Protecting James Bond

The opening scene of Quantum of Solace features Daniel Craig, brooding and temperamental, in a high-stakes car chase. But in person, Craig is chatty, jovial and politically correct – more of a British ambassador than an assassin.

“Good morning!” Craig says as he rushes into a conference room in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Downtown Miami. “Hello, nice to see you. How are you?”

The five journalists in attendance do not answer the question. Instead, they smile, shake Craig’s right hand and stare at his left arm, which is in a sling.

Within seconds, the journalists begin taking turns, asking questions of their own.

One of the first: Being a sex symbol, how important was it to show more skin in this movie? To Craig, it’s more of a question for his female costars, who bare more than Bond.

“Obviously I work out and keep fit,” he says. “There’s some narcissism involved, I won’t deny it. But that’s not the reason I make these films.”

Craig’s real incentive goes beyond 007’s hot rides and toxic martinis; his role provides artistic satisfaction both in front of and behind the lens. The actor has input in the script.

“To be given the chance to make a movie like this as an actor, artist and filmmaker is a privilege,” he says. “I grab it with both hands and see what we can do with it.”

It’s a grip Craig doesn’t relinquish until the last day of production.

“Once you finish the movie, you have to hand it over to the director. He’s the one telling the story,” Craig says. “I look at the movie and I can’t remember the other stuff we did [that was left out]. I have to wait for the DVD extras because it’s gone from my memory.”

But if an actor forgets hours upon hours of shooting scenes, does it suggest that the demands of playing Bond take a mental toll?

“Yes,” Craig says. “But what effort shouldn’t take a bit of a mental toll? Otherwise you haven’t really experienced anything. I’m tired at the end of the shoot, but I go on holiday and I go back to my family and friends and hopefully I become normal again.”

If all goes as planned for Quantum at the box office, Craig will play Bond at least twice more. The actor is contracted to make four Bond films, the first of which was 2006’s Casino Royale. Based on his debut as 007, critics from publications like Rolling Stone have called him “the best Bond since Sean Connery,” who originated the role in 1962. Craig confesses that he takes his cues from earlier Bond movies.

“I think what Sean Connery did was develop an incredibly strong character from the books, but made him into a very edgy man,” he says. “I would never copy what was done… I just put my take on it. I aim to protect it.”