Daniel Craig: interview

Ahead of the release of the new Bond film Quantum of Solace, Time Out London's Dave Calhoun pinned down the current 007, Daniel Craig, and gave him an extensive interrogation by a crack team of celebrity agents -- including Roger Moore, Jon Cleese, and Dame Stella Rimington

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This first question is from Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ and ‘Moonraker’. He wants to know: how has being Bond changed your career? Have you been offered better roles because of it?
‘Yes, there’s no doubt it’s changed things. It might have been different if we hadn’t had the success we did with Casino Royale. It could have been more, let’s say… interesting.

‘I may not have been offered all the jobs that you’d expect, but I’ve definitely been shown stuff I wasn’t before. And it’s made me get more active about it. That’s what I’ve always done, gone looking for scripts, and this has given me that extra push. I made “Defiance”, a World War II film, last year with director Edward Zwick and alongside Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell, which was one of those roles that just got plumly offered to me. I don’t think that would have happened before.’

Richard Kiel also wants to ask…
‘… no, he can’t borrow my car.’

…who is your favourite male actor and have you tried to emulate him in any way?
‘The answer’s no. Definitely not. I had a ton of people I admired [when I was starting out] but I was as fickle as I could possibly be. It depended on the movie I’d just seen. Literally. If I came running out of a movie, I was that person for at least ten or 15 minutes, I was as fickle as that. I didn’t care as long as they were cool and good in that movie. I admire people like Paul Newman, the great modern movie actors such as Robert Redford and Steve McQueen. Those guys were not only great actors but movie stars as well.’

This question is from Dame Stella Rimington, former head of MI6.
‘Fucking hell! Have you got some people in your family?’

Have you ever met a real British intelligence officer and is your portrayal of Bond influenced in any way by that?
‘Firstly, how would I know if I met a spy? Although I have met quite a few special forces guys who do a lot of covert work. On the whole, they’re easier to recognise as they look like they can kill. They give off an aura of violence.’

So no spy has ever approached you in solidarity?
‘What? A nod and wink at me in a strange way? No. I’m not sure that’s the answer she’s looking for.’

Another question. Sandra Hebron, who runs the London Film Festival, would like to know how you feel about Quantum of Solace having its first public screening at the LFF on the same night (Oct 29) as the world premiere in Leicester Square?
‘It’s great. It’s something that came up because the festival is on when we’re in Leicester Square. I don’t know why we’ve never done it before: it’s perfect to have a public screening on the same night as the premiere. I know the tickets will be a bit more expensive, but some of it will go to charity.’

You shot some of the new film in London. I spotted a scene at the Barbican.
‘That was Marc [Forster, the director]’s choice. I’ve always liked the Barbican. It’s one of those very special, very London places. There was some opposition to us shooting there, but when you see it, it works. We don’t have “London, England” at the bottom of the screen, but it’s still obviously London – probably because it’s pissing with rain!’

Here’s Jonathan Pryce, who was the bad guy in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’. Who was your favourite Welsh Bond villain?
[Cracks up laughing] ‘Was Robert Shaw Welsh?’ [Shaw was in ‘From Russia With Love’ – but, no, he was from Lancashire.]

There’s a Welsh theme emerging. This one’s from Shirley Bassey.
‘Excellent! This is fantastic.’

She wants to know: Are you married?
[Cracks up again, before going silent] ‘I’m divorced.’

Oh God. On the back of that, how have you found the public interest that comes with playing Bond? You must have had to consider that when you took the plunge?
‘Definitely. That was one of the many conversations I had with myself. When it came down to it, I decided to embrace the whole thing. There’s no point doing a Bond movie – or a $200 million movie – and hiding away for six months. You have to get out there and do it, instead of thinking: Oh, Christ, I don’t know if I can deal with this. But on the whole I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done and trying to keep as private as I possibly can. Certainly, I’ve tried to keep my family and friends far away from it and I feel their privacy is crucially important.’

This is from John Cleese: How tall do you think Bond should be?
‘Bastard! Tell him to fuck off! Shorter than John Cleese! He’s about 6'5", I think.’

And one from Ann Carter, the head of exhibitions at the Imperial War Museum which has an Ian Fleming show on at the moment: How far have you based your Bond on your on-screen predecessors?
‘Not at all, really. Not deliberately. I sat and watched every movie religiously. And I still do, I have them all in the trailer. I’ve become a nerd, basically. I feel I need to, it’s part of what it is. But that was never the point. I could never start repeating it, I had to take it somewhere new. That said, I may start doing Sean Connery impressions in the next one, just for the hell of it.’

Here’s one from Charlie Higson, author of the ‘Young Bond’ books: How much of Fleming’s Bond is there in Craig’s Bond?
‘I hope a lot, but it’s subliminal. It’s about reading the books. What I wanted to do with Quantum of Solace – and what Marc wanted to do – was to draw on Fleming’s obsession with detail. He has two pages to describe making scrambled egg. Marc wanted to turn that into cinematic detail, so that just looking at the frame is sumptuous.

‘Also, there’s a darkness in the book Casino Royale, there’s a fight in there. Here’s a man who’s incredibly reluctant to do what he does, which I think applied to Fleming too. He’d always have preferred to be at [his Jamaican villa] Goldeneye writing and taking gin fizzes at eleven o’clock in the morning. Wouldn’t we all?’

I spoke to Marc Forster recently and he kept stressing the importance of character in this new film. Was that key?
‘I think so. Marc’s Swiss – I mean this in the best way – he’s very fastidious, very organised, which are qualities that lend themselves to a Bond movie. There’s an efficiency that you need. I think my Bond is quite efficient, but ragged, if that makes sense. He efficiently kills people but everything blows up around him. I can’t sing Marc’s praises highly enough, he’s a good man.’

This is from Stephen Dorril, who’s written books on MI6 and British security. Is there anything you’ve come across making the film that might be useful to a real MI6 officer?
‘Integrity! An understanding of moral issues. An understanding of the world – worldliness is always good.’

There aren’t as many gadgets in the films as there used to be.
‘We haven’t stressed that with this one, although I’m not saying we won’t in the future. But there are more in this one – there’s something called the Smart Wall that’s connected to a piece of machinery in MI6. We’ve tried to integrate the gadgets into everyday usage so that it’s not like: "Aha, there’s the gadget!" It’s all working continually. We live in a world of surveillance and satellite tracking. We might tackle it one day. I’m not averse to anything, I just want it to feel right.’

Here’s Sir Roger Moore. He wants to know: Who is your favourite Bond between Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton?
[Roars with laughter] ‘It’s you, Sir Roger! I’m a Connery fan, and he knows that. I’ve told lots of people. But I’ve got a big soft spot for Moore: “Live and Let Die” was the first movie I saw in the cinema with my dad. It was ridiculously camp – and then it just got camper.’

Have you had much dialogue with previous Bonds?
‘I speak to Pierce occasionally. We’ve got the same publicist, so I might get on the phone with him when he’s on junkets: “Hello, you all right?”, “How’s it going?” He was really nice and encouraging when the whole thing kicked off.’

Sir Roger would also like to know if you’ll be buying his new autobiography?
‘Probably. Can he not sign me a copy? I’ll buy it. You made these questions up! You could have made these questions up…’

And one from Louise Pointer, a croupier at Gala Casino at Tottenham Court Road.
‘When did you get this? At three o’clock in the morning?’

She wants to know if you know what a French bet is? It sounds dirty.
‘If it includes two girls, yes I do!’

Apparently it involves betting on three areas of the roulette wheel.
‘Oh yes, I know exactly what a French bet is – and my French bet is a bit slapdash.’

The owner of the Spymaster shop in Portman Square wants to know if you’ve ever wished you had access to some of their more nifty gadgets?
‘I’m not doing the shop down in any way – and I hear they’ve very reasonably priced – but the surveillance thing I got over quite early in life. I found that listening in to other people’s conversations only got you into more trouble. It’s like in relationships when you start looking through other people’s stuff. Beware! I’m very much a believer that if you’re looking for something you’ll find it.’

Are you enjoying these questions?
‘It’s great, believe me it couldn’t be a better way to start the day. They’ve been good questions.’

Here’s the bar manager at Duke’s Hotel. Martinis: shaken or stirred?
‘I don’t know who drinks stirred cocktails anymore. I like them ice, ice, ice cold, so you have to shake them up.’

He wants you to know that Duke’s serves the original Vesper martini. Have you tried it?
‘Do they? Yes, I’ve tried about ten of them. They’re knockout. We did a proper taste test: full measure of gin, full measure of vodka and then another liqueur on top of it. I ended up on the floor.’

Gin or vodka? Twist or olive?
‘Vodka. With an olive.’

Ian Fleming’s niece, Lucy Fleming, would like to know: As you are so fit, have you ever considered the Royal Marines commando course and earning the coveted green beret?
‘No, I’ll leave that to that professionals. They always hurt me, the Royal Marines, my trainer is one. They haunt me.’

The Bond films are huge studio enterprises, but then there’s the family element: the Flemings and the books, the Broccolis and the film legacy. How does that play out for you?
‘I don’t think Michael or Barbara [respectively stepson and daughter of original Bond producer Cubby Broccoli] would mind me saying that the films are as close as you’ll get to making a Hollywood movie away from home, but the way it’s run is unique. It’s all because of them. It has total autonomy and their love of the product – the books – comes from Cubby and they guard it jealously. The Flemings are richer people because of the Broccolis, let’s put it that way. It’s a two-way street.'

The Broccolis have done a sterling job of keeping the films up-to-date in a world of Bourne and digital effects.
‘It’s show business, let’s be honest. That’s what Cubby Broccoli and his co-producer Harry Saltzman were all about. Those early Bonds defined ’60s movies of that type because they went on location. They flew everybody to Tokyo, to Rio. We’ve continued that. It makes going to the cinema special. It’s event cinema.’

Twenty-two films on, it’s got to be hard to preserve that sense of wonder?
‘It is, but that’s why Marc was so clever finding that Panama location. It’s a place called Colon, which is seriously depressed economically but wonderful, it’s one of those magical places. And that’s there on the screen. We also went to Chile. Marc pushed for that, he was so insistent on making the locations characters in this movie. Anything to keep it away from me, fine.’

Marc brought with him a lot of new talent. It seems there was a bit of a shake-up behind-the-scenes?
‘It wasn’t a shake-up…’

But there were new editors, a new costume designer, production designer, director of photography…
‘There was no aggressive move – but Marc came in and the timing was bang-on. They’ve done 21 Bond movies and we wanted to get a new look. It was so important to me that we didn’t just rehash Casino Royale.

‘Yes, it’s a sequel, but we had to take risks and try to do something different. We had to get some new ideas, get fresh people in – people to share the panic with!’

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