It is hard to separate Daniel Craig from his alter-ego James Bond. Both possess a steely, buttoned-up charm, and neither lets his guard down for a second. The epitome of discretion, 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.”
The actor has finally agreed to don his tux for the fifth and final time in the 25th Bond film. It’s a final farewell for the actor who, despite not being the obvious choice to take the baton from Pierce Brosnan back in 2006, defied critics with his rather cruel, cold-blooded portrayal of the iconic spy, who made his opening bow in Casino Royale.
Stepping into 007’s shoes also made Daniel Craig an overnight pin-up. He grimaces, recalling the famous Ursula Andress-inspired beach scene. “I’m not going to put those trunks on ever again!”
How has the Bond journey been?
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
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.
What training schedules have you been through during your time as Bond?
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.
It’s an incredibly physical role, so do you need a different mindset for that role more than others?
There aren’t that many roles I’ve taken where I didn’t feel the need to really step it up physically. Perhaps it’s just something you do as an actor because you want to look your best on screen, but generally speaking, whether it’s a physical role or not, I will always begin a pretty intensive gym programme.
I think the other reality of entering a long period of work, such as a film project, is you need to be at your peak in terms of strength, energy and athleticism. Shooting can entail long days and sometimes that extra bit of bite at the end of a long stretch can make all the difference to the final cut.
Bond has always been something incredibly physical in my mind. Sean Connery’s movies were dynamic and almost balletic in the way the violence and the action was done. When I first got Bond, I wanted to be involved with that on every level. It’s crucially important to have that; it’s what people want to go to the movies to watch.
The most intensive bulking up I did was probably for Casino Royale. The idea with that was that Bond had just dropped out of the army, both in terms of physical guile and the mental approach he took to things. So I was really hitting it with the PT, doing bits by myself, including lots of running for core stamina, plus free weights, stretching programmes, swimming and, of course, a pretty strict high-protein diet. I have to say it was worth it in the end, but it was a lot of hard work.
I think that routine prepared me for those I did afterwards. On each Bond since I have fallen back into the same sort of mindset. To play Bond these days you have to be at your physical peak – it’s just the way the character is perceived. That’s very different to some of those who have played Bond in the past.
My gym mentality is to accept it and move on. Of course, I crave the buzz like everyone else, but I only get that at the end. For the time I am there going through the process I am thinking about the next thing. I think that’s the way I’ve learned to deal with the physical pain of working out – to lose myself in something else, ultimately.
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?
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.
You also are afraid of heights; how does that work with some of the aforementioned stunts?
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?
How do you keep making Bond fresh?
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.
What’s your favourite Bond movie?
It’s none of mine! [Laughs]. 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…
How do you relax away from film?
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.