This weekend we thought we’d share with you a bit of Daniel Craig, whose Flashbacks of a Fool is currently doing the rounds. Tune in tomorrow for part two, a Q&A with the man himself.
Daniel Craig is likely to play down his dual role on Flashbacks of a Fool. Ask, for instance, what it was like producing the film as well as starring in it, and he quips: “I’ve tended to be dragged in to those conversations where decisions are made about finance and locations and stuff.
The truth is that Craig was absolutely crucial in getting the film made and took his role as producer very seriously indeed. He has known director Baillie Walsh for more than ten years and had always encouraged him to make a feature.
“I just felt that he should be making movies,” says Craig. “And I’ve always felt that way. He’s a fantastic storyteller and this is what he should be doing. Baillie did a documentary a few years ago (Mirror, Mirror) and his music videos with bands like Massive Attack and INXS were the benchmark in that genre.
“And then he wrote this script about five years ago with me in mind and said ‘I want you to do it one day’ and I said ‘absolutely, we’ll do it.’ And that’s how it started.”
It was to be a bumpy ride. At first it was difficult to secure funding for the film, even with Craig’s name attached. But then Craig took on the role of James Bond in Casino Royale and his stock, and power, within the industry rose even further.
Casino Royale scored that elusive double whammy – it became a huge box office hit as well as gaining rave reviews all around the world – and in turn helped Craig and Walsh get Flashbacks of a Fool into production.
“I did it because I believed in it and because I believe in Baillie,” he stresses. “He needs to make movies and I felt that was important. But Bond does help and I would be lying if I said it didn’t.
“Doing films like this makes me remember why I do what I do. Being a producer on this, basically what I have to do is speak to people and say ‘I believe in this, spend some money.’
“And it’s a step up because (in the past) that was somebody else’s job, that was my bosses’ job, they did all of that and I turned up and did the acting. But now it’s me who has to say ‘I really believe in this, please spend some money.’ And actually following it through and getting the movie made was very rewarding.”
In Flashbacks of a Fool, Craig plays Joe Scot a British born actor living in Hollywood whose once glittering career is going downhill fast, thanks to a hedonistic lifestyle of booze, drugs and womanising.
When he hears the terrible news that his best friend from childhood, Boots, has suddenly died, it forces him to reassess his life and go home to England and confront the past that has haunted him since he was a 17 year old living in an idyllic seaside town.
“I think it’s really beautiful,” Craig says of the finished film. “The story is really simple, it’s about dealing with the past and taking care of business. I think Baillie has done an amazing job.”
It unfolds in two time-frames – present day Los Angeles where Scot holes up in his hi-tech soulless luxury cliff top house – and back in the 1970s when the teenage Joe was on the verge of manhood, happily enjoying a golden summer with his friends when events conspired to change his life forever.
The young Joe (played by Harry Eden) falls for the beautiful Ruth (Felicity Jones) and earns a date with her, much to the envy of his mates. But at the same time he becomes the object of a bored, lonely housewife’s (Jodhi May) frustrated sexual desires and when she seduces him it triggers a chain of events ending in the tragic death of her child.
“The child getting killed so deeply affects him that it sends him off on to that destructive path and I can personally relate to that, not in such an extreme way but if you go off on that wrong path and don’t deal with it and don’t address it, it will find it’s way back to you.”
Both the LA sequences and the ‘golden summer’ from Joe’s teenage years were filmed in South Africa and Craig believes that the surprising location worked particularly well for the film.
“It’s also about how important those (teenage) years are. The young Joe is such a bundling ball of energy and hormones and every experience is so vivid. And that’s why filming in South Africa worked for that sequence so well because when you remember those times everything is so bright and so colourful, basically because your hormones are going through the roof.”
Craig was born in Chester, England, and grew up near Liverpool. He attended the National Youth Theatre at 16 and then Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In 1996 he starred in the highly acclaimed BBC drama Our Friends In The North, a corruption and crime saga rightly regarded as one of the best television dramas of recent times.
As a result, Craig found himself in great demand and was inundated with offers of more television drama; instead he opted to work in small independent movies like Hotel Splendide, The Trench and Obsession.
The gamble paid off and Craig was cast by Sam Mendes to play the psychotic son of Paul Newman’s character in The Road To Perdition and later, poet Ted Hughes opposite Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath in Sylvia. He has worked with director Roger Michell twice; as the young man who beds a grandmother and her daughter in The Mother, and as Joe, a writer who attracts the attentions of a stalker, in Enduring Love.
He starred in the hit British gangster movie, Layer Cake and Steven Spielberg’s Munich. In Infamous, he played killer Perry Smith, who, along with his accomplice, developed a close friendship with the writer Truman Capote as he researched his book, In Cold Blood. He recently played Lord Asriel in The Golden Compass.
He will be seen in the Ed Zwick directed World War Two epic, Defiance, shortly and in January started filming the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace with director Marc Forster.
Q: What was South Africa like?
A: Wonderful. I love that part of the world. The first job I ever did was in Zimbabwe on The Power of One, that was 90, 91 and we couldn’t shoot in South Africa and there was discussions going on about somebody on the film who had been known to work in South Africa and there was talk of sacking him because the Zimbabweans wouldn’t put up with it. it was still very touchy. I did I Dream Of Africa a few years ago with Kim Basinger, wonderful. So I love the place, I’ve got a real affinity to it and I love going back. It was the first time I’d been to Cape Town and it’s beautiful, an unbelievable place. South Africa has its problems but if they can sort it out it will do the rest of Africa a lot of good
Q: Are you pleased with the film?
A: I am pleased. I think it’s really beautiful. The story is really simple. It’s a story about dealing with the past and taking care of business. I think Baillie has done an amazing job. And what comes through is the humour in it, which is really important. I read the script and thought ‘there’s no way we can touch this; we have to keep it true to the script. It will either work as a piece or it won’t work.’ And it was important when we gave it to the actors that they were taken by the script and they were taken by the fact that they would get to say these words so everybody who came in gave it what they had. And the story worked because of that and you can’t try and screw around with it because they would have ruined the movie.
Q: Did you keep tabs on the film as it was in progress or did you see it for the first time as a finished piece?
A: Well, Baillie is a close friend so of course I kept tabs on it as he was going along - we were on the phone to each other constantly. But I left him alone with it. The first time I saw it I was bowled over. And filming in South Africa was just essential, it looks like another land, to state the obvious, but what it hopefully looks like is that endless summer that we all remember from when we were growing up, the one that lasted forever – I’m not sure about that much sex, though (laughs). I don’t think that ever happened. Maybe in my mind.
Q: Is it a story about remembering where you came from?
A: Definitely. What’s interesting is that this guy, my character, has everything – he has the best Mum and her close friend who brings him up. It may be a slightly dysfunctional family but it is also a good, solid family and everything is there and that’s the big tragedy. And later on in life he’s got Eve (Ophelia Franklin) who is probably the love of his life, who is standing there and saying ‘I will be there forever even though you are a mess…’ But that’s the tragedy. It’s a way that when he was 16, the one thing, the child getting killed, so deeply affects him that it sends him off on to that destructive path and I can personally relate to that, not in such an extreme way but if you go off on that wrong path and don’t deal with it and don’t address it, it will find it’s way back to you. It’s also about how important those years are. The young Joe is such a bundling ball of energy and hormones and every experience is so vivid. And that’s why filming in South Africa worked for that sequence so well because when you remember those times everything is so bright and so colourful, basically because your hormones are going through the roof.
Q: Is it important for you to take on projects like this alongside doing Bond?
A: It’s absolutely not a conscious decision to react to something. I did it because I believed in it and because I believe in Baillie. He needs to make movies and I felt that was important. But Bond does help. I would be lying if I said it didn’t. And doing films like this makes me remember why I do what I do. And also being a producer on this is like basically what I have to do is speak to people and say ‘I believe in this, spend some money.’ And it’s a step because that was somebody else’s job - that was my bosses’ job, they did all of that and I turned up and did the acting. But now it’s me who has to say ‘I really believe in this, please spend some money.’ And actually following it through and getting the movie made was very rewarding.
Q: Was it difficult to raise the money for this?
A: You know, thank God for Buena Vista and the other investors because we did get the money together. It was a struggle but it always is. It’s a struggle on a Bond movie to a lesser degree, there’s always a budget issues here and there but I’ve kept myself out of that as much as possible but over the past couple of years I’ve tended to be more involved in conversations about finance and locations and stuff. And if I’m going to be dragged in I might as well get a credit for it! (laughs).
Q: Baillie said that there were some parts of Joe’s wardrobe that were your own clothes. What was that about?
A: It was all my own, it was that kind of movie. (laughs).
Q: Was that just for convenience or were you playing a version of yourself?
A: No, the way that Baillie did it was that Joe was in a shirt and a pair of jeans, or something, and it’s hardly a difficult wardrobe to get together. But it’s something that I wear and he just said ‘I want you to wear that’ because for him it was an image that worked. It was just a simplistic thing. And it was that kind of production.
Q: So is there anything of you in the character?
A: Well I grew up by the sea, as Joe does. And Baillie did too. He was the kid at the back of the waltzers (fairground ride) that made you sick. He was the guy inside the ghost train who squirts water at you and touches the back of your head to make you jump, that was Baillie’s job for a while, so that’s all his. I grew up in the North West (of England) and New Brighton was the place that I used to go to which is not unlike that kind of place in the film, the funfairs and arcades, it might have been a bit smellier I think!
Q: Was music important to you?
A: Oh yeah. I mean, I never had a jacket as good as that and I never had the blue eye shadow (which young Joe wears in one scene in the film) but music was a very important part of my life. I do think that Harry (Eden, who plays young Joe) is very good in this, in fact all the kids were absolutely spot on. We lucked out with them really, and that was a very important part of it.
Q: Because he’s playing a young version of your character, did you have any conversations with Harry about how to play it?
A: I kind of left him alone with it really. It’s not like I was playing my character with a hump and a pair of false teeth. And the fact that he’s 16 and I’m 40 in the movie, that’s a lifetime. The person that you were then is different. I mean, obviously there are physical similarities but the people who you would meet from your school days now, they have changed – they’ve been around the world, had families, a lot of life has been lived, and you become a different person. So no, I just said to Harry ‘you do it exactly as it should be done’ which is that boy at that particular time in that seaside resort with those people, that’s the way it should be.
Q: The film is quite scathing about Hollywood. Where did that come from?
A: Well it is scathing but it could be any business really. It really could. But the key in was to be a movie star was a good connection to make. And you could have some fun with it. I mean, Mark’s character (Mark Strong, who plays Joe’s agent, Manny Miesel) is great, we can relate to that. But really it’s about laying down the truth of the story and how his mother would describe it would be to say that he’s got himself in with a bad crowd. But there’s plenty of lovely people in this business, it’s just who you choose and you’ve got to choose. And if you just let your life run away with itself you end up surrounded by a bunch of **** and that’s a choice and Joe has made that choice. He has made that choice to be where he is and all of his good friends have gone. In fact, the one person, Eve, who is there is the one person keeping him alive. And hopefully by the end of the movie he begins to realise that, because that’s the woman he should be running off into the sunset with.
Q: You mentioned that you were into music as a teenager, who were you listening to?
A: It’s funny, Roxy Music and David Bowie have always been there but it wasn’t a huge influence on me, it was more punk and then I went through a deeply kind of heavy metal period which lasted for a couple of years, which was one of those things, really (laughs). And then I came out the other end of that. It was all about the artwork, which was what appealed to me, because I was studying art at the time and I liked the album covers. You drew album covers and therefore you listened to the music. Blue Oyster Cult! I can’t listen to them now..(laughs). But that was part of it. But someone asked me ‘Bowie or Roxy?’ I mean, how could you choose? One compliments the other. And that piece of music (Roxy Music), If There Is Something, is what Baillie based the movie on, that’s where the movie came from.
Q: Have you still got friends from your teenage years?
A: I’ve got one friend that I still keep in touch with from then. But a bit like Joe I left home at 16. Obviously not in those circumstances, but I’ve lived my life down here (London) and so this is where my family and friends are. But I’m connected to it because my mother is still there. It’s a strange one, but you move on.
Q: In the film your character’s mother keeps his bedroom exactly the way he left it as a kind of shrine..
A: My mother stopped doing that a long time ago, thank God. For a while she did, but she’s moved house a couple of times since then and slowly my possessions have gone down to one box which is the same with everybody.
Q: When you go back there now is it different because you’re perceived as a movie star?
A: I kind of keep myself to myself. I don’t go out. I’m lucky with the place I come from, maybe it’s just the North West but people do tend to keep themselves to themselves. I’m lucky I can go to the shop without any problems, people say hello but that’s it.
Q: What can you tell us about the story?
A: Nothing really (laughs). The story continues where we left off. In Casino Royale we saw that there is an organisation that is trying to destabilise the world for it’s own gains and that is still there and I’m going after that.
Q: Is it true that it starts two minutes after Casino Royale?
A: Well, it might be five minutes or maybe ten! (laughs). But yes, pretty much after the last one. We shooting in Pinewood and then we’ll be doing Europe and South America.
Q: Does it feel good to be back in the role?
A: I feel really good. Up until Christmas it was a bit kick, bollock and scramble because things were coming together, but now the tipping point has come, we’re all in and we just have to get on with it. Any problems that we had or thought we had have gone now and we’ll have a ton more to deal in three months time. We have Matheiu Amalric in the film and I don’t know if you’ve seen The Diving Bell and the Butterfly but he’s fantastic and we’re just blessed to have him. He’s great. Olga (Kurylenko) is now on board which is great, that’s all sorted and we can get over that stuff and nonsense. You forget that the casting process can be so crazy, everybody gets mobbed. Olga’s parents and Gemma’s (Arterton) parents have been mobbed but that will all die down soon and we’ll get the movie out.
Q: Is it very character driven?
A: Yes, but don’t worry we’ve got plenty of explosives (laughs). We have Dan Bradly shooting second unit and he had just finished shooting Indie 4 (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and he did the Bourne movies, so we’re in good shape.