Fitness & Excercise

How Daniel Craig Became the ‘Fittest 50-Year-Old on the Planet’

In 2005, just after being named the next James Bond, Daniel Craig was in his trailer on the set of a film he was wrapping up. That’s when he got the knock.

“Daniel opened the door, breakfast sandwich in hand and a look of dread on his face,” recalls Simon Waterson, who was standing on the other side. Waterson, 46, is the trainer hired to get Craig into shape for Casino Royale. As for the look of dread: “I think he started to realize what he signed up for, and he would have to earn those sandwiches now.”

Craig, now 52, earned the sandwiches, and Waterson earned Craig’s trust. Their partnership continued across all five movies, including No Time to Die, and likely the actor’s final bow as 007. Early rumors suggest the action rivals—if not eclipses—all previous films.

Building a Better Bond

In the evening after their introduction, over a couple of beers, Craig told Waterson that his vision for Bond was to raise the bar—which included doing a larger share of fight scenes and stunts than previous actors had. There was an early stipulation: Craig wanted a training partner, not a drill instructor. “Getting to hit the workouts together, and trade off while pushing each other, made the sessions more enjoyable,” Waterson says.

Waterson had worked with Pierce Brosnan twice during his turn as Bond, so the trainer understood the preparation it took. Unlike a superhero role, where the goal is packing on muscle, the Bond physique is more nuanced. He’s a secret agent who slips unseen across enemy lines, executes a mission—nabbing sensitive data, then blowing shit up—parkours off buildings/cranes/trains to escape, and cleans up in time for cocktail hour.

In 2006, Casino Royale introduced the world to a new Bond that film reviewers collectively call “brooding.” Fast-forward to the infamous torture scene when Craig is tied to a chair naked, and you’d also say Bond is built.

For Craig, the goal for each Bond film since has never been to “get back into Bond shape” but rather to surpass the previous iteration.

“That isn’t easy, because Daniel isn’t getting any younger,” Waterson says. “With each film, it takes more effort to get to the next level, but he shows up every time.”

Stick to the Script

The training protocol is not easy, but No Time to Die is proof that it works. As with most action movies, Waterson got an early look at the script, then designed workouts that included classic functional movements with specialized drills tailored to the most physically demanding action sequences.

Waterson understood the physicality required because he’d done it in real life. He’d been a member of the 845 Naval Air Squadron—an elite special forces unit in the U.K.—which means he’s uniquely qualified to train someone for any eventuality.

Preparation for No Time to Die began more than a year before the cameras rolled. Waterson came knocking again on Craig’s door for two-week-long boot camps every month. First, they built a strength and conditioning foundation. (Waterson shares a version of his preshoot workout here.)

Later, Waterson fine-tuned the plan for specific activities Craig might do in the film, with a focus on agility. So they included soccer and rugby drills. Craig happens to be a former rugby player, and those sessions brought out the actor’s competitive side. “He is a hard one to catch,” Waterson says.

Lights, Camera, Action

Once filming began, Craig’s schedule was precise to the minute. After Craig got to set, he and Waterson spent 30 to 40 minutes doing stretching and muscle activation specific to the sequences scheduled to film that day. With 10 minutes to go, Waterson gave the chefs the go-ahead to cook Craig’s breakfast of eggs, rye bread, avocado, kimchi, turmeric shots, and black coffee.

Then the workday began—10 hours of sprinting, fighting, and car chases. And something else to remember: except for highly choreographed scenes with pyrotechnics and one-and-done practical special effects, Craig was often made to do the same physical scene multiple times. And he can’t seem winded. The 10th take should look like the first.

“I don’t think people realize how demanding these productions are,” Waterson says. “I am blown away that he is still standing half the time.”

That dedication came with a price; Craig has been hurt on nearly every shoot—including No Time to Die, where he suffered a serious injury to his left ankle while filming an action scene in Jamaica.

And yet, at Craig’s insistence, he was in the gym the next week, Waterson guiding him through an upper-body workout, mindful of the Aircast on his foot.

“I am constantly impressed with him and his mentality,” Waterson says. “Our goals for this last round weren’t just about the film. We also made personal goals. And my goal was to help him be the fittest 50-year-old on the planet. I think we got there.”

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No Time to Die’s new release date is November 25, 2020

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