Daniel Craig came into my roundtable room at the Park Avenue Regency looking quite dashing in a blue suit. The assembled press had just seen Casino Royale the night before, and in that film Craig fully became Bond. But in real life, Craig was still the same guy I had interviewed last year for Layer Cake – sarcastically funny, laid back and very open.
This time I did something unusual – I opened with the creepiest question I had available. Note that it’s possible to consider this line of questioning spoilery, so I’ve made it so that you have to swipe the text to read it. People who have read the book will know all about the scene in question – it has to do with James Bond’s balls.
Told you it was creepy.
Q: I want to start this off in the most uncomfortable way possible. I want to ask you about your balls.
Craig: Uncomfortable for you, maybe!
Q: So the torture scene…how did you prepare for that and was there actual pain involved?
Craig: The honest truth is that it was one of the simplest scenes to shoot because it was on the page. It was a great scene in the book and had been adapted so well. Basically, a chair is set-up up, I’m naked, I sat in the chair, it has a fiberglass bottom to it and I’m ensconced in that. Hopefully I’m safe. It did crack. I hit the ceiling and left. No, everything was fine but I was like, ‘Woah!’ [laughs] Mads, Martin and I talked about it a lot. We said we’ve got to make it real; it’s got to be a scene that gets guys squirming and that was the first thing.
And then I said to myself that I don’t want him to lose. Even though it’s all over, and it appears to be, Vesper’s over there getting tortured, there’s nothing he can do, so the only thing that can happen is that he still beats this guy. I have no idea what that feels like and I never want to find out, but the assumption is the more you get hit the less it’s going to hurt. By that point, you pass out, you’re past caring. I sat in the corner, listened to The Clash, listened to the Foo Fighters and got myself amped up.
Q: Were you self-conscious about being naked?
Craig: Have you not seen any of my other movies? [laughs] Self-consciousness doesn’t really come into it. No.
Q: How did you deal with the negative reaction to you being cast as Bond?
Craig: Look, it happened. People’s passionate belief in this and how connected they feel with Bond, I get it. That’s fine. The fact is there was nothing I could do. I’d like to say it didn’t affect me, but it did affect me. It got to me for a couple of days, but I got into myself and said, ‘We have to make this brilliant, the best it can be, or the best I can make it.’ And that strengthened my resolve. Throw the computer away and don’t look on the internet. That’s the best thing to do.
Q: Do you want to tell your doubters to fuck off now that the movie proves you’re the right guy?
Craig: No, that’s not the way I am. That doesn’t interest me in the slightest. I set out to make a good movie. That was never an issue. I stand by that, I’ve got better things to do.
Q: You do a lot more action in this film than in all your previous films combined, especially in that amazing opening chase with Sebastien Foucan, the freerunner. Was it hard for you to get into shape for that?
Craig: Sebastien’s been doing this all his life, but that’s what I loved about this. Sebastien is skillful, some of these things are phenomenal – that lift shaft thing he does. It’s about [Bond] keeping up. And I like this idea, you got this human being that suddenly takes off, and Bond’s like, ‘Jesus!’ [It’s about] how Bond deals with that, using the crane to get up as opposed to climbing up. I think that makes the scene much more interesting and much more exciting.
Q: What did you do to get in shape for it?
Craig: I’ve always kept to look fit. I gave up smoking, which was actually the best thing…
Q: Did you stop drinking?
Craig: No, God almighty no, I wouldn’t have gotten through a week. That was Saturday night, I had to have that.
I kept fit. I got into the gym. I started running, I started bicycling, and I pumped weights. It was twofold, the reason really, because I wanted it to look like he was physically capable. I wanted it to look like it was possible. Plus the fact that I knew that if I was going to do many of the stunts I wanted to do, I had to be fit to do them. Thank God I did, because I don’t think I would have survived. I was getting injuries all the time, but everybody was, the stunt guys were getting injuries. You have the painkillers, you have the strapping, you have the physiotherapy, then they pat me on the backside and say, "C’mon, get on with it."
Q: Was it your decision to do as many of the stunts yourself as you could?
Craig: Not mine alone, it has to be safe. Gary Powell, the stunt coordinator, basically tested me out as we went along. He said, "I think you can do this." I nodded and said, ‘Okay, I’ll have a go.’
Q: How many films are you signed to do?
Craig: I’m signed for three films. Now that there’s the [gap] between finishing it and this, I actually feel we’re ready to do another one. What we’ve set up in this one, we set up this idea that there is an organization out there, maybe there’s one person who’s responsible. The fact is now he has to go and get them. That’s going to be where the next film takes him. Obviously there’s an element of revenge because the woman he loved had to die because of him. It’s all those things that hopefully we’ll take into the next movie and hopefully all those things will make it as rich an experience as this one.
Q: How do you feel about becoming a sex symbol?
Craig: I don’t.
Q: But women are going to swoon for you.
Craig: As far as I’m concerned, the sexiness, the sex symbol, it’s not a consideration. I didn’t go out to play sexy in this film. It’s nice…I don’t know, I’m embarrassed, I don’t know what to say.
Q: But James Bond is a sexual creature.
Craig: Yeah, but the important thing in the movie is to see what that’s about. He’s a driven guy. He likes… tasting things, that’s the best way to put it. If he can, he will. Given the opportunity, yes, that’s part of his character, that’s who he is, and that’s the risk he takes, combined with the way he enjoys life.
Q: This role will stick with you forever. Your obituary will probably say James Bond…
Craig: Jesus Christ! You’ve got some problems! First the balls, now my death!
Q: Balls and death seem to go hand in hand. But seriously, this is a role that’s going to hover over everything else you do for the rest of your career. Is that something you thought about before taking the role?
Craig: Of course, but it’s a very good problem to have. It’s not bad. I say that with gusto now, but it’s why I made this happen. I’m very proud of this movie now. I’m very proud of what we achieved. It was a lot of pressure to get it right. We all set out–Michael, Barbara, and Martin–to make a good movie, and I think we have, and the Bond aspect of it was all in place anyway. I dunno. I don’t want to talk about my epitaph just yet. I’ve got some other things to do in life.
Q: Did playing a real world intelligence agent in Munich help to inform you playing Bond?
Craig: No, it’s a different deal. There are things about guys who are in the army. There is a vanity to these guys. They’re very particular, they have to be. Bond is kind of like the exaggeration of these things, down to the cufflinks. But it’s a particular thing, because there has to be a sense of order to these things. Then he can react to it. With that character, there was a sense of that. I promise you I wasn’t trying to do something similar, though Spielberg would sometimes play the Bond theme.
Q: Can you talk about shooting the poker scenes?
Craig: I can’t tell you how complicated that was. Thankfully, to Michael Wilson, he is a really keen card player and he rehearsed everyone on the tables, so everyone knew what they were doing. We had like five packs of cards, all in the right order. They were all coded, so we start the game at any point we want, and the cards are going down in exactly the right order. I just went, now let’s play poker. Mads and I, he’s fantastic, a great actor, it was like sparring, it was great fun to do, just to get that dynamic going between the two of them, just looking at each other and saying, it was a fight. We never have a physical fight in the movie, that was our physical fight. The card game, Martin and the editor, getting that together, making that believable. Not everybody knows about cards in the audience, but that’s poker. That’s really what it is, pushing those chips, bringing up the tension of it. A whole bunch of people made that happen.
Q: Barbara Brocolli said she thought Die Another Day went over the top, so was it important for you to avoid that?
Craig: It’s that thing again, isn’t it? Again, all I’m concerned about is that we cast the right people in the roles. Being able to top this, Christ’s sake, Mads weeps blood! It’s quite over the top, but it’s done in a way that’s great because it’s such a beautiful Bond moment. I want it to be as stylish as it possibly can. All I ever wanted to maintain is that you can do anything, if it’s in the plot. If it’s right and if it feels good, and not there because it’s self-consciously there, then you can do it, because we are in a fantasy world. That’s the fact, this isn’t real life.
Q: There was a rumor circulating that you were bothered by a suicide-bombing plot in the script. Is that true?
Craig: I think that kind of got out of hand. The important thing is that this is a Bond movie and there’s no religious or political motivation with these guys. It’s purely evil; these guys are Bond villains. But I like the idea that by disrupting the world’s economy, you can take control of it. That’s what these bad guys are about, disrupting and taking control, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process. We had to set them up in the right way.
Q: What are some of favorite Bond films and what did you take from those characters?
Craig: Dr. No and From Russia With Love. They’re great, just the best, they’re two of my favorite movies. Sean Connery being physical, scary, complicated, bad, all those things about that character. Besides whether it’s Bond, it’s a great character, it’s something that he created that’s lasted this long. Those two are very special
Q: Where would you like to see the next film go?
Craig: I don’t know what we’re going to do. We’re going to get this movie out, we’re going to sit down in January. We’re all going to have a few drinks hopefully to toast the fact that we actually got this one done, then we’ll start talking about it.
Q: Where would you like to see Bond going with his character?
Craig: I don’t think he’s kind of rounded yet. I don’t think he’s actually finished. I think he’s got some more lessons to learn yet. That for me is where we take it now. I’d like to see him get into situations we might not possibly have imagined him in before. That’s going to be the difficult thing, trying to find situations and scenarios to do that. In June of this year, when I finished this movie, the last thing on earth I wanted to do was to make a Bond movie. I was like, forget it, it’s not in the cards. I now feel more pumped up about the idea of taking this somewhere. It’s going to be interesting.