CELEBRITY

It­may be Daniel Craig’s last Bond movie, but he wants to show the Bri­tish spy’s emo­tional side.

Friday - - Contents - WORDS BY JONATHAN DEAN POR­TRAIT BY RANKIN

Daniel Craig is James Bond, de­spite the ef­forts of daniel craig is not bond. com, a protest web­site launched amid the gen­eral scep tic is mt hat greeted the cast­ing of the ac­tor a decade ago. ‘Too short, too blond, too thespy,’ he re­calls. ‘Can one be too thes­pian?’

He laughs–a huge ly con­fi­dent man whose strand of emo­tion­ally knacker ed 007 is now in the DNA of the icon. His in­spi­ra­tion was In­di­ana Jones. ‘What­was bril­liant was that he­was fal­li­ble, he bled,’ he says of the ar­chae­ol­o­gist. ‘It’s never left me. If you do ac­tion, an au­di­ence has to feel jeop­ardy.’ He smiles fre­quently. And that site, by the way, is still live.

The lat­est Bond flick – out on Novem­ber 6 –is Daniel’ s fourth, on a con­tin­u­ous story arc that is a first for the fran­chise. Yet it’s the scale of th­ese movies that pis­tol-whips you. His­tory haunts each scene: the his­tory of 53 years of a very Bri­tish fran­chise and cru­cially, the $1 bil­lion (Dh3.67 bil­lion) made by Sky­fall, the most suc­cess­ful 007 film ever. It’s an op­er­a­tion that, at the lat­est count, has seen 610,934 uses of the ti­tle’ s hash tag since De­cem­ber, when Sam Men­des an­nounced his sec­ond Bond would be called Spec t re. It is the 24th in the se­ries.

Think of th­ese films like Beethoven’ s Fifth. A huge start– da-da-da-dum– fol­lowed by dove­tailed vi­o­lent crescen­dos and quiet mo­ments in bed. It is the form of the lat­est, with a tur­bu­lent, per­sonal plot that sees Bond face both his de­mons and the Spec­tre group, led by Franz Ober­hauser (Christoph Waltz). It also stars huge in­ter­na­tional ac­tion scenes, cer­tainly more than in Sky fall, which barely left Bri­tain. How, though, with such a leap in scale, can Spec­tre avoid be­ing Die An­other

Day, Pierce Brosnan’s flabby farewell? ‘Be­cause,’ says pro­duc­tion de­signer Den­nis Gass­ner, a beam­ing man in a boater who spends a lot of time on Maui do­ing yoga, ‘we have bet­ter taste.’

At 9.30 pm on a cold March night in Rome this year, part of the el­e­gant Via No men tan a was closed to res­i­dents, tourist sand blow­dried dogs, held back be­hind tem­po­rary bar­ri­ers by a disco daz­zle of hi-vis. Bal­cony par­ties whooped and clinked while, be­low, two po­lice­men sat idly in a pizze­ria: the Ital­ian idea of se­cu­rity, which seemedto in­volve wait­ing un­til the Bri­tish told them what to do.

The point of this fuss– 341 crew need­ing food, 200lo­cals guard­ing doors, a mile of road–was a scene in which Bond drives through so many tourist spots that the film even tyre-screeches around St Pe­ter’s. Come 3 am, two souped-up su­per cars were on an umpteenth race up to 110 mph. Roar, van­ish, re­peat, un­til dawn. The As­ton Martin has a but­ton la­belled fire ig­nit­ing start, andthe gar­gan­tuan cost for sec­onds of a chase that’s no dif­fer­ent, re­ally, from those in The Fast and the Fu­ri­ous films is ab­surd.

What, then, makes Spec­tre spe­cial? His­tory, yes, but it’s more. It’s the power of an ac­tor who took a tired fran­chise and up­dated it to such a mil­len­nial and twitchy ex­tent that Roger Moore feels as worth re­vis­it­ing as a saucy sea­side post­card.

Four­months af­ter the shoot in Rome, Imeet that man. Daniel is an ac­tor so hooked on his role that for Spec­tre, he was in­volved fromthe be­gin­ning: in thewrit­ing, cast­ing, crew­ing. What a pres­ence he is, pac­ing through the cor­ri­dor of a Lon­don ho­tel, dressed ca­su­ally in a jacket, jeans and brown boots. Hemakes the­walls shrink in.

The first de­tail that stand­sout is his bright blue eyes ,291 on the Pan tone scale. He’s very loud, puts his feet upon the ta­ble and swears a lot. You need his trust early. At par­ties he hosts, I imag­ine, he’ d al­ways want at­ten­tion at the top of the ta­ble. In big­ger groups, though, he woulds kulk in a cor­ner, wait­ing for the evening to end.

There’ s an old re­view of a play (‘ Oh oh ,’ he says), from1992 (‘Mm-hmm,’ he squeaks, in­trigued), in­which the critic wrote: ‘Daniel con­tains his vi­o­lence like an un­ex­ploded mine.’ Is that a good catch-all for the depth he­has found in a once-car­toon­ish Bond? ‘I sup­pose,’ he says, nod­ding. His007 lost agreat love in Casino Royale, was fu­ri­ously be­reaved in Quan­tum of So­lace, showed ex­tra­or­di­nary re­straint in Sky­fall when faced with Javier Bar­dem’s hair, and, for Spec­tre, may fi­nally find his fam­ily. In­ter­est in this back story–barely both­ered with be­fore–is ‘hard-wired’ into him as an ac­tor, he ex­plains.

‘First and fore­most,’ says Daniel, lean­ing in, al­ways mak­ing eye con­tact, ‘get the story right. Then make whiz-bangs part of it. Char­ac­ter be­comes im­por­tant, and that’s the in­ter­est­ing way of do­ing this. He’s got older as I’ve got older, and I’ve changed and he’s changed. I don’ t knowhow else to do it .’ If you stick within the rules of Ian Flem­ing’s cre­ation, he adds, you can do ‘any­thing youwant’.

The prob­lem, though, is this very set of rules, laid down by the books and the first big-screen Bond back in 1962, that the007 fans mea­sure all oth­ers by. Played by Sean Con­nery like Dapper Laughs with a li­cence to kill, he is the em­bod­i­ment of the ‘sewer of misog­yny’ that the jour­nal­ist and com­men­ta­tor Bid is ha claims Ian wrote. It’s as dated as an au­then­tic tagine: women in biki­nis fall for him, then die. That’s it. And de­spite Judi Dench, Sky­fall wasn’t so­much a leap for­ward as a fan-pleas­ing step back. Ar­ti­cles had head­lines such as: ‘Women, the mak­ers of Sky­fall hate you.’

For Spec­tre, Daniel says that he and Sam tried hard to make Bond a lit­tle bit more mod­ern. Aswith a train line af­ter an up­grade, there are is­sues, and bits creak, but it’s bet­ter.

‘He’s a misog­y­nist,’ Daniel says mat­ter-of­factly about his role. ‘That’s clear. He’s got prob­lems. But it’s not my job to judge him. I like the fact that if you put him up against a very strong char­ac­ter–es­pe­cially a fe­male – who goes, “What are you about?,” he goes, “Oh, OK.” I like to see that change.’

Was the de­sire to up­date the spy’s at­ti­tude to women the main rea­son for cast­ing Mon­ica Bel­lucci, 51, as his love in­ter­est? She has four years on Daniel; it’s al­most a third-wave fem­i­nist act in a se­ries with Pussy Ga­lore and, more re­cently, Quan­tum of So lace shov­ing the ac­tor, then 40, to­gether with Gemma Arter­ton, whowas then 22. Sit­ting here push­ing a block­buster, and wary of be­ing ‘overtly po­lit­i­cal’, Craig says pick­ing Mon­ica ‘wasn’t as self-con­scious as it has be­come’. Rather, her age just fit­ted.

What a PRES­ENCE Daniel Craig is. PAC­ING through a Lon­don ho­tel, he makes the walls SHRINK in. The first de­tail that stands out is his BRIGHT blue eyes. He’s loud, puts his feet on the ta­ble and SWEARS a lot

‘But later,’ he con­tin­ues, ‘peo­ples tarted to say it’s a re­ally good thing – and it is. If it raises de­bate, that’s no bad thing. If it helps the con­ver­sa­tion about the dis­par­ity in wages, no­tonly in this busi­ness, but in ev­ery busi­ness, then bring it on.’ Mon­ica plays Lu­cia Scia­rra– fi­nally, no dou­ble en­ten­dre.

Daniel has few reser­va­tions about be­ing Bond, the most scru­ti­nised role in cin­ema. As Bri­tain’s film fig­ure­head, Bond is ex­pected to be a spokesman, pushed to rep­re­sent the coun­try, mir­ror its cul­ture. It’s all-con­sum­ing, then, and if its cur­rent in­cum­bent has a com­plaint, it is the to­tal lack of anonymity. Last year in Ire­land, he and hiswife, ac­tress Rachel Weisz, spent a long night in the pub. They­were, he tells me, left alone, re­ally happy, and only at clos­ing time did the lo­cals ask for pho­tos. The cou­ple said yes, of course. They had re­spected pri­vacy, so the celebri­ties of­fered self­ies and small talk as away of say­ing thanks. This is how Daniel wants it, but not how he gets it. Mostly, if heg oes some­where pub­lic, he’s got ‘an hour, then it gets out of hand’.

Yet all this, he ad­mits, sim­ply shows his age. He is 47, and shakes his head and frowns at amen­tion of Twit­ter – ‘anath­ema’ to him. He hails from a dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tion, an­dall th­ese lights and de­sire for pho­tos, he doesn’t un­der­stand.

‘If me and my mates went out... and some­one started tak­ing pho­to­graphs, they’d get thumped,’ he says, chortling, be­fore flip­ping back to se­ri­ous again. ‘The other thing I don’t get is, peo­ple are happy to take pic­tures ofme with­out ask­ing. But things have changed so rapidly. No­body re­ally cares what I think about the mod­ern­world, but that part I can do with­out.’

The con­ver­sa­tion moves to Citizenfour, the dis­qui­et­ing Ed­ward Snow­den doc­u­men­tary about this mod­ern world and its stran­gu­la­tion by sur­veil­lance. Daniel had to ‘stop half­way, as it was mak­ing me sweat’ – he was caught in the phone-hack­ing scan­dal, af­ter all, be­fore Sony, the Bond stu­dio, suf­fered email hack­ing on an in­dus­trial scale. Such themes are ‘messed around with’ in Spec­tre. The new ways of spy­ing, though, are tricky to in­tro­duce into 007: as Daniel puts it, his agent is ‘of the old­world’, us­ing in­tel­li­gence­gath­er­ing meth­ods that don’t fo­cus on lis­ten­ing into mil­lions of phone calls.

‘I pre­sume they get in­for­ma­tion,’ he says, with a lack of con­vic­tion that sug­gest she doesn’t think they do. ‘That things are thwarted. But look­ing some­one in the eye, hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion... in big con­flicts, peace has come be­cause peo­ple sat in a room to­gether. I hope that is still hap­pen­ing.’

Face-to-face is in Spec­tre. For one thing, be­cause cy­ber­crime– watch­ing files down­load – is cin­e­matic paint dry­ing; and be­cause Bond lives in a ‘fan­tas­ti­cal world’ that has su­pervil­lains. The lat­ter is im­por­tant for au­di­ences. Is Christoph’s bad­die based on any­one? ‘I don’t knowif su­pervil­lains ex­ist,’ Daniel says. ‘They could. There’s may bean is­land some­where that sinks. Or may b ethey are in plain sight, park­ing boats off St Tropez ev­ery sum­mer.’

Never – from Sean (de­fin­i­tive), to Ge­orge Lazenby (one-off), Roger (silly), Ti­mothy Dal­ton (se­ri­ous) and Pierce (mixed) – has an ac­tor play­ing Bond been as in­vested in the part as Daniel. He is ob­ses­sive, say­ing ‘we’ about the film-mak­ing when oth­ers would say ‘they’, and sug­gests I talk to the di­rec­tor.

He knows this role– no this theatre ori­gins, his main stream break through on tele­vi­sion with Our Friends in the North or his ca­reerbest film, En­dur­ing Love – is how he will be re­mem­bered. So he­wants it to be weighty, a reel to take to his teach­ers at the Na­tional Youth Theatre, to show them his tal­ent wasn’t wasted. In­di­ana Jones, the in­spi­ra­tion, has a scene in­which the rogue’s heart is nearly torn out. He bleeds. He’s vul­ner­a­ble, and that is Daniel’s Bond in mi­cro­cosm.

Will the film af­ter Spec­tre, the 25th, be­his last?’ ‘I don’t know. Yeah. I mean, yes. Maybe.’ Then it’s the ques­tion of who takes over. Awoman? ‘That’s an­other story. But

whynot? Jas­mine Bond?’ A black ac­tor? Idris Elba is a ru­mour. ‘The right per­son for the job should do thej ob, and I don’t care what colour their skin is,’ he says. ‘It shouldn’t be an is­sue. We should have moved on.’

And next for him? ‘I need tomeet more di­rec­tors,’ he ad­mits wearily. This is his first film since Sky­fall. He needed time­off as he’d ‘got mar­ried and needed to set­tle’. But he won’t rest long, and hints at a stage re­turn.

In 2001, the young ac­tor summed up his ca­reer: ‘Grew upon the Wir­ral, left home at 16 or 17, came­down to Lon­don, went to drama school, be­came an ac­tor.’ What’s to add? ‘I feel the same,’ heshrugs, play­ing down stardom, mil­lions and a United Na­tions post as global ad­vo­cate for the elim­i­na­tion of mines and ex­plo­sive haz­ards, which led Ban Ki-moon to say: ‘You have been given a li­cence to kill. I’m now giv­ing you a li­cence to save.’

He adds: ‘I al­ways had an am­bi­tion to be an­ac­tor, and ev­ery ac­tor who says they didn’t want to be fa­mous is ly­ing.’ He pauses. Avery large watchs its on his wrist. ‘But I never fore saw this.’

On day 110of the Spec­tre shoot, June 11, 2015, Pinewood was siz­zling. The stu­dios sit in a bleak crater where vast in­door stages of­fer es­sen­tial cool­ing: acre on acre of dream fac­tory and chill. The big­gest is the007 stage, which, for Spec­tre, held afull-scale replica of West­min­ster Bridge, laid with real tar­mac for this colos­sal film.

Gun­shots fill theair. A fight scene is prepped and the crew wait for their key prop. All this struc­ture and per­son­nel – one has work as crowd hair su­per­vi­sor. But tomake it work, it still needs Daniel, who isn’t here yet. His ob­ses­sion with the role has led to a quiet des­per­a­tion to prove the doubters wrong, or an­noy them.

An as­sis­tant rushes to Sam to tell him DC has ar­rived, as a 4x4 pulls up. Its tops, sprays dust in the air. Adoor opens. Every­thing clicks into place. ‘Ac­tion!’ The tone is mod­ern, se­ri­ous, suf­fer­ing. Thanks to Daniel, it’s im­pos­si­ble to think of this spy as any­thing else.

Months later, I speak to Sam. Yes, Spec­tre is emo­tional, he says, but that’s just what he and Daniel are good at. It’s a longway back to know­ing winks. Daniel craig is not bond. com’s creator, how­ever, was far froma lone voice in2005. How pop­u­lar, I ask, is Daniel now? ‘Oh, I have no idea,’ Sam says. ‘When wewere in Is­tan­bul on the last movie, a cab driver told m ehow much bet­ter Bond was since it stopped try­ing to be funny. Then I went to the ho­tel and a woman at thedesk said, “Are you go­ing to put some jokes in it?”’

This is the di­rec­tor’s fi­nal Bond and, soon­ish, pro­duc­ers need a new ac­tor for the tuxedo. Who can re­place him? ‘The good thing is, it’s up to some­one else!’ Sam bursts out laugh­ing – loudly, un­sym­pa­thet­i­cally.

Daniel’s jour­ney as Bond from Casino

Royale to Spec­tre (left) is a con­tin­u­ous story arc, a first for the fran­chise

As a vul­ner­a­ble, flawed and bro­ken but stronger-than-steel Bond, Daniel knows this role is how he will be re­mem­bered

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