LOS ANGELES — When you successfully reinvent a cinematic icon, gross nearly $600 million worldwide and create a movie many consider to be the best in a 21-film franchise, you're going to feel a wee bit of pressure while creating your follow-up. But according to "Quantum of Solace" star Daniel Craig, you can't allow it to leave you shaken or stirred.
"It's a good pressure," grinned the 40-year-old star, who returns to screens for his second adventure as 007 on November 14. "It's the kind of pressure you want. It would have been much worse the other way around — if we'd come off the back of a dud, we would be in serious trouble."
Instead, Craig and the Bond screenwriting team (Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) found themselves blessed with a mandate rarely offered in Hollywood: Keep doing what you're doing. And once new director Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland") came onboard, they got to work explaining what happened after "Casino Royale" left James with a dead girlfriend (Eva Green) and a bad guy (Jesper Christensen) begging for his life.
"[We were] trying to use the momentum of 'Casino Royale' to try and, not better it, but make something different — and make something really entertaining," Craig said. "The movie deals with the whole issue of trust and who your allies are. ... [In 'Casino Royale,'] he was after this secret organization that seems to be trying to control the world, but he fell in love. He fell in love, had his heart broken and was betrayed — and it was such a good story line that we felt we wanted to continue it."
So when you and a few million of your closest friends pile into the "Quantum" theaters opening weekend, you can expect more of the ruthless, ass-kicking Bond you were introduced to in "Royale." But you might also want to keep an eye out for 007's tender underbelly.
"The opening of this movie feels like he's on a vendetta, but actually what he's trying to do is find peace within himself," Craig explained of the flick's whiz-bang beginning.
But regardless of the subtext, a Bond action scene remains as much fun to shoot as it is to watch. "God, it is," he grinned. "The fact is that Aston Martin allowed me to drive DB9s and DBSs on their test track. I learned how to drive jet boats. And I didn't really learn how to fly, but I did take some rudimentary flying lessons, so [those scenes] looked fairly close to the real thing.
"It was just great stuff," he added. "I can't really complain."
Which is just another part of the Bond tradition — and in the eyes of some, it's this balance between the new ("Bourne"-like adrenaline, free-running action scenes) and the old (the cars, the babes, the locales) that makes the newest 007 movies the best.
"Watching Bond films as a kid — whether or not they were the ones on television or the ones you go to the cinema to — it was always about the locations to a degree," Craig observed. "If you look at 'Dr. No,' he was on this beautiful beach; that's as much a part of the Bond movies as the martinis and the Aston Martins. Doing that, transporting people to these places, is part of the character of the films — finding these locations that are out of the way and that look amazing onscreen is crucial.
"And it's also great to travel to them and great to work in those places," smiled the actor, who shot "Quantum of Solace" on location in places such as Tuscany, Madrid, Italy and the U.K. "Both Marc and I said, 'We just want to make a really beautiful film, so let's go to beautiful locations and photograph them.' "
Check out everything we've got on "Quantum of Solace."
For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.