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."
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.