Daniel Craig’s aggression behind the wheel in the James Bond films is no illusion. The actor would easily beat Jeremy Clarkson in a race, according to the stunt driver best known for portraying The Stig on Top Gear.
Ben Collins, who served for seven years as the BBC television show’s “tame racing driver” while also working on the past two Bond films, said that Craig would not only be faster than all the Top Gear presenters but had the skill to beat almost all the people Collins coached for the programme’s “star in a reasonably priced car” segment.
Collins, who taught Craig how to drive an Aston Martin DBS in preparation for the 2008 film Quantum of Solace, said that the only other actor he had taught who had a similar instinct for speed was Tom Cruise. Asked whether Craig would outperform Clarkson and his co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May, Collins responded: “Oh, God, yeah. The presenters are very good at what they do, but they’re no speed merchants.
“They did do a 24-hour race and they did very well and ended up on the podium, but Daniel’s instinct is good. He’s got a taste for that bug. “It obviously helps. You can see that in his general approach to all the stunts he gets involved in, including things like the wire work.”
Collins, who was speaking as cars that he helped to wreck were being installed for Bond in Motion, an exhibition of vehicles used in the films, said that he spent most of his time on Top Gear encouraging celebrities to drive faster. “With Daniel, it was the other way round. He was certainly not shy of going fast. Once the adrenalin was going, you had to [get him to slow down].
“We’ve done a lot of work with him at Dunsfold aerodrome [where Top Gear laps are filmed]. He did a full workout, from high-speed driving to the evasive stuff, and he really took to it.” Craig has not driven any of the reasonably priced cars driven by celebrity guests, but Collins predicted that he would rank highly. “We were in an Aston Martin DBS rather than a Suzuki Liana, which wouldn’t rip the skin off a rice pudding, but you’ve got to be a lot more brave to drive a supercar.” He said that May, despite his nickname of “Captain Slow”, had a similar level of skill to his co-presenters because he listens to advice.
“Jeremy [Clarkson] has his own way of doing everything in life. He’s got his own bombast which sees him through corners one way or another. James is much more technical and listens and plans. It’s hard to say which of them would produce the best lap time. But I’m sure Daniel would [beat them]. He’s Bond. A lot of the stuff you see is him, so it’s right that you believe it’s him.” Collins said that he had made his peace with Top Gear’s producers, who had sought to prevent him from publishing a book revealing that he was The Stig, a character whose mysterious identity was a long-running joke on the programme. He said that his most memorable role as a Bond film stunt driver was driving the Aston Martin DB5 in Skyfall.
“‘Never meet your heroes’ is quite a good expression for vintage cars from the Sixties and Seventies, but the DB5 doesn’t roll as much as some of the muscle cars from America. It’s like being in a boat. It’s got a big, wooden steering wheel and it does roll around. “The hardest we pushed it is that first scene when it leaves the garage. It has 280bhp, so it’s fairly modest. We did cane it a bit, but this is before the days of limited slip differentials so you get quite a lot of wheelspin. It was zipping through the streets in London. I didn’t want to dent that one. That would have been a P45 in the post.
“For Quantum of Solace we had 12 Aston Martin DBScs, and they destroyed pretty much all of them.” He said that car chases had become increasingly destructive, a trend that began with The French Connection but became entrenched after The Bourne Supremacy. “We had Quantum of Solace, with a big car chase at the beginning, so we had to step up to the plate in the same way [as the Bourne films]. They’re starting to bring more and more specialists into the stunt business, so hopefully it won’t go the route of CGI, in which a lot of the fakery gets spotted by the audience.
“The joy of the Bond movies is that you know it’s not a CGI blob going across the screen.” Bond in Motion, an updated version of a previous exhibition held at Beaulieu, Hampshire, will open at the London Film Museum on March 21.