August 7, 2011
While action star Daniel Craig may not be the first person one considers when the words “American cowboy” come to mind, director Jon Favreau, who transformed Robert Downey Jr. into a superhero in Iron Man, has a knack for inspired casting. He saw something both familiar and iconic in the British native that would fit the character of Jake Lonergan, the lone, amnesiac stranger who wanders into the former boomtown of Absolution just in time to save it from total annihilation.
“He was the first cast member we brought on,” explains the director. “I realized in talking with him and looking at him that he has this gruff, handsome, Steve McQueen-type quality.” Rugged good looks notwithstanding, Craig has a gift for conveying much with few words. “The language of the Western is about action, not dialogue,” says Favreau. “I usually have a fire hose of dialogue to use in my films, but here you have to make the action the dialogue, whether it’s the gunfights or hand-to-hand combat. That’s all part of Jake’s personality, and Daniel is able to carry that off really well. He says a lot with his actions. You see when his wheels are turning and he’s up against everything.”
A longtime fan of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as Alien and Blade Runner, Craig didn’t feel as if it would be a big leap to bring these genres together. Admitting that he “based his character very much on the silence of Clint Eastwood,” Craig prepared for the part by seeing as many Westerns as he could. The actor says, “I watched a lot of John Wayne Westerns, but my favorite ones are the ones from the ’70s—movies like Little Big Man and those so-called dirty Westerns where there’s a little more reality.”
When it came time to get into character, Craig offers that it was much easier to become Jake Lonergan than other roles that he tackled. He says, “The cowboy just comes out. We are in a desert, and I’m wearing chaps. I’m wearing a gun around my waist, I’ve got cowboy boots on and a hat and I’m riding a horse. I rode on a horse every day and I got paid to do it, so I couldn’t have been happier.”
Is the situation feasible? Craig believes that 19th-century settlers and Indians would be hardy enough to handle creatures from another world. He notes: “The idea is that survival kicks in. These people are very tough. They’re frontier people, and we’ve got American Indian tribesmen who are a tough breed who have survived the outside world and all that Mother Nature has to throw at them.”
The multitalented actor received a BAFTA nomination and an Empire Award for Casino Royale, his James Bond debut, which became the highest-grossing film in the history of the 007 franchise.
Born in 1968 in Chester and raised near Liverpool, Craig was first introduced to theater at the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Theatres. When he reached his late teens, he moved to London to join the National Youth Theatre, before continuing his training at the London Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Craig has since secured eclectic roles in television, theater and film, and is now regarded as one of Britain’s finest actors.
Cowboys & Aliens marks Craig’s third collaboration with film producer Steven Spielberg, following their work on the Oscar®-nominated Munich and the upcoming Spielberg-directed and Peter Jackson-produced adaptation of one of the world’s most beloved comic books, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, in which he plays Red Rackham. He also stars alongside Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts in Universal Pictures’ upcoming film Dream House, a tense thriller directed by multi-award-winning Jim Sheridan.
“Cowboys and Aliens ” is released and distributed by United International Pictures through Solar Entertainment Corp.
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