Licence to thrill, Daniel Craig to replace Attenborough

Posted on April 30, 2011

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Sir David Attenborough - First Life

He has one of the most distinctive voices on the planet and his wide-spread popularity makes him a legend in his own right, that and a 60-year-old career. But Sir David Attenborough’s dulcet tones are being replaced by an unlikely candidate – Craig, Daniel Craig.

The 007 film star has been picked by the BBC to narrate its natural history film, One Life, to generate millions of pounds from international cinema audiences and to try to solve the funding problems at the corporation.

This is Craig’s first venture into film narration, which will use footage from the acclaimed BBC series Life. That series has been hosted by Sir David since it first appeared as Life On Earth in 1979 and includes footage that can be described as ‘television gold’. I’m thinking in particular about Sir David’s encounter with some of the most elusive primates, the mountain gorillas  in Rwanda. Priceless!

I understand the problems with securing funding and making budgets stretch. I myself have been a casualty of the recession and its fallout. However I can’t help feeling sorely disappointed that commissioning editors time and time again only want “names” for future projects whether it’s film or television.

It’s a voice-over for Christ sake. Surely there are other jobbing actors with wonderfully rich, suitable voices who need the work far more than Craig does? This isn’t about whether someone is into conservation or the environment or is an expert. It boils down to how big your profile is. Yes I realise the pluses of securing a film star, but to be honest, if the documentary is made well I doubt whether the audience would have a clue who they are listening to, if their tone was appropriate.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale

Speaking to the BBC, Craig said he was “very proud” to be part of the project.

“The BBC Natural History Unit have proven, year after year, that their documentary skills are second to none,” he said. “For the filmmakers who spend their entire lives recording beautiful images of dwindling wildlife, I have only a sense of awe and a deep rooted respect.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Daniel Craig, he’s done some great work – Enduring Love; Defiance; The Mother and he’s my second favourite Bond, after Sean Connery –   I’ve no doubt he’ll do a wonderful job. It’s the attitude of the execs at the Beeb that has unimpressed me. As someone who is interested in film as well as wildlife, I feel insulted that they’re drawing a broad conclusion that unless they use a celeb no one will be interested.

Isn’t the point that natural history docos are about the wildlife, not the people involved? Yes you might get a tiny proportion going who are fans of Craig, but if they’re not concerned about conservation they’ll soon fall by the wayside.

In the new production, the 007 star will describe the lives of around 20 animals, from a Darwin’s beetle to a humpback whale.

One Life is being made by BBC Earth, a global brand for BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC. It will not be funded by the taxpayer, through the licence fee but executives say it’s an investment designed to generate more money.

Amanda Hill, managing director of BBC Earth and exec producer of “One Life,” said, ” ‘One Life’ is the first of three major motion pictures from BBC Earth Films, with ‘Walking With Dinosaurs 3D’ and ‘Africa 3D’ set to follow, so it’s fitting that a heavyweight star such as Daniel is involved.”

One Life, which is shot in High Definition (HD), will be launched in Japan in September and is expected to open in British cinemas before the end of the year.

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Posted in: Branching out