‘Am I getting my kit off in this movie? Of course I am!’
You described ‘Skyfall’ as ‘Bond with bells on’. So how would you describe this new Bond movie, ‘Spectre’? Same bells, different tune?
‘There you go, that’s perfect! The complicated answer, without me having to think of some clever line, is that “Skyfall” did really well and broke all sorts of records and was a massive success. Then we had to do another one – which for all of us, the director Sam Mendes included, felt incredibly daunting. What the fuck are we going to do? Once we started, we realised we couldn’t think about “Skyfall”. We had to think about this film.’
'So if that was bells on, there’s more of everything in this film. It felt completely the right thing to do. We’ve got the character of Moneypenny back, and Q, and now Ralph Fiennes is playing M, so it was, like: right, let’s get all of them into the story. Things started building from there. Everyone’s been banging on to me about the gadgets. “Where are the gadgets?” Before it hasn’t felt right, and it’s not like we’ve made this one heavily into gadgets, but we’ve snuck a lot of stuff in. So, yes, it’s got more bells!’
There was more humour in ‘Skyfall’ than in ‘Casino Royale’ or ‘Quantum of Solace’. Will that continue with ‘Spectre’?
‘The humour in “Skyfall” was conscious. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. I just think there’s room for it. Especially when you’ve got someone like Sam Mendes at the helm who is the truth police – and I’m the truth police too. We’re always asking: is this real? Then the humour can happen. But it’s not gag writing. They’re not the kind of movies I want to make. Really, really, really good gags are few and far between. Those writers are out there, but they’re rare. Look at people like Seth Rogen and people who make those movies, a lot of that is improvisation. They’re funny people and I’m not used to doing that sort of thing. But we’ve got people like Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear who are very easy with humour. But, yes, short answer: we tried to put more humour into this movie!’
Were you involved in bringing Sam Mendes back to direct?
‘Yes, I was begging him. Begging him. They offered him loads of money, of course, but I was also begging him to do it. They wanted to make the movie very quickly at first and he said he couldn’t. He just didn’t have time. He had three theatre productions he was working on. How he fucking does it I have no idea. And they were saying: we have to get moving on the script and he was, like: “No, I can’t do it.”’
Were you disappointed when it looked like he wouldn’t do it?
‘I was gutted. I felt we’d just got somewhere, me and him. “Skyfall” was very fraught. He’ll happily tell you. The two of us butted heads a lot and had lots of very passionate discussions. But we got through it. We got through his nervousness – it was his first Bond movie. He came on a set with a crew I’ve known for a number of years. We’re all fucking pals. He’s thinking: What’s the fucking dynamic here? And I’m nervous because I’ve asked him to do the film and I want him to be comfortable but I also want to push him. And we’re not just strangers, we know each other, and so we can shout at one another. It became a proper friendship on this new movie. I felt massively supported by him, in a different way. He had my back and I certainly had his.’
There were stories during this shoot that you were helping to write the script. Were they true?
‘It’s not like I sit down and write the script. Because I can’t write scripts. If I could write scripts, I’d be writing scripts, believe me. The writer John Logan came in and gave us the bones of something and then two writers came in and we worked with them and Sam. The way it works is that I’d wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and write it down and send it to Sam and he ignores me or doesn’t ignore me, or talks to me the following morning and we develop it from there. So I’m not physically writing things down.’
Playing James Bond is a lot about how you look – the clothes, the walk, the fitness. Do you ever get fed up with all that?
‘It’s a drag. The best acting is when you’re not concerned about the surface. And Bond is the opposite of that. You have to be bothered about how you’re looking. It’s a struggle. I know that how Bond wears a suit and walks into a room is important. But as an actor I don’t want to give a fuck about what I look like! So I have to play with both things. In a way that works, as that’s Bond: he looks good and he doesn’t give a fuck what you think he looks like!’