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Box Office Rap Spectre and Daniel Craig’s Straight Talk

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Box Office Rap: Spectre and Daniel Craig’s Straight Talk

Columbia Pictures

In September 2014, Miles Teller gave an interview to W magazine explaining his frustrations with the Divergent franchise: “I didn’t have an interesting part, and I’d taken the film for business reasons.” But just a day after the story ran, Teller offered an explanation to the Los Angeles Times, claiming that “when he spoke of the ’business,’ he said he was referring to things like working with costar Shailene Woodley, playing a villain, and participating in a movie that would translate internationally.” Teller’s immediate rescind of his own words reveals one of Hollywood’s long-unspoken rules: If you’re making money, especially if it’s from a high-end studio movie, you don’t get to bitch about it.

Over the past month, Daniel Craig has been all too happy to shatter this rule in several interviews regarding his disinterest in continuing to play James Bond, a character he’s labeled a “misogynist,” admitted there’s “nothing” he’s good for on a day-to-day basis, and advised viewers to “not talk these films up as some kind of life-changing experience.” With Sam Mendes’s Spectre already released internationally and set to hit North American screens this Friday, it’s an unusual, even unprecedented, time for the actor to be biting the billion-dollar hand that feeds him.

In an April 2014 interview for the Telegraph, Pierce Brosnan said that he “was never good enough” as Bond and that watching his performances now gives him “a horrible feeling,” but these comments came more than a decade following his last Bond film. Moreover, Brosnan whips himself for not living up to the mythology. Conversely, Craig suggests the mythology has been flawed or, worse, problematic all along.

Craig’s refusal to play ball with press tours raises imperative questions about the roles of actors as cogs in the studio marketing machine and who the interviews actually serve. For example, when Craig told Time Out London that he’d rather slash his wrists than play Bond again, the response on the part of readers was largely negative, with commenters on Time Out’s Facebook page advising Craig to keep quiet and play the role, or, even stranger, claiming he’s out of touch and ungrateful for having received a large payday.

Beefs with actors badmouthing roles or franchises sound reasonable coming from studios, but less so from consumers. By suggesting Craig is somehow betraying 007 by speaking honestly about his perceptions, audiences implicitly demand to be continually lied to, as if the realization that one shouldn’t lose their shit over the release of a film is, well, a revelation that needs arriving at in the first place. That’s the end goal of franchise devotion for studios, where the bottom lines of czars correlate with the desires of citizens, desperate to suckle the franchise teat yet another time.

But while Craig’s comments are disruptive and irregular, they’re hardly revolutionary. In fact, they’ve been somewhat contradictory. In his October 7 interview with Time Out London, Craig stated, when asked if Bond was a dinosaur, that Bond has “to walk a thin line. I think it’s okay for him—not to be misogynistic, that’s too strong a word—to find women a little difficult, shall we say?” In an October 23 interview with the Red Bulletin, Craig seems to have changed his mind, saying, “Let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist. A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long.” Craig’s initial reluctance to call Bond a misogynist dissipates by the later interview, though the actor makes no mention of his earlier reluctance. Furthermore, Craig’s claim refutes his statement in an Esquire interview that “it’s not the job of an actor to judge your character.” As a matter of fact, Craig seems to have done just that.

Ultimately, as much as one might like to champion Craig’s honesty as a brutal blow to franchise logic, the sum result is less caustic than specious in its wavering convictions regarding Craig’s own role in propagating further iterations of a historically sexist character. Craig knows, perhaps even more than he lets on, that there’s an inherent friction between himself as an actor/artist and becoming the poster boy for a franchise notorious for its product placement and role in haute-couture fashion statements.

But Craig’s guilt doesn’t negate his choice to lock arms with the beast; making corporate art is perhaps a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless. The dilemma isn’t new. Brian de Palma famously said he intended to alternate between making a film for the system and one for himself. Craig, though, doesn’t need to shut up: He needs to speak out more. The sentiment of what he’s saying—refusing to bow before the Hollywood altar—is healthy and should become the norm for actor interviews, where sanity, perspective, and thoughtful discussion can prevail over a cultish mania for brand allegiances.

Spectre broke box-office records this past week across the world, almost doubling Skyfall’s haul in the U.K. alone over an identical period in 2012. North American numbers should see a spike as well, but nowhere near doubling the prior film’s $88 million opening weekend, which was already the largest in franchise history. A 25% uptick is more likely, landing Spectre a new franchise opening-weekend high with $110 million.