Afghanistan is falling, southern Europe is burning, and the world is in the midst of a pandemic… so thank the Lord and little Baby Jesus that Daniel Craig has chosen to enlighten us all on a subject close to everyone’s hearts: inheritance.
“Isn’t there an old adage that if you die a rich person, you’ve failed?” he said, in an interview this week. “I think Andrew Carnegie gave away what in today’s money would be about $11 billion, which shows how rich he was because I’ll bet he kept some of it, too.”
“But I don’t want to leave great sums to the next generation. I think inheritance is quite distasteful. My philosophy is: get rid of it or give it away before you go.”
Like most people who choose to publicly voice their feelings about inheritance, Craig isn’t short of a few bobs. He is a millionaire many times over. One hundred and sixteen times over, to be precise, with his fortune growing ever larger thanks to the announcement this week that he had become the world’s highest-paid film star, beating the likes of Will Smith, Leonardo Di Caprio, and The Rock.
Craig, who is best known for his role as James Bond, will be paid £73 million to star in the sequels of the American detective movie Knives Out. His two daughters – who are 29 years old and three – will not see a penny of it. He is going to give it all to… the children of Afghanistan, perhaps? Or maybe he’d like to donate a bit to the 1.1 billion kids around the world who, according to a report published by Unicef yesterday, are at “extremely high risk” from heatwaves, floods, disease, drought, and air pollution.
Oh, I know that the last sentence is the most po-faced I have ever written! In truth, I don’t really care what Daniel Craig does with his money. He could set fire to it for all I care, in the style of the UK government awarding hundreds of millions of pounds to firms for PPE that doesn’t work. He could donate it all to the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary, or the Padstow Lobster Hatchery. A popular way for rich men nowadays to spend money they don’t really need is on trips to space – they are better than visits to say, the Maldives, or Barbados because on your return to Earth you don’t have to worry about filling out your passenger locator form correctly or finding a reputable Covid test provider. Perhaps this is how Craig might choose to spend some of his wealth before he shuffles off this mortal coil.
But however he deals with his millions, I have just one request from him: please don’t tell us about it. Because I don’t know about you, but as I sit here with my mortgage that is visible from space, the last thing I want to do is be lectured on the morality of inheritance by a man who is rich enough to know that even if he spends all his money, his kids will probably be alright because he’s already been able to give them the kind of start in life that most folks could only dream of.
I mean, it’s interesting that he used the word “distasteful” to describe how he feels about inheritance, isn’t it? Taste is a subjective thing, of course, and it’s usually only a thing discussed by the lofty mega-rich. But, by and large, it is considered distasteful to talk about money, especially if you have lots of it. Similarly, a man like Daniel Craig – whose job has survived the pandemic, even if many of the cinemas his films are usually shown in haven’t – might think twice before he chooses to describe as a failure those who have died and left money to their family. For many of us, the ability to leave our children an inheritance is actually one of the greatest markers of success.
In an entirely coincidental piece of news this week, it was revealed that the comedian Sean Lock, who tragically died of cancer on Wednesday, had left an estate of £2.8 million to his family. When someone dies of cancer at the age of 58, the immediate family doesn’t really need any more lessons about the value of things.
Of course, Craig is not the first mega-rich celebrity to give us his thoughts on inheritance – see also: Sting, Bill Gates, Nigella Lawson – and I doubt he will be the last. But it would be nice if, for the duration of this pandemic, Craig and his ilk could get on with doing the only thing we really ask of them as entertainers: which is distracting us from our daily woes, rather than highlighting them.