Life is good when you’re James Bond. At least, it seems to be for Daniel Craig. When we meet him at the Corinthia Hotel in London at the end of two years of shooting for the latest 007 film, Spectre, the 47-year-old is in a good mood, with a mercurial smile, a firm handshake and a spring in his step. But, as Craig admits, even the inspirational effects of being james bond have their limits.
THE RED BULLETIN: What could we learn from James Bond that would help us in our day-to-day lives?
DANIEL CRAIG: [Thinks for a short while.] Nothing.
But James Bond is one of the most legendary movie heroes of all time. Surely he must have a couple of inspirational personality traits?
Let’s not talk these films up as some kind of life-changing experience. Bond is what Bond does. Bond is very single- minded. He takes his own course. And that’s simple, which is great.
Would you say that you share any of those traits?
When I’m working on a film, yes. Which is to the detriment of my personal life, unfortunately. That has to go on hold. But I have a very understanding family who know that’s all a part of it. They know that it’s all-encompassing.
Your knee is proof of that. You injured it while shooting Spectre, didn’t you? It must have been frustrating having to sit around doing nothing.
It was a bit frustrating, yes, but you’ve got to understand that we’d been working intensively on the film for two years,
and then something like that happened. I didn’t think about my knee, just the delay the injury would cause. But then, after a couple of days, I started to see it as a blessing in disguise. It meant I had the chance to get myself really fit so that
I could avoid any further knee damage. It worked out well in the end. When filming finished, I wasn’t as beaten up
as I had been after the previous Bond movie, which had really drained me. I feel great at the moment.
Take us behind the scenes of a Bond film shoot. Is time management really the most important thing?
Just time in general. Everything has to run smoothly, which is why all the preparation for filming takes years. This time, I deliberately took time off to get involved in the script. Then, three months before we began filming, I started going to the gym five or six days a week. While we’re filming, I stick to a diet—it’s all about preventative measures, so that I don’t get ill or injured. But as you’ve seen, of course, something unpredictable can happen anyway. There’s no way around that. When you have to run across the room 30 times for one scene and try to make it all look easy, that’s when you tend to pick up stupid injuries.
All your training has clearly paid off. How important is Bond’s physique to the movies?
It’s an aesthetic choice. My female producer always makes sure I take off my shirt often enough.
How do you explain people’s enduring fascination with Bond?
I guess that one of the biggest reasons why the character has endured for so long is because he represents the eternal struggle between good and evil.
And it helps that the evil elements in the 007 films are so exaggerated. Have you ever come across someone in real life who you thought would make a good Bond villain?
Evil people are sadists, and I hope that they are few and far between. But, yes, I have met some scary people in my lifetime. Very scary people. It’s pretty hard to say whether they were evil, though, as people who are particularly evil don’t tend to show it.
Who are these guys who even frighten Daniel Craig?
I don’t want to say. They could find me. They know where I live. No, really, let’s change the subject.
Do you think that James Bond is a positive role model?
My own role models are people who have a moral compass. People who have the courage of their convictions: great journalists, writers, artists … You know, one of the greatest problems we face today is people’s self-awareness. It’s all about “Who am I?” instead of “What am I doing?” When I was growing up, it was all about work and what we produced. Being self-aware is the enemy of all creativity. Because as soon as you start thinking about yourself and only yourself, you stop creating. That’s when your ego takes over. All great artists,
from Picasso to Francis Bacon, have their own strong convictions and stick to them throughout their life. Neither of those two gave a f*ck what you thought of their work. They said, “This is what I do.” I admire that, as it takes real strength.
So the heroes of the man who plays Bond are Picasso and Bacon. That has a certain ring to it …
Don’t confuse role models with heroes. My heroes are very personal to me. Both my grandfathers fought in the Second World War—one was in Germany, the other with the Royal Air Force in Siberia. But let’s not harp on about that. They hated talking about what was a terrible time. We should respect that.
What is your favorite trait of Bond’s?
Bond can be a gentleman. Sometimes, anyway. He’s a considerate person, he takes care of business, and he looks out for other people and his family. He’s someone who opens doors for people— for everyone, that is, not just women.
Speaking of women, many men admire Bond for his way with the ladies …
But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist. A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies
a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long.
What about you? Are you the kind of guy who sticks around?
Well, I’ve been married for four years.
Bond has actually become a bit more chivalrous in the most recent films, hasn’t he?
That’s because we’ve surrounded him with very strong women who have no problem putting him in his place.
And this time you’ve gone one better, showing 007 succumbing to the charms of an older woman.
I think you mean the charms of a woman his own age. We’re talking about Monica Bellucci, for heaven’s sake. When someone like that wants to be a Bond girl, you just count yourself lucky!
There’s another Bond lesson for you on the horizon, too …
Deciding when to hand over the 007 baton to a successor.
Yes, it’s always the same question: Which is worse—leaving the party too early, or staying, getting totally drunk and then passing out on the floor?
And how would you answer that tricky question?
I still don’t know. What I need right now is to stop working, relax and get back to normal life. There’s nothing unusual about that. It’s really horrible not seeing your family for weeks at a time. There’s one thing I actually find more exciting than Bond at the moment: going home.