Pierce Brosnan’s fourth, and last, Bond film, Die Another Day was financially successful, but critical and fan response centered on the series getting too over-the-top. While no one goes into a James Bond film expecting hard-hitting reality, parasailing a CGI tsunami is taking things a step (or two) too far. That’s saying nothing of ice palaces, invisible cars, and whatever the hell was going on in the dull finale.
Enter The Bourne Identity. It’s grounded fight sequences and stunts thrilled audiences more than Bond had in many years.
Even Brosnan realized something had changed after seeing it.
It wasn’t the first time Eon (the Bond producers) had sensed the need to pivot, despite financial success. Moonraker was a hit also lamented for being too over-the-top (It’s James Bond in space!). The result was For Your Eyes Only, which was more of a traditional spy story (and the first in a while based on Ian Fleming material).
Eon didn’t drop Roger Moore for a new Bond after Moonraker, but in the early 2000s, there was another factor in play:
Brosnan’s Price Tag
Brosnan earned $16.5 million for Die Another Day, and it can be assumed he wasn’t looking to take a step back for a fifth outing. With this in mind, hiring another Bond would help turn the franchise in a new direction and save them millions of dollars up front.
Craig made $3.2 million for Casino Royale, the series was creatively rejuvenated, and put on a financial upswing which culminated in Skyfall, which made Avengers-level box office.