Review by C.J. Bunce
As titles go Being Bond: A Daniel Craig Retrospective sounds like a giant interview with Daniel Craig about his journey inside the shoes of the longest running franchise movie hero. The book–available today in the UK and coming to bookstores in the U.S. next month and available for pre-order now here at Amazon–includes many discussions with Craig covering every stage of his journey from audition to walking away from the character at the end of his final performance as the master spy in this year’s No Time to Die. But it’s a lot more than that. In fact I would have called it The Making of All Five James Bond Movies Starring Daniel Craig or Behind the Scenes on the Five Daniel Craig Bond Movies because that really is what you get. It’s a behind the scenes account of each film from idea to execution, something we haven’t seen in a giant, full-color hardcover book for Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, SPECTRE, or No Time to Die. Full of interviews with the executive producers, directors, production crew and cast, Being Bond: A Daniel Craig Retrospective has behind the scenes photographs even the biggest, most devoted James Bond fans will never have seen before.
If you like the way the late J.W. Rinzler made his books about big franchise movies, you’ll love what writer Mark Salisbury put together here. Most interesting is getting inside the minds of Bond movie masterminds Barbara Broccoli and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson as they planned and plotted where to take James Bond after winding down Pierce Brosnan’s stint as the character. The constellations seemed to point to Daniel Craig beginning with Ian Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale, as part of some grand design/master plan. The rights of the film itself had been handled differently than the other novels by Ian Fleming himself, so in a way the first Bond novel was waiting for the right time, for the right Bond actor. A delay in obtaining the rights for Broccoli and Wilson couldn’t have been intentionally planned better for the franchise. Craig was able to begin his take on Bond unlike his predecessors–Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, or Brosnan. Craig could begin at the beginning.
Readers will walk away understanding the risks with Craig and Casino Royale, including two scenes from the book that were required before the deal to make the movie was sealed. They’ll also see why Quantum of Solace wasn’t as successful as the other four installments. Like many a sequel to a major hit, the first follow-up film suffered, and here it was caused by the screenplay’s clunky journey through a writers’ strike. But it didn’t take too long for everyone to agree to go back to Fleming’s stories for inspiration, and even Craig says he read and kept returning to the novels throughout his 15 years creating the character for a new generation for fans. Giving this Bond his own big villain, specifically his own Blofeld (inhabited by Academy Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz), Broccoli, Wilson, director Sam Mendes, and Craig stitched together the meat of his story for the next three films.
The book digs into many key factors of what makes a Bond movie different from other franchises. A big part of that is the look of Bond, and that included bringing costume designer Lindy Hemming back from the previous four Bond movies (a theme of the book is Broccoli and Wilson pulling in crew from across the spectrum of previous Bond movies in this way to keep continuity). Costume sketches and photos of fabric swatches are examples of what readers will find inside. Why one dress suit over the other? Why did the blue suit work so well for Craig? And why was finalizing choice of swim trunks for the defining scene for Bond–his homage to Ursula Andress in Casino Royale, emerging from the ocean–a big embarrassment for the actor?
Why did Craig constantly struggle to get out of playing Bond, and why wasn’t he relieved to learn Casino Royale was a clear hit? For one, it took a few films for Craig to realize he didn’t have to participate in all the stunts himself. All the biggest stunts for the biggest action sequences of Craig’s five films are covered, including location scouting, set construction, and camera work. Readers will hear it all from directors Martin Campbell, Marc Forster, Sam Mendes, and Cari Fukunaga, as well as legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, and more.
Salisbury takes readers through the selection of a new M, a new Q, and a new Moneypenny revealed in Skyfall, with commentary from Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris, as well as Dame Judi Dench. The high point for action in the entire Bond franchise may be the introduction and helicopter sequence in SPECTRE, and storyboards and breakdowns take readers through all the development of the risky and expertly executed scene.
A high point from the photography is seeing Craig actually participating in the big action sequences, sometimes with the safety line that CGI would later remove. Yes, that was really Craig scaling the construction crane and running across rooftops and across transoms at scary heights.
Being Bond: A Daniel Craig Retrospective is a deep dive into the making of these five films. What it isn’t focused on are props, like Bond’s weapons and watches, or his cars, although readers will get a good sampling of these things for each movie. This book is about creation of the films, the big picture, getting the story off the ground, the heavy lifting. Salisbury also wrote a similarly designed behind-the-scenes account of Craig’s Bond films, last year’s No Time to Die: The Making of the Film, reviewed here, which is a more detailed dive into those other dimensions of making a Bond movie (you may also be interested in checking out Greg Williams’ four out-of-print Bond on Set photo-essay books (little text), covering the first three Craig movies and the final Brosnan film). No Time to Die has less coverage than the other four films in Being Bond, so the two Salisbury books will work together as companion volumes for your favorite diehard James Bond fan (Christmas is coming!).
A must for fans of Daniel Craig and the 007 franchise, Being Bond: A Daniel Craig Retrospective is available now in the UK and in the U.S. here at Amazon for pre-order, from publisher Titan Books. It is scheduled for U.S. release December 6, 2022.