Daniel Craig roars back into cinemas today in Spectre. It's his fourth time as James Bond and the second 007 film with director Sam Mendes after Skyfall, a film which, like Craig's debut in Casino Royale, ended in tragedy for cinema's greatest spy.
Like Skyfall, Spectre delves into Bond history while keeping it contemporary in its modern espionage story and in the roles of its female characters.
Here, the star talks about surviving the latest movie. In the following pages, his Spectre co-stars ponder their roles as the shiny new cogs in the Bond machine.
This time around, in Spectre, Bond seems more conflicted and more sensitive than before ...
I think my Bond has always been a bit more conflicted and a bit more sensitive because anyone who is in extreme situations, with lots of people and loved ones dying around them, is going to be quite sensitive and conflicted. But I try to make him appear real too. So it's about seeing someone conflicted and knocked back and how they rise to the challenge. That, for me, is what this part is about and hopefully, in between, there are bits of swerving and suaveness, shooting and fighting.
What's the truth to you saying you'd rather slash your wrists than do another Bond movie?
The truth is that, two days after I'd finished an eight-month shoot, someone asked me if I wanted to do another Bond movie and I said: "As of this moment, I'd rather slash my wrists." But I'd challenge anybody to give a straight or sensible answer to a question like that so soon after finishing a film like this. Unfortunately, now I find I'm constantly defending myself against that. But that's the modern world we live in: you say something like that and it has legs - even though it was said on the spur of the moment. As for the future, I really don't know. I have no idea if this is or isn't my last one because I genuinely haven't given it any thought. I know that's not what you want to hear but that's the truth. Also, I'm human and I change my mind. We all change our minds, 10 times a day. It's unrealistic to think we don't.
Lea Seydoux and Daniel Craig feature on the cover of this week's TimeOut:
With each film's stunts getting bigger and you getting older, how do you cope with the challenge of doing all the action sequences?
Well, I don't. I got badly injured just three months into shooting, during the train fight scene with Dave [Bautista]. I had to have surgery, so we stopped filming for two weeks. I got Dave back though, so we're even, But getting injured actually worked in our favour because everything shut down for two weeks and everybody got to see their families, which was a big deal after being away from them for such a long time. When I got back everyone was a bit fresher. Also, [director] Sam [Mendes] got a chance to go into the editing suite and have a look at the movie, as a whole, and he could see that we were heading in the right direction.
Are you less gung-ho now, as a result of the accident?
I'd love to be more gung-ho but I'm told not to be. It's frustrating because I'd like to do every stunt and be in every fight sequence but, after the accident, I've had to slow down and be much more mature about it. I have great stunt guys, so if there's a situation where it's too dangerous, or they can make it look better than me doing it, then they'll do it and I'll just get my face in the right place, when needed. But if I can hang off the side of something, I'll do it and I'll try and make it look as dangerous as I possibly can.
As a co-producer on Spectre, how has your role changed?
It means that, right from conception, I've been involved with this film, helping Sam [Mendes] with the script, the look and feel of the movie, the design of the poster and even the choice of clothing. But I've been lucky enough to be involved in all of these movies, right back to Casino. I remember saying to [producers] Barbara [Broccoli] and Michael [G. Wilson] that if they want me to do my job properly and pretend to be this guy, which is weird as hell to try and do, then I need to feel like I'm a part of the whole film, not just an actor. So they let me. Really, all it means is that I get to open my big mouth, whether they like it or not, and tell them what I think. So, with this one, I've been honoured with the title of co-producer when in fact it should say Bigmouth Dan, because that's what I am.
Did you have a say on what Bond wears?
I did, actually. Although I'm not into fashion, at all - I just can't get my head around it - I love tailoring. I think it's because my grandfather was a master tailor, so it's kind of in my head. If I see tailoring in suits or dresses it really impresses me. So that part of this I really get a kick out of.
Was it your decision to cast Monica Bellucci, especially as she's the oldest Bond girl ever?
I wish I could say that there was some huge effort on my part to put someone like her in the movie, as a political statement, but the reality is that's not why we did it. When we were looking at the part, Monica's name came up and she was perfect for it because, age aside, she's a beautiful, incredibly talented, intelligent actress who speaks five languages. So, that's why we chose her. Then she came in, threw herself into the role and is wonderful. Although she's the oldest Bond girl ever, in a way it's a shame that we have to have this conversation about her age because actresses, like Monica, should be used all the time. It was an incredible pleasure having her in the film and I hope it's going to push her career further on.
Lea Seydoux, who stars as your love interest, Dr Madeleine Swann, is also a very different Bond girl; she's feisty, free-spirited and more an equal than previous Bond girls have been ...
Now, that was deliberate, that was very deliberate. Early Bond movies were pretty sexist - that's the way they were written and that's the way the world was - but we're not in that world anymore, thankfully. So, with Lea's role we wanted her to challenge me and be more my equal. But Lea's part became stronger and stronger as we went along because she came along and she put what she knew into it. We wanted it to be a conflict and a love story between the two of them, because the best love stories start with conflict, so that's what we did.
Who do you think the ultimate Bond girl is?
Well this will seem terribly sexist, especially after what I've just said about trying to make Bond less sexist, but I'd love to have played Bond opposite Pussy Galore, just so I could say "Pussy Galore" to her! [laughs] I guess that blows everything I've just said, because it does sound incredibly sexist. But Pussy Galore is my favourite Bond girl and Honor Blackman, who played her, was fantastic. I actually believe, out of all the Bond girls, that she's the strongest because she gives as good as she gets in the movies.
Who: Daniel Craig as James Bond
What: Spectre, the 24th Bond movie
When: Opens at cinemas today