Not for the first time in its 54-year history, the James Bond franchise appears to be at a crossroads. While Skyfall was an enormous critical and commercial hit, the perfect storm of Bond's 50th birthday on screen and Daniel Craig's total commitment to getting under the skin of the super-spy, last year's Spectre fell flat. Although still a big hit, long-time fans of the franchise were divided, and more damningly, Craig himself started smack-talking Bond. When rumors earlier this year suggested studios Sony and MGM would begin the hunt for their seventh 007, it wasn't exactly a surprise.
A new report from Radar, though, suggests Sony is willing to splash out $150m to keep Craig on board for two more Bond movies. Not only would that make him the highest-paid actor in Hollywood by quite an epic distance, it also suggests that Bond won't be getting the major re-invention some have said the franchise needs — if there's any truth to this rumor. With that in mind, let's ask the question: Should Daniel Craig return, or is his reign over?
Why He Should Stay: Bond DNA
Of the six actors to step into James Bond's impeccable tux, few (if any) have hit the balance between machismo, charm, athleticism and torment quite like Craig. Sure, Sean Connery was the ultimate ladies' man, not to mention a brute when necessary (Bond would never get away with slapping a woman today), but he was almost too composed. The childhood trauma of losing his parents never registered in his performance. Roger Moore had the charm (and a rogue eyebrow that wouldn't be tamed), but he wasn't convincingly tough. Pierce Brosnan brought more balance, but the movies were rarely as good as his performance (GoldenEye aside).
Craig, though, has the Bond DNA, the most compelling aspect of his 007 being the ability to show layers of emotion and vulnerability without sacrificing his immense physical ability. You believe this is a man who could ride across the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar and survive a hundred-foot fall from a train (kind of) — and when he sheds a tear for M, the closest thing a grown Bond ever had to a mother, you feel his pain. Finding another actor who is such an all-rounded seems like a fairly epic challenge.
Why He Should Go: New Blood
Still, that doesn't mean the actor isn't out there, somewhere. Few would have said Craig was a great fit either, until Casino Royale silenced every critic. If Craig truly is over playing Bond, wooing him with money is futile. Jennifer Lawrence appears to have no more interest in Mystique, and watching X-Men: Apocalypse, it showed. Ultimately, no actor is more important than the character itself.
Then again, Craig just signed up for the lead role of Andreas Wolf in Showtime's 20-part TV series, Purity, due to begin in 2017 — there's every chance that taking the time away to play a fresh character will re-energize the Englishman should he return to Bond. He's also doing comedy in Steven Soderbergh's Logan Lucky, looking unrecognizable and frankly quite terrifying.
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If he does agree to another two Bonds, Craig will be at least 50 when his fifth movie comes out (not before 2018), and potentially 53 or 54 when the sixth hits. Clearly he's still got a phenomenal body, but that's pushing on a bit. Roger Moore wasn't much older than that in A View To A Kill, a movie he should never have made.
Perhaps the most convincing argument against Craig's return, though, is the fact that the Bond franchise simply needs to refresh itself every so often to remain relevant. A mini-reboot between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall did wonders, but Spectre — with the same director and writing team — felt too much like a studied hybrid of all the elements a classic Bond film should have, with none of the magic. When a big Blofeld reveal is a complete eye-roller, something has gone horribly wrong.
There's also the fact that $150m is a truly insane amount of money, and for a quarter of that they could cast somebody new and save a whole lot of dollar. But hey, I'm no accountant.
The Final Word
Ultimately, there will be a Bond number seven — it's a matter of when, not if. Everything hinges on how Craig really feels about being Bond again. If his feelings have changed since the notorious "wrist-slitting" comments, he should stay on board for at least one more movie, but the writing team has to do a better job than they did on Spectre. If Craig really wants out, raiding the savings account is pointless.
Do you think Daniel Craig should return in Bond 25, and if not, who would you cast instead?