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Give us an Irish Bond baddie

Michael Fassbender must be gutted. Last year, he was a rumoured shoe-in to take on 007 after Daniel Craig insinuated a potential exit from the spy franchise. The Shame star spent months fending off queries, straining to hide the glee behind feigned indifference when faced with the news that Craig himself had given the Killarney-raised actor his blessing.

But alas, it wasn't meant to be. Daniel's brokered a deal for two more films, possibly even more. Poor Michael must be heartbroken. "I know I talk sh*t in interviews but quite honestly, 'He's welcome to it,' is what I actually said," the Bond star points out, grinning widely

"That's not giving my blessing, is it? Michael's a fantastic actor and would make a great Bond, I'm sure. But if anyone's getting into sh*t for that, it's you lot, not me! I'll keep going as long as I can. I'm contracted for two more and that seems like a fair few. Let's see if people go see this movie and if we get a chance to make another one.

"Most importantly, I'm not going to outstay my welcome. I'm 44, maybe I'll feel that when I get to 44-and-three-quarters, I'm too old for the part," he chuckles. "So someone else will have the chance to have a swing at this."

Jokes

A one-time prickly interviewee, Craig's distinctly cheerful today, laughing and cracking jokes in a dated suite at London's Dorchester. At one point, he undoes the top button of his shirt, saying: "I can loosen my tie, we're not filming this, are we?"

And what cause should he have for complaint. Skyfall, his third outing as the iconic spy, is being hailed as 'one of the best of the Bond franchise', with critics giving the father of one some of the finest reviews of his career.

For an actor who likes to maintain diversity in his craft, however, most recently Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, why sign on for more Bonds?

"Money," he drolly offers, breaking quickly into laughter. "No, not in the slightest. I love playing him, it's an honour and I really get a kick out of doing it.

"I had an opportunity when I did Casino Royale to wipe the slate clean. It was the first Bond book, obviously not the first film and I'm a huge fan of what was done before, but it gave me a chance to bring something new to the table. And by introducing new and old characters into this movie, we've got somewhere to go and that's incredibly exciting."

In Skyfall, helmed by Oscar-winner, Sam Mendes, Bond finds his loyalty to MI6 boss, M, played by Judi Dench, pushed to the limit when she calls for the investigation into dangerous villain Raoul Silva (a scene-stealing Javier Bardem) after the identities of every government agent are leaked onto the internet.

And despite sizzling support from Naomie Harris and French siren, Berenice Marlohe, it's Craig's intense scenes with Bardem which create the real heat, thanks to some rather suggestive eh, thigh rubbing. "It was very funny, both Javier and I were laughing so much doing it and we pushed it further than we intended. It's one of those moments where they are f***ing with each other and to have these adversaries playing mental poker together is great."



STEAMY

Throughout the movie, which celebrates 50 years of the franchise, Daniel bares his toned chest more often than ever, including a steamy shower scene with Marlohe.

"I take my clothes off in this film more than I did in Casino Royale," the star, married to actress Rachel Weisz, explains. "If it keeps going at this rate, I'm a little concerned for the follow-up."

While Fassbender may be left waiting, there's nothing to say the rest of us have to suffer. After half a century, surely Bond's due a visit to our shores?

"Has he not been to Ireland? Well, you had your Irish Bond in Pierce [Brosnan] for a while, doesn't that cover you for the time being? It's not a bad idea though, I love Ireland and I love to visit the country whether I'm working or not really.

"Think I'd like to see an Irish Bond villain though, now that'd be quite interesting."

Skyfall is in cinemas. Read George Byrne's verdict, page 45


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