Why I want a licence to thrill as the next James Bond

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Spectre. The role may soon be up for grabs. Jonathan Olley / MGM / Columbia / EON Productions
Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Spectre. The role may soon be up for grabs. Jonathan Olley / MGM / Columbia / EON Productions

Like most actors, I’ve always cherished secret ambitions of playing the most iconic parts on stage and screen. “Destined for greatness, but pacing myself” has been my constant motto. Yet as I approach my 60th birthday, I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that some opportunities may be gone for ever.

Take Superman for instance. Once upon a time I rather fancied myself as the square-jawed superhero, but nowadays I get claustrophobic in telephone boxes. Or what about Tarzan? Maybe when I was younger, but swinging through all those jungle vines would play havoc with my hay fever. And as for Shakespeare’s lovelorn Romeo, I’d have trouble shinnying up to Juliet’s balcony and even if I did, I’d probably bring the whole edifice crashing down such is my middle-aged bulk.

Yet through it all I’ve always harboured the belief that if I could only manage what actor Walter Matthau described as the “50 lucky breaks” essential for showbiz success, I might one day get to play James Bond. And is the idea really so far-fetched? After all, the part is recast every few years, with no fewer than six Bonds since Sean Connery took on the role in 1962. As for being too old for the role, I like to point out to my many detractors (not least my scornful wife) that Roger Moore was 55 by the time he shot his last Bond film, Octopussy.

And then late last year, it seemed my chance had come, when Daniel Craig announced his intention to stand down after a decade in the part. When asked by a reporter if he might be persuaded to stay on for just one more, he replied: “I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists. We’re done. All I want to do is to move on.” Well that sounds like a resignation if ever I heard one.

But now comes the news that has broken my heart. Craig is said to be considering staying on for two more films. The reason for his about-turn? There are 150 million of them, because that’s the eye-watering sum – in dollars, equating to Dh550m – that has been dangled in his direction by the producers if he’ll sign on the dotted line.

It’s easy to see why Sony, which has the rights to the Bond franchise, would value his participation so highly. Craig’s casting in the role revived a brand that was looking decidedly tired, and all four of his films have performed strongly, with Spectre and Skyfall grossing $880m (Dh32.3 billion) and $1.1bn, respectively.

Craig has successfully reimagined Bond for the 21st century, transforming the suave, lush smoothie of old into a fitter, flintier, less forgiving persona, one whose street-fighter toughness is more in keeping with modern tastes. And with it he has captivated audiences of all ages and genders. As was once said of Frank Sinatra: “Every woman wants to know him, every man wants to be him.”

The word on the grapevine is that Sony wants to shoot two movies back to back, with Craig, who would be well over 50 by the end, then passing on the figurative baton to a younger actor, who is probably still at drama school and thus unaware of his fabulous destiny.

A fee of $75m per movie is, of course, a vast sum to pay any individual, and would be unsustainable were it not for the brand’s global popularity. But perhaps Sony already has one eye on the future, for there’s no guarantee that the studio will be able to hold on to the rights once its current contract expires. And if Sony is to cash in while it still can, Craig’s participation represents its best chance of doing so.

Of course by 2020, when the part will be free again, I’ll be approaching 65 – in which case I’d only be eligible to play the role if the world’s favourite secret agent wears elasticated trousers and those special comfy shoes with Velcro fastenings for men who find it difficult to bend down.

Still, why not? An ageing Bond for an ageing population?

“The names Bond, James – er ... Sorry, who am I again? My memory’s shot to pieces.”

Michael Simkins is an actor and writer in London

On Twitter: @michael_simkins

Published: September 10, 2016 04:00 AM

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