‘Casino Royale’: David Niven vs Daniel Craig – who did it better?

If you are a true Bond fan, you must know the name of the first James Bond film.

That’s right—it’s Dr. No. But did you know that long before the release of Dr. No in 1962, producers ”fought” to obtain the film rights to Fleming’s other novel—Casino Royale?

New generations are more familiar with the 2006 movie adaptation of Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig, but the older population remembers a release of Casino Royale in 1967, with David Niven in the leading role. Though creators of both versions claim they were inspired by Fleming’s novel, in the 1967 film, we see Bond as a baccarat master, while in the 2006 version, Bond’s game of choice is poker.

Casino Royale Is Too Much…for One James Bond!

As it turned out, it was too much for one producer too.

Casino Royale is the first book featuring the character of Agent 007. The author, Ian Fleming, sold the film rights of the novel to the producer Gregory Ratoff in 1955. A year later, Ratoff allied with Micheal Garrison to produce a film adaptation. Unfortunately, Ratoff did not manage to finish it since he died in December 1960. After his death, Charles K. Feldman acquired rights to produce Casino Royale.

Another producer, Albert R. Broccoli, and his business partner, co-producer Harry Saltzman, tried to buy rights from Feldman, but were rejected. The director Howard Hawks, who was close friends with Feldman, wanted to adapt Casino Royale, so the two of them started working on it. Meanwhile, Eon Productions (owned by Broccoli and Saltzman) worked on another Bond movie (it will be the first one in the series)—Dr. No. After seeing Dr. No, Feldman and Hawks gave up on their project.

Feldman contacted Broccoli and tried to make an agreement with Eon Productions regarding Casino Royale’s rights. The attempt was a failure. Finally, Feldman offered rights to Columbia Pictures and decided to produce a film as a satire.

Casino Royale (1967)  was released on April 13, as a spy comedy film, starring David Niven as the ”original” Bond. Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, and Orson Welles were also part of the cast. The movie’s tagline was: ”Casino Royale is too much…for one James Bond,” and it refers to Bond’s trick to mislead SMERSH (Soviet counterintelligence agency) with six other agents pretending to be Agent 007.

Feldman chose Niven because he knew the actor had been Fleming’s preferred choice to play Agent 007 in Dr. No. The producer assumed Niven was on the writer’s mind when he was writing the character of Bond.

Though the film was a financial success, it mostly received negative reviews from the critics. Bosley Crowther (The New York Times) stated the film had ”more of the talent agent than the secret agent” and praised all the scenes up to the baccarat game between James Bond and Le Chiffre. He also said the script was full of clichés, repetitive and tiresome.

James Bond: What are you going to do?

Le Chiffre: Physically, I’m not going to do anything.

James Bond: Ah, you’re going to nothing me to death.

Le Chiffre: Torture of the mind. The most exquisite torture is all in the mind. 

The Name Is Bond. James Bond

When Daniel Craig first met with the producers of Casino Royale (2006), he said: ”I can’t do a Sean Connery impression. I can’t be Pierce.” The 52-year-old English actor wasn’t sure if he could play the next Agent 007.

Though the actor was criticized for not fitting the physical description of Bond (tall and dark man), Craig successfully captured Bond’s personality—The name is Bond. James Bond. He also showed us that Agent 007 is not a perfect man. In contrast, he is imperfect and vulnerable—he is human.

Aside from Craig’s brilliant performance, the scenery is breathtaking as well. Filming took place in Italy, the Bahamas, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom. Producers considered South Africa as another filming location. Unfortunately, they had some problems in securing it, so they gave up on filming there.


Unlike the 1967 Bond, who was a baccarat master, the 2006 Bond is on an assignment to bankrupt Le Chiffre, a terrorist financier, in a high-stakes poker game. So, who knows, maybe one day, we’ll watch a new version of Casino Royale being filmed on the long wanted coasts of South Africa with our favorite character playing slots, and other casino machines.

In any case, Casino Royale (2006) received an overall positive critical response, and the critics especially highlighted Craig’s performance in the film. Lastly, some fans even consider Casino Royale to be the most faithful adaptation of Fleming’s novel of the same name.