James Bond: Daniel Craig throws off his 'tetchy' persona to talk openly as his time as 007 ends

24 September 2021, 15:49 | Updated: 25 September 2021, 10:28

It's midday at the Corinthia Hotel in London and I'm sitting on a bench in a corridor waiting to talk to Daniel Craig.

The main entrance doors are open for ventilation. Pre-pandemic there would have been a lot of security, this is Bond after all, but in the age of coronavirus the hotel is like a socially distanced Fort Knox.

There's a doctor on standby and before I'm allowed in the same room as 007, I've had to pass a temperature check - and that isn't all.

To get into the hotel itself I've had to show the results of a negative PCR test taken within the last 48 hours, prove I'd done a lateral flow test this morning AND sign paperwork promising I'm not secretly trying to give everyone at the press junket COVID.

The mask I had with me had to be taken off, only to be replaced by an industrial-looking number that everyone around me was wearing. "It does look a bit like we've all got beaks!" one woman commented in the hallway to nods and muffled agreement.

This whole process is very weird and certainly not conducive in terms of making you feel nice and relaxed ahead of interviewing an actor who has a reputation for being notoriously tetchy.

If there are journalists before or after me, I haven't come into contact with any, so pre-Daniel I settle for a hushed gossip with a woman who may have been a member of security (but really who knows when our faces are covered-up with a giant white beak?).

"Have you met Daniel before?" she said. "No" I say.

"Every time he's come out here he's made a point of asking us if we're all ok, he's REALLY nice!"

"That's good to know," I tell her, adding: "because he's got a bit of a reputation for being, you know, grumpy."

But not today.

Just one final hurrah of press interviews and that's it, Daniel Craig is done.

There's no way he's repeating those "he's so moody" headlines he got after the very first news conference he did.

So it is a seemingly demob happy Craig I'm introduced to, sat alongside super-producer Barbara Broccoli.

No handshakes, of course, and they're sat well over two metres away from me in the hotel's well-ventilated ballroom.

But those blue eyes are twinkling, he's laughing, relaxed even, and happy to chat now the rollercoaster is about to stop.

"I mean, I was definitely in two minds about taking it at the beginning but... I've never regretted it," he says.

"It's been tough, but it's always, always, always, always been interesting. It's always been creatively satisfying. I've had the chance to work with just some of the most incredible people and it's made a mark on my life and, I mean, that's a massive understatement."

Broccoli refuses point blank to think who her next Bond will be.

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"I'm in denial. I don't want to think about it and I'm not going to think about it. As far as I'm concerned Daniel Craig is James Bond. End of story."

It hasn't been easy 15 years for Craig, being the leading man in one of Britain's biggest cultural exports.

Aside from broken legs and twisted ankles, the run-ins with the press were there from day one, with critics saying it was wrong to have a blond Bond.

He's had paparazzi in trees outside his house, photographers willing to bury themselves under sand to get pictures of him on the beach in his trunks.

He admits, before he met his wife Rachel Weisz, the attention ruined relationships and made him never want to leave the house.

"I think I've changed," he reflects, looking back on it now.

"I'll be perfectly honest, I couldn't deal with it but it is part of the nature of the beast, you have to sort of accept it. I think you have to find a level.

"I've tried my best not be hypocritical about it. I keep myself away from everything when I'm not promoting a movie. I'm not on social media. I try and keep a very private life. So that's my sort of that's my sort of line in the sand, I suppose."

Has it got any better as he prepares to leave the role?

"The press don't seem as interested in me anymore," he laughs. "I'm probably just a bit boring for them."

So it's official Daniel Craig isn't grumpy… he wants to be boring… but then he is a very good actor. And surely that's all that matters?