Daniel Craig reflects on 'Blond Bond' casting controversy as 'Casino Royale' turns 15: 'Of course I was bothered by it'

Actor Daniel Craig is unveiled as the new James Bond 007 ahead of the forthcoming filming of the 21st installment in the series, 'Casino Royale', at HMS President, east London, Friday 14 October 2005. See PA story SHOWBIZ Bond. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA   (Photo by Ian West - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Daniel Craig is unveiled as the new James Bond 007 ahead of the filming of the 21st installment in the series, 'Casino Royale.' (Photo by Ian West - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Sometimes the internet needs a license to chill. For a glaring example of misguided social media meltdowns, let us look back 15 years, to Nov. 17, 2006 — the day Casino Royale hit theaters.

Casino Royale marked Daniel Craig’s debut as iconic MI6 super-spy James Bond, and production on the Martin Campbell-helmed film had been rocked by bad buzz, with British tabloids, movie bloggers and the die-hard 007 fanbase enraged that the producers had dared cast a blue-eyed, blond-haired man to take over the tux from Pierce Brosnan.

“Blond Bond,” in fact, became one of social media’s first major outrage overloads. It didn’t last long. Critics and fans alike fell for the bruising and requisitely suave stylings of Craig (not to mention a well-traveled shirtless scene) in Casino Royale. Craig would go to make four more largely successful installments — 2008’s Quantum of Solace, 2012’s Skyfall (widely considered one of the Best bond films of all time), 2015’s Spectre and his acclaimed October swan song, No Time to Die — accounting for nearly $4 billion at the global box office.

Though the 53-year-old Craig tends to come off as unflappable in public appearances, he admitted he was shaken by the initial blowback as he reflected on the controversy during our recent interview for No Time to Die.

“Of course I was bothered by it,” he said. “But there was nothing I could really do. It’s like [the saying goes], ‘Control the things that you can control.’ All I could do was make a good movie, or attempt to make a good movie and say, ‘There you go.’ And if they didn’t like it, then I don’t know, that’s all I had to give.”

Casino Royale, which shows Bond earning his license to kill as he tracks a terrorist financier (Mads Mikkelsen) and falls in love with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd at a high-stakes poker game, ultimately drew high marks for its reinvention of 007.

“But people’s criticism was sort of understandable,” Craig continued. “I mean, I grew up watching Bond. So I couldn’t criticize other people for having passions about it.”

Daniel Craig in 'Casino Royale' (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Daniel Craig in 'Casino Royale' (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Longtime Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, who worked overtime to convince Craig to return for a fifth Bond movie after the actor’s initial hesitation, would probably disagree about the “understandable” part.

“It was so ridiculous. It was absurd,” Broccoli told us. “But you know, it was the beginning of the whole internet bonanza. I mean, the fact that they were complaining that he was blond stupefied me because Roger Moore [who played Bond in seven films, more than any other actor, from 1973 to 1985] was blond. I didn't know what they were talking about. It was distressing but we were only really concerned about him, because he was being attacked, so virulently, when he was killing himself making the movie.

“But we knew how good he was. So it never made us second guess our decision at all. I mean, we knew he was going to be fantastic, but it was very bizarre and very strange episode in our lives.”

With Craig now officially “retired” from MI6 ranks, it’s a good lesson to keep in mind when the next James Bond is announced.

Watch Daniel Craig talk about his 007 swan song and a less promiscuous Bond: