Interview: Daniel Craig on 'Quantum's physics'

By Russell Baillie, Russell Bailile

Having effectively restarted the Bond-age with the hit Casino Royale, the new 007 movie ups the action while taking care of some unfinished revenge business. Star Daniel Craig and director Marc Forster talk to Russell Baillie in Sydney

What: Quantum of Solace, the 22nd Bond film and the second with Daniel Craig in the role directed by Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner)

When & where: At cinemas from November 27

Mr Bond, we've been expecting you. Daniel Craig enters the hotel room at a brisk clip, all piercing blue eyes and sharp grey suit. He's a man on a mission, even if it appears that he really doesn't need to be in promotional mode at all. After all, Quantum of Solace's opening weekend in Britain - at 15.4 million ($42 million) the biggest movie opening in British history - and the United States' US$70.4 million ($127 million) would indicate the folks who saw Casino Royale - the biggest Bond flick of all time with its near US$600 million haul - very much want to see this one too.

But here he is, the Bond salesman.

"There is no point in making a movie like this and getting all Greta Garbo about it," he laughs.

Casino Royale proved the naysayers about his casting rather wrong. Sean Connery might still be the best movie star to have played the role but the evidence so far suggests that Craig is the best actor.

And for him, the novelty hasn't worn off yet. If anything, he's just settling into the job.

"No it hasn't at all," he says. "The one thing that surprised me is the enthusiasm that I gained during the second one. It's not just about becoming Bond, it's about making movies."

And in this case a fast, taut, explosive, high-flying, continent-hopping movie. Quantum of Solace may have a ponderous name - blame Ian Fleming's original short story - but it's a machine gun compared to its semi-automatic predecessor which often paused to reload and find its aim.

It's also a sequel starting where Casino Royale left off - with Bond on the trail of the killers of his beloved Vesper Lynd, he's brought in the black-hearted Mr White for questioning, then it's off to Haiti, Bolivia and several other stopovers on the way to uncovering a shadowy organisation that has a ring of the the dastardly Spectre from the old Bond flicks about it.

And then there's Camille, (Ukranian model-turned actress Olga Kurylenko) who does some very un-Bond girl things in partnership with 007, even if she's more than qualified to be as decorative as the exotic creatures who filled the role in past chapters.

The previous movie may have reinvented the Bond character as a more troubled and tortured - quite literally - man of action. This one has him flat-out throughout, its levels of stunts taking its toll on Craig himself and a stuntman, since recovered, who suffered serious head injuries in an accident on the shoot. So not much time for sitting round and playing cards like in the last outing...

"We did that in the first one didn't we?" says Craig. "We were kind of restricted slightly because, the script as nearly complete as it was, was never going to be the shape we wanted it to be because we had a writer's strike. So Marc [Forster, director] and I had to sit down and go `what do we want out of this? What do we need out of this? What are the most important aspects of this script do we want to put across?'

"And it was this whole thing of love, trust, who your allies are ... the action is just an answer to Casino - we took it somewhere. The stunt guys just set the bar higher so they screwed themselves - and me slightly - by saying let's crack on with this and make this about the most exciting thing we can do."

German-born, Swiss-raised, New York film school-educated Forster says as much as he admires what Casino Royale did for the franchise, he got a little bored by the film's long central poker game. For his Bond - which at just over 100 minutes is one of the shortest running times in the franchise, he says he wanted it to be spare and fast. Which meant jettisoning some traditional Bond accoutrements.

"I thought some people would get upset because there are not enough gadgets, not enough sex, not enough this and not enough that. But it was the Bond film I always wanted to see. And that was all I could do."

Like Craig was on the first film, Forster is the man in the gun on this one - he's the youngest ever Bond director and the first from outside the Commonwealth.

It's also his first action film, having hopped from death row drama Monster's Ball (for which Halle Berry won an Oscar), to the J.M. Barrie story of Finding Neverland, to thinking person's Will Ferrell comedy Stranger Than Fiction , to the adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's best seller The Kite Runner.

So no pressure then ...

"Because Casino Royale was so successful the pressure was enormous to do the follow-up to that and, I mean, you are dealing with a franchise which has done 21 movies at that point and I was doing the 22nd so I was waking up in the morning thinking `what if my one was the first which is a flop and I just sunk $200 million into the ground?' But ultimately I just thought when I met Daniel he inspired me, I thought I could make an interesting movie with him."

"The reason I took it on, I thought okay, the last five minutes of Casino Royale we have this character who is emotionally damaged who just lost the love of his life - it's quite an interesting emotional texture for the next one. Can I make this like a 60s-70s-style thriller action movie - very tight and intense from beginning to end, almost like a Bullit [the classic Steve McQueen thriller]. That was for me the model and I just got very excited by that."

Forster added some ideas of his own to the screenplay, by the same team who wrote Casino Royale (which includes current reigning script king Paul Haggis), like setting the film's four big action sequences against the four elements of fire, water, earth and air, which is a cosmic touch for a Bond movie - "Yes, I felt with that title I should do that."

And apart from choreographing boat chases, plane dogfights and set-pieces set against horse races and opera performances, he also wanted his Bond film to be visually as stylish as the man himself.

But a few Bondisms remain. The Aston Martin, the martini, and a scene which references Goldfinger - or in this case it should be Black Goldfinger.

And as much as he's helped push Bond into the 21st century by making the character less old Etonian officer class, Craig says he doesn't mind the 007 touchstones or the film's surviving Britishness.

"It has to remain that way. We've taken the chin-chin out of it but I love the Bond-isms. I love all the lines. I love all the quirkiness about it. I think possibly we'll have more of it in the next one but it's finding the right way to do it without just dropping it in.

"Like, the martini scene in this movie is him drinking six of them, getting pissed and being thoughtful about the woman he loved. But it is important that he does drink martinis because they are part of him. But I think we owe it to the film to make it as fresh as possible because people will have it for the first time as opposed to an old gag that is just repeated."

Craig, 40, is contracted to do two more films but after the shoulder and other injuries he sustained on this one, he laughs when it's suggested his future in the role might come down to an argument between his agent and his physiotherapist.

"Something like that. Just age I think will wither me. I am contracted for two more. I would love to do another one beyond that. I can't ... it's like planning the next 10 years. Who of us does that unless we are the communist party?"

Well, you can bet the evil organisation with the name "Quantum" is doing some long-term thinking about shortening Bond's future and maybe he should stick around for a while yet.

After all, Craig might be getting bashed around, but his spy skills are improving.

"I'm not a bad shot. You'll have to ask the guy who trains me. There are two things that come into this. In the right conditions I am a pretty good driver and in the right conditions I can shoot straight but being fired at or being chased by somebody who is firing at you in a car - I can't do all that.

"On a firing range I can draw and fire two shots and get one there and there," he says pointing to his head and sternum. "It's f***-all use to me but it's good to know."

- NZ Herald

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