An exclusive look inside the making of Quantum of Solace, and Daniel Craig's next turn at playing superspy James Bond.
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Fortunately, Craig's nearly naked love scenes proved far less treacherous. "I'm an actor, so I've been an exhibitionist since as long as I can remember . . . they always help make the shoot a little easier," he says, laughing again. But as for his newly crowned sex symbol status, Craig is far less at ease. "I mean, I'm very touched by all that and it's very nice, but you need to have a sense of humor about it," muses the notoriously private Craig. "On the one hand, it's very flattering, but it also doesn't have much relevance in my life. I live with somebody [producer Satsuki Mitchell], so all my energy goes into our relationship."
However, that didn't stop actress Gemma Arterton—who plays Bond Girl "Agent Fields" (whose first name will be revealed in the film as a classic double-O-seven entendre)—from fulfilling her Daniel Craig fantasy with a steamy between-the-sheets liaison. "It was like a dream," gushes the ginger-haired 22-year-old about their love scene. "But I couldn't believe they scheduled it for my first day on set! I was sooooooo nervous, I can hardly remember it now. We had to do take after take after take, and each time I was just like, 'Goodness me, I can't believe this is actually happening' . . . it all felt so surreal." But now, in hindsight, Arterton admits director Forster made the right decision. "Doing that scene right off the bat before Daniel and I got to know each other was probably best; otherwise it would've felt weird—like I was kissing my brother or something. "Although I must say," Arterton adds with a sly smile, "Daniel is a very good kisser!"
Craig may send female hearts aflutter and exude an undeniable 007 "cool factor," but what does he consider his least Bondian trait? Craig chuckles, and sinks down in his chair. "I guess I tend to giggle a lot . . . probably way too much," he confesses, looking a little sheepish. "I like practical jokes and I like to have fun and I guess I really laugh and giggle too much and I tend to get in trouble for it . . . I guess that's not very Bond-like."
But Craig admits he often refers to the original source material for inspiration in his continuing interpretation of James Bond. "While we were shooting Quantum, I went back and reread the Fleming novels again, and started making further assessments about how [the author] perceived the character," explains Craig. "And the James Bond he writes is an emotional character; he's not just a robot. Obviously that's what we tried to get more of into this movie—you know, that he loves good food, he loves beautiful locations, he loves beautiful women. He has a genuine love for life's best. But he's also very ruthless. And so those two things together are interesting in the way that those two aspects of his personality knock off each other. The remorse that he has and doesn't have about certain things I think are really interesting and worth exploring more of in this film."
However, some of Bond's notorious habits haven't survived into this twenty-first-century incarnation. "I'm still amazed that Fleming wrote a Bond who smoked 60 unfiltered Morland cigarettes a day—that truly will kill you before any villain could," laughs Craig, who quit smoking himself while getting in shape for Casino Royale. "I just wouldn't have been able to run three miles down a road and then be tearing through the jungle and jumping over walls . . ." Although he still enjoys the occasional cigar, he says he's thankful Casino Royale forced him to quit his pack-a-day cigarette habit. Rest assured, however, 007 hasn't gone completely politically correct. "The drinking is still there, that sort of 'Dutch courage,'" smiles Craig. "It's funny, but I remember reading Moonraker, and Bond goes out to play cards at a club with the bad guy and he orders from MI6 some Benzedrine, which is basically speed. Bond then mixes that in with Dom Pérignon and that's how he starts the night," Craig marvels. "He then talks about how, during the evening, how jagged he's getting because he didn't get the mix right." Craig laughs in disbelief. "But I absolutely love that, because it plays into the fact that the guy is flawed. He's not perfect. Sometimes he gets things wrong and there are weaknesses in him. And I think those are the kinds of interesting things to put into the movie."
And Quantum of Solace certainly remains faithful to the brutality and violence of the books, because as Craig points out, it's all in context. "With the violence in the last movie, it was also very important that we showed the consequences of it," he states. "But we take it very responsibly—glamorizing violence is wrong. But it's James Bond—they are violent films about violent people. That's what these stories are all about—plain and simple."
One rainy summer evening, director Marc Forster screens a collection of various finished scenes at a private Soho screening room. He's still in the midst of editing, but from what he's assembled so far, Quantum of Solace indeed invokes a glorious '60s style reminiscent of such series classics as From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. The action has never been so frenetic, and the drama never so textured and nuanced. And sure to thrill Bond fans are a couple of surprise "winks" to past Bond hallmarks. "I just felt that I had to pay homage to the legacy," acknowledges Forster with a proud smile. "I'm really glad I did the movie I wanted to do," adds Forster once the lights come up. "So if it fails, it's my responsibility. But I never approached this film as trying to top Casino Royale. I've never approached a film like I'm making it for millions of people. I had to approach it as a film I would love. If I set out to make a film for masses of people to love and to be bigger than Casino Royale, it would be a failure."
Pointing to the screen, Forster adds proudly, "I'm really excited about this . . . it feels right and truthful to me. And that's the only way to make a film." Having now successfully written a completely new and unexpected chapter in the legendary 007 history, Craig remains committed to his world-famous alter ego. "It's certainly starting to seem that way," he says. "If everything goes well, and people still want to see the movies, then I'll keep doing them for as long as it holds. "Or until my knees go—whichever happens first!" laughs Craig.
David Giammarco is a print and broadcast journalist based in Los Angeles and Toronto. He interviewed Kevin Costner for the August 2008 issue of Cigar Aficionado.