English actor Daniel Craig has shown dismaying condescension about his role as the debonair master spy known as Bond, James Bond. The actor stated in 2015 that he would “rather slash (his) wrists than return to the James Bond role.” He continued to say that if he were to return to the role, “it would be for the money.” But now, in a dramatic reversal that may induce whiplash, Craig has evidently agreed to be Bond once again in the coming film, Bond 25. His attitude is disrespectful to his movie-going constituents, and to the heroic sense of mission of the Bond tradition.
Alas, how far we have come since the days of the Special Operations Executive or SOE as it was called — the clandestine British organization sponsored by Winston Churchill to conduct sabotage and subversion during World War II. They were not in it for the money.
And neither were the Bonds played by various British actors since the introduction of Dr. No in 1962. Indeed, Sean Connery’s Bond was an epicure at home with foie gras and vodka martinis who enjoyed the cosmic struggle of Queen and Country against the face of evil, often SPECTRE, the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. Connery was an alacritous Bond, pleased to be sent to liaise with Tatiana Romanova in From Russia with Love — and with an equal sense of mission to prevent the destruction of Fort Knox in Goldfinger and the detonation of a nuclear weapon in Thunderball by Emilio Largo’s evil men.
As Connery’s successor Bond, the late Roger Moore maintained enthusiasm for the life-style of espionage, whether it was posing as a pedantic ichthyologist in The Spy Who Loved Me, or bird shooting with the megalomaniac Hugo Drax in Moonraker.
A more sensitive Bond then emerged with Timothy Dalton. Gentle and soft-spoken, he was still an urbane operative committed to helping a senior KGB officer defect and fight the Soviets in Afghanistan — and appreciative of Borodin’s wistful String Quartet No. 2 in The Living Daylights.
Irish actor Pierce Brosnan later continued in the best of Bond traditions, maintaining a stiff upper lip in the “Double-O” section of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service. At this point, there was still a sense of grand commitment to a cause — thwarting a massive electromagnetic attack in GoldenEye, and preventing a war between China and the UK in Tomorrow Never Dies.
None of these forebears of Craig would say that they were just in it for the money. While this defiance may play well with the disgruntled, it is out of sync with the spirit of Hollywood, which purports to entertain, uplift, and enlighten. It is also counter to traditional British values such as service and sacrifice.
Unfortunately, while Daniel Craig may be a hero to a new Old Navy millennial generation that is not Savile Row literate, he is nonetheless unschooled in the behaviors expected of genteel British operatives. With a brooding and surly demeanor, it is quite evident in his films that, as in real life, Craig really doesn’t like his job and resents his handlers deeply. It seems that he does not believe in anything — except perhaps, his next fistfight.
The implication is that Daniel Craig might benefit from an array of helpful human resources specialists to arrange outplacement services. Self-discovery is a personal odyssey, and no one should be forced to be Bond against his or her will. The simple truth is that if Craig doesn’t want to be Bond, he should not have to be Bond. Being Bond just for the money demeans the pound sterling, the British Intelligence Service, global audiences, and Bond aspirants everywhere — an attitude like this might even inhibit recruitment by the Central Intelligence Agency. And we don’t need a Bond who seems to be doing us a favor by being Bond.
It is too late in the world for unhappy spies. Craig should be given the resources to allow him to achieve his human potential elsewhere. A grateful constituency should engage a premier outplacement firm to evaluate Craig’s strengths and limitations, and assess his strategic fit in various industries and capacities, and compassionately construct a plan for his personal development.
Were Auric Goldfinger conversing with Bond today, instead of responding, “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die,” he might say, “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to be outplaced.”