A Shot In The Dark

A new Bond. A new beginning. And all bets are off. Daniel Craig raises the stakes and takes 007 back to reality with Casino Royale…

Fucking big explosions, fast cars, loose women and hot lead. The last time Craig came close to this kind of blockbusting was Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. He hated it. It was far away from Liverpool’s Everyman theatre, where the young Craig got his first taste of acting, as his set-designer mum introduced him to the likes of Julie Walters and Bernard Hill. In the years before he graduated from the London Guildhall School of Music and Drama (a year above Ewan McGregor), Craig would often playact his own death scenes. “My mate would shoot me,” he remembers. “And I’d throw myself down. Then I’d go, ‘Right, now let’s do that with a shotgun.’” It was as if Brit cinema’s blue-eyed boy had known, even then, he’d make his name in ‘difficult’ roles. Like no actor before, he brings to Her Majesty’s playboy killer a pungent scent of death (Road To Perdition, Layer Cake, Munich) and sex (wrapped round Gwynnie in Sylvia; bedding 68-year-old Anne Reid in The Mother). Reid was not in contention to play Vesper Lynd, the beautiful treasury officer assigned to keep an eye on Bond’s purse strings. In fact, she seemed the only actress not in contention. There were A-list objects of desire (Angelina Jolie, Naomi Watts, Charlize Theron). There were B-list screentesters (Thandie Newton, Rose Byrne, Cécile De France). And there was Eva Green.

Audiences first saw Green – all of her, at that – wowing in explicit indie drama The Dreamers, after which director Bernardo Bertolucci famously dubbed her “so beautiful it’s indecent.” Talented. Sexy as hell. Willing to get naked. Job done, surely. “I know, I’m the Bond girl, I just have to have boobs,” she smiles lazily, when Total Film sits her down. “I had reservations. Then I read the script. It was fantastic – a poker game between Bond and Vesper, fast-talking like the Tracy-Hepburn movies.” Casino Royale’s action is anchored here, says the French actress, in the pyrotechnics of love, betrayal and heart-pulping emotion. Vesper isn’t just a Bond girl. She’s the woman behind the man. “I break his heart,” she reveals succintly, the English accent impeccable.

“It’s the most emotional scene I’ve ever done.” And the sex? “Off screen.” Green laughs, sensing Total Film’s disappointment. “Hmm, you mean maybe we should do some porn or something? Yeah, sure…” Sex is a sore point. Literally – when Bond’s head-to-head with Mads Mikkelsen’s scar-eyed villain Le Chiffre detonates in a truly infamous torture scene. Based by Fleming on the occultist Aleister Crowley, Le Chiffre is a Bond villain with a chillingly modern motivation. “He’s just like everybody else in the world,” says Mikkelsen, Danish megastar of the violent Pusher trilogy. “He’s trying to get rich. And that makes him far more dangerous.” As for that torture scene, Mikkelsen shrugs and smiles. “I’m trying to win my life back and he’s trying to take it. So I have a little word with him.”

 Mikkelsen’s being coy. Craig, predictably, isn’t. “I get my bollocks bashed,” he says. “Le Chiffre used a piece of fucking rope that they tie up boats with. And Bond’s on the fucking life-support machine. He’s nearly dead.” Nearly dead? Just from having his balls bashed? Craig rocks back in his chair with laughter. “Oh well, yeah, okay! ‘Just from having his balls bashed?’ Where did you grow up? South east fucking London?! ‘Fuckin’ bash ’em! I don’t fuckin’ care!’ Look, I’ve just rolled the Aston Martin eight times, so I’m not in a great way.” To be fair, he wasn’t. Largely thanks to Mikkelsen’s lurid contact lens. “Yeah, it was a big one that covered the whole eyeball,” explains the Dane. “Problem was, I had a hard time judging distance. So yeah, I missed the chair a couple of times. It was a kind of brutal scene for Daniel...”

I don’t think any role changes a man quite so much as Bond,” Connery once rued. “It’s a cross, a privilege, a joke, a challenge. And as bloody intrusive as a nightmare.” Craig knows this. “There’s nothing anyone can say that can prepare someone for this,” he sighs. “I’ve basically done seven days a week for six months and I’m on my fucking knees. But very fucking happily on my knees!” Bond 22 beckons, but the actor has already laid plans to retain his chameleon persona and continue – as Brosnan did – to splice his MI6 career with more typically ‘difficult’ roles. He’s signed for fantasy epic His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass with Nicole Kidman, who also co-stars in his sci-fi thriller The Visiting. And if fans want Bond with dark hair, Craig will give it to them. As gay killer Perry Smith in Capote biopic Infamous. But whatever he does, Daniel Craig is now James Bond. Now – and forever. “I knew the consequences to this role,” he admits with a shrug. “Yes, I could fail miserably. But maybe I can make the franchise last another 30 years as opposed to another three.” The blue eyes twinkle. “Other than that, gay killers are not the next career goal…”