NEW YORK — The latest casualty of the war on terror: Pierce Brosnan. His four James Bond films were the most lucrative in the franchise’s 44-year history, yet the Broccoli family, which produces the 007 movies, decided to give the franchise a new star. “It’s because of where we are in the world,” explains producer Barbara Broccoli at Casino Royale’s Manhattan press junket. “We just got to the point where the last film had taken the fantasy aspect to the limit. Given the world situation, we felt we needed to do something more realistic and more serious, and this was the obvious thing for us to do. And we couldn’t have an actor who had played the role before playing the first mission. Brosnan was a wonderful Bond, but it wasn’t about him, it was about making a decision to change the direction of the series.”
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New 007 Daniel Craig had been best known for art-house films like Sylvia and Enduring Love, but he says the Casino script (rewritten by Oscar winner Paul Haggis) persuaded him to go mainstream. “I read it and I thought, ‘If you don’t do this, you’re going to regret not having a go at it. He’s one of the most iconic figures in movie history, and I’m an actor. If I don’t take on challenges like this, what’s the point? I so didn’t expect this to happen. I had other plans. But this came along, and Barbara Broccoli is very persuasive.” He adds that he received encouragement from an unlikely source: Pierce Brosnan. “He just said, ‘Go for it. You’ll have the ride of your life.’ ”
The challenge proved emotionally grueling, as Craig took a beating from British tabloids who felt the blond actor was miscast. “It affected me. But what can I do? I can’t answer it. I can’t get on the Internet sites and start . . . ” — here he made typing gestures and sniveling noises. “It was like, ‘See the fucking movie, and then you can say what you like about it.’ ”
Martin Campbell, who also shot Brosnan’s first 007 film, GoldenEye, contrasts the two Bonds. “Pierce is very much a traditional Bond. He was carrying the torch from the Connery days. You knew what you were getting, which made the whole franchise very successful. With Daniel, what you get is a much darker, more sober Bond. We see his weaknesses, his vulnerability. Much more reality. Daniel manages to get all those nuances from the book that Fleming intended.”
Craig is signed to do two additional Bond movies, in which he’ll learn more about the shadowy terrorist network he tangles with in Casino. Even Eva Green, who plays Bond love interest Vesper Lynd, found the plot confusing. “Barbara Broccoli helped me understand,” she says of the sequel, which will involve an old beau of Vesper’s who is mentioned in passing in Casino. “The plan is, the Algerian boyfriend is going to be the baddie in the second Bond, and we’ll understand [better].”
So the war on terror will continue to stymie Bond. And any real-world resonance to his hamfisted approach to Third World crises is not accidental, according to Campbell. “It could be an allegory for George W. Bush going into Iraq. Is George Bush a ‘blunt instrument’ [as M says of Bond]? Absolutely. Does he do it the wrong way? Absolutely. It’s fucked up. It’s sort of what Bond does at the beginning of the movie. By the end of the movie, he’s learned an awful lot. I have to say, by the end of two terms of George Bush’s presidency, he has learned nothing.”