Wednesday 26 June 2019

I reckon I never had that much sex as a kid

Suave Daniel Craig takes a break from 007 to film a nostalgic comedy that reminds him -- a bit -- of his teen years, writes Evan Fanning

Ewan Fanning

RATHER appropriately for someone just named 'Britain's best-dressed man' for the second year running by GQ magazine, Daniel Craig bursts into the room wearing the kind of old English check suit that wouldn't go amiss on James Bond himself.

But then, since it was announced in 2005 that Craig was to succeed Pierce Brosnan as 007, their personalities have slowly become intertwined with one another. At least that's how it can appear from the outside.

"What's the occasion?" the dressed-up Craig is asked by one of the many journalists awaiting their interview with the 40-year-old.

"Seeing you c**ts," he replies instantly.

The comment is met with laughter, but in the eyes of those present you can see they are wondering exactly which Daniel Craig is present. Is it the man deeply suspicious of the press, prone to gruff and defensive answers; or is it the affable actor from northern England, who until relatively recently had worked hard without ever achieving the level of stardom that Bond has afforded him?

It turns out to be the latter. Craig is relaxed -- he's 10 days into shooting the new Bond movie and all the stress and strain of preparation has finally been put behind him. He's also extremely comfortable discussing his latest project, Flashbacks of a Fool, a slice of nostalgia a world away from the gadgets and explosions of Bond. It's written and directed by his closest friend, Baillie Walsh, a first-time feature director but the man responsible for such seminal music videos as Massive Attack's Unfinished Symphony.

Craig plays a Joe Scott, a burnt-out Hollywood actor who, as the film opens, is taking part in a cocaine-fuelled threesome.

It's not all bad, then, but with his career on the rocks the news that one of his childhood friends has passed away sends Scott trawling back to a summer from his youth, when he was a teenager in Britain. It was a summer of glam rock, romance, sexual exploration and hot nights by the sea.

The young Joe (played by Harry Eden) falls for a girl his own age (the stunning Felicity Jones) but also has a disastrous relationship with an older woman. That relationship played a significant part in the formation of the older, desperate Joe.

"It's supposed to look like it's that endless summer we all had when we were kids," Craig explains. "But with that much sex though? I don't know? I don't think that ever happened. Maybe in my mind ... "

He trawls off laughing. Has James Bond just admitted he had troubles attracting girls? I think he might.

The role of the grown-up Joe Scott was written by Walsh with Craig in mind. Craig's also an executive producer, so you might assume that there are some truths in the character of the washed-up Scott.

Not exactly, Craig protests, but he does admit that he "can relate to him". Having fairly recently found himself mixing in the upper echelons of Hollywood life, he has witnessed the levels of self-obsession that are comically evident in the character of Scott.

"If you go off on that wrong path and don't deal with it, it will find its way back to you," he says. "There are plenty of lovely people in this business, it's just who you choose, but you've got to choose. If you just let your life run away then you'll be surrounded by a bunch of c**ts. But that's a choice you make."

Craig's swearing is becoming a recurring element of the interview. He's notorious for it, but even he seems to have noticed how frequent it is.

"I sound like f**king Les Dawson," he laughs. "At least I can swear now," he says as he attempts some justification. "I've been doing television interviews [the real reason for the extravagant suit] and they said: 'Please don't swear, this is all pre-watershed'. And all I can think about is the swear words in my head. It's like having Tourette's."

Flashbacks of a Fool is a nice antidote to the circus of Bond, a pleasant interlude to a practically all-encompassing role and character unlike any other. The next instalment, Quantum of Solace -- Craig's second following the hugely successful Casino Royale -- is now deep into shooting in South America.

Rumour has it that when Craig has finished the shoot he will marry his girlfriend, film-producer Satsuki Mitchell, 11 years younger than him.

He has a 15-year-old daughter, Ella, from a two-year marriage to jazz singer Harley Loudon, which ended in 1994. Ella's privacy is one of the main reasons Craig is occasionally unwilling to engage the press. He also reasons that he's an actor, not a politician, so why should anyone care what he has to say?

Born in Cheshire in 1968, he grew up in Liverpool. While still a teenager he moved to London to train at the National Youth Theatre.

He later graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and had a role in the BBC TV series Our Friends in the North. Film roles followed and he soon began to win critical claim -- if not yet widespread public acknowledgement.

He played George Dyer in the Francis Bacon biopic Love is the Devil -- on the set he befriended Baillie Walsh, whose then-boyfriend John Maybury was directing.

In 2001 he starred in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider alongside Angelina Jolie. It introduced him to an international audience and he followed it up with a role in Road to Perdition and Munich.

In between, he starred in the 2004 British gangster movie Layer Cake. He was rumoured to have a relationship with his co-star Sienna Miller while on set.

That same year he also began seeing Kate Moss. Despite his rapidly growing profile, it was billed at the time by the press as Kate Moss seeing "an unknown actor".

The relationship lasted four months and there were claims that Craig said that the supermodel was "too wild" for him. The scrutiny he came under while in that relationship was his first glimpse of what life now throws at him on a daily basis. It was not something he enjoyed.

It may seem strange now but when, in 2005, it was announced that Craig was to be the sixth James Bond the general consensus was that he wasn't suave or attractive enough for the role.

The tabloids called him 'Superwimp Daniel Craig' and 'James Bland'. Bond-fanatics on the internet threatened to boycott the movie unless Craig was removed.

He wasn't, and Casino Royale became the highest-grossing James Bond film of all time, and it is largely assumed that Craig was the driving force behind Bond taking on more emotional characteristics than he ever had previously, something which the movie's great success is attributed to.

In the meantime he's on a nostalgia trip thanks to Flashbacks of a Fool, reminiscing on his teenage years, his musical indulgences and, as Craig recently recalled, his first kiss.

"You can remember those feelings of, 'Oh my God, we're touching!' You'd read about it in magazines but nothing could prepare you, and then suddenly, 'Oh my God, I'm doing it!'

"Those moments at 15 define the rest of your life. Everything starts firing, suddenly the electricity starts, the connectors start happening ... you might be going to have sex at some point. And it's a huge emotional turmoil. It certainly was for me."

It's not something you'd ever expect to hear James Bond admitting. Not before his emotional side was revealed anyway.

'Flashbacks of a Fool' is in cinemas nationwide from Friday, April 18

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