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Craig on Bond - `a character who kills other people should be dark`

16-Nov-2008 • Quantum Of Solace

Take a Hollywood actor and add water. Mix in revealing swimmers and a hot body, and you have a ticket to instant international fame. It worked in 1962 for a bikini-clad Ursula Andress in Dr No, and when Daniel Craig did it again in 2006, strutting out of the Caribbean surf in his first Bond film, Casino Royale, he, too, raised heart rates all over the world - reports The Herald Sun.

Forget his impressive acting pedigree, earned through stints at the UK's National Youth Theatre and Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and his role in the gritty British TV drama Our Friends in the North. Cast aside the cinematic CV that boasts such challenging roles as a cold-blooded killer in Sam Mendes' Road to Perdition; a builder who gives a grandmother her first orgasm in The Mother; the brooding British poet Ted Hughes in Sylvia; a violent drug dealer in Layer Cake; and a Mossad assassin in Steven Spielberg's Munich. What we wanted all along was Daniel Craig in Speedos.

Craig is drier - and wearing more - when we meet in the hospitality suite of London's hip Soho Hotel. He looks older, too - or 'craggy', as he was described on a recent chat show - with deepish lines etched on his face. His skin is tanned enough to make those azure-coloured eyes stand out - yes, they really are that blue - and his sandy hair looks as though it would put up a fight if approached by a comb. When he smiles, or unconsciously slips into Bond's pouting broodiness, the 007 vigour comes to life.

If the biceps aren't bulging out his black polo shirt as much as they do in the movie, it's because Craig, 40, has been resting, unable to train due to injury. He greets me with a gentile shake of his left hand, his right resting in a sling following a recent shoulder operation. He doesn't know if the damage was sustained during stunt scenes in Casino Royale or the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace, but he's taking this time away from the set to recuperate. "It would've been better if it had been broken, now all the tendons have to knit together," he says, downplaying what must be a painful injury.

The time off seems to be working wonders because the actor - who's known for being a bit of an "arse" (to borrow his own phrase) when it comes to media meetings - is in a jovial mood. Previous interviewers have described him as aloof and a bit sarcastic, but when I asked a publicist how the

day was going, she replied over-breezily (and with a note of relief), "He's great, very lively." Indeed, today Craig is polite and charming.

It's not surprising the actor has been defensive in the past. Blond, less than six foot and too much of a thespian lefty to fill the traditional Bond shoes, Craig's head was on a stick before he'd even started filming Casino Royale. Newspapers hustled him, labelling him 'James Bland' and 'Superwimp'. One tabloid even described how he couldn't drive the spy's classic Aston Martin DB5 because he was more accustomed to driving an automatic. "Bond's license to squeal: 007 wuss Dan can't even change gears," ran the headline.

But the critics were soon silenced when Casino Royale became one of the most successful Bond films ever made, bringing in US$594 million worldwide at the box office and receiving rave reviews from even the most highbrow of judges.

Still, the naysayers can't resist having a dig at Bond movie No 22, Quantum of Solace - for the tenuous name, which, taken from a short story by Bond creator Ian Fleming, refers to the amount of comfort between two people. The first direct sequel, the film picks up where Casino Royale ended; after the death of Bond's love, Vesper Lynd, who killed herself to protect him from a shadowy, unscrupulous organisation. But whatever the premise or title, no critic can find fault with Craig's performance. He makes a sensational 007.

Does the success of Casino Royale mean he can be more relaxed now? "Well, yes. But it's a ridiculous position, because there was huge pressure on the first one, as it was doomed," he says, dramatically dragging out the vowels for emphasis. "This time, we've had so much success, it's like, where do we go now? But it's a very high-class problem." Which means he has little to complain about, then.

But that doesn't mean Craig's about to rest on his laurels. "Success brings great things, but it also brings a false sense of security. I try to be as realistic as I can, because if this film is not a success, they might think twice about doing another one with me, so I have to keep things in perspective."

It must be difficult to walk that fine line between pinching himself at having such luck and becoming the kind of actor who travels with an entourage as big as his inlfated his ego. "Actors have a tendency - and this is just a general term - to disappear up their own arses if they're not careful," he agrees. "And I'm just as guilty as any other actor if I'm not wary. I have to be very careful of that."

And how, exactly, does he prevent himself from disappearing up the proverbial? "Same as anyone, I suppose," he says. "I hang out with friends and family who just take the p*ss out of me and treat me like a normal human being."

It would be pretty easy to fall into the trap of believing your own hype if, like Craig, you were suddenly plucked from the relative obscurity of art-house cinema to be named the 2006 Durex World's Sexiest Man. I tell him about a tea towel I recently spotted in a department store that was printed with: "I had a really nice dream last night about Daniel Craig." He fires back, "There you go, someone's wiping their dishes on me now," letting out an appealingly dorky laugh.

Joking aside, Craig is philosophical about the notion of being every housewife's fantasy. "Oh, well, it's nice, but it can probably go the other way. I have to sort of ignore that as well, really. It's difficult because if it's thrust in your face, you can't ignore it. But" he pauses, umming and ahhing as he searches for the right words. "It's a pleasure to be on a tea towel," he concludes graciously.

The actor's background is distinctly unglamorous. He grew up in Liverpool, England, in the 1970s and 1980s - a time when the working class city was, he says, "a sh*t hole. No one would argue with me (about that). It was sort of the lowest of the low, but now it's fantastic. It's beautiful as long as the sun is shining. I miss it. I'm a Liverpool (Football Club) supporter and I'm desperately trying to see some games up there."

Picturing Craig singing along to football songs at a game, I can't help thinking he might purposely come across as cantankerous because he wants to underplay his success and avoid the limelight. He certainly misses the easiness of a non-celebrity life. He says he can't go to his local in London without attracting so much attention he has to leave after a couple of pints (he jokes around, mimicking the clumsiness of someone trying to take a surreptitious picture with their camera phone).

He rarely attends public events and says he never courts attention. "I shy away from doing press when I'm not working - I want to live my life. But when I'm working, it's very important to come out and talk about what I've done. I've just spent nine months of my life making a movie and it would be useless if I weren't here to talk about it."

Craig is less verbose about his personal life. He's been linked to Sienna Miller and Kate Moss, who he says is just a friend, and only recently started making public appearances accompanied by his girlfriend of three years, Satsuki Mitchell, a film producer he met on the set of The Jacket in 2005. He's rumoured to have popped the question while filming Quantum in Panama earlier this year and she's since been spotted wearing some impressive Cartier bling.

In the same way that he doesn't invite speculation, he's also less than impressed when others talk about his success. When I mention that a former drama teacher has been quoted in a newspaper, talking about his comedic talents at school, he bristles and that steely defence appears for the first time. "That was a long time ago," he says, protectively batting away the question.

Quantum's German director, Marc Forster, thinks it's this vulnerability that makes Craig so great for the coveted spy role. "He humanised the character," he says, "and made him three-dimensional. Bond was never like that. This is the first time we can identify with the character and think, he's a bit like me. That's the interesting part."

Forster says he'd never have agreed to be part of Quantum if it hadn't been for Craig, who pushed for him to direct the film ("Because of him, I said yes"). It's his first big action movie and, like Craig, his previous works have been mostly intellectual, gritty types, such as The Kite Runner and Monster's Ball, and quirky comedy, such as Stranger Than Fiction.

"I think it's important that Bond is an anti-hero; that he has this shadow," says Forster of the revived character. "It's interesting to dive into his pain, because I don't think one should glorify an assassin. A character who kills other people is dark, should be dark, and can't be at peace with himself. He's isolated and is really not a happy person."

Then again, I hazard, it's hard not to love the side of Bond that shags and shoots his way around the parameters of morality. "He still has that," says Forster. "But that's his escape and you have to have both sides - Daniel brought this to Bond."

Quantum of Solace has plenty of classic 007 moments, including boat chases, explosions and a hot girl at the wheel. We also see more MI6 gadgets than in Casino Royale. "I wanted to go deeper into Bond's emotional world but, at the same time, I didn't want to take myself too seriously. It was important to have humour and to have some fun with it," says Forster. Hence the Goldfinger moment when Agent Fields (played by Gemma Arterton of RocknRolla) is found covered in an oil slick that's reminiscent of the 1964 film's scene in which Shirley Eaton's character suffers 24-carat skin suffocation.

Craig also downplays his reportedly cerebral approach to Bond. "I read the books and thought, he's really dark and in turmoil, and that's where we'll start, but I don't think there's a lot to analyse. I mean, it's James Bond," says the actor. "Anyway, I'm so far from being an intellectual - I can't spell 'intellectual', so I'm not in a position to start intellectualising anything."

Purists shouldn't worry about any change in Bond's reputation for being a Casanova, either. He makes a move on Arterton's government agent, and the obligatory arse-kicking Bond girl, played by Ukranian model-turned-actor Olga Kurylenko. This means more scenes of Craig in next to nothing. In fact, we see more of his body than the girls'.

"I don't make any apologies for Bond. I hope he retains some of his misogyny, because that makes him interesting," says Craig.

At least Bond has the formidable M, played by Dame Judi Dench, to keep him in check. "She's there to slap him down," he agrees. "If he does behave in that way and you have a very strong female lead, she can say, 'What the f*ck's that about?'"

Cast and crew travelled to six countries, filming in 22 locations - a record for the franchise. "Panama was amazing," he says. "The people were so friendly and great to work with. Chile was fantastic because we were in the middle of a desert. And Sienna They were all great. The travelling is a big bonus."

Having done most of his own stunts, Craig says that, physically, Casino Royale was "a walk in the park" compared to Quantum. This time, his training involved aerial dogfighting, boxing, running, sky diving and stunt driving cars and boats. He sliced the top off a finger in rehearsals and his damaged shoulder will take a while to heal. "I had to go to New York to have an operation. I returned two days ago and have the media chasing me around town, trying to find out how I broke my arm. If they catch up with me, I'll tell them it was a fishing accident.

"No, it's more likely that I have a hangnail," he laughs, playing down his macho-ness and flashing a smile that illuminates his entire face.

And with that, all the dynamism of Bond comes to life again. If only he were wearing Speedos.

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