Daniel Craig Talks About His New Role As 007
By Ian Spelling
The audience—men and women alike—gasped out loud and in unison.
It happened during a recent screening of the new James Bond adventure, “Casino Royale.” Yes, it was a brutal scene in which the ruthless bad guy tortured Bond to elicit information, but that violence alone didn’t cause the gasp. Nope, what really caused it was the sight of Bond himself, Daniel Craig, completely starkers and buff as hell.
A day later, Craig sat down at the Regency Hotel to talk about the movie. He looked sharp in a suit and tie, not to mention lean and muscular, and his blue eyes were a special effect unto themselves. Still, he didn’t quite resemble that guy in that scene, the one with that remarkably sculpted body. Had he, ahem, let himself go after the production wrapped?
“You mean physically let myself go or mentally let myself go?” he asked playfully, laughing. “I did a little bit of both after it. I went on holiday and let myself go in lots of ways. But that was just because we were in France and eating good food and drinking lots of wine. And I have kept up going to the gym, but not quite as intensely as I was doing it during the film.”
It’s been a whirlwind for Craig since word spread that he was on the short list to replace Pierce Brosnan as British super-spy James Bond. The tabloid press in the U.K. went berserk. A blonde Bond? A blue-eyed Bond? Then he went and landed the role and the torrent continued. He got hurt on set! He couldn’t drive a stick-shift car! Was this really the man to play such an iconic role? Now, the reviews are in and it’s pretty unanimous: “Casino Royale” is solid, if short of a classic, but Craig is a Bond for the ages.
Craig admitted he took some of the criticism personally, especially because people made judgments without seeing a frame of “Casino Royale.” But he carried on, did his thing to the best of his ability and hardly came up for air, so focused was he on the task at hand. In fact, he noted, he’s yet to come up for air.
”We went straight into long-lead press, a junket for a week, where I actually had to go talk about the movie just as we finished it,” he said. “And it was one of the most bizarre experiences because I hadn’t given it any thought. I’d been just working. People were going, ‘What’s it like to be Bond?’ And I didn’t know. I still don’t really know. And then we went on holiday. So it’s kind of never stopped.
“As much as I went away on holiday, the phone was ringing every day and we were discussing stuff about how we were going to do this and how we’re going to do that and what the next stage is. It’s a full-time job. It’s a good job, though.”
The 21st installment in the venerable Bond franchise, “Casino Royale” unfolds in the modern day, but dips back to the beginning of the Ian Fleming saga about the British spy with a license to kill. Bond is on his first mission for Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and it’s a globe-trotting affair involving terrorism, a desperate villain (Danish “Pusher” star Mad Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre), a lovely lady (French actress Eva Green of “The Dreamers” as Versper Lynd), fast cars and a few high-stakes card games.
Craig plays Bond as a killing machine in the making. The character is charming and fallible, but he rarely cracks jokes and it’s clear that he’s struggling with his feelings for Vesper, as he only lets his guard down occasionally, even with her—or especially with her. As such, Craig’s Bond far more closely resembles that of Timothy Dalton or early Sean Connery than Roger Moore or Brosnan.
“If I play any character, I want to see a weakness within them, because I want to see how they cope with that, how they deal with it,” he said. “I don’t want to watch two-dimensional characters when I go to the cinema. I want to watch rounded people make decisions, and I can’t believe that they’d make a decision that they’re Teflon-coated. That doesn’t interest me.”
“Casino Royale” may put Craig on the international map, but he was doing fine beforehand anyway. At 38, he’s a respected British stage actor and had won acclaim for his performances in such television shows and films as “Sharpe’s Eagle,” “Elizabeth,” “The Mother,” “Layer Cake,” “Munich” and the current release, “Infamous.” Craig smiled as he considered how his career might evolve from here, if somehow he might be straitjacketed as Bond, James Bond.
“It’s a high-class problem to have,” he said. “It’s a very high-class problem to have. There are worse things. I count myself very blessed to be in a situation like this. I’m not looking for a way of countering it. I’m just going to enjoy it for the moment, as opposed to looking at the negative.”
Of course, he could surprise everyone and play a wimp.
“A wimp with a heart,” Craig said, smiling. “Maybe you’ve got a good idea.”