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Blond Bond stirred by criticism, but not shaken

‘I’ve been trying to give 110 percent,’ says new 007 Daniel Craig
/ Source: Reuters

Is the next James Bond too blond for Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Stricken by heat rash? Licensed to kill but not licensed to drive the famous stick-shift Aston Martin sports car?

Hounded by mounting criticism — even a threatened boycott — for picking a blond actor to play the part of the world’s most famous dark-haired spy, the makers of the next James Bond movie “Casino Royale” this week assured 007 fans that ruggedly handsome Englishman Daniel Craig will be everything they have come to expect, and perhaps more.

Yes, Craig did lose or chip a tooth during filming in Prague, but it did not stop production, the actor told reporters. No, he did not suffer from excruciating heat rash in the Bahamas. And of course, an Englishman is perfectly capable of driving a manual gear car.

“You go mad if you believe any of [the criticism],” Craig, 38, told reporters Wednesday after distributor Sony Pictures Entertainment Co. and producers EON Productions invited journalists to the Bahamas movie set to counter some of the Internet and newspaper nattering.

“You can’t believe the good stuff. You can’t believe the bad stuff. You kind of just take it in. But I’m focused on making this film.”

Craig, whose character famously likes his vodka martini shaken, not stirred, acknowledged the criticism had heightened the pressure on him.

“I’ve been trying to give 110 percent from the beginning and maybe after [the criticism], I was trying to give 115 percent,” he said. “But I mean, I’m giving everything I can.”

Casino Royale goes back to Bond’s roots, when he makes his first two assassinations and earns the 00 status that gives him a license to kill. Published in 1953, it was the first book in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.

Bond franchiseIt was the need for a fresh start and a younger face that made the film makers dump Pierce Brosnan, the most successful 007 to date, said producer Barbara Broccoli, whose family owns EON Productions and the Bond movie franchise.

The stakes in gambling on an untested James Bond are huge. The last Bond movie, 2002’s “Die Another Day,” with Brosnan and actress Halle Berry, grossed more than $425 million in worldwide ticket sales.

In all, the 20 official Bond movies including the first, ”Dr. No” starring Sean Connery that was released in 1962, have grossed almost $4 billion.

At the same time, two of the five actors who have played the part so far — Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby — are barely remembered by mainstream cinemagoers.

Broccoli and casting director Debbie McWilliams said Craig had been their choice the minute they started the search.

“Once we started looking for someone, I really thought that Daniel would be the perfect guy and I think everybody will agree once they see the movie,” Broccoli said. “I think he’s the right man for the job.”

But the choice has been a tough sell.

A new Web site,, has even called on die-hard 007 fans to boycott the movie when it’s released in November. Other sites have run exposes of set mishaps.

“The truth is if you don’t get bruised doing Bond, you’re not doing it properly,” Craig said.

But like all publicity, even the criticism of Craig has a plus side.

“People are, thank goodness, in a way still incredibly interested,” said casting director McWilliams. “Virtually a day doesn’t go by where we don’t read something about James Bond in a newspaper and that can only be good for us I think.”