LOS ANGELES - Daniel Craig is in Western wear these days on the New Mexico set of "Cowboys and Aliens," but he can't help but wonder whether he will ever don James Bond's tuxedo again. "It's out of my hands," the British actor said during a break from shooting. "I'm ready and willing, and if I get the call, I'll be there."
It's not clear when - or even if - that call will come. The fiscal crisis at MGM has suspended the cinema spy's license to kill and, as Los Angeles Times writer Steven Zeitchik has reported, there also may be some discord among the current creative team about the direction of the next film, which would be the 23rd in the storied franchise.
Craig took on the role of 007 with "Casino Royale" in 2006 and followed it with "Quantum of Solace" in 2008. The two films pulled in $1.1 billion in worldwide box office and, more than that, brought a new, grim energy to the Bond character on screen. Craig, who is plainly proud of his work in the iconic role, is eager to tie up the loose ends in the plot with a third film, but he seemed to have more questions than answers about the topic.
"You probably know more than I do," Craig said. "It is what it is. Unless MGM can sort themselves out, we can't make a movie. It's hard to talk about things that aren't happening. There will be more to say when things are happening. I'm really keen to get going, it's as simple as that. And I'm hoping that, in a while, we will."
Venerable but vulnerable MGM is buckling beneath $4 billion in debt, a situation that has already wrought havoc with the plans for a two-film adaptation of "The Hobbit." Director Guillermo del Toro walked away from "Hobbit" in frustration. Will MGM's limbo also lead to key defections or lost opportunities with Bond? One major issue is Craig's tight schedule.
The in-demand actor co-stars with Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell in the Jon Favreau-directed "Cowboys and Aliens," and everyone involved is approaching it as a two-film affair. Craig's calendar will be tied up promoting the summer 2011 release. There's also "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn," the December 2011 release from Steven Spielberg that stars Craig and opens a planned trilogy.
Later this year, Craig begins filming "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," David Fincher's take on the Swedish-language film and the bookshelf best-seller; yes, that film has sequel written all over it, if it finds the audience that's expected. Some of these franchises may fizzle - Craig starred, for instance, in "The Golden Compass" but the plan to make that a film series went south.
Craig turned 42 in March, but his world-weary version of Bond may benefit from a few more wrinkles. The question is whether an especially long delay might prompt the franchise decision-makers to go for a youth movement and a new story cycle, much as Sony is doing with a total restart of its "Spider-Man" franchise.
Craig, though, clearly wants to finish what he's started, no matter what the challenges.
"I felt as if we were just getting going and that we'd get the chance to make a couple more," the actor said. "I'd like to fulfill the circle with the story. But, yes, there is nothing really to say until whoever gets that house (at MGM) in order. There's no chance of getting it made until those things are taken care of."