In the violent world of James Bond, you may only live twice. But even if you play Agent 007 just once (shout out to George Lazenby!), like a diamond, you are James Bond forever.
That's not always easily or quickly embraced by some of the actors who have taken a dizzying spin behind the wheel of the latest Aston Martin. Sean Connery, the first and greatest Bond, publicly ended his ambivalence about his signature role the moment he jet-packed his way onto "Late Show with David Letterman" in 1993, a decade after his final Bond comeback in “Never Say Never Again.”
Daniel Craig appears a long way from reaching that stage of acceptance (or sense of humor), given recent statements that he's tired of playing Ian Fleming's British super spy and perhaps signaling he’s not coming back for a fifth go (or, as he put it to TimeOut London: "I'd rather break this glass and slash my wrists" than make another Bond flick “at the moment”).
So "Spectre" opens Friday under a shadow: Craig's possible swan song gives us a lame-duck James Bond.
While Craig's remarks could be seen as a public relations nightmare, they spurred chatter – some steeped in controversy – about candidates who could slip into Bond’s tux (among the names bandied: Idris Elba, Damian Lewis, Michael Fassbender – though Craig professes not to "give a f---" who replaces him).
Perhaps more significantly, the blunt comments suggest Craig might be more like his Bond than he'd like to admit. His rhetoric is in sync with the raw, brutish air he huffed on screen in his stark, brooding incarnation as Britain’s greatest screen hero (or at least the UK’s greatest adult hero, Harry Potter fans).
Craig became a Bond for his times by adding a layer or two to an anachronism of a character. His Bond is a more world-weary model than the suave likes of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Craig's Bond is still far from a feminist, but has become somewhat less sexist in dealing with his superior M, played by a tough-talking Judi Dench in the last three films. In “Spectre,” he has an age-appropriate love interest in 51-year-old Monica Bellucci, more a Bond Woman than a Bond Girl.
Meanwhile, there’s been no skimping the thrills in top-notch post-Connery fare like 2012's "Skyfall."
Craig can play Dr. No all he wants on more movies, but he's done a strong enough job in the role over the last decade that he'll never shake the Bond allure he’s earned. Maybe he’ll realize someday that's a fate not worth mounting an elaborate Bond-like escape sequence over.
Check out a preview of what could be Daniel Craig’s Bond bye-bye as "Spectre" looms.
Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.