Daniel Craig has reportedly turned down $150m to return as James Bond. How far will studios go to protect their franchises – and when will the bubble burst asks Film Critic Tony Earnshaw.
As financial inducements go, it could be a record-breaker…
Reports that Daniel Craig has been offered an eye-watering $150m to return as 007 should not be taken lightly.
Moreover if the offer genuinely is on the table for the 48-year-old star then it’s also a game changer for the marquee names of today’s movies.
The film industry was stunned last autumn when Craig appeared to suggest he had hung up his tuxedo for good.
Craig was weary. Asked by one interviewer about future Bond movies he said: “Now? I’d rather slash my wrists. No, not at the moment. Not at all. We’re done. All I want to do is move on.”
Then came an intriguing rider: “If I did another Bond movie it would only be for the money.”
Studio Sony and producers Eon seem to have taken him at his word.
In May he was reported to have turned down $68m to play James Bond in two new films. The $68m deal is believed to have included profit shares, endorsements and a co-producer credit (which he also received on Spectre).
The figure soon leapt up to $99m, then a cool $100m. Now it’s allegedly reached $150m (and may climb further) as studio chiefs seek to safeguard the longest-running film franchise in cinema history.
Such to-ing and fro-ing between actors, agents, producers and moguls is not new. Craig is merely the latest in a long line of stars to know his value. Fifty years ago the stars shone as brightly even if the power of the buck was lessened.
Richard Burton famously earned $7m (about $38m today) for one film – Where Eagles Dare – in the late Sixties and early Seventies based on a profit deal negotiated by his canny agent.
And, 20 years later, it was said that Jack Nicholson need never grace the studio floor again after pocketing an estimated $30m from his involvement in Tim Burton’s 1989 re-imaging of Batman. Much of the cash came via toys, product placement and marketing.
In 1997 I interviewed Harrison Ford in Rome. The movie: Random Hearts. The subject of his price tag came up. Ford was getting $20m a movie – about $30m in today’s money. Asked whether he was worth it the famously brusque star referred me to “the system of Hollywood”.
The 55-year-old added: “I wasn’t the first person to ask for that kind of price, but as long as they were gonna pay somebody else that price, one could construct the argument that they can pay me [the same]. I don’t set out to do that. It’s what my lawyer does. My pride is in my craft skill.”
The Craig/Bond situation is, however, a financial earthquake of immense proportions. There are those that suggest Craig is playing off his popularity with global audiences – his four 007 thrillers have taken in excess of $2bn at the box office – against the studio’s desperation to keep him.
And desperate it will be. James Bond may be resurrected almost as frequently as Doctor Who but he’s not invincible. The six-year gap between the departure of Timothy Dalton and the arrival of Pierce Brosnan stretched the loyalty of some fans to near breaking point.
Then Brosnan took the blame for 2002’s execrable Die Another Day, later claiming he was “kicked to the kerb” as 007’s owners sought a replacement.
Enter Daniel Craig four years later in Casino Royale. A new Bond in the post-Jason Bourne movie landscape meant a new look, a grittier feel and a sexier, more vulnerable man.
Craig can lay claim to that wholesale reinvention. And in cahoots with Sam Mendes, director of both Skyfall and Spectre, there is a partnership to savour.
Movie history tells us that James Bond is box office gold. Spectre cost a whopping $300m to make, took $70m in its opening weekend, rattled American cash registers to the tune of $200m and raked in a worldwide total of $879m
Given such mind-boggling numbers, paying a measly $150 million for a dead cert seems like a no-brainer.