Daniel Craig- rugged faced Bond
March 19, 2008
The world is full of what ifs, what might have beens. Where would we be now if we’d been braver, more loyal to our dreams? Would we be richer? More famous? Happier? Daniel Craig is a fine modern example of how things can turn out for the best. After the uproarious success of the series Our Friends In The North, he was cast by the tabloids as tough northern totty. Stereotyping TV offers came flooding in, lifestyle magazines were constantly knocking at his door. At the very least, he was all set to be the next Jimmy Nail.
Instead, loathing this trivial publicity, he turned down the offers and walked away. With his eyes set on a more glittering prize, he honed his craft in a series of art-house and European productions, entering the mainstream only when a part demanded deep emotional exploration. And eventually, inevitably, his remarkable intensity saw him recognised at the highest levels. First Sam Mendes snapped him up to star alongside Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in Road To Perdition. Then it was the turn of Steven Spielberg. And then came James Bond. Craig’s earlier, risky choice bore rich fruit, indeed.
He was born Daniel Wroughton Craig on the 2nd March, 1968, at 41, Liverpool Road, Chester. His father, Tim, was a former merchant seaman turned steel erector (later landlord of the Ring O’Bells in Frodsham, Cheshire), while his mother, Carol Olivia (called Olivia), was a teacher. He had one sister, Lea, older than himself. Olivia had attended Liverpool Art College and won a place at RADA (which she didn’t take up), and it was this background that most influenced Daniel after his parents divorced, Olivia taking him and Lea to live in central Liverpool when he was just 4. His mother spent a lot of time at the city’s famously left-wing Everyman Theatre, then in its heyday with Bernard Hill, Julie Walters, Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale strutting their stuff. The young boy would soak in the life onstage and in the Green Room, enjoying the larger-than-life camaraderie. It was this, and seeing these familiar faces on TV, that convinced Craig that he too would become an actor. He now claims this epiphany took place when he was just 6.
When Daniel was 9, the family would move to Hoylake, on the west coast of the Wirrel, looking out over Liverpool Bay. Here, having failed his 11-Plus, he was sent to a tough secondary modern. At Hilbre High School at nearby West Kirby (other former pupils include cyclist Chris Boardman and pop stars The Coral and Orchestral Manoevres In The Dark) he played rugby (he also played for Hoylake Rugby Club), supported the then near-invincible Liverpool FC and joined in with the school’s plays, taking the lead in Oliver, Romeo And Juliet and Cinderella. Academically, however, he was not a good student. This is not to say he was disinterested as he reacted well when his mother (who’d get remarried to the artist Max Blond) fed his imagination with literature. Indeed, having received Ted Hughes’ Crow on his 10th birthday, he would even sneak into a local girls’ grammar school to hear Hughes read selections from his work (he recalls Hughes’ voice being a disappointing monotone). It was just that play-acting was all he ever wanted to do, and this meant the “realistic” play-acting of the Everyman. To Craig and his classmates, Shakespeare was a foreign language and classical theatre just upper-class poncing around onstage.
This was not easy for Olivia to accept. Like most mothers, she wanted her son to gain a proper education, particularly as Liverpool in the middle of Margaret Thatcher’s reign was a depressing black hole of unemployment and despair. Yet when Daniel had reached 16 and was clearly not up for further studies – he’d left school, tried a foundation course, then chucked it in – she supported him. She applied on his behalf to the National Youth Theatre and sent him to the troupe’s Manchester auditions in 1984. And her efforts paid off – he was accepted.
Moving down to London, Craig worked to finance his seasons with the NYT, toiling mostly in restaurant kitchens and as a waiter. These were hard times. He crashed on friends’ floors many, many times and was not above renting flats and doing a runner when payments were long overdue. But there were many great moments. His parents watching his proper stage debut as Agamemnon in Troilus And Cressida was one. The NYT tours to Valencia and Moscow, under the guardianship of director Ed Wilson, were also a relief from the constant poverty.
What he really wanted, though, was a place at drama school, and it was not readily forthcoming. At repeated auditions he admits to “failing miserably”, but at last he was taken on by the renowned Guildhall School of Music and Drama at the Barbican, being tutored by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Court stalwart Colin McCormack. Here, between 1988 and 1991, he would receive one of the country’s finest and harshest thespian educations, and was in good company, his early peers including Rhys Ifans, Ewan McGregor and Alistair McGowan, then later Joseph Fiennes and Damian Lewis.
His career proper would begin very promisingly, being cast, even before leaving the school, in the high-budget movie The Power Of One. This followed the story of an English-speaking orphan in South Africa who’s sent to an Afrikaans school. Here he falls foul of a Brit-hating neo-Nazi clique and is bullied mercilessly. Tired of the beatings, when grown he turns to trainer Morgan Freeman and learns to box, his victories making him a symbol of racial unity. Craig would turn up as the former head bully, now a cruel and corrupt officer in the state security force, menacing the hero’s girl and generally asking for it big-time. And, of course, this being John Avildsen’s anti-apartheid version of his own Rocky, get it he does.
Craig would later explain that the only roles available to British actors in the early Nineties were Nazis or fops. He even admits to cultivating a tousled mop in the hope of scoring a Merchant-Ivory part. This situation certainly explains why his second outing saw him as a mean German officer, battling it out with Sean Patrick Flanery’s Young Indiana Jones in Daredevils Of The Desert. This, written by Frank Darabont (soon to find fame with The Shawshank Redemption), had begun as an episode of the Young Indie TV series, then been extended to two hours and released to video. In it, Flanery would aid the Brits and Aussies in an attack on a Turkish-held desert town, become involved in intrigue with a glamorous spy (Catherine Zeta Jones in a very early Hollywood outing) and finally get into a major scrap with Daniel. The film was also notable for its extensive use of action footage from director Simon Wincer’s earlier work The Lighthorsemen.
Both these productions would be released in 1992 (as would a Zorro movie, tacked together from two episodes of the TVseries), a busy year for Daniel. He’d also appear on TV in an episode of Boon, and onstage at Hammersmith’s Lyric Theatre in No Remission, with the Midnight Theatre Company. This was a tough prison drama where a bank robber, a double murderer and a paratrooper who’s torn someone’s ribcage open would be forced to share a cell. Craig would play the soldier, cold and carrying himself with military precision until he cracks when his cell-mates reveal that Christabelle, the girl he adores, is no more than a common tart. It was a great success, for Daniel in particular, The Independent review saying that he”contains his violence like an unexploded mine”.
There was also a further opportunity on TV, unfortunately one that turned to dust. This was Covington Cross, a mediaeval family drama set around the time of the Crusades. Made by Thames TV ostensibly for the American market, there’d be jousting tournaments and Robin Hood fugures, witches and romance. The series would furthermore reunite Nigel Terry and Cherie Lunghi, Arthur and Guinevere from John Boorman’s brilliant Excalibur (Craig’s future co-star Alex Kingston would also pop up). Sadly, in the US only seven of the first 13 shows were aired while, in the UK, the pilot was screened at Christmas, 1992, but the series remained unseen. Nevertheless, things were looking good for Daniel. Having met and married Scottish actress Fiona Loudon (they were both 24), 1992 saw him become a father for the first time, his wife bearing him a daughter, Ella.
This busy beginning did not, though, lead to a meteoric rise, rather a gradual consolidation. 1993 saw Daniel appear in episodes of the news satire Drop The Dead Donkey, the hard-hitting police corruption series Between The Lines, and the soft country cop caper Heartbeat. Onstage, he appeared at the Royal National Theatre in the original London production of Angels In America, the fantastical, Pulitzer Prize-winning AIDS drama. Here he would play four roles, one being that of Joseph Porter Pitt, a married but secretly homosexual Republican protege of the infamous Roy Cohn. There’d also be two major TV dramas. First came Sharpe’s Eagle, a continuance of Bernard Cornwell’s Peninsular War saga. Here Sean Bean’s Sharpe takes over a useless batallion, much to the chagrin of the regiment’s commander who sets two beastly officers, one being Daniel, to insult, undermine and generally rile our hero. Daniel sets about this with much gusto, even setting about Sharpe’s girlfriend with a riding crop and consequently accepts Sharpe’s offer of a duel. Before this can take place, though, they’re sent out on patrol together and Daniel is done in just as he’s aiming to sneakily cause Sharpe’s demise. As with his earlier fascists, he made a fine fist of another brooding hoodlum. The year would end with a brief role in the black comedy Genghis Cohn, where Robert Lindsay played a former camp commandant haunted by a Jewish comedian he’d murdered.
The next year would see Craig onstage once again, in The Rover, for the Women’s Playhouse Trust. This was a dark Restoration comedy, involving mercenaries enjoying a night on the town (literally raping and pillaging), and featuring Dougray Scott and Andy Serkis. It was a very lively production, staged in a sand-filled arena, with actors whizzing around on bikes and rickshaws, and would be filmed by the BBC. Then, on the big screen, there’d be the Disney movie A Kid In King Arthur’s Court, a rewrite of the Mark Twain novel, where an American kiddie is summoned accidentally by Merlin and expected to save Camelot from an evil knight, who plans to steal the kingdom and marry the king’s beautiful daughter, played by Kate Winslet. Daniel would appear as Master Kane, a stable-boy that Winslet loves and longs to marry.
In 1996, his work paid off. His major breakthrough came with the lauded and popular TV series Our Friends In The North, which followed four Newcastle buddies (Craig, Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee and Mark Strong) from innocent beginnings in 1964, through the social turbulence of the Thatcher years, and on to a happy-ish reunion in 1995. While Eccleston and McKee entered the world of Labour politics, Craig’s Geordie Peacock would give up on a dodgy pop career to work for London porn baron Malcolm McDowell, getting involved in all manner of sexy shenanigans before being sent down for McDowell’s sins and swearing revenge. It really was the most eye-catching part, as he returned home to start selling drugs for corrupt coppers before descending into dosserdom and, after a spot of arson, getting jailed for life – only to escape and rediscover his old mates. It was no wonder the tabloids latched onto him as a sexy reprobate and began to push him into a box reserved usually for soap opera hard-men.
Craig quickly tired of the media circus, wishing instead to be seen as a “serious actor”. This was fair enough, as Our Friends In The North was just one of many very varied onscreen appearances in 1996. Aside from showing up beside Gayle Hunnicutt and Ute Lemper in an episode of Tales From The Crypt, there was also a headlining role in the complicated police drama Kiss And Tell. Here Craig would play a sloppy cop, on the verge of being fired, who stakes his career on catching a man suspected of killing his missing wife. Daniel gets his psychologist ex-girlfriend to romance the subject in order to con a confession out of him, but grows desperately jealous when he listens in on their conversations. Meanwhile, the missing wife, if she’s alive, must be found and treated for cancer.
On top of this, there was Andrew Davies’ high-profile and bawdy adaptation of Daniel Defoe’s The Fortunes And Misfortunes Of Moll Flanders. With former colleague Alex Kingston in the title role, this told the tale of a street girl who attempts to wangle her way to a fortune, using her body as a passport and a weapon. Returning from an initial trip to the new world of Virginia, she poses as a lady in order to snag a rich hubbie, only to fall for highwayman Daniel, himself pretending to be wealthy so he can catch a wife capable of restoring his bankrupt estate. Obviously made for one another, they would nevertheless endure a tempestuous relationship that set a big TV audience’s pulse racing. Naturally, this didn’t help Craig in his avoidance of beefcake status. He stopped doing interviews altogether.
Craig’s final appearance of 1996 would be in the far less populist Saint-Ex, a BBC production. This would be a biopic of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French author of The Little Prince and a daring pilot for the French postal service and air force, before and during World War II. Daniel would star as Saint-Exupery’s best friend Guillaumet, a charismatic hero who survives a crash in the Andes and inspires the writer to ever greater heights, only to be lost in the war. It was a very classy production, involving such heavyweights as Miranda Richardson, Janet McTeer and Katrin Cartlidge, and, though some compared it to The English Patient (released the same year), it was a far more complex piece, working as a tone poem and a re-examination of the biopic, as well as being interspersed with interviews with real-life acquaintances of Saint-Exupery. It was no wonder, in a year that saw Craig deliver comedy horror, psychological drama, rough-house period romance and an art-house epic, that he didn’t just want to be seen as a northern beefcake.
Though he’d come to feel that movies would be his future, Daniel would still take TV and theatre parts if he found them sufficiently interesting. 1997 saw him move on to The Ice House where three women, suspected of lesbianism and witchery, live together in a country house (as one of them is the sultry and dangerous Frances Barber, lesbianism and witchery are easy accusations to make). The discovery of a corpse on the estate revives an investigation into the disappearance of one of the women’s husband ten years before, with the locals and chief detective Corin Redgrave keen for a conviction. Daniel would appear as Redgrave’s second-in-command, a man who, his marriage on the rocks, complicates the issue by falling for one of the women, a magnetic but exasperating Kitty Aldridge. Love and loyalty are tested as the deadly intrigue continues.
After a one episode spot in the erotic vampire series the Hunger, alongside Karen Black and Jason Flemying, he returned to the stage and a run in Hurlyburly at the Old Vic for Peter Hall’s company. Daniel and Rupert Graves played divorced casting agents who indulge in a riot of drink and drugs, treating their women (one being Kelly MacDonald) very poorly indeed. Andy Serkis would again co-star, along with Elizabeth McGovern. One show would be interrupted by a bomb scare, the cast, much to the delight of the critics, performing the last 20 minutes on the green outside. More important, though, certainly in terms of Craig’s off-screen life, would be Obsession, where he played a Zimbabwean stone-cutter doing restoration work in Berlin and seeking a photo of a man crossing the Niagara Falls on a tight-rope fifty years before, a man he believes had a tragic affair with his grandmother (Craig’s grandmother, that is, not his own grandmother – though, given the nature of some of Daniel’s later subject matter, that would not be beyond the realms of possibility). An incident involving an old shoplifter and brutal police is then the catalyst for a love triangle involving Craig, girl band member Heike Makatsch and a French scientist. His relationship with Makatsch would also blossom off-screen. She was a big star in Germany, with her own light entertainment show, and was just beginning to delve into more serious material. Outside Germany, audiences would know her best as the sexually predatory secretary who seduces Alan Rickman in Love Actually. She and Craig would be together for seven years, finally splitting in January, 2004.
1998 would be another good year onscreen, his best yet. First came a small but impressive role in Elizabeth where he played a monk involved in the Babington plot against the Queen, using a rock to smash in the head of one of Francis Walsingham’s spies (an improvised moment, said Craig later). Then came another breakthrough when he starred alongside Derek Jacobi in John Maybury’s Love Is The Devil. This was a biopic of the artist Francis Bacon, Jacobi playing him as cold and emotionally careless. Daniel would appear as George Dyer, a petty crook who breaks into Bacon’s house and stays to become his lover, the price he pays being the gradual disintegration of his personality as Bacon treats him with growing disdain. It was a hard part and Craig was brave to take it, as not only did he have to engage in various sado-masochistic love scenes (one involving the burning of Bacon’s flesh with a cigarette) but he also had to survive a scene-chewing performance by Jacobi. Revealing a rapid growth in his confidence and abilities, he did both with great aplomb.
Jacobi would say later that Craig was living fast during the making of Love Is The Devil, drinking all night and getting by on two hours sleep. His work, though, remained top-notch as he moved on to Love And Rage to play James Lynchehaun, the brilliant and psychotic manipulator who inspired JM Synge’s The Playboy Of The Western World. Here he wormed his way into the affections and employment of Greta Scaachi, an estate-owner in County Mayo, then began to take over, gradually revealing a murderous streak that ultimately sees him beat her to a pulp, bite off her nose and leave her to die in a fire. It was a fascinating real-life story, as Lynchehaun would flee to America where he’d be feted as a Republican freedom-fighter for his blows against the English. Even President Roosevelt would get involved in saving him from extradition. The movie would see him return, years later, for a final violent confrontation with Scaachi. Like George Dyer, this was a fascinating role to play, further proof that Craig liked to find twisted characters and dig deep to find their reason and humanity.
1999 would continue Craig’s run of fine form with The Trench, William Boyd’s WWI saga, which examined the misery and madness of the front. Set during the run-up to the Battle of the Somme, this saw Daniel as Sergeant Telford Winter, an experienced soldier attempting to keep discipline and morale high among a band of fearful recruits. As the time approaches to go over the top, he risks his position and even his life by confronting an officer who refuses to share his whiskey with the men. Eventually, despite his need to keep things together, his experience tells him what is about to happen and fear begins to erode his courage.
Next would come The Visitor, part of Channel 4’s Shockers season. This would see three young house-sharers awaiting the cousin of the fourth, who’s away for several months. When Daniel shows up, they assume he’s their man and let him in. By the time they discover their mistake, he’s already insinuated his way into their lives and does not want to leave. It was a very effective thriller, with Daniel excellent as the nameless invader. One review would compare it to a Pinter play, where the intruder is a cross between Iago and Vinnie Jones.
With very rare exceptions, Craig was now concentrating on films, and he moved on to the epic I Dreamed Of Africa, directed by Hugh Hudson. This saw Kim Basinger as an Italian socialite divorcee persuaded by Vincent Perez to go live in the harsh highlands of Kenya back in 1972. Once there, she’d discover Perez was far more interested in hunting trips with his pals than caring for their land, so she’s left to deal with poachers and wild animals, and with the tough task of impressing Daniel’s flinty-eyed Declan Fielding, the manager of their 100,000 acre ranch.
Returning to indie movies and “difficult” characters, now came Some Voices, adapted from Joe Penhall’s play, which saw him as a schizophrenic released from care back into the life of his brother. Falling for his former Hurlyburly co-star Kelly MacDonald, Craig decides that his newfound happiness will allow him to come off medication, and consequently begins to hallucinate, his condition threatening both his relationship and his freedom. It was another tremendous performance, including a naked run down Goldhawk Road, that kept the film from mawkishness and saw it deliver a sympathetic portrait of mental illness. A more comical approach would be taken by his next venture, Hotel Splendide, which concerned a guest house on a remote island where weird rules on discipline and health have been long-enforced by a fierce matriarch, now dead. Everyone on the island, both family and strange guests, have been brainwashed into thinking that leaving means death and attempt to continue as normal. But rebellious son and chef Daniel knows better and, when his ex-girlfriend Toni Collette arrives, bringing the real world with her, the place falls into chaos.
2001 would bring a real change of pace when Daniel turned tortured aristocrat for a TV miniseries of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword Of Honour, adapted by William Boyd, his director for The Trench. As Guy Crouchback, he suffered at the hands of his spiteful, unfaithful wife (Megan Dodds) then volunteered for action in WWI, being forced due to his age into misfit outfit the Halberdiers. We see him pass through crazy training before a combat misadventure that sees him and his men mistakenly hailed as heroes. Craig was here great again – reserved and troubled at home, then expansive in war – and the performance would quickly prove to be one of the most important of his career.
The same year would see Craig’s first error of judgment. This was Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the screen adaptation of the notorious computer game, where Angelina Jolie would play the titular adventuress, racing about the globe in her attempt to prevent the sinister Illuminati from gaining control of time itself. Daniel would play her former lover Alex West, now a mercenary who’s teamed up with the bad guys. Craig’s problem wasn’t that the film was a failure, rather that, as it was a riproaring effects-fest with little attention paid to the story, he felt that it was a waste of his time.
He’d make up for this straight away as his role in Sword Of Honour now had its effect. While casting for Road To Perdition, director Sam Mendes had watched the show with playwright Patrick Marber, the latter noting that Craig might be excellent in Mendes’ new picture. And so it was that Craig became Connor Rooney, the nutty son of mobster Paul Newman. It would be his actions that drove the movie forward, first when he commits an unnecessary murder in front of hitman Tom Hanks’ son, then when he takes it upon himself to wipe out Hanks’ whole family, beginning a cycle of vengeance that destroys the whole operation. With Hanks taciturn and Newman quietly ruthless, it was left to Craig, with his psychotic jealousy, to bring passion to a deliberately dark movie. Consequently his was the stand-out performance. He was on his way.
This success did not cause Craig to immediately decamp to Hollywood. Instead, he would continue his quest for testing roles. His next project was a brief spot in Ten Minutes Older: The Cello, where eight directors, including Godard and Bertolucci, were given ten minutes to express a vision of time. Daniel would appear in Michael Radford’s segment, Addicted To The Stars, playing a spaceman who returns to Earth after 80 years, having aged only ten minutes. Next would come Copenhagen, adapted from Michael Frayn’s acclaimed play, where Craig would play Werner Heisenberg, head of Nazi Germany’s atomic energy programme, on a visit to his mentor, Stephen Rea, in occupied Denmark. It was fascinating stuff, not only discussing quantum science but leaving us unsure whether Craig is digging for Allied secrets, trying to justify his position, or very subtly explaining that he’s actually retarding the Nazis’ progress.
After popping up in the short Occasionally, Strong, a tale of gangsters and lost lottery tickets, Daniel would return to confrontational thespianism with The Mother, written by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Roger Michell (amazingly the director of Notting Hill). This saw a long-married couple visiting their grown-up kids in London, where the husband proceeds to die of a heart attack. Soon the wife, now aged 60, moves down permanently and takes a shine to Daniel, a carpenter who’s building a solarium for her son. Daniel’s in an unhappy marriage with an autistic son and reacts well to her approaches. They’re comfortable with each other, laugh a lot and, despite the 30-year age gap, inevitably enter a sexual relationship, shown graphically. Unfortunately, he’s already having an affair with the woman’s daughter, who’s been expecting him to leave his wife, and now all hell breaks loose as desires and disguises are unflinchingly revealed.
In some ways, Craig’s next part was equally controversial as he now played the poet Ted Hughes (who he’d seen perform so many years before) in Sylvia, a biopic of Sylvia Plath, many of whose fans still believe that she was driven to suicide by her husband Hughes. Colin Firth had been the original choice, but refused to screen-test. The movie, with Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role, would follow the couple from their college meeting, over to Massachusetts and back to England, where Hughes becomes famous (and unfaithful) and Plath succumbs to mental illness, destroying his office, burning his papers and eventually putting her head in the oven. Of course, Paltrow’s efforts would be more showy, but Craig’s were more powerful, containing much of Hughes’ famed charisma.
Late 2004 would see Daniel back onscreen and still varying his roles wildly. First would come Layer Cake, based on JJ Connelly’s London crime novel and directed by Matthew Vaughn, producer of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. Here Craig would play a nameless coke dealer who wants to retire but is pushed by Mr Big (Kenneth Cranham) to take on a job in Holland. Of course, it all goes horribly wrong and Craig finds himself pursued by angry gangs and cold-eyed hitmen. Fortunately, it possessed none of Lock Stock’s over-stylised slapstick, instead having more in common with Light Sleeper or American Gigolo. Extra gravitas was brought by Michael Gambon, one of Craig’s co-star in Sylvia who had also, in 2002, played with Craig downstairs at the Royal Court in Caryl Churchill’s A Number, directed by Stephen Daldry. This had seen Daniel tested in three separate roles, cloned brothers speaking directly to the audience, who gradually reveal their different natures – all of it leading to a horrible revelation.
Following Layer Cake would come Enduring Love, again directed by Roger Michell, where Daniel played a lecturer who’s picnicking with girlfriend Samantha Morton when a hot air balloon takes off with a young boy trapped inside. Several men, including Daniel, run to grab the ropes, with terrible results, and Daniel suffers appalling guilt. His relationship with Morton slides and he also has to deal with the attentions of his old Guildhall peer Rhys Ifans, who was there at the accident and appears to be infatuated with him. The eventual effect of these conflicting obsessions is hugely disturbing and earned the movie excellent reviews.
2004 also saw Daniel in the headlines for other reasons. Having split from Heike Makatsch in January, he was seen out several months later with supermodel Kate Moss. They claimed to just be mutual friends of Paltrow and Ifans, but the tabloids were relentless in their pursuit, Craig making a reluctant return to restaurant kitchens when he had to flee through them and out the back door. When it was all over, after four months, he said he had not enjoyed the realities of that kind of fame, and would not allow it to happen again. By October he was seeing Satsuki Mitchell, an executive producer he’d met while filming his next Hollywood picture, The Jacket. Having already produced Robert De Niro’s Godsend for 2929 Productions, Mitchell would move on to a remake of the horror classic Black Christmas.
2005 would bring continued success for Craig. First there’d be a brief spot in Sorstalansag, a historical drama adapted from Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz’s masterpiece about a young Hungarian Jew caught up in WW2 then the Holocaust. Shot in beautiful blues and grays, the movie was deeply touching and disquieting, more ambiguous and consequently fascinating than Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, Craig appearing as an American GI liberating the camp at Buchenwald. Following this would come The Jacket, reuniting Craig with director John Maybury. This would see Adrien Brody as an amnesiac Gulf War veteran, placed in a Vermont asylum, who comes to believe he can travel through time. On his real or imagined trips he sees the girl of his dreams and the moment of his death and, back in the real world, attempts to reunite with the former and avoid the latter. Craig would appear as a fellow inmate who, amidst his rebellious ramblings, advises Brody to disassociate his mind from the mediaeval medicinal punishments inflicted on his body, thus inspiring the film’s flights of disturbed imagination.
Having turned down big money to take the role of Biggles on TV, Craig moved on to Archangel, set in communist Russia, where he played an academic who, after meeting a former bodyguard of Stalin, seeks out Stalin’s notebook, apparently snatched from the dictator’s death-bed by the infamous Beria, head of the NKVD and directly responsible for the death of millions. Naturally, murder and deceit abound, with Craig drawn into a circle of politicians, thugs and prostitutes, all covering up a secret that could change the course of modern history. After some delay, there would then be Steven Spielberg’s Munich, concerning Mossad’s pursuit of the Palestinian terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes at the Olympics in 1972. Craig would play a South African Jew recruited into a secret Mossad hit squad employed to track down and eliminate the perpetrators of the atrocity. At first he’s the most gung-ho of the gang, convinced of the rectitude of an eye for an eye. But gradually, no longer convinced even that they’re killing the right people, he comes to wonder if his revenge has any moral justification.
Flitting from disturbing indies to a Spielberg blockbuster, Daniel Craig had surely entered thespian nirvana. He was even – along with Eric Bana, Clive Owen, Dougray Scott et al – mentioned as a potential James Bond. Unlike the others, though, he was actually chosen, October 2005 seeing him named as the successor to Pierce Brosnan. And the fans went mental. He was too short, he was too craggy, he was too blonde – the Internet was awash with criticism, most of it personal. Craig attempted to keep his distance and concentrate on the work, but the madness clearly got to him. After all, this was a guy recently freaked by Kate Moss’s level of fame. Now he was Bond, and a bad Bond to boot. It can’t have been easy.
2006 would clearly be a big year, the biggest yet. He began it by lending his voice to Renaissance, an excellent Sin City-style noir animation, set in Paris in 2054, where Craig would play a maverick cop hunting down a kidnapped scientist and falling for her sister (Catherine McCormack), all under the eye of the sinister Avalon corporation. After this would come Infamous, held back for a year to avoid direct competition with the very similar Capote. This would see Tobey Jones as the writer Truman Capote, dazzling New York high society with his sharp wit, hitting big with In Cold Blood then fading away as he cannot follow his masterwork. Craig would play Perry Smith, the Kansas killer whose crimes inspired Capote’s book. He’d be vulnerable but dangerous, threatening but also sexual, bringing a different edge to the famous Smith-Capote relationship. But though the movie boasted such stars as Sigourney Weaver, Sandra Bullock and Gwyneth Paltrow (again), and despite the fact that it dealt bravely with Capote’s sexuality, it was still overshadowed by its recent predecessor, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar win still being fresh in people’s minds.
And then it came – Casino Royale. On many occasions the Bond producers had attempted to refresh the franchise by introducing contemporary elements – Roger Moore’s Seventies suavity, for example, or Timothy Dalton’s Thatcher age brutality. With Craig onboard, they did the psychology-thing and went back to the beginning with Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel (already filmed twice), showing how the legendary agent grew into his 007 role. Thus Craig would begin as a reckless and careless operative, earning his stripes before taking on the menacing Le Chiffe (a character apparently based on the notorious Aleister Crowley) in a high stakes Bahamas poker game. There’d be babes, of course, Eva Green being the main one, but there’d also be a very modern terrorist threat to world order.
Naturally, Craig was now a major star, but he was to face some difficult choices. His work so far – in Love Is The Devil, The Mother, Some Voices and the rest – had marked him out as a challenging, risk-taking performer. Like Dalton before him, he was an actor first, Bond second. Yet Bond had the power to wipe away everything that had gone before, and he desperately needed to maintain an identity outside the character.
His first release of 2007 would be The Invasion, the movie he was making when informed by Barbara Broccoli that he would be Bond. This had begun as a simple update of the oft-filmed Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, but had mutated into a more original piece. Now psychiatrist Nicole Kidman would notice a sneaky epidemic that changes people’s behaviour, would question whether it was due to extra-terrestrial interference, and would then be forced to protect her son, who may well hold the key to saving mankind. Craig would appear as Kidman’s colleague and love interest, who aids her in her struggle, as director Oliver “Downfall” Hirschbiegel took repeated stabs at the warmongering governments that rule over us.
The Invasion would do much to keep the non-Bond Craig in the spotlight. More important would be Northern Lights, the first in an intended trilogy based on Philip Pullman’s bestselling His Dark Materials. Here young heroine Lyra would seek out her kidnapped friend Roger, with Craig starring as her uncle, the aristocratic Lord Asriel, a famed explorer with a mysterious past. Adding further interest would be two of Craig’s recent co-stars – Nicole Kidman as the charming, evil Mrs Coulter, and Eva Green as the witch queen.
Despite Bond and Asriel, we can expect Daniel Craig to carry on in much the same vein as before, concentrating on indies far more than most actors in his exalted position. “Everybody wants to make a safe bet with roles,” he once said “But if you’re going to do stuff then you should be getting strong reactions. I don’t want audiences to be going ‘Yeah, that’s alright’.” Given his performances thus far, you can be sure he’ll be garnering strong reactions for years to come.
Truth, wisdom, love, seek reasons; malice only seeks causes.
Johann Kaspar Lavater