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By Sarah Marshall
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2015 Sarah Marshall
All rights reserved.
It was hardly a plush mansion but Tim and Carol Olivia Craig (later known simply as Olivia) were extremely proud of their humble house at 41 Liverpool Road in Chester. It hadn't been easy for them and for years they had struggled to save enough money to purchase their own property. A former merchant seaman, Tim now worked as a pub landlord. (In later years he was to manage more exotic bars in the Caribbean.) The work was hard and the income often unrewarding, but Tim was happy. He enjoyed socialising and always made customers feel welcome. Occasionally he had to deal with difficult and cantankerous old men, but a few stern words usually put them in their place. He would often come home in the early hours of the morning with just a few pounds in his pocket, but at least he was making an honest living. And even though Carol loved her job as an art teacher, she had never expected to make a million. Many years previously the couple had resigned themselves to a life of financial restraints and, aside from the odd final demand that dropped through their letterbox, they were happy.
When Carol discovered she was pregnant, the couple were overjoyed. Even the logistical considerations of finding the money to feed another did little to dampen their spirits. They already had a daughter, Lea, but Tim reassured his wife that somehow they would cope. At work, his bosses had hinted that some overtime might be available to him and if the situation became really bad then he could always take on a second job. A traditional northerner, he prided himself on being the breadwinner. Carol and their newborn baby would want for nothing and this was a promise he vowed to keep.
Neighbours in the area found the young couple extremely amenable. Tim was a traditional working-class male, a salt-of-the-earth character. Carol, meanwhile, was far more creative and somewhat idealistic in her views. She was involved in several theatre groups and her social circle comprised mostly of actors and writers. Although on the face of it the two seemed worlds apart, together they had forged a relationship that worked. Carol had always been attracted to Tim's honesty, not to mention his rugged good looks.
They made arrangements for a home birth at Carol's request. She had never been fond of hospitals and was keen to give birth to her child in a friendly, safe and familiar environment. That day came on Saturday, 2 March 1968. The couple had already been in touch with the midwife who was to oversee the birth. Carol coped with the birth remarkably well. Despite the river of sweat pouring from her brow, she refused to scream and complain. Instead she gripped her husband's hand tightly. At one point the pressure became so intense that he almost let out a blood-curdling wail. For days afterwards the nail marks were visible in his skin.
As it turned out, Carol and Tim were ill prepared for the birth, however. As the midwife cradled the new baby, she searched around for a towel or blanket in which to wrap him but there was nothing available. 'Here, use this,' said Tim, passing her an old piece of newspaper. And so Daniel Wroughton Craig was presented to his mother in an old newspaper. 'Just like a packet of chips!' he would later joke. There was, however, a scientific reason for swathing a baby in newspaper print. 'Midwifes used to lay newspaper down because it prints at such high temperatures that it's actually a sterile surface,' Daniel later explained. 'It's the same principle with fish and chips!'
Ironically, it was a foretaste of his future as an actor famed for his working-class sentiments and complete disregard for the trappings and luxuries of celebrity life. 'Perhaps I should lie in interviews and say it was a copy of The Times Literary Supplement,' he would laugh.
Recalling his son as a toddler, Tim insists that it was always obvious that Daniel would grow up to become an actor. The signs were plain to see. He recalls an incident in their family pub, the Ring O'Bells near Frodsham, Cheshire. 'I remember having some friends over and Daniel was just weaving in and out between their legs,' he says. 'One asked him what he was doing and what he was going to do when he grew up, and without breaking stride, he said, "Be an actor." I remember at the time blinking and doing a doubletake because he said it with such certainty and he was so small.'
Daniel himself later maintained that his interest in acting stemmed from a desire for 'dressing up and showing off ... attention seeking mainly, I think. It's a great way to get rid of your insecurities,' he would joke. 'And find plenty of new ones!'
He made his stage debut aged six in a school production of Oliver! Peter Mason, headmaster of Frodsham Church of England Primary School, was impressed by the young lad's performance. 'Both Daniel and his older sister Lea were very good,' he enthused, years later. 'I could tell even then that Daniel was gifted. I was sorry when they left the school.'
Ironically Daniel's declaration of an ambition to act coincided with a rather difficult and sad time in his life. When he was just 'four, five, six' years old (he is vague on dates) his parents separated and subsequently divorced. He and Lea moved to Liverpool with their mother and they would later relocate again to the Wirral. Eventually Carol was to remarry when she met the painter Max Blond. Fortunately, Daniel survived the divorce relatively unscathed and even today he still enjoys a close relationship with both his step-father and his biological dad.
'We're off to Dublin next weekend to watch the last game of the Six Nations,' he told one interviewer. A rugby fan since childhood, in later years Daniel has developed an obsession with the game. 'It's not the coolest thing in the world to like,' he shrugged. 'But I've been watching it since I was a kid.' As a little boy he would wonder why his father used to spend so many weekends in Dublin. As an adult it became apparently clear. 'Your feet don't touch the ground!' he grinned.
Now a single woman, Carol's social life was to centre round the prestigious Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, a hotbed of creative talent during the 1970s. Actors such as Julie Walters and Bernard Hill would regularly tread the boards. Carol had studied Art & Theatre Design at college and instantly warmed to the environment. She quickly befriended several set designers, who invited her to watch shows backstage. Daniel and his older sister Lea would frequently accompany their mother and it was during this period that he developed an obsession with the theatre. 'I knew what the back end of a theatre looked like from an early age and I think that rubbed off,' he says. 'I'd see the plays or I would be in the lighting box backstage and I knew that was what I wanted to do. It was as simple as that.' When asked to recall any specific productions, however, he shrugs and replies casually, 'Most of them involved walking around in the nude.'
At the time, the Everyman Theatre was one of the most exciting venues in the area. 'It was the place to be. We'd spend a lot of time at the theatre and then I'd see actors in the bar afterwards, socialising, and I thought they were gods ... I was a sucker for it all, the idea of being taken somewhere, being entertained ... Then I found out many were drunks!'
But Daniel's interest wasn't restricted to the theatre — he also became a big fan of the cinema and every weekend he would beg Carol to take him to a show. 'I got the bug in the cinema when I was about six,' he grins. 'I just went and watched movies from Quest For Fire to Blade Runner. I had no idea what was happening but I knew then that I wanted to make movies. Seeing those guys' faces blown up on that huge screen, I thought, "I want to do that."'
Although he quickly settled into theatre circles he didn't have quite as much luck in school. Adam Brierley, an old school friend of his, described Daniel's loneliness to one magazine. 'Because he'd just moved in after his parents had separated he didn't have any friends. I invited him out to play football with us on the beach and we became mates.'
Fortunately, Daniel did manage to find several creative outlets at Hilbre High School in West Kirby. (Former students include cyclist Chris Boardman and pop stars The Coral and Orchestral Manouvres In The Dark.) He appeared in several productions, such as Cats, Cinderella and another version of Oliver! He was 14 at the time.
Brenda Davies, Daniel's former drama teacher at Hilbre High School in the Wirral, had to practically force the young boy to audition. He only went along to give his friend some moral support, but Miss Davies convinced him to have a go. 'Danny had tagged along with a friend who was auditioning for a part in Oliver!' she recalls. 'He just wanted to stay and watch his friend, and had no interest in auditioning. But I told him he could only stay if he auditioned too. He was adamant he wouldn't and eventually pulled such a face I told him he'd be perfect for the part of Mr Sowerberry. My jaw nearly hit the floor when he eventually got up on stage. He had such timing and range, and he had stage presence for a thirteen-year-old. I thought, "What have we got here?" After that first audition you could sense he had been bitten by the stage bug. From then on he'd tell everyone, "I'm going to be an actor." It was all he could think about.'
Daniel also played for Hoylake Rugby Club. School friend Adam recalls how his friend became a lead singer for his band Inner Voices. 'We needed a frontman as my voice was in the middle of breaking,' he says. 'Danny was always in shows and clearly had a good stage presence. He was always a big character and was quite tall for his age: fifteen at the time. He wasn't fazed by anyone, and he could sing. His style was like Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits. But he left the band when he decided he was better at acting.'
Another old school pal, Trudy Kilpatrick, recalls Daniel's ambitions in the 1980s. 'Way back then he had ambition and you knew he was going to go on and do something. People looked up to him because he was good. He didn't have a massive girl following but there were a few teenagers who fancied him because he was so obviously talented.' His former drama teacher Hilary Green was equally supportive of him. 'Good old Danny. For me he was absolutely superb. It's fantastic that his career has really taken off.'
Although Daniel shied away from academic work, Carol fed his imagination with works of literature. She encouraged him to read various novels and he remembers how he received a copy of Ted Hughes' Crow for his 10th birthday. He was to become quite a fan of the poet. One time he even sneaked into a girls' grammar school to hear Hughes read a selection of works but recalls his hero's voice as being disappointingly monotone.
Years later, at the height of Daniel's fame, one red-top paper ran a story claiming that at school his nickname had been 'Mr Potato Head'. Of course Daniel adamantly rubbished the claims as 'bullshit!' In fact, quite the opposite had been true. According to reports from old school pals, the brash northerner had actually been a classroom Casanova. 'He was always popular with the girls,' remembers Adam. 'He would always have new girlfriends and keep the relationship on an on-and-off basis. As well as being a good laugh, he was also quite a deep person, quite thoughtful and mature — and the girls liked that a lot.'
Although Daniel would never claim to be a genuine Scouser (his accent barely betrays his upbringing), he is extremely proud of his humble roots. He will always have a fondness for Liverpool and the 'bullshit debates' that went on at the Everyman Theatre. He recalls overhearing writers such as Alan Bleasdale make proclamations that were 'bang on the right end of socialism'. And of his hometown he says, 'People will shout fucking this and fucking that; they will just have a go at things. There is a need to get out, but also to understand where you're from, and people strike that balance there.'
Despite his fond memories of the city, he admits that during the 1970s and early 1980s Liverpool was a far from prosperous place. Early on he realised his future lay beyond the city boundaries. 'I was looking down here but I was always going to move to London,' he admits. 'By the time I left in 1984 the city was in an awful state. And it's amazing to go back and see it reawakening. It's had some European cash and it's coming alive again. Paul McCartney has built a school there and I really respect him for that — it was a great thing to do. It's being done up and I love it — it's such a beautiful city.
'I always wanted to be an actor. I had the arrogance to believe I couldn't be anything else,' he continues. With that thought in mind, he was never sufficiently motivated to become an academic high achiever. By his own admission he 'failed' at school and even English lessons failed to ignite his interest. 'It was like, Shakespeare, what the fuck do these words mean? And I'm still like that.' Having failed his 11-plus, Daniel also failed his O Levels and left school without completing his A Levels. 'I just drifted away,' he shrugs. He tried a foundation course but soon dropped out of that as well. At this stage, not wanting to see her son unemployed, his mother intervened.
'My mum wanted me to get an education but, when she realised that wouldn't happen, she encouraged my acting. I was lucky to have that,' Daniel concedes. 'Liverpool was a pit. It was depressed as fuck. She realised I wasn't going to get my exams and she was worried enough to want to get me out.
'I hated school. The only thing I ever wanted to do was to act. And when I was young I had this blind faith and ego that helped me believe I could do whatever I wanted to but, as I get older, I get more and more nervous. It's sort of reversing!'
Dutch courage helped him decide that a move to London was the necessary next step. Carol stumbled upon an advertisement for the National Youth Theatre and suggested that Daniel should give it a shot. Taking her advice he headed along to the regional Manchester auditions. 'She obviously thought, "Why won't this smelly eating machine leave my house!"' he jokes. In fact, she was extremely supportive of her son's career choice. Daniel later discovered that his mother had once secured a place at RADA but had never taken it up. 'It wasn't the thing for a young lady to do then,' he shrugs. 'The pressures of family life were different to now. I admire her for not applying her ambition to me.'
Amazed by the fact that his mother had sacrificed her ambitions for a family, Daniel understood his own position of privilege and so he became even more determined to succeed as an actor. 'This business is still as misogynistic,' he reflects. 'But then one of my mother's heroes is Judi Dench and look what she's achieved.' Ironically, years later, he was to end up working alongside the acclaimed actress in Casino Royale. And he understood why his mother had held her in such high esteem. 'My mother had a picture of Judi as Puck [from A Midsummer Night's Dream]. She still looks like Puck now — her eyes sparkle.'
Daniel's mind was firmly made up — he was moving to London. Later, he would describe the move as a 'complete epiphany'. He packed his bags, bade an emotional farewell to his mother and headed for the Big Smoke. 'She advised me just to fuck off and go for it!' he beams. But unfortunately, the streets of London weren't quite so paved with the gold he'd initially imagined. Despite several determined attempts, he failed to land a place at RADA, LAMDA, The Young Vic or The Guildhall. He remains stoical about the situation and, looking back, he believes the knockbacks did him the power of good. 'It allowed me to just fuck about and be seventeen,' he says.
Fortunately he had much more success with his application for the National Youth Theatre and the experience he gained during his period of study there was to prove invaluable in later life. 'It was good for me,' he says. 'It's like a big youth club but it's also quite serious because they use professional crews and you quickly get involved with what real theatre is like.'
Although enjoyable, sadly his stint at the National Youth Theatre didn't open any doors for Daniel. Acting work failed to materialise and all he was left with were fond memories. Despite this, he refused to give up and was more determined than ever to pursue his dream career. Besides, he couldn't imagine doing anything else. After several more attempts Daniel finally won a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. As it turned out he was in good company: Ewan McGregor, Joseph Fiennes and impressionist Alistair McGowan were all fellow students.
'It was a good move for a northern boy,' he laughs. 'I met people. I had no idea what the business was all about. But I knew it was the right place for me — I wanted to be there even more than in a pub or a nightclub.' Although he was glad to see the back of school, he now wishes that he'd put more effort into gaining an education. 'I have regrets about not being educated,' he admits. 'I'd love to be able to sit down to write a letter without panicking. I can't really write and that bothers me. I didn't acquire that essay thing; I just cannot sit down and write even half a page.'
Excerpted from Daniel Craig by Sarah Marshall. Copyright © 2015 Sarah Marshall. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1: HUMBLE BEGINNINGS,
2: OUR FRIENDS,
3: INTO THE TRENCHES,
4: RAKING IN THE BIG BUCKS,
5: HONING HIS ART,
6: BEST OF BRITISH,
7: LOVE COMPLICATIONS,
8: LADIES' MAN,
9: A BLOND BOND?,
10: OO7 SHAPES UP,
11: LICENCE TO THRILL,
12: NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN,
13: FINDING SOLACE,
14: ACTION HERO,
15: A NEW ROMANCE,
16: BOND AND BEYOND,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,