There aren’t many sights more surreal than that of Daniel Craig, dressed in a crisp, Bondesque suit, walking toward you. So to then have the opportunity to speak with 007 himself – well, you can imagine what that was like. Most surprising, though, was the realization that Craig has a real sense of humor underneath that slick veneer. It’s that subtle, dry humor that he demonstrated in person that makes “Skyfall,” the latest entry into the 50-year-old James Bond franchise, one of the most fun Bond films yet. I recently sat down with him to discuss the film, the state of the next “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” movie (“I’m very optimistic that it might possibly happen maybe someday,” he joked), as well as his role in the London Olympics opening ceremony, Bond’s chauvinistic tendencies, and all the immense praise that “Skyfall” has been receiving.
This is your second time working with director Sam Mendes, first on “Road to Perdition,” and now on “Skyfall.” What was it like working with Sam again? Did you guys have any communication between those two films?
Daniel Craig: Not a great deal. I’d see Sam, you know, here and there. I’d do theatre sometimes and he’d come and see me in that…I saw him at a party and I kind of offered him the job [to direct “Skyfall”], which is not my place to do. One too many drinks. I always thought if it hadn’t worked out I could just blame the booze…It was easy and that conversation that I had with him that night really was the start of it. He was being very complimentary about Casino [Royale], and I wanted to pick his brains as a director – because I knew we were going to start thinking about the next film – and I wanted to pick his brains about what we could do, and how we could make it better, and I had all these ideas and we bounced them off each other a little bit and I kind of sort of said: “Do you want to do it, why don’t you do it?” and so he did.
We learn a lot more about the character of James Bond in this movie than we have in previous films – how did you approach that?
Craig: You know it’s easy to say now, but I always felt that we could explore him…you read the books, I mean they were written a long time ago so I suppose that kind of in a way they’re dated, but they still stand up as good reads. And Fleming really does explore the characters – there’s a lot of self doubt there, I mean he kills people for a living, it bothers him…I keep saying that no one told me what the rules were, as far as action and adventure movies were concerned. I always thought that you could have a plot, and therefore a character… I never forget I’m playing James Bond, this isn’t a character study. It’s giving somebody who is closed off, letting kind of a little bit go occasionally just so that we see in, and see him knocked down so that we can see him stand back up again. Those things, I think, hopefully, make for just a more enjoyable movie…that’s the thing about an action movie, where you have a hero. The world needs saving at the beginning of the movie, and at the end of the movie he saves the world. I wanted to do a bit more than that.
A lot of people have expressed optimism that this could be the first Bond movie to receive a Best Picture nomination. Are you confident in this? Do you think a Bond movie could ever achieve this?
Craig: I never would speculate about stuff like that. It’s very nice, one of the nicest things. I can’t lie, when the press started to come out it was a huge relief for me. Because you invest a large part of your life — as did many people — in this film. I knew we had a good film, but who knows how people are going to respond to it.I think that to sort of speculate now would be a little bit jumping the gun. There are some great movies out there this year, and there are some more movies to come out this year that are going to be good. I hope that people like [cinematographer] Roger Deakins are in the mix somewhere because he’s done such an amazing job, and it would be nice to see him get a nomination, or even [win] one. We spoke with the Bond girls earlier —we’ve actually decided to start calling them “Bond ladies.” Craig: Yes, there you go. We’re moving forward!
Can you speak on your two Bond ladies in this film?
Craig: Again, with the casting, we couldn’t have done better, or wished to have done better. Both Bérénice and Naomie – as well as Judi, we can’t leave her out of the equation. Naomie was just perfect, I look forward to sort of doing more with Naomie; she’s got the action chops as well as the acting chops. And Bérénice is just so gorgeous and exotic and a wonderful actress and I think in way is kind of an old-fashioned Bond girl but is so much more…I love the fact that Bond stays sort of chauvinistic, I mean I think it’s important that he does. Otherwise it would be kind of lying to say he’s a modern man, he’s not really a modern man. But putting strong women in front him — that makes it exciting, and sexier, I think.
Roger Moore was recently quoted as saying that you’ll go down as the “best Bond in history.”
Craig: We love Roger! [laughs] How does it feel to receive such praise from a past Bond actor? Craig: Well it’s very nice; he’s a lovely, lovely man, Roger. He was the first James Bond I ever saw in the cinema so I suppose I have a real affinity to him and a real soft spot for Roger, but he’s also a gentleman. And, you know, I pay him well [laughs].
What was it like working with Danny Boyle and the Queen on that short for the London Olympics opening ceremony? Craig:
All I can really say is, look, I was very honored to play just a little part in that opening ceremony…it was incredibly moving, the whole opening ceremony and was perfect. But it was very surreal. I was at the palace working with the Queen; it’s not kind of something I ever dreamed I’d ever do. But she was lovely, just very keen to do it and very happy to do it. We laughed a lot. It was very quick, it was kind of over before I could think about it, really…and I had to keep it very secret though, that’s the thing.
Are there any things you’ve learned to do in the films that you’ve been able to apply in real life?
Craig: I don’t finish work and go skydiving as a hobby, or anything like that, no…Some of the things I do in the movie are good fun to do, but they stay in the movie. I get to drive cars and shoot guns and do all of those things. But, you know, I can’t drive a car like that without getting arrested or shoot a gun like that without getting arrested, so I have to leave them at work.
Don’t you think that people would be a little more lenient with you though?
Craig: What, if I drove an Aston Martin at 80 mph through Manhattan, shooting a gun? No! The NYPD would just basically throw me inside after tasering me 100 times — with good reason. [laughs] Skyfall opened in theaters everywhere on November 9th.
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