The 'Skyfall' actor tells us why Bond is bringing it all back home
Daniel Craig is lolling in an armchair in Claridge’s. He is here to launch ‘Skyfall’, the twenty-third Bond film since the franchise began with ‘Dr No’ in 1962. It is the cinema event of the year and, arguably, his career.
Craig’s first appearance as the legendary secret agent in ‘Casino Royale’ (2006) has just topped Time Out’s poll as the best Bond film. And if his piercing blue eyes are looking a little tired today, the 44-year-old actor from Cheshire has good reason. Between his second Bond film, ‘Quantum of Solace’ (2008) and this, his third, Craig has starred in ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ (2011), ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ (2011), ‘Dream House’ (2011) and ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ (2011).
But above all these there is Bond, the role he has come to define for this generation as indelibly as Sean Connery did for his 50 years ago. The new film sees 007 back in the capital and, unsurprisingly, in a whole lot of trouble… Alexi Duggins meets the man who put the balls back into Bond.
There’s a lot of London in ‘Skyfall’. Is this the movie where 007 comes home?
‘Yeah, there’s an element of Bond coming back to London that you haven’t seen in a Bond movie for a long time. MI6 comes under attack. We get to run down Whitehall in screaming cars. We actually managed to close Parliament Square. For a while it was ours.
It makes me very excited – a unique experience. We used the subterranean London which people don’t get access to: not just the tube stations and the war rooms. It’s rare that you get access to places like Whitehall. Thankfully, Bond opens a few doors. Westminster and London Underground people let us go a bit crazy.’
There’s a terrorist theme; there are explosions in the capital. Given the 7/7 bombings, were you conscious of Londoners’ feelings?
‘We’ve had to be sensitive about things, [but] we can’t shy away from storylines. We’ve not been trying to please any particular group of people. That’s just been part of the storyline. We’ve just done our best to make it as good as it can possibly be, so if it appeals to Londoners or anybody, we’ll take anybody. Although I’m not from London originally: I moved down here when I was 16, so it’s played a part in my life. It’s where I’ve lived for all that time.’
How much of a Londoner is Bond?
‘MI6 is here, and if you read the Fleming books, they are all [set] here at some point, with him at a club or being in town, getting his suits made in Savile Row, or doing those sorts of things. So it’s a very important backdrop, a good starting point for him in the storyline. It’s the capital: it’s where the seat of power is, what he’s protecting, it’s where the Queen stays. It’s all of those things. It’s sort of what his job is.’
What kind of place is he at psychologically in this film?
‘A very good place at the start of the movie, it’s just that he ends up getting into hot water, and things happen. Some of them happy, some of them sad. It’s really to do with the interaction of characters – there’s an incredibly rich cast – and where Javier [Bardem], the bad guy, takes us. At certain points of the movie, it’s his movie: he’s driving it and it’s about how Bond is dealing with that.’
So Bond takes a back seat at some points?
‘No. As soon as I said that, I was going to take it back! I’m in every fucking scene so it’s difficult for me to take a back seat. What I meant is having good actors as a huge part of the movie is a great relief.’
It must be hard to keep a long-running franchise like Bond fresh. What was the approach this time?
‘To do the best we could. I know that sounds glib, but that’s the truth. There aren’t many movies like this being made in the world, which have these sorts of resources and which can gather this kind of talent together. So we have to have a great script and a great story.’
What about the details of ‘Skyfall’? Go on, tell us something you’re not supposed to…
‘I just can’t. You know, I think the film business is its own worst enemy because it sells movies on DVD footage and “behind the scenes”, and now it’s a real struggle trying to keep storylines and plotlines a secret. I think it’s such a sadness. I don’t think people gave a fuck in the past. They were just quite happy for movies to be made and then to go and see it and make up their own minds. I’m sorry to go on about it…’
No, please carry on…
‘I just think that the collective experience of going to see a film is something you can’t recreate. It’s seeing it with a bunch of other people that actually makes it a good or bad experience. So in order to get people to go and see it rather than watch it on a DVD, we’re suddenly trying to keep everything secret as a way of going, “Go and see it. Just fucking go and see it.” Anyway, there’s some stuff I could tell you that Sam [Mendes, director] might cut out, and then I’ll look like an idiot.’
What’s your relationship with Sam like?
‘Acting-wise Sam just has it covered. He does that standing on his head, that’s what he does: he’s brilliant with actors. But he has also brought a passion about Bond to it. He’s a fan, a proper fan of Bond, and he really has wanted to create something that he’s proud of, but also that’s going to be remembered as something that’s a classic: classically Bond, and also a good movie.’
What do you think will surprise people about this film?
‘I hope the complexity. It’s a good, dense storyline but it’s adult in many ways. It’s also got a lot of fun in it, and people might be surprised by the fact that there’s a lightness of touch in the movie that hasn’t been in the last two. There’s a lot of humour going on. It’s not that there are funny lines or anything, but there is humour within the script.’
How much humour? Do you finally get it on with Judi Dench’s M?
‘No, you’re off the mark there! We had a scene in “Casino Royale” where she was supposed to get out of bed and there’s a man in the bed with her. It was like, “Well, who’s it going to be?” – and I think Brad Pitt was in town – “Call Brad Pitt up and get him to lie in bed. I’m sure he’d do it, wouldn’t he?” Would you lie next to her? I would. I mean, I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt.’
How do you keep Bond fans happy when you’re not being 007 on screen? Do you feel a pressure to maintain a certain public image?
‘Well, obviously not, as I was on the cover of Time Out smoking [in 2011, for ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’], so I fucked that up. I suppose that’s not a particularly responsible thing to do, is it? But anyway… I leap out of burning buildings, I leap out of cars when I shouldn’t do, in movies, so that’s not particularly responsible either.’
How are you feeling at the end of all that now?
‘You know, what happens with a Bond film is that I keep an energy level up throughout the whole of filming and then as soon as it finishes I just relax and I drop. It’s a very natural thing to do. We all go through that process. You’ll find most of the crew sitting around staring at brick walls, because it’s been full-on, all day, every day. I’m fucked. Well, I’m not fucked. I’m actually great.’