007 does fantasy in the first of the His Dark Materials trilogy

Daniel Craig puts away his Walther PPK and tuxedo to star in a completely different franchise genre. Craig stars as the swashbuckling adventurer Lord Asriel, who seeks the true meaning of 'dust' in the universe. Fans of Phillip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy will probably need more of a Daniel Craig fix after watching the film. Turns out the climactic scene in the first novel, though filmed, was pushed back to the second film. Craig, who's a very energetic guy in person, talks about that decision and juggling Bond with an epic fantasy trilogy.

Why were you interested in doing another franchise in addition to Bond?{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}Daniel Craig:It didn't really cross my mind. I genuinely was just such a fan of the books. When I heard that this was on the cards, I've got to do this; I've got to get involved with this. I'm such a Philip Pullman fan and actually his philosophies, morals and the way he looks at the world. He does what he does brilliantly as a writer. He writes children's stories with major adult themes and major ideas about making the right choices.

Were you surprised by the reaction to the film by the Catholic Church?{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}Daniel Craig:I'm not surprised, no. Philip is being very vocal about it. For me, I don't think the story isn't at all anti-religious in any way. I think what's it more against is the control and the misuse of power that any organised religion, or any political organisation exercises over the people they're supposed to represent. I think that, for me, is what's important in the movie. The character I play has all these revolutionary ideas. I think the classic thing is that majority people who are criticising it probably have never read the books, and need to. And I'm sure that the Catholic Church, which is being directed as you know, can handle it.

As a fan of the books, what did you feel the film had to have in it to capture the essence of the books?{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}Daniel Craig:Well, the key element for the film is Dakota [Richards]. She had to be right, she had convey strength, she had to be a little girl that we wanted to follow, and she's done that, brilliantly I think. She's so engaging. She's got a quality about her that I felt is important to the role, and if you want to follow her into the world Philip Pullman created, then it's icing on the cake.

What did you think of her being able to handle the pressure? Did you sense that she was under any pressure?{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}Daniel Craig:I don't know, I mean, if she did then it was her own pressure because she wanted to get it right but I think that's kind of normal. Certainly, in a situation like this, you have to remember she's a little girl and she needs to be protected. That is the first and foremost in this situation, and this whole thing we're doing now is sort of crazy. My advice to her has always been enjoy it, enjoy what's happening here. It's crazy and it's wonderful, but it's fun.

Is that how you've been able to cope with the fame of being Bond?{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}Daniel Craig:I run away. Having a sense of humour is really key. You have to have a sense of humour with these things and I've just tried to remain who I am. My life has changed. It's changed in the fact that I don't have the freedoms I did before, but I've also got a huge amount of other freedoms that came along with it.

So assuming that The Golden Compass is a big hit, and obviously you're shooting the next Bond film, will the plan be to jump back into filming the second film?

Daniel Craig:

That will be the plan, but it will obviously depend on how well we do here. I try not the count chickens, and I really do because there's no point because you go crazy. I'm very happy with the way this is working out. If they do another movie I'd love to do, and we'll fit in it.

So what was the challenge in playing Lord Asriel?{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}Daniel Craig:I like the fact that he's a bit of revolutionary. Basically, he wants to mix everything up. Knowledge is the most important thing for him, the only way you're going to find knowledge, you've got to go out and explore, you need to go and find that. It's always going to change things and change is always good, and that is, I think, where his passion comes from.

The concept of having a daemon is so different. What would your daemon be in real life?{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}Daniel Craig:Well the thing is, once you have a snow leopard it's difficult to go back. Everything is going to be slightly disappointing. It's very telling what your choice would be. Because that's probably how you see yourself. We used to play that game as kids and you'd say if you were animal what would you be and it'd usually be the opposite of what it should be. But all animals have got their virtues. You know, cockroaches got virtues.

We've found out the initial climax of The Golden Compass, a rather expensive effects scene, has been moved to the second film? Why was this done, and are there other scenes that were moved as well?

Daniel Craig:

Yes, several of them were in the story, but you'll notice if you've read the books. We shot it and it didn't make the movie, but it was because the timing wasn't good, so it wasn't right. So it'll have to be in the second movie because it's actually how the universes are breaking apart, and how the story actually starts and how Lyra's journey starts.

Have you read the second script yet, because I understand there is one?{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}Daniel Craig:There's an outline, a pretty good outline. I haven't looked at it but I've seen bits of it.

Anything you can tell us?{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}Daniel Craig:Well, they'll be around when we're all gone.

Can you tell us a bit more about the deleted ending?{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}Daniel Craig: The situation is that we have only so much time to tell the story in the movie. Literally, the piece at the end is where the universe is cracked apart, it's a big moment. Basically, they, the filmmakers, have directed the story earlier in the book. It happens, it's called adapting a book, you have to make decisions about things. It's not unusual having to cut out scenes.

The Golden Compass is in theaters everywhere this Friday and is rated 'PG-13' for sequences of fantasy violence.