Daniel Craig

This piece appeared in the Sunday Independent on December 2, 2007. Link at the end of the piece.

If I mentioned to anyone that I was meeting Daniel Craig last weekend their reaction was usually some version of an envious swoon. One girl begged to be smuggled into the interview room as my ‘assistant’. Another friend texted, exhorting me to ‘(names sexual act too explicit to repeat here) him on behalf of gay men everywhere’. Everyone, it seemed, wanted a bit of Bond.

And yet, in person, I couldn’t help feeling a bit underwhelmed by the current 007. The personal trainer-honed body (which he sheepishly admits to having ‘neglected a bit recently’) is hidden beneath a woolly brown cardigan and with the dark circles around his eyes, flecks of grey in his copious stubble and his sunken mouth – up close it almost look as if he’s wearing dentures – he looks a little too craggy to be mentioned in the same breath as Brad Pitt or George Clooney. He looks more like real person 39 than film star 39. In fact it’s as though he’s some bloke from down the rugby club rather than a world-renowned heartthrob.

Of course he was once just the bloke down the rugby club, in the sleepy home county village he grew up in before he left for London with stars in his eyes. A trickle of television and film work followed his graduation from drama school with his most notable moment in those early years his full frontal nude scene in an adaptation of a Minette Walters novel. The plus side of those not-exactly-pretty-boy features is that they lent themselves to greater versatility as an actor. He had a few quietly acclaimed performances behind him before he donned the famous black tuxedo and his fears of being typecast by it don’t appear to have been realised as yet. In The Golden Compass – a Lord Of The Rings-ish fantasy film based on the first of a series of novels by Philip Pullman novels in which he co-stars with former Bond Girl Eva Green and Nicole Kidman – he is credible as a ruthless and somewhat mysterious scientist. You never for a second wonder what James Bond is doing stalking around an otherworldly castle with a white leopard.

The film has already generated something of a hoo-ha stateside with the seemingly permanently hysterical Catholic League calling for a boycott because of a supposedly anti-Catholic subtext to the novel – the book features a Church, which has gone wildly astray from its roots. ‘It’s really silly actually’ Craig begins, leaning forward in his chair ‘I know that Pullman didn’t mean them (the books) to be anti-religious per se. They’re anti-misuse of power, be that political or religious power. This is a debate and maybe there needs to be more of that. Debate can only help the Church.’

Craig is of course well used to diplomatically dealing with the outrage of those who don’t know what they’re talking about. His baptism of fire in the Big Time came with his coronation as James Bond, an appointment that so incensed the blogsphere that a website sprung up with the aim of lobbying the studio to reverse the move (it’s since been quietly disabled). Craig was, critics sniped, too short, too ugly and (according to the Sun) too crap with gadgets and cars and not suave enough by half to be considered as a viable successor to Pierce Brosnan.

History records that in the end he did rather well as Bond, helping to reinvent him as an action hero with a bit of grit and depth. The film garnered high praise from most critics and did healthy business at the box office. More outings as Bond are planned for Craig although he remains bashful about his success. ‘The story has not yet been told about it as far as I am concerned. We’ll look back in a few years and we’ll only really know then. I’ll be a producer on the next one which is basically me trying to convince people to put their hands in their pockets but also to influence the process so that it’s not just a film about huge explosions and sultry women.’

Although the part launched him as a leading man and made him a household name he has not thus far achieved either the ubiquity or the tabloid interest of his fellow Brit brat packers, Jude Law and Clive Owen and this may have much to do with his ability to keep his love life mostly under wraps. Flings with Sienna Miller and Kate Moss were one-day media wonders, although he was distraught at the press interest in the latter relationship, saying ‘my personal life is personal and I’ll cling to that as aggressively as I can.’ For the past couple of years he has been dating American film producer Satsuki Mitchell.
He is affable in person (especially compared to his co-star in The Golden Compass, Eva Green, who generally treats press queries with chilly disdain), quick to laugh and only becomes slightly rattled when he notices a mini-camera on in the corner of the room – he’s not in the mood to be filmed today. Even barking mad questions from fellow media pariahs, including ‘if your personal demon was an animal which animal would that be?’ are dealt with gentle good humour.

But in the end he’s only ever going to get so real with a cluster of microphones hovering just under his nose and gamely turns every softball question into a neat little marketing sound bite. By the time he leaves I don’t really feel I’ve learned too much more about Daniel Craig. Except that as he stood up I saw he was quite a bit taller than I expected. Which is good. Short and craggy would be hard to pull off.

http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/film-cinema/compass-points-allaction-hero-in-new-direction-1234629.html

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~ by Donal Lynch on March 25, 2008.

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