The Layer Cake interviews

Film review: Layer Cake

DC Daniel Craig
ME David Ashley
INT Other interviewers (round-table, six total)

Conducted on 2005-05-02 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, CA

INT: Are you in the middle of shooting something – is that why you’re in LA?

DC: No, I’m in LA for this. But I’ve been shooting something, I’ve been in Texas.

INT: What are you shooting?

DC: I think it’s called “Every Word is True.” It’s about Truman Capote writing “In Cold Blood.”

INT: Oh, and who’s doing that?

DC: Perry Smith.

INT: Were you friends with Matthew or any of those guys?

DC: No, not at all. That crowd, that crew. Uh, no, Zach and I have the same agent in London, so they kind of put it together. So I got the script…read it…wanted to meet him. Did it that way, really.

INT: So was it a no-brainer when you read the script?

DC: It was kind of a no-brainer, it was so good, I just- and then there was that whole thing about “Matthew’s never directed before” and I just thought “well, I’ve gotta go see and see what we says about it.” In five or ten minutes we were talking about the same things, and were talking about the same ideas. So it was sort of, from then on in – I think I teased him a bit – and then he said yes.

INT: Did any of your ideas for the character get into the movie?

DC: (beat) I hope so! Most of them, hopefully. It was more to do with the fact that, I think I was sort of nervous about the fact that… I mean I think Lock, Stock and Snatch are great movies, but they’re not the kind of movies I want to do. And I think I was worried that it was just going to be another repetition of that. And as soon as I sat down with Matthew we started talking about the way the film should look, and the way the film should feel, and the fact that the violence in the movie is incredibly important, but its about how- what the reaction to that violence is, opposed to that sort of “bloodshed for bloodshed” thing.

Um…and, yeah I think so! It’s difficult to tell now, I’ll just claim them all. That’s because he will.

INT: How do you choose your roles? You have such a varied career, we can’t pin you down to any kind of genre. How do you pick?

DC: It has to be something that I think is gonna change me and that’s gonna make me…you know, the stuff that I can read and think looks difficult or looks interesting…it’s gotta challenge me. That’s the way I want to look at things. I mean it doesn’t matter if it’s a small, independent movie, or if it’s a big movie, it’s gotta challenge me in some way. Otherwise it sort of gets dull.

ME: Did you find this role challenging?

DC: Yeah, I kinda did. But in a good way. I found the idea of doing it – I’ve never done anything like it before – so it was all a bit of a new experience. I mean normally I’m not usually spending as much time in wardrobe as I did on this. You know, just because…people’d be making my suits for me and making shirts and doing shit like that, but I got used to it pretty quickly.

INT: Did you get to keep any of that?

DC: (joking) Actually I’m wearing a piece from it, it’s my wardrobe from now on in.

INT: You’ve worked on the Hollywood movies and the French movies…can you compare the differences that are evoked from being on a large-scale production?

DC: It’s not really an awful lot different, actually. I know that sounds kinda crazy, but…if you’re doing something like Tomb Raider it’s a different deal, it’s an effects-driven movie and it’s a lot of waiting around, it’s very dull. But if you’re on a sort of movie like this shoot – compare Road to Perdition with this – once you’re on set it’s the same deal. You’re trying to achieve the same thing. The food might be better. And there might be bigger and better sets, but that’s because it’s a money thing. But once that camera starts rolling it’s all about you and someone else, or you and three other people. You know, you just apply the same rules.

INT: Do you enjoy working with small, first-time directors as opposed to more experienced ones?

DC: I don’t have a preference. I’ve got a couple directors I work with, like Roger Michel I’ve worked with twice now, and John (Movie) I’ve worked with twice, and hopefully I’ll work with Matthew again. (beat) I don’t give it that much thought. It’s about the work.

INT: (indistinguishable) on the production said you had to tell him to cool down a bit when he started…

DC: (chuckle) I never told him that. What’s great about Matthew, is the he does – which is really difficult – is that he doesn’t let his ego in the way. He knew he was first-time, he knew that he was learning on his feet, but what he did was that he employed a lot of people around him who knew what they were doing and he would ask for their advice. I never really told him to cool down, I think the Production Notes kind of exaggerate slightly, make everybody interested. “Was it hell?” “Yes, it was awful!”

INT: You grew up in Liverpool, [so did you ever have a Liverpool-ian accent?]

DC: Eh, kind of, but not really. We moved around a lot, and I probably had one more than I have now, but I left there when I was 16. Then I went to London and hung out with actors. At that time all British actors spoke like this [accent], so it’s sort of difficult to pronounce things like that.

INT: Some actors tell us that they really connect with the character when they see it on the page, or there’s an epiphanol [ßnot a real word] moment in a particular scene where they said they’ve got it from there on out. Did that happen to you?

DC: There’s a lot of confusion. Kind of. There’s always a moment. The first week of shooting is always – the usual Hollywood tradition is that you shoot the first week and dump it and start again, because invariably the first week will just be everybody kind of just shitting themselves. From the cast, the crew, everybody will be too nervous, trying to produce something. By week two you start to understand it and you start trying to tell stories then. And once you start trying to tell stories that’s the moment where you think “Alright, now I’ve got it.” But there’s never sort of an “epiphany.”

INT: Did you have a favorite scene?

DC: I kinda liked being on top of that building. Cause I’m not great with heights, and I didn’t really have a choice about it. There were two stuntmen there. In fact, I tend to sneak out a bit further and further every time you see me. And I had wire tied to a post. I kind of got rid of my fear of heights, and it was such a beautiful day out there that day, good day of filming.

INT: You’re tipped to be the next James Bond.

DC: Tipped, yeah.

INT: How do you feel about that? Have they approached you?

DC: I feel fine about it, it’s a good place to be. There’s a lot of smoke and very little fire, at the moment. There’s nothing, really, to say. I’ve spoken to Barbara Broccoli, but I know Barbara Broccoli, so we know each other. Nothing’s been set in stone, and nothing’s been put on the table yet.

INT: Would you do it?

DC: I don’t know. I really don’t.

INT: Do you think [Layer Cake] is the film, though, that’s gotten you in those conversations?

DC: Maybe. Who knows? Maybe. This has helped, for sure.

INT: Are you reluctant to give that kind of a time commitment, or would you be concerned about moving out of that life?

DC: It’s a big leap. When in those situations I do that “Pro’s and con’s” list, and there’s an awful lot of Pro’s and an awful lot of Con’s, and I haven’t really done that yet and I haven’t really thought about it . It’s a big commitment to make to something that I haven’t really got a lot of ambition about doing, and that’s the truth of it. I never really wanted to do that. I mean, I want to make big movies, I want to make as much money as I possibly fucking can. (chuckle)

ME: There’s not a lot of emotional challenge in James Bond.

DC: Well, that would be an important to do, I’d want that to be the case. I’d want that to change, but I don’t know how ready they’d be to change. I don’t know how much of a fight that would be, to turn the whole thing on it’s head. I think they want to do that, but it’s a big machine and it makes a lot of money, so why would you change something that’s making a lot of money?

INT: [musing] Make James Bond metrosexual. [bit of an odd comment]

DC: Make him metrosexual? I think he already is! I think he’s kind of been there in a weird way.

INT: Doesn’t it bother you, though, that Pierce Brosnon brought a lot of emotions to the role, but that that was the problem with Timothy Dalton, that he didn’t…

DC: Well here’s the trouble with that, is how rough a rap that goes along with it. [uses his hands to represent scales, up and down] Someone said to me, you’ve got Sean Connery [up], George Lazenby [down], Roger Moore [up], Timothy Dalton [down], Pierce Brosnon [up]. Pierce Brosnon [up], Daniel Craig [down]? Umm… (chuckle). You know? But the thing is, I think Timothy Dalton was great in the part, but I think they tried to change it in the wrong direction and he got the rap for it. I think George Lazenby got the rap. I mean I think On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the best movies, cause he loses his wife, and it’s sort of great – but he got the rap. It’s a dodgy place to be walking. I don’t really want to get the rap for destroying that franchise. (laughter) That’s not a good place to be!

INT: …the director and the way he directs you…

DC: Matthew’s produced two really successful movies, he knows a little bit. He’s got a lot of experience in this game. But he did what all good directors do; he was very keen to get actors, cause he’s never really employed actors before. Guy [Ritchie] usually works with people with faces, characters. People in Lock, Stock are scary, they were criminals. Matthew didn’t want to do that, he wanted to get actors, and I think he got a great cast together. He’ll say it to you, to make your job easier. He doesn’t want to teach actors to act, just like he doesn’t want to teach his DP how to photograph. He employs people who know what they’re doing, he sort of instilled confidence in people to do the best they could – which is at least 50% of being a good director. He had a clear vision of what he wanted to do, which thankfully I agreed with, and he got on with it. He’s very good, really good.

INT: Did he speak to you about doing any cameos in X-men 3?

DC: We talked a lot about it, but I’m busy, sadly.

INT: So it’s not going to happen?

DC: I don’t think so. I’m doing something else. I just wish him luck with that.

INT: Is there any way you can talk about the other thing you’re doing?

DC: Nope!

INT: To what extent did you prepare XXXX? [main character’s name] Did you work with Matthew with it together, or did you show up one day “as him?”

DC: I don’t really work that. We did two weeks of rehearsals, which is always useful. You get to meet the other actors and make some decisions and figure it out. I wanted [XXXX] to be as close to normal as possible, and not want him to be a gangster. I wanted to show someone that was totally in control, or so they thought, and that was the only aim I had, was to sort of show his character. And I think I understood the work, and the work was so was so well-written that it was all on the page.

INT: Did you make a “name” for [XXXX]?

DC: We did have a moment during filming where we started making up names just in case it became important, but it never became important. I mean, if you watch movies and it’s done with a big “fix,” where in the first couple scenes the main character’s name is just repeated over and over and over again, just so we go “Oh, we know who they are.” But once the first ten minutes of this movie are over I don’t think it matters. We know who he is, it’s everybody else who’s trying to remember.

INT: It’s kind of funny, cause you forget that you don’t know his name, but at the end that’s when you remember…

DC: Yeah.

ME: Yes, I didn’t realize it til the end.

DC: Well, that’s kind of the point.

INT: Do you get recognized?

DC: Do I get recognized? Sometimes.

INT: What for?

DC: I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them. “You were in that movie!” Some people were very specific, it just depends on where I am.

INT: Do you find it easier to be in the US than in London?

DC: Well I find it easier to be in London. [something about mass murderers] I mean London is a big city just like it is here. You don’t have to go very far to find somebody famous in this town…but in London, for the most part, people leave each other alone. It’s usually only events that get people over-excited about, and it starts to get silly. But I haven’t had any of that, so…

INT: Have you gotten any reaction, not necessarily from the criminal world, but from those who would be aware of the film’s authenticity?

DC: Well what is interesting is that J.J. Connolly – the film’s based on a novel he wrote, which is a really good read – and he did get some reaction from the criminal world, saying it was sort of “frighteningly accurate.” I don’t know how good that is, but they thought it was quite good.

INT: Did anybody approach you and say “Hey, my brother is-“

DC: (chuckling) No, not yet.

INT: Did you guys shoot any alternate endings?

DC: Yeah, we did, yeah.

INT: And, can you tell us about them?

DC: Oh, totally. I’m happy to. The script that Sony agreed to do was me “driving off with Fiona in the car,” you know, kissing and laughing and driving off. And we shot it, and we did it, and in the afternoon we went and shot the ending that’s in the movie. On the dailies report we put “Ending no good.” And that was Matthew. Balls of steel, really, balls of steel. And then when he edited the movie he edited it with this ending, the ending that’s in the movie, and showed it to them. There’s this thing when you show the movie to producers, when I’ve sat in on it, it’s terrifying. Five minutes before the end of the movie the Sony are going [thumbs up, smiles] – JESUS!! And they fucking saw the ending and they flipped, they fucking flipped, they went through the roof. And to their credit they tested it and it tested positively, and that’s the ending we got, which I’m really really pleased about. Cause it’s the only way to end the movie.

INT: Were there more scenes with Fiona?

DC: No, that’s it.

INT: Really?

DC: No, she’s not cut out at all. We were lucky to have her before she took off.

INT: How did you get into acting?

DC: I didn’t really have a good…I just wanted to do it. Getting up, dressing up, showing off sort of tendency. I love it, I believe in it, I think it’s a great art form, it’s a great way to earn money, it’s a great way to earn a living if you can do it. Eventually…I just can’t do anything else.

INT: Did you do a lot of TV as well?

DC: No, not really. I did one particular series. I did TV to earn rent once I got out of drama school, then you take any job you can. I did a television serial called Our Friends of the North in England.

ME: Wasn’t really your thing?

DC: No, it was totally my thing, and I still think it is, but I had an ambition to make movies. And I got off with lots and lots of television roles which would’ve paid a lot of money, but I was just like “…but I wanna make movies,” and the only way to do that was to be poor and stick with it. And that’s kind of lucky enough. John Mayer spotted me in Our Friends in the North and put me in Love is a Devil, which was a great movie for me to be in, and stuff like that happened. I took it, if I could do it. I think television is a fantastic medium, but…if you’re gonna do it, be 30-feet across. If you’re gonna make a fool of yourself, make a really big fool of yourself.

ME: I thought one of the most interest parts of Layer Cake was the whole sort of aspect of your character having a very difficult reaction to killing a person. Do you have anything to say about that?

DC: I knew that that was very important to the movie. I think that, for very selfish reasons, if you don’t see a film where in scene one four people die, and then four people die in the next scene, by the time you get to halfway through the movie, you don’t care, you don’t give a shit if people live or die or not. And I know it’s a sort of exaggeration, but I say at the beginning of the movie “I don’t like violence, I don’t like guns.” And we should know, as an audience, that “ha, ha ,ha!” we’re gonna see guns and violence. We’re giving that sort of thing away. It’s like I say at the beginning of the movie, “Just one more job and I’m out of here.” And again, if you go to enough movies, you should know that that’s not gonna happen. All those things are trying to get people emotionally involved with the character so that when violence happens to them or they commit some violence, you care, you’re emotionally engaged in them. And as far as I’m concerned, that makes for a much more entertaining movie. And if you then put it into this potent, or stylish, world that we’ve put the movie into, you can get people on every level.

ME: That’s one thing that made Layer Cake very good. The fact that it had a lot of crime, but when you get down to it, it’s really character-driven.

DC: Good. Great, good you noticed.

INT: What was the last DVD and what was the last CD you bought?

DC: Oh, Jesus Christ. What? I suppose the Jamie Foxx collection, stand-ups.

INT: Why?

DC: Cause it fucking makes me laugh my ass off!

INT: Were you aware of him before?

DC: As a comedian, yes. Not his movies. I know I’ve got a copy of Ray, but I’m going on…”Bought Ray as well…I love you Jamie!” (joking) CD? Jeff Buckley’s last one. It’s great, and I hadn’t heard it for some reason. I’ve got Grace and all those. It’s sort of weird with CDs now, cause of the iPod thing. I just load them onto my machine and press shuffle. Actually, the kind of music I’m listening to, sounds like I’m listening to something, I dunno, complex. I’ve got a Britney Spears track. You’ve gotta be careful!

INT: This film was so good, and you had a lot of fun filming it. Were there any sort of on-set shenanigans or pranks?

DC: There wasn’t time. The movie cost seven million dollars to make, we shot it in 67 weeks, we did six day weeks. I mean, you know, you get on with it. We laughed a lot because we had a great bunch of people, but there just wasn’t time. It would be lovely to be able to play tricks on people all day but you’ve gotta get on with it. (chuckle)

INT: Did you hang out with each other outside work?

DC: No. At the end of the day I just sort of want to go home. And narcissism (stops?) me from drinking while I work. Cause when you’re up at five in the morning with a hangover it’s not pretty. Believe me, it’s not pretty.

INT: Your character didn’t even really do stuff like that.

DC: Whether he does it or not, I don’t do it. If I have to look like I’ve been up all night, they can make me look like that. I don’t need to go out and do it.

INT: Ever thought about moving out to LA?

DC: I dunno. I hope it’s London. But I spend a lot of time here. As long as I’m still welcome, I’ve got friends here, and I spend time here. If I had enough movie I’d love to have a place here.

INT: Some [actors] go so extreme with the method, they’ll do all kinds of things. Martin Lawrence put himself into a coma trying to do something for a role.

DC: Yeah, that’s kind of over-the-top. I don’t knock anybody’s way of doing things, I really don’t. And I will do anything to make it work, it’s just that I don’t have any specific way of doing it. I tend to have a thing where I will do all my work before you start shooting. And if you get all that in, you can dump it or use it as you want to. If you get to rigid on a film set – film sets are fantastically magical places to be sometimes, where something magical might happen. And if you go “My character wouldn’t do that,” you’re kind of blocking off this whole sort of life that you can make. And you’re not changing plot, you’re just changing nuances and things. If I’m not ready on day one, I’m never gonna be ready. All that work’s done. Then there’s the question of inventing, or telling stories. It’s what you’re supposed to be there to do.

INT: Mike Nichols said that you have to do all your homework, do all your research, and then walk away from it for at least a couple of weeks.

DC: I wish I had that privilege to do that. The time privilege – but I don’t. But I agree, I totally agree. You should know. You should’ve done your homework. I think a lot of the “method-thing” that goes on is because people haven’t done their homework. “I’m not ready…” “Well fucking get ready!” You gotta go home and work. If I have to work at six o’clock in the morning, I leave home and I get home by eight o’clock in the morning, I’ve got two hours more work before I go to sleep because I have to prepare myself for the next day. Potentially, you get a lot of money. You should be earning money.

INT: We hear something like that and then you think “How much is actually going on during shooting?” If you’re already prepared and say “this is what I want to do,” how much direction do you need?

DC: You’re thinking. You’ve got to be constantly thinking. You can be shooting something and it might not be working. Storyboards will be coming until the cows come home, and this is how the shots are going to be…this way…this way…this way…You’ve got to be ready to change it. And that doesn’t mean you going to do something completely different. Then you’re fighting the cameras because something just looks wrong. It looks ugly or it looks like this. You’ve got be on the ball ready to make the move when you do something different. I sound like I don’t know what I’m doing, but I make most of it up on the day on the facts of what I need to do. You got to be able to make stuff up on the day. This is what I aim to do.

INT: And some people say that’s why they actually prefer theatre as opposed to the medium of film or even television because you get involved with that character shape the role you want and think about how to get it done.

DC: No, but I think it’s all relative. Because in theatre you can develop a character in a year, and with television you might have a series to do the whole thing, but in film what you’re doing is contracting it but it’s the same method . It’s just that you compress time and apply all the same rules. There’s no difference, there shouldn’t be anyway.

INT: How do you like watching yourself? Has it gotten easier.

DC: It kind of has. It has, yeah. It doesn’t completely freak me.

ME: In seeing the film again, what part of your performance where you most pleased with?

DC: Oh, I don’t know. I’m pleased that the whole thing gels together because I don’t need the screen. It’s kind of odds. I am watching shit wondering about the way I’m standing in that particular way. Because you can’t look at the bigger picture, but I’m watching know and thinking “but the bigger picture is working.” It gels; the ending sort of ties in.

ME: So now that it’s all together?

DC: I pleased with it. I’m kind of pretty pleased with it.

ME: So you have film where you won’t go and look fullback at the video?

DC: I would if it were a physical thing. If it’s a fight or something huge I’ll go back because if camera operators is trying to achieve something, you can go back and figure what he trying to achieve, and figure yourself into it. But if it’s just dialogue and emotional dialogue then no.

INT: Are there alternate endings or other things that were cut?

DC: Really very little. I mean, we got where we’re at and getting done to Matthew we shot the movie, and we shot the script. What you see is what we shot. Very little indeed. There are story orders that we moved around, but we screwed around with the plot a little bit more to kind of make the story a bit more interesting, but what we shot you saw.

INT: So would you go see this movie if you weren’t in it?

DC: I think I would, yeah. I wouldn’t go see this if I thought it was going to be another Lock, Stock or maybe Snatch, but because of what I think that we’ve created which is a bit more. I did like to think that it was Matthew… Cinematic down and dirty, but it may put it in big scope, but it looks beautiful and everybody says sometimes that they get taken, and that’s the thing that you were trying to go for. Not something that was quirky. London looks like it was in one square mile, but it makes London look huge like the huge city that it is. So in answer to the question: yes. I would go see the film.

INT: Thank you.

DC: Yes, alright. Thank you.

conducted and transcribed by David Ashley

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