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Past roles make Craig a lock

'Bond' actor has the 'Golden Compass'

Before Bond, Daniel Craig didn’t really do heroes. His characters may have appeared strong and confident, but that often masked a profound psychological or moral weakness Craig would subtly expose.

As Bond, he used the same ambiguous qualities to different effect.

“You’re willing to accept him as a heroic character, but one who is prepared at any moment to do something deeply unheroic, and possibly immoral,” director Sam Mendes suggests. “That friction makes his Bond very interesting.”

By defining Bond by his tensions and contradictions, Craig has also, whether consciously or unconsciously, retained for himself the freedom to play a wide range of other parts without jarring the public’s new image of him as 007.

“Traditionally, what’s happened is that people have had to complete their outing as Bond, and go and do edgier films with a different flavor afterwards. … Daniel will do both at once,” says Kevin Loader, who produced “The Mother” and “Enduring Love,” both featuring Craig. “That’s great for all of us who work in the edgier end of things. Hopefully, it will assist in bringing people to films they might not normally go to.”

Craig has shot three films since “Casino Royale,” most recently Ed Zwick’s WWII drama “Defiance,” in which he plays one of three Jewish brothers who escape Nazi-occupied Poland and join the Russian resistance to build a sanctuary for other Jews deep in the forest.

In New Line’s “The Golden Compass,” he plays the key role of Lord Asriel.

“If you get the wrong actor, Asriel can come across as incredibly ruthless,” says exec producer Ileen Maisel. “But with the right actor, he’s a courageous man seeking the greater good who is willing to be ruthless to achieve that. Daniel can play single-minded and have the audience embrace him, rather than turn them off.”

Craig’s new clout was crucial for pulling together British indie “Flashbacks of a Fool,” on which Craig takes his first exec producer credit. He plays a hedonistic British movie star who returns to Blighty after his once-glorious Hollywood career has failed, to revisit his formative teenage experiences. It’s hard to avoid seeing that as a statement of Craig’s resolve to resist the complacency of stardom.

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