After three years waiting in anticipation, 007 connoisseurs can expect fast cars, exotic locations, novel gadgets and beautiful women from the imminent 24th instalment of the Bond franchise, Spectre.
Now inimitable as the iconic blonde Bond, Craig has admitted to past worries about being typecast, but the response to his part in the film franchise may have eased his doubts – ranking in the top ten highest grossing films of all time, and Skyfall as the highest-grossing Bond film in history.
“When Bond happened, I remember putting it to bed in my head and saying, ‘if this is the last thing I do in my career, then that would be OK’ because c’mon, it’s not that bad a role to have under your belt,” recollects the Brit actor. “But after Casino Royale, I did panic a little about people only seeing me a certain way and I started thinking, ‘did I need to play someone totally opposite from Bond?’ But as time goes on, I’ve relaxed that attitude.”
It’s true that since Craig’s first turn as the fictional superspy in 2006, the actor has spent a decade best known as the character, and his dramatic deviations from the action genre in 2011’s sci-fi Western Cowboys & Aliens and psychological thriller Dream House have done little to change that.
But if Craig is to be known as Britain’s favourite superspy, he’s been resolute in providing his own take on the role, reflected on screen by Bond’s newfound vulnerability. “I could have just done a movie where I was going to straighten the tie and drink a Martini, but it’s all been done before.” he says.
Critics have commented on the layer of emotional depth that Craig, along with director Sam Mendes, has brought to the character. But the lead actor insists he’s simply tapping into to the essence of 007. “The original Bond was always in turmoil with himself, always questioning,” he explains.
“Maybe he got smoother as the books went on. But going back to the beginning, it’s the way I approach my work. I’m aware it’s a Bond movie and always remains a Bond movie. I’ve just always felt there should be an element of truth or emotion in a movie, so that the audience can hook in. If it’s only action, then it’s not the complete picture.”
That said, Bond aficionados can rest assured that Spectre is not lacking in action. The film sees 007 on a personal mission to hunt down demons from his past, against the backdrop of a mysterious and sinister organisation.
Yet to some degree, the film’s plot hype has been drowned out by ever increasing chatter of just who will become the next Bond – not that Craig has formally declared he’s finished with the franchise. Amid the speculation (Idris Elba? Damian Lewis? Michael Fassbender?), Craig is refusing to add to the conversation: “The person should do the job and I don’t give a f**k what colour their skin is,” he told The Sun. “It shouldn’t be an issue.”
Then again, Craig knows better than most that whoever takes on Bond, a section of the ardent franchise fanbase will never be happy. Even Anthony Horowitz, author of the modern Bond series Trigger Mortis, and the creator of the wildly popular teen spy Alex Rider series, has issues with the evocative back stories of the recent Mendes/Craig films, particularly Skyfall: “Bond is weak in it,” he told the Mail on Sunday; “He has doubts. That’s not Bond.” For Craig, however, respecting the work of the original Bond creator is vitally important. “We always go back to Fleming,” he maintains. “We just do it, you have to. I mean, the darkness, the conflict…
“Fleming was conflicted. I like that. He wanted to make a spy, after his war experience, and the knowledge of these brave men who had gone to battle – and he’d sent a few to battle, probably to their deaths, making heroes out of them. The despondency of coming out of the ’50s. He set the tone of the ’60s. In a way his stories had nowhere else to go until they were made into films. They literally changed the face of movie making in the ’60s. The legacy is incredible.”
That said, legacy still allows for innovation, and Spectre sees some major developments in the Bond girl department. Specifically, the casting of Monica Bellucci as a rarity: a love interest who is older than 007 himself. “I cannot say ‘Bond girl’, I say ‘Bond lady,” laughs the Italian actress.
She acknowledges the significance of taking on this role as a 50-year-old woman: “This movie is an important moment…it’s a new thing, an adult woman can have the chance to play in James Bond. It is a beautiful example for women. In the film business, there has often been this prejudice against older women, the same way that in our society older women tend to be overlooked. Women need to believe in themselves and understand that they can still project sensuality and beauty as they get older. We shouldn’t be made to feel as if we are no longer interesting or sexy at 50 as compared to when we’re 30.”
Bellucci’s Bond ‘girl’ counterpart in Spectre is played by rising French star Lea Seydoux, who describes how her character Madeleine Swann’s relationship with 007 differs from that of her predecessors. “She’s quite proud and when they first meet and they don’t get on,” she reveals. “Maybe that is because she is on balance with him, she doesn’t need him or wait for him to save her.”
With Craig, Bellucci and Seydoux providing contemporary, updated takes on 007 and his women, Spectre‘s villain is expected to be just as multifaceted. Veteran actor Christoph Waltz becomes Bond’s most current nemesis, Franz Oberhauser.
The Austrian actor catapulted to fame in 2009 after appearing as Col. Hans Landa in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Inglourious Basterds, and again for Django Unchained in 2013, Waltz has grown familiar with bringing a touch of menace to a role, but just like Craig, he’s loathe to become typecast.
Waltz sees beyond the good guy/bad guy spectrum, and criticises those who suggest a James Bond film cannot be artistically fulfilling. “Absolutely it can. It can be complex and it can be interesting. I consider Bond movies to be an extension of popular theatre, a kind of modern mythology.” After thirty years a struggling actor, “now my work is as pleasing and as beautiful as I could ever have imagined,” the 59 year old adds.
Waltz sees in his characters the shades of grey that occur in real life; the world, whether on screen or off, is never black and white: “and I don’t think of those kinds of characters as conforming to any particular formula,” he adds.
“These characters are often extremely complex figures to play who are often just as charming and interesting as the so-called heroes or good guys. I don’t care whether the role calls for me to play someone as being evil or mean as long as there are many angles and facets to their personalities. That’s where your love of acting and passion for your work finds its true expression.”
Working predominantly in German TV for most of his career, Waltz’s relatively recent popularity makes him a less conspicuous star than Craig – though after Spectre, keeping a public low profile will of course prove harder. Craig himself has often spoken of the personal cost of his cult movie persona, and in the world of selfies, tabloids and social media, makes it clear he begrudges the fame game.
“Back in the day, you could go and have a drink in the bar, get drunk, fall over, have a good time and no-one would know about it. But now everyone’s got a camera. Not that all I want to do is get drunk in a bar, but that’s an example. So you can’t live a normal life anymore.”
Like it or not, Craig knows now that when it comes to representing the Bond franchise, you give up a part of yourself to something bigger. Whether Spectre is Craig’s last bow as Bond or not, by joining the roster of Pierce Brosnan, Sean Connery, Roger Moore and co, and taking on the 007 badge, he’s made a lifetime commitment – in the real world as it is in Fleming’s fiction.
DANIEL CRAIG’S HITS AND MISSES
LIVING IN NEW YORK CITY
“I love it. This is a very vibrant and stimulating place to be and it’s easier for me to be here than in London where I’m much more recognizable it seems. Here no one really pays any attention to me except if I stand in one place too long. So I keep moving!”
BOND’S ASTON MARTIN
“I literally have to pace myself. I was driving an Aston Martin around Rome, and I’d be numb not to get excited about that.”
GIVING EVERYTHING INTO PLAYING BOND
“If you’re going to do that sort of stuff, you’ve just got to get it right. You’ve got to give it your best shot. When you’ve got all that talent, everyone gunning to make it good, you’ve got to get it… For f**k’s sake, it’s a Bond movie. You want people to go, ‘Whooah!’ A sharp intake of breath during a movie is never a bad thing.”
BEING PERCEIVED AS GRUMPY
“I’m rubbish at grinning on demand and so I’m branded as mean and moody when I’m photographed. I’m just not that person. So people have a perception that I’m grumpy all the time.”
COMPUTERS, SMARTPHONES IN THE BEDROOM
“There’s nothing technological allowed in the bedroom….If the iPad goes to bed, I mean, unless you’re watching porn on the internet, it’s a killer. We have a ban on it.”
“I’m no enemy of the internet, but that way for me madness lies. It started for me on ‘Casino Royale’ very early on. It suddenly exploded because the stuff spread everywhere. I made the mistake of going online and looking. I’ve had bad reviews in newspapers, but these were very strange personal attacks. I can’t enter into the argument. All you’re gonna do is get into the same language if you’re not careful and the same language is gonna be, ‘I hate you!’ ‘No, I hate you.’ There are better things to do.”