In the early 1960s, the notion of a blond James Bond was probably as ridiculous as the Soviet bloc crumbling without the coming of World War III. And now, both are realities.
Sandy-haired Englishman Daniel Craig will take over for Pierce Brosnan in the forthcoming film, "Casino Royale," due in theaters next year.
"We spent about a year-and-a-half to two years looking for someone, looked at over 200 people … and in the end we chose Daniel and he was the only one we offered the film to," said producer Michael G. Wilson at a news conference Friday.
"There's been some speculation that we'd offered to other people," he said. "But that's not accurate."
Fellow Brits Clive Owen, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Ewan McGregor, Irishman Colin Farrell and Aussies Hugh Jackman and Heath Ledger were rumored to be under consideration, but Craig is now the fair-haired boy in a contest that wouldn't seem to favor a fair-haired boy.
As the sixth actor to serve as Agent 007 in Her Majesty's Secret Service, Craig is not as well-known as other speculated-about candidates. He played Paul Newman's son in "Road to Perdition" and Angelina Jolie's boyfriend in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," and recently starred in "Layer Cake." But he might best be known for having dated model Kate Moss and actress Sienna Miller.
Perhaps a reputation as a lady's man fits the Bond image, but Craig wasn't so sure, and would prefer to let his on-screen talent define his work, rather than his presence in celebrity magazines. "I understand that doing this doesn't help but I don't think I'm going to change my attitudes that I've always kept," he said.
"So we'll take it a day at a time."
Don't Sell Short Bond Short
The 6-foot, 37-year-old Englishman is also the shortest Bond yet. Still, he's expected to carry on with one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood history. The 20 official Bond films have netted nearly $4 billion in global ticket sales, including Pierce Brosnan's last four, which racked up $1.5 billion.
But if Craig has big shoes to fill, so have all his predecessors. Even Sean Connery, who originated the role in 1962's "Dr. No," had to live up to audience expectations of author Ian Fleming's popular spy novel series.
Like true masters of espionage, each Bond has been able to put his own personal stamp on the role. Connery gave Bond his debonair swagger. The Scotsman was the first to utter, "The name's Bond. James Bond." And he brought to life that martini-sipping, womanizing way.
Connery took Bond into the early 1970s, with such films as "From Russia, With Love," "Goldfinger," "Thunderball," "You Only Live Twice" and "Diamonds Are Forever."
While Connery became an international star, becoming typecast proved to be a straitjacket from which he and every other Bond had trouble escaping. When Connery took a break from his cloak-and-dagger games, George Lazenby, an Australian-born male model, took on the role in 1969's "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."
At 30 years old, Lazenby became the youngest 007 ever. It's interesting to note that future Bonds Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were both considered for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," but Moore was committed to clandestine operations on TV's "The Saint," and Dalton, still in his early 20s, was considered too young.
Lazenby's work was highly regarded. But by the time the film premiered, he quit, thinking it'd be a steppingstone to better parts. He's since been featured in "General Hospital," several TV movies and commercials (along with a few James Bond spoofs), and probably regrets that decision.
Connery returned one more time before Moore became the campy '70s-era Bond, one who fought evildoers in a dapper tuxedo, backed by Paul McCartney and Carly Simon hits. The highly successful "Live and Let Die," the poorly received "Moonraker," the unfortunately titled "Octopussy" and "The Spy Who Loved Me" all are marked by flashier gadgets, more elaborate chase scenes, and Moore raising his eyebrow, often in self-parody.
With Moore still in the Bond business, Connery decided to take one more spin in the Aston Martin, appearing in 1983's "Never Say Never Again," a remake of "Thunderball." The film's strange title is supposedly based on a conversation between Connery and his wife, after he swore never to play Bond again.
Moral: Never Say "Never"
The movie emerged from a lawsuit, and was not part of the longtime franchise produced by MGM. As a result, it was Bond vs. Bond at the summer box office that year, with Moore's "Octopussy" out-grossing his rival.
When Connery returned to the role, he may have been decidedly more wrinkled, thicker at the waist and thinner on top. But few would argue that he aged gracefully, and became even more of a sex symbol as he grew older, proving that audiences would accept an older super agent, provided that the Bond girls he chased were still hotties.
But if age were a factor, it should be noted that Moore, now 78, is the older of the two, and he continued to play Bond until he was 57, bowing out with the help of Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill."
Brosnan was originally pegged to succeed Moore, but when he was unable to extricate himself from TV's "Remington Steele," Dalton stepped in for 1987's "The Living Daylights" -- the last Bond film bearing one of Fleming's original story titles -- and "License to Kill."
Especially in his second film, Dalton went for a grittier spy, more in keeping with Fleming's vision. But "License to Kill," grossing $34 million domestically, was one of the bigger box office disappointments.
The Metrosexual Bond
Brosnan assumed the role for 1995's "GoldenEye" and like a metrosexual man of his time, this new Bond's weight has been a minor issue. He was listed at 164 for his first outing, making him the slimmest Bond yet, but by 2002's "Die Another Day," he was listed at 211, making him decidedly less of an undercover operative, and the biggest Bond on record.
But with Brosnan's four Bond films grossing so well, nobody was complaining. The move to Craig is, in part, because "Casino Royale" will track the spy's early days.
So who's to say what macho image is right? Even icons change with the times. Santa Claus didn't always wear a red suit. Rudolph didn't join the sled team until 1939, when Chicago's Montgomery Ward department store commissioned the red-nosed reindeer story, which was later turned into a hit song for Gene Autry.
Likewise, Agent 007 is bound to go through some makeovers. When Fleming began writing the spy saga back in the 1950s, he admitted to pulling his character's name out of a news article about bird watching that quoted a certain Philadelphia ornithologist.
"It struck me that this name, brief, unromantic and yet very masculine, was just what I needed," Fleming later wrote.
Thus, 007 was granted his license to kill, even though the real James Bond was a naturalist who never shot anything more deadly than a camera.
Years later, Bond's wife, Mary, wrote Fleming with a tongue-in-cheek threat to sue him for defamation.
"I must confess that your husband has every reason to sue me," the author replied. "In return, I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming for any purpose he may think fit."