Over Labor Day weekend, the news rippled across movie Twitter with the force of a Blofeld dirty bomb: Daniel Craig had allegedly been offered $150 million to reprise his role as James Bond in two back-to-back installments of the blockbuster spy serial.
According to the initial report by Radar, the films’ co-distributor Sony is “desperate” to retain the British actor’s services, and “the idea of losing him at such a crucial time in the franchise isn’t an option as far as studio honchos are concerned.”
Implicitly, within this scenario, Craig’s potential nine-figure payday is understood as surge pricing by a recalcitrant star—one who famously remarked in 2015 that he would “rather break this glass and slash my wrists” than utter the words, “Bond, James Bond” onscreen again.
But while the idea of Craig silencing his inner Dr. No to accept one of the most enormous actorly cash-grabs in Hollywood history has already seized the public imagination, sources with knowledge of the franchise’s casting decisions, who spoke on background, tell Vanity Fair the $150 million offer is as fictional as Francisco Scaramanga’s third nipple.
Craig, 48, has been offered no such deal, sources say, and negotiations to pin down who will portray 007 in upcoming Bond installments are still ongoing. (Sony and MGM, the secret agent franchise’s co-distributor, declined comment.)
In other words, British bookmakers handicapping the odds for James Norton, Idris Elba, Jamie Bell, Poldark star Aidan Turner, Damian Lewis, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ Jack Huston, Luke Evans, Henry Cavill, Tom Hardy, and (yes!) Gillian Anderson as the next 007 need not close the betting on Craig’s competition anytime soon.
Problem A with RadarOnline’s Sept. 3 story: the decision to pay Craig such an astronomical fee would not unilaterally fall to Sony—which spearheaded the wide-release roll-out of the last four Double-0 films—even if the studio re-ups its distribution rights for the franchise, which expired with the release of Spectre.
And that’s a big if at a moment when other major studios—Disney, Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros. among them—have been stalking the rights to the Bond franchise even before they reach the auction block.
The final decision about who inhabits the tuxedo of Her Majesty’s favorite secret servant ultimately falls to two entities: Eon Productions, the Bond licensing company established by Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Henry Saltzman—which has produced every official installment since 1962—and MGM, the series’ distribution home for half a century. (Eon did not respond to a request for comment from Vanity Fair.)
Which leads us to Problem B: Craig’s “slash my wrists” comment didn’t exactly endear him to MGM’s chief executive and chairman Gary Barber who, Vanity Fair has learned, personally contacted the actor last year to express his frustration in no uncertain terms. (An email to Craig's publicist was not immediately returned.)
“Gary hit the ceiling when he read the story,” says a source with knowledge of the situation, who declined to be identified because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. “He called up Daniel to yell at him. He was furious.”
Since appearing in 2006’s Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, the $1.1 billion-grossing Skyfall, and last year’s Spectre, Craig has only completed four of his contractually obliged five films to date. But the source added that it would be simple enough for Craig to break his contract if the studios felt his antipathy continuing as 007 presented an insurmountable hive of negative buzz.
Problem C: in the same Time Out London Q&A that put the actor’s license to kill in doubt, Craig essentially stifled any possibility of shooting two consecutive films, as Radar reported he would. In recent years, principle photography on a single Bond blockbuster has stretched beyond six months—and on Spectre, the actor famously tore his meniscus filming a knock-down-drag-out fight sequence.
“[At the studio there was a real keenness to get it done as soon as possible,” Craig said last fall.
“In fact, there was a conversation at one point that went: ‘Let’s film two movies back to back.’ I just went: ‘You’re out of your fucking minds.’ In the nicest possible way. They’re just too big.”
Meanwhile, conjecture continues to swirl around the “surprise” next moves of Eon’s franchise doyenne, producer Barbara Broccoli. She and she alone, as Skyfall and Spectre director Sam Mendes attested earlier this year, “chooses who’s going to be the next Bond: end of story.”
According to a Mirror UK report last month, Broccoli became “impressed” with classically trained Method actor Tom Hughes who plays an MI5 operative in the BBC thriller Cold War thriller The Game and he is now “tipped” to portray Bond.
As for Tom Hiddleston as the odds-on favorite to replace Craig? Forget it says Frederick Forsyth, author of the 1971 bestseller The Day of the Jackal. In a recent interview with The Mail on Sunday, he cited an anonymous source who told him the producer had cooled on the Night Manager star. “I understand Barbara Broccoli is no way gong to pick Hiddleston,” Forsyth said. “No way.”