by Alice RITCHIE
Daniel Craig, whose final outing as 007 was unveiled on Thursday, is the longest-serving James Bond — but perhaps not always the most enthusiastic.
The 51-year-old’s fifth movie as the British super spy is due for release early next year, 14 years after 2006’s “Casino Royale”.
There were initially doubts about the casting of the British actor — not least the fact he was blond.
But he brought both a new ruthlessness and an emotional vulnerability to the character that audiences have warmed to — and have proved box office gold.
For a while, it seemed that 2015’s “Spectre” would be his last outing as Ian Fleming’s super cool intelligence agent.
Exhausted by a gruelling shoot, he said he would “rather slash my wrists” than be Bond again.
The actor, who has required surgery on his shoulder and knees over the years due to injuries sustained by doing his own stunts, later said that he had just “needed a break”.
But his comments revealed at least an ambivalence about the all-consuming role from a man who guards his privacy closely.
When he was first named in 2005 to succeed Pierce Brosnan as the sixth incarnation of Bond, many questioned whether the blond-haired, blue-eyed, gym-sculpted Craig was the right man for the job.
Even Sam Mendes, the director of “Spectre” who also worked with Craig on 2002’s “Road To Perdition”, was sceptical.
“I thought Bond had become the opposite of what Daniel is — a slightly disengaged, urbane, jokey, eyebrow-raising, you know, a pastiche in a way,” he told the BBC.
But the intensity Craig brings to the part has allowed the multi-million dollar franchise to be rebooted with a harder, more serious edge.
The late Roger Moore, who played Bond seven times between 1973 and 1985, called Craig the best Bond ever.
He told Time magazine that his performances had “guaranteed Bond another 50 years of life”.
‘I’m not James Bond’
Despite the fame that comes with such a huge film role, Craig likes to keep his private life private.
He is married to Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz, star of “The Constant Gardener” and “The Favourite”, with whom he has a daughter.
But their wedding in 2011 was attended by just four guests, including his daughter from a previous marriage, and her son with her ex-partner.
Born in 1968 in Chester, northwest England, to a pub landlord father and art teacher mother, Craig started acting at an early age.
He attended drama school in London and had a string of roles in television, art house cinema and on stage before breaking through in Hollywood with films like 2001’s “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”.
Craig has always insisted his own personality is a long way from the tuxedo-wearing, Martini-drinking Bond.
In real life, he prefers jeans, a T-shirt and a cold beer in the pub.
Shortly after the birth of his daughter with Weisz, he was pictured carrying her in a sling on his front, looking tired and unshaven.
British TV host Piers Morgan lashed out at the image, with the Twitter hashtag #emasculatedBond, but his comments sparked a backlash on social media.
Between Bond films, Craig has chosen roles far removed from the suave spy, including an acclaimed 2013 Broadway production of Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” with Weisz.
“I’m not James Bond,” he once told Esquire magazine. “I’m not particularly brave, I’m not particularly cool-headed.”
He added: “The day I can walk into a pub and someone goes, ‘Oh, there’s Daniel Craig’ and then just leaves me alone, that’ll be great.”
© Agence France-Presse