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Craig, Daniel (1968-)


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One of the most interesting and charismatic British actors to have emerged in recent years, Daniel Craig was born in 1968 in Chester, and grew up in Liverpool. His screen debut, after an apprenticeship at the National Youth Theatre and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, was in the inauspicious bit-part of Sergeant Botha in The Power of One (France/US/Australia, 1992). His major break came when he played the naïve and ultimately damaged Geordie in Our Friends In The North (BBC, 1996), a role that required him to age 30 years over nine episodes.

Thereafter, leads on television, in such dramas as the Minette Walters adaptation The Ice House (BBC, 1997), alternated with effective but limited cameos in such prestigious films as Elizabeth (d. Shekhar Kapur, 1998), as John Ballard, Elizabeth's would-be executioner; he was seen, in a memorable shot, walking in slow motion to attempt to assassinate the queen, crossing himself as he went. His more notable work at this time, as Francis Bacon's lover George Dyer in Love Is The Devil (d. John Maybury, 1998), the tough, knowing Sergeant Winter in The Trench (UK/France, d. William Boyd, 1999) or as Guy Crouchback in the effective Evelyn Waugh adaptation Sword of Honour (Channel 4, 2001), was largely overlooked. His lacklustre performance in Tomb Raider (US/Germany, 2001) suggested an actor uncomfortable with being pigeonholed in conventional roles.

However, an interesting, spiky performance as Paul Newman's villainous son in Sam Mendes' underrated Road to Perdition (US, 2002) hinted at greater things, which were confirmed by his charismatic but ultimately unpleasant handyman-cum-lover in The Mother (d. Roger Michell, 2003), where he managed the difficult task of making a secondary, faintly two-dimensional character seem as interesting as Anne Reid's protagonist, despite some inappropriate late melodramatics that slightly undermined his performance.

Ignoring the artistic misfire of his convincingly brutal but unconvincingly poetic Ted Hughes in Sylvia (d. Christine Jeffs, 2003), his career thereafter has gone from strength to strength. He bravely underplayed against Rhys Ifans' lunatic stalker in Enduring Love (d. Roger Michell, 2004), refusing to play for cheap sympathy for his character, while his performance in Layer Cake (dir Matthew Vaughn, 2004) helped to lift what might have been a shallow 'mockney' gangster movie into more morally ambiguous and interesting territory, with his businessman drug dealer a satisfyingly three-dimensional character.

Although his second collaboration with John Maybury, The Jacket (2005), promised more than it delivered, he nevertheless proved again that he was as comfortable in support as in lead roles, delivering probably the film's most interesting performance as a phony, dangerous psychopath. The recent announcement of him as the new James Bond in Casino Royale (d. Martin Campbell, 2006) not only emphasises his credentials as a dashing and dynamic leading man, but also, perhaps, demonstrates his willingness to take on a potentially limiting role and treat it as an opportunity to show his versatility as an actor.

Alexander Larman

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Thumbnail image of Love Is the Devil (1998)Love Is the Devil (1998)

Innovative feature-length biopic of the controversial painter Francis Bacon

Thumbnail image of Our Friends in the North (1996)Our Friends in the North (1996)

Epic portrait of four Newcastle friends, spanning the 1960s to the 1990s

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Legendary British secret agent 007, created by Ian Fleming

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