[11 November 2008]
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)
MIAMI - It took Sean Connery decades to escape his James Bond baggage. Roger Moore never did. Pierce Brosnan may slip the tuxedo shackles, providing he doesn’t count on a singing career.
But Daniel Craig, the newest Bond? He could be different. He’s already made films outside of the franchise, bold choices.
“He has no niche, as an actor,” says Edward Zwick, who directed Craig is the Holocaust drama “Defiance,” opening in December. “If you’ve seen him as that murderer, Perry Smith, in ‘Infamous,’ it’s very hard to picture that guy as James Bond. I think he will be the first actor to play Bond who isn’t defined by that role.”
Craig, 40, laughs. “That would be nice. And if Ed says it, it must be true.”
The rugged blond, blue-eyed star, whose second turn as Bond is in “Quantum of Solace,” opening Friday, insists that he’s “not actively trying to do things that are ‘the opposite of Bond.’ None of this ‘I must do a slapstick comedy now because that’ll make people like me more!’ “
But Craig is remaking Bond, ditching the character’s baggage and reshaping him for a post “Bourne Identity” movie world. Smart? Well, it’s not as if Matt Damon was typecast as Jason Bourne.
“We cast Daniel because with him we could see Bond’s inner life,” says Bond producer Barbara Broccoli. “He could be a powerful hero who could show some vulnerability. You get under Bond’s skin with him, just as you do in the books.”
Craig started with externals, building his Bond from the outside in. The Internet may have buzzed that “Bond’s not blond” in the run-up to “Casino Royale” in 2006. Craig was taking care of business, working out.
“I got big for the first film,” he says. “I wanted him to look like a soldier, like he’d just come off the battlefield. But the trouble with getting big is, you’re not really fit. I did a lot more preparation in that way for this film. I got injured a lot more on the first film, partly because I was just so big.”
His arm is in a sling during this interview, recovering from surgery on “an old injury that got aggravated during filming,” Craig says. “I mean, I got stitches and cuts and bruises in ‘Quantum of Solace.’ But I got a lot more on the last one.”
His every mishap was gossiped about as “Casino Royale” filmed. Whole Internet sites were devoted to criticizing his casting as the famed secret agent. Part of that bad buzz seemed to stem from Craig’s eclectic role selection; his work in serious films such as “Enduring Love” outweighing his occasional action turn threw fans a curve. Then, “Casino Royale” came out and, more than $500 million in worldwide box office later, Broccoli was chortling.
“I was reading this stuff on the Net, ‘He’s a WIMP?’ HELL-o!” she says, laughing.
Broccoli knew she wasn’t “killing the golden goose” film franchise that her father passed on to her. She could have a good gloat as the box-office returns came in. Craig didn’t.
“I didn’t need to feel smug,” Craig says. “Everything that I could have dreaded happening happened when I took on this role. Bad buzz. But all we could do is move on and make the best Bond movie we possibly could.
“Beyond that, there was no answering the criticism. ‘He’s blond! Bond’s not blond!’ What do I say? ‘Sorry!’”
“I’m punching the air because the movie’s a success, not because of some smug satisfaction,” he says. “Actually,” looking at his sling, “I’m not punching much of anything, now.”
His next role? It won’t be Thor, a role he “turned down” in an Internet rumor that Craig himself devilishly admits “I started, rather naughtily.” But it will be devilish. He is supposed to play the devil in “I, Lucifer,” an adaptation of Glen Duncan’s novel about Satan trying to redeem himself.
“He has the training, talent and the acting ambition,” says Craig’s “Defiance” director, Zwick. “There really is nothing this guy can’t play.”