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