“I should have worn armbands, orange armbands. It would have been a much better look...” Savaged by the tabloids for daring to wear a lifejacket when he turned up by speedboat for his awkward, staged debut press conference on 14 October 2005 (the marines driving it wouldn’t let him on board otherwise), it was soon clear that Daniel Craig was in for a tough ride en route to being accepted as 007 number six.
However, if anyone was going to be able to handle the press and interweb sneering over everything from his hair colour to his ability to drive, it was Craig. Coming across as the James Bond you’d most like to go to the pub with (funny, clever, self-deprecating, likely to buy a round without quibbling), he candidly admits that while it got on his wick, it ultimately just spurred him on to do a better job. Dropping the affable mask in favour of a steely blue stare (you’d think more than twice about spilling his pint), he admits, “It was good before. Now, I thought, let’s make it really good.”
And so it is. Bond 21 has enjoyed better reviews than any 007 flick in living memory, most of them centred on the bang-up job Craig does in the tuxedo (and swimsuit and Hawaiian shirt) of the world’s least-secret secret agent. And every single glowing, humble-pie chewing write-up was well-and-truly deserved. Fans loved the slow-drip feed of the familiar 007 elements (first: licence to kill, then Aston Martin, then tux, then vodka martini, then finally, deliriously, the theme) while everyone else revelled in the action sequences, the adroit handling of the love story (and it is a love story between Bond and Eva Green’s Vesper) and Craig’s tough, multi-layered and oddly tragic hero. When the worst most people could say about the film was that the defibrillator scene was really very silly and there was just a smidgeon too much lovey-dovey padding between the Casino and the final act in Venice, you can chalk this one up as a success.
But you won’t get much of that critical reaction here. While the second disc boasts two half-hour docs on the making of the film, both were made before the movie opened last November. Both have also already seen the light of day on ITV, as has the more general hour-long documentary about Bond girls, in which Maryam D’Abo tours the world chatting to the plastic surgery parade that is 007’s back catalogue of ageing leading ladies. That, and the absence of any commentary, does leave you feeling that there’s a lot more to come extras-wise; probably a Casino Royale: Ultimate Edition to tie in with the top-notch DVD releases that the other 20 movies have had. Which might make you a little reluctant to fork out for this one now.
Even so, you do get a lot of good stuff – both the Casino Royale-specific docs clearly had great access to cast and crew. The godawful CG iceberg wave sequence from Die Another Day aside, the Bond films pride themselves on actually doing stunts and the James Bond For Real doc is a thrilling look at how. “People still like to see someone taking a risk... rather than shot against blue screen, cheated or digitally put in,” shrugs effects supervisor Chris Corbould as the stunt team prepare to flip an Aston Martin a world-record seven times at high speed. And you’ve barely stopped wincing before Craig’s stunt double is dangling from a wire atop a 200ft crane... Check out Lounge’s day out with free-running baddie Sébastien Foucan (right) to see how we too put our lives on the edge. Sort of.
Not that Craig didn’t do his fair share of action stuff. “We started out with a sequence where I was basically kicking the shit out of people for a week,” he grins on the Becoming Bond doc, with clear pleasure. He’s less enthusiastic about his swimsuited walk out of the ocean though. Almost blushing, he shakes his head, laughing “What was I thinking? It’s just a tiny moment in the movie. Hopefully not a tiny moment! I take that back...”
The big question remaining – left unanswered on this disc – is whether Craig and the Broccoli family can keep up this momentum and keep taking risks, or whether the next movies will be a case of diminishing returns like the Brosnan era proved to be. Team Bond have certainly earned the benefit of the doubt.
“When I became an actor I never fantasised about playing James Bond,” Craig confesses at the beginning of the extras. “As a kid, yeah, but that was being James Bond. That was something else. That was fantasy.” Whatever he thinks, he’s well on his way to being James Bond for the next generation of kids. And most adults.