Seasoned actor Daniel Craig stars in fun popcorn flick Cowboys & Aliens with Harrison Ford. He sat down with Buzzine to talk about westerns, the Murdoch journalism scandal, Women's World Cup, and upcoming projects The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Bond 23.
Emmanuel Itier: Are you done with the cowboy hat?
Daniel Craig: I don’t know. It depends if we do another movie, but I’d love to make another cowboy movie.
EI: Which westerns do you really love?
DC: Arthur Penn’s Little Big Man I love. That’s one of my favorite westerns because it’s the first time I watched a movie that combines cowboys and Native American culture.
EI: Is your character like John Wayne, or who did you base him on from classic westerns?
DC: I don’t know too many westerns at all. I just don’t really have any connection with them. I much prefer the Sergio Leone ones, Clint Eastwood… I think they are much more interesting for me, and that’s just the way it is. And then the later sort of political ones, I think, are more interesting.
EI: You just accepted The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher. How do you decide which movies to do?
DC: I wanted to work with David for a long time, and I knew the books. I hadn’t seen the Swedish version of the film, and they sent me a script, and the script was just fantastic. Steven Zallian did a fantastic job of it, and that sealed it. I just went, “Yes, let’s have a go.” Plus the fact that Sony was prepared to spend all that money on making a movie…
EI: Did you get injured during the shooting of Cowboys & Aliens?
DC: On this one, no. We’re fine. I mean, there’s cuts and bruises and things, but there’s always cuts. But that goes along with the territory, I think. It’s not nothing too bad.
EI: You are so trim in the movie. How did you do that?
DC: I just figured cowboys weren’t on superb diets, so I just lost a lot of weight, and I kept going to the gym, but I didn’t want to be big. I wanted to be scrawny -- that’s the cowboy characters I always liked. Lucky Luke kind of scrawny.
EI: There were a lot of special effects like in The Golden Compass. How do you like working with green screen?
DC: The great thing about this is that the majority of the movie is for real, and we didn’t do any green screen. There’s no green screen in this. Well, the Speeda we had to do, but the Speeda was a full-size model on a gimble on the back lot at Universal, so I was just tied to it, so there was no acting required really. I just had to hold on to grim death. But that’s what I liked about Jon [Favreau]’s vision for the film. He wanted to play it as a straight western, and I liked the idea that you’d be hopefully going with these characters in a straight western, and suddenly the shit hits the fan with the aliens.
EI: You have been working with some of the most important directors, Sam Mendes, David Fincher, Steven Spielberg…
DC: There’s nobody left. [Laughs] No, there are plenty people…
EI: What does it mean for you to make a movie like this when you have done movies like Munich, like Sylvia…?
DC: Honestly, the script really turned me on to this. I saw the title and thought: oh well, it’s a comedy, and I’m not that keen on doing comedies that are gags. But the gag was in the title, and actually the movie is not -- it looked fun. And plus the fact that I’ve always wanted to play a cowboy, so that really pushed it.
EI: Was Steve McQueen an inspiration for you?
DC: The shotgun chaps were an inspiration. I stole those.
EI: How do you see your character, Jake? Is he someone you can be friends with at the bar?
DC: I don’t think so. [Laughs] He kills people for a living. I don’t know, but it’s always a thing in westerns where people are bad, good -- you never really know because they are having to do extreme things to survive. So I like the character. He has redemption. He finds his way, finds a better path to live, and it’s not a deep thing. We are talking about a movie called “Cowboys & Aliens,” and I can’t go very deep about the character, the cowboy. [Laughs]
EI: You worked with a gunslinger -- you had gun twirling lessons…
DC: I did. I had a guy who showed me some stuff, and then I just practiced and practiced.
EI: And you learned to ride. Olivia [Wilde] said she grew up riding, so did Harrison [Ford]. So how was that?
DC: I just wanted to do it. I was desperate to do it. I had ridden a little bit, but I hadn’t ridden enough.
EI: A different pace there…
DC: Well my God, you’ve got to just try to cling on to grim death and don’t fall off, and don’t lose your hat. That’s the other thing -- you never lose your hat.
EI: Are you ready to go back to 007?
DC: Yes. We start shooting the new Bond  in November.
EI: Do you have a big desire to do it?
DC: I do. I’m working with Sam Mendes. Yeah, I do, yes. It will be interesting. We have a great script.
EI: Any thoughts on potentially carrying three franchises in case this one goes through the roof?
DC: I can’t really give any thought… It’s kind of crazy. I mean, if it happens, it’s great, and if it doesn’t, I’ll have to think about something else to do.
EI: Before you sign up, like with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, do you think, “Oh, I’ll play the character to the end”?
DC: It was really a question of logistics and timing, and whether we could sort it out, so even though those films are not guaranteed, I have to figure out a plan of how they could work together. So I have to map out the next two or three years, which is weird for an actor because I’ve never had to do that before. But in a way, it’s nice because I know where my free time is now. I can almost plan a holiday and go, “I’m going to go away then, and do this and do that…” so actually, in a way, it’s a very nice position to be in.
EI: Speaking of holiday, I heard you went there to the shooting range…
DC: I did, yeah. I went there with Harrison.
EI: The guy said you look way better shooting on film…
DC: The guy has got a big mouth… [Laughs]
EI: How was it? Did you enjoy it?
DC: I haven’t shot for 25 years. The last time I shot was literally when I was about 15.
EI: Who’s the best shot -- you or Harrison?
DC: I think he is. Of course he is. [Laughs] That guy has got a big mouth. [Laughs]
EI: You are in a huge franchise and you are so famous now. How do you exist in that space?
DC: This is part of the process. As much as I don’t look forward to this process, I’m making movies that have to make money to be deemed successful, so I have to sell them. And I don’t mind talking about them -- this was great fun. I had immense fun making this film, so to come and sell it, that’s really what it’s all about. My private life is my private life, and as I get on, I get more and more private.
EI: Are you afraid of something in your life? Aliens? I don’t know…
DC: I don’t believe in aliens. Am I afraid? Of course I am, like everybody is afraid -- the protection of their family and those things -- all the normal stuff. I’ve never been anally probed by aliens. [Laughs] I don’t have that fear.
EI: How did you enjoy doing the western movie? You have to deal with a lot of physicality. I know you have to play with a gun and ride horses. How did you enjoy doing the western hero?
DC: A lot of the tricks and things that you do with guns, I just practice, practice, practice. I just tried it. I wanted to look as efficient as possible, and I just practiced every day on set. I would spin a Winchester around and rack it. We had a rubber gun to do it, so I could do it close to people’s faces. I had a real one I could do as well, and you just throw yourself into it.
EI: There is a big scandal now in Great Britain…
DC: I think it stinks. It’s absolutely disgusting, I think it’s been disgusting for too long, and it needs to be sorted out. I think the press needs to take a long, hard look at themselves in the UK and everywhere else. The fact is there’s no legislation about hacking. You can hack into a phone, and as long as governments don’t care, everybody is susceptible. It doesn’t matter. [They’re saying] celebrities have been hacked into because they are rich. It was never that; it was much bigger than that, and it’s a serious problem. And I think a good free press is important in a democracy. But when it becomes a dictatorship, it defeats the object.
EI: On the other side, because we as journalists know that 200 unemployed journalists who worked for Murdoch…
DC: But that’s why it stinks. It absolutely heinous. My fear is that print is probably dead, and the fact is that if print dies, it’s the only regulated part of journalism that actually watches itself, and then it’s just going to become the Internet, and there’s no regulation. So in fact, it will just be this scramble for the worst kind of story, because nobody is regulating the Internet, and he turns around and sacrifices 200 jobs like it doesn’t matter. I mean, it’s business for business.
EI: In your opinion, who are the good cowboys?
DC: I don’t know. I wish there were lots of good cowboys. We are always looking for a hero. We are always looking for somebody who is going to come and save the day. I hope there are political heroes out there. Politics is beyond me, but you hope there’s someone around that’s got this sense of what’s right and wrong.
EI: Did you ever consider using your status, the fact that everyone knows you, to go into politics?
DC: No. Politicians are failed actors. [Laughs]
EI: You said you had mapped out your career for the next two or three years, but there’s a lot going on in television and Jon said that if you want something that’s edgy and experimental and R-Rated coming here, you should look to cable…
DC: Luckily I got to work with David Fincher, so I don’t have that.
EI: But is that something you would consider -- TV?
DC: One of the reasons I was really keen to do The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is it’s an R-Rated adult movie. And if it’s successful, I hope it encourages other studios to get involved with that and start making proper movies for adults. These movies are great. These are for everybody -- that’s one aspect, but I grew up with The Godfather and Serpico and Taxi Driver, and they made money and people went to see them. I’d like Hollywood to be tackling those kinds of things.
EI: What do you think of motion capture?
DC: Interesting. I mean, it’s not something I want to spend my life doing, but it was an interesting process.
EI: In this movie, Olivia Wilde kissed you…
DC: She’s magic. She’s got a magic kiss.
EI: Can you tell us something about Ana de la Reguera?
DC: Anna is a movie star, and she came to do this little part in this film, as did lots of other people who are movie stars who came to do parts, and it was just a privilege to have her in the film. She lent her weight and her talent to the film, so even a smaller part, you feel really connected. We were really honored to have her.
EI: Could you tell us what it was like to work with Harrison Ford? Jon said earlier you were very excited when you heard that he may be part of the movie…
DC: I just thought it was such a great idea. I’d known that he wanted to do a western for years. He was very keen, but I just thought it was impossible that he would ever say yes. I had to get over my initial kind of, “It’s Harrison Ford!” But thankfully he’s Harrison now and not Han Solo or Indiana Jones. He’s very funny, warm, and lovely. Has he been over here yet? He’s going to be really grumpy when he gets over here. [Laughs] No, he’s lovely and he’s an actor. I work with actors, and it’s about the work -- he’s really conscientious, he wants to get it right, and he wants to work hard, and it’s such a relief when you meet people like that and that’s what their instinct is.
EI: I was a huge fan of Our Friends of the North -- such an amazing series. It was quite a long time ago now -- 15 years or something. Looking back on how your career has gone in such a short space of time, do you sort of wake up in the morning and go, “Whoa”?
DC: No, because time is different. It is kind of incredible, but I lived it, and day to day it happened as it happened, so it’s extraordinary, but I don’t think about it too much.
EI: What is your own personal criteria for the success of a movie?
DC: If a hundred million people go and see it. [Laughs] I mean, this is not a movie that is aimed at critics. The making of it is my favorite bit, obviously, because it’s a collaborative process which I really get a kick out of. You are working with immense talent and some of the best in the business, and that’s a real thrill for me. I’m getting paid for something I love.
EI: Do you have a desire to direct?
DC: Oh, it’s too hard. It really is. Ben Affleck is directing great movies now, and obviously Clint Eastwood has been doing it for years. He was doing it way back. But there’s no desire within me that’s got a project that I want to direct. I think it has to instinctively come out. Maybe it will one day, but it hasn’t yet.
EI: Are you a football fan? Did you watch any Women’s World Cup?
DC: I’ve been catching it. It looks great, though. The standard has just gone through the roof. I was watching one game and it was Japan/Sweden, and I was watching it from across the room and I thought it was a men’s international. It was so fast. So I’ll watch the final tomorrow.
EI: In this movie, you look great with your cowboy hat on, but you keep it real deep. Is that your idea?
DC: [Laughs] I want you to see my eyes -- poker eyes or snake eyes, whatever they call it.
EI: Do you think you can help the English cinema?
DC: I think it does pretty good. I don’t know if I can do that. I’m sure it’s not really going to come from me. British cinema has always struggled. It’s always been about the struggle rather than anything else. There’s a healthy industry there because the talent is there and the great studios are there, but Mike Leigh has not stopped making movies. He’s continued, and he’s still winning prizes for movies. It’s still healthy; the writers, I think, are the most important thing to really kick-start an industry, and sadly, good writers get stolen really quickly because the studios know good writing is where it all begins. So if anybody has got any talent at all in the writing department, they are whisked off. And we can’t lose talent like that. We need to keep hold of it and nurture it and make it, because those are where the ideas come from.
EI: Do you have plans to go back to theater?
DC: I’d love to, yeah. Not immediate, but maybe I'll do something else in New York, on Broadway. I did a play on Broadway two years ago, and I had a great time doing that. Me and Wolverine.
Universal Pictures' 'Cowboys & Aliens' is released on July 29, 2011.