After leaving home at age 16 to pursue acting full time in London, Craig graduates from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and makes a name for himself on the London stage, appearing in the Pulitzer-prize winning Angels in America. In 1993, he marries actress Fiona Loudon, with whom he has a daughter, Ella. In 1994, they divorce. Two years later, things look up – at least professionally – when Craig makes his big break in the 1996 BBC mini-series Our Friends in the North.
After a few low-profile roles, Craig gets the chance to romance Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But the actor insists the experience working on a Hollywood blockbuster was far from enjoyable. "I had a horrible time," he tells EW. "It was f---ing boring." Still, his turn as the ruggedly handsome Alex West brings his first widespread recognition.
Craig plays an unhinged mobster in Road to Perdition, costarring fellow Brit Jude Law and screen legends Paul Newman (left) and Tom Hanks. It brings Craig his first glimpse of superstardom. "You go out to dinner with Tom Hanks and the food is brought in massive quantities," he tells PEOPLE. "It's mad. There are 800 dishes. The chef comes out and just starts cooking at your table. Things you didn't even order!"
Fresh from his critically acclaimed role in Sylvia (opposite Gwyneth Paltrow), Craig briefly dates supermodel Kate Moss – becoming an instant tabloid target in the U.K. "I used to get very hung up about it," he tells EW. "I don't enjoy having someone go to my mother's door. It's like having the Secret Service on your back."
Craig plays a cool-and-callous coke dealer trying to quit the business in Layer Cake. (He's later linked to his costar, Sienna Miller). The New York Times says of his performance, "Mr. Craig grabs your attention by the raw force of his physical presence." The film catches the eye of producers looking to cast the next James Bond. "We considered every actor in the world," Sony chairman Amy Pascal tells EW. "But after [they] saw him in Layer Cake, Daniel became the front-runner. From then on, he was the one to beat." In 2005, Craig inherits the role from Pierce Brosnan.
Craig hits the world premiere of Casino Royale with American movie producer Satsuki Mitchell. Although the pair had been dating for more than a year – since working together on 2005's The Jacket – the London event marks their first public appearance together. "I couldn't get through [all the Bond hype] without her," he later tells Britain's The Times. "You've got to have a sense of perspective and she gives me that."
Too blond for Bond? Nonsense! Craig proves all the naysayers wrong, as Casino Royale becomes the highest-grossing Bond film in history ($595 million, to be exact!). As EW notes, "Daniel Craig floods the screen with personality the way the old stars did, using his saturnine sexiness, his implosive intelligence, and the silent lone-wolf hunger at his core." Craig also becomes a major sex symbol, thanks to the now-infamous scene in which he steps out of the sea wearing a pair of barely-there swim trunks. TIME notes that his shoulders and pecs are "so well defined, they could be in Webster's."
After winning raves as Bond, Craig follows it up with a pair of movies costarring Nicole Kidman: The Invasion (a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and The Golden Compass. The appeal of working with Kidman? "She turns me on," he tells W. "In the nicest possible way, you understand. Not in any sordid, horrible way. Well, come to think of it …."
Craig's second bow as Bond in Quantum of Solace rakes in $67.5 million opening weekend, scoring the highest-grossing debut in the franchise's history. "His anger and his passion drive him," the actor tells reporters of 007 learning to cope with the death of his beloved Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). "He probably misbehaves more in this than he did in the last one."
After quietly splitting from girlfriend Satsuki Mitchell, Craig moves on with British actress Rachel Weisz, who is also fresh off her split from Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky. The pair, who are set to appear in September's Dream House together, waste no time settling down, marrying on June 22 in a secret ceremony in New York.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Everett Collection; Everett Collection; Brad Barket/WireImage, Jeff Vespa/Wireimage; Everett Collection; Dani Abramowicz/FilmMagic; INF; Everett Collection; Columbia Pictures; Startraks