After much pandemic-induced delay, Daniel Craig’s final spin as James Bond belatedly arrived last fall, bringing an end to a unique period in the franchise’s long history. The English actor helped take the series in darker directions, with a continuous story rather than the traditional self-contained (and often borderline campy) romps. He even attracted Oscar-winning directors to the helm. One of them is the esteemed Sam Mendes, who went from the small parental dramedy Away We Go to, suddenly, Skyfall. And Mendes may not have gotten the gig had Craig not been a little tipsy.
On an episode The Hollywood Reporter’s podcast Awards Chatter (as per IndieWire), Craig talked about how, over a decade ago, he attended a Christmas party thrown by Hugh Jackman. Mendes, who had directed him in 2002’s Road to Perdiction, was also there, and at one point — while he was, as he put it, “definitely a little drunk” — sat down to chat with Mendes. And while slightly inebriated, he realized the director of American Beauty and Revolutionary Road should direct a 007.
“It just became glaringly obvious to me sitting opposite him,” he says. “And so I just basically went, ‘I’m probably not supposed to say this, but do you want to direct the next Bond movie?’”
Thing is, Mendes agreed. “And he just did this thing, he kinda just looked at me [and squinted] and said, ‘Yes.’ And then I went, ‘I’m in s*it now,’” Craig recalled thinking. “I’m sure there is someone I have to talk to about that before I go offering directors jobs. It’s not my responsibility, but I was drunk!”
Luckily, when he rang up series producer Barbara Broccoli the next morning, she thought it was a good idea, too, saying, “Amazing. Great.”
Skyfall went on to become the highest grossing movie in the Bond franchise, outperforming other Craig ventures like Casino Royale and No Time to Die, which may still wind up somehow losing money despite one of the highest grossing movies of last year. The Bond team liked Mendes so much that he directed the follow-up, Spectre, before going back to more serious pictures, like the one-take WWI movie 1917.
In other words, if you’re some famous director and you run into Craig at a party and he’s had a couple, you may suddenly wind up directing some blockbuster that will make you and everyone involved even richer.