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Out of the Archives: Daniel Craig on Ted Hughes

In 2003 Daniel Craig spoke with the journalists of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in London about playing poet laureate Ted Hughes in the movie Sylvia with Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath.
“My intention in doing this part was to try and get as even-handed a portrayal of Ted and Sylvia as possible, so that we weren’t just leaning either way. There’s been an awful lot of literature written about the two of them, and a lot of it is hate towards Ted Hughes. But I don’t know whether you can really blame someone for someone else’s suicide. I believe that Sylvia Plath was quite ill. She had suffered a mental breakdown earlier in her life and she tried to commit suicide. She was also an American living in London, and a woman with an opinion, with a voice, so she was very lonely. It was a difficult relationship.”
“What I admire about him is that, up until his death, up until Birthday Letters, the collection of poetry Ted Hughes published six weeks before he died, which was a book of love poems to Sylvia Plath, he kept his counsel, he said nothing. Even under huge amounts of pressure, he would not be drawn to say what he thought of the situation. It was his tragedy, it was his grief, it was his guilt, and I can’t help but respect him for this. He was a man that suffered a great deal of tragedy in his life.”
“I met quite a few people who had worked at Faber & Faber, which is his publisher, and the women that worked in the office said that Ted used to walk in the door and women would crumble at the knees. He obviously had such a reputation; he was very attracted to women and women found him very attractive; Sylvia called him her black panther. In the film I tried to stay ambiguous until near the end, when you definitely know that he’s having an affair, but it must have been difficult for him not to run and find solace somewhere else, if his relationship was falling down.”
“Poetry now doesn’t really have the same clout that it did back then. Writers and artists were thought of as the pop stars of their day. If you think about Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud in the art scene, writers like Stephen Spender and T.S. Eliot’s, they were big, powerful literary figures that also had their personal life in the gossip columns. Somebody said that they were the equivalent of J-Lo and Ben Affleck, and there is a connection there, which mustn’t forget that, because poetry today seems to be old-fashioned, but at the time it was very much an exciting world to be in.”
“Successful people being together is not easy, and Ted got a huge amount of success very early on, where Sylvia didn’t get any until she died. So, the tragedy is that there was a competitiveness within the relationship. We’re doing a dramatization, but I wanted to make sure that this film was about telling a very passionate love story and the background is that what they do. It’s an extraordinary story because of the tragedy of it.”