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  1. The CBn Dossier, Special Edition

    Matt Weston

    Welcome to a Special Edition of The CBn Dossier, a wrap-up of all the 007 news and rumours following Friday’s Casino Royale press conference. In this column, we take a look at the formal appointment of Daniel Craig to Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the media reaction to the casting of Craig, the first news on Bond 22 and a whole pile of tidbits that slipped under the radar amidst the hubbub of a new James Bond. Today, CBn’s Matt Weston looks back on the day that was.

    Enjoy.

    Craig… Daniel Craig

    Flanked by marines in a speedboat, Daniel Craig arrived at the HMS President for the announcement Bond fans have been waiting for for over 18 months. Despite being one of cinema’s worst-kept secrets (even Craig’s mum blabbed to the press before the formal announcement was made), the interest and media coverage generated by Craig’s selection for the famed role of James Bond has been nothing short of astounding.

    Decked out in Brioni (“Because it’s a great suit!” explained Craig), the actor disembarked from the boat to pose for a series of photos for the slew of eager journalists and photographers before heading inside to partake in a half-hour press conference, addressing the media for the first time as 007.

    Following a lengthy period of silence from Eon’s camp, for many fans, Friday’s press conference signified a giant step towards restoring the order and security of the franchise – and, indeed, the franchise itself – that many have felt has been absent since word leaked that Pierce Brosnan had lost the role (for many fans, Friday’s press conference also signified a giant sigh of relief at the prospect of not having to read another freaking “X tipped to be the new James Bond” story for some time). However, the decision has also been a controversial one, with fans taking vastly opposing stances on Craig’s suitability for the part.

    “They’ll print anything these days”

    Craig’s casting as Bond has not only been controversial amongst fans, but also the media. Following in the footsteps of Popular Pierce was always going to be difficult, as Craig himself admitted on Friday, however the media has been decidedly negative in their reportage of the actor securing the role.

    Journalists have unneccessarily highlighted the actor’s blond hair as a focal point of their reports, whilst the fact Craig was wearing a lifejacket upon his arrival to the press conference has also been consistently referenced (nevermind the marines surrounding him were also fitted out with the very same lifejackets). Variety‘s Archie Thomas was more kind, writing that the entrance was executed in “classic Bond style” and lashed out at the “hacks” who criticised something as trivial as a lifejacket.

    Inside the conference, The Daily Mirror‘s Fiona Cummins got the proceedings off on the wrong foot by prodding at Craig’s private links with Kate Moss and Sienna Miller as the conference’s very first question (something the journo raised no fewer than two more times over the following half hour). Craig’s reluctance to answer such questions resulted in The Mirror‘s nasty front page story entitled The Name’s Bland… James Bland, in which Cummins labelled Craig’s debut as “deadly dull” and that he “showed none of 007’s charm and charisma” (Variety rightly backed Craig’s deflections, noting them to be done in “a suitably diplomatic fashion”).

    The Daily Mail‘s Richard Simpson was similarly unenthusiastic. “[I]t wasn’t the most auspicious of starts for the 37-year-old actor,” Simpson wrote. “Craig’s suit looked more banker than spy. Add to that his carefully-fitted lifejacket and the way he clung for dear life to the rail, and Bond he wasn’t.”

    The Sunday Times, in a particularly thorough piece, considered Craig’s casting particularly unconventional. “Craig is not an obvious choice,” the article stated. “Indeed, some think he is not the real goods.” However, the article was quick to argue that Craig’s two concerns about taking on the role – that it would limit his acting ambitions and that he could not act as well as Connery – were “ill-founded”. The article also leapt to the defense of Craig’s Liverpool roots, something also picked on by the UK tabloids. The story also favourably compared Craig’s position to that of Connery just prior to his first film. “At 37 [Craig] has a more bankable reputation than the 32-year-old Connery when the latter inaugurated the Bond series in 1962.”

    Other major media outlets were less forgiving. Reuters‘ Mike Collett-White wrote that many of Craig’s comments at the conference were “decidedly un-Bondlike”, citing his reaction to the boat entrance as an example. Fiona Hudson in Australia’s Sunday Mail (not online) wrote that Craig seemed “nervous and shy” in front of the world’s media, claiming that bookmakers are already “betting [Craig] will emulate Aussie George Lazenby and last only one Bond film”.

    Only time will tell as to how the media circus will pan out as Casino Royale‘s release approaches.

    Downsizing at MI6?

    “We’re planning to bring M back, and the script as it stands, does not have Q or Moneypenny in it.”

    Q has long been said to have been absent from the Casino Royale script, despite John Cleese only technically assuming the role in the previous Bond flick, however producer Michael G. Wilson also revealed Moneypenny may also sit out the new film (even though she featured in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale). Four-time Moneypenny, Samantha Bond, who starred opposite Brosnan, had always maintained that she would depart the series when the Irish actor did, but it appears M’s secretary’s services will not be needed at all. Oddly, the revelation of Moneypenny’s absence from Casino Royale comes hot on the heels of the publication of the first in Ian Fleming Publications’ trilogy of books told from the perspective of Miss Moneypenny.

    Casting for Casino Royale‘s Bond girl, Vesper Lynd, is now underway. Wilson said the frame is currently very wide for casting for the role. “We haven’t really focussed on anyone,” he said. “I think we wanted to make sure we got the part cast for 007 and now I think it’s open casting. We’re just looking for someone who has to do a very important job in this film.”

    Campbell was highly enthused about the role Vesper plays in the story. “It’s a terrific part. It’s actually probably the best Bond girl part, if you will.” The director also addressed what was being sought after for the role. “First of all, what we’re going to get is a terrific actress. I think that’s really important. She has to look beautiful, she plays a very important role in the piece, and she also spends a lot of time with Bond. So clearly, when we decide who it is, it’s got to be somebody who has all of those attributes.”

    What makes 007

    Perhaps most interesting was Campbell’s revelation that Casino Royale will hint not only at the origins of 007 himself, but also some of the “embyonic” Bond trademarks, including “how, perhaps, he gets the Aston Martin, how he mixes his martini, what the ingredients are, and indeed, the make of the ingredients.” The director constantly reiterated that Casino Royale will see 007 moulded into the character we know and love.

    The news reaffirms Aston Martin’s multi-picture contract with Eon Productions that began with 2002’s Die Another Day; Wilson also denied reports that the decidedly unconventional Fiat Panda will be Bond’s car of choice in Casino Royale.

    Despite Fleming’s 007 famously being a 70-a-day smoker, director Martin Campbell firmly stated that Casino Royale‘s Bond keep his distance from cigarettes. “He’s not going to smoke, simply because it’s difficult with children or young people who go and see the movie, and given that he’s the iconic hero he is, it’s perhaps not the right thing to do. So he will definitely not smoke.” Brosnan’s Bond only ever smoked a cigar in Die Another Day.

    More controversial will be the handling of the brutal torture sequence that features prominantly in Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel. “I think there will be a lot of wide shots of the house and a bit of screaming in the background,” Campbell quipped. “But if you read the book, it’s a fairly horrific scene and it’s quite shocking and I’m sure there’s an awful lot of women who would appreciate it. Nevertheless, it is a difficult scene, and quite how we’re going to deal with it, or I’m going to deal with it, I don’t know.” The film, according to Campbell, is nonetheless aiming for a 12A / PG-13 rating.

    The limits at ‘Casino Royale’

    Attempting to dodge the topic, Campbell and Wilson fielded several questions pertaining to the film’s budget. “Of course, it’ll probably be north of $100 million, as they tend to be, because these days, ironically enough, there’s an awful lot of films that are costing that, but beyond that, I can’t tell you,” Campbell said.

    “We have plenty of action in this picture,” Wilson added. “We’ll be lucky to keep it within the balance of the last film.”

    Die Another Day reportedly cost $160 million, making it the most expensive film of 2002 (a year that saw entries in the Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter franchises released).

    Bond 21 and beyond

    Yet one of the most exciting revelations to come out of Friday’s conference was the news that Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are already at work on the 22nd Bond picture. “Purvis and Wade, who wrote the [Casino Royale] script are also starting on the next Bond script, so all this is going forward,” Wilson said.

    The news comes as a positive sign to fans who have become jaded with the recent three- and four-year breaks between films. The 007 producers have typically tried to cement new Bond actors in the role fairly quickly, which may well turn out to be the strategy here. Roger Moore’s first outing was followed by his second the very next year, whilst both Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan experienced two-year gaps between their first and second films.

    Bond 22 will be the writing duo’s fifth Bond script, following The World Is Not Enough (which was co-written with Bruce Feirstein), Die Another Day, Casino Royale (which is receiving a dialogue polish by Oscar-nominee Paul Haggis) and the ill-fated Jinx spin-off, which was to be directed by Stephen Frears for release in 2004.

    But for now, the focus is on next year’s Bond film.

    ‘Casino’ chatter

    With CBn’s forums hitting 5,007 members before Friday’s announcement, the discussions went into overdrive as the sixth actor to play the role was formally named.

    If you’re not yet a member, and wish to join the largest James Bond forums anywhere on the web, simply click here to register. It’s simple, it’s free and it’s your chance to sound off on any aspect of the world of Bond! With Casino Royale exactly 13 months from hitting cinema screens, there’s never been a better time to join.

    Until next time…

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    Matt Weston @ 2005-10-17
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