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Ten years before Sam Mendes helmed 2012’s Skyfall — the first of his two James Bond films, followed by 2015’s Spectre — the director worked with Bond star Daniel Craig on Road to Perdition.
The 2002 gangster film, Mendes’ follow-up to his Oscar-winning American Beauty, starred Tom Hanks as Michael Sullivan, an enforcer for an Irish mob boss named John Rooney (Paul Newman). Sullivan and his son, Michael Jr., go on the run after Sullivan’s wife and younger son are murdered by Rooney’s hotheaded heir, Connor (played by Craig). Recently on THR‘s Awards Chatter podcast, Craig — who made his final outing as 007 in No Time to Die — recalled to host Scott Feinberg meeting with Mendes and learning that he was considering him for the role of Connor.
“He went, ‘I’m doing a gangster movie in Chicago. I want you to play Paul Newman’s son,’ ” Craig said. “I [didn’t] need to hear anymore.” Soon after, Craig flew to Chicago to formally audition and prove he could nail the regional accent. “I’m the world’s worst reader. I’m probably a bit dyslexic,” Craig said. “I did his reading, and [Mendes] said, ‘That was terrible, but I’m going to give you the part because you’ve come all this way.’ ” (THR‘s Kirk Honeycutt was kinder in his review: “Craig embraces his character’s weakness, seeing it as the only way to counterbalance his father’s immense power.”)
Four years later, Craig would go from supporting player to one of the world’s biggest movie stars after landing the role of James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale, followed by 2008’s Quantum of Solace. His third outing as the British spy was directed by Mendes after the pair were reunited at a holiday party hosted by Hugh Jackman, where Craig, a couple of drinks in, offered Mendes the job.
“I was definitely a little drunk. Sam turned up late, and I hadn’t seen him since Road to Perdition,” Craig said. “I just basically went, ‘I’m probably not supposed to say this, but do you want to direct the next Bond movie?’ “
This story first appeared in a January stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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