Daniel Craig in Layer Cake

Before he was Bond: Daniel Craig's 10 best pre-007 roles

By Emma Badame on October 13, 2012
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As we count down to Skyfall's November 9 release, we're taking time out to look back at all of the famous thesps who've hit the big screen - to varying degrees of success - as the iconic MI6 agent. Yesterday we took a look back at Daniel Craig's first two outings as 007, today we take a look back at his pre-Bond career.

It's no exaggeration to say that the popularity of Craig as James Bond took many movie goers by surprise. But for those who'd been following the actor at all (mostly in productions on the other side of the pond), his massive success in the iconic role came as no shock. In fact, it wasn't so much a question of if he'd hit it big but when.

For those who've only pegged to Craig since Casino Royale hit theatres in 2006, frankly you've got a lot of catching up to do when it comes to this versatile actor's work. So we've taken it upon ourselves, movie addicts that we are, to pull together some suggestions of where you could (and should) start.

So dig in below for our look at ten of his most memorable pre-Bond roles!

 

Copenhagen

Copenhagen (2002)

Years before he became James Bond, Craig took on the role of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Werner Heisenberg in the TV movie adaptation of Michael Frayn's critically acclaimed stage play dramatizing the meeting between Heisenberg and fellow physicist Niels Bohr in 1941. The film cuts substantial pieces of the drama but remains a gripping conversation between two brilliants minds as the two probe the ethics and morals behind Heisenberg's role in the German atomic bomb program during World War II. For those who've never had the chance to see Craig onstage, this is the next best thing.

Buy it on DVD now!


 

 

Enduring Love

Enduring Love (2004)

Based on the gripping and thought-provoking novel from author Ian McEwen, this disturbing psychological thriller sees Craig as Joe Rose, one of two strangers who become dangerously close after witnessing and attempting to intercede in a freak but deadly hot-air balloon accident. The event's effects on Joe are immediate and powerful, but it's his connection to creepy fellow witness Jed (Rhys Ifans) that starts to slowly tear his peaceful, happy life apart. An excellent showcase for Craig's intensity and one of the more disturbing flicks on this list. 

 

 

 

 

Infamous

Infamous (2006)

Lesser known than its Oscar-winning Capote counterpart, this Truman Capote biopic sees Toby Jones as the celebrated author and Craig as Perry Smith, one half of the guilty duo upon which Capote based his novel, In Cold Blood. Directed by Douglas McGrath, this filmed version could be classified more as a character study, focused more on the emotional (and occasionally physical) relationship between the writer and his doomed criminal muse. Though much of the critical praise was pointed toward Jones and Sandra Bullock (as Harper Lee), Craig earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards for his performance. Well worth a look.

Buy it on DVD or as a digital download now!

 

 

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

We're the first to admit that this film does little to show off Craig's impressive acting range but it is important in the grand scheme of things, career-wise. The Hollywood blockbuster that brought videogame heroine Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) to the big screen, also brought Craig his first big international role as Alex West, a rival archeologist and erstwhile romantic interest. Up until this point, Craig had carved a niche for himself in British drama, in indie films, on the small screen and on the stage, but this big-screen action-adventure gave him his first opportunity to show off a more physical side while giving him his first taste of international fame.

Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray now!

 

 

Layer Cake

Layer Cake (2004)

Often cited as the role that put him on the radar of 007's producers, you'll be less than a minute in before you see exactly why Craig, in his role as successful drug dealer/middle man "XXXX", piqued their interest. Though he's less suave here than Bond (don't let the suit, car and girl fool you) and decidedly less in control of every situation, his acting chops and charisma are there in full force and he owns every minute he's on screen. Yes, even in scenes where co-star Sienna Miller is barely clothed. Directed by Matthew Vaughan, Layer Cake is an excellently visceral, gritty, occasionally violent big screen look at Britain's criminal underworld. If you only pick one flick from this list, this is the one.

Buy it on DVD, Blu-Ray or as a Digital Download now!

 

Love is the Devil

Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (1998)

Based on the true story of British painter Francis Bacon's volatile love affair with a much younger man, Love Is The Devil is about as far from Bond as you can get. Craig shines and embraces his vulnerable side as small time crook George Dyer, a man who goes from robbing Bacon (Derek Jacobi) to sharing his life and his bed. There's no self-consciousness here as Craig puts everything on the line both emotionally and physically (there's a full-frontal nude scene here). The role earned him a Best British Performance Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 1998.

 

 

 

The Mother

The Mother (2003)

Never let it be said that Craig shies away from morally ambiguous characters or roles far outside the leading man mould. As handyman Darren, a married man who finds himself in the midst of an affair with a disaffected widow (Anne Reid) and her daughter, Craig finds a part that qualifies as both. Movies about older women having affairs with younger men are few and far between, even in the indie world, and despite Darren's less-than-honest behaviour, Craig manages to walk a fine like that allows the character to occupy the grey area between likable and detestable. No mean feat that.

 

 

 

Munich

Munich (2005)

Craig would go on to work with iconic director Steven Spielberg again in last year's Adventures of Tin-Tin, but the emotional epic Munich was their first film partnership. The heavy drama chronicles the Israeli governments supposed plan to assassinate members of the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September in retaliation for their massacre of the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Craig takes on the pivotal role of Steve, the driver to the squad of elite Mossad agents tasked with the assassination mission. Not to take away from the serious subject matter at hand but don't be surprised if you find yourself distracted from the action but Craig's piercing blue eyes.

 

  

Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition (2004)

Skyfall will mark Craig's second collaboration with Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes. Their first foray into film together happened back in 2004 along with headliners Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. In a stroke of casting genius, Craig plays Connor Rooney, a weak and selfish fool of a man yearning for the attention of his Irish mob-boss father (Newman). Though their mesmerizing on-screen relationship is, at best, strained, God bless the casting director that decided to match up these two talented blue-eyed actors in roles that allowed them both to shine.

Buy it on DVD or Blu-ray now!

 

 

 

Sylvia

Sylvia (2003)

Though the film belongs to Gwyneth Paltrow as poet Sylvia Plath, Craig may surprise Bond fans with his layered performance as much-maligned poet (and Plath's husband) Ted Hughes. The film focuses on their complicated on-and-off-again relationship and gives Craig plenty of emotional material to sink his teeth into along the way. He does his level-best to imbue the philandering popular poet with enough charm and emotional vulnerability that he's not simply the villain of the piece...and the movie is that much better for it.

 

 

 

That's just his big-screen work we've got covered. Should you want to venture into his many memorable roles from television might we suggest some of the following: "Our Friends in the North", "Sword of Honour", "The Trench", "The Ice House", "Archangel" and Moll Flanders.

We kicked off our 30 Days of Bond countdown Thursday with our Daniel Craig 1-on-1 interview. Stay tuned tomorrow as we look back at Pierce Brosnan's reign as 007!  The next big screen Bond adventure, Skyfall, hits theatres November 9.

For those who were already well in the know when it comes to Craig, what do YOU think is his most memorable non-Bond role? Or is it still all about 007?

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