Daniel Craig :: Bond’s ’First Time?’
Homoerotic elements have long been missing from the James Bond series. "Skyfall," in U.S. theaters this week after a record-breaking opening in Europe, may be the game-changer in this regard. As the Hollywood Reporter recently noted, the moment occurs in "a pivotal -- and sure to be talked-about -- scene that finds Bond tied to a chair by Javier Bardem's flamboyant villain character (named Silva), there is a wink-wink, arched-eyebrow exchange between the two, in which Bardem slowly unbuttons Craig's shirt and the famously libidinous agent smiles as he hints at maybe having had previous experience in same-sex carnal relations."
"What makes you think this is my first time?" Daniel Craig tells Bardem as he works his hands over him.
Bond a butt boy? The scene has led many to wonder if 007 had a closeted past because the script was co-written by John Logan, the out-writer of last year's hit "Hugo" and the stage hit "Red." ("Some people claim it's because I'm, in fact, gay but not true at all," Logan told the Hollywood Reporter.)
A gay past?
Craig, also, doesn’t see this as indicating that Bond has a gay past. "When asked about the moment last month, star Craig shot down any thought to Bond being bisexual," the Huffington Post reported.
"What are you going to do?" Craig said at a press conference for the film. "I don’t see the world in sexual divisions." Craig then added that while some have suggested Bardem’s Silva might be homosexual, he didn’t agree. ’I’m like, I think he’ll fuck anything.’"
For Craig, what makes the scene so memorable is Bardem.
"What’s great about Javier’s performance is that he plays it for real," Craig continued. "He plays it to the limit and he never forgets he’s playing a Bond villain and that’s a testament to how good an actor he is. I love that scene. It makes me laugh. I hope it makes you laugh."
Most of the classic Bond villains admire or envy 007 in some way, so it’s natural for Silva to add a lusty element. "Skyfall" sure gives Craig a chance to flex. Craig credits the filmmakers with making him look tough when he fights the bad guys.
"I started rehearsing those scenes well before we started shooting and the fight sequences are worked out very carefully - they’re choreographed. I’m not a fighter. I pretend to be one. It’s called bullshit boxing. But we try and make it look good. We talk camera angle. We talk about how to best take advantage of the situation. We watch and we look. (For instance) we say this fist looks good going into this face... It’s a lot of work with a lot of skilled people."
Chasing bad guys
"Skyfall" has an intricate plot about the current security of MI-6 and its vulnerabilities to blowback. It also, of course, Bond chasing a lot of bad guys, something Craig really isn’t wild about. "I had to do a lot of sprinting and running in this movie, which I hate. I end up doing a day’s filming which on paper should look fairly easy. I don’t have any dialogue. It says, ’Bond goes from A to B, then he goes from B to C; but he goes from A to B at a lick. He runs down the stairs, he runs up the stairs. And we had to do 10 takes at a time, so by the end of it [I was exhausted.] Bond doesn’t usually walk through a room. Why can’t he just gracefully go through? We’ll have to change that."
Ever since "Dr. No" and "Thunderball," Bond has frequently had underwater adventures. "Skyfall" is no exception, but the latest technology for shooting under the sea (or rather the tank at Pinewood Studios) gives Craig some added creature comforts.
"Actually, it’s actually my favorite bit (of filmmaking) because the great thing about doing those underwater scenes is that no one can find you. When we’re not shooting, I swim to the bottom. It’s a huge great big tank at Pinewood, like 30 feet deep, and I just sink to the bottom, put the respirator in and hide. It’s so great. Sometimes I fall asleep. You can actually get some sleep down there. It’s just kind of wonderful being underwater. Then I hear a voice saying, ’Where’s Daniel?’"
Back to Fleming
The newer element to the Bond films began in "Casino Royale," which leapt from the original Ian Fleming novel to develop the tortured nature of Bond’s persona. "Quantum of Solace" continued his turmoil and "Skyfall" introduces some brand new trauma to 007, which we won’t spoil. Craig takes pride in the character and story-telling depths his films have brought to the 50-year-old franchise.
"Nobody told me that we couldn’t make an action film with a good story. We always go back to Fleming when we sit and discuss. If you look at the novels, he’s so conflicted. Fleming tries to kill him off. He gets really pissed at [Bond]. And he’s a killer. He kills for a living. It’s really kind of a dark place he goes to. But what I’m so proud about this movie is that the writing is so good." (The script was written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and the previously-mentioned Logan.)
"The lightness of touch is back that we wanted so much - I mean I wanted, we all desperately wanted - but you need good writing for that. Hopefully what we’ve done, we have that and we’ve combined it with a very emotional story."
That said, Craig put on a brave face when it came to his emotional scenes in "Skyfall." "I don’t cry, that’s sweat," he joked. "I just think that good action movies have good story lines. We all approached this as filmmakers and therefore the idea was to make the best movie we can. Then there are the Bond rules that apply. We have to stay in those boundaries and make sure that we remember that it’s a Bond movie. Again, just harking back to what I said earlier about Fleming: it’s in the books. He’s complicated."
Perhaps because Craig has such a working knowledge of Bond’s characters is shown in the trust the filmmakers have with his input. "They employed me. They know what kind of actor I am. I go, ’I think he’s sad here. I’m going to play sad.’ If you balance it right, it should work. It doesn’t always work; but if you get it right, you get the balance right, you can see into it. I don’t think I play him as someone who wears his heart on his sleeve. Most of the movie I think he either thinks he’s in control or is in control. It’s just allowing those cracks in to see into the character I bit I think is worth doing."
"Skyfall" marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films. "Dr. No" was released in 1962. Some of "Skyfall" was a callback to the classic Sean Connery films, though with a modern touch of course.
"Certainly the conversations we all had at the beginning was (about) it is 50 years. We needed to mark it and to make the best Bond movie we possibly could. To reintroduce and introduce some new ideas but just to celebrate it a little bit. I’d be lying if I was saying we weren’t influenced by movies like ’Goldfinger’ for sure."
Craig’s Bond meets Q (Ben Whishaw) for the first time in "Skyfall," but Q doesn’t hand him a set of gadgets like the old days. This Q is a techie, and actually thinks he can do more with his computers than Bond can do in the field.
"It’s an interesting point because the fact of it is that people talk about gadgets all the time, but if you look at the original gadgets, what was sexy about them is Bond took out a box, stuck it on a door and pressed a button, the red light came on. That’s kind of sexy. It did something, but to have Bond on a computer, at a screen I think is fucking boring. I think technology on the whole is boring, but what I love about this is that we brought Ben in and he is a computer wiz. We have this clash of the two worlds. Together there’s a potential there to make a really great team. It just means Bond doesn’t have to be dealing with technology. We very deliberately have kept the gadgets simple, and we use them. We don’t just sort of put them in extraneously. They’re used in the movie and they’re actually very important plot points. That’s my instinct about them, that we should use them when we need them but not have them for the sake of it."
Two more films
In real life, Craig has put a few of his Bond accouterments to use for good. He offers wardrobe and signed memorabilia to charity auctions, but he’s modest about it. "I think if it can do some good then that’s great. I keep a few suits, I keep a few shirts, I sign them, I keep them in the collection and when someone asks me to contribute to a charity or an auction event, I just give them and we try to raise as much money. If we can use that power like that I will."
Craig has signed on for at least two more Bond films after "Skyfall." His original contract was for three, and he’d originally been conservative about sticking to a trilogy. Now he’s ready for more. "I’ve changed my mind. I think that when [producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson] approached me originally I was just a little bewildered that they would even come to me. It wasn’t really on my radar. Of course I suppose I was concerned about being typecast but when you weigh it up, it’s not a bad thing to be typecast as James Bond, is it really? I say that now, yeah. It’s easier now. I’m incredibly proud and lucky to be in the position I’m in here. Especially to have made this film when (the series) is 50 years old. As soon as we get the script, I’ll be really up for doing number four. Hopefully this’ll be a success and we’ll have some momentum."
"Skyfall" opens Friday.
Watch the trailer for Skyfall: