Daniel Craig talks No Time to Die and leaving James Bond behind: 'I'll miss it a lot'
In 2005, the news that Daniel Craig had been cast as James Bond was met with a hail of criticism. His hair was too blond. His ears were too big. He was too short. It was even rumored that the then-obscure actor didn't know how to drive a stick. What would Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, have said about the choice? Craig proved the naysayers wrong with his performance as 007 in 2006's acclaimed and record-breakingly successful Casino Royale and in three subsequent big-screen adventures reinventing the superspy as a more rounded and troubled, if still lethal, character. By the time of 2015's Spectre, many fans had concluded that Craig was the best Bond ever — or at least deserved to share that title with Sean Connery. Certainly there are those who would be happy for the actor to continue in the role for years to come. But Craig is not among them. The actor swears he is ready to hang up Bond's tux and that the delayed-by-COVID, Cary Joji Fukunaga-directed No Time to Die (out Friday) will be his last adventure as the world's most famous secret agent. In December 2019 (when the film was still set for release the following April), EW sat down with the British actor in his adopted hometown of New York City to talk about No Time to Die, his decision to leave the franchise and what he will miss most about being Bond.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There was a time when you said that Spectre would be your last Bond movie.
DANIEL CRAIG: Yes.
Why did you change your mind?
I finished that movie with a broken leg. I'm not moaning about that; it's just the way it was. I had to question myself: Was I physically capable of doing [another one], or did I physically want to do another one? Because that phone call to your wife [actress Rachel Weisz] saying "I've broken my leg" is not pleasant. But I had a break. It was five years, and we had an idea, an idea that I'd had on Casino Royale. I spoke to Barbara [Broccoli, Bond franchise producer] about it, and she said, "Yeah, go for it." We expanded that idea, and that became the plot or became at least what we were aiming for, and I'm very, very, very happy we did.
In terms of the script, did you basically start over after director Danny Boyle left the project because of "creative differences"?
Just about, yeah. Just about. I'm a huge fan of Danny, and I'd love, love to work with him. It didn't work out. The problem is, with a Bond movie, there's no hiding place. It happens all the time in movies. You work with directors, you work with writers, and you get to a point and you go, "It's not working, sorry," and you move on. It's just in a Bond movie it becomes this huge event that gets blown into something else. But I've got massive, massive respect for Danny. I love him very much. Swing and a miss, you know.
Where is Bond at the start of No Time to Die?
Retired. Yeah, retired. Of course, that's debatable — how Bond could ever be retired. I don't think it's Florida and golf. I think he's there itching, itching to get back into the game, and actually he's in a pretty emotionally torn state as well.
I get the impression there are more twists and turns than usual this time around.
Maybe. I think so. I think that's just been the way it's panned out. We started with an ending and worked backward. It's nerve-wracking when you don't have it complete when you start shooting, but that's also part of the deal. It's not unusual, and we had a lot of talent in the room, and I was fortunate to be part of that and get in the room, and you just brainstorm and brainstorm and brainstorm and be constantly tweaking.
What was it like working with Rami Malek, who plays the film's villain, Safin?
I mean, how fortunate were we to get him? Off the back of Bohemian Rhapsody, he was a very popular man. We needed something special for this villain, and he brought it. He's a consummate professional. He had a vision of a Bond villain, and it's remarkable.
Could you talk about hurting your ankle?
Yeah, yeah, happily. 'Til you're really really bored I will talk about my ankle! I mean, I got in really good shape, I was really happy with where I was. But I have to accept, when I do these movies, at a certain point there will be an injury. It's just the way it is. Even if it's a stoved thumb or whatever, a swollen elbow, I'm going to get hurt. It was one of those situations where, I'd love to have been running full pelt and jumping while an explosion went off at the back and there were bullets flying everywhere. I was running down a floating dock, and it was wet and I slipped and I fell over, and my ankle exploded. I mean, that's just the way it goes. And I felt it go. Unfortunately, I've been in the same situation before and I know the feeling of a rupturing tendon and I was just like, oh, f---. But I've got a great surgeon in London who said, 'Look, this is the situation.' He said, 'If it were me, or if I was looking after a footballer, I'd say, 'Do this and you'll be ready to run in ten weeks.' You know, ten weeks is sometimes the length of a movie shoot. Not on a Bond movie. It's just a small part of it. So I was like, 'Okay, let's do this.' Amazing surgery, I was back at work in two weeks, and in six weeks I was jogging around, and in 10 weeks I was throwing myself around like an idiot again.
What will you miss about playing James Bond?
I'll miss everything, I think. I'll miss the collaboration. I mean, hopefully I'll keep working and I'll have lots of other lovely jobs, but it's very, very, very rare air. Apart from Marvel movies, there aren't movies that are as big as this. I've had the privilege of being involved in it. ... It was there before me, and it will be there after me. But I've had a chance to be part of all of this, and if you can't get it up for a Bond movie as an actor, what can you get it up for? So, yeah, I'll miss it a lot.
Read more from EW's 25 Days of Bond, a celebration of all things 007 ahead of the release of No Time to Die.
The 25th installment of the James Bond movie franchise features Daniel Craig playing 007 for the fifth — and supposedly final — time.