pellbinding news for fans of a certain stripe of actor interview: Daniel Craig is returning to the role of James Bond. Although his participation has not been confirmed, the 2019 film itself has been formally announced, and the New York Times reports Craig’s return is already a done deal.
Clearly, this forces a slight reordering of Daniel’s least desirable outcomes, as voiced two years ago during the promotion for the most recent outing for the franchise, Spectre. Back then, he explained he would rather “break this glass and slash my wrists” than play Bond again. “If I did it,” he added, “it would only be for the money.”
Atrocious to find him now forced into that scenario. What is the Actors’ Benevolent Fund even doing? Anyone? Surely there should be a basic safety net to prevent performers from feeling they have no choice but to spend months having it off in Aston Martins in the cinematic version of Condé Nast Traveller magazine?
That the acting game is the hardest game in the world is an axiom disputed only by the more narcissistic reaches of the sub-Saharan desert salt-mining community. But what is the hardest game within the game of acting? What is the profession’s north face, its Stalingrad, its final frontier?
I tell you what it is: the role of James Bond. The toll of this role is simply unimaginable to those who have not inhabited it. As you’ll know, earlier this year we lost former 007 Roger Moore, one of the last surviving links with the reality of raising your eyebrow at a snake with the words “hiss off” (God, I loved him). So living memory is dwindling. In terms of comparably harrowing experiences, we’d perhaps have to look to Donald Trump, who memorably described his struggle to shag around remorselessly and not pick up STDs as “my personal Vietnam”.
As for the nature of the struggle of being Bond, it is never made definitively clear. From what I can make out, it is mostly workout based. “I work myself to death,” Craig explained last time around. “It’s getting harder. But such is life.”
Obviously, this is one of the most realistic aspects of the role. When you spend that many hours a day staying ripped, there are really only two career options for you: international intelligence agent or market-town stripper. And I don’t know about you, but I want my country covertly defended by a guy who spends as long in the gym as someone with the stage name Cherokee.
When a Bond film is out, even the trainers to the star find themselves on the interview circuit. “As an ex-military man,” explained his trainer on Spectre, “I think I was uniquely placed to understand the discipline, mental strength and stamina required in order to train to become the ultimate cinema super spy, James Bond.” And he wasn’t the only man connected to the movie to bestow the gym bunny equivalent of a purple heart on Daniel.
“He went into a six-month physical thing that really transformed his body,” explained the producer, Michael G Wilson. “I’ve never seen anything like it. He must have added, I don’t know, 10 inches to his thighs and the whole chest. He actually transformed himself. And he kept at it. And he eats this scientifically controlled diet all the time, and he goes to bed at nine o’clock at night when he’s making the movies. He’s like a monk.”
Damn straight. A monk. A soldier monk. A soldier monk on tens of millions of dollars. This view of the deployment is certainly one shared by Tom Cruise’s lawyer, who once decreed that Tom being on a movie set was akin to doing a tour of Afghanistan. “That’s what it feels like,” agreed Cruise himself, “and certainly, on this last movie, it was brutal. It was brutal.”
It’s a sentiment likely to ring true with all those soldiers who spent Helmand summers declining to come out of their Winnebagos on the basis that they weren’t really feeling it that morning. Guys, you’re delaying shooting – of the Taliban! I have the perfect light for your leg to get blown off by an IED, and an entire regiment sitting around waiting to shout “Action!” to their helmet-cams. If you’re not happy with the fruit basket, we can talk.
Still, if you weren’t happy with that analogy, Cruise had another. “A sprinter for the Olympics, they only have to run two races a day,” he explained. “When I’m shooting, I could potentially have to run 30, 40 races a day, day after day.”
If only there were some way to escape the cycle of abuse. Perhaps one day. In the meantime, until we do more for our action franchise veterans, thanking them for their service feels wholly inadequate.