With the premiere of Casino Royale on November 14, 2006 in London, the world of James Bond changed. Daniel Craig brought his own rugged look and a raw feel to the most famous spy of cinema, unsettling the skeptics, and winning over the audience. In 2015, Daniel Craig was at his best again in Spectre, having grown in confidence in his fourth outing as Bond, the character growing along with him. Hopefully, the journey of Craig as Bond does not end here, and I have a feeling, that there is one more Bond movie left in him. But Daniel Craig has not been absent from cinema when he isn’t being agent 007. There have been the regular hits and misses during this period from 2006 to 2015, and that is what we will explore further on the actor Daniel Craig sans James Bond.
Between Casino Royale (2006) & Quantum of Solace (2008)
The two-year gap between Daniel Craig’s first two movies as James Bond was a productive period with three other feature films being released. Things though weren’t always successful. After winning numerous plaudits for his performance in Casino Royale, it would have seemed quite logical for his next movie to do well at the box-office. Logic though does not always work in the movie industry. The Invasion, which was the next Daniel Craig movie that released in August 2007, was a complete failure at the box-office and got panned by the critics. Things did not get any better for the December release, The Golden Compass. Both were based on popular novels, the former on The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney and the latter on Northern Lights by Philip Pulman. The box-office failure of The Golden Compass was more notable as it was made on a huge production budget of $180 million (and earned $372 million worldwide which ain’t enough to recover production & marketing costs), and was supposed to be the first of a trilogy that followed His Dark Materials book series. There was little that Daniel Craig could do to save both the films, neither in which he had the key central role. Interestingly, both the movies had Nicole Kidman in a more prominent position. Daniel Craig’s mediocre role of a doctor trying to help out Kidman in the midst of an alien epidemic attack in The Invasion was followed by the portrayal of Lord Asriel in the fantasy flick The Golden Compass where he is searching for answers on the workings of the different worlds. Lord Asriel’s importance in the scheme of things would have increased had the trilogy been completed, but alas, it did not work out well.
Before his return as Bond in Quantum of Solace, Daniel Craig featured in the indie-looking Flashbacks of a Fool, the story of a fading Hollywood star who reminisces on the days of his youth as he returns home from his best friend’s funeral. The story moves between the older and younger self of the protagonist, the older self being played by Daniel Craig. The movie did not reach many theatres, and got mixed reviews from critics too, but Craig was quite solid throughout the movie. His charisma and appeal drive the movie forward, though here too, significant chunks of the movie do not have his presence which deflates the mood.
Between Quantum of Solace (2008) & Skyfall (2012)
Skyfall would soon turn out to be the biggest James Bond movie ever, earning more than a billion dollars worldwide. But even before that, Daniel Craig had already made a strong reputation as the latest generation’s spy who had a license to kill. Post Quantum of Solace, Craig returned to the big screen in a serious toned drama based on true events called Defiance. Working alongside Liev Schreiber, Craig played the role of Tuvia Bielski, a Polish Jew who is credited for saving many Jews during World War II along with his brothers. Craig is the leader of the troops, and the leader in this movie too, easily engulfing the audience with his fantastic on-screen presence as he delivers an emotionally charged up performance, a contrast to being Bond. Defiance though was a disappointment at the box-office and came under criticism by some historians.
There was a lull after Defiance, and then a sudden flurry of movies in 2011. There were two duds to begin with, before two wonderful movies followed. Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens was a high-budget failure, despite getting the likes of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford to ride horses and shoot down aliens. Craig tried his best in this one, being hyponitising as always, but the movie’s script and direction were a huge let-down considering the extraordinary opportunity it had to be entertaining. The horror movie Dream House, which also starred Rachel Weisz, was absolutely disastrous, and got universally panned by critics as the 6% score on Rottentomatoes would indicate. I get the appeal of playing a cowboy alongside Harrison Ford, though why would Craig choose a dud project as Dream House beats me, unless the idea of working with Rachel Weisz, who he was dating then and married later, was something he did not want to miss.
Things got better in December 2011. First came Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin, an animated movie using motion-capture technique, where Craig played the main antagonist Sakharine. Craig provides a great persona to this character with his classic British voice, adding a few menacing tones. Then followed probably the best Daniel Craig performance in a non-Bond role – that of Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Directed by David Fincher, this movie was the adaptation of the Swedish novel of the same name written by Stieg Larsson. Craig plays an investigative journalist in the movie who, along with the help of a computer hacker (Rooney Mara), tries to solve an age-old unsolved murder. Less of an action man, more of a thinker, that is the kind of transition Craig makes in this role. Brooding and determined, Michael Blomkvist looks as ordinary as anyone else on the outside but has a lot of depth and character which get displayed as the story moves forward. The movie was successful at the box-office and sequels based on the next books in the series were planned, but nothing has materialised yet. If there is one role I would love to see Daniel Craig reprise apart from James Bond, it is that of Mikael Blomkvist. In the midst of this highly productive year of 2011, Daniel Craig was also heard as the narrator for the British nature documentary film One Life for which he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Narrator.
Between Skyfall (2012) & Spectre (2015)
Nothing! Surprisingly, after delivering his biggest hit, Daniel Craig chose to lay low. He did make a fascinating guest appearance as Bond in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, alongside Queen Elizabeth II, but as far as feature films go, there were none. During this period, he also returned to theatre starring in a Broadway play. Maybe Craig wanted to step away from the world of cinema for a while, maybe he wanted to try out newer things in life, whatever be the reason it had no impact on his return for Spectre. Where does Daniel Craig go from here is another question that hasn’t been solved yet. There are no projects in the pipeline and there is no clarity on him playing Bond again. Whichever project Craig chooses next, I hope he picks up those that can get the best out of him, showcase his versatility and break away from the stranglehold of being Bond all the time.
PS: An honorary mention to the cameo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens!