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Wed September 18, 2013
Theater

Daniel Craig Heads Back To Broadway With 'Betrayal'

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 7:01 pm

A revival of Harold Pinter's play Betrayal is in rehearsal now in New York. It's the story of an affair, and it unfolds backward in time, from the lovers sharing a post-romantic drink to the passion they first experienced seven years earlier. Along the way, much deception — betrayal, even — is revealed.

Daniel Craig, who stars as the jilted Robert, tells NPR's Robert Siegel that the show, first performed in 1978, still feels "surprisingly contemporary. ... When you have someone as good as Pinter, it remains timeless. And the themes are timeless. It's just good writing."

The men in the story are Oxbridge literati — denizens of a culture familiar to Craig's co-star and real-life wife, Rachel Weisz, but not the sort the actor himself, who left school at 16, would have run with.

"It's as far away from me as possible, I suppose," the actor acknowledges — though he notes that he did eventually go to college to study acting, a career he knew pretty early on he wanted to pursue.

"Very early," he stresses. "Just the desire to dress up and show off — which is still with me. [It] got me when I was probably about 4 or 5, I think."

Craig also notes that the production, directed by Mike Nichols and co-starring Rafe Spall as the man Weisz's character has the affair with, features at least one implication — based on a line about who should have cheated with whom — that wasn't in the original staging.

"[Pinter] said there's no homosexual overtones at all in the play," Craig says. "But obviously we're throwing loads in. Just to let you know."


Interview Highlights

On acting opposite wife Rachel Weisz

What's interesting about the play is that it's very intense, and a very intense thing to do, but we manage to go home and just sort of leave it there at work. I think otherwise it would be too difficult to do. ... We don't talk to each other about it, no. We separate about it. You know, she gets on with her thing, and I get on with my thing. And we decided to do that because it's important to be separate entities when you're at work.

On having the luxury, post-Bond, to pick and choose parts

Yes. I mean, it doesn't make my choices good, though. I wish it could give me taste. But you kind of go with your heart, and I think that's the best thing to do. Certainly in my case, in making choices about the work I want to do. Do I like it? Do I love it? Do I like the people involved? Then it's a no-brainer.

On why he decided to do Betrayal

The cast. The director. The play. I mean, too many good things. Another chance to go back to Broadway — which is on one hand incredibly scary, and on another just an exhilarating thing to do. Broadway audiences are just like nowhere else on Earth.

On performing live every night

I mean, standing up in front of people and pretending to know what you're talking about is hard enough in any profession. It's just a big deal, certainly for the first couple of weeks; it's like a very foreign place. And hopefully then it settles down, and you can start feeling kind of comfortable with it and making it better — and continue to make it better as the run goes on.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A revival of Harold Pinter's 1978 play "Betrayal" is in rehearsal in New York. "Betrayal" is the story of an affair and it unfolds backwards in time from the lovers sharing a post-romantic drink to the passion they first shared seven years earlier. Along the way, much deceptive betrayal is revealed. Mike Nichols is directing this production and it features Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall.

And Daniel Craig joins us from New York. Welcome to the program.

DANIEL CRAIG: It's a pleasure to be here.

SIEGEL: You play Robert, Rachel Weisz plays your wife, Emma, Rafe Spall plays Robert's best friend and Emma's lover, Jerry. Since you and Rachel Weisz are real life husband and wife, is rehearsal 24/7? Is there an unusual number of pauses in your conversation at home?

CRAIG: What's interesting about the play is that it's sort of very intense, and a very intense thing to do, but we manage just to go home and just sort of leave it there at work. I think otherwise it would be too difficult to do.

SIEGEL: It's not the subject of conversation at home about how that happened and...

CRAIG: We don't talk to each other about it, no. We separate about it. You know, she gets on with her thing, I get on with my thing. And we decided to do that because it's important to be separate entities when you're at work.

SIEGEL: I tend to think of "Betrayal" as a contemporary play, but I realized that I recently interviewed the actress Rebecca Hall, whose father was the original director in both London and New York and she wasn't born yet when this play was first staged.

CRAIG: She's very young.

SIEGEL: I just wonder, do you find that this is at all dated, or does it feel contemporary to you?

CRAIG: Surprisingly contemporary. But I think that when you have someone as good as Pinter, it remains timeless and the themes are timeless and it's just good writing.

SIEGEL: On the other hand, there are moments when your character says perhaps he should have had the affair with Jerry. That sounds different to people in 2013 than it did in 19...

CRAIG: It may do, yeah. Pinter was very tough about that. I mean, he said there's no homosexual kind of overtones at all in the play, but obviously we're throwing loads in 'cause it's - just to let you know.

SIEGEL: You're throwing that in.

CRAIG: Yeah. I don't know. I mean, the play brings up so many levels of emotion that you sort of pick away at it and you find more and more things. We discuss everything and sort of what that means and what it doesn't mean and either throw it out or keep it in. It just depends on how the rehearsal is going.

SIEGEL: You dive very deeply into this during the rehearsal period.

CRAIG: I mean, I wouldn't know any other way. I mean, I don't think there is another way to do it. You can't do it halfway.

SIEGEL: The men in "Betrayal" are Oxbridge literati. They seem to be from a stratum of British society perhaps your Cambridge-educated real-life wife grew up in, but this isn't your native ground.

CRAIG: No, as far away as possible from me, I suppose. I left school at 16, so I wish I'd stayed and I wish I'd gone on to a university education, but I eventually went to college and I studied acting, so I got there eventually.

SIEGEL: When did you decide you would be an actor, that this was something you wanted to do?

CRAIG: Very early. Just the sort of desire to dress up and show off, which is still with me, got me when I was probably about four or five, I think.

SIEGEL: What did you dress up as?

CRAIG: Anything. Anything I could.

SIEGEL: Maureen Dowd recently wrote a story for the New York Times about the...

CRAIG: Which I haven't read, so if you start quoting it, I will - I'll be in the dark.

SIEGEL: So you don't know, although there are many words in this piece, you don't know what the first two words are in that storyline?

CRAIG: No, I don't. I don't. I try not to read stuff anymore.

SIEGEL: Well, the first two words are James Bond.

CRAIG: Well, that's probably 'cause I play him.

SIEGEL: I've heard that. How do you regard this identity? Is this liberation that permitted you to do what you want? Is it a burden? How do you deal with it?

CRAIG: It's pretty good, on the whole. I've been lucky enough to be handed something as iconic as this and I've been enjoying doing it and I want to kind of, you know, make the most of it and make it as good as I can. My feeling has always been that I'd like to leave it in a good place so that it can continue after me.

SIEGEL: You can choose what you want to do now?

CRAIG: Yes. I mean, it doesn't make my choices good, though. I wish it could give me taste. But, you know, you kind of go with your heart and I think that's the best thing to do. Certainly in my case, in making choices about the work I want to do. Do I like it? Do I love it? Do I like the people involved? And then, you know, it's a no-brainer.

SIEGEL: Tell me about the choice to do "Betrayal."

CRAIG: The cast. The director. The play. I mean, too many good things. Another chance to kind of go back to Broadway, which is on one hand incredibly scary, and on another just an exhilarating thing to do. Broadway audiences are just like nowhere else on Earth.

SIEGEL: Going on Broadway is both exhilarating but also scary.

CRAIG: I mean, standing up in front of people and pretending to know what you're talking about is hard enough, you know what I mean, in any profession. It's just a big deal, certainly for the first couple of weeks, it's like a very foreign place. And hopefully then it settles down, and you can start feeling kind of comfortable with it and making it better and continue to make it better as the run goes on.

SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Craig, thank you very much for talking with us.

CRAIG: My pleasure, absolute pleasure.

SIEGEL: Daniel Craig, who appears in the forthcoming Broadway production of "Betrayal" with his wife Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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