Consider us shaken and stirred, as Daniel Craig hangs up the keys to the Aston Martin and officially parts ways with playing James Bond. We’ve had five movies total featuring Craig's take on secret agent 007 and while his latest outing No Time To Die puts a definitive “declassified” stamp on the series, director Cary Fukunaga may have (inadvertently?) confirmed a major theory.
Warning: major spoilers for No Time To Die spoilers ahead
If you’ve made it this far, you’ll probably know Fukunaga did what Danny Boyle apparently wanted to do when he was attached to direct. In the ultimate sacrifice, Bond destroyed Safin’s poison island as his replacement Nomi (Lashana Lynch), wife Madeleine (Lea Seydoux), and daughter escaped. It’s all very touching, and with no The Dark Knight Rises-esque twist, it really looks like James Bond is dead.
The question remains though, was Craig’s 00 really the first James Bond?
What is the Bond code name theory?
For this one, we need to revisit the age-old theory that "James Bond" is merely a name adopted by many different men. This would mean Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan were all just the latest in a long line of James Bonds. (1969's On Her Majesty’s Secret Service even saw Lazenby deliver the line, “This never happened to the other fella” – a mere wink to the audience, or confirmation of the code name theory?)
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There are even rumours that 2012's Skyfall briefly planned to confirm the theory as fact. In the early stages, there were talks about Connery playing the role of groundskeeper Kincaide, eventually portrayed by Albert Finney. Reports vary, but some claim early drafts included Connery coming out of retirement to reprise his role as Bond - rattling around Skyfall Lodge as a sort of locale for abandoned Bonds. Others say Die Another Day’s Lee Tamahori wanted Connery to cameo as the original James Bond in that film.
If you’re confused about how this all works, No Time To Die featured some major intel via a scene set in the hallowed halls of MI6.
During one sequence, Ralph Fiennes’ M looks upon the portrait of his predecessor - played by Judi Dench. Like Bond himself, the previous M put her life on the line and met her maker in Sam Mendes' acclaimed Skyfall. Fiennes’ conveniently named Mallory stepped up to the plate as new “M”. Where the multiple Bond theory picks up steam is the fact we also see a painting of Bernard Lee’s M in No Time To Die.
Long before Dench was busting balls in GoldenEye, Lee was known as the OG M, who had a Bond legacy that spanned 1962's Dr. No to 1979's Moonraker. Given that prior to Casino Royale the Bond films maintained a (loose) continuity, confirmation that Lee’s M also came before Dench’s in the Craig movies heavily implies that Craig’s James Bond isn’t the first – that Casino Royale might not have been the franchise reboot we all thought it was, with Dench actually playing the same M as in the Brosnan films.
Importantly, No Time To Die also ends with those classic words of “James Bond will return”. It's a classic trope but might seem odd considering the character's swansong just minutes prior. Of course, EON might just be promising us that a hard reset and a recast are on the way... or is this another hint that another man will take up the "James Bond" mantle following the demise of Craig's version?
Read more about James Bond:
- Spectre recap - how previous Bond film links to No Time To Die
- James Bond's daughter - is Bond a father in No Time To Die?
- M's No Time To Die quote - where does the passage originate from?
Is James Bond really just a name?
There are however some rather large holes in the logic of the code-name theory and the idea that "James Bond" is a name simply assigned to any sharp-shooting spy. There was a complicated backstory between Bond and Ernst Stavro Blofeld in 2015's Spectre, for example. For the theory to work, names like "Blofeld", "Moneypenny", and "Felix Leiter" would also have to be assigned to multiple people. It just doesn’t stack up.
Again in Skyfall, Craig’s 007 visited the family home and found the gravestones of his parents that included the surname Bond - seemingly debunking the theory forever. Some have argued that the gravestones are fake and fake memories have been implanted in the heads of our Bonds, but isn’t that all some fanciful Matrix-esque trickery just to keep a wild theory alive.
Ultimately, the Bond continuity is a hot mess that the various directors and actors probably never thought about in the franchise’s 59-year history. Whatever is coming next, fans are warned not to expect any news on who the next Bond is until at least 2022. Bond 26 is a long way off, but the multiple Bond theory is sure to rear its head again. As the franchise goes on, so does this madcap theory. Look out for Daniel Craig shuffling around a home for retired agents in the inevitable Bond 50...