Even for a franchise as enduring as James Bond, Skyfall is an incredibly tough act to follow. The film is not only one of the most successful Bond films of all time, it’s also one of the best-reviewed. It’s no wonder director Sam Mendes was reluctant to return and find out if lightning strikes twice, but he did, and the trailers for Spectre thus far look excellent as Mendes and Daniel Craig aim to reveal some long-held secrets regarding James Bond’s backstory.
But in a new interview with Esquire, Craig admits they didn’t immediately feel confident about the Skyfall follow-up:
Craig’s summary of the feeling among the film-makers as they began to discuss a follow-up to Skyfall: “What the fuck are we going to do?”
“I think everyone was just daunted, understandably,” he says. “Like, it’s ‘the biggest British movie of all time’. What does it fucking mean? Where do we go from there? How do you process that? It could have been an albatross around everyone’s necks. It turned out not to be, but there was a massive amount of pressure at the beginning.”
Initially, Craig thought the team ought to embrace the Roger Moore era of Bond with the Skyfall follow-up instead of delving into the character’s origins, but he quickly changed his mind:
“I think I’d just got it into my head that flamboyance was the way forward and fuck it, nothing touched him. But as we got into the story and rooted out the connections, they were too good to leave alone.”
For his part, Craig thinks things worked out as well as they possibly could have, saying, “I feel like we’ve all done our absolute fucking best and that’s a good feeling.” And how does it compare to Skyfall?
Is the “classic Bond” ethos still in place, I wonder? “Times 10!” Craig almost shouts, momentarily revelling in his role as hype man. He repeats it when I laugh, holding his beer in the air. “It’s Skyfall times 10!”
One thing Skyfall did brilliantly was pose the question, “How does James Bond fit into the 21st century?” He’s an old school hero that feels a bit out of place in modern day, especially in terms of his treatment of women. This is an aspect of the character of which Craig is all too aware:
“Hopefully my Bond is not as sexist and misogynistic as [earlier incarnations]. The world has changed. I am certainly not that person. But he is, and so what does that mean? It means you cast great actresses and make the parts as good as you can for the women in the movies.”
He adds that despite Bond’s multiple conquests, he’s ultimately a sad figure when it comes to women:
“He’s very fucking lonely. There’s a great sadness. He’s fucking these beautiful women but then they leave and it’s… sad. And as a man gets older it’s not a good look. It might be a nice fantasy – that’s debatable – but the reality, after a couple of months…”
With the addition of the wonderful Lea Seydoux to the mix in Spectre and with Naomie Harris fully inhabiting the role of Moneypenny, I’m very curious to see how Bond’s relationship with women continues to evolve in this next film. But what of Craig’s future after that? He’s contracted to one more Bond movie after Spectre, but says he’s genuinely unsure as to whether he’ll be back:
“I don’t know. I really don’t know. Honestly. I’m not trying to be coy. At the moment I can’t even conceive it.”
The actor goes so far as to say right now he doesn’t even have the desire to return for one more picture:
“At this moment, no. I have a life and I’ve got to get on with it a bit. But we’ll see.”
Of course Craig is still under contract, so I imagine we’ll be seeing him at least one more time. But it does seem fairly clear that he’s coming to the end of his tenure as Bond with what looks to be a nicely concluded story arc (Quantum of Solace notwithstanding). Time to start shortlisting actors for the next incarnation, folks! Idris Elba, your phone may be ringing soon.