Quite possibly the hottest British actor of the moment, Daniel Craig‘s star – which was on a fast ascent even before 2006’s Bond revival Casino Royale – is currently shining so bright that it’s hard to pin him down. Hard, that is, unless he’s supporting Flashbacks of a Fool, a film he’s so passionate about he’s taken time off from filming Quantum of Solace to promote. Craig plays Joe Scot, a fading Hollywood star who has managed to coast through life with no care for anyone he steps on to succeed. When his childhood friend, nicknamed Boots, dies, he realises what he’s missed out on. RT sat down with Craig to learn more.
You’ve got what I imagine is a rare day off from Quantum of Solace and you’ve chosen to spend it talking to us about Flashbacks of a Fool. What does the film mean to you?
Daniel Craig: It’s been very personal, really. The fact is that Baillie Walsh, the director, is my best mate and he wrote the script six years ago with me in mind. There are a lot of reasons for it – it’s a lot to do with who he is and how we both look at life in the sense that if you don’t deal with certain things when you’re a kid they’ll come back and get you. I believe in Baillie as a moviemaker. He’s done two feature-length documentaries plus any number of music videos and commercials and it’s kind-of about time he got to do a feature.
So was it about using whatever clout you could to help him get the project off the ground? We noticed the Executive Producer credit.
DC: Definitely; it was a really important stage to go through, for me. It’s no great leap for me, what my job entails really on a job like this is to talk to people and say, “Do you mind spending some money? I believe in this, I believe in this director, we’ve got a great cast, a great, DoP, a great crew; I think we can make a great movie.” It’s not a huge leap because I end up doing that anyway on films! I’m unofficially launching the movie, going and talking to people and getting them to invest and support it. Once we started filming I just got on with the acting.
Was there perhaps a personal interest in playing Joe Scot at that stage of his career?
DC: [laughs] Why, because he’s fading?! The fact that he’s a movie star is really secondary I think. He’s a lonely man in a big house, he’s got everything he wants and he could have anything he wants. He could have a career, but he’s pushed it all away. He doesn’t feel he needs anything, when what he needs is good friendship and what he needs is the support of people who genuinely love him as opposed to the support of those who genuinely don’t love him. And it’s staring him in the face, his mother and her girlfriend, who on the face of it seem dysfunctional, are actually good family, and he’s got this lady Ophelia who’s looking after him and is probably the love of his life and would sacrifice everything for him. It’s all there and he’s fucking it up, that’s really all it boils down to. I like that idea – I like that he’s having to take care of business.
Do you see contemporaries of yours falling into that trap?
DC: I’ve been around, I’ve seen a lot in my life, and everybody goes down the dark, winding staircase eventually. It’s a bad place to be and that’s why having good friends is always essential. Those are the people who pull you out. But it happens to everyone in every profession and you have to deal with it. Joe is an alcoholic drug addict and for an evening he’s probably great entertainment and fantastic to be with, but to live with it’s a nightmare, and that’s the reality of it. It’s showing that, but it’s saying, “the reality of this is something else.” But that’s not really where the movie lies.
What keeps you grounded?
DC: Friends and family, who tell me what an arsehole I am! [laughs]
Do you recognise that period of Joe’s childhood in your own life?
DC: It’s not similar, but certainly the music was familiar and I too grew up near the sea – though it wasn’t quite the Southern Cape [which filled in for the English coast]. It was important in the movie to have that memory of a place. I grew up by the seaside, there were arcades, it resonates for me, certainly. Baillie grew up by the sea too – he was the guy on the Wurlitzer spinning you around and making you sick. It’s a mixture of things exploded. Ideas from childhood as opposed to very specific points. The little girl dying is that impetus that sends Joe off on his way because he can’t escape the guilt. His sexual awakening ties in with this little girl dying. It’s not an excuse to be a fucked-up human being, but it’s a good excuse to have problems.
What brought you and Baillie together, originally?
Did you have the equivalent of a Boots in your life?
DC: Yes. I’ve got a good friend from school who I stay in touch with, but I left home at sixteen and I’ve lived most of my adult life in London and that’s where my friends are. I’ve got one good friend back home who I still talk to, but it was a long time ago.
Harry Eden is brilliant as the young version of you, but you didn’t get to share any scenes with him, obviously, so how involved were you in his casting?
DC: Baillie just said, “I found him,” and as soon as I saw him, I knew he was the guy. People are saying we look physically alike, but Harry and I are convinced there are no similarities. But I just let him get on with it. It’s a whole lifetime between that time and my time as the character. People change irrevocably, and I thought just letting him get on with being who he was was the best thing to do. He does it just as a moody teenager, full of hormones and everything else.
You have a quite graphic sex scene at the start, does it bother you, getting naked on screen?
DC: No, it never has. I’ve made a career out of it! I work out, but that’s what I do now. That’s part of my job. And I’ve always kept fairly fit. If I know I’ve got to take my top off I lay off the cakes! But I keep myself as physically fit as possible just because of what I’ve got to do in the movies. We’ve started Bond now, and we haven’t started the physical stuff yet, but I’m sure I’m going to be walking wounded from the end of next week for the next six months!
Are you approaching Quantum of Solace with a sense of relief after the success of your first? Is there less pressure on you?
DC: I don’t think so, I don’t think you can say there’s less pressure when you make a $200m movie – the pressure is plain to see. We’ve got to make it as good as if not better than the last one, that’s the only thing that matters. I’m no less nervous than I was but I’m very happy with what we’ve put together for this one. Marc Forster‘s come on board and he’s taking care of a lot of things that I just don’t need to think about and I’m just getting on with it. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable with it. It’s James Bond, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to that place and get Zen about it – it’s not that kind of role. But I’m enjoying what we’ve shot of this and I’m planning to enjoy as much as I can of this filming process, because otherwise why do it?
Is there much difference between making a British indie movie like this and making a big $200m Bond movie?
DC: I honestly think that on set there’s very little difference. On set there’s two cameras, maybe, the crew and if you’re shooting dialogue and scenes with actors it’s the same. The difference comes in when suddenly there are explosions and napalm going off everywhere. But actually the atmosphere is very similar.
How are you finding working with Mathieu Amalric?
DC: I’m over the moon about it. We worked together very briefly on Munich, but I didn’t actually have any scenes with him on that. Now I’ve got to know him, and that Schnabel movie he’s just done is brilliant.
Is he Vesper’s Algerian boyfriend? Is that the connection?
DC: There is a connection, yes! [laughs] The film carries on from where the last one stopped, so we set up in the last one that there’s this organisation that’s destabilising the world’s economy in a bid to take it over, and Bond’s job is to go and get them.
Now that you’re making your second Bond movie, is it more or less important to do other work, do you think?
DC: It’s no more or less important, I don’t think. Someone asked whether it was important to make a smaller movie after making a Bond movie, but I’ve never, ever done films because I should do them, and if I have ever done that it’s usually been an unpleasant experience. I’ve only ever really enjoyed and liked films I’ve done because I’ve wanted to do them. And that’s absolutely on an individual basis. Doing a film and saying, I’ve done a really dark film and now I have to do a comedy… That’s not me. If a script comes along and it’s dark I’ll absolutely do it and take the consequences. I’m not fussed about the image that goes along with it.
But it seems to have made it easier to do other work and to champion a project you really believe in, like this…
DC: It’s been useful. Suddenly people are listening to me like I’ve got an opinion which is really disturbing! [laughs] I’ve kind-of got to have one! That’s quite nice in a way – sort-of facing up, championing something and believing in something. It’s a nice place to be. And, you know, I like Baillie Walsh, I think he’s got a huge amount of talent, so saying to someone, “I like this guy,” is really very easy.
Read our interview with director Baillie Walsh here.