AS the longest-serving James Bond with 15 years under his belt, Daniel Craig insists nothing will persuade him to hold on to his licence to kill.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun in his final interview as 007, the actor is emphatic when asked if he would consider one more movie after No Time To Die.
“NO!” he practically shouts, with a chuckle in his voice, before adding one more time, “No.”
The 53-year-old star won’t be copying the late Sir Sean Connery, who quit the role after 1967’s You Only Live Twice, saying he was bored and poorly paid, before returning four years later in Diamonds Are Forever.
He then put on the tuxedo again in 1983 for Never Say Never Again.
“This is my last Bond,” Daniel says, even though he is working with four Bond girls on his fifth outing as the charming superspy.
Not only does French actress Lea Seydoux return as Bond’s lover Madeleine Swann, and Naomie Harris as agent Moneypenny, the action hero also has Cuban star Ana de Armas as CIA agent Paloma and breakout London talent Lashana Lynch as agent Nomi for company.
Those two newcomers to the blockbuster series are going to be more than able to hold their own with Bond, Daniel reveals.
Daniel had worked with Ana in the 2019 whodunnit Knives Out before she was hired as the mysterious Paloma.
Understandably, when director Cary Fukunaga suggested she join the cast, Daniel was keen. The actor says: “Cary came to me and asked, ‘What do you think of Ana?’ and I said, ‘Brilliant’. She is very funny.”
The final trailer for No Time To Die hints very strongly that Bond is no longer 007 in the new story and that Lashana’s character Nomi has been given the famous code number after his retirement.
But after 15 years of starring in a series, which likes to keep its biggest plot lines top secret, Daniel has learned not to crack under pressure when questioned about what fans will get to see.
So when I attempt to slip through a question about “selecting Lashana as the new 007” Daniel is not falling for it.
He smiles: “Is she the new 007?” before the film’s producer, Barbara Broccoli, chips in, “She’s the new 00, Grant.”
Then Daniel adds, laughing: “I can see what you did there, mate — terrible f***ing try.”
Fair enough. It seems I will have to settle on his assessment that Lashana “is a fabulous double 0”.
But if it is correct that Nomi is 007 in No Time To Die, it should put an end to all the sniping about the long- running series being too white and male.
Even so, Daniel doesn’t think that race and gender is what casting Lashana is about, and reckons everyone should just go and watch the film to get the issue cleared up.
Then he adds: “She is amazing in the film and the character she plays is amazing.” When Daniel was hired to replace Pierce Brosnan back in 2006, it was part of an attempt to update the secret agent to suit modern times.
Barbara, whose father Cubby Broccoli first brought novelist Ian Fleming’s character to the big screen in 1962 in Dr No, wanted to make the notorious ladies’ man less sexist and more “humane”.
No Time To Die’s director Cary has criticised one scene from the Connery films in which he says Bond essentially “rapes a woman” by coercing her into sex.
When I ask about this, Barbara, who is sitting alongside Daniel, interjects: “The books were written in the Fifties, the films were made in the Sixties — we’ve all moved on. Thank God.”
In a forthcoming Apple TV documentary, Being Bond, Daniel reveals he opposed a plan for Casino Royale co-star Eva Green to be wearing just her underwear in a shower scene. He says: “I haven’t ever actively tried to update Bond but I have tried to make it as relevant as possible.
“There are lots of contradictions and those contradictions are interesting and I think that’s what makes it an interesting movie.
“I think we’ve tried to make the movies about today and with this character who’s been around for 60 years — that’s always been our aim.”
As it turned out, Daniel’s decision for both Eva’s Vesper Lynd and Bond to do the shower scene together fully clothed proved to be a good one because it is so memorable.
Whoever is signed up as the new Bond, Daniel will be in the front row to watch his successor’s debut.
He says: “Oh God, yeah, I will be front and centre when the next person comes along.” But if bookies’ favourites Tom Hardy and Bridgerton star Rege-Jean Page were hoping for any sage advice, they are out of luck.
To the next Bond, Daniel simply says: “Enjoy yourself, have a wonderful time, make sure you do the best job you can — that’s really it.”
That might sound as if the Cheshire-born actor is not that connected to the role.
But anyone seeing the clip of him giving his farewell speech after his final Bond scene will know it isn’t true.
Daniel lets his tough-guy exterior drop for a moment as he tries his best not to break down in tears.
He recalls: “Definitely, I was choking up. I was trying not to, but literally I had finished my last shot and everybody came to the set.”
By the time his fifth Bond film comes out, he will have spent 5,830 days in the job, and it clearly means a lot to him.
He says: “I’ve done quite a few movies over the years and the last day is usually a damp squib. It’s, ‘See you then, bye’.
“It was a wet and windy night on the back lot of Pinewood and it was like it was exactly the way I was supposed to go out — do my scene and everybody go home.
“But actually everybody turned up and that was such a wonderful thing.”
Daniel praises the crew who have accumulated thousands of air miles shooting those five latest Bond movies, which each take around eight months to make.
No Time To Die is a reported £200million budget behemoth — with Daniel said to have been paid £20million — and it will have the longest running time of any Bond movie at two hours and 43 minutes.
Daniel reckons his colleagues put even more into his final film and says: “It seemed everybody just wanted to make it the biggest and the best. That for me was just very moving and just so emotional.”
He hasn’t taken any souvenirs from his time as 007, not even those blue swimming shorts or an Aston Martin DB5.
He says: “I’m not a kleptomaniac, I tend to sign the suits and auction them off for charity and a lot of stuff is put into archives.
“That’s not really me, I don’t keep mementoes. It’s all in my head.”
He has just finished making Knives Out 2, in which he reprises his role as American private detective Benoit Blanc.
But having had to wait a year and a half for No Time To Die to reach cinemas because of the pandemic, Daniel has had plenty of spare time on his hands.
He says: “Weirdly this 18 months has been an enforced break for everybody and it has allowed me to be sort of reflective.”
The premiere for his final Bond is at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday, but he won’t immediately be rushing into lots of new projects.
He concludes: “For the time being I am going to take a break from it, just not think about it. It would be nice to put a full stop on things.”
– No Time To Die (12A) is in cinemas from September 30.