002) there can have been few who believed that Pierce Brosnan wouldn’t return for a fifth outing as 007.
Today the film is often treated with disdain, but let’s not forget that it was a huge commercial success. With a fairly grounded first half, the film veered too far into science fiction once it introduced the Aston Martin “Vanish”.
First announced as the new James Bond in June 1994, Brosnan remained hugely popular in the role. There was no doubt there was an audience for at least one more film with him as 007. Barbara Broccoli even said she expected Brosnan to be back as Bond in one of the bonus features that accompanies the film’s DVD.
However, it was not to be.
In 2004, Quentin Tarantino said he had discussed making Casino Royale with Brosnan. In October the same year Brosnan said in an interview that he believed he had been dropped by Eon. The following February Eon revealed their plans to make Casino Royale and Martin Campbell was back in the director’s chair. Within days Brosnan announced he was no longer 007.
A film version of Casino Royale only became a possibility for Eon Productions in 1999, when Sony relinquished the rights in exchange for MGM’s claim on Spider-Man. Ian Fleming sold the rights to his first book separately, resulting first in a television adaptation then the 1967 comedy. Eventually the rights ended up in the hands of Sony. But it still hadn’t been faithfully adapted to the big screen.
So in early 2005, the hunt was on for a new James Bond. A number of potential candidates were named in the press, some of whom Martin Campbell later confirmed were screen tested. In the spring Daniel Craig was rumoured to be on the verge of being announced by Eon. But no announcement emerged.
Then finally, in October 2005, a very nervous Daniel Craig was confirmed as the new 007 at a press conference in London.
While many fans were excited about this news, part of the fan base were vocal in their displeasure. A section of media picked up on this and began to attack Craig during filming. Articles reported he’d had his tooth knocked out, how he couldn’t drive stick shift and anything else that made him non-Bond material.
Craig and the production team had the last laugh though. Not only did Casino Royale prove to have box office appeal, something the filmmakers must have worried about with all the negative publicity surrounding their new actor. It also received widespread critical acclaim. That was something no one would have predicted.
Dialling back the previous film’s excesses and going back to original Fleming material, the film was the first time Bond had been rebooted.
The big positives were a completely new direction for the James Bond series. Rather than looking back to the old films, this made a huge statement about the future of 007. It was a much more serious take on 007, with far less reliance on the humour and gadgets that had been a long time fixture. Bond was now stripped down, harder than ever before and had to rely on his brawn rather than anything Q-Branch could come up with.
Most fans embraced both the change in direction of the series and the new actor and suddenly Daniel Craig was the darling of the same tabloids that had attacked him throughout filming. A new era in James Bond films really had begun.