The year was 2006. Up on the cinema screen, Daniel Craig rose from the azure sea somewhere in the Bahamas, water clinging to abs and trunks alike. In the theater this writer was in, a woman, laboring over each word, let out what many others were thinking: “Oh. My. God.” “Casino Royale” was 29 minutes into its run time, but in that moment a new James Bond was born.
For that moment audiences have Craig to thank, but also someone else: his conditioning coach, Simon Waterson. In the 15 years since the actor was cast as 007, he has turned to Waterson time and again. Now, with Craig’s fifth and final outing as Bond in “No Time to Die,” they’re warming down together for the last time. Waterson, a former Navy man, was involved in the franchise before Craig, as personal trainer to Pierce Brosnan in “The World Is Not Enough.” When Craig came on board, he arrived with a cigarette and a bacon sandwich. But he also arrived with a vision, Waterson said. “From the very beginning he never wanted a trainer — he wanted a training partner,” he remembers. “Whatever he did, I did.”
That routine has stayed the same across all five films, and it shows. Waterson and Craig’s bodies are similarly proportioned. With the same crew cut, Waterson even bears a passing resemblance to the actor. For “No Time to Die” he tailored workouts to match action sequences in the script, to help Craig perform his own stunts (when allowed). “It just makes his life easier,” said Waterson. Easier, not easy. “A shooting schedule is brutal. It’s not an easy task to ask a guy to perform as an athlete every day, six days a week,” he added. “It’s like training for the Olympics, but then doing your event every day for seven months.”
Beyond the muscles, the gym was integral to character development from film one, Waterson suggested. “As far as the evolution of the character’s mentality and physicality goes, he had a firm idea of what he wanted to do, which is great,” he said. “The way we work is not really around the complete aesthetic. It’s all about performance.” Craig, an intelligent actor whose subtleties haven’t always been as appreciated as they should, has played a subversive Bond in many ways. Other 007s sought to live up to the image of the deadly Adonis; so far Craig’s has spent four films toying with it, while also appearing the most likely to snap you like a twig.