The reception to Quantam Of Solace hasn’t been half as glowing as Casino Royale. Perhaps that’s why Daniel Craig is smiling so hard… Daniel Craig seems to be on something of a charm offensive this morning. Perhaps it’s got something to do with his frosty appearance on Jonathan Ross’ talkshow last week. Or the fact that the world doesn’t seem quite so excited and delighted with the latest 007 outing, Quantam Of Solace, as they were with Craig’s debut as James Bond, 2006’s Casino Royale. Either way, Craig is all smiles. Laughing along with Breakfast Show presenters. Turning his smile up to 11 when the MTV himbo asks him about his favourite shoe size. What an actor. When Daniel Craig stepped out to meet the press for Casino Royale, he was quietly gracious in his moment of spectacular victory. The critical acclaim – and inevitable box-office-pounding success ($594.2m, to be precise) – of Casino Royale tasted especially sweet to its leading man, given just how much grief and protest he’d endured when it was first announced in November 2005 that this striking, blond-haired character actor from Chester was taking over the role from our own Pierce Brosnan. The website www.craignotbond.com has long ceased to exist, and the man whose face somehow manages to make a 50/50 mix of Cary Grant and Sid James work, is no longer doubted in the world’s most iconic movie role. The problem with making such a darn fine debut though, as many an overnight sensation will tell you, is following it up. Do you give people more of the same, and risk being dismissed as the same old thing? Or do you try for something daringly new, and risk disappointing those who, yep, wanted more of the same? Sitting pretty in his Dorchester hotel room – and somehow managing to look even cooler than usual with his right arm in a black sling (thanks to a damaged shoulder) – Craig clearly realises the difficulties of choosing to give people what they need rather than what they want. He and director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball) were determined from the start to try and take Bond “somewhere new”, and they’ve come up with the meanest, leanest (and, at 105mins, shortest) Bond outing yet. It’s also the most expensive ($200m-plus) of all the Bond outings, boasts the biggest amount of globetrotting, and is the first direct-sequel in 007’s 46 years on screen. “We had to make something different,” says Craig, flatly, “and we were given the opportunity, and also given the freedom, by the producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, who understood that we needed to make the best movie that we could, and we couldn’t do that by repeating something. “We had to start afresh, but, obviously, we’ve done a sequel, which ties the two together. Stylistically, and the feel of the movie – how we shot it, and where we shot it – all of those things came into it, and Marc Forster was as keen as I was to do something as different but as Bond-like as possible.” Perhaps inevitably, given that it would be nigh on impossible to recapture the thrill of seeing a new Bond take it back to basics, Quantam Of Solace hasn’t been wowing the critics (including our own cuddly curmudgeon, George Byrne) half as much as Casino Royale. Still, you’ve got to admire Craig for attempting to push boundaries once again. Given that it’s exactly three years ago this month that the 40-year old actor got the call from Bond producer Barbara Broccoli – whilst he was shopping in Whole Foods, Baltimore, Maryland – telling him that he’d gotten the part, and that it was now, “Over to you, kiddo”, does Craig still feel that same rush when he steps forward as 007? “It’s like all things,” he says, “when those things happen there’s always a slight anti-climax, isn’t there? You go, ‘Okay, how am I going to deal with this?’, but it has been a rush since then. It’s been a rush with Casino, and it’s been an exhilarating experience, making this movie, watching it, all those things. “But, getting back to it, and working with some of the same people that I’ve been working with for a while now, that’s the biggest kick I get, honestly, out of making these films.” Unlike Connery, Moore, Brosnan, Lazenby and Niven, Daniel Craig had a pretty much glittering career before he signed on the 007 dotted line. His star was steadily rising, thanks to acclaimed performances in such outings as Our Friends In The North (1996), Love Is The Devil (’98), Road To Perdition (2002), Sylvia (’03) and Munich (’05). Since becoming Bond, Craig has been determined to prove that he’s more than just a curiously handsome face, with movies such as Infamous (’06), Flashbacks Of A Fool (’08) and the upcoming, Oscar-buzzed Defiance (also ’08). Craig even found the time to produce Flashbacks too. Impressive, given that being Bond’s representative here on earth must be a 25-hours a day job. “It kind of has to be that, you know,” he states. “I get completely obsessed – that’s the best way to put it – and so, as soon as it’s finished, I have to go and decompress, and not think about Bond, and drink and eat, and do all these other things. Like read a book, which I don’t get a chance to do. Or watch movies. I just catch up with life, and remember that there are other things more important.” Having made his big-screen debut in 1962, with Dr. No, James Bond is perhaps cinema’s longest-running franchise. Certainly, he’s the most lucrative, and consistently productive, Quantam Of Solace being the 22nd official Bond outing, coming at a time when each new release has been setting box-office records. I ask Craig how has James Bond managed not only to survive the last 46 years on screen, but thrive? “I couldn’t tell you what that reason was. I wish I knew, because then we could just keep on tapping into that. I know that, what the producers have always done is to try and stick the money on the screen. And you do that, as best you can, so that every time there’s a new movie, it’s special, and it feels special, and you feel that, as an audience, you’re being taken somewhere. If you can do that, and maintain that, with a good character, a good story… “Sean Connery knocked it out of the park, and has given it the impetus to last this long. So, any number of reasons, but God knows why.” Time – and a grumpy-looking PR girl – is pressing down on us, so, no time to ask Craig about the crash, bangs and wallops that plagued the Quantam shoot (deep breath: stunt driver Aris Comninos almost getting killed; an engineer driving an Aston Martin into Lake Garda, and almost drowning; a set almost burning to the ground; the Bolivian government accusing the filmmakers of typecasting; a Chilean town mayor trying to shut down production; oh, and Craig losing a fingertip, and getting eight stitches to his face – Quantam Of Solace; crazy name, crazy accident-prone production). Instead, I quickly ask Craig about a recent tabloid interview, in which he allegedly stated that he didn’t see another Bond movie happening anytime soon because of the current economic climate… “I don’t think I said that. I said that ‘I would love there to be another Bond anytime soon, but there’s an economic climate at the moment’, and that sentence just got turned around. No matter what happens, we’ll do our best. We’ll make one for fifty thousand dollars, and knock it off on a beach somewhere.” And what of the increasing similarities between the Bond outings and the great Bourne trilogy? For Quantam, director Marc Forster has even employed Bourne’s second unit director, Dan Bradley, and one of its editors, amongst others. Puts into a new light Matt Damon’s statement that Bond “is an imperialist and a misogynist. He kills people and laughs and sips martinis, and wisecracks about it’. Doesn’t feel like Craig’s Bond is that guy anymore… “That’s what it says in the script,” Craig laughs. “I’m not going to get into an argument with a supposed quote from Matt Damon, because, whether he said it or not, is irrelevant. “Bond has moved on from the post Second World War situation. The Cold War’s over, and there’s a bigger fight now. Simply put, James Bond and Jason Bourne have very similar sort of deals in life – they’re trying to find the bad guys. Full stop. How they do it is the difference…” Words : Paul Byrne Quantam Of Solace is now showing in Irish Cinemas everywhere! Check Movies.ie next week for video interviews with the Bond cast and crew!