We meet Daniel Craig on the set of Cowboys & Aliens
Time Out Bahrain staff
In the same vein as Freddie vs Jason and Aliens vs Predator, what would it be like if you could put James Bond and Indiana Jones in the same movie? Squint a bit, and maybe that’s what you can pretend you’re watching when you see Cowboys & Aliens, featuring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in similarly action-packed roles to the ones that made them famous.
Craig plays ‘The Stranger’, a man who wakes up in the desert with no recollection of who he is or how he got there, and a strange hi-tech bracelet strapped to his arm. Wandering into the nearest town, he soon comes into contact with Ford’s grizzled Colonel Dolarhyde before – gasp! – aliens show up and attack. We caught up with Craig to find out what attracted him to the role, and also if he would tell us anything about the next Bond film.
What was it about this film that grabbed you? I’ve always wanted to play a cowboy [laughs]. It’s as simple as that. And I kind of got the script and saw the title, Cowboys & Aliens, and you think, ‘Okay, it’s going to be a send-up, it’s going to be something funny,’ and actually the script read straight. It is funny, but it wasn’t gags every minute and all that, it was a straight cowboy movie and then suddenly the aliens turn up. It just sounded like a lot of fun and we went from there.
So there’s no winking at the audience? It’s straight down the line? Absolutely. The title is the wink and then it’s just a really good story.
Was Harrison Ford on board when you agreed to do the film? Not at that point. I mean it wasn’t really an option at the time. Everybody had said, ‘Harrison won’t look at it, he won’t be interested.’ But they sent him the script and I think he was a little like, ‘What the hell is this about?’ – the same as me – but his people got him in to see Jon [Favreau, director], and Jon sat him down and told him what he wanted to do with it, and he was on.
And what was Harrison Ford like to work with? He was great, and it was a privilege to work with him. He’s a really nice, generous, funny man, and he’s an actor who just wants to get it right.
Which Westerns do you remember from when you were growing up? Actually, I watched so many before we did this, we all watched as many as we could. But I grew up with the Sergio Leone Westerns. I know films like The Searchers with John Wayne, and the John Ford-directed movies are great, but for me it was always the Clint Eastwood Westerns, like Fistful of Dollars and The Outlaw Josey Wales, the kind of dirty Westerns where they look like they don’t wash [laughs].
And you’re playing a classic Western character in Cowboys & Aliens because he is ‘The Man With No Name’... Yes, that’s right. He wakes up in the middle of the desert with no memory and a fancy bracelet on. And it’s brilliant what the writers did because the part was always very sort of enigmatic, and so any dialogue we felt we didn’t need we just cut out. Because it’s all about a character that doesn’t have to explain what he’s doing, he just does it.
Is the finished film what you hoped it would be? I think it’s more than I hoped it would be. It was always going to be a risk because, although I’m reluctant to use the term, it is a genre mash-up. There, I said it [laughs]! But you know what, I think it’s going to be a surprise for people.
In what way? I think people are going to go with preconceived ideas; they are going to say, ‘Oh, Jon Favreau who directed Iron Man, and Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, and it’s called Cowboys & Aliens, and it’s going to be a send up…’ But it’s not a comedy, it’s a great Western that happens to have aliens in it. I mean, what more could you want [laughs]?
What kind of preparation did you have to do for the role? Were you good on a horse? I hadn’t really spent a lot of time on horseback before. Actually, I hadn’t really done a production before where they could afford to pay to get me on a horse before we started filming [laughs]. So I just took full advantage of that preparation time and I was on a horse every single day for two or three weeks before we started, and then got on one as much as possible during filming. I rode as much as I possibly could because I just wanted to do it. And there’s nothing quite like getting on a horse at six in the morning to clear the head.
It sounds like you really enjoyed filming this… I had a great time on the movie, and I think we all did. We socialised a bit, which I haven’t done on a movie for a long time. We were stuck in Santa Fe and we got together and managed to bond as a unit. It was really good.
Steven Spielberg is an executive producer on the film. Did you have a lot to do with him on Cowboys & Aliens? Steven was around, and he kept sending me DVDs of cowboy movies [laughs], which was great. At that point, of course, I’d already done Tintin, which is the second time I’d worked with him. Steven is lovely and we had a lot of fun on that.
You’ve got a few films in the can waiting to come out. What’s the next one you’ll film? That will be the next Bond, which we’ll start in October. I’ve kind of already started preparing for that. The script is in really, really good shape. I’m very excited about it and I’m delighted that Sam [Mendes] is going to direct it. Cowboys & Aliens is in cinemas this month.