It was 2006. On the movie screen, Daniel Craig rose from the azure sea somewhere in the Bahamas, the water clinging to both the abs and the trunk. In the theater where this writer was, a woman, struggling over every word, let out what many others were thinking: “Oh. My. God.” “Casino Royale” was 29 minutes away from its runtime, but at that point a new James Bond was born.
For this moment, the public must thank Craig, but also someone else: his conditioning trainer, Simon Waterson. In the 15 years since the actor was cast as 007, he’s looked to Waterson time and time again. Now, with Craig’s fifth and final outing as Bond in “No Time to Die,” they are warming up together for the last time.
This routine has remained the same in all five films, and it shows. Waterson and Craig’s bodies have similar proportions. With the same crew cut, Waterson even bears a fleeting resemblance to the actor.
Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale” (2006). In the scene, a homage to Honey Ryder by Ursula Andress in “Dr. No” (1962), he bridges the gap between the “Bond girl” and the male ideal. Credit: Allstar Picture Library Ltd./Alamy Stock Photo
For “No Time to Die”, he adapted the workouts to the action sequences of the script, to help Craig perform his own stunts (when allowed). “It just makes his life easier,” Waterson said. Easier, not easy. “A shooting schedule is brutal. It’s not an easy task to have a guy play as an athlete every day, six days a week,” he added. “It’s like training for the Olympics, but then doing your test every day for seven months.”
Beyond muscles, the gym was an integral part of the character development of the first film, Waterson suggested. “In terms of how the character’s mentality and physique changed, he had a clear idea of what he wanted to do, which is great,” he said. “The way we work isn’t really about the complete aesthetic. It’s all about performance.”
Craig, a smart actor whose intricacies weren’t always as appreciated as they should be, played a subversive Leap in many ways. Other 007s have sought to live up to the image of the mortal Adonis; Craig’s has spent four movies so far playing with it, while also appearing the most likely to snap your pic of you like a twig.
Daniel Craig as Bond fights on top of a train in “Skyfall” (2012). Credit: François Duhamel / Danjaq, LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios
The Craig era saw the franchise “adopt a more body-centered model of masculinity,” first seen in Brosnan’s latest film “Die Another Day,” said Lisa Funnell, Bond scholar and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma. “The identity of (Craig’s Bond) isn’t about women’s bedding, it’s about body resistance.”
The series’ pivot to serialized storytelling reconfigured Bond’s relationship with his body. We all know he can take a punch, but now we’re shown the bruises, and the violence inflicted has been more visceral, more personal, than previous incarnations. He was shot in “Skyfall”, a skull drill in “Specter”, and was poisoned and then tortured in his lower regions in “Casino Royale”. These films have made it clear that the body is not designed to endure so much for so long. In “Skyfall,” Bond failed his physical and psychological assessment. He has been told several times to retire. “There’s that notion throughout the Daniel Craig era of him coming back from the dead,” Funnell said. “Her body becomes this living archive of trauma.”
“Embodying Bond’s journey”
The vulnerability is twofold, and in addition to the physical trauma, Craig also described emotional trauma. We’ve seen him fall in love with Vesper Lynd in “Casino Royale” and then watch her die, appear love-sick in “Quantum of Solace”, lose his mentor in M in “Skyfall” and have his childhood dredged up in “Specter” . For a character once rid of the past, Bond is now haunted by it.
“I give Daniel Craig a lot of credit for embodying, not only in a physical but also emotional sense, the journey that Bond is on,” said Funnell. “He’s someone who’s expressed that he wants to be seen as a serious actor, he wants it to come from within, but he’s a character where there’s a lot of outside stuff.”
Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and Bond in “Casino Royale” (2006), Craig’s first outing in the series. Credit: Danjaq, LLC / United Artists Corporation
It may be a double constraint. Craig and Waterston worked together to create a physique that meets the character’s macho prerequisites, allowing the actor to explore what else Bond could be: vengeful, jaded, loyal, loving, even sad. Nevertheless, the surface still attracts attention.
It remains to be seen how the physical and emotional journeys end in “No Time To Die”. Speculations that Bond could be killed have been persistent and would not be totally out of step with Craig’s iconoclastic tenure. Maybe the body can’t take it anymore.
Either way, the actor survived production, so Waterson’s mission can already be considered a success. And if the spy can still thrill audiences … well, that’s just the icing on the cake.