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Daniel Craig’s tenure as the charming-yet-deadly secret agent James Bond has proved to be as uneven as many of his predecessors. While both his first outing Casino Royale and Skyfall, the movie which marked the fiftieth anniversary since the character made his debut on the big screen, were both critically acclaimed and box office sensations, the other two films in this series of instalments would be dismissed by audiences as both preposterous and underwhelming. Quantum of Solace relied too heavily on the film that proceeded it, while Spectre, the latest entry in the 007 saga, would commence on a high note, only to lose its momentum by the third act. ‘I’d rather slash my wrists than play James Bond again,’ Craig confessed in October 2015 while promoting his fourth picture in the role, before adding his thoughts on who should take over as the spy following his imminent exit with a rather blunt, ‘I don’t give a fuck.’
In May 2016, less than six months after the release of Spectre, noted filmmaker Sam Mendes announced that he would not return to the series after directing two films, ‘It was an incredible adventure, I loved every second of it,’ he said at the time. ‘But I think it’s time for somebody else.’ Following his departure the latest director to join the series was set to be Danny Boyle, who first found success in the mid-1990s with the low budget hits Shallow Grave and Trainspotting before helming the Academy Award-winning Slumdog Millionaire a decade later.
Yet by August 2018 it was also revealed that Boyle had also turned his back on the project, with Bond’s official Twitter accout declaring, ‘Michael G Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig today announced that due to creative differences Danny Boyle has decided to no longer direct Bond 25.’ His decision to exit the project would result from a dispute over the screenplay that he had developed with long-time collaborator John Hodge which had encountered some resistance from the producers. ‘I work in partnership with writers and I am not prepared to break it up. We were working very, very well, but they didn’t want to go down that route with us,’ he explained to Empire. ‘What John Hodge and I were doing, I thought, was really good. It wasn’t finished but it could have been really good..’
Had Boyle remained onboard he would have joined the ranks of many acclaimed directors who had leant their own style and sensibilities to the long-running franchise, which had undergone something of a radical transformation with its dark and gritty 2006 reboot Casino Royale, which saw Craig replace Pierce Brosnan in the role of Bond following the negative reaction to the ridiculous Die Another Day four years earlier. Craig’s interpretation of the role was considered by some to be a reaction to the more brutal action that had been employed both in the popular television series 24 and the sleeper hit The Bourne Identity, which introduced audiences to a new kind of action hero, yet twenty years earlier Timothy Dalton had attempted to bring some kind of realism to the role with two motion pictures of varied quality.
Like many of the other actors who portrayed Bond over the years, Dalton had turned to the source material, the novels written by the late Ian Fleming, for inspiration. ‘Dalton studied the Fleming novels for clues on how to portray Bond and he imbued his 007 with elements from the literary source,’ described authors John Cork and Bruce Scivally in James Bond: The Legacy. ‘Dalton emerged with a performance that was dark, brooding and edgy.’ The same could be said for Craig, yet his take on the role would also boast a brutality that was far removed from the other interpretations of the character, with the opening in Casino Royale depicting his assassination in the duty of his country.
Following the lukewarm reaction to Spectre the producers of the 007 brand were under pressure to return the series to the success of Craig’s earlier films and so, with Boyle having stepped down as director, desperately searched for another filmmaker that could bring something fresh to the formula. In September 2018 Cary Fukunaga, whose prior credits include the HBO series True Detective and the acclaimed drama Beasts of No Nation, was announced as the successor to Boyle, with the Independent declaring, ‘Fukunaga seems a very clever pick on two different levels. He has a strong creative reputation – he is an auteur whose latest series Maniac is said to be genre-breaking and mind-bending – but he also knows how to play the game.’
Despite the problems the project would face during development, the situation would become far worse once the cameras began rolling on location in Jamaica at the end of April 2019, with the crew barely two weeks into the shoot when Craig suffered an injury to his leg after sprinting and was immediately flown to the mainland for x-rays, which forced the producers to suspend the shoot until his condition could be determined. ‘He was sprinting during filming when he slipped and fell quite awkwardly,’ one witness revealed to the press. ‘He was in quite a lot of pain and was complaining about his ankle.’ A few weeks later the actor had returned to the gym with his leg still in a cast to get back into shape for the physically-demanding role, one that many have speculated once again could be his swan song.
The already troubled production suffered a further set back at the hands of its director when Fukunaga arrived several hours late to the film set, reportedly because he had been engulfed in a gaming session on his PlayStation. Eventually making an appearance three hours later to find a frustrated crew waiting for their director, his production staff then informed the set that they would be required to work over the weekend. ‘There is real mutiny right now on the set,’ a source close to the production has revealed. ‘It’s bad enough that Cary was so late for filming and held everyone up, but then for the crew to be asked to work extra hours to cover it was just the final straw. He turned up three hours late which pissed everyone off. There was a big bust up because they’re so behind. Many said they were not willing to give up their Father’s Day in return for this film. It’s just doomed.