Daniel Craig, best known as the steely latest incarnation of super spy James Bond, pivots 180-degrees for his latest role as the powerful and aristocratic revolutionary Lord Asriel in the film adaption of the first of Philip Pullman's 'His Darkest Materials' trilogy of books, The Golden Compass. Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier sat down with Daniel in Los Angeles, CA to talk religion, daemons, and the burdens of being Bond.
Emmanuel Itier: What interested you in Lord Asriel as a character?
Daniel Craig: I like the fact that he’s a bit of a revolutionary. Basically, he wants to mix everything up. Knowledge is the most important thing for him, and the only way you’re going to find knowledge, if there’s somewhere to go and explore, you need to go explore, because that knowledge, even if it does you bad, will change things. Change is always good, and that’s where I think his passion comes from.
Emmanuel Itier: Will we see more of you in the second film?
Daniel Craig: In the second one, yes. If you’ve read the books, you’ll notice we’re missing part of the story in the first one. We shot it and it didn’t make the movie because the timing wasn’t right. It will have to be in the second one because it’s actually how the universes break apart and how the whole story starts, and how long the journey starts.
EI: I understand there is a second script for Golden Compass. Have you read it yet?
DC: There’s an outline. It’s a pretty good outline. I haven’t looked at it. I’ve seen bits of it but haven’t looked at it.
EI: Why did you want to do another franchise?
DC: It didn’t really cross my mind. I genuinely was such a fan of the books that when I heard that they were making it, I thought, “I’d like to do this. I’d like to get involved.” I’m such a big Phillip Pullman fan, and of his philosophies and his morals and the way he looks at the world, and mostly the lessons in the stories. He does what he does brilliantly, as a writer. He writes children’s stories but with major adult themes and sort of major ideas about being a good person and making the right choices.
EI: Were you surprised about all of the controversy regarding the religious aspects of the story?
DC: I’m not surprised, no. I mean, I get that and I know Philip [Pullman] has been very vocal about that. For me, I don’t think the story is anti-religious in any way. I think what they’re more against is the control and misuse of power that any organized religion or any political organization exercises over people they’re supposed to represent. I think that for me, it’s what is important, and the movie and the character I play sort of have this revolutionary idea of splitting all of the universes up so that all these ideas start flooding people and the whole thing gets turned on it’s head so they can move on. I think the classic thing is the majority of the people who are criticizing it probably haven’t read the books, and they need to. I’m sure the Catholic Church, which has said this is an attack on the Catholic Church, can handle it.
EI: As a fan of the books, what did you feel the film had to have to capture the essence of the books?
DC: The key element for the film is Dakota [Blue Richards]. She had to be right. She had to be able to be a little girl but someone we wanted to follow, and she’s done that brilliantly, I think. She’s so engaging. She’s got sort of a feral quality about her, which I think was sort of important for the role. If you follow her, and you want to go with her into this world of Philip Pullman, that’s just the icing on the cake.
EI: How did you think of her handling the pressure, and did you sense she was under any in terms of this film? Because she did have to be the right person for this.
DC: If she did, it was her own pressure because she wanted to get it right. I think that’s normal. In a situation like this, you have to remember that she’s a little girl and she needs protecting. That is first and foremost in this situation. This whole thing we’re doing now is a little crazy. My advice to her has been to enjoy what’s happening to you because it’s crazy and it’s wonderful, and it is fun.
EI: Is that how you’ve been able to cope with the post-Bond fame?
DC: I run away. Having a sense of humor is really key. You have to have a sense of humor with these things, and I’ve just tried to remain who I am. My life has changed. It’s changed in the fact that I don’t have the freedoms I did before, but I’ve also got a huge amount of other freedoms that have come along.
EI: How apprehensive were you to take Bond on?
DC: Very resonated. I was against it–very much against it.
EI: What changed your mind?
DC: The script, and the fact that it seemed to me that I would be able to sort of dedicate and get involved with it and make something of it. I’ve always been a Bond fan. I’ve always wanted the films to be good. When it came along and I read the script, I thought there was genuinely an opportunity to make a good movie with one of the most classic icon figures in movies.
EI: Will the strike affect production on the next film?
DC: We’d basically have to start now. The SAG strike starts in July. The writer’s strike doesn’t affect us because we have a script. As it stands at the moment, it doesn’t affect us.
EI: Is the next script based on Ian Fleming’s work at all?
DC: There’s nothing left, as far as I know.
EI: Have they decided not to adapt any of the John Gardner?
DC: I don’t think they ever would because they don’t own them. I don’t know what the deal is with that. We’re taking the original idea. The funny thing is if you read Fleming’s, which I try to plow through occasionally, there’s an awful lot of storylines that have never been used because, obviously, the films are based on the books. There are still ideas that we can sort of pluck from.
EI: Casino Royale marked a welcome return to the style and sensibility of the earlier ones, rather than the jokey and hokey ones.
DC: The idea of having jokes in Bond I don’t think is completely wrong, but I think the jokes to need to come out of tension. There need to be moments of humor because we’ve all been sitting on the edge of our seats. I don’t think you should write gags in Bond.
EI: I read somewhere you’re going to inject a bit more humor into the next one.
DC: I was lying. I don’t remember saying that, but if I did, I’m not going to shy away from the fact that occasionally there should be humor. I just don’t like gags. I don’t like written gags. That’s not the way I’ve ever liked working, and I don’t think that’s funny myself.
EI: Assuming Golden Compass is a hit and they make a second film, and you’re already signed up to do the next Bond, are you looking ahead trying to figure out your schedule?
DC: That will be the plan, but it just depends on how well we do here. I try not to count chickens. I really don’t, because there’s no point. You’d go crazy. We’re in good shape and I’m very happy with the way this is working out. I’d love to get involved with it. If they do another movie, I’d love to do it. We’ll fit it in. It’s not my job to make that work. I pay people fortunes to make that.
EI: How important is it for you to have the freedom to do riskier projects?
DC: Oh completely. I’ve completed a film this year with a close friend of mine, called Flashbacks of a Fool–a movie which he wrote about five or six years ago, and we’ve been trying to get it off the ground.
EI: Who do you play?
DC: I play a movie star who goes through a huge change in his life. It maybe sounds a bit arrogant to sort of do something like that, but the story is about growing up and what we learn when we’re children, and how we’re formed as adults. We shot it in South Africa. It’s a very simple story.
EI: What do you think will happen in July if SAG does strike?
DC: That’s a good question—a really good question. I don’t know what the latest news is on the writer’s strike, but I know it’s not settling. It needs to be sorted and people need to come to the negotiating table.
EI: What sort of sensibilities will you bring to the next Bond film?
DC: If you look at Marc Forester’s current body of work, that in itself makes me very excited. If you look at Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland and then Kite Runner, which is just stunning, it’s such a diverse look at the world. I’d want us to have that. Marc is very solid. That, for me is crucially important, because this movie needs to jump on from Casino Royale and take it somewhere else. Marc is totally inspired and is really just keen to get started.
EI: It starts right after Casino Royale ends?
DC: That’s the plan.
EI: How difficult is it for you, as an actor, to develop the character because of his iconic status?
DC: Not difficult at all really. Paul Haggis is involved. We’ve got someone who can take on story and take on a character and take them to a different place. It’s always a struggle, but you’ve got to find themes, you’ve got to find reasons for doing it, and you’ve got to put them all in the right place. The same rules apply.
EI: Back to Casino Royale, do you think the British press might be a little bit calmer this time?
DC: No, I don’t think so, no. I mean, maybe. I don’t know.
EI: Wouldn’t it be kind of boring if they didn’t?
DC: The thing is the pressure is now on in a weird way. Beforehand, I was getting so much criticism and I knew that we had something good to do. We had a movie that I knew deep down that whatever would happen, we were to make a good film because we had to. That gave me this ability to not worry about the criticism. The thing is now, we’ve really got to turn out the goods because if we don’t, then they were right. That can’t happen.
EI: The British press is always so intrusive with your personal life – so much more so than the American press. How do you deal with that?
DC: I don’t know. I wouldn’t make comparisons. I remain as private as I possibly can, and that really is very important to me. I’ve never actively gone looking for self-promotion. I don’t do it very well, so there’s another reason to not do it. If I’m promoting a movie like this, then I’m talking about my work. I’m very proud of this. I think this movie works really well and it’s a joy to do, but it’s got nothing to do with my private life.
EI: You pay thousands of pounds to keep it private.
DC: That goes with the territory. That’s what it is. I’m not stupid enough to believe that it wouldn’t happen. I just have to find my way of dealing with it. It’s okay. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? But at the moment, it’s alright.
EI: If you had a daemon, what animal would it be?
DC: I think once you have a snow leopard, it’s hard to go back. Anything else will be slightly disappointing. It’s very telling what your choice would be because that’s probably how you see yourself. We used to play those games when we were kids. Did you used to play them where you say what animal would you be? It’s usually the opposite of what it should be. Any animal has kind of virtues. Even a cockroach has virtues.
EI: What would that be?
DC: They’ll be around while we’re all gone.
EI: There’s so much talk about this scene that has been deleted. What are your thoughts?
DC: The situation is we only have so much time to tell a story within a movie. Literally, the piece at the end which, when you read the books, is where the universe cracks apart. It’s a big moment. Basically, the filmmaker who directed this story earlier in the book and wanted to tell that story at the beginning of the next film. It happens. It’s called adapting a book. You have to make decisions about things, and it’s not unusual to cut out scenes.
EI: Are those scenes going to be the opening for the next film or be the DVD extras?
DC: I don’t know. I don’t get involved in DVD extras.
EI: No, I just didn’t know if they were going away soon…
DC: They have to be, because they’re fundamental to the story. You can’t really avoid them. It certainly puts a different spin on my character.
'The Golden Compass' is in theaters now.
The next James Bond film, 'Quantum Of Solace; is scheduled for a 2008 release...