Hollywood’s version of Stieg Larsson’s novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is finally upon us. We speak to the enigma that is Daniel Craig.
Daniel Craig is a tough man to pin down. And with good reason. As his latest highly anticipated film, the Hollywood version of bestselling novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo cranks in to action, the 43-year-old’s already begun his next project — the ominously titled Skyfall — a considerable feat of patience if you consider the troubles that beset Bond’s 23rd outing.
It’s a huge deal, no doubt, but so is Dragon Tattoo. The product of an unprecedented literary event — Stieg Larsson’s 65-million-selling Millennium Trilogy which follows campaigning journalist Mikael Blomkvist and young, troubled investigator Lisbeth Salander as they unravel a series of horrific crimes — it looks set to battle for the top spot this Christmas. Not only that, the Hollywood version is directed by David Fincher, the man responsible for such dark entries into the cinematic canon as Se7en and Fight Club. In fact, it’s been described in its own trailer as “the feel bad movie of Christmas”. Craig, however, feels rather good about it…
Had you read the original Stieg Larsson trilogy of novels before you signed on for the film?
Yes, and they’re wonderful bits of popular literature. What got me the most was when the first book started hitting the top of the bestseller lists — you would walk around airports and the cross-section of people that were reading it was so surprising. Everyone from teenage girls to 80-year-old men and women. These books seemed to have a mass appeal that was inexplicable. Until I read them. Then I got it. A lot of it is down to Lisbeth Salander and the complexity of that character. She makes a great hero.
Your film’s Lisbeth is played by Rooney Mara, who had to do a lot of pre-shoot training. Conversely, you’re playing a journalist — did that mean you were able to opt out?
I have a lot of friends who are journalists, foreign journalists or financial correspondents. I have known them all my adult life. I like to think that there is a bit of terrier in the way they investigate people and try to find truth and justice. I had just come off Cowboys & Aliens when I started the movie and I was as skinny as I had been when I was 16-years-old. David [Fincher] was literally giving me bowls of pasta to fatten me up. He said I didn’t look like a journalist [laughs].
You shot the film in Sweden. It’s a very British question, but how was the weather?
It was OK, though it must have been tough on Rooney. The poor girl was probably six-and-a-half stone when she was doing this movie because she was working out every day and dieting. She was waif-like because her character is that way, so she wasn’t carrying an awful lot of fat to keep her warm. Her jeans had lots of rips in them and her costume was pretty thin. She really suffered.
How intense was the shoot compared to a James Bond film?
I am lucky to have done Bond movies, but you film for six months straight. It’s very hard to do them. This was just as intense, but in other ways. It was a big acting job. It is what I do for a living and it’s very hard, but it is truly satisfying work. Especially working with people such as Rooney and David. There’s an amazing cast in this film. We’ve worked on this for almost a year, and all that matters is that we get it right. That’s all.
Did you make a conscious decision not to watch the existing Swedish film adaptations?
Yes, it was a very conscious decision. I was in New Mexico when I was offered this role. I had the films and was planning to watch all of them. Then this offer came along and I thought, 'Well, I don’t want to see them now. I can’t. I just don’t want to be clouded in any way'. There are things that are going to be similar, obviously — we’re using the same source material. I just didn’t want to have that in my mind when we were doing our movie.
Were there certain films that you always returned to as a kid? Were you a Bond fan?
I didn’t watch classic films as a kid. That came later. For me it was things such as Close Encounters…, Blade Runner, Alien. Weirdly, a lot of science-fiction was coming out at that time and it was the cutting-edge of movie-making. For me, it was mind-blowing. I remember seeing Blade Runner for the first time in the cinema round the corner from where we lived, and I had no idea what I was watching. I had never experienced anything like it, and I thought that I wanted to be in films like that. You have got directors who have an incredible sense of style and visual flair. I’m a huge Hitchcock fan and he had that thing of combining storytelling with amazing visual panache.
Would you ever want to produce, write or direct?
In theory, I’d love to. I just watched The Ides Of March [directed by George Clooney], which was brilliant. It’s directed with real assurance and it’s very sexy and deeply political and interesting and kind of fun. But honestly, I think directing is a thankless task. Everybody is looking to you and asking you questions all the time: “What do we do now?” I’m not sure that it’s for me.