Daniel Craig: ‘Older and wiser? I mean, I’m getting older, but I really don’t know how wise I’m getting’

The Bond star talks about starring opposite some familiar faces in Skyfall

Daniel Craig picks up his Walther PPK again this week for his third outing as 007 James Bond in the film Skyfall. This follows Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum Of Solace (2008) and, while he is keen not to give away too many details of the story, he does reveal that Skyfall’s tone is different from the previous two films and that there will be a little more humour amid the action this time.

He was chatting to director Sam Mendes at a party when the idea came to him that his old friend and colleague (they had first worked together on Road To Perdition in 2002) would be perfect to direct the new Bond movie.

“I just saw massive potential in Sam,” says Craig. “He’d won a hatful of Oscars for his first movie and I thought that the timing was right for him and Bond. I was at a party and I’d had a few drinks and Sam was there and we were talking about tradition and film-making, sitting out on the balcony smoking a cigar. And I said, ‘Do you want to direct the next Bond?’ It just kind of came out of my mouth. It’s not my position to offer people jobs – that’s up to producers Michael (G. Wilson) and Barbara (Broccoli) – but I felt that it was a great idea and, fortunately, they agreed with me.

“I knew Sam would be perfect and it’s about the fact that he is about my age and he grew up watching Bond movies the way I started watching them. I knew he was passionate about them and feels as strongly about them as I do.”

Skyfall is a stand-alone story where Bond has to come to the aid of his boss M (Dame Judi Dench) as her past comes back to haunt her and the very existence of MI6 is threatened.

It is the 23rd 007 movie in the series. The first, Dr. No, starring Sean Connery as 007, appeared in 1962 and, since then, Bond has been played by Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan, all tough, dark-haired acts to follow. In this 50th anniversary year, Craig pays tribute to several much-loved Bond hallmarks.

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“I always had this idea in my head that I had to start it in a particular way and I wanted it to evolve back into what I think we’ve achieved with Skyfall,” reflects the actor. Craig has achieved quite a bit in his own evolution.

He made his stage debut in Oliver! aged six. Now 44 and famous for playing Bond, he has a solid background of films. He grew up in the northwest, in Chester and on the Wirral, the son of a publican and a teacher, and later the stepson of the artist Max Blond.

Academically disinterested, he left school at 16 and joined the National Youth Theatre and then the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. His break came in 1996 when he starred in the highly-acclaimed BBC drama Our Friends In The North.

He lives between New York and, when in London, in Primrose Hill, as does his wife, actress Rachel Weisz. He has a daughter, Ella, 19, by his first marriage to actress Fiona Loudon.

So is Craig’s Bond older and wiser in Skyfall?

“Oh no, he’s far from wiser,” he laughs. “It’s not a progression like that. The key element for this film, and always was, was that, if we got the script right, we would attract good actors to do it. You’ve got to give good actors something to play around with and that’s what happened here.

“You have to take the time and the effort to find the right people, enthusiastic people. We’ve been blessed with every character – whether it’s Ben Whishaw as Q, Ralph Fiennes as Mallory (the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee), Javier Bardem as the villain or Albert Finney as Kincade, and, of course, Judi Dench.

“And then the casting of the girls: Naomie Harris as an MI6 agent, Eve, and B�r�nice Marlohe as the exotic Severine – finding two exceptionally beautiful women who are very serious actresses and are intelligent and work hard. For me, it has been a joy.

“The fact that Javier is involved, Judi is still involved and Ralph is involved – this great cast of people – as an actor I’m playing off their stories as well as my story. But older and wiser? I mean, I’m getting older, but I really don’t know how wise I’m getting.”

Playing Bond demands that Craig is in peak physical condition. He likes to do as much of his own stunt work as possible because, he says, it’s important for the audience to see him in action – as opposed to seeing a stunt double.

“We have to find ways of making the audience believe it’s me and so I do as much as I can. But I’ve got amazing stunt guys around me. I like to drive but I’m not a racing driver and we have a great guy who comes in and does the driving and makes the car do incredible things and I do the bits that are easier. That’s what movie-making is about.

“It’s an incredibly physical thing to do these movies. A scene that may look very simple, like running up a set of stairs, I may have to do 10 times. And it’s always on the ninth take where you run down the stairs and twist your ankle!”

Skyfall is on general release tomorrow (Friday)