They came in their ones and twos, huddled together against the bitter cold, but the cast of Defiance are a hardy bunch and made light of the frosty journey down the red carpet to greet rugged-up fans and media types at the film’s European premiere in London.
Among those in attendance in Leicester Square were Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell, who play a trio of partisan brothers in the film; a true-life tale of Jewish resistance against the Nazis set in the thick forests of Belarus during the Second World War.
There are few people hardier than Craig, a man more chiselled than a Black & Decker workstation, and he proved it by sauntering down the red carpet in a suspiciously summery grey suit, as the thermometer hit -5. To remind us that he’s human and not actually the North Face of the Eiger in disguise, Craig did admit to the odd moment of discomfort during Defiance’s wintry shoot in Lithuania. “It was tough, but this was a really good bunch of people. We had a laugh, we had to. It was cold, so we drank a lot.”
Craig agreed to play Jewish leader Tuvia Bielski after reading a non-fiction account of the partisans, and admitted that the project quickly became a labour of love. “You gather as much information as you can and try to be as accurate as possible. We didn’t do it for the money, this movie, we did it because we loved doing it.”
As Paramount’s bean counters reached for the Valium, Craig laughed off rumours that Noel Gallagher want him to play, well, Noel Gallagher in an Oasis biopic. “I heard about that this morning, but I can play guitar better than him, so I’m not sure how that’s going to work.”
Also on the carpet was director Ed Zwick, who admitted that Craig’s extracurricular press-ups had him worried on set. “Daniel came pretty close to pneumonia. He was out there in the rain and I remember thinking, ‘Oh god, he’s not going to make it!’ But he’s pretty strong.”
With historical epics like Glory, Legends Of The Fall and The Last Samurai adorning it, Zwick’s CV reads like a history A-Level cheat-sheet, but the director has had to bat away suggestions that Defiance glosses over the more brutal aspects of the Bielski story. "Daniel’s character is quite ambiguous as a hero and I went out of my way to add that to the fabric of the piece. The nature of heroes is a very complex subject.”
Segueing neatly from guerrillas to The Mist, Empire spoke to the extremely lovely Alexa Davalos, last seen battling giant insectoids in Frank Darabont’s excellent horror. Davalos plays Craig’s lover Lilka in Defiance and talked, albeit reluctantly, about sharing a love scene with 007. “I didn’t kiss James Bond! There was a kiss, and Daniel made it very comfortable and it’s not usually the case, so I’m grateful.”
Adopted Manhattanite Jamie Bell was next along to enthuse about being back in Blighty. “I’m very much the Englishman in New York. When I’m in England I’m always stocking up on PG Tips, KitKats and Clubs. I love coming back, but the States provides the work.”
Liev Schreiber has no worries when it comes to work, with four films due out in 2009, including the hot-as-Hades Wolverine. His main concern was getting a good night’s sleep, after the recent arrival of his second son, Samuel. “He’s getting up every three hours which is kind of a pain in the butt, so it’s nice to come to a premiere and get a full night’s sleep in a hotel.” And with that he was off to join the rest of the cast inside, running the risk of becoming the first person to fall asleep in their own movie.
Defiance opens in the UK on January 9.