The prospect of Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz—certifiably beautiful movie stars who happen to be married—appearing in a Broadway revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal under the direction of Mike Nichols (fresh from his Death of a Salesman with Philip Seymour Hoffman) is enough to quicken the blood, but there’s another prospect, almost as tantalizing: that the publicity-averse couple will finally be forced to sit side by side and talk about each other. About their swift and surprising union. How it feels to work together. How they manage to maintain a sphere of privacy. Tell us how you keep your secrets, Mr. and Mrs. Celebrity Couple. Spill.
The tabloid dream dies fast. I have to meet them on opposite sides of downtown, she in the West in an ordinary bakeshop (well, Le Pain Quotidien), he in the East in a hotel room he takes especially for our chat.
Before I see Craig, I ask Weisz about their refusal to be interviewed together. She professes surprise. “That is strange, isn’t it?” she says, of the publicist’s demand. “I don’t know why they did that.”
But didn’t she have a role in the decision?
Maybe it was Craig’s call.
Later, he motions me into his hotel room. A compact man with a distractingly broad upper body, he suggests a bruiser even in repose, his blue eyes registering everything. The room seems too small for him—confining. But he’s congenial, more so than in most interviews. “People used to think I was particularly rude and obnoxious to journalists,” he says. “I’m only rude and obnoxious to journalists who ask me stupid questions.” My sense is neither he nor Weisz share their personal lives because neither is an especially good liar.
We talk Pinter before married life.
Craig plays Robert, whose wife, Emma (Weisz), has had a seven-year affair with his best friend, Jerry (Rafe Spall). Pinter began with an idea for scene one: the adulterers meeting for lunch after several years apart. He didn’t think there was anywhere to go from there and went backward instead, in stages, from the lovers’ break-up all the way to their first, drunken kiss. Hindsight proves unusually penetrating. Nearly everyone has betrayed everyone in ways large and small.
Craig’s congenital simmer makes the idea of his Pinter so exciting. His rhythms are his own. He knows that “Pinteresque” is an adjective and the playwright was exacting about pauses inserted as spaces for thought, but he won’t be bound: “I think if the pause doesn’t feel right, don’t do it,” he says. “He’s not around anymore, so it’s tough shit.”
Craig finishes a bag of chips and, having exhausted Pinter, is happy to chat about Bond. At the end of Betrayal’s fourteen-week run, he’ll be starting the next 007 film, once more with director Sam Mendes. Skyfall was an intense collaboration. The idea was always that Judi Dench’s M would die—a downer lifted by a late “humor pass” on the script. During filming they added more jokes. The shot where Bond leaps atop a speeding train in pursuit of a killer and straightens his cuffs: That came to Craig practically in mid-flight. “He’s really fucking hurt himself jumping on top of a train,” he says, “and he just wants to straighten himself up. That’s what it’s about: poise. To be more concerned about the way you look at the moment of crisis. The weirder the place it comes from the better it is.”
He had them reset the train (it took an hour) and do another take. Presto: an iconic image.
Craig’s Bond suffered mightily in three films but was, in effect, born again at the end of Skyfall—ready to take on the trappings and suits of 007 with less chafing. “Hopefully we’ll reclaim some of the old irony,” he says, “and make sure it doesn’t become pastiche. I can’t do shtick, I’m not very good at it. Unless it kind of suddenly makes sense. Does that make sense? I sometimes wish I hammed it up more, but I just can’t do it very well, so I don’t do it.”