Blair gave politics a licence to schmooze, says Craig

The 007 star hits out at actors who become political pawns – and the PM who started the trend
  • @tompeck

Poor Tony. As if the perpetual ire of the anti-Iraq movement and half the Middle East were not enough to contend with, now James Bond himself has had a dig at the former Prime Minister. Daniel Craig has singled out Mr Blair as the leading figure in a less-than-honourable era of politicians who try to court celebrities.

"Tony Blair started it much more than anybody's ever done," Craig, 43, said in an interview with Men's Journal. "'Go and have tea at 10 Downing Street.' It becomes Mephisto," he continued, in reference to the film which re-imagines the pact made between Mephistopheles and Dr Faustus in the form of an actor who refuses to stand up to his Nazi patrons for fear of the damage it will do to his career.

"You are immediately aligning yourself with a political party," Craig went on. "Politicians are shitheads. That's how they become politicians, even the good ones. We're actors, we're artists, we're very nice to each other," he remarked of his own industry. "They [politicans] will turn around and stab you in the back."

The Bond actor had high expectations when Mr Blair was elected in 1997, but was subsequently disappointed. Born in Chester to an art teacher and a pub owner, Craig was reared to vote for Labour Party candidates, but came to view Mr Blair's moderate brand of Labour as "the Tories dressed in red".

"The fact that a guy who'd been in a band, owned an electric guitar and has probably had a spliff was Prime Minister really meant something, after years of John Major and Margaret Thatcher. He might just be one of us," he said. "In hindsight, it turned out he was just a politician like all the rest." And this about a man who would have been 007's ultimate boss. He added that actors in general should stay away from the world of politics – with the exception of George Clooney, who is well known for his political activism and work in Sudan. Clooney, he claimed, does in fact know what he is talking about.

"George has his finger on the political pulse," he said. "He's one of those guys who can get up and talk, and I don't have that. If someone shoves a microphone in your face and says, 'Explain yourself,' you have to have a 100 per cent understanding of why you're doing it, and, unless you're 100 per cent, don't do it, let your work speak for itself."

Craig is currently starring in the The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo alongside the relative newcomer Rooney Mara – the first of three film adaptations of Swedish author Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy. His next Bond film, Skyfall, is due for release next autumn.

It is far from the first time the 007 star has granted himself licence to make such acerbic comments. Two weeks ago Kris Jenner, the mother of the American reality star Kim Kardashian, demanded a public apology after Craig criticised her for separating from her husband less than three months after their televised wedding. "You see that and you think, 'What, you mean all I have to do is behave like an idiot on television and then you'll pay me millions?' I'm not judging it. Well, I am, obviously," he said.

Too early for Blair's obituary

Labour figures have reacted in shock after being approached by BBC news producers hoping to film interviews for Tony Blair's obituary. The former prime minister is only 58 and was the youngest person to hold the post in 200 years when he came to office in 1997 aged 43. He underwent a minor heart procedure while he was running the country, but there are no reports he is in bad health. One Labour figure told The Sun: "It seems in pretty poor taste that the Beeb is already preparing for Tony's death. He is still a relatively young man." A BBC spokeswoman said: "We don't comment on obituaries."