Yesterday, an interview with Mark Strong on Shortlist suggested his friend, Daniel Craig, had retired from playing James Bond. This story got picked up wide in mainstream outlets, because of course it’s possible Bond news. But if you look at Strong’s quotes, it’s clear this is not any official news. Shortlist was even careful to add “according to Mark Strong” to qualify the headline. Frankly, he’s being diplomatic and being careful not to get himself or his friend into any trouble.
Shortlist asked Strong if he’d like to appear in a Bond film in any capacity. Like any actor asked a speculative question, he left the door open for a potential employer to hire him. Since he is friends with Craig, he said he would have loved to act alongside Craig, and added, “I think he’s come to the end of his Bond time and so it’s probably never going to happen, but that would have always been great.”
Strong did not say, “Daniel told me he’s done.” With both of them busy promoting their own movies (Strong is in The Brothers Grimsby) it’s possible they haven’t even conversed directly since Spectre opened, unless they holidayed together. Either way, if were official, Strong wouldn’t be the one to commit his friend to another movie or leaving his bread and butter franchise.
When Craig was on the Spectre press rounds, he was purposefully coy about returning, even though his contract allows for one more film. As well he should be. He’s been the most profitable Bond ever. He should hold out for a great deal. So if the last comment Strong read in the press was Craig saying he thinks he’s done, he’s only providing a sort of postgame analysis from a fellow actor’s perspective.
“He has been [wonderful] and he’s loved it,” Strong continued. “But I think he feels like he’s mined it. He’s done what he wants with it. That point has come.” The only true inside information here is that it seems Craig has expressed to Strong he’s loved playing Bond.
Shortlist followed up asking Strong to convince Craig to come back and Strong played along. “Well, I will try, believe me, I will do my best,” Strong said. “But there are powers at work greater than us who make all these decisions.” So yes, Strong likes Craig’s Bond as much as all of us. He doesn’t actually have a say in what roles Craig will pick and answered the playful question in the most agreeable way possible.
If print media were still in charge, this would be a situation of “we’ll print a retraction on the back page tomorrow, but today we’re running the front page news.” No one wants to be the outlet who dropped the ball on the chance that Strong is right. I recall a similar situation of even more obviously wrong news being reported. In 2003, while promoting The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Sean Connery was asked if he would be in the fourth Indiana Jones movie. He was misinformed and mistakenly said that since Steven Spielberg wasn’t directing, he was not interested. The Connery quotes got picked up wide and there were reports that Spielberg was out. Of course, Spielberg did direct Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, though Connery still declined.
So I’m going on record to say I don’t think Craig has quit. When the official news is eventually released, one of us will point to our February 2016 and say we told you so.
There have been equally credible reports that he could sign for two more films, or that Craig’s wife, Rachel Weisz, is urging him to quit. Certainly, signing on to do a TV series wouldn’t preclude Bond working around his schedule. Remember, the first thing that has to be settled before Craig is re-hired is which studio will distribute future MGM movies? Sony is still in the game but Warner Brothers and Paramount are in talks too. Expect to hear distribution news before any casting confirmations on Bond 25.