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Daniel Craig on Bond - `I had to show he hurts and makes mistakes`

07-Dec-2006 • Casino Royale

Blonds may have more fun, but Daniel Craig wasn't exactly having the time of his life on the set of Casino Royale earlier this year - reports News.com.au.

From the moment it was announced he was to become the sixth actor to portray James Bond in the official 007 franchise, the knives were out for the blue-eyed Brit.

Internet chatrooms lamented everything from his lack of stature (he stands at a perfectly respectable 180cm) to his alleged inability to drive a manual car. But nothing provoked more ire than the new Bond's blond tresses.

"For me it was never about the hair," Craig says, rolling his eyes at the memory. "There's definitely a thing and I get it: the tall, dark and handsome guy, but if you read the (Ian Fleming) books it's not quite as simple as that and that's why I never really worried about it. Because if it was that simple then I wouldn't be the right person for the role."

Sitting in a hotel room in Sydney safe in the knowledge his critics have been silenced in the wake of an overwhelmingly positive reception to Casino Royale (now surpassing $US300 million in box office takings), Craig admits it wasn't so easy to ignore his detractors at the time.

"I got upset about it, I'm not going to lie to you, but I couldn't respond," he says. "There was nothing I could do about it and when I realised there was nothing I could do, I calmed down."

According to director Martin Campbell, both he and Craig decided, "to hell with this, let's just get on with the movie".

"If people care to look, Roger Moore's hair was virtually the same colour," says Campbell, who also directed Pierce Brosnan's Bond debut in 1995's GoldenEye.

"We've all been brought up on Bond so people feel the right of ownership to Bond and Daniel didn't fit the obvious mould.

"And when Pierce came out he was obvious - your pretty-boy Bond - but to be honest I think Daniel's much nearer who Fleming imagined."

One possible explanation for the hostile reaction to Craig's casting was the lengthy - and very public - search for someone to fill the role. At one point every actor from Clive Owen to Hugh Jackman had been touted as the man most likely to sign up as the next 007.

"There wasn't anybody obvious because Pierce probably still had a couple of Bonds in him, despite his age, and he obviously fitted the template but then suddenly we were with this book (Casino Royale, Fleming's first novel) and we were going back to basics," says Campbell, confirming about 50 different actors were considered.

"Anybody who was even remotely possible - from all over the world - we put down on paper and then we whittled that down to eight and Daniel was one of the eight."

Countless screen tests and one unanimous decision later, 38-year-old Craig received the phone call that would forever change his life. Rumour has it he was grocery shopping in Baltimore during a break from filming The Invasion opposite Nicole Kidman when his mobile rang.

"Yes, I was in Baltimore with Nicole Kidman. Well Nicole wasn't with me in the supermarket obviously," he clarifies hastily, lest anyone conjure up an unlikely image of the pair pushing a trolley down the canned foods aisle.

"It's always an anti-climax, there's nothing tangible or physical that happens to you - it's a phone call, you've got the job," he says.

"I was on my own because everybody was working so I phoned everybody I could and told them, 'You've got to keep a lid on it' and then I went to a bar and had a great night. I just got smashed - I don't remember getting home."

Next on the to-do list was enlisting the services of a personal trainer, who whipped him into Bond condition with intensive workouts five days a week.

"There's narcissism definitely, his shirt seemed to come off an awful lot in this movie," Craig observes with a wry smile, "but I wanted to make it look realistic. I just wanted to make sure he looked right."

Ensuring he looked the part also found Craig observing the way secret service agents carry themselves and enter a room.

"I'm trying to make it sound like actually I gave it deep thought," he says, suddenly catching himself in his typically self-effacing manner.

"I didn't give it a huge amount of deep thought, I just knew I had to change myself physically whatever situation he was in. It's just acting," he grins coyly, "a bit of acting."

And some pretty fine acting at that, according to his boss.

"Daniel's not your pretty-boy James Bond, he's got a sexiness, he's handsome in a tough, rugged way," says Campbell.

"But more importantly he's a wonderful actor and we did need someone, given that we're more character driven in this, to actually be able to handle that role. In my view he's probably the best actor that we've ever had in the franchise."

When he's not swilling martinis and discarding bad guys, Casino Royale has Bond falling in love in with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a beguiling treasury official.

While their romance is a departure from the hero's usual love-them-and-leave-them approach to matters of the heart, Bond also shows an uncharacteristic vulnerability throughout the film as a whole.

"Unless we know that he can hurt himself or make mistakes then how can we believe he's going to fall in love?" Craig says. "I just approached it with that in mind."

Human frailties notwithstanding, Campbell suspects it's Bond's air of invincibility that accounts for the character's endurance.

"He's extremely comfortable in his own skin so I think it's the old cliche of who every man wants to be and who every woman wants to go to bed with."

While he oozes the necessary self-assurance on screen, Craig denies Bond's super-confidence rubbed off on him.

"If you try to be super-confident and if you try to be cool then you're immediately not," he muses.

"But do I take my work home with me? Not really, no. I'd come home and get into a really hot bath to soak my muscles and crawl into bed."

At which point he takes a dramatic pause. "With huge amounts of confidence, of course."

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