James Bond doesn't die; he just changes faces. That's the way it's been since the Bond franchise first changed hands with On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969, and so when the time came for Daniel Craig to end his tenure as the ultimate gentleman spy, we expected much of the same.
What we got, with No Time to Die, was something else entirely. For the first time on the big screen, we watched a Bond get killed off in dramatic, sacrificial fashion to mark the end of an actor's tenure as the character. Instead of simply bowing out at the end of his last adventure and passing the baton to the next Bond, Craig went out in a fiery blaze of glory, and according to the actor himself, there's a very important reason for that break with tradition.
“Two things, one for myself and one for the franchise,” Craig told The Los Angeles Times in an interview to promote Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. “One, for the franchise, was that resets start again, which [the franchise] did with me. And I was like, ‘Well, you need to reset again.’ So let’s kill my character off and go find another Bond and go find another story. Start at [age] 23, start at 25, start at 30."
As Craig noted, the franchise did offer something of a fresh start for him with Casino Royale back in 2006, offering a story that very deliberately showed us a younger, greener Bond who was just earning his double-0 status with MI6 and beginning to build a reputation as an operative. That said, the film achieved that without having killed off the previous Bond, Pierce Brosnan. In that sense, the death scene in No Time to Die was about more than clearing the table for another actor. It was about Craig making the cleanest possible break from the franchise that defined the last 15 years of his life.
“The other was so that I could move on. I don’t want to go back,” Craig said. “I suppose I should be so lucky if they were to ask me back, but the fact is I need to move on from it. The sacrifice that he makes in the movie was for love and there’s no greater sacrifice. So it seemed like a good thing to end on.”
Now Craig has indeed moved on, returning as detective Benoit Blanc for Glass Onion, doing Macbeth on Broadway, and working on other projects that he's not necessarily ready to discuss just yet (though Knives Out creator Rian Johnson is working on a third Blanc mystery). Looking back on Bond, he seems satisfied with the way he departed the franchise, even if he is still kicking himself just a little bit for spending too much talking about one aspect of making the films that, he feels, may have stolen the spotlight from other achievements.
“It’s my fault because I kind of didn’t shut up about the fact that I had all these injuries. I’m pissed off at myself that I ever even spoke about them,” Craig said. “I put way more work into the creative side of those movies than I did into the physical side of those movies. The physical side of the movies was just the job. I had to do it. I trained, learned the fights, that’s kind of my brain not working. The rest of it, the look, the feel, the kind of the temperature of the movies, getting Sam Mendes in to direct Skyfall, that’s where the hard work was. Going to the gym is hard work, but it’s not really brain hard work.”
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is in theaters Nov. 23 and on Netflix Dec. 23.
Looking for more action flicks? Check out Jurassic World Dominion, Midway, Lucy, X-Men: First Class, the Fast & Furious saga and more streaming now on Peacock.