The director reinvents James Bond for the 21st century
Martin Campbell takes a second stab at directing a James Bond film with Casino Royale. He also made Pierce Brosnan's Bond debut Goldeneye. There was a lot of pressure on Daniel Craig to succeed, but the director is the person most responsible for a film. It's his vision from beginning to end and Martin Campbell did an amazing job here. He comments on coping with the critics and reinventing the most successful film franchise.
Daniel Craig was mercilessly criticized when his casting was announced. How did he react on set? What did you need to do, as the director, to keep everything running smoothly?
Martin Campbell: You always get upset by that stuff. I think he took it on himself, given that the criticism was so fierce. But once we started filming, we talked about it and we ended it, "Let's just get on with the movie, to hell with the criticism and let them judge at the end. We'll just get on with what we have to do and just ignore the press." That's what we did.
Did you have any trepidation whatsoever with shooting a second Bond film after Goldeneye?
Martin Campbell: Bond in Goldeneye is pretty much a set character. To be honest, he's another version of Connery and Connery was terrific. How many submarines can you blow up? How many control rooms are evaporating? The point about this story is that he's much more human in this than the other ones. That's going back to the basics of the book and that was sort of interesting for me.
When you were brought on to direct, was it already decided Pierce [Brosnan] was not going to be involved?
Martin Campbell: When I came on, it was already decided that Pierce wasn't going to do it, so I was not involved in that at all. The idea was that when you go back to basics with Bond, he's a much younger Bond and a different Bond, so clearly, Pierce having done four wouldn't work in Casino Royale.
Is the idea of the origin story to slowly reintroduce us to Bond staples like Q?
Martin Campbell: No, the thing was that we stuck pretty closely to the book. There's no 'Q 'in the books, he doesn't appear. We had to change the Cold War aspect of the story for obvious reasons. We kept away from gadgets. It just doesn't sort of fit the tone of the movie. He couldn't suddenly have Jon Cleese storming in with a rocket car. Maybe in the future, in some form, he'll be reintroduced, but there's been no discussion of that.
Were you given a bigger picture of where they're planning to take Bond?
Martin Campbell: No, the book was the only template we went by. There was no saying, "Well, in the next story what happens is..." All we're left with is this; he's clearly going after this dark organization to reap his revenge.
Could this be a buildup to the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. plot and the revelation of Blofeld?
Martin Campbell: I don't think they'll go as fantastical in that direction. You won't get the huge room with twenty-seven people sitting at the table and the man stroking a cat, and then #27 disappears into the shark tank. (laughs) Or gets electrocuted. Which is all wonderful stuff, actually, but I don't think you'll see that. You may see a more realistic interpretation of that.
You've done two of these movies now. Would you try to do a third one?
Martin Campbell: I don't know. The thing is that after Goldeneye, I said I wouldn't do another one, because I felt like I was repeating myself, and here I am.
When you saw the movie as a whole, were you wowed by the chemistry between the characters?
Martin Campbell: I was really. You never know until you finally screen the damn thing for yourself. And I'm always reluctant to do it, because you edit as you go along and you assemble and you edit. Then there's that horrible day where you have to look at the whole thing and that's a nerve-wracking experience. But when I saw it, I saw the chemistry was there, and I thought it was a great match between Daniel and Eva Green.
What was it like working with Daniel?
Martin Campbell: He's very hands on. We'd have our what we euphemistically call our "artistic discussions". (laughs) We'd argue and fight a few times, but it was always about the right thing. He would have very specific ideas. Sometimes, if I didn't agree, we would talk about it, argue about it, but I think pretty much the end result was absolutely the right thing.
Eva Green talked about going to Daniel as a go-between when there were differences when she wanted to change something about her character. What was different about the character on page than what we saw in the final print?
Martin Campbell: Very little. I'm not sure what she's referring to.
Was the casting of Vesper Lynd a nightmare? There was a lot of speculation in the press.
Martin Campbell: It was in the sense that it took us a long time to find Vesper Lynd. We'd gone the Hollywood. We talked to one or two stars about it, and at the time, we didn't have the final script and a Bond Girl always had the connotation of tits 'n' ass basically. They're wall dressing, never had much of a brain, and they wander around in bikinis, the typical stereotypical image of a Bond girl. We considered a lot of people, and finally, I saw Eva Green in Kingdom of Heaven, in fact her part was quite seriously cut in that, but on the DVD her whole part has been restored. She's terrific, and also the Bertolluci film The Dreamers. We got her over, tested her. I was already shooting by the time we cast her.
Why bring Judi Dench back as M? She's great, but kind of throws off the continuity.
Martin Campbell: It doesn't make any sense in the timeline. We simply said that you got to suck that up, because you can't really change Judi Dench at this point, she's just too good. We did discuss it, because there's no logic to it, of course, but we just thought she's so perfect in the role. And somehow, the woman in the role makes the relationship much better with Bond. It gets more depth in their relationship than if it's a man. The man's the boss, but somehow with her, she brings a communion with Bond that is different.
She seems like a surrogate Mom.
Martin Campbell: Yeah, very much. That's what it's supposed to be. The opening scene where he breaks into her apartment, she's livid, and by the end of it, when she's talking on the phone with him in Venice, it's much more personal. They're locked together now.
The poker scenes are fantastic. Were those difficult to film?
Martin Campbell: No, the way you do it is, you can milk it. All the looks, just take your time playing your hands, because I can change it all in editing. I can use as much as I need. It's very simple. I'm looking at you, you're looking at me, and really, my instructions were simply that they don't rush it, they take their time, they look at each other, they try to figure the other guy out. The pace of the movie will be dictated in the editing. You milk it all along, so everybody's reacting, taking their time, trying to psyche the other person out, trying to figure out what hand they've got.
When you make a movie like this, which is supposed to be PG-13, how far can you take the violence, for instance with the torture scene?
Martin Campbell: It's interesting. I had to cut back a bit on the violence in the stairwell for the American censors. I couldn't have him choking so long. In England, they didn't give a damn, and said that the violence is terrific, but the Americans left the torture scene as was, didn't touch anything. (laughs)
So they'll have a different cut in England?
Martin Campbell: No, I had to take four or five blows out for the American censors cause they objected to the violence. Go on and look at your gun laws, guys.
You set things up like the martini and the Aston Martin, were there any subtle hidden nods to the other films?
Martin Campbell: No, I think all the obvious things are there, like he wins the Aston Martin. He gives the ingredients to the martini, "Shaken or stirred? Does it look like I give a damn?" Just throwing it right back.
What classic Bond themes did you try to bring into this film?
Martin Campbell: The action scenes are very Bond, but hopefully a little more realistic than previous Bond films. I think there are a lot of fans that expect the big action scenes. I think they need that. The Aston Martin obviously is a classic Bond, although in the books he's got a Bentley. That was another delicious thing, to actually smash the thing to hell. (laughs) We wrecked two of them. The first one didn't work, but the second one's a world record in the Guinness Book of World Records. It rolls eight times. It got the award the other night.
What was the hardest scene for you to do?
Martin Campbell: The house scene was very difficult. The poker was very difficult, because you have to cover everything, everybody's face, all the actions have to be covered, close-ups of the cards, the chips, you have to master the scene, and you have to vary it too. You can't just shoot the thing in one-wide shot or endless close-ups. You have to vary it slightly.
Casino Royale is in theaters this Friday and is rated 'PG-13' for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity.