‘Children want to be scared,’ actor says of his role in Compass



Daniel Craig plays Lord Asriel in The Golden Compass, which opens Friday.


So what does an actor do when he’s not busy filming the next instalment in the world’s most successful spy franchise?

Why, he begins work on yet another potential blockbuster franchise, naturally.

Daniel Craig admits, however, that his intentions weren’t so premeditated when he took on the role of Lord Asriel in The Golden Compass, the first film in a projected series based on author Philip Pullman’s popular His Dark Materials children’s fantasy series.

But the 39-year-old has a nasty habit, he explains during a recent interview in London to promote the movie, of reading novels and planning out film versions in his head — in this case long before he’d even heard Pullman’s novels were being optioned for the silver screen.

With a phone call to one of the film’s producers, the British actor was soon cast as Lord Asriel, a scientist in Pullman’s alternate universe where individuals are accompanied through life by demons, animal manifestations of their soul.

The film — based on Pullman’s novel Northern Lights — uses cutting-edge?computer-generated graph­ics to bring the book’s fantastical imagery to life.

It’s also another example of a decidedly mature children’s series brought to life on-screen, following in the new fantasy tradition established by the Harry Potter series, The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and the Narnia films based on the novels of C.S. Lewis.

Craig has his own views as to why the cinematic fantasy genre — and in particular those films geared toward children — has taken on darker tones in recent years.

“I think if you’re being absolutely cynical about it, parents have to take their children to see these movies, so if you entertain the parents as well, maybe they’ll go again on their own,” Craig says.

“Children want to be scared, they want to be frightened by something, they want to be moved by something, they want to feel emotions.”

Despite the alleged anti-religious overtones of the His Dark Materials series, The Golden Compass is expected to produce franchise-worthy box office returns when it opens Friday.

Craig, of course, has his spy gig as a fallback if the film flops, but points out the real beauty of playing Bond is the freedom it offers in taking on a wider range of non-007 roles — Lord Asriel included.

His role as a producer and star of friend Baillie Walsh’s upcoming independent film Flashbacks Of A Fool is another example of that newfound leeway.

“What it’s given me the chance to do is, it’s given me more choices. But now, if I have the time in between the Bonds, I want to do films that interest me and (are) not necessarily ... going to get lots of people to go and see them.

“That’s the struggle,” he continues. “(It’s) me trying to convince people to put their hand in their pocket. That process interests me and I’m trying to convince people to make a movie about feelings and emotions and not necessarily about huge explosions and sultry women, it’s a little bit harder to do that.”

  • The Golden Compass opens in theatres on Friday.