David: Daniel Craig made his career as an actor first in the theater and in British Indie Films. When he showed up in Hollywood he was usually in smaller roles, often as a villain. In 2005 Daniel Craig seemed as surprised as anyone to find himself cast as the original super spy Ian Fleming's James Bond.
Daniel: I'm looking most forward to actually starting getting on with it and being intimidated just by just about everything.
Speaker 1: Are you looking forward to becoming a legend?
Daniel: I don't know about that.
David: 15 years later comes No time to Die, Daniel Craig's fifth and final appearance as Bond. Critics said he revitalized the franchise, presenting a more complex morally compromised bond suited to our times. Yet Daniel Craig hasn't always been thrilled with the life of a blockbuster action hero. He's going back to the theater whenever he could, and as he takes off Bond's tuxedo now he's preparing to play Macbeth on Broadway. I remember seeing you as a Iago in a production, a terrific production, of Othello. I had to wonder what the radically different challenges of playing Iago in a relatively small room, playing Shakespeare in the course of two and a half hours or however long Othello takes to put on in a given night, as opposed to these sprawling epic, comic, serious action feats.
It just has to be incredibly radical, much more radical than playing violin in the London symphony and then playing in a rock band. It just seems so disconnected. How are they connected, how not?
Daniel: Both of which I wish I could do.
Daniel: Listen, on a purely acting level, when you are doing it there's little difference because you're trying to aim for some truth. You're trying to aim to ground things in reality. Of course doing a play and doing it night after night, I suppose there's a purity to it. It's like a firework, you light the blue touch paper when you do a play and it you're off. With a movie you stop and you start and you go back and you consider and you can do this and you can do that. I don't try and differentiate between the two because I think that they both require the same muscles.
David: They do.
Daniel: They do. I mean there's a lot more chat.
David: In Shakespeare. Can you tell me about one day of shooting that is illustrative of what it's like to play James Bond?
Daniel: I remember there was a sequence at the beginning of Quantum of Solace which was a roof chase. It involved me running into a room, looking out of a window, seeing a bus two stories down and leaping out of the window. I was on a jerk harness and I stop above the bus, but the bus goes under me. There's a lot of moving parts going on and you can't really rehearse that until you're in the right situation. It was a real street in Sienna, it was all those things. I'd done jumps so I knew the jerk, how it worked and how it felt and the jerk of it. It's called a jerk harness and it jerks you.
I remember standing there and it was a second unit shot and I didn't know any of the crew. I was introducing myself, but nervously introducing my myself because I was really nervous and I was with so many and I felt very alone. Suddenly I felt, "My God what am I doing? This is crazy. I'm leaping out of a window into the path of an oncoming bus." It was that moment when I suddenly went, "But hey, I'm leaping out of a window in the path of an oncoming bus. Let's do it." I suddenly just, I did it. I mean, we did it twice I think. The moment was so big and I realized that what I was doing was so big and so out of my comfort zone and like nothing I'd ever done before in my life and will do since.
I just had to embrace it and just go, "Try and look good while you're doing it." That's the note, attempt to look good while you're doing it.
David: What is the injury report as your Bond career has come to a sad close? What does the hospital report look like for you?
Daniel: Well, I'm a very good friend of a guy called Andy Cosgarea, who's my surgeon at John Hopkins, who I've become very close to.
David: You've kept him in business.
Daniel: I've kept him very busy over the years. I also have a couple of surgeons, another one in London, James Calder. I broke my ankle on this last one and he patched me up on this one so I have to give them a name check. I threw myself into these at the very beginning. I've been a massive fan since a child of Buster Keaton and Harold Doid. For me, I used to watch those movies on a Saturday morning. They'd play on the television one after the other, so from about seven o'clock in the morning on British television. All I remember is thinking, "It's them, it's really them. That's their faces. They're there."
When I got involved with this I thought at least for some of this movie it's got to be me. I know we can face replace and I know there's ways of faking it. I had amazing stunt doubles who did crazy stuff for me, but at a certain point in the movie I wanted the audience to go, "Oh shit, it's him." That's where I started. I wanted to end that way, and after Spectre I ended I broke my leg very badly and it was stressful on myself emotionally, but also just physically clearly stressful. I could have gone two ways, I could have stopped the movie, had surgeries. We could have shut down for nine months and I could have come back again or I could carry on and we risk me collapsing on my knee.
At the end of that I thought, "Well I can't do this anymore. I can't ." If I can't do the physical stuff at least to a certain level what's the point? I started off like that. I really wanted to give up. A couple of years of healing and I was mad enough to go back.
David: Did you ever think to yourself, "Enough of this shit, I only get one body?"
Daniel: Many, many many, times, but there were too many good things going on. There were too many amazing-- It's very, very rare, making a Bond movie. The privilege of getting to do that, anybody getting to do that, but for me to get to do that in five movies. I can't actually properly take it in. If you ask me to try and unpick it, what it means, I couldn't do it.
David: Do you feel more sanguine about it now? Maybe the press was not representing it properly or not, but here and there we would get a report and it said Daniel Craig's getting a little grumpy about Bond and maybe breaking his leg every so often and he's had enough and let's go to [unintelligible 00:07:51] or do something else.
Daniel: I did this comment where I said I'd rather slash my wrists and it became a big deal.
David: That was one hint.
Daniel: That was one hint, yes. I remember being asked, "Do you want to redo the interview?" I was like, "No, that's how I feel." That was probably a mistake, but hey ho. What pissed me off so much was the fact that I thought I couldn't do them again and do them to that level. That was what got me. There were times when the movies were a struggle. Quantum we had a writers strike, we had an actors strike possibly. We had half a script. I was trying to rewrite a script, which is not a good thing and all of these things. Those pressures just felt like, "God, is this the way it has to be? Does it have to be this much of a struggle?"
Things work themselves out. I just wore my heart on my sleeve and I think I definitely could have been a little bit more, what's the word? Delicate about what I was saying, what I thought about things.
David: Did it indicate in yourself that you feared in some way that the Bondness of your career might overcome or overwhelm the rest of it? Despite its rewards, despite its fun, despite its remuneration?
Daniel: Yes. I think I definitely felt that at the beginning. Listen, I went in with open eyes. I weighed up, but I think for a while I though, "Oh God, is this going to be-- What am I doing to myself here? Am I destroying something as opposed to--?" but that just got better and better and lots of things happened to me personally. I just got softer about everything, I started to enjoy it. I started to look at it in a way that for what it is, that it's an incredible experience. Also again, just to go back to just the people that I get the chance to work with, I can't be pissed off about that.
David: This looks very much, this is your swan song as James Bond. You've been quoted as saying when asked 10 million times who's going to be next and all that, that you don't give-- Well, you know what you don't give. You also care about this franchise.
Daniel: There's a nicer way. It's not my problem, which is a nicer way of saying it.
David: Fair enough, but you seem to care a lot about both the past of this franchise and its quality. What would you like to see in it as a fan, as a movie goer? How do you think it'll develop?
Daniel: Well, first off, I'll be front and center when the next one happens. I'll be on the front row with my popcorn and a big drink. I love Bond movies, so I'll be happy to be there. I tried to leave it in a good place. I had a deal with Barbara to get to this point.
David: Barbara Broccoli, the producer?
Daniel: Yes. A verbal deal. This was the direction I always wanted to take it.
David: What was the deal exactly?
Daniel: Well, without ruining the movie I can't really. It was just, "If I do four of these movies, which was my deal, will let me end it the way I want to end it?" She said yes. I wanted to push it as far as I could push it. That's what I would hope would happen. I've never tried to steer away or hide from the fact that Bond is who he is. I've always just tried to bring everything up to him so that, like specifically for the female characters, that they're as complicated and as difficult and as interesting as he is. That's for selfish reasons. I hope that the movies expand in that way, that they represent and they become a greater reflection of society. That's what we've tried to do.
Nobody should be constrained. Listen, with anything, there's a few rules in Bond and I think those rules are good. I think they're interesting, and I think people want them, and I think that that's why people go and see a Bond movie. If you get those right, then it's open season as far as I'm concerned. I've tried to show a Bond that hurts, that feels, that doesn't get up again so easily when they're knocked down. I think it's possible to absolutely go anywhere you want to do.
David: Daniel Craig, thank you so much. I hope to be seeing you in the theater very soon, with almost anything. With almost anything.
Daniel: That's wonderful. Thank you. Thank you so much. It's so lovely to talk to you.
David: Daniel Craig. His last movie as James Bond, No Time to Die, is in theaters now.
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