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Daniel Craig talks extensively about `Quantum of Solace` to Men`s Vogue

17-Oct-2008 • Quantum Of Solace

Immediately after Daniel Craig hit the screen as James Bond in Casino Royale, 007 fan sites (including some that had previously called him an unsuitable choice — too short, too blond, too uncouth, and, inaccurately, unable to drive stick) began suggesting that Craig had pulled ahead of Sean Connery to become the Best Bond Ever, reports Men's Vogue.

A still more startling opinion has also gained ground: Namely, that with barely twelve seconds' worth of screen time in the Nassau surf in Casino Royale, Craig unseated Ursula Andress for the Most Notorious Bathing Suit Scene in Franchise History. The aftershocks of this coup could be felt from Kennebunkport to Saint-Tropez the past two summers. For better or worse, the snug Daniel Craig look crowded the beaches, and sales of powder-blue La Perla swimming trunks experienced a sudden surge, surpassing even those of the lime-green Borat thong.

But given Craig's résumé — a career, prior to Bond, that was long on risky (though frequently shirtless) roles in British independent films — it's not surprising to learn that the ripped and brutish beach look he unveiled 30 minutes into Casino Royale was, in fact, an artistic choice. He inherited a personal trainer, Simon Waterson, a former commando in the Royal Navy, along with the role, and Craig immediately told him, "I want to get chunky for this. I want this guy to look like the uniform's just come off. Like he's literally just stepped out of a war zone." According to Waterson, his new client wished to appear as if he "could kill people just by looking at them." Of course, some of this added bulk was practical. Craig wanted to be fit enough to absorb the daily battering the role required. But much of the newfound mass was an immediate tip-off to Craig's conception of the character. Other Bonds may have aimed for lithe and suave. "But I hit the ground," the actor told me, "like a sack of spuds."

The morning we spoke, in London's Soho Hotel, Craig did indeed look somewhat tuberous. Two nights before, he'd marked the completion of filming Quantum of Solace — his sophomore Bond effort — with what he described as a "bit of a party." Thirty-six hours later, his eyes, the same glacial blue in person as they appear on film, were still rimmed with red. He was impeccably dressed — free clothes being one of the chief perks of the publicity campaign — but he'd put them together in a style you might call randy widower: jeans, a claret-colored silk shirt, black cardigan, and brown-suede boots. The form-fitting attire showed off a noticeably slimmer silhouette — another choice. "Because I went for shape and size for the last film, I wasn't heart-fit," Craig said, taking a sip of water. "So that's what I did on this one. I just wanted to survive the movie."

By all accounts, he deserved his celebration. During the filming, there'd been talk of a Macbeth-like curse: A stuntman drove an Aston Martin into Lake Garda, a technician in the crew was apparently stabbed by a woman he met at a bar, and Craig had to have eight stitches on his face and lopped off a fingertip shooting one action scene or another. Even without the calamities, a Bond shoot is a frequent-flier nightmare, with several units working all over the globe (for this outing, multiple locations in Chile, Panama, Austria, Mexico, England, and Italy). Craig responds by setting a monastic pace: up at five; in makeup by six; on set at sevenish for an early run-through and then ten or twelve hours of shooting; ending the day with an hour or so in the gym, followed by a quick stunt practice, a very light dinner, and lights out by nine-thirty or ten. "That's the way he works," Michael Wilson, a Bond producer who has witnessed the spectacle, says. "I've never known an actor to be that focused."

When I asked Craig about his current regimen, he gave me a heavy-lidded look. "The regimen's over," he said. "That's what the regimen is at the moment." He pulled out his cell phone, thumbed through the texts. "Let's see...I got a message earlier from my trainer: 'What are you doing today?'" Craig immediately snapped the cell shut and tossed it over his shoulder without a glance. "Nothing," he said. The phone bounced around behind him, lost to sight somewhere deep in the cushions of the hotel sofa. "Today I'm doing nothing."

Even in a tuxedo, Craig looks like a violent man. His face is an evolutionary triumph of a particular sort: the memento-mori bone structure reminds you that the original purpose of the brow, chin, and cheekbones is to protect the soft bits from blows and enemy weapons. Directors like to emphasize this quality, often lighting him starkly from above so he casts his own shadows like a one-man Stonehenge. Along the way, Craig has made a few improvements on the original material, smashing his nose as a lad on a Liverpool rugby squad. "It was just an accidental head butt," he protested.

At ease off camera, Craig undercuts and even at times carefully contradicts this native air of violence. His voice still rumbles in the diesel register, but he scatters funny little professorial uptick sounds ("uhm?") and thoughtful grunts of empathetic encouragement ("hnnh") throughout the conversation. He often pulls forward to the edge of his seat cushion, at one point nearly twisting himself into a sprinter's crouch in an excess of enthusiasm. I reminded him that he'd taken on Bond at a point in life when most professional stuntmen begin to disengage from heavier work. "I know," the 40-year-old actor said, managing both to ridicule himself and to appear quite nimble. "It's such a bad look. It's like a midlife crisis: 'Okay, I'll jump out of that. On fire? Yes, let's do it!'"

His mother, an art teacher in Merseyside, nudged him toward the stage when he was a teen. There's a longstanding family argument about whether he first auditioned for the National Youth Theatre at 16 (his recollection) or 17 (his mum's), but whatever the precise tenderness of his youth, Craig got in and immediately landed a role in Troilus and Cressida — as Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks. He began logging miles on tours throughout the U.K. and even to Spain and the Soviet Union.

"I'd been studying Shakespeare," Craig said of his film debut in The Power of One, in 1992. "Now suddenly I'm on a movie set with John G. Avildsen screaming at me, the set's on fire, someone's coming up to powder my brow, and I'm like, 'What the fuck is this about?' I think my performance shows that. People were telling me, 'Wow, you're so intense.' And I'm like, 'No. I'm scared shitless.'"

For a few years after that, Craig hopscotched from the stage to film and TV, becoming a household name in the U.K. in the mid-nineties for the role of Geordie Peacock in Our Friends in the North, a nine-part BBC saga.

After this success, Craig could have taken any number of high-paying TV parts, but he chose to adhere to a steady diet of independent movies. "Not that I don't love television," he said. "But I wanted to be in films: I wanted to be thirty foot across." When I asked how he managed, unlike other gifted actors, to make consistently intelligent decisions about the projects he took on, Craig demurred. "I worked with really, really talented people early on who, on the whole, are really picky. And that, I think, was a lesson to me." He wound up turning things down mostly, he said.

"Money is not his primary motivation," Wilson, the longtime Bond producer, said. "He has a lifestyle that doesn't need airplanes and extra houses. He looks at the scripts and not the payday." The director Edward Zwick, who cast Craig in the upcoming historical rouser Defiance, was more emphatic. "It's choices, finally, that define a career," he said. "The careers that you could point to — Tom Hanks or Denzel or Leonardo — these actors are very aware of what roles might reveal a different facet that has not been revealed to an audience before. So Daniel's decision to do this movie" — his character in Defiance leads a makeshift group of Jews hiding from the Nazis in the forests of Belorussia — "in tandem with Bond, because they will be viewed within weeks of each other, makes a very clear statement about his intentions and ambitions. It's as if he's saying, 'Don't presume to know me too quickly.'"

Actually, Craig did say that to me, in so many words. I'd asked him what it was like to raise a teenager — his sixteen-year-old daughter, Ella, from a brief marriage to the Scottish actress Fiona Loudon in the early nineties — and he leaned back, set his eyes in a typical Double-Oh I'll-never-break-under-torture look, and after the slightest but most pointed of pauses, said: "It's exactly as you can imagine. It's fabulous having a teenage daughter, but she'll grow up, and she needs to be protected. It's as simple as that." The delivery was dry and diplomatic, and just like that the entire subject of his private life — earlier flings with Kate Moss and Sienna Miller, current rumors of an engagement to Satsuki Mitchell, an American film producer — closed forever.

Nice, in a way, for Craig to flash this side. Principled remoteness, bordering at times on willful opacity, is one of his chief qualities on-screen. Still, when I remarked upon the trait, Craig seemed flummoxed. "Maybe there's just an English reserve?" he asked.

Well, exactly. But in England, reserve is like rain, a nearly universal phenomenon. Craig's version of the national character is more like a threatening stillness that reads — to the English, anyway, who are familiar with the many subspecies — as an entirely appropriate working-class response to upper-class condescension. Craig — whose father was a merchant seaman turned publican — has deployed this "reserve" throughout his career, and it has proven to be an effective weapon whether he's being asked to lead, to intimidate, or to seduce. I asked the director of the new Bond film, Marc Forster, a German-born art-house veteran who made Finding Neverland and Monster's Ball, if he'd picked up on the quality. "Absolutely, I sense it," Forster said. "And I connect with that emotional remove very well. All the lead characters in my films are sort of emotionally repressed characters. Bond, in a sense, is a similar character, and Daniel really knows and understands that."

But beyond the range of cell-phone cameras and telephoto lenses, Craig is, apparently, a blokish and enthusiastic drinking companion. One of the things he misses, now that he is England's chief celebrity and highest-paid actor, is that he's no longer able to pop down to the pub for a pint without resorting to a fake beard and sunglasses.

Liev Schreiber, his costar in Defiance, cited an instance of spontaneous warmth as the defining Craig moment for him. "It was my first day in Lithuania, and I'm thinking: 'Here I am in another Eastern-bloc European country for God knows how long. The food's going to be terrible, and what's this strange hotel I'm in?' I'm walking across a courtyard and I hear this very enthusiastic voice say my name. And it's Daniel Craig. And he comes across the courtyard and gives me this huge bear hug." The gesture set the tone for their relationship, Schreiber said.

In Defiance — due out in December — Craig and Schreiber play Tuvia and Zus Bielski, rough backwoods Jews (bullies, really, and local embarrassments) who find, as the Nazis invade their neighborhood, that the family gift for ruthlessness can be useful. The story is true: The brothers wound up leading a band of fugitives, turning more than 1,000 untrained Jews into a ragtag fighting force that survived the war.

In one of the film's turning points, the brothers come to blows over a difference of philosophies. But filming the fistfight presented certain cinematic challenges, since, in real life (and contrary to what you might expect), Craig is five foot eleven and Schreiber six foot three. According to Schreiber, it was Craig who came up with a believable solution: In the film, the mutinous Zus (Schreiber) knocks his brother into the mud, but when he backs off, assuming the matter settled, Tuvia half rises, shakes his head, and delivers a straight right to the balls that sends Zus writhing onto the ground.

"At first, I was mortified that I would have to get hit in the frank and beans," Schreiber said. "But then what I liked about the idea was that you got the sense of Tuvia's ferocity — that there was an animalistic side to him that was more terrifying than anyone else there." Schreiber, who had interrupted our phone conversation earlier to accept a soft-serve ice cream with rainbow sprinkles from his girlfriend, chuckled. "Still, I hope everyone understands that it is, after all, Hollywood, and Daniel Craig wouldn't stand a chance with me."

With the role of Bond, Craig now has a solid day job: He's constantly on the phone encouraging people to spend money, monkeying with the script, trying to land the right cast and crew, or helping to dream up a blockbuster stunt. Having his hands on the wheel has changed his expectations, his sense of commitment. "Now, when I go and get involved with a movie, I have to apply this experience. I have to do those same things. I can't just sort of turn up anymore."

Craig's widely reported hesitations about taking on the title role in the largest British film franchise could be seen as a tribute to his deep roots in the "serious" European film world. Endearingly enough, the success of his Bond hasn't ended these bouts of self-torture. He pointed, with extreme suspicion, to how Bond's "money-wise success" had made him "bankable": Casino Royale hauled in $600 million worldwide, and Craig will apparently make around $9 million for the second Bond film, not to mention $14 million more for a third. (Quantum's budget is reported to be a staggering $230 million.) It's a situation that could easily tempt him to push for other film ventures as big as Bond. "Then my energy steers me to making something tiny and weird," he said, "because that sort of thing gives me huge satisfaction." (By "tiny and weird," Craig might have been referring to Flashbacks of a Fool, directed by his friend Baillie Walsh.)

In Quantum of Solace, the filmmakers have incorporated Craig's self-questioning impulses into Bond's ongoing character development. The story picks up moments after the close of Casino Royale; Bond is still dealing with his feelings for Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and her death and betrayal. Forster, the director, elaborated: "It's fascinating territory because on the one hand he is an assassin. But he just lost someone he loves. How does that affect him psychologically? Definitely, the ghosts are there." We've come a long way from Octopussy.

Still, Bond films have always served as time capsules for a certain bachelor high style. And even Craig admits that with this second outing he has begun to relax and enjoy the 007 brand of sophistication. Throughout Quantum of Solace, Bond and his stunt doubles wear Tom Ford, more than 300 garments' worth. The close fit of Ford's look beautifully emphasizes Craig's slimmed-down alter ego. "Daniel knows exactly what works on him," Ford says. "Really, the simpler the clothes, the more handsome he looks."

Ford is the first American designer to make a significant contribution to Bond style. Even so, he points out, "I have never really thought of myself as an American designer. We have increasingly become a global culture, and I think of what I do as an international style. James Bond is also, for me, an international character. One of the things that make Daniel's Bond fresh and relevant is that he does not play up the clichés or mannerisms of English style." Ford describes his era-of-globalism Bond suit as preserving the classic English cut, but turned out with Italian flair and finish.

Quantum of Solace also offers much more of Bond's instinctual wit in the face of danger, and more of his longstanding bedroom aplomb. But even in this most traditional arena, Craig has had an effect. "Look, you're going to hold people's attention — plenty of men's attention — with naked girls," he admitted. (Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton are the latest Bond bombshells.) "But the sexiness of a Bond movie has to come from . . . consenting adults. The fact is, the stronger you make those characters, the more entertaining it's going to be. It can't just be me taking my top off."

Actually, I had kept a list of how far you had to go in a Craig film before he started taking something off: in bed by the third scene in Love Is the Devil; surprised while showering in his third scene in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider; getting cozy with Sienna Miller midway through Layer Cake. Steven Spielberg gave him a reprieve in Munich, where Eric Bana took on the shirtless duties.

The hypnotic effect of Craig's torso — à la the infamous beach scene in Casino Royale — often becomes a central theme in his movies. So how to put this? "Often you're cast as the bit of rough trade nobody can keep their hands off," I ventured.

Craig, a moving target for much of the conversation, sat back in his sofa for a moment."You know," he said, with a modest laugh, "it's a career."

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