Is There Anything Left for Daniel Craig to Do as James Bond?

Casino Royale (2006) -  Daniel Craig as James Bond- Photofest-h 2018
Courtesy of Sony Pictures/Photofest
His version of the character has already had a happy ending, but bringing on a filmmaker like Danny Boyle promises something wildly different for 007.

It’s been almost three years since James Bond graced movie screens. The last time he did, it seemed like a swansong, fittingly so, for Daniel Craig’s run as the character as Bond drove off into the sunset with recently introduced love interest Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux). It seemed this iteration of the world-famous superspy finally had his happy ending, and gave Craig a well-deserved break. But with Oscar-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle publicly confirming he is circling the director's chair for the yet untitled Bond 25, it seems the finality of Craig’s Bond isn't so final.

The biggest question facing the long-running franchise is if there is anything left to do with this Bond, who has certainly been put through the ringer on multiple occasions. Over the course of four films, Craig’s Bond films fit relatively neatly together into a three, or three-and-a-half act structure. 2006's Casino Royale served as the origin story, a Bond Begins of sorts. 2009's Quantum of Solace, plagued by the 2007-2008 writer’s strike, followed as a long-winded epilogue to the prior film. 2012's Skyfall fulfilled the task of encapsulating the character’s 50-year history, while raising the stakes that allowed for the reintroduction of classic Bond concepts. And 2015's Spectre tied together all of the Craig films, introduced the classic big bad Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), and delivered a conclusion that seemed to leave room for little more, barring a repetition of events before Craig’s time.

Given the narrative arc of the 21st century Bond films, it’s surprising that Craig is interested in returning, particularly given these comments on Spectre’s press tour. What’s even more surprising is Boyle wanting to tackle the character this far along in his journey. While it’s no secret that Boyle is a fan of the character, even featuring Craig’s Bond in the opening of the 2012 London Olympics, he’s also repeatedly stated his disinterest in making big-budget films and franchises. Over the course of his career, Boyle hasn’t strayed from this sentiment, opting to always make films that feel like Danny Boyle films, regardless of critical reception of box office takes. Having a renegade like Boyle under employ promises the potential for something wildly different from Bond producers, Eon Productions.

With Skyfall, Eon opted to do something it hadn’t done before: hire a prestige, big-name filmmaker in American Beauty's Sam Mendes. Prior to that, the Bond films had largely maintained a consistency in crew and returning filmmakers, or drew from respected but relatively unknown European filmmakers. The change in course led to fans lobbying for names like Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve to helm the franchise after Mendes’ Spectre. When a director shortlist circled around last year, along with the announcement that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have co-written each of the Bond films since 1999’s The World is Not Enough, would be returning as screenwriters for Bond 25, it seemed the film would ultimately offer more of the same. Purvis and Wade have made major strides in the franchise, but they also tend to rely on the familiar and repeat plot beats. Bringing in Boyle — who is working on the story with his frequent collaborator John Hodge scripting it — suggests we may be looking at a very different Bond than we’ve come to expect when the film lands on Nov. 8, 2019.

Boyle’s films have always offered a profound intimacy, meditations on the experience of living and dying within narrow barometers of location. His characters feel mortal, and even when they step into the realm of the fantastic they always return to ordinary mundane issues. His style, often borrowing from chamber-pieces and the stage, in which Boyle has also had a prolific career, seems like an odd fit for the globe-trotting adventures of Bond. But perhaps there’s a way for Boyle to lend his low-budget sensibilities to one of the world’s biggest franchises and produce a character drama that offers insight into Bond that we haven’t seen before. While the Bond films have offered brief glimpses into the psychology over the years, most of which coming during Craig’s run, the character still feels like a bit of a cipher in terms of a personal life. If Boyle has proven consistent in one thing throughout his filmography, it’s in proving how messy personal lives can be, particularly when the psychological state of those characters comes into question.

While fans have speculated that Seydoux’s Swann will be killed off, in the same manner that Bond’s former wife Tracy (Diana Rigg) was in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, that seems too simplistic and reductive for Boyle. We’ve already seen Craig’s Bond grieve for Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) over the course of previous entries. To repeat that seems like a waste of potential and a reliance on the oft-repeated crutch of killing women for male pain (coined as a term by comic book writer Gail Simone as “women in refrigerators”). Based on pure speculation, it seems entirely possible that Boyle would take the opportunity to explore the question of whether Bond truly can settle down and have a monogamous relationship, and if the character can grow old in the event of a change in circumstances. Craig, who as a performer has strayed from some of the traits we identify with Bond, and is clearly interested in providing what layers he can, may finally have chance to showcase the talents he’s shown in other films and lend a real depth of character to Bond.

For Boyle, this level of scrutiny on a project in development is new, he told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday in New York.

"Normally, nobody is ever interested in that process, but because it’s a big franchise people are interested. And because it’s Daniel’s last one, people are double interested," Boyle told THR at the FX All-Star party. "And he’s done great work in it. So we hope we don’t let them down if it happens."

While filming is not expected to start on Bond 25 until the end of this year, and many more details are certain to emerge before then, the quick shooting schedule suggests that Boyle has something new in store for the character. Now seems like the perfect time to destabilize the public perception of James Bond with a filmmaker willing to chart his own course, because whether or not it works, one thing is certain: James Bond will return.

— Jackie Strause contributed reporting.