Born in Chester, England on March 2, 1968, and raised on the Wirral Peninsula outside Liverpool, Daniel Craig has gone from waiting tables as a struggling actor to playing the legendary James Bond. In between, the versatile thespian has tackled a variety of roles, which is reflected in a resumé which includes outings in Elizabeth, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Road To Perdition, The Mother, Sylvia, LayerCake, Fateless, Munich and Infamous prior to his 2006 debut as 007 in CasinoRoyale.
Since then, the Brit beefcake has also appeared in The Invasion, Defiance, Cowboys & Aliens, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and another Bond flick, TheQuantum Of Solace. Here, Daniel talks about his third go-round as the secret agent with the proverbial “License To Kill” in Skyfall, a riveting adventure which establishes him as the best 007 since the standard was set by Sean Connery back in the ‘60s.
Hey, Daniel. Is that you? I’m surprised, because most celebrities have their publicist place the call and then put them on the line.
I can dial the phone myself. Amazing! (Chuckles)
Well, thanks for the interview. I loved Skyfall. How did you enjoy making it?
Immensely! Immensely! It’s been the culmination of a lot of effort by many different people. We’ve been very busy prepping over the entire four-year hiatus. I won’t lie, it was very hard work and sometimes very intense, but with a cast this good and a crew that’s just out of this world, it added up to a great, great experience.
How would you say Skyfall is different from all the other Bond movies?
I suppose the only way I could say it’s different is that it’s a modern take. But we’ve been very careful that, throughout the film, you never forget that you’re watching a James Bond movie since that, of course, is what people come to see. And we want you to make all the sort of nods to the past, and to make sure that we not only reintroduce characters that everybody knows by now but also introduce some new ones as well. We had a great story with a unique plot.
Do you feel at all intimidated as the face of such an enduring and beloved film franchise?
Well, I don’t know about feeling intimidated. But there is a little pressure in the back of your mind when you’ve been afforded a chance to make a movie of this stature. But it’s a good pressure. It spurs people on. I know that Sam [Mendes, director] and I were in total agreement that we just wanted to make the best Bond we could, not only because of the 50 year anniversary, but because you don’t have a chance to make one very often. So, we had better make a good one.
How did you prepare yourself physically and mentally to play 007 this time around?
I just hit the gym for the physical side of it. I’m training about six months before we start shooting. Three months out I kind of up the rate, and try to get as fit as I can. The mental preparation involves long, long, long discussions with the writers and the directors to make sure we’re all on the same page.
What is the coolest gadget we get to see you use in the film?
I can’t tell you that (chuckles, then pauses to think). The DB5! [The Aston Martin first driven by 007 in Goldfinger.] It’s still there and it’s still one of the best gadgets there ever was.
What did you bring to your interpretation of James Bond to make the role your own?
I don’t know, just my knowledge of the way I like to act. I’ve always felt that I could never be as good as the guys who’ve gone before, or even like them in any way, shape or form, so I have to kind of try to create something. I always had a grand plan that if I ever had the chance to make a few of these that something would emerge, and I’m really sort of pleased with how things have worked out because it gave us an opportunity to get into Bond’s head a little bit.
Well, I think you’re being extremely modest. Yes, Sean Connery may have set the standard as the originator of the role, but I think you’ve done a phenomenal job and eclipsed all the other Bonds while making the role your own.
You are such a talented actor. What has been your favorite role to date?
Ooh, wow! That’s a really hard question to answer. I’ve loved a lot of what I’ve done. It’s a very difficult question to answer because each individual movie has a very specific memory. I’d have to put James Bond near the top for sure.
I’ve enjoyed the versatility of your work, which ranges from a relationship drama like Mother to the historical thriller Munich to the Holocaust drama Defiance. What a mix!
Yeah, I get around.
I loved your performance with the Queen in the Olympic opening ceremonies. Is she going to be your new Bond girl? Is there any chance of you two working together again?
I shouldn’t think so. I believe that was just a one off. [Director] Danny Boyle did such an extraordinary job with it. I was very proud to be part of the opening ceremony and it was an extraordinary opportunity for me to act with the Queen and to go to the palace.
Did you play a role in picking the Bond girls?
Oh, no, not really, that’s Sam’s job, although I certainly encouraged him when I thought he was on the right track.
Which was your favorite location to shoot on?
I enjoy them all, but London was the best one this time around, because we shot at a number of places there that you don’t normally get to shoot. And I think that plays very beautifully in the film.
Have there been moments in your career where you personally doubted the likelihood of breaking through and finding success?
I never really had that in mind. I got rid of my desire to make it a long time ago. I actually have just enjoyed working. I’ve always felt that when you’re only trying to strive to be successful, and you’re always worried about the grass being greener somewhere else, then you’ve failed. I’ve simply enjoyed the experience of working with people more than anything else, and that’s where I’ve put all my energy. Of course, I had a desire to be successful, too, but when I first started acting, all I wanted to do was pay the rent. I counted achieving that as the biggest success.
Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
God, no! (Laughs)
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Me, I see me.
If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
To banish hate. That’s a bit of a Miss World beauty pageant question, but I really do wish people would stop hating each other.
What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
The people I admire are the ones who allow the people around them to do their job. The most successful people I’ve met in my life are the ones who’ve had the ability to encourage and get the best out of people.
What is your favorite charity?
I have several: Dr. Barnardo’s Children’s Charity. A friend of mine runs a charity called Safe Africa, which is dedicated to the eradication of disease and poverty in Africa. Another is the RNLI, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which I try to help out as much as I can. And a few others. But you know what? It may be a cultural thing, but I kind of keep my charity work private, maybe because I’m English. I think it’s a private matter. That’s the way I grew up.
Thanks again for the time, Daniel. It’s been an honor.
Nice to talk to you, Kam. Bye!
Daniel Craig’s new movie, Skyfall, is in theaters now. For more information on the film, go to skyfall-movie.com.