Bond talks Blomkvist
It may be the season of festive cheer but David Fincher and his cast and crew are set to unleash a very different kind of Christmas movie as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hits cinemas from the 26th of December. We talk to Daniel Craig about his take on the book, the character of Lisbeth Salander and how he caught the acting bug.
Q: What appealed to you most about making this movie?
A: I think that David Fincher was the first touching point, but also the script by Steve Zaillian. I knew the books and I knew how popular they were, and certainly how good the first one was. I had read that in seconds. I was really, really impressed by what Steven had done with the script and combining that with David and the fact that Sony was happy to make this a movie for grown-up audiences, it was too tempting.
Q: Had you read the books before your involvement in the film?
A: Yes, and they’re wonderful bits of popular literature. What got me the most was when the first book started hitting the top of the best-seller lists and you would walk around airports and the cross-section of people that were reading it was so surprising, from teenage girls to 80-year-old men and women. These books seem to have a mass appeal, which was unexplainable, until I had read them, and then I got it. A lot of it is down to Lisbeth Salander and the complexity of that character. She just makes a great hero.
Q: Why do you think that the Lisbeth Salander character is so appealing?
A: I think that one of the main reasons is that she is a victim and she has had a really rough time. Life has dealt her a pretty rough deck of cards but she is very intelligent and bright and the way she has decided to deal with the world is to hide away from it. But within that she manages to get her own back. I think that resonates. It is only my opinion but there is a secret desire within all of us to get it right, to do the right thing. She is morally questionable but actually she just knows what is right and wrong.
Q: What sort of man is your character, journalist Mikael Blomqvist?
A: He crusades for justice within the capitalist system and at the beginning of the book he has just had his nuts cut off, metaphorically. It is his ego that I find fascinating really. His ego has allowed him to get himself into this wretched state because he thought of himself as invincible and he paid the price for that, which you find out in the story.
Q: Rooney Mara had a lot of training for this film, but I guess that wasn’t the case for you, playing a journalist?
A: I have a lot of friends who are journalists, foreign journalists, or financial correspondents. I have known them all my adult life. As regards my character, I like to think that there is a bit of a Jeremy Paxman somewhere in there, someone who goes for their target and is a bit of terrier in the way they investigate people and try to find truth and justice. I had just come off Cowboys and Aliens when I started the movie and I was as skinny as I had been when I was 16 years old, and David was literally giving me bowls of pasta to fatten me up. In his opinion I didn’t look like a journalist [laughs]!
Q: Did you have very severe weather conditions when shooting in Sweden?
A: It was okay, though it must have been tough on Rooney. The poor girl was probably six-and-a-half stone wet through when she was doing this movie because she was working out every day and dieting. She was waif-like because her character was that way, so she wasn’t carrying an awful lot of fat to keep her warm. Her jeans had lots of rips in them and her costume was pretty thin. She really suffered. I had a layer of fat and thermal underwear so I was all right!
Q: How intense was this shoot compared to a James Bond movie?
A: I am lucky to have done Bond movies and you film straight for six months. Basically, it is very hard to do the Bond movies, but this was as intense in other ways. It was a big acting job. It is what I do for a living. It is very hard but it is truly satisfying work, especially working with people like Rooney and David and everyone else. It is an amazing cast in this film. It has been a year almost that we’ve worked on this film and all that matters is that we get it right. That’s all.
Q: Can you have fun on set even when the filming is intense and the material is often quite dark?
A: I think that actually makes you laugh more. The more serious the subject matter the more likely you are to have fits of giggles, just from the very nature of it. David likes to keep things light on set but also when things get too distracting, he brings it back. You need to know when to laugh and when to keep quiet. You keep your concentration up and occasionally you let off steam. Rooney was put through the mill on this film, though. She had a lot of very intense scenes to do. Thank God she is as stoic and as level-headed as she is, because I think other people would have lost their minds. I didn’t have to put up with so much. It was intense, though. It was a tough shoot but a very, very satisfying one.
Q: Apart from her stoicism, what else did you admire about Rooney?
A: She had to do a very tough part. She is incredibly level-headed and incredibly mature as an actor in the sense that she takes her job very, very seriously but not that seriously. She does exactly what she has to do but she keeps herself herself. That may sound like an obvious statement but she is very much in control of what she does and for me she was very easy to work with. Her and David have a very tight relationship, which is important because he was pushing her in all sorts of ways. She had a huge amount of confidence in David and trusted him.
Q: David Fincher and Steve Zaillian’s adaptation has tailored a chunky book into a digestible feature-length movie, but fans shouldn’t be concerned, right?
A: In spite of the fact that I have read the books, my great source of material is Zaillian’s adaptation and it goes without saying that when you adapt a book you have to mess with it because you are turning it into a movie. You are moving something into a visual medium and that means you are going to lose a great deal, but you are also going to gain a great deal, and those are the things you have to look at. We had to change locations for a few things and it made sense. It kept things tighter and I don’t have any remorse about it all. I think you present the piece of work as is because you are moving from a literary medium into a visual medium. There is nothing to be done. You can’t be apologetic about it.
Q: Did you make a conscious decision not to watch the existing Swedish-language film adaptations?
A: Yes, it was a very conscious decision. Honestly, I had the screeners with me. I was in New Mexico when I was offered this role. I had the screeners and was planning to watch all of them. Then this offer came along and I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to see them now. I can’t. I just don’t want to be clouded in any way.’ Obviously, there are things that are going to be similar. We are using the same source material. And I just didn’t want to have that in my mind when we were doing our movie.
Q: When you were at college, or even beforehand, what turned you onto acting?
A: Genuinely, without a hint of a lie, it is what I have wanted to do all of my life. I think I got some sort of a bug when I was a kid and I watched movies avidly when I was nine or ten, going to the cinema as much as I possibly could. And I was fortunate enough to be taken to the theatre as a kid to see a lot of plays and it stuck with me and it never went away.
Q: Were there certain films that you always returned to as a kid?
A: I didn’t watch classic films as a kid. That came later. For me it was things like Close Encounters, Blade Runner, Alien. Weirdly, a lot of science fiction was coming out at that time and it was the cutting edge of moviemaking. For me it was mind-blowing. I remember seeing Blade Runner the first time in the cinema round the corner from where we lived and I had no idea what I was watching. No idea. I had never experienced anything like it and I think back then I thought that I wanted to be in films like that. You have got directors who have an incredible sense of style and visual flair. I am a huge Hitchcock fan and he had that thing of combining storytelling, especially thrillers, with amazing visual panache.
Q: Would you ever want to produce, write or direct?
A: I don’t know. Yes, in theory I would love to do something. I just watched The Ides of March last night, which was brilliant. What can’t George Clooney do? It is directed with real assurance and it is very sexy and it is deeply political and interesting and it is kind of fun. But honestly I think directing is a thankless task. Everybody is looking to you and asking you questions all the time: ‘What do we do now?’ I’m not sure that it is for me.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is in cinemas from the 26th of December.