Missing In Action for four years, Daniel Craig’s James Bond is finally back with Skyfall. ShortList’s Andrew Dickens talks tiny trunks and on-set injuries with 007 himself.
Bond is back. Boy, have we been waiting to say that. For a while it looked as if financial constraints and inter-studio wrangling were going to do what megalomaniacs, honey-traps and the Red Army couldn’t: kill James Bond.
But there’s no keeping a good man down, not when there are guns to fire, gadgets to employ and honey-traps to dive into, which is why Skyfall – the first Bond film in four years – sees Daniel Craig pick up the Walther PPK once more. We found the man himself, pinned him down with coffee and biscuits, and began our interrogation.
So, what makes a good James Bond film today?
Packing it with as much as you can. Just making it as exciting and as interesting as possible. If you can do that, and that’s what we’ve attempted to do with this, you’re giving the editor a real headache.
Is Skyfall linked in any way to current events?
Inevitably, but not by any conscious decision. We make movies that are about the here and now, so there are things in the film that are about today, but we don’t try to make it relevant. I think it becomes unrelevant. Inrelevant. No, unrelevant…
Irrelevant. Thank you. I knew it was somewhere in there. It’s been a long day. It immediately becomes irrelevant as soon as you try to make a statement. It’s not that kind of movie.
Is Bond going back to basics?
No, not really. Sam [Mendes, Skyfall director] and I discussed this for a long, long time and we worked on the script for more than two years. We wanted to make a classic Bond. Not classic as in looking back, but as in something that will stand the test of time. There are major influences from the early Bonds, but it’s set in a very modern world, so it’s kind of throwing those things together. But hopefully not just back to basics – that sounds such a grey kind of thing. I don’t want to be associated with that expression.
Do you ever think that you could be James Bond forever?
That’s not going to happen. I’m doing it again because I’m contracted to, and I get a kick out of it. As long as I’m getting a kick out of it and people want me to do it, I’ll try to do it. We’ll see…
How many more films are you signed up to?
Ralph Fiennes’ character says “Spying is a young man’s game”. Do you ever feel the same about playing Bond?
In a way. Obviously there are ways of faking a movie like this and there are ways of doing it for real. It’s a mixture of both. We fake things to make it look better and then when I can get in and do stunts, I will. But I don’t bounce as well as I used to, so I have to be careful.
Does it hurt more?
It hurts less, actually. I’m numbed.
There are explosions set in London. With the city’s history, did you have to be careful about how you did it?
We’ve been very sensitive about it. That just goes without saying. But it’s a fantasy movie and we’re not trying to freak people out, we’re trying to entertain them. The real issue was filming it in London and making London look and feel as great as it is. I wanted to base Bond a lot more here, and thankfully, with Bond, you can open doors, so we could close down Whitehall and use the London Underground.
Was it a conscious decision to add Britishness?
You’re also stripping off again. Do you ever feel like you’re being objectified?
[Laughs] Yes, all the time. Talk to my boss, Barbara Broccoli, about that. Yes, completely, f*ck it, why not?
Do you look through your script and go “there’s another nude scene”?
I don’t actually read those bits. I don’t care how many times I have to do it. It’s going to be harder and harder the older I get. It’s just fun. There’s enough sexiness in the movie with the girls – and hopefully me as well – but it’s a little bit of a gag now.
Do it while you can…
Exactly. Then get a body double.
Have you been responsible for some of Bond’s ad-libs?
I maintain you can’t improvise a movie like James Bond. It’s impossible. But if you have a good script, funny moments come out of the situation and you can add to them. There are moments that are not to do with lines; there are looks and feelings.
You worked with Sam Mendes 10 years ago on Road To Perdition. Has he changed much since then?
I suppose people change within a 10-year period. Older and wiser. I think we’ve both changed, and it’s then how you react to each other. I was in a different place and he was in a different place when we made that movie, and I’m here now and doing this and I really wanted him to be part of it. The reason I asked him was I thought I knew how he would react to this challenge, and he did – he’s reacted brilliantly to it.
You’re playing a slightly nicer character, as well.
Yeah, I suppose. I don’t kill children.
Was Road To Perdition a turning point in your career? The film where you felt the public treated you differently?
No. Only Bond, which is quite big. They never did before that. If it was happening, I wasn’t aware of it. It’s just impossible with this not to be aware, because there’s so much riding on it and so much pressure and opinion. You can’t hide from it. And it causes you to forget about who you are a little bit, because you’re constantly thinking about what other people are thinking about you.
Has it impinged on your life? Are there things you used to be able to do that you can’t?
Plenty. I can’t go to the pub, I can’t go to Westfield. Damn!
Are there things you miss?
Spending an afternoon in the pub with friends, relaxing and getting drunk and silly and not worrying. The difference, and this has changed rapidly in about 10 years, is phones. They are the f*cking bane of my life. I get people who just do that [mimes taking picture with a cameraphone] while I’m having dinner. I want to get violent and I can’t. They think it’s their right to take a photo of me and I find that incredibly intrusive. But every phone has a camera on it, so how do we stop it? We can’t. So how could I go into a pub and have a few pints of Guinness and get a bit rowdy and sing a few songs when some tw*t’s going to film me and put it on the internet?
Going back to Bond, how good is Javier Bardem as Silva, the villain?
Superb. Well, Javier is a brilliant actor, so that’s taken care of. He knows what a Bond villain is and he’s given it everything he’s got, which is a lot, let me tell you.
Did you hang out with him off-set?
There’s just no time, unfortunately. I’m on set every day. I wish we had more time. But we have a long year ahead of us, so hopefully we’ll see each other in a more chilled state.
Is he a big football fan too?
Yeah. He played rugby for Spain, so he’s serious. It’s funny, we never went together, but he went to the 6 Nations and I went to the 6 Nations when they were on. I got him tickets. He got me tickets. I’d love to go to watch a rugby game with him.
You live in New York now. What do you think Barack Obama’s chances of winning the election are?
I like him and I support him. I do. I really like him. He’s had a difficult job over the past four years because of the state the country was in when he got in. I wish him luck in the election.
You’ve done a lot of other films during your tenure as Bond. Was that a conscious thing to try to avoid being pigeon-holed?
I didn’t really think about it in a conscious way, but I did think working was important. Having spent a lot of time not working as an actor, when you get a chance to work, you should. But I was never trying to counter what I did; it’s a mistake to do that. I mean, I stayed clear of spies and espionage and things like that – that was conscious.
When you signed up for the Millennium Trilogy, did you have any qualms about playing another major character in a series?
Not really. I was so desperate to work with David Fincher, I didn’t care. We’ll just see how that works out. If I was going to be tied into something else, it wasn’t a bad thing to be tied into. It’s sort of planned the next five years of my life out, which is no bad thing. I know where the spaces are.
You mentioned earlier that everyone has an opinion on Bond. Do you understand the obsession, and is it still a bit stronger in this country?
I don’t know if it’s stronger in this country. I go to Austria and they’re crazy for Bond. And Turkey, out in the middle of nowhere and people are crazy for Bond there. It’s everywhere, it’s amazing how far it stretches. There’s a collective experience. It’s that thing of going to the cinema, which I keep banging on about. You don’t get the same experience watching the movie at home. You go into a room of strangers and you watch a movie and something happens, there’s a magic, and so many people have that experience with Bond movies because they’ve been released so regularly.
So have you ever regretted taking the job?
No. No. No.