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Monday, February 10, 2014

007 Feature #6 - "Casino Royale" featuring Craig...Daniel Craig

I can't believe that it has come to this, but we're in our final week of the special 007 feature that I have kept going in the Monday Matinee feature over the past six weeks.

Since the beginning of the year, we've had a lot of fun reminiscing about all things Bond.  And, of course, we've had a lot of fun comparing and contrasting the half dozen men who have been lucky enough to play the role of James Bond in film. 

Just to recap, here are the previous entries in the special 007 Monday Matinees - dating all the way back to January 6.

007 Feature #1 - Dr. No featuring Connery...Sean Connery
007 Feature #2 - On Her Majesty's Secret Service featuring Lazenby...George Lazenby

And, here we are.  The sixth and final entry in the series featuring the sixth - and as of 2014 current - actor to play James Bond.  And, the casting of this new Bond is an interesting story.

But to begin this story, why don't we take a trip back in time to 1995 - the same year that Pierce Brosnan debuted as James Bond in "GoldenEye".  When Brosnan was given the role, his contract was for four films in the James Bond series.  And over a period of seven years between 1995 and 2002, Brosnan honoured his commitment to those films.  Many people suspected that because Brosnan's films did quite well at the box office that he would extend his contract.

However, Brosnan was also quite the observant fellow, and he noted that the longer Roger Moore stayed in the role of James Bond, the worse the movies got.  By the time Roger Moore retired as Bond in 1985, he was already pushing sixty, and 1985's "A View To A Kill" was considered one of the worst films of the entire Bond franchise from a financial standpoint.

So with Pierce Brosnan turning fifty years old himself in 2003, he decided to leave the franchise after 2002's "Die Another Day" because he didn't want to have the same thing happen to him as it did with Roger Moore.  Brosnan's resignation from the Bond series was made official in February 2004.  Shortly after that, the casting process began for the next movie in the Eon Production series.

And, according to Bond producer Michael G. Wilson, there were a long list of actors just waiting to take Brosnan's place.  It is rumoured that Croatian actor Goran Visnjic was one of the top contenders for the role, and certainly he does have the right look for James Bond.  Unfortunately, he didn't have the right voice, as his heavy Croatian accent prevented him from mimicking a proper British accent.

Sam Worthington was considered as well, but quickly passed over.  And Henry Cavill was only twenty-two when he auditioned for the part of James Bond - which was WAY too young for the role.

(Keep in mind that Connery and Lazenby tied for the youngest James Bond ever - as both of them were thirty when they filmed their first films.)

But then a new name surfaced that had film producers intrigued.  A name that was linked to other projects such as "I Dreamed Of Africa", "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider", "Road To Perdition", and "The Jacket".  A casting choice that was not without controversy.

Yes, the casting choice of Daniel Craig as Bond was quite a story.  Believe it or not, Craig had been offered the role of James Bond in 2004 - the same year that Brosnan officially handed in his resignation.  And, believe it or not, Craig refused at first.  He had felt as though the Bond formula had gotten quite stale and stagnant, and he believed that a typical Bond film followed the same exact formula which did not interest him at all.

However, Craig changed his tune when he was given the script for Eon's twenty-first film in the series.  When he read the script, he instantly took on the role, and in October 2005, the official announcement was made that Daniel Craig would become the sixth actor to play Bond.

And, boy oh boy were people initially angry about it.  For one, the previous actors were all suave, debonair, and dark-haired.  This Bond was blonde!  And, apparently something as simple as a different hair colour was enough to make people furious.  Many people took to the Internet and voiced their displeasure - even creating a website entitled "Daniel Craig is NOT Bond".  Can you believe that?  Even British publication "The Daily Mirror" ran a piece with the headline "The Name's Bland - James Bland".


Despite all of these detractors and people planning on boycotting any Bond films with Daniel Craig in the lead role, I decided to give him a shot.  And, upon retrospect, I'm really glad I did.  Not only did I feel that Craig did the role justice, but after watching him as Bond, he is easily ranked as my second favourite Bond of all time (admittedly, nobody can touch Sean Connery in Bond perfection, but Craig came close).

So, as of 2014, Daniel Craig is still the current Bond.  And so far, he has made three films in the series.  There was 2006's "Casino Royale", 2008's "Quantum of Solace", and 2012's "Skyfall".  And, believe me when I tell you that I had a tough task in choosing which film I was going to spotlight in this final Bond feature.  All three of the films are stunning - two of them ending up in my list of my own personal favourite top 10 Bond films.

I eliminated "Quantum of Solace" right away - not because it was a bad film (it most certainly wasn't), but because it's the one film of Craig's three that I liked the least.  And "Skyfall" would have been a decent choice as well.  Adele did win an Academy Award for the theme song, and as of 2014, it is the highest grossing Bond film, the second highest grossing film of 2012, and the eighth highest grossing film of all-time. 

But, there's a couple of reasons why I decided to choose 2006's "Casino Royale" as the film to conclude this look back on the history of 007.

Firstly, the symbolism (whether it be intentional or not) was glaring.  The film is called "Casino Royale" (and much of the movie does take place in a casino), and one of the games that is played in casinos is "Blackjack" (sometimes called Twenty-One).  And, wouldn't you know it?  This film happens to be #21 in the series!  Coincidence?  I think not.

And, secondly, this film marked a little bit of a reboot of the series, with the film being all about how James Bond's career as a MI6 agent began.  This, despite the fact that Judi Dench reprises her role as "M" from her time in the Brosnan series of films.  Ah well, it's James Bond.  I suppose we can tweak the continuity just a smidgen...especially when you consider that James Bond should really be in his eighties had he aged chronologically.

Now, I hear some of you saying - wait a minute.  Wasn't there already a Bond film called "Casino Royale" that was released sometime in the 1960s?

Well, yes...and no.

It is true that a movie called "Casino Royale" was released in 1967, with Charles K. Feldman as producer and David Niven as "Bond".  And, it is also true that Feldman had gone to Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to have the movie made as part of the Eon Productions series of films.  After all, Feldman did hold the movie rights to Ian Fleming's "Casino Royale".  The problem was that Feldman couldn't reach an agreement with Broccoli/Saltzman, and as a result, he opted to turn "Casino Royale" into a sort of parody of the previous Bond films - with disasterous results.

Flash forward nearly forty years, and "Casino Royale" was given a new lease on well as a more serious plot line with Daniel Craig slipping into Bond's familiar black tuxedo.

Now, just exactly what that plot is...I cannot say.  Much.  After all, this is a Monday Matinee.  And, if you've followed along with this blog for the last two and a half years, you know that I never reveal movie endings on Monday Matinees.  But, just so you have a little bit of a Cliff's Notes version, I'll share some tidbits.

Firstly, don't be alarmed by the fact that the first few minutes of the film are in black and white.  It's supposed to be this way.  And, to be honest with you, the cinematography is excellent in that scene.  Really sets the mood for the rest of the film (which is in colour, I should note).

Secondly, I'm really enjoying the casting choice of Eva Green as the Bond girl in this film - Vesper Lynd.  She is probably one of the better casting choices for Bond girls in recent years, and she certainly can hold her own in this movie.  But without spoiling it for you, let's just say that Bond girls only appear in one film and one film only...and her role at the end of the film is...well, let's just say that she goes out fighting.

Thirdly, the primary antagonist is played by Mads Mikkelsen - who goes under the alias of "Le Chiffre".  For those of you who are fluent in French, you know that the word "chiffre" in English means number.  And, in the film, "Le Chiffre" is a banker, which means that he is involved in a - pardon the pun - number of activities that have to do with finances...which most often than not are illegal in nature.  He also uses his gift of numbers to manipulate poker games to his advantage.  And, needless to say, there is a prerequisite card game or two featuring Le Chiffre and Bond.

Fourthly, keep an eye out on actor Giancarlo Giannini, who plays the role of Rene Mathis.  His character is confusing.  Very confusing.

And, finally, for the female readers of this blog, this scene is sure to give you heart palpitations.  Easily one of the most recognizable scenes in recent Bond films for sure.

And now, let's get to the backstage gossip of "Casino Royale"!

1 - Apparently Vesper Lynd was based off of a real-life World War II resistance fighter named Christine Granville.  Allegedly, Granville and James Bond creator Ian Fleming had a brief affair!

2 - This was the very first Bond film since 1962's "Dr. No" that did NOT feature any dancing nude women in the opening!  - mind you, the credits that DID feature them were silhouetted!

3 - There's a suit that Daniel Craig wears towards the end of the film.  It is actually an exact replica of the suit that Sean Connery wore in "Goldfinger" - the only difference being the colour.

4 - If you cringed during the scene in which Bond crashes an Aston Martin DBS car, you have every reason to.  In order to get that scene right, three Aston Martin cars were completely destroyed.  Total cost?  Almost one million dollars alone!

5 - Daniel Craig gained 20 pounds of muscle in preparation for this role.

6 - Other actors up for consideration of the role of James Bond included Alex O'Loughlin, Julian McMahon, and Gerard Butler.

7 - Audrey Tautou of "Amelie" fame was almost given the role of Vesper Lynd in the movie (which admittedly would have been a good casting choice as well), but she decided to film "The DaVinci Code" with Tom Hanks instead.

8 - Daniel Craig is the first person to play Bond who is younger than the film series.  The Bond film series started in 1962.  Craig wasn't born until 1968.

9 - The first Bond film not to feature Miss Moneypenny in any capacity.  She would not return until 2012's "Skyfall", in which she was portrayed by Naomie Harris.

10 - This film also didn't have a "Q" - the first Bond film to have no "Q" since "Live and Let Die".

11 - Had Pierce Brosnan returned to film "Casino Royale", it would have cost producers an estimated $30 million!

12 - The first James Bond film to be based on a full Ian Fleming novel since 1979's "Moonraker".

13 - About a week after filming wrapped up on "Casino Royale", the 007 Stage burned down in July 2006 - the second time that a fire had gutted the area.  The first fire happened just before "A View To A Kill" began production.

14 - It took six weeks to film the opening parkour scene.

15 - Would you like to know the real identity of "M"'s secret affair - a.k.a. the naked guy in bed with her during one scene?  That would be the film's transport co-ordinator.

16 - Would you believe that Daniel Craig was actually offered the chance to buy a bootlegged copy of "Casino Royale" in Beijing just two days after the film's November 2006 premiere?  Unbelievable!

17 - "Casino Royale" reportedly made a huge impact on one former Bond actor.  Roger Moore loved it so much that he bought a copy on DVD as soon as it became available!

18 - Daniel Craig performed a lot of his own stunts in the film...which lead to some very painful injuries.  Watch the film, and you'll understand what I mean.

19 - The film's theme song was recorded by Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell - the first male artist to sing a Bond theme since a-ha recorded 1987's "The Living Daylights".

20 - When Barbara Broccoli called Daniel Craig to let him know that he had won the part of James Bond, he was grocery shopping.  He subsequently abandoned his cart full of groceries and promptly celebrated the good news with a round of martinis...presumably shaken, not stirred.

21 - This film is the longest running film of the entire Bond series - running at a length of 144 minutes.

And, that's a wrap!  I hope you enjoyed this special six-part series of James Bond movies.  I will forever be a huge fan of all things Bond, and I will always hold a special place in my heart (and DVD collection) for the many different 007 films in the series.

So, in the grand scheme of things...what does my list of Bond actors look like from most liked to least liked?  And, what is my infamous Top 10 list of all-time favourite Bond movies?

Well, I'll share my list...and feel free to share yours. favourite Bond actors.  From best to least best. 

1 - Connery...Sean Connery
2 - Craig...Daniel Craig
3 - Moore...Roger Moore
4 - Brosnan...Pierce Brosnan
5 - Lazenby...George Lazenby
6 - Dalton...Timothy Dalton

(NOTE:  Lazenby would have surpassed Brosnan had he made more movies...and although I have developed a new appreciation for Timothy Dalton as Bond, he still remains at the bottom of my list.)

And, Top 10 list of Bond movies.  #1 shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but my list contains at least one film from the top four Bonds, anyway.

1 - DR. NO

Thanks for being a part of this special series of Monday Matinees!  And to leave you, one final video.

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