Daniel Craig is about to become a big movie star. I’d say the whole thing should kick in around 10 p.m. EST on Friday. By then, the first shows of “Casino Royale” will have sold out, MGM/Sony will breathe a deep sigh of relief and women all over America will be telling their friends to see the new James Bond.
If last night’s New York screening at the Ziegfeld was any indication, not only is Craig going to be big, so is the movie.
Director Martin Campbell and producer Barbara Broccoli have reinvented Bond very wisely as a less foppish, more masculine kind of hands-on spy who has a view to a kill and doesn’t mind going through with it.
The new James Bond, you might say, is buff and ready.
Indeed, Campbell pays such slavish attention to Craig’s physique that when the movie’s villain comments on how Bond takes care of his body, the audience is allowed a big chuckle. You can’t imagine Sean Connery, Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan spending this much time at the gym. In fact, the old James Bond was far too narcissistic to think he needed a workout. But Craig’s edition obviously has a personal trainer and a mirror.
That said, "Casino Royale" should be a smash hit. It’s simultaneously old-fashioned filmmaking and very much cutting edge.
Campbell has used a lot of ideas from films like Matthew Vaughn’s “Layer Cake” — which starred Craig — and a film that Vaughn produced, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”
This James Bond likes to mix it up; he’s very physical and active in a way that Bond has never been in the past.
Like the good Bond movies, this one has a pretty swell opening sequence that follows the animated titles and a good new theme song by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. The action takes place on a construction site, and it’s really hair-raising. It’s got an acrobatic feel and an unexpected freshness.
From then on, Bond continues as a newly invented, younger, stronger kind of spy. Luckily, he still has Judi Dench, as M, to rein him in. Her scenes are notably droll and lend this Bond movie some much-needed humor (Craig, at least the way he’s written, is lacking in that area). A favorite scene is Bond nearly giving away M’s real name, after breaking into her home.
The rest of the cast is just about unknown, with Jeffrey Wright and the great Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini the only anchors.
Otherwise, it’s up to newcomers, including the beautiful and sexy Eva Green as Vesper Lynd — Bond’s love interest — and Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen as the villainous Le Chiffre to move the action along, and they do it skillfully.
While "Casino Royale" looks great, too, some things about the script are not completely intelligible. The movie is about 20 minutes too long. During a long lull in which Bond resigns his post and declares his love for Vesper Lynd, you can take a candy and bathroom break. I never figured out what happened to Giannini’s character, or who the enemy really was in this film. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t matter.
And yes, there are great locations: Venice never looked better, and Montenegro turns out to be the perfect Bond setting. The Bahamas get a long treatment, courtesy of Sol Kerzner’s Ocean Club and Atlantis resort. I got a big kick out of seeing Jerry Inzerillo, the unsung hero of the Kerzner empire, sitting in on a poker hand during one of the casino scenes. Bravo!
I leave you with this spoiler: If you’re like me, there are two lines that must be spoken in a Bond movie to make it authentic. One is the introduction, “Bond, James Bond.” The other is any reference to martinis being shaken and not stirred.
You’ve got to be patient and wait 'til nearly the end. But like the movie’s payoff, the wait is worth it. And when the final words are spoken, you know Craig will be back in two years with the next installment.
You have to give Michael Jackson credit. Even as his financial profile crumbles, he’s always able to locate his next free meal.
This time the man who picked up the check was Philip Green, a London billionaire who owns Arcadia Group, a design-house conglomerate.
On Monday night, Jackson dined with Green at Nobu in London, and afterwards Green took him on a private tour of one of his high-end shops.
Is it the beginning of a beautiful relationship? Before Green does anything, he’d better make some calls to Ron Burkle, Prince Abdullah of Bahrain and Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia to discover that Jackson fulfills no deals and that disloyalty is his typical repayment for short-term patronage.
Meanwhile, Jackson, I’m told, actually did rehearse a version of "Thriller" on Tuesday with teen hip-hop dance star Chris Brown as the featured player, a wise move since Jackson himself is only able to approximate his moves of yore.
Brown should cause a sensation reproducing Jacko’s old, sensational steps if the performance comes off as planned tonight at the World Music Awards.
Still, tonight’s show is an odd forum for Jackson to make his comeback. It was at the 1993 World Music Awards that he was shown with a 13-year-old boy on his knee.
Jackson wound up paying Jordan Chandler a settlement of $20 million the next year after allegations that their relationship was inappropriate.
P.S. If reports from tonight’s show read that the "crowd went wild" for Jackson, let’s not forget that a couple hundred of the pop icon’s fanatics were given free tickets, and several dozen more were allowed to buy them at a deep discount even after an initial computer snafu.
To understand Sharon Stone, you first have to get this: When I asked her last night at the dinner for Emilio Estevez’s movie "Bobby" who her favorite Nobel Prize winners were this year, she did not miss a beat.
Stone — who’s hosting the 2006 Nobel concert with Anjelica Huston next month in Oslo — rattled off all the names of the new crop of winners and what they’ve accomplished.
"I really like what Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank are doing in their work on poverty," she began, and then ploughed on for about two or three minutes before we yelled, "Uncle!"
She knows her stuff. We get it.
Sharon, of course, is in town to do a little PR for "Bobby," in which she plays the house beautician at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the June night in 1968 when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.
She’ll be nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and may even win. But unlike the Stone of "Casino," this year’s model is low-keying it. So far. She knows a good thing when she sees it, I’d say, and she’s not going to blow it.
In the meantime, the Nobel winners had better get ready to talk turkey with her.
The "Bobby" screening last night was a small, private affair, by the way, followed by a swanky dinner at the new Le Cirque in the Bloomberg building.
This is quite a place, and the food, well, it’s still Le Cirque. Janet Sheen, Emilio’s mom, had to be convinced to try one of Sirio Maccioni’s famous desserts, but once she did, she was in.
Janet re-explained something to me that I hadn’t quite gotten before. Her husband, Martin Sheen, is in Galway, Ireland. Why, exactly, I asked?
"He’s studying at the University of Galway," she replied.
It turns out that Sheen, who is 66 and an accomplished political activist, is taking a variety of courses with an eye toward a degree. He is really serious. The courses range from literature to science.
"Martin never went to college," Janet explained to me. "He wanted to, but he went straight to work as an actor. Now he has a chance to make that up."
So Janet Sheen, who has become one of my favorite people, is flying back and forth from Ireland to New York to Los Angeles every couple of weeks. The Sheens, who’ve been married 45 years, are now like a teenage couple at different colleges. Bully for them!
When Sheen — whose real name is Estevez (Sheen was borrowed from Bishop Fulton Sheen, whom he respected) — graduates, he’ll be a young 70!
While Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are having their improbable wedding on Saturday in Rome, they’ll be missing something more important: a huge auction in Los Angeles of movie memorabilia.
More than 1,000 props and costumes will be auctioned off all day Saturday and Sunday at Raleigh Studios, many from the Oscar-winning movies made at Miramax during its 25-year heyday. This includes one-of-a-kind items from "Chicago," "Gangs of New York" and "Shakespeare in Love."
But there also some real cult items, too, from movies like the "South Park" group’s "Team America."
Proceeds go to the Max Family Foundation, started by Bob and Harvey Weinstein in memory of their father. The Weinsteins notably disburse their funds to Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang and the Robin Hood Foundation and amfAR.
For more info, check out Premiereprops.com.