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Daniel Craig Dusts Up New Character in ‘Golden Compass’

[IMG:L]He is already knee-deep in the Bond franchise, but that didn’t stop Daniel Craig from signing on for another potential series, The Golden Compass. In fact, the double commitment didn’t even cross his mind.

“I genuinely was such a fan of the books that when I heard that they were making it I thought, ‘I’d like to do this. I’d like to get involved,'” Craig explains. “I’m such a big Philip Pullman fan and his philosophies and his morals and the way he looks at the world. He writes children’s stories, but with major adult themes and sort of major ideas about being a good person and making the right choices.”

The story, based on Pullman’s His Dark Material trilogy, takes place in a world where each human has an animal spirit companion who acts as a manifestation of their soul. Twelve-year-old Lyra [Dakota Blue Richards] and her ever-changing animal friend Pantalaimon live as wards of Jordan College while Lyra’s uncle, Lord Asriel [Craig], travels to the Arctic and beyond searching for a controversial substance called Dust. Soon the precocious preteen finds herself on a journey all her own.

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When Hollywood.com met up with Craig in London, he gushed about his talented young costar, what’s in store for everyone’s favorite secret agent, and playing the fame game…

Hollywood.com: What was it about Lord Asriel’s character that interested you?
Daniel Craig:
I like the fact that he’s a bit of a revolutionary. Basically he wants to mix everything up. Knowledge is the most important thing for him and the only way you’re going to find knowledge is if there’s some where to go and explore, you need to go explore because that knowledge, even if it does you bad will change things. Change is always good and that’s where I think his passion comes from.

[IMG:R]HW: As a fan of the books, what did you think the film need in order to capture the essence of the books?
DC:
The key element for the film is Dakota. She had to be right, she had to be able to be a little girl, but someone we wanted to follow and she’s done that brilliantly I think. She’s so engaging. She’s got sort of a feral quality about her which I think was sort of important for the role. If you follow her and you want to go with her into this world of Philip Pullman, that’s just the icing on the cake.

HW: Did you sense she was under immense pressure for that reason?
DC:
If she did it was her own pressure because she wanted to get it right. I think that’s normal. In a situation like this you have to remember that she’s a little girl and she needs protecting. That is first and foremost in this situation. This whole thing we’re doing now is a little crazy. My advice to her has been to enjoy what’s happening to you because it’s crazy and it’s wonderful and it is fun.

HW: Were you surprised at all of the controversy regarding the religious aspects of the story?
DC:
I’m not surprised, no. I mean I get that and I know Philip has been very vocal about that. For me, I don’t think the story is anti-religious in any way. I think what they’re more against is the control and misuse of power that any organized religion or any political organization exercise over people they’re supposed too represent. I think that for me it’s what is important and the movie and the character I play sort of have this revolutionary idea of splitting all of the universes up so that all these ideas start flooding people and the whole thing gets turned on its head so they can move on. I think the classic thing is the majority of the people who are criticizing it probably haven’t read the books and they need to. And I’m sure the Catholic Church which has said this is an attack on the Catholic Church can handle.

HW: If you had a daemon, what animal it would be?
DC:
I think once you have a snow leopard, it’s hard to go back. Anything else will be slightly disappointing. It’s very telling what your choice would be because that’s probably how you see yourself. We use to play those games when we were kids. Did you use to play them where you say what animal would you be? It’s usually the opposite of what it should be. Any animal has kind of virtues. Even a cockroach has virtues … they’ll be around while we’re all gone!

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HW: Will we see more of you in the second film?
DC:
In the second one, yes. If you’ve read the books you’ll notice we’re missing part of the story in the first one. We shot it and it didn’t make the movie because the timing wasn’t right. It will have to be in the second one because it’s actually how the universes break apart and how the whole story starts and how long the journey starts.

HW: Do you think it works without the deleted scenes?
DC:
It happens. It’s called adapting a book. You have to make decisions about things and it’s not unusual to cut out scenes. They have [use those scenes eventually] because they’re fundamental to the story. You can’t really avoid them. It certainly puts a different spin on my character.

[IMG:R]HW: It sounds like  taking this role was an easy decision, was agreeing to Bond just as simple?
DC:
I was against it, very much against it.

HW: What changed your mind?
DC:
The script and the fact that it seemed to me that I would be able to sort of dedicate and get involved with and make something of. I’ve always been a Bond fan. I’ve always wanted the films to be good. When it came along and I read the script I thought there was genuinely an opportunity to make a good movie with one of the most classic icon figures in movies.

HW: Casino Royale marked a welcome return to the style and sensibility of the earlier ones, rather than the jokey and hokey ones.
DC:
The idea of having jokes in Bond I don’t think is completely wrong, but I think the jokes too need to come out tension. There needs to be moments of humor because we’ve all been sitting on the edge of our seat. I don’t think you should write gags in Bond.

HW: Is the next script based on Ian Fleming’s work at all?
DC:
There’s nothing left as far as I know.

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HW: Have they decided not to adapt any of the John Gardner novels?
DC:
I don’t think they ever would because they don’t own them. I don’t know what the deal is with that. We’re taking the original idea. The funny thing is if you read Fleming’s, which I try to plow through occasionally, there’s an awful lot of story lines that have never been used because obviously the films are based on the books. There are still ideas that we can sort of pluck from.

HW: Assuming Golden Compass is a hit and they make a second film and you’re already signed up to do the next Bond, how will you figure out your schedule?
DC:
 It just depends on how well we do here. I try not to count chickens. I really do because there’s no point. You’d go crazy. We’re in good shape and I’m very happy with the way this is working out. I’d love to get involved with it. If they do another movie, I’d love to do it. We’ll fit it in. It’s not my job to make that work. I pay people fortunes to make that.

[IMG:R]HW: What sort of sensibilities does director Marc Forster bring to the next Bond film?
DC:
If you look at Marc Forster’s current body of work that in itself makes me very excited. If you look at Monster’s BallFinding Neverland and then Kite Runner which is just stunning, it’s such a diverse look at the world; I’d want us to have that. Marc is very solid. That for me is crucially important because this movie needs to jump on from Casino Royale and take it somewhere else. Marc is totally inspired and is really just keen to get started.

HW: How difficult is it to develop this character because of his iconic status?
DC:
Not difficult at all really. Paul Haggis is involved. We’ve got someone who can take on story and take on a character and take them to a different place. It’s always a struggle, but you’ve got to find themes, you’ve got to find reasons for doing it and you’ve got to put them all in the right place. The same rules apply.

HW: Do you think the British press might be a little bit calmer this time around?
DC:
No, I don’t think so, no. The thing is the pressure is now on in a weird way. Beforehand I was getting so much criticism and I knew that we had something good to do. We had a movie that I knew deep down that whatever would happen we were to make a good film because we had to. That gave me this [ability] to not worry about the criticism. The thing is now; we’ve really got to turn out the goods because if we don’t then they were right. That can’t happen.

HW: The British press is always so intrusive with your personal life, more than the American press. How do you deal with that?
DC:
I don’t know. I wouldn’t make comparisons. I remain as private as I possibly can and that really is very important to me. I’ve never actively gone looking for self-promotion. I don’t do it very well so there’s another reason to not do it. If I’m promoting a movie like this then I’m talking about my work. I’m very proud of this. I think this movie works really well and it’s a joy to do, but it’s got nothing to do with my private life.

[IMG:R]HW: You pay thousands of pounds to keep it private?
DC:
That goes with the territory. That’s what it is. I’m not stupid enough to believe that it wouldn’t happen. I just have to find my way of dealing with it. It’s okay. Who knows what will happen tomorrow, but at the moment it’s alright.

HW: How do you deal with the press?
DC:
I run away. Having a sense of humor is really key. You have to have a sense of humor with these things and I’ve just tried to remain who I am. My life has changed. It’s changed in the fact that I don’t have the freedoms I did before, but I’ve also got a huge amount of other freedoms that have come along. 

The Golden Compass opens wide Dec. 7, 2007

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