Never was the world more in need of the easy, escapist thrills of the blockbuster – “Kiss kiss, bang bang” is how the doyenne of movie critics, Pauline Kael, dubbed them – than right now. Oh yes, I can’t wait for No Time to Sulk.
Or is it No Time to Whinge About Fame? Or No Time to Play the ‘Serious Actor’ Card? Daniel Craig has chosen an odd moment to open up about the pain and misery caused him by his 007-powered celebrity upgrade. Not that when you’re playing Bond there’s ever really a good moment to do this.
I mean, what did he expect? He’d taken on the most famous role in all cinema. Many more people were going to be interested in him than if he’d stayed doing – his words – “weird, arty movies”. His life was going to be transformed. He knew this, indeed helped the process along. He transformed his body to become the hunk in trunks every Bond devotee wanted him to be. So why the shock?
“I had to look like I could do the role,” Craig says in the Apple TV+ documentary Being James Bond. “I met a PT [personal trainer] while smoking a rollie and eating a bacon sandwich but I said to him: ‘I want to change.’”
And he did. That image of him emerging from the surf, muscle-plated in miniscule sky-blue bathers, was the very definition of sex on the beach. More pneumatic than Pamela Anderson in Baywatch and an 11 compared with Bo Derek in 10, Craig even kicked sand in the face of Ursula Andress who seemed destined to be Bond franchise’s seaside pin-up in perpetuity for that unforgettable scene where she purred at Sean Connery: “Do you like my conch shells?”
No Time to Die opens on 30 September and after 15 years and five films will conclude Craig’s stint in HM’s secret service which to you and me and everyone else seems like the most fun you could have as an actor. To him, though, it’s been pure hell.
“I was mentally under siege,” says the budgie-smuggling Bond, detailing the extent to which he became public property: “People in trees outside your house… I didn’t go out. I’d lock myself in and close the curtains. I didn’t know how to handle it. I still don’t.”
Okay, that sort of obsessiveness, whether from fans or the paparazzi, must be an inconvenience, and his wife Rachel Weisz will have got tired of being sent out for the milk all the time. But it’s the level of astonishment here which gets me.
Craig isn’t stupid, but was he a weird, arty and also snobby actor in his failure to anticipate the impact of playing such a planet-bestriding icon in those teeny-tiny briefs?
He could have been better researched. Indeed he could have asked Connery when he was still alive what to expect. The original and best Bond would have related remarkably similar stories from the height of his fame and how the height of his bedroom window from the ground when he lived in Swingin’ London was no impediment to the nutters who nicked ladders from a nearby builders’ yard in the hope of a peek of the great man brushing his teeth.
You wouldn’t have caught me up one of those ladders. I don’t want to see stars doing mundane things but more than that I don’t want to see James Bond doing them.
The point of Bond is that he doesn’t have to mix his own martinis, book the Aston Martin for a service, clean blood and other bodily fluids off his tuxedo, submit to the minor thrills of boxsets and football, ponder the ads at the back of newspapers for cruise holidays, pension top-ups and easy-fasten footwear – and most crucially he doesn’t have to join a dating site.
So imagine my dismay at reading reports that in No Time to Die our hero will be portrayed as – yes, still – the best man for the job of saving the world from true evil but also a dad. Apparently we are to glimpse Craig’s Bond as father to Mathilde, his daughter with Dr Madeleine Swann, the French psychologist played by Lea Seydoux.
I couldn’t put it better than Britt Ekland – Mary Goodnight alongside Roger Moore in The Man With the Golden Gun – writing in the Daily Mail: “There are certain things you don’t want to see, and Bond changing nappies is right up there. The horror of thinking about him getting up at 3am to do the night-feed… no, no and no! If Bond is getting up at 3am it has to be to take a call from Q saying he has to be on a certain train, and there will be a gun hidden in the next carriage…”
Is it such an outmoded concept to want a film’s central character to take you away from your own life and the true evil of reading a bedtime story, possibly by a “celebrity children’s author”, which is dashed off, derivative and doesn’t scan?
Presumably the kid is a further attempt to “modernise” Bond. Lee Child, the Jack Reacher author, has just revealed he turned down the chance to write a 007 novel. Bond was created, he says, as a proxy to get “a certain type of English person” through the 1950s, a time of post-imperial decline and “Britain’s relative impotence”. Child simply couldn’t think of a way to make him relevant to now.
Like some fiendish form of torture, the walls are closing in on Bond. And if the dread word “impotence” is going to be bandied around, maybe it really is time to die.