I Was the Scorpion on Daniel Craig's Wrist in Skyfall and Apparently I'm Not Good Enough to Be in Spectre
No one ever thinks about the little guy.
I say it time and time again: I’m a venomous arthropod, sure, but I have kids to feed and bills to pay. Making a living in Hollywood as a scorpion is a near-impossibility. Good parts for us don’t grow on trees. You know what grows on Hollywood trees? The fruit of nepotism. I’ve been in this business all my life – four years – and for a long time I was living off scraps. I’ve seen lesser scorpions, mugging over-actors, bag lead roles in suspicious circumstances, while I languished on the sidelines like a discarded prophylactic.
“Buddy, I’ve got incredible news,” my agent said when the Skyfall script landed on his desk. “Boy oh boy. Get a bottle of champagne ready. Does the name ‘Mr James Bond’ mean anything to you?” Thus I learned that Sam Mendes wanted yours truly to audition to stand on Daniel Craig’s wrist in Skyfall’s crazy drinking scene. I don’t normally accept roles that depict scorpions in a negative light but this was tastefully done: a sequence one might almost describe as dream-like. I’d met Sam a few months back at Meryl Streep’s house and had taken a shine to him. The scene didn’t call for me to go berserk; just be yourself, said Sam. I nailed the audition and let’s just say there were a few champagne bottles clattering around the floor of my hotel room that night.
"I had simply assumed that, once it was obvious what I could offer and what a joy I was on set, every 007 film would feature a scorpion (me). I don’t think anyone can blame me for being under that impression. My friends had been emphatic that my scene was the most powerful in the movie."
Prior to Skyfall I’d had only minor roles in a few sitcoms; no real dialogue to speak of. I’d done some voiceover work for Burger King and was in the background in a scene in True Grit, as the result of which I grew unexpectedly but not unpleasantly close to Jeff Bridges. Jeff’s promises to make me a star, however, melted into nothing. I was busting my balls but the work dried up and it dried up good. It’s not until you’re in the industry yourself that you realise: more legs don’t mean more gigs.
On set Daniel was a dream. As you may recall, the scene called for us to get up close and personal. In front of a baying crowd Bond tries to drink while I, perched atop his wrist, could at any moment sink my pincer into his nose. There was ample opportunity for things to get silly. There was corpsing. Oh hell there was a lot of corpsing. That man, I tell you. He might be all mean and moody on screen but when you’re trying to do a take with the dude, there is no bigger joker on this planet! We’d take a deep breath; I’d see his tiny eyes begin to crease; and we’d be gone for another five minutes, cackling and slapping each other on the back. We brought new meaning to the word ‘unprofessional’.
Gosh how things were simpler back then.
When shooting ended I picked up my cheque and gave lingering hugs to Sam, Daniel, and Judi D. I said au revoir to the people I’d grown to love. I looked forward to working with them again.
But it wasn’t to be au revoir. This was goodbye.
When I learned that Sam would be directing Spectre I rang him immediately. “Mendes,” I said. “Heard the good news. What have you got for me this time?” There was a pause. That pause is now seared into my memory like a tattoo. “I’m afraid there won’t be any scorpions in Spectre”, Sam said. I nearly dropped my tiny phone from my claws.
I garbled, struggling to articulate anything at all. Then I passed out. This was pain like I’d never experienced before. After Skyfall I simply hadn’t needed to look for work; I was a wealthier scorpion because of it. I’d holidayed well, and I’d bought my family a bevy of spiders to eat. We thought that my relationship with the Bond franchise would be an enduring one. I had simply assumed that, once it was obvious what I could offer and what a joy I was on set, every 007 film would feature a scorpion (me). I don’t think anyone can blame me for being under that impression. My friends had been emphatic that my scene was the most powerful in the movie.
After I awoke, I wept angrily on the phone to Sam, begging him to reconsider. He explained that it would simply look really weird if there were another scorpion scene in a James Bond film; he said that it would be “extremely hard to justify from a narrative perspective” and that people might “start to think I have some sort of thing about scorpions”. When I suggested that M could have a pet scorpion, he openly laughed. This is a mere glimpse into the kind of flagrant prejudice against which scorpions battle daily. I slammed the phone down, calling him an ugly, horse-like troll.
Bumping into Daniel Craig several weeks later, I tried to take the matter up with him. But before I could get close his bodyguard kicked me into a tree. You spend a day on a guy’s wrist and you think you know him. Not in Hollywood, where you can never turn around for fear of a knife being plunged into your back. Even with my armour, I bleed.
"Will I be paying to watch Spectre? No I absolutely will not. And I'd urge you to do the very same thing. Support scorpions in cinema – or no one else will."
With Skyfall a distant memory, I am a nobody again. The other day I had little choice but to accept a walk-on part on The Big Bang Theory. I have never known such despair.
Will I be paying to watch Spectre? No I absolutely will not. And I’d urge you to do the very same thing. Support scorpions in cinema – or no one else will.