Sony Magazine visits the new Bond movie on location to meet its director Marc Forster and chat with Daniel Craig and his co-stars.
On a chilly evening in May, we find Britain’s iconic MI6 agent by the shores of Lake Constance in the Alps. Specifically, in the Austrian town of Bregenz, long renowned among opera-lovers thanks to its annual open-air festival and the floating stage anchored at the lake’s side.
Tonight, Puccini’s Tosca has been specially remounted for 007’s 22nd adventure, Quantum of Solace. The stage is packed with clergy-robed choral singers, while 1,200 extras decked out in evening-wear finery watch from the audience.
As the opera unfolds before the backdrop of a colossal eye, complete with an iris that tilts hydraulically, Daniel Craig’s super-spy hops nimbly from the lakeside moorings to solid ground, scanning the crowd for Solace’s villain, Dominic Greene. It’s one of those grand-scale production numbers that only top-flight blockbusters can afford to pull off.
The story so far
Quantum of Solace offers a second glimpse of Craig’s take on the ice-cool British state assassin, following his acclaimed introduction in Casino Royale, and picks up one hour after the last movie ended, as Bond sets out on a vengeful mission to discover why Vesper (Eva Green) betrayed him.
Before descending on Bregenz, the 007 roadshow travelled to Chile, Panama and Siena, Italy, as Bond traverses the globe to find the link between the shadowy tycoon Greene and Vesper – while, naturally, encountering a bevy of new Bond beauties (including Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko), ingenious gadgetry and magnificent motors.
Meet the director
Ian Fleming wrote that James Bond was an orphan who happens to have a Swiss mother; Quantum of Solace is a sequel that happens to have a Swiss director. Marc Forster, who directed Halle Berry to an Oscar in Monster’s Ball, is renowned for his knack of drawing powerful performances from actors.
As someone who’d never directed a full-blown action sequence in his life, let alone wrangled a $200m colossus, Forster was a risk – but one that the franchise was prepared to take, with Craig’s blessing.
A psychological dimension
“When his name came up, I jumped at it,” says the actor. “It’s not just me involved in the film – the action, the explosions, everything that goes along with a Bond movie, they’re going to be taken care of. But I want the audience to be pulled in by the characters they see. That’s why Marc is here.”
Similarly, Forster himself was intrigued by the chance to bring a psychological dimension to Bond. “I’m not here to psychoanalyse Bond, but at the same time I want to give an insight or hint into who this person is, what motivates him to do a job like that. He’s not this perfect hero and that’s what I find interesting.”
A new type of villain
Just as Bond changed from the occasionally campy icon of yore to a brutal, slightly unhinged killer in the franchise reboot, the comic-book baddies are also a thing of the past. Dominic Greene is a new breed of Bond villain, one who doesn’t rely on gimmicky scars or furry cats to intimidate. For Forster, who insisted on casting Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) in the role, it was all in the actor’s eyes.
“I found that very intelligent because it’s much more frightening when you don’t know where the danger comes from,” says Amalric, who incited a storm in a teacup when he said that Tony Blair and Nicolas Sarkozy were inspirations for Greene.
“What I meant was, I could be inspired by the mystery of Blair’s smile or how Sarkozy has to keep his aggressiveness inside. It was a tool for me to find this character.”
Getting the girl
Co-star Kurylenko, who beat 400 actresses to the part, is simply happy to be involved. “Because the last one was so good,” she says, “everybody wants to see what this one is going to be.”
As for the vast exposure that comes with being a Bond girl, “It’s happening, it’s kind of overwhelming. People ask me if there’s anything negative about it, but for me it’s only positive.”
Keep on moving
As night trundles on, the production moves out of the cold Austrian night and indoors to the magnificent opera house. Here Craig performs some nifty manoeuvres through a crowded restaurant, pushing waiters out of the way and firing off shots at Greene’s henchmen before making his escape into the kitchen. It’s 007 as we know and love him: skilled, clever, willing to do whatever’s necessary.
“With Bond, it’s always shoot first, ask questions later,” says Craig. “Kick the door in, see what happens. If he hurts himself, he hurts himself. But the chances are he won’t and he’ll keep moving on.”