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Daniel Craig's love-hate relationship with James Bond threatens to boil over

007 star Daniel Craig has a love-hate relationship with the spy franchise

Daniel Craig has had a love-hate relationship with James Bond, the actor often distancing himself from the billion-dollar spy franchise that has made him a megastar.

The brooding, edgier Bond he brought to life in Skyfall (2012), Quantum Of Solace (2008) and Casino Royale (2006) was a hit with fans and critics alike, but each new film seemed to spark a fresh bout of self-loathing as he was obliged to talk it up.

And the 47-year-old seems as conflicted as ever as he promotes his fourth outing in the 007 Bond adventure Spectre, which opens in Singapore tomorrow.

I try to go to the shop to buy a pint of milk without looking over my shoulder. Because otherwise, you know, life would be terrible.

JAMES BOND ACTOR DANIEL CRAIG, who is determined to live as normal a life as possible

With previous movies, his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-him commentary was largely confined to admitting that he had doubts about staying in the role. In 2012, he revealed that he had been "trying to get out of this from the moment I got into it, but they won't let me go - I've agreed to do a couple more and I've got a contract".

This time, he is going off-script by taking aim at the famously womanising spy, whom he has described in recent interviews as "a misogynist" with nothing to teach anyone.

And of the beloved 53-year-old franchise, which has earned more than US$5 billion (S$7 billion) since 1962's Dr No, he has said: "Let's not talk these films up as some kind of life-changing experience."

But the actor seemed more inclined to stay on message while he was in the midst of filming Spectre earlier this year, putting a more positive spin on things when speaking to Life and other reporters who had gathered in Cancun for a press event.

One of the things Bond does get right is the action genre and Craig notes that when it comes to those adrenaline-soaked sequences, "we just have to be better than everybody else".

"There's a tradition in James Bond movies where we try and do everything for real. And where we can't, we make very sparing use of CGI."

But he grows subdued when the line of questioning turns to what it is like embodying the iconic spy, and whether he feels he has lost a bit of himself in this or the fame that comes with it.

"I genuinely try not to think about it at all - just so I can live as normal a life as possible," he says.

If he is self-conscious about being the centre of attention wherever he goes, however, the star - who is married to English actress Rachel Weisz, 45 - is determined not to let that change him.

"I try to go to the shop to buy a pint of milk without looking over my shoulder. Because otherwise, you know, life would be terrible."

Craig, who was little known outside of his native Britain before inheriting the mantle of 007 from Pierce Brosnan, expresses gratitude for the opportunities the role has afforded.

"It's been extraordinary and it's taken me to the most incredible places I never would have gone to, and I've met and worked with brilliant, brilliant people and still am.

"When I started shooting these movies, it was a huge eye-opener," he says, adding that he is "in a very good place" now.

Turning to director Sam Mendes, who is sitting beside him, Craig adds that it helps that he is working on this film "with a friend who's come back and done this next movie. And that makes me very happy".

The remark inadvertently highlights another slightly awkward fact for the Bond publicity machine - that there are not one, but two reluctant Brits involved in the franchise.

Mendes, 50, initially refused to helm this latest instalment despite scoring a critical box-office hit with Skyfall, complaining that the tent-pole franchise was too allconsuming.

He is asked if he remembers why he had second doubts about taking on Spectre.

"Actually, that's a very good question," he says, a touch sheepishly. "It seems so long ago…"

Mendes, who won the Best Director Oscar for American Beauty (1999), goes on to explain that he had said no because he needed a break after Skyfall and wanted to spend time with his first love, theatre.

What changed his mind was the producers agreeing "to wait another six months" in the lead-up to Spectre.

"I had felt like I didn't have time to regenerate. I was working in the theatre. It was very, very quick to start shooting another movie.

"But a lot of it had to do with taking the time to get my head into a place where I felt there was something else I could do with the franchise. I felt like I'd spent all my ideas in the last movie and needed time to remind myself how many different directions the characters could go."

The new film - which sees a cryptic message from Bond's past leading him to uncover a sinister organisation named Spectre - is more ambitious than the last, with a reported budget of US$300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies made.

"I think it's fair to say that this movie has been both more difficult than the last and more fun probably for both of us," says Mendes, who upped the ante this time with an elaborate opening sequence involving 1,500 extras recreating the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City.

"And it's partly because in the last movie, there was a kind of - I won't say grimness - but it was a very, very dark picture. It was partly the locations, a lot of it was shot at night and it was partly what Bond was going through as a character.

"He's been released from that, in a way, in this picture. A lot from his past comes back to haunt him, but he's much more proactive in this story. It's a much more dynamic character at the centre of it. And there's much more light and shade in this film. There's a greater variety of tone. There's, I think, much more fun and probably more action, but of much greater variety.

"Once those possibilities had been unlocked a little for me, I really wanted to do them. And I've not regretted it."

Nevertheless, the director is now saying, yet again, that he will "probably" not return to direct another Bond.

"I said 'no' to the last one, then ended up doing it and was pilloried by all my friends," he has told BBC News. "But I do think this is probably it."

Craig, on the hand, is still hemming and hawing over whether he will come back for another turn, remarking in another interview that he would rather "slit his wrists" than contemplate a fifth film.

But the success of Spectre is bound to have some effect on his decision. The new movie is already on track to repeat the success of Skyfall, breaking box-office records when it opened in Britain (US$63.8 million) and other western European countries this week.

If he does leave, there has been much speculation about who will succeed him, with a lot of hopeful chatter at the prospect of British star Idris Elba taking over and becoming the first black James Bond.

But the decision-makers are tight-lipped, even though Spectre producer Barbara Broccoli is invariably prodded about it in Cancun.

The 55-year-old industry veteran - who has been involved with the Bond franchise since the 1970s - hints that she will do everything she can to make Craig stay for another round.

"I can't imagine doing a Bond movie without Daniel Craig. It's not something I ever want to think about, so I'm not going to think about it."

•Spectre opens in Singapore tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2015, with the headline 'Feeling chained by Bond'. Print Edition | Subscribe