Daniel Craig seems tailor made to inhabit his alter-ego James Bond. Both have a steely, buttoned-up charm, and neither lets his guard down for a second. Craig exemplifies Bond’s stoic approach to pain and, crucially, loves a Martini or two. ‘If you can find a good one – there’s nothing better. I know how to make a good one from working in bars years ago. I’m quite particular,’ he says.
After 13 years as 007, the actor, has finally agreed to don his tux for the fifth and final time in the as yet untitled 25th Bond film. It’s a final farewell for the actor who made his Bond debut with the rather cruel, cold-blooded portrayal of the iconic spy, ‘Casino Royale’, which took over £300 million at the box office and introduced a new ‘hench’ Bond. He grimaces, recalling the famous Ursula Andress-inspired beach scene. ‘I’m not going to put those trunks on ever again!’
RSNG caught up with Craig to find out how he does his own stunts with a fear of heights, why the actors come up with the one-liners, why he de-stressed with cream cakes, and which is his favourite Bond movie…
RSNG How has the Bond journey been? DANIEL CRAIG, ACTOR ‘I have thoroughly enjoyed it. As a child I imagined being James Bond but when I was offered it I was against it at first. Some of my friends told me I'd never be able to do anything else. What if I wanted to go off and do Gay Bikers on Acid – how would Sony feel about that?! Yes, it may take away some of my ambition and directors may think twice about employing me. But it also has benefits. A director may want to do a smaller film that has trouble getting financing – I might be able to make up that deficit.’
‘If you're not in this game for doing something like Bond, then what are you in the game for? If an opportunity doesn’t arise to become famous, wealthy and successful, then why are you doing it? If you’re going to take on Bond, you’ve got to be able to enjoy the ride.’
RSNG Not much has been revealed on the 25th Bond film… but can you tell us if there may be another co-producing role for you? DC ‘Well, I have a big mouth and I like to have a say. When I got given the role of for Casino Royale in 2006, the idea that I was going to pretend to be James Bond seemed quite challenging to me, haha! So, I asked the producer: look, if you allow me to take part and maybe allow me to have a say and feel like I part of the creative process that puts it all together then I think that I can do it. And they very generously did allow that to happen, and even more generously, I was given a producing credit.’
I turn up on set and try to be a pain in the ass because I think if you’re not then why turn up?
RSNG The Bond movies are known for their stunning locations and death-defying stunts, amongst other things – what drives the writing of each film behind the scenes? DC ‘It’s the story. Any of the big set pieces in Bond, they evolve and you kind of have to trust that will because you have got to get the story right. If the story doesn’t hold together and it doesn’t have any proper through-line, then you can have the best stunt sequences in the world, but it’s not going to make much difference.’
‘That’s where most of the hard work is done, at the beginning. Then the creatives are brought in and that’s the production designers who are just as important as the stunt coordinator and the special effects guys.’
‘They are there to say: “What can we do? How can we top the last one? How can we top any action movie that is out there at the moment?” There always seems to be so many mountains to climb, but those people are brilliant… you kind of wind them up and off they go.’
RSNG There is so much competition in the film industry from all kinds of different movie choices – how do you keep making Bond fresh? DC ‘When the James Bond franchise began, this was the only movie of its type out and now every year there are about 15 movies. But that just means that it’s a competitive industry and a competitive movie industry is certainly a healthy one. Movies are being made and they trickle down, then you can make the smaller movies and I know that it doesn’t always work like that. But it is good to be in a little competition and it’s good to have a situation where we are making the best movies that we can.’
RSNG So, we noticed one thing in Spectre that was maybe missing in the last few Bond films – the one-liners? DC ‘Well, it’s one of those things where a lot of people were asking about Skyfall: Where are the one-liners? We had a couple of pretty good ones in Casino Royale. But it’s not that easy to write them and it’s the case that most writers struggle, and great, great writers struggle with one-liners.’
‘We allowed them to happen in Spectre, it was a conscious choice. We wanted them to be there and again it’s one of those things where you can’t just pluck them out of thin air. I think a lot of the one-liners really came about on the day and they were created in the moment. But what Sam [Mendes, the film’s director] did is that he allowed that space for it to happen and we always have a lot of humour on the Bond sets, but we do always keep it very light in the right scenes. Then, when you throw into the mix with the wonderful actors that we have, then they come up with stuff… it’s as simple as that, really.’
RSNG You turn 51 this year… do you still remain passionate about your vocation? DC ‘At its very best, acting changes people's opinions and attitudes. You should be trying to make a point of some sort. If you can manage to do that, then you're succeeding as an artist. I don’t turn up on set, do my job and walk away. I turn up on set and try to be a pain in the ass. Because I think if you’re not, why turn up?’
RSNG You have a few other projects going on as well as Bond… DC ‘The more diverse the better. I’m trying to get on with things and look for stuff that I want to do. I’m certainly not after sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, I like to entertain other people. I’m not looking for credibility – if you do, it doesn’t work. It’s about making people happy – even my parents remain very proud. My dad still seems pleased that I play Bond after taking me to the pictures for the first time to see Roger Moore’s Live and Let Die, which is a fantastic movie. And my dad always said that Sean Connery defined the role.’
RSNG What’s your favourite Bond movie? DC ‘It’s none of mine, haha! Mine would have to be From Russia with Love, particularly because it’s with Robert Shaw. He plays the Bond villain Red Grant and he’s blonde! You know, the blond thing…’
RSNG What kinds for training schedules have you been through during your time as Bond? DC ‘Well, I had strangely developed this sex symbol status, for a start and it wasn’t something I was going for at all. I had to get fit to be able to do stunts. When Bond takes his shirt off, it should look like he could kill someone, not that he’s been out in the pub for the last two months!’
‘For example, in my preparation for Casino Royale, I bulked up quickly, to make Bond look like he’s just dropped out of the army. So that meant that I got myself a personal trainer and that in turn, involved lifting a lot of weights, and a lot of high protein diets. But for the next movie after that Quantum of Solace, the emphasis was on fitness. I had an awful lot of physical activity to do, and I had to get myself fit in a more cardiovascular way. Each movie has had a different ambition and look, and I have to fit that too.’
They always say don’t look down, but what’s the point of being up there if you don’t look down?
RSNG How do you relax away from film? DC ‘I've never been one of those suffering, artistic types. But once during filming, I had one night a week where I drank myself stupid; otherwise I don’t think I could have got through it. I had to separate myself from the movie at least once a week and eat anything, cream cakes, just pig out.’
‘But after being voted Best Dressed Male for a magazine a couple of times, I was given some very nice suits. The only problem being that I couldn’t fit into them for a while, haha! Those votes of confidence are nice, and I live with it, because it can’t last very long, and I don’t take it too seriously.’
RSNG You also are afraid of heights; how does that work with some of your Bond filming? DC ‘Yes, I still get nervous and wound up, but I have a less of a problem now than I did. I look down now. They always say don’t look down, but what’s the point of being up there if you don’t look down?’
WHAT NEXT? If you’re enjoying the final season of Game Of Thrones then check out the RSNG interview with Kit Harington (Jon Snow).