looking every inch the debonair spy, in a navy suit with gold pocket handkerchief, Daniel Craig seems as proud as punch.
And no wonder. He is promoting the launch of the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, the 23rd instalment in the longest-running film franchise of all time which is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“I love playing Bond, it’s an honour and I get a big kick out of doing it,” says 44-year-old Craig.
It’s his third outing as the legendary secret agent, following Casino Royale in 2006, which saw the actor bring a dramatic depth to the MI6 man, and Quantum Of Solace two years later.
“I had an opportunity when they gave me Casino Royale to sort of wipe the slate clean because they said we were starting again,” says Craig. “Bond’s a soldier, a person who tries to hide his emotions and be in control all the time, and playing around with and pushing those boundaries is interesting.”
As a huge fan of the franchise, Craig insists he’s always wanted to bring back certain elements that the films are famous for – and what better time than in its golden anniversary year?
The result is an epic movie, laden with glamour in the shape of the mysterious Severine (Berenice Marlohe) and field agent Eve (Naomie Harris), a brilliant villain in Silva (Javier Bardem), a sprinkle of kitsch, plus gadgets galore thanks to the welcome return of Q, played by the king of geek chic, Ben Whishaw.
There is no bigger Bond fan than Mendes, the Oscar and Olivier-winning director who helms this gargantuan movie, as far as Craig’s concerned.
It was at a party in New York in 2009 when the pair, who first worked together on the gangster movie The Road To Perdition, first talked about collaborating again.
“I was picking his brains about the next Bond movie because I respect him as a director and I think he has great ideas,” Craig recalls. “As the conversation went on, we said the things we loved about Bond and I ended up offering him the job, which isn’t my job to do,” he adds, laughing.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Mendes. “I wanted to come back to England to make a movie. I wanted to make a big-scale movie, to work with Daniel again, and I needed a challenge,” he says.
But unlike the film’s protagonist, the road to Skyfall has been far from smooth as financial problems at the MGM studio sparked doubt as to whether Bond would ever return.
“In this movie Bond’s pushed to the limit, it kills him in a sense, brings him back and he’s a shadow of his former self,” says Mendes.
“He has to work himself back to who he is, and even the audience don’t know what stage of rehab he’s reached when Silva says to him, ‘Look at you, you’re barely held together by your pills and drink’.”
And so to the mysterious Silva, who’s sure to be anointed one of the franchise’s most memorable villains.
“Javier brings this mischief and relish to the table,” says Mendes of Spanish-born Bardem.
“When I shot the first scene between Javier and Daniel, I could feel the fun they were having.”
It was Craig who first approached Bardem about being part of Skyfall. “I’ve been a fan since I was a kid but that’s not the right reason to do something. It’s really about the material and whether you can bring something to a role,” says Bardem.
On reading the script, the actor found there was a lot to play with.
Describing Silva as “an angel of death”, he says: “In this case, there is a man suffering, a man full of pain and frustration who simply wants to fix the situation. He’s a man seeking revenge and within that journey there was room to be funny or aggressive.”
Bardem wasn’t so keen to throw himself into the stunts. “I had a glimpse but I’m a great believer in stunt doubles,” he reveals, laughing.
A running theme in Skyfall is Bond’s getting on a bit. “Well, he is,” says Craig, smiling. So it begs the question – how old is too old?
“I’m contracted for another two Bond films and that seems a fair number because people need to go and see the movie. Until they do, we can’t make another one.
“But I’m not going to outstay my welcome. Someone else can have a crack at this.”
Skyfall is in cinemas now