THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH CRAIG'S COMMENTS ABOUT THE BOURNE FILMS.
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Last evening Daniel Craig took to the stage for a 90 minute interview as part of the New Yorker Festival, sponsored by the legendary magazine. The interview took place at New York's School Visual Arts. Craig, who is not known to be enamored of engaging in interviews, was clearly in a feisty and humorous mood and attributed his presence at the event as a sign of his long-standing respect for the New Yorker magazine. The wide-ranging discussion covered a multitude of topics with the predominant subject unsurprisingly being James Bond. Craig was sporting a bleached blonde crew cut for a forthcoming role that made him bare a resemblance to the legendary Bond villain Red Grant, played memorably by Robert Shaw in "From Russia With Love". He was dressed casually in jeans, sneakers and a leather jacket and walked on stage with host, writer Nicholas Schmidle, without any formal introduction. Craig displayed considerable humor but did pepper his comments with some liberal use of profanity. Here are some highlights of the interview:
Craig said that rumors that he has been offered $150 million for the next two James Bond films are completely untrue. "I haven't been offered any money", he said. Craig noted that the next Bond film isn't even under discussion at this time. He said that after having spent a full year filming "Spectre", everyone involved feels they need a break from the series for a while. Craig did acknowledge controversial comments he made to the press last year in which he said he would rather slash his wrists than play 007 again. Although he didn't formally apologize for the comments, he clearly seemed to regret saying them. He admitted he was in a foul mood at the time because the ordeal of filming "Spectre" had left him emotionally drained and physically injured after having suffered accidents in the course of production. He did not rule playing Bond again in or out but did say that if he were not to play the role again "I would miss it terribly" and said he considered it "the best job in the world". When asked what specific perk he likes the most about playing the role, he wryly noted that he has an Aston Martin stashed in a garage in upstate New York- a direct benefit of playing Bond.
Craig said that throughout his life he has always enjoyed seeing Bond films but had never read Ian Fleming's novels. He never dreamed he would be asked to play the part of 007. When producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson told him he was their choice to play Bond in the 2006 reboot of the franchise, "Casino Royale", Craig almost dismissed the offer out of hand. He said he felt he was all wrong for the role and took a full year to give the producers his answer, after having consulted with family. He said he reluctantly agreed to take on the part with the proviso that it was understood he would not attempt to play the role like Bond actors who came before him. He was effusive in his praise of his immediate predecessor, Pierce Brosnan, but told the producers that he would not be successful in playing Bond in the lighthearted manner that succeeded with Brosnan. He demanded to see a finished script and to have input in defining the character of Bond in his own persona. Craig was surprised when his demands were met and was highly impressed by the finished script. He said he appreciated the producers' willingness to allow him to make creative suggestions regarding the films he has appeared in.
(Photos copyright Tom Stroud. All rights reserved)
Craig spoke highly of his colleagues with whom he works on the Bond films. He was especially generous in his praise of producer Barbara Broccoli, who is producing his forthcoming New York production of "Othello" in which he will play Iago. Craig said that, while he had heard of Barbara Broccoli before being approached for the Bond role, he assumed she was a woman in her seventies. When he finally met her face-to-face he was astonished that she was decades younger. He praised Broccoli and his other colleagues on the Bond series as the epitome of professionalism.
Asked about the current political situation in the United States, Craig said he was a solidly supporting Hillary Clinton. While not mentioning Donald Trump by name, he did say that he thought a country should not be run like a business, as Trump has professed. Craig said that companies only care about the bottom line and making a profit while the first priority of a nation should be to provide help and compassion for its least-fortunate citizens. His comments got rousing applause. (The scandal of Trump's sexually-charged comments on the 2005 video was unfolding during the interview and Craig may well have been unaware of the developments.)
Craig acknowledged that his second Bond film, "Quantum Of Solace", had a rushed production schedule and suffered from script deficiencies due to a writer's strike. He said the script had to be fine-tuned without the benefit of the screenwriters and that even he ended up writing material, stressing that he did not consider himself qualified to do so. Still he defended the film saying there were still some "fantastic" elements to it.
Regarding his private life, Craig denied tabloid reports that he is "prickly" to deal with. He said that he understood that by playing Bond his life would never be the same and that he would be the subject of intense media attention. He did say, however, that to whatever extent possible, he tries to stay out of the press. He scoffed at the notion that he is anything like Bond in real-life, saying that he is neither a bon vivant or a tough guy. He laughingly said that the public should never confuse him with his on-screen alter-ego. Asked if he had any advice for his possible successor in the role, Craig said that actors should not try to emulate their predecessors and bring their own style and conviction to the part. He said the most challenging aspect of filming a Bond movie was the sheer amount of time it takes to shoot it- a full year. He said he misses his family and New York when filming. He also said that not much time elapses between the end of shooting and the release of the film- perhaps six months. Thus it is important to work out the movie in great detail before filming begins because the schedule doesn't allow much time for making changes after production has wrapped.
Craig cringed when a clip was shown of him in his feature film debut in director John G. Avildsen's little-seen 1992 prison drama "The Power of One". He needn't have been embarrassed as the clip showed Craig giving a powerful performance as a brutal and abusive prison guard. He said he had not seen the film since it was originally released.
Asked about criticism from Paul Greengrass, director of the Bourne spy films, that he wouldn't want to direct a Bond film because they were outdated, Craig responded that no one associated with Bond would want him to and that "He should be so lucky" to be asked. This evoked laughter and applause from the audience. Craig, who made his comments seemingly in jest, did say he has yet to see a Bourne movie, but looks forward to getting around to it in the future.
Asked about long-time criticisms that the character of James Bond was sexist, Craig commented on a clip from "Spectre" in which Bond seduces a character played by Monica Bellucci and pointed out that charges of sexism against Bond were misguided because such scenes are meant to be viewed with a degree of camp.
(Photo copyright Cinema Retro. All rights reserved)
Craig said that since he was a young boy he wanted to be an actor. He used to fantasize about being on the big screen. He said one of the films that inspired him most was Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner", which was a bomb when it first opened. He said he recalled watching it in awe in a mostly empty theater and being mesmerized by the film. He recalled that this particular movie was one of the ones that most inspired him to pursue an acting career.
In terms of future projects Craig acknowledged that he will star in an co-produce a two-season television production of author Jonathan Franzen's best-selling novel "Purity" for Showtime. Craig said he wife got him hooked on the book and he immediately called producer Scott Rudin, who owned the screen rights to make a deal to film the story. Craig said that he feels T.V. is the proper medium for the adaptation because he does not want to have to cut down on the essential elements of the story in order to squeeze them into a feature film's running time. His goal is to ensure that virtually every important element of the book is brought to the screen. He also said that he will play a small supporting role in the forthcoming film "Kings" with Halle Berry, which apparently deals with the aftermath of the L.A. riots that took place in Los Angeles in 1992 following the Rodney King verdict.
Craig verified internet rumors that he was indeed in the latest "Star Wars" movie, playing an anonymous Storm Trooper. Craig indicated he is a big "Star Wars" fan and when the "Spectre" filming coincided with filming of "Star Wars" at Pinewood Studios, he couldn't resist asking director J.J. Abrams if he could appear in a tiny, uncredited role. Not surprisingly, his wish was granted.
(Photo copyright Cinema Retro. All rights reserved)
As the evening approached the last half hour, Craig took questions from audience members. This is always a bit dodgy since eccentrics and kooks seem to be drawn to an open microphone the way moths are attracted to a flame. Refreshingly, most of those who participated asked intelligent questions though there was at least one of the requisite hams who droned on with some self-serving comments, as if the audience wanted to hear about him. Craig handled them all- the good, the bad and ugly- with graciousness, respect and humor. At evening's end, the packed house gave him a rousing ovation. Craig said that, contrary to what one may think of the man who plays James Bond, he goes to sleep early and said he was up beyond his bedtime. With that, he bid everyone goodnight. For more click here.