Has anyone checked on Tom Hiddleston? Or at least poured him a stiff drink (shaken, not stirred—though that might only pour the proverbial salt in the wound)?
In a surprise twist too annoying for even the most subpar of the franchise’s installments, Daniel Craig, who once said he would “rather slash my wrists” than slip back into his 007 suit, will reportedly return to play James Bond for the fifth time—at least according to a thinly sourced article in the UK’s Mirror that should be taken with the same pinch of salt currently making poor Hiddleston wince.
Hiddleston, along with actors Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Henry Cavill, Damien Lewis (Homeland) James Norton (War & Peace), and Aidan Turner (Poldark), have devoted more than a year of their lives—and god help us, ours, too—to fielding questions about rumors and speculation that they’ve been in talks of various levels of seriousness to replace Craig as Bond.
Turner at one point was reported to have been flown to LA for meetings with legendary Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, thus triggering entertainment publications to all-but-issue the actor his license to kill.
With Craig so vocal about his desire to retire from Bond, speculation over who should replace him had become its own self-sustaining blog industry, the cycle reignited every time one of the aforementioned actors was reliably asked about it while on a press tour for an unrelated project. It’s a high-class chicken-and-egg situation. Would Hiddleston not stop talking about Bond? Or would we just not stop asking him about it?
Elba, dubbed “The People’s Bond” because of the fervor with which fans of his have pushed for his casting, eloquently expressed his frustration over that very thing more than a year ago (to give you a sense of how damn long we’ve been obsessing over this).
“Can we not?” he said when asked to talk about it. “Because it feels like I’m campaigning, and I’m not. At first it was harmless—oh I know, wouldn’t it be great?—and now it’s started off racial debates. I’m probably the most famous Bond actor in the world, and I’ve not even played the role. Enough is enough. I can’t talk about it anymore.”
If the report about Craig returning is true, he can at least look forward to the conversation changing: Are you upset you weren’t cast as Bond? (Ugh.)
The Mirror’s report is sourced to an “insider” and indicates that Craig’s previous comment during his Spectre press tour, which ran the gamut from cranky to petulant, is the reason behind his eventual coming around. In 2015, Craig said that if he played Bond again “it would be for the money.” And how much? Mirror reports that he’s been offered £120 million (roughly $155 million) for two more films.
After all these think pieces, all these interviews with prospective new Bonds, all this obsession—British sites even ran regular odds for bettors—spouting from Craig’s insinuation of retirement, his ultimate decision to return, I don’t know, seems kind of…annoying?
Representatives for Craig have not responded to The Daily Beast’s request for confirmation to the casting news, but if the actor does return it would mark an interesting shift in what has been the dizzying Bond narrative ever since the Spectre press tour concluded.
Here’s this red carpet’s worth of dashing Brits tap dancing their hearts out in hopes of grabbing Broccoli’s attention and landing the iconic role. And the one who gets it is the one who doesn’t seem to really want to do it. Is that what we really want from a James Bond?
Bond is suave, steely, and stoic. Craig did a masterful job delicately shading his humanity, showing that the agent can be world-weary, wounded, and even beleaguered. But not a damn curmudgeon.
Maybe it’s unfair that an actor’s perceived feelings about a role—at least how they played out in the press—and the very public auditioning for it from his contemporaries in strong-jawed beauty would affect how an audience would view his eventual performance in a film. But alas, welcome to 2017.
There are other—again, thinly-sourced—details about this apparent Craig return. Broccoli is apparently heavily courting Adele to once again sing the Bond theme, as the combination of Craig and the Grammy winner was so fruitful the first time, with Skyfall becoming the most profitable Bond film in franchise history, taking in $1.1 billion worldwide.
And in a recent interview with Playboy, Christopher Nolan—the Inception director and franchise alum in his own right with the Dark Knight films—said that he has been in talks with Broccoli over the years about replacing Skyfall and Spectre director Sam Mendes if they “needed” him to.
Maybe stirring things up a bit—excuse me, shaking them up—wouldn’t be the worst thing, because, albeit indicting the guy sight unseen, it’s hard to imagine that after all his griping about wanting to be done with it all, Craig would charge into a new MI6 mission with any sort of chutzpah.
One would think we should be thrilled that a proven veteran who completely reinvigorated the franchise and delivered its first award-worthy James Bond performance is keen to return. But we’ve seen all too often the pitfalls of a franchise overvaluing the return of a marquee star who was, in spirit, done with a franchise, ostensibly phoning in a comeback in order to cash a paycheck.
It’s hardly professional and it is, again, prematurely unfair to expect anything of that sort from Craig.
But look to the ways Johnny Depp’s very apparent disinterest in these later Pirates of the Caribbean films—other than the ways in which it pads his bank account—has sullied the brand of what was once one of Hollywood’s most refreshing and unexpected franchises.
Harrison Ford was hardly a spitfire when he returned as Indiana Jones, resulting in one of the most confounding franchise reboots of the last two decades.
Bruce Willis’s action movie fatigue couldn’t be more evident than in the new Die Hard films.
Even some young rising stars can’t be bothered to “get it up,” as it were, for franchise films they plainly no longer want to be a part of, as evidenced by Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades Darker.
It isn’t a hard and fast rule, of course, that we should be resistant to the practice of wooing stars back for later franchise installments. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was never better than in Logan, which is in turn the best outing of that character’s entire journey and one of the best movies thus far of 2017.
Even though the result isn’t as magical or surprising as Logan, it would be impossible to argue that Tom Cruise isn’t putting his heart and soul into the revival of the Mission: Impossible films.
Maybe we’re just as exhausted as Craig is by this whole prospect of his will-he/won’t-he return to the Bond universe, which—again, should we believe the Mirror report—won’t start filming until next year with a release date at the end of 2018 at the earliest.
In the meantime, then, go see Atomic Blonde starring Charlize Theron, which comes out at the end of the month, for an actor—who just happens to be female—giving the kind of James Bond performance we all deserve.