When I wrote this piece in 2019, I advised writers to hold off on the eulogies. What I meant was Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond, but it turned out he and the producers had other ideas.
As anyone who watched No Time To Die can testify, the film ends with Bond sacrificing his life so that his daughter Mathilde can enjoy hers. Recognising that this is the closest he will ever get to enjoying parenthood, Bond smiles to himself, before a cascade of rockets come crashing down. No Bond film had ended on such a dour note since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and fittingly the film added Louis Armstrongś haunting “We Have All The Time In The World” to the soundtrack. Bond fans will understand the pathos of the song: George Lazenby’s spy cradled his beloved Tracy to the sound of Armstrong’s mellifluous voice.
On Her Majesty’s ended with Bond losing the love of his life: No Time To Die ends with Bond losing his. Although the sixth actor to play James Bond, Craig is the first to have filmed a death scene. More surprisingly, Craig has admitted that it was his very own idea:
“I’m going to tell a story here, whether or not anybody remembers it or agrees with it,” Craig told Variety. “But it was 2006. Barbara and I were sitting in the back of a car driving away from the Berlin premiere of “Casino Royale.” Everything was going well. People liked the movie. And it looked like I was gonna get a chance to make at least another movie. I said to Barbara, ´”How many of these movies do I have to make?” Because I don’t really look at contracts or any of those things. And she said, “Four,” and I went, “Oh, okay. Can I kill him off in the last one?” And she didn’t pause. She said, “Yes.” So I struck a deal with her back then and said, “That’s the way I’d like it to go.” It’s the only way I could see for myself to end it all and to make it like that was my tenure, someone else could come and take over. She stuck to her guns.”
Michael G.Wilson (producer since A View To A Kill) was less convinced, but he too recognised the significance behind gesture. Ian Fleming, he realised, had tried to kill his spy in From Russia, With Love. “I think Fleming saw it and I guess ultimately we came to that realization, too. It’s also emotionally very important to understand the risks that people like Bond engage in.”
What’s most apparent from the Variety interview (director Cary Joji Fukunaga also contributes his thoughts) is that no one behind the creative team made the decision lightly. Instead, they used it as their way to close off one era, a period of Bond history that has witnessed two classics of British cinema (Casino Royale and SkyFall) and three memorable escapades (Quantum of Solace, Spectre and No Time To Die.) Considered by many, including the late Sir Roger Moore, as the best Bond of the six, Craig has certainly made his mark on the series, and the smartest way to move from this indelible Bond is to close off his arc in fiery fashion. But that’s not to say the series is over. The film ends with the words “James Bond will return”. It just won’t be Daniel Craig.