Bond’s in Bregenz, Austria. Buzz is there too, calling Craig dumb. Bad move…
“Dumb?!” Daniel Craig is bemused and ever so slightly affronted. Buzz has just stirred the pot by informing him that in our earlier chat with Jesper Christensen (aka Mr White, aka the man who takes a bullet in the leg in the waning moments of Casino Royale), his Danish co-star had dissed Her Majesty’s finest. Or, specifically, “He’s the new, modern Bond – he’s slightly dumb and going his own way. You’re not sure you can trust him with anything because obviously he’s not that clever, especially compared to the Roger Moore version who was on top of everything…”
Fight, fight, fight! Buzz takes the Scandinavian thesp’s point, but judging from Craig’s huffy reaction we anticipate there might be a few words exchanged later on. Maybe Christensen should feel lucky they’ve already shot a scene in which 007 gets all Guantanamo Bay on Mr White to extract some post-Vesper-death leads.
“That’s what I like about him. It’s shoot first and ask questions later,” says Craig, in reply to Christensen’s accusations. “That was Fleming’s image of Bond. It was, ‘Kick the door in and see what happens.’ If he’s standing on top of a tall building, there’s a 20ft gap, he can’t see what’s down below – he jumps. And if he hurts himself, he hurts himself. The chances are he won’t and he’ll move on. If that’s dumb…”
Buzz isn’t about to poke the sore-spot further. We’re catching up with Craig and the Quantum Of Solace juggernaut in Bregenz, Austria, a quaint lakeside town that’s an opera-lover’s hotspot, courtesy of an annual festival and stage rising majestically out of Lake Constance. Bond’s motive for being there is to find Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), his new nemesis, an urbane, eco-friendly tycoon. As Puccini’s epic Tosca ramps up on stage, backdrop painted as a colossal, Big Brother eye, Mr Bond slinks around, hopping nimbly from the lakeside moorings to solid ground and scanning the 1,200 well-dressed extras for Greene and his cohorts.
The pressure is on for Solace to top Royale’s princely reception, both in terms of ramped-up action and stuntwork and box-office pillaging. But bettering a mind-blowing reboot that rescued the franchise from 21st century obsolescence is no easy task. “There’s more pressure this time but I’m just trying to apply the same rules as I did last time,” says Craig, who insists he’s not feeling smug despite showing all the pre-Casino doubters where to stick it with his compelling, kinetic turn. “Certainly, we couldn’t repeat what we did last time. We’re into a new way of thinking…”
Fundamental to Quantum Of Solace’s fresh approach is the unusually calm eye at its centre: Marc Forster. “I let go to fate because I ultimately can’t change it,” the filmmaker explains of his Zen-like facade. Slipping quietly amongst his teeming crew on this chilly May night, it’s hard to fathom he’s the man in charge. “Whatever happens happens and I believe it’s for the best.”
Still the most gobsmacking choice for a Bond director in the series’ entire 46-year timeline, Forster has never spearheaded a full-blooded action sequence in his life, let alone wrestled a $200m franchise colossus into cinemas. In his favour, he is Swiss (as was Bond’s mother) and he’s gifted with actors (Halle Berry can thank him for the Monster’s Ball Oscar), which is the reason why gatekeepers Barbara Broccoli and Michael J Wilson handed him the reins in the first place. “It was very gutsy of them to hire me for Bond,” he says. “I said to them, ‘Look, if I do it, I need total creative freedom to create the movie that I want to create.’ And so far they’ve stuck to that. Thankfully they’ve really gone to bat for my vision.”
Which is? “I want this to be a psychological thriller from the late ‘60s or ‘70s, like The Parallax View… Emotionally, there’s an interesting thing because he has lost someone and he starts out in this one like, ‘What is the meaning of this?’ An assassin can’t be a balanced person and to go deeper into that I think is really interesting. I’m not here to psychoanalyse Bond but I want to give an insight into what motivates someone to do a job like that…”
The 007 roadshow traversed Chile, Panama and Italy before landing in Austria, as everyone’s favourite MI6 agent searches for the link between Amalric’s toxic CEO and Vesper while, naturally, encountering a bevy of new beauties. The main event is Ukrainian stunner Olga Kurylenko, who plays Camille – another secret agent with her own anti-Greene agenda. She’s finding that being a Bond girl can be a treacherous business…
“Already they are writing what I haven’t said!” she laments. “They say that I like to get naked in movies and that I’m gonna get naked in Bond. I never said that! People are putting words in my mouth.” But what about Quantum Of Solace – can she categorically tell Buzz that she won’t be showing off her birthday suit? Kurylenko pauses, then exhales: “Hopefully not.”
At the tail-end of a lengthy night shoot, the Solace machine leaves the cold Austrian night behind and moves into the warmth of the opera house’s restaurant to shoot a gripping chase sequence. For several exhilarating takes, Craig, dressed in 007’s icon-defining dinner jacket, gives a magnificent demonstration of why he has the potential to be the greatest Bond ever, manoeuvring himself niftily through the packed eaterie to avoid capture by Greene’s henchmen. He fires off a quick round of shots at his pursuers before effortlessly sliding across a countertop to make his escape into the kitchen. We dare you to call him dumb now…