Belfast Telegraph

A licence to thrill: We profile Bond actor Daniel Craig

The scene of Daniel Craig emerging from the sea in Casino Royale wearing just a pair of swimming trunks earned him a legion of female fans but, as the trailer for the new James Bond film clocks up millions of views in one day, Andrew Johnston says the actor has an impressive body of cinematic work too.

Since its debut on Tuesday, the trailer for Spectre, the upcoming 24th James Bond spy adventure, has had fans shaken and stirred. Within 24 hours, the two-and-a-half-minute teaser had notched up 4.5 million views on YouTube - the equivalent of 3,000 plays per minute.

With its tantalising plot and homages to previous entries in the series, expectations are high for the film, which is due for release in October. Not bad for a franchise that started life in 1962 and has been written off almost as many times as Bond himself, at the hands of some dastardly, but procrastinating, villain.

Much of 007's renewed success could be said to be down to one man. When cult British actor Daniel Craig signed up in 2005 to become the sixth official screen Bond, there were cries that the then 38-year-old star was too short, too blond and not exciting enough. The Daily Mirror even ran a front page news story with the headline, "The name's Bland - James Bland".

But with 2012's £700m-grossing Skyfall going on to become the most financially successful Bond film of all time - not to mention the 12th-biggest earning movie of all time, Craig has certainly had the last laugh.

Born in Chester, Cheshire, on March 2, 1968, Daniel Wroughton Craig spent his formative years on the Wirral peninsula. His mother, Olivia, was an art teacher, while his father, Timothy, was a former Navy seaman-turned-pub landlord. Both parents' professions would inadvertently inform his eventual career.

Encouraged by his mother, Craig began acting in school plays at the age of six. He subsequently joined the National Youth Theatre at 16, moving to London and working in restaurants to support himself.

After multiple failed attempts to get into drama school, he was finally accepted for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama at the Barbican, in London, from which he graduated after three years, in 1991.

And from then on, the fair-haired, blue-eyed thespian has rarely been out of a job. Alternating stage, film and TV work, Craig took small parts in everything from Rocky director John G Avildsen's weighty drama The Power of One to episodes of Drop the Dead Donkey and Heartbeat.

His first leading role came in 1996's nine-part BBC mini-series Our Friends in the North, playing Geordie Peacock, alongside Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee and Mark Strong (Craig would remain firm friends with Strong, and is godfather to his eldest son). In 2000, the British Film Institute voted Our Friends in the North the 25th-greatest television programme of the 20th century.

Off screen, Craig's love life was similarly eventful. In 1992, he wed the actress Fiona Loudon and had a daughter, Ella. The marriage ended in divorce in 1994, but Craig soon embarked on relationships with the German actress Heike Makatsch and the American film producer Satsuki Mitchell.

Work-wise, the parts kept coming, including sizeable roles as Angelina Jolie's rival and love interest in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Paul Newman's gangster son in Sam Mendes' Road to Perdition (2002) and Anne Reid's much younger lover in The Mother (2003).

But the two films that perhaps most signposted the way for his eventual defining role were 2004's Matthew Vaughn-directed gangster romp Layer Cake and Steven Spielberg's historical drama Munich (2005). The former showed he could handle action, while the latter proved he had gravitas.

And so, when producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced that Craig had beaten Karl Urban, Henry Cavill, Sam Worthington and Clive Owen to be cast as the latest incarnation of Ian Fleming's super-spy, ex-Bonds Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan were quick to endorse him - even if the public weren't necessarily.

(Interestingly, Craig is only the second England-born actor to portray the quintessentially English secret agent, after Moore).

Nevertheless, 2006's back-to-basics Casino Royale, directed by series veteran Martin Campbell and featuring a tougher, gruffer Bond, was a major hit with critics and audiences alike. "I have never played a role in which someone's dark side shouldn't be explored," Craig noted of his individualistic take on the character.

But for all the bleakness and more serious tone, the scene of Craig emerging from the sea wearing just a pair of swimming trunks has become arguably the most iconic moment of the actor's tenure and a firm favourite with his female fans.

"It's not like I was trying to be sexy," Craig explained. "But I had to get fit, because I had to be able to do stunts.

"Also, I wanted that, if Bond took his clothes off, he looked like a man who did what he did, which was kill people for a living. I thought the only way to do that was to work out and get fit and buff and get physically into shape."

Alas, 2008's disappointing Quantum Of Solace was less pleasurable for all concerned, including Craig, who sliced off the top of one of his fingers when a stunt went wrong. But happier times were around the corner, courtesy of the box office-dominating Skyfall.

Craig also appeared alongside no less than the Queen in a specially shot short film for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

In between his performances as Bond, Craig - perhaps mindful of avoiding the typecasting that befell past 007s - has essayed leading roles in Second World War tale Defiance (2008), comic book blockbuster Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and crime thriller remake The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011).

"I don't say, 'Can't do that,' 'Won't do that,'" he remarked about his eclectic choice of projects. "I've never thought in that way about work."

True to his word, in 2011, he graced cinemas in the psychological horror Dream House, which saw Craig headline alongside the Oscar-winning English actress Rachel Weisz.

The pair had begun dating in December 2010, and married six months later in a private New York City ceremony, with just four guests in attendance, including Craig's daughter, Ella, then 18, and Weisz's five-year-old son, Henry.

"I've always retained my privacy, but now I protect it even more," Craig remarked.

Following the phenomenal triumph of Skyfall, Craig likely isn't short of cash, though he's refreshingly candid about his earning power. "I'm potentially worth a lot of money, but I've got to go and make something that's worth a lot of money," he shrugged.

Still, in 2013, Craig had a £150,000 Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster delivered to his £4m mansion as a gift to himself for his 45th birthday.

Behind the scenes, Craig is involved in numerous charity projects. He collaborates closely with the campaigning street theatre group Safe Kenya, joined with Bond co-star Dame Judi Dench to highlight gender inequality and added his name to a letter to British broadcasters calling for better representation for ethnic minorities.

Meanwhile, in April this year, the United Nations appointed him the first global advocate for the elimination of mines and explosive hazards. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon quipped: "You have been given a licence to kill; I'm now giving you a licence to save."

Craig has said Spectre will be his final turn as 007, matching in quantity his predecessor Brosnan's run of four Bond movies - and more than equalling any of his forebears in terms of quality.

Yet the inimitably intense Craig is unlikely to bask in any glories.

"I'm definitely not satisfied about my career," he once mused.

"I don't know how you can be. It's the very nature of things."

A life so far

Born: Chester, March 2, 1968

Career: Made his feature film debut in 1992's The Power of One. He gave his breakout performance in the BBC serial Our Friends in the North (1996). In 2005, he was cast as the sixth screen incarnation of secret agent James Bond 007

Status: Married the actress Fiona Loudon in 1992 and had a daughter, Ella. The marriage ended in divorce in 1994. Married Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz in 2011

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