James Bond needs a day off.
In the latest 007 thriller, "Quantum of Solace," Daniel Craig continues to explore the depths of the iconic superspy, this time (his second) revealing a man consumed by his job.
It just so happens that his work is saving the world.
"It's no moral judgment," Craig says, sitting with his right arm in a sling, the result of 007 action work aggravating an old injury. "If there's ambiguity to the character, then you'll have a better time. It's as simple as that.
"There's no kind of self-conscious idea to make him a deep, meaningful human being. I just think, well, he's a spy and kills people for a living. There might be some consequences for him — and everybody around him."
By now it's well known that "Quantum" (opening Nov. 14 in the USA) picks up moments after the conclusion of 2005's "Casino Royale," which rebooted the franchise.
In the sequel, Bond nearly self-destructs in his quest to uncover the Quantum organization behind the money-laundering in the original story. The lines of justice and revenge become so blurred, his own MI6 handlers fear he is too wrapped up in the mission to pull it off.
Even this film's Bond girl, Camille (Ukrainian-born model Olga Kurylenko), is so devoted to her own quest for vengeance that together they are all business — no time or energy for any between-the-sheets action.
Craig, 40, jokingly compares his Bond's big flaw — total immersion in his duties — to the e-mail-checking, cellphone-addicted, always-on-call culture of the modern workplace.
"You're never away from the office. That's very true of people, isn't it?" he says. "We're driven to do that, and maybe that's wrong. Maybe we should all step back, put it down for an hour a day and be out of the office."
Craig adds: "That said, it is a Bond movie." His day job involves high-speed, cliff's-edge car chases, speedboat escapes and exploding desert hotels.
After six "Bonds" and 22 films, audiences still dig it. "Casino Royale" ultimately grossed $594 million worldwide, topping "Die Another Day's" $431 million record. "Quantum" already had a record-breaking debut in Europe, with about $40 million.
With this installment and future ones, Craig's challenge is to keep the fan base rejuvenated.
Thomas Huffner, who runs the fan website BondMovies.com, says he wants the franchise to continue Bond's anti-hero qualities. "He's human, and the more human you make him, the more believable the character and the more successful the movie," he says. "He's far from perfect, but that's what makes him interesting."
International man of mystery
For all the exposure 007 has given Craig, his own life remains a kind of secret identity.
He has been divorced since 1994 and has a teenage daughter from that marriage, but he doesn't like to discuss her. ("I've spent my whole career protecting her," he says. "As soon as I talk about it, that's out there.")
He has been in a relationship with film producer Satsuki Mitchell for several years, and was dogged during Quantum production by rumors of an engagement. His standard answer: He's not a member of the Royal Family, and therefore owes the public no confirmation or denial.
Craig does say this: He tends to see flaws in his "Bond" work, but Mitchell is still impressed. "I'm looking at myself and say, 'I got away with that … I didn't get away with that … I kinda got away with that.' My girlfriend is more than forgiving," he says with a laugh.