IN 15 years as 007, Daniel Craig has enjoyed all the highs of being the world’s most famous super spy – but he says the role is not always what it is cracked up to be.
The actor has revealed he struggled with the emotional and physical pressures of taking over as James Bond from the legendary Pierce Brosnan, as well as the downsides of fame.
In his only major interview before he bows out as 007, Daniel admits he was initially reluctant to accept the gig, insisting he told film bosses, “I would not know what to do with it.”
Sat alongside producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, he tells how he got so drunk on martinis — 007’s tipple of choice — after landing the role that he had a three-day hangover. And when he was finally announced as the sixth cinematic Bond, he stayed up all night reading the negative reactions.
Daniel adds: “I read everything, because that is what happens if you do that. And it was tough — really tough and hate-filled.
“I woke up the following morning, and I went f*** it. I know the film is going to be good. I knew we were doing something really special.”
The turning point for the concerned cast and crew came as a paparazzi photographer snatched the first image of Daniel as Bond, emerging from a Barbados beach in tight blue trunks.
Barbara explains: “I remember Daniel coming out of the water and the whole crew going, ‘Oh my God’.
“And there was a pap shot which changed the whole idea of what Daniel’s Bond was going to be like. He was suddenly the coolest guy on earth.”
Not prepared for the fame or scrutiny
Daniel laughs as he is replayed the scene, and says: “Look at those t*ts.”
He admits he was not prepared for the fame or scrutiny that came with such an iconic role.
He says: “My personal life was affected by being that famous all of a sudden.
“I used to lock myself in and close the curtains, I was in cloud cuckoo land. I didn’t like the newfound level of fame. It was Hugh Jackman who helped me to come to terms with it and appreciate it.”
Barbara, who had first seen Daniel in 1996 TV series, Our Friends In The North, insists she was determined to hire him for Casino Royale despite his reluctance.
She says: “I always thought whenever he was on the screen you could not watch anyone else. He is lit from within. It was clear he is a movie star and a great actor to boot.”
Michael adds: “At that time in his career was not thought of as a leading man, more a great supporting actor. Barbara and I could see he was actually a leading man.”
I was going to get the script, read it, and say ‘thanks but no’. But little did I know, it was Casino Royale.
Craig had never considered becoming Bond, explaining: “As far as I was concerned I was already more successful than I would ever be as an actor — I did not have a cool persona.
“Pierce had done Remington Steele, Roger Moore had done The Saint — they had done these parts where people had gone, ‘That is James Bond’.
“I had done weird arty movies. It was a harder sell. And I didn’t really want to do it, because I thought I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
“I was going to get the script, read it, and say ‘thanks but no’. But little did I know, it was Casino Royale. The story was solid, the script was solid.”
Even at the audition process, MGM chiefs did not believe he was the man with a license to thrill. Broccoli adds: “Michael and I really wanted him, but the biggest problem was that he didn’t want to do it.
“He came into the office, and I said to Michael afterwards, ‘He wants to do it’.
“We were determined to have him. We kept freaking the studio out as they kept trying to get us to meet other people.”
She refused to budge and called Craig personally to tell him he’d landed the gig, as the actor recalls: “She just went, ‘Over to you kiddo’. And I grabbed a bottle of vodka, vermouth, a cocktail shaker and went back to my apartment and started mixing myself vodka martinis. It was my first bit of exercise. I had a hangover for three days.”
Craig vowed to build muscle with a personal trainer, saying: “I had to look like I could do the role. I met a PT while smoking a rollie and eating a bacon sandwich, but I said to him, ‘I want to change’. And we did — it was seven days a week from then on.”
One of the biggest strains, was the excruciating pain and psychological trauma of injuring himself during filming.
Second film Quantum Of Silence was hampered by the 100-day writers’ strike and the bare-bones of a script that “was not that great”. He adds: “I basically volunteered for every stunt and with hindsight that was a bad mistake because I got badly hurt. I was overwhelmed.”
Daniel then broke his leg while filming 2015’s Spectre. He insists: “I had a lot of fun on that movie but part of the problem was that I broke my leg. We had to choose whether we could shut down for nine months and I could go and get an operation, or I could crack on with the movie. And I didn’t want to shut down for nine months.
“I thought, ‘I have got to finish the movie’. So I wore a bionic leg for the rest of the film, which was not the greatest way to do a Bond movie.
“Unfortunately it was massively distracting for me.”
He adds: “At the beginning of the movie I was walking on a ledge 100ft above a Mexico City street, I am literally going, ‘Don’t give, don’t give way’. I am tied and I have a wire on, but it is very traumatic. I am trying to be cool but my leg is shot.”
Broccoli adds: “He could barely walk. I was looking at him wondering how he was managing this.”
Oscar-winning Skyfall made up for Quantum’s downfalls, and also features one of Barbara’s most memorable scenes.
When villain Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem, caresses OO7’s thigh, while the spy is bound to a chair, he seductively asks: “You’re trying to remember your training now. What’s the regulation to cover this? Well, first time for everything I guess.”
But in a win for diversity, Bond replies: “What makes you think this is my first time?” Barbara was proud to have secured the scene despite studio bosses demanding they cut the line. She says: “We said ‘no, no, no’. We resisted. And I remember on the night of the [world] premiere, that line, just the whole place erupted with that line.”
But the physical toll of playing Bond led Daniel, who was then 47, to remark that he would rather “slash my wrists” than play the spy following Spectre’s release in 2015.
On being persuaded to reprise the role in No Time To Die, which will make him the longest-serving actor as 007, Daniel says: “I do not want to go on about how hard Spectre was, but I needed a break. I needed to switch off.
“I genuinely felt psychologically at the end of that film too old.
“Barbara drives a hard bargain. I don’t think I was ever going to get away with leaving after Spectre. It was supposed to be my last movie but Barbara said no.” She adds: “There is still unfinished business. There is still a story to tell. So we started out this time that we have to go for broke.”
The magnitude of leaving the role dawned on Daniel during his farewell speech to the crew after filming wrapped on No Time To Die, which finally hits cinemas on September 30, almost two years later than planned.
He says: “My tenure is what it is, but it is only part of something bigger. I look back at the films and am incredibly proud of every one of them.
“Leaving this role is not easy. I can be as brazen and blasé about it as I like, but it is still tough to walk away from. And it is not about money and fame.
“I am incredibly fortunate to have been able to do this. But I think it is OK now [to walk away], and it’s because we did this movie.”
- Being James Bond airs on Apple TV.
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