THE HESTER LACEY INTERVIEW: Daniel Craig

The star of the gritty 'Our Friends in the North' is about to whip out his pistol for ITV's raunch-fest 'Moll Flanders'. How do you follow that?; 4 'After a while you forget the fact that you're walking around naked, or you try to' 4

The Palm Court lounge at the Langham Hilton Hotel just off Regent Street is not a place that Daniel Craig would visit willingly. "Makes you want to throw something, doesn't it?" he says, fixing with a disdainful eye the fussy chandeliers and plant pots and - piece de resistance - the burbling fountain complete with ferns and marble nymphs and fish. "Did you decide to come here?" he asks, somewhat accusingly. Not guilty, it was your PR's idea; and some people expect this kind of thing, believe it or not. "I was going to suggest a pub," he says, a bit wistfully.

But once a table where smoking is allowed and a double vodka-and-tonic have been located, he looks quite cheerful; as well he might. After his lead role in Our Friends In The North - one of the BBC's triumphs of the year, in which he played Geordie, the hapless musician who falls into bad company and ends up as a tramp - scripts have been thudding on to his doormat at a great rate. He has a star part in the big-budget bodice- ripper Moll Flanders, which starts tonight; it is ITV's antidote to the current epidemic of Jane Austen mania. In the Austen sagas, all the demure but meaningful glances and heaving bosoms might eventually culminate in a chaste kiss. Moll delivers the lot; the cast can hardly keep their clothes on. Craig plays Jemmy Seagrave, Moll's highwayman true-love; when not swashbuckling for all he's worth, he spends a fair amount of time out of his breeches, energetically ravishing the actress Alex Kingston.

"Well, you have to really, in these situations, don't you? It would be churlish not to," he says, with a filthy laugh. Indeed, hard work, but somebody has to do it. "I watched the final version the other day and it shocked me, I kept thinking, 'Not another sex scene!' There's at least four an episode and they're full-on bums-in-the-air, or against-the-wall, or oops-Missus-there-go-my-trousers. Obviously they've gone for the sex angle - it's a big kick against the Austens and all that stuff. I was a little worried it was going to turn out as Carry On Moll Flanders, but I'm really surprised by the end product. The last episode is so dark, it actually does get to you. I was in tears by the end, but then I'm just an emotional wreck" (this last in a strangled, mock-luvvie accent that he reserves for any remotely theatrical pronouncements). The unexpurgated version of Moll will only be available on video - ITV have had to cut some of the steamier scenes for television. A much-bowdlerized Moll has already been a hit in America - "I think they just didn't linger on the arses going up and down as much as they did over here," explains Craig helpfully.

Filming nude scenes is all in a day's work; especially when anyone on- set with clothes on is likely to be in a minority. "Any embarrassment quickly passes. All you see is maybe 30 seconds of a scene that took three hours to shoot, and after a while you forget the fact that you're walking around naked, or you try to. Well, I do. Maybe I'm just an exhibitionist - maybe that's my problem. I love getting my kit off," he says, with another hoot of laughter. "No, no, it is embarrassing and I get very nervous and uptight about it and I have to control all those sorts of feelings and control myself as well... in fact it isn't very sexual because you're always thinking, 'Will this look good?' and the best sex is when you're not analysing it, when you're just doing it. I'm sure that with the right person at the right time you couldn't help but get turned on by it, but that hasn't happened to me yet."

Out of costume, without his highwayman's coat and flowing wig, he is slighter than on screen. He is very attractive without being conventionally handsome (there's a scene at the end of Moll where for an instant you can see how he could one day look like Sid James - probably something to do with the nose); but with his impressively twinkly, long-lashed blue eyes, rugged laughter lines and dimples, he is all charm (and he knows it). He is only 28, but could pass for a good deal older - his face has a lived-in look. What are his vices - drugs, drink? "Everything! Everything I can get my hands on," he chortles merrily, and perhaps he's only half- joking. Being interviewed is something he resists. "I don't go along with this thing that it's part of the job," he says. "It's not the reason I got into this game. I have to be quite guarded, I like to talk and I like people, I'd probably be a tabloid journalist's dream. Get enough drinks down me and I'd tell all." And, indeed, he is certainly a spirited talker once he gets going. His favourite adjective is the wicked one that begins with "f"; readers, please insert it (mentally) at frequent intervals throughout.

Born in Chester, brought up in Liverpool, he wanted to be an actor from the age of six ("such a cliche," he moans). His mother studied art and theatre design. "I knew what the back end of a theatre looked like from an early age, and I think that rubbed off," he says. He left school at 16 ("I got really bored"), and moved to London almost straightaway. "I had quite a few friends and I stayed on people's floors and I did odd jobs and survived. I still owe a lot of people a lot of favours. Then I finally got to drama school at 19. When I first started, villains were all I did. I'm blond and blue-eyed, so they always gave me the part of the Nazi. When I started getting roles that were goodies, I didn't really know what to do with them, I just wanted to thump people." After drama school he did film work, "bits of television", spent a year at the National Theatre - "I was a jobbing actor, just doing what I could." Starving romantically in a garret, he says, is no longer a rite of passage. "I was out of work for seven or eight months, but I wasn't penniless and starving - I had an overdraft, this is the modern world, I just owed the bank a lot of money." Along the way, he got married, produced a daughter, now four, and got divorced. "I was 23 when I got married, I was too young. I don't know if it was a mistake exactly, but it was not the right thing to do at the time. I don't regret it, but I do wish I'd lived it in a different way."

Our Friends In The North was his first taste of stardom. "It was a peculiar production, I don't think you can measure anything else by it," he says. "When we started doing it we realised we were doing something special. We thought the critics would get hold of it and rip it to pieces, especially the bits that were political. But every single critic pushed how affecting the relationships were, and that was the nicest result." Geordie was the favourite of the critics and the public. "I've had people burst into tears over me, and I'd have to say 'Look, Geordie's fine, he's okay, at the end he just walked off, he's quite all right'."

He has spent most of this year filming a German-French co-production, working title Obsession - a brave move given that arty foreign stuff doesn't make a lot of money. "I don't look at things that way. The script came along and it was a good script, and it meant Berlin for three months, then we went to France, then to Paris, I wasn't going to turn down an opportunity like that - plus it's quite a good movie."

And when he's not filming? "I try and just get my head together when I'm not working. I don't use my time particularly well, I'm not organised, when I've got enough money I'll employ someone to look after me, which is a pretty pathetic actory thing to say," he says. "Financially I'm hopeless, completely numerically dyslexic - that's another actor's whine. I quite fancy running clubs actually, but I don't think it'll ever come about, it's a lot of organisation - and finance. I'd lose everything."

The past year or so, he says, has been a steep learning curve. "I'm bewildered. I don't know what it all means. I think in the end it's all about 'Could you show this to your mates?' I would like to think I could sit down with my mates and see something I've done and they'd say 'Yes, you've got away with that, that's okay', and if that happens, that's cool."

'Moll Flanders', ITV, 9pm tonight

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected