After cash-flow problems at MGM enforced a lengthy hiatus, Bond is back in Skyfall. Taking place in Istanbul, Shanghai, London and Scotland, it’s the perfect birthday present for a character celebrating his 50th birthday in the movies. What’s more, Skyfall sees Daniel Craig once again place his personal stamp on 007 – as he reveals in this interview, he was not only instrumental in the selection of both director and central villain, but also present during the shaping of the script.
Taking a seat in a room crammed with Den Of Geek and several other journalists from the likes of Bleeding Cool, Ask Men and The Sun, Craig seemed relaxed and confident – hair immaculately combed, his blue jacket emblazoned with a symbol stitched in gold thread, he still looked like James Bond, even if his responses were rather earthier than we might expect from the famously pithy agent.
Bear in mind, then, that while the following round-table interview doesn’t spoil the events of Skyfall (due out on the 26th October), it does contain a bit of colourful language…
There’s some intense action in this film. Were there any injuries at all?
No, no. Absolutely not, no. I got bruises and bumps and all that kind of thing, but we actually planned it out very carefully, and everything was worked out intricately. We just took the time, and when there was stuff to do that I didn’t feel comfortable with, we’d just clear the set and I’d rehearse and rehearse and rehearse until I got it right.
The idea was to try and make it look like it’s easy. So that’s the only criteria. But I injured myself in training, which was kind of pathetic really, but I tore a muscle in my calf.
You traipse across a lot of Highland landscapes. Is that a place you know well?
I don’t know it well, but I’ve visited many times. It’s wet, but it’s very beautiful.
Is it true that you were at a party with Sam Mendes, and you woke up the next day…
With Sam Mendes? No! [Laughs] Where did you get that from? I was literally at a party and Sam was there, and he doesn’t drink, so he was quite sober. I wasn’t that sober, but I was picking his brains about the next movie. I wanted to ask him, because I respect him as a director and I think he’s got lots of great ideas.
As the conversation went on and on, and we talked about the things we loved about Bond movies, and I offered him the job – which wasn’t my job to do.
Did Sam apologise and say he got it a bit wrong when he said you may not have been right for Bond? If so, how did that conversation go?
He apologised, we’ve moved on. [Laughs]
I read you were at another party and you met Javier [Bardem] and you asked him to be a part of the movie.
Yeah, I was actor and casting director. [Laughs] I don’t know. It just sort of made sense. You can end up skirting around the issue, saying, “Ooh, wouldn’t it be nice to get so and so”, and I just thought I’d ask and see what he says. But he said yes as well, so…
You’re actually quoted as saying “I stalked Javier”.
I talk shit in interviews. [Laughs] He was literally there, standing [indicates a short distance away]. I’d never met him, but I’m a huge fan of his.
Apparently you said to him that nothing can quite prepare you for being in a Bond film.
No, it’s just that as most movies, take, you know – even long movies take three, four months to shoot – this is six, seven, eight months of shooting. You’re halfway through, and you’re not really half-way through. You need an energy level. Thankfully, Sam has an abundance of energy and an abundance of passion for this kind of thing. There’s no bigger Bond fan. And that’s what I really wanted from a director, and certainly from him. I think that pays dividends.
Do you feel in hindsight, then, that maybe the four year break between the two films was a benefit?
It was in the sense, but we don’t need it. We don’t need four years. Two years is plenty. We need a script. You need a good script. We had a great script on Casino Royale, but sadly we didn’t have time to get one written on Quantum, but we had time to get one written on this. And that, combined with all the right ingredients – the cast, which would look good on any movie – is just… you can be consistent with the story and the story holds together, and the action and everything else, that comes together. That’s what Sam’s been so great about in this. He’s kept everybody together on the same page. Sometimes, things can get out of hand after eight months.
When you decided to commit to more, what was it that convinced you to stick around?
Really? Plain and simple?
No, never money. I love playing it. I love playing it. It’s an honour to play it, and I get a big kick out of doing it. I had an opportunity, when they gave me Casino Royale, to wipe the slate clean, because we’re beginning again. You can’t not make Casino Royale and say, “This is the beginning”. I know it’s a conceit, and I’m a huge fan of what’s gone before, and I always wanted to bring those back in. But I couldn’t just do a movie and go, “I’ll straighten the tie and drink a Martini” – it’s all been done.
It had to happen in the right way, and I just feel that we’ve done that now. By introducing new characters and old characters into this one, we’ve got somewhere to go.
So to what extent do you have to say about the way Bond behaves and develops? Do you get involved at the scripting stage?
I’ve been involved for four years on this, and I’ve been talking about it for four years. So in a way, every step. I try not to get in people’s way – I want the writers to write something, and we’ll sit down and talk about it, and then we’ll get the actors involved and they’ll have something to say. It’s a very collaborative process, but I try to be involved at every step of the way. But, you know, it was written on the page. The character was on the page. The story was on the page.
Is it difficult being involved with these big characters, like Bond and Mikael Blomkvist?
Well I’m not. I’m not doing Mikael Blomkvist.
So that’s not going to happen?
I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what’s happening with that.
That’s a shame.
Is it just on hold or…?
[Holds hands up] I don’t know.
With your character being more complex, more tortured, were you trying to turn the clock back to Connery?
No, just Fleming. It’s in the books. I mean, Fleming was conflicted about him – he tried to kill him off two or three times in the stories. And you just read those. He’s conflicted, but it’s about when he’s knocked down, and how he gets up. He takes a lot of battering, Bond, and so he should – he’s an agent, and he’s up to that. But it’s how he stands up to adversity, and how he stands up in situations where he’s one against many, usually. As long as we can keep that interesting, and how he deals with those situations, then it’s worth making the movies.
There are a lot of references in the film to James Bond being a bit old, but you’re only 44. How old do you think is too old?
Forty-four and three quarters. [Laughs] I’m contracted to do another two, and I think that’s a fair number. But I’m not going to make predictions, because people have to go and see the movie, so until they do go and see the movie, we can’t make another one. But I’m not going to outstay my welcome, someone else will have to have a crack at this.
Sam Mendes has said he would return and do another one if audiences would like him to. Would you like him to?
I’d love work with him again, but I’m not going to get myself into trouble [Laughs] by suggesting he would or should or could. But of course I’d love to work with him again.
I did a roundtable with you last year for Cowboys & Aliens, and you were giving Michael Fassbender your blessing, because you still weren’t officially signed on for the next two. And then I interviewed him and said Daniel Craig’s given his blessing for you to be the next Bond. Now you’ve broken his heart.
This world that you live in, I just can’t… “He’s welcome to it” is what I said to you. I remember exactly what I said. “He’s welcome” is not giving my blessing. So you’re the one who got into shit, not me. [Laughs]
Talking of action performances, you’ve got the royal premiere tomorrow. What did you think of the Queen’s acting performance?
I think she did good. I think she did fantastically. Honest truth, Danny Boyle, I’m a huge fan of his, I thought he did a stunning job with the opening ceremony. It was the best way we could have kicked off, and I was just proud to be a small part of it. It was quite surreal, being in the palace acting with the Queen.
Were you nervous?
Not really, no. It was very relaxed. Danny was lovely and so was [the Queen]. We did it in about an hour and we were out of there.
Was it hard to keep that secret?
Well, your lot [Points to a journalist from a tabloid newspaper] let it go.
Then you denied it!
Of course I denied it! I had to keep my mouth shut. Unlike your lot. I don’t know how it happened. It got leaked out, but fortunately people had forgotten. Then when it happened, they were just as surprised.
Did you keep it a secret from your friends and family?
You’re really good at keeping secrets.
[Someone chips in] Well, he’s a secret agent.
These films have been changing in their political content. The representations have been shifting. Women aren’t objectified as much as we might have thought they used to have been…
‘Thought’ they might have been? They were objectified.
They were. Okay. I wondered what your thoughts were on reading these films politically, with a lower case ‘p’.
I don’t. I don’t think they are. I think the danger is to make them overly political, because you alienate the audience, and I think you’re trying to make a political comment when you’re making a fantasy movie. That’s a conceit, really. I think what they end up doing is they start being a commentary, because you’re making a movie at a particular time. If you look back at the movies – of Roger, Timothy, whoever – they stand out, and you can place them immediately within a time.
I mean, there’s one comment in this movie, which is just about the old and the new. Governments might want to send out these spy satellites and drones to spy on people, but Bond’s like, “No, no, no, unless you go out and look people in the eye, you’ll never know the truth.” So that’s kind of a political comment.
Is part of the modernisation of these films less of the flesh, less of the sexiness?
I don’t know – I seem to be bare-chested most of the way through it! [Laughs]
You were [unclothed] in the first film, but in this one, there are no similar shots…
Of me? I take my clothes off more in this movie than I did in Casino Royale.
I didn’t notice.
No. [Laughs[ I failed miserably, haven’t I? It’s all over! [Laughs]
There’s more comedy in this film.
Again, the first two movies had one story to tell. I always wanted to bring comedy back in. I love Mike Myers, but he really screwed the franchise on a lot of the gags. He took the best Bond gags, and just… “Ivana Humpalott”, you know. In a way, it had gone for a while. But I always maintained that if we could get good writing, really good writing, then the jokes will come. And they have in this. I’m very proud of the fact that they’ve come. They have a lightness of touch to the movie, and that allows the audience to laugh in order to break tension. Those are the funniest laughs, I think.
VERY MILD SPOILER COMING NEXT
Is that where the lizards came in?
It’s just a Bond moment. We never forget this is a Bond movie, and that, again – the conversation I had with Sam was… I can loosen my tie. They’re not filming this, are they? Jesus… [Loosens tie]
It may be a little homage to Live And Let Die, you know, with the alligator farm. But it’s just to remember we’re in a Bond movie and scare the kids.
VERY MILD SPOILER ENDS
Talking about good writing, some of the work seems to be carried by [Neal] Purvis and [Robert] Wade, and then somebody else comes along. What do you think Purvis and Wade bring to these films?
They always give us an absolutely solid place to start. They give us a strong plot to work around, and that’s what they’re really good at. When John [Logan] came in, he sat down with the actors, and he was very present during that process, and he wrote a lot of that good dialogue with the actors, and improved it again and again. So it’s a natural process.
We spent four years on this, so it’s been two years of script work, really.
Did any of Peter Morgan’s old contributions stay around?
I don’t remember.
A lot of these films seem to be centred around a theme of trust. In the first film there’s Vesper Lynd. And in the second there’s a trust of M, and in the third, there’s the loyalty and trust of M. I wondered if you set out to do that?
I don’t think so, unless somebody else did and hasn’t told me. I just think in the espionage game, trust is quite important. So I think that comes up. Certainly, with this film, once M and Bond sort out their differences, that trust for each other becomes very clear. They’re very open and straightforward about what they do for a living and where their loyalties lie. I think that’s solidified in this movie.
Daniel, I’ve come down from the Midlands today, and-
Oh, I’m sorry. [Laughs]
…One of the things, locally, people remember is you having a pint with them in the Jack Mitten pub. Is the downside to Bond that you can’t go and do that?
No, I still do that. On a Friday night, in the middle of town, anywhere, it’s probably not my best place to go and be very comfortable having a quiet pint.
Shropshire’s quite good, then, to get away from it all.
It is, yeah.
On that note, in 50 years, Bond has never been to Ireland.
Moan fucking moan, moan, moan. [Laughs] I’m sick of it. I don’t know. I say this to everyone who asks, “When are you going to come and film in our country,” but I’d love to film in Ireland, but I like being in Ireland anyway.
Do you remember any disagreements you had with Sam [Mendes] or anybody about who Bond is?
No, I don’t think so. I don’t think there was ever a clear conversation, although we were in conversation all the time. The great thing about these films, I find, is that there are rules you have to stick to. There are emotional parts in this movie that I found pretty tough. But he’s Bond, and doesn’t really break – he gets thrown about. Those kinds of rules are fun to play around with, as long as you stick to them. Then he remains Bond. Anything else is possible. I think.
There’s a look of disappointment on your face, like, “What the fuck is he talking about?” [Laughs]
I was wondering if you could tell me what those rules specifically are?
Bond’s a soldier. He tries to hide his emotions, tries to be in control all the time, and playing around with that – pushing those boundaries – is interesting.
You and Javier have a great chemistry together. Did you spend a lot of time on set bonding, or did you remain apart?
There was no time. I’d love to have a social life when I make these movies, but there just isn’t any time. I got to spend more time with Javier now we’re doing these things, but Sam gave us a chance to rehearse a lot, and we discussed things. He’s one of the best actors there is. I just let him get on with it.
Daniel Craig, thank you very much.
Skyfall is out on the 26th October. You can read our review here.
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