January 7, 2009 / 12:38 PM / 10 years ago

Daniel Craig takes break from Bond in WW2 drama

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British actor Daniel Craig has taken a break from playing James Bond with World War Two drama “Defiance,” based on the true story of Jewish brothers who fled the Nazis and formed a partisan group.

British actor Daniel Craig attends the European premiere of Defiance at Leicester Square in London January 6, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Craig has said he wants to avoid being typecast as an action hero after being chosen for the high-profile role of James Bond, and to use his new-found fame to get smaller projects off the ground.

Before his first outing as the superspy in “Casino Royale” in 2006, the 40-year-old was seen as a respected character actor for appearances in TV drama “Our Friends of the North” and gangster movie “Layer Cake.”

His latest on-screen outing is as Tuvia, the eldest of the real-life Bielski brothers who hid from the Nazis in a Belarussian forest where they ran a partisan resistance movement that protected hundreds of Jews from Nazi persecution.

“One of the reasons I think the story is important is because this is very recent history and a lot of the way we look at the world and live in the world is shaped because of that history,” Craig told Reuters at the London premiere of the movie late on Tuesday.

“Stories like this need to be told because it’s not that long ago,” added the star, who attracted hundreds of fans to Leicester Square despite freezing temperatures.

U.S. actor Liev Schreiber, who plays another of the Bielski brothers, said the film, and the true story behind it, showed how protecting one another was a basic human instinct.

“I think, at the heart of this story, is the notion that we are, as a race, instinctively ... protective of each other and more so than ever it’s important to remember that — that we are a communal species.”

Director Edward Zwick, who also made “The Last Samurai” and “Blood Diamond,” said audiences may draw parallels between events of the 1940s and current conflicts.

“I think to see refugees displaced, going from one place to the other, is one of the salient images of our time,” he said.

“To try and think about resistance and the nature of resistance by a people against an overwhelming force is also quite contemporary.”

Defiance has had a limited release in the United States, where it opens nationally on January 16. It arrives in British cinemas on January 9.

Critical reaction to the film has been mixed, with tracking site www.rottentomatoes.com saying that of the 49 reviews it has monitored, 22 were generally positive.

Writing by Mike Collett-White

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