David Lister: The Week in Arts

Daniel Craig should try a bit of method acting
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"There's only one Bond. Connery." So said Joanna Lumley's Patsy in an Absolutely Fabulous episode to a young model. The young model looked blank. "Must have been before my time," she concluded.

There's only one Bond, the veteran actor Christopher Lee said at a film festival in Thailand last week. Pierce Brosnan. Lee explained, to put his opinion beyond contradiction, that Brosnan had embodied all the personality traits and characteristics that "Ian" had confided in Lee concerning the fictional spy.

There's only one Bond, say the producers of the next Bond film Casino Royale. They don't need to cite the late Ian Fleming's implied approval. They can do what they like, and they have chosen the much esteemed British actor Daniel Craig.

But, well before the film's release, Craig is getting quite a lot of stick. Bond fans are posting messages on a website called craignotbond.com indicating that they don't agree with the choice. "Why choose this putrid, ugly man as Bond?" said one would-be film critic. "He looks like a charmless Big Issue vendor," said another, insulting all those Big Issue vendors who prefer their martinis shaken not stirred. And now it is reported that 15,000 Bond fans have signed up to boycott Casino Royale.

This week it all seemed to be getting to Craig, who said he had been reluctant to take the part in the first place.

I am instinctively of the Patsy view on James Bonds, but time moves on and the franchise must continually be renewed. However, Craig did himself no favours in the initial press conference to launch the movie. He was brought to the dockside event by speedboat. He looked queasy, and admitted he did not enjoy travelling fast on boats. I suspect that no other Bond actor, not even Roger Moore, would have gone so worryingly out of character. Craig also snapped at journalists, who asked about his friendship with Sienna Miller. I've seen Connery at press conferences and he can shoot down a troublemaker with a witty riposte. He doesn't do tetchy.

Craig's press conference behaviour has no more bearing, of course, on his acting abilities than do concerns expressed on websites by disgruntled Bond fans. The trouble is that this isn't just a normal acting assignment. James Bond actors aren't allowed to be irritable, frightened of travelling at speed, or nervous that they might make a hash of things. And they never, never sulk.

There are some screen roles which demand more of their interpreters than just doing the business on set. The children in the Narnia films can't afford to be pictured at a zoo, screaming with fear when they see a lion.

In the case of Bond, it's asking a lot of an actor to have style, sangfroid and sex appeal off screen as well as on, but that's part of what playing the role requires. If Daniel Craig had mugged up on his movie history, he would have realised that.

The home page of craignotbond.com asks: "How can a short, blond actor with the rough face of a professional boxer and a penchant for playing killers, cranks, cads and gigolos pull off the role of a tall, dark, handsome and suave secret agent?"

That is nonsense. Mr Craig can act. Acting, wigs and a few special effects can get round those apparent anomalies. Indeed, the supposed Bond experts who post these complaints on the website ought to know that Sean Connery had to wear a wig for the role.

Daniel Craig is a fine actor and should be given a chance in the role. It's his off-screen persona that needs improving. He needs to start oozing style and panache. Live the dream, Daniel.

Name the Stratford bullies...

I can't resist returning to the subject of Sir Ben Kingsley and his fondness for his title, as the actor has said something quite unforgettable in his most recent interview to justify his use of it in his professional life. He mentioned that he cherished his fame and recognition as he was "bullied" in his early days at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Oh please, Sir Ben, please tell us more.

Who were these RSC bullies? Did his fellow young company members of the time, Helen Mirren, above, and Glenda Jackson, pin him up against the dressing room wall and demand a kiss, and then lock him in? Did the artistic team of Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn threaten that he would never play Hamlet unless he paid them £1 a week?

Who would have thought that underneath the veneer of civilised, actorly comradeship, bullies were stalking the Green Room in Stratford-upon-Avon, looking for a new boy to throw into the Avon? Now that Sir Ben has lifted the lid on the Stratford bullies, he must reveal all.

* A curious press release arrives from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It says: "BSO Music Director James Levine regrets that he is unable to conduct tonight's Boston Symphony concert as he is recovering from his on-stage fall that occurred during the ovations following last night's concert. A consultation with his doctors, and X-rays, have confirmed that there are no broken bones, although there is the understandable soreness..."

It is quite hard for a conductor to fall from the podium. I suppose it could happen when waving the baton with more than usual abandon. But how can it happen when simply taking a bow? What a sight it must have been as he bowed a little lower, then tumbled right off the platform.

But it could have been worse. If you Google the words "James Levine falls over during ovation" you get "Do you mean James Levine falls over during ovulation?".