Spectre marks Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as James Bond, and it’s safe to say the job doesn’t get any easier, as widely-shared interviews have recently proved. But when we meet Craig a few days before the 24th Bond film hits UK cinemas, he seems relaxed and cheerful.
As he joins a roundtable of journalists in a London hotel, he fields a volley of questions ranging from Spectre‘s writing, his role as co-producer, and the injury he sustained during a fight scene with the colossal Dave Bautista.
As for whether he’ll return as Bond for a fifth time, he remains coy. Here’s what Daniel Craig had to say…
Well done – brilliant film.
Thank you very much.
How are you feeling this morning now the reviews are in?
I’m good. I try to avoid them because – [to a hubbub outside the room] – Quiet! – because, you know, I don’t want to be thinking about them. But they’ve been positive, and that’s all that matters.
So does that help you forget all the pain and stress that’s gone into the making of the film?
I forget about that very quickly. I love making these films, and as I always say, it’s a massive collaborative process. It’s nice to have a day like today when the whole team’s here, and we look at each other and go, “Well done, everybody. We got to this point.” The rest of it’s just hard work. But the best things are.
Was it extra hard because you had to take extra time out to have an operation?
It worked out, quite frankly, well. I took two weeks off in the middle – I had to go off and get a little bit of surgery – but it allowed Sam [Mendes] to get into the editing room and see the movie, which he’d never normally get to see. You know, he wouldn’t look at it until right at the end. So he got to look at rough cuts of parts of the movie, and you could get an overview. I like to think it was deliberate on my part, just to give everybody a break!
Do we see the bit where you injured yourself in the film?
It’s not in the film, sadly. I wish it was, but I had to stop, because I did my knee in and I went, “Woahh”. But the scene is in the train fight with David [Bautista]
What did it mean to be co-producer on this film?
It’s one of the proudest moments in my career, quite simply.
What did you bring to it, though? Because this one has some of the more Gothic elements from Skyfall – not necessarily the big house, but the allusions to death, secret passages and swooning romance are all faintly Gothic.
Yeah, I think some of the tone Sam set in Skyfall was very particular. You’d kind of have to ask Sam about that, because that’s what he’s about more than anything. I think some of that tone came into this movie, but only residually.
Do you find that as co-producer, you care more about the box-office stats and the reviews coming in?
What can I do? It’s one of those things. I’m not in control of that. I’ve been as involved as I possibly could in every movie I’ve made, and it was very generous of the producers to say, “We want you as part of this team.” When it comes up on the credits I get a really big kick out of it, because I’ve been involved in this from conception, from the first meeting where Sam and I sat down and said, “What am I going to do?” So I get a huge kick out of it. The box office? We’ll see. Having said that, now it’s about the audience, it’s about them, really. Hopefully they’ll enjoy it.
Would you see a credit that says, “Directed by Daniel Craig”?
Oh God, no. I couldn’t do that. That’s the worst job – you never get any sleep. And I need to sleep.
So you’ve no ambitions to direct a future Bond movie or anything like that?
No, no. Follow Sam Mendes? Are you joking me? [Laughs]
You often talk about the writing – could you talk about Neal [Purvis] and Rob [Wade]’s involvement?
Well, they’ve been involved in all the Bond films I’ve made, and their input is invaluable. Because what tends to happen is John writes a script and we get a shape and form, and then we have to continue working. In fact, all the way through to the end of this movie we were working. You’re fiddling with tiny bits, not whole scenes – you’re just trying to get it right. And having them there to bounce things off, and they can go away and write and then they come back and you have a look at it, it’s invaluable to have them around.
Jez [Butterworth] got a credit as well this time.
He did, yeah. And having someone as talented as Jez around is useful.
One of my favourite elements of Bond since you’ve started is that we’re seeing a more vulnerable, human side. We’ve been into his childhood in Skyfall, and in this one there’s a moment where he’s asked if he enjoys being a secret agent. Is that something you’ve been keen to bring to the character?
I don’t know any other way of doing it. It’s kind of just, you’ve got to play a character, and you’ve got to try to get as many dimensions of them as possible. Obviously he’s James Bond and he gets the girl and all these sorts of things that we expect from the film. But I just think giving a part humanity and conflict – I don’t know how else to do it. I literally don’t. There’s conflict in his life, and I think that’s an interesting thing to discover.
How does it feel having Quantum [Of Solace] brought back into the fold, so to speak? Because you were really heavily involved in writing parts of Quantum.
Put it this way, we had a real problem on Quantum. As, probably, you already know, we had a writer’s strike. I didn’t want to be involved in the writing of Quantum [Laughs], and I’m not a writer. I’ve got a few good ideas, sometimes, but putting it down on paper is a whole different ball game. No one’s a bigger fan of writers than I am. Skilled writers are what make the movie. The script is what you have. But the whole through line – hopefully they connect in a real way. You don’t have to watch them to enjoy this one, but it would help. Hopefully there’s a continuity.
How much of that continuity was planned from the very beginning? From Casino Royale onwards? Was it retrofitted or was there a game plan from the beginning?
No, there was a pretty strong game plan. Of course, I wish it was really clear, we weren’t like, “We’ve got it.” But you sit in a room much like this with writers, and you go, “What about this? What about this? This will work…” There’s a sort of roadmap. You’ve got that, and you’re trying to link it all together. With a Bond movie, there’s the whole added thing of, “There’s an action sequence here.” You can’t conceive that at the time.
That’s when you get in the other people, Gary Powell [stunt co-ordinator] and Alexander Witts [second unit director] in to say, “What can we do here?” To continue the story as well, because that’s what you don’t want to do – you don’t want to have the film, and then an action sequence, and then the film again. You want one film. I think, incredibly skilfully, Sam, who’s gone from Skyfall – which was pretty dizzying heights – has gone to here. And his skill as an action director, as someone who understands action and puts it in a movie, is really brought to the fore here.
During the production process, is there ever something of a hindrance when you have to abide by the tropes of the franchise? Was that actually part of the fun?
You have to make it fun. In a way, it’s your bible. We’re not making another movie, we’re making a Bond movie, so therefore we have to stay within certain lines. But you try and freefall, you try and mess around with the conventions.
What has to be in a Bond film, do you think?
Everything that’s in this Bond film, obviously! [Laughs] You know the list. All of that. We’ve tried to put them in. I said from the beginning of this, I want all these things in, and we tried to get them in the movie. Casino was a way of starting again, but I want the fun, the celebration, all of that back in. I couldn’t have planned this, but it’s very natural the way we’ve gone to this, hopefully now it’s a real celebration of Bond.
Were there any sacred cows you wouldn’t touch? You wouldn’t, say, throw a hat on a hatstand?
We don’t wear hats anymore. [Laughs] I mean, I’d love to walk into the office and throw it in. And we did discuss it at one point, because we’ve gone back to the office and it’s there, and I think, “God, I’d love to do it.” But there are things that just don’t work anymore. But that’s part of the fun of it, when you go, “What can we do? How can we do it, and make it of this moment?” But Sam cast the movie so well last time, and we’ve now got Ralph [Fiennes] and Naomi [Harris] and Ben [Whishaw] and Rory [Kinnear]. We’re using them to the best of their skills. And we’re in Q’s lair. It’s great, it’s all there.
Do you think we could get a spin-off movie?
Of what? Of them?
Well, they’re such a good group of supporting characters, you could almost have them go on an adventure while you’re off somewhere else.
Oh well, they’re all leading actors in their own right, so they could do anything. So, you know…
Speaking of the classic tropes and stuff, what was the conversation like when it turned to [spoiler redacted]?
Again, what you do – and please don’t give this away – it’s about rediscovering it. And that’s the way Sam and the writers think, which is that it’s all very well… as you say, some people will get the Bond gags. But some people will have never seen a Bond movie. So you can’t just throw in a character and expect them to understand – you’ve got to give them a little bit of history. And this did seem to lend itself well to this story.
That’s from Fleming, and this is the first film that borrows from the Kingsley Amis Bond novel. Were you aware of that? Have you read that novel?
We used a little bit of it. Look, we’ll take anything. We snatched little bits and pieces from it.
How far has this movie pushed you physically? Because there’s obviously there are so many action sequences, and you’re trying to top the previous ones, and you’re walking off ledges as nimble as a mountain goat…
Fantastic. I love that. I’ll take mountain goat! Looks like a mountain goat, maybe! Look, it’s what I started doing. I can’t not do it now. I got injured halfway through and it slowed me down a bit, but it didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do, and that’s all that mattered to me. There’s a terrifying thought where we might have to shut down filming while I go off and have surgery and everybody has to wait around. It would have been just awful. We were right into it, so I had to protect myself a bit more. But it’s movie making, you have to fake it, and you fake it as best you can. I think they’ve done an amazing job of making it seamless. Like that opening scene, most of that was real. Of course there’s CGI in there, but most of it’s to do with making it look sequence. It isn’t, “Oh look at that”, it’s all there, we’ve just collaged it together. And I’m in the middle of it!
At the end of an eight-month shoot, what’s the first thing once you’ve finished?
Um, I used to go and get drunk for a month. I don’t do that anymore. I don’t need to do that anymore. I just want to get home. I’ve been away from home for eight months, and everybody’s in the same boat. That’s the strain with a film like this, is that everybody’s away from their families. Like everybody else, I just want to go home and spend some time [with them].
Christoph [Waltz] manages to tap into his more sinister sensibilities in this…
Do you spend a lot of time in character? Is there a lot of laughter on set? Or do you try to keep a distance?
You get both, it just depends on what you’re doing. I don’t try and get in his way when he’s trying to do his stuff. I want to stay out because he’s got to concentrate, and he stays out of my space when I’m trying to concentrate. You try and be as helpful and encouraging as possible, and whatever works works. But we joke, yes. There are a lot of jokes.
You didn’t happen to keep any mementoes from this film or the previous films?
I’ve been wearing this today. I got this out [indicates a very fancy-looking watch], and this was presented to me by Barbara [Broccoli] and Michael [Wilson, producers] at the end of Casino Royale, and it’s really, really precious. I actually wore this all the way through Casino Royale. I just got this out this morning and thought, “That’s what I’m going to wear.”
Did you confect a backstory with Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory? Because you did something like that with Judi [Dench].
He would have done. That’s not my… someone like Ralph, he’s one of the best actors we have. He’ll do that with Sam. That’s his work with Sam. I wouldn’t want to get involved with that, quite frankly.
[Inaudible question about playing Bond again]
I don’t know, really. In spite of what’s been written in the press, it’s what I always say: I have the right to change my mind any time I want to. Sometimes I say things, like I did to the press when I was asked two days after I’d just finished shooting for eight months, “Would I do another one?”, I said what was on my mind. That’s the way I’ve always spoken. But as I said, I reserve the right to change my mind.
Daniel Craig, thank you very much.
Spectre is out in UK cinemas on the 26th October.