An alpine lake that borders Germany, Austria, and Switzerland isn't necessarily the first place you'd think of to find James Bond. But that's where Britain's iconic secret agent is on a chilly evening in May; specifically, a quaint Austrian town called Bregenz known as an opera-lover's hotspot thanks to an annual festival and an opera stage that rises majestically out of Lake Constance. Tonight, Puccini's epic tragedy Tosca has been remounted for 007's 22nd adventure, Quantum Of Solace, with a stage packed with clergy-robed choral singers and 1200 extras decked out in evening-wear finery as the audience.
As the opera is performed on the spectacular stage (the backdrop is a colossal, big-brother eye, complete with an iris that tilts hydraulically), Daniel Craig's super spy slinks around the fringes, hopping nimbly from the lakeside moorings to solid ground and scanning the crowd for Solace's main villain Dominic Greene (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly's Mathieu Amalric). Quantum Of Solace offers the second sight of Craig's take on the ice-cool assassin, following his successful introduction in Casino Royale. Picking up one hour after Royale ends, Quantum follows Bond as he sets out on a vengeful mission to discover why Vesper (Eva Green) betrayed him.
Before descending on Bregenz, the 007 road show travelled to Chile, Panama, and Siena, Italy, as Bond circumnavigates the globe to find the link between Amalric's toxic CEO and Vesper while, naturally, encountering a bevy of new Bond beauties (including Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko), useful gadgetry, and flashy cars. The pressure is on for Solace to top Royale's princely reception, both in terms of ramped-up action and stunt work and box-office takings. But bettering a mind-blowing reboot that arguably rescued the franchise from a post-Bourne 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 silenced naysayers with his kinetic, compelling turn in Royale. “Certainly, we couldn't repeat what we did last time. We're into a new way of thinking...”
At the tail end of a lengthy night shoot, the 007 production machine leaves the cold Austrian night behind to shoot in the bowels of the opera house. This is our chance to sit down with Craig, his co-stars Amalric and Kurylenko, and director Marc Forster to discuss the ins, outs, ups, and downs of seeking Solace.
Daniel Craig: James Bond
Was making Quantum Of Solace more enjoyable because it's your second crack at Bond?
I think there's probably more pressure this time, but I'm just trying to apply the same rules as I did last time. And hopefully that'll work out, that you make the best movie you can. Certainly, we couldn't repeat what we did last time. It'd be nice to be able to repeat the success, but we couldn't repeat the film so we're into a new way of thinking.
Is that reflected in the hiring of Marc Forster as director?
We'd started something in Casino Royale but we had a book to work from, and we adhered quite closely, emotionally, with that story. Now we want to continue this story, but we have to make it different. So when Marc's name came up, I jumped at it because I want the audience to be attached, I want the audience to be pulled in and get involved with the characters.
One of your co-stars — Jesper Christensen (Mr. White) — was describing your Bond as “slightly dumb” compared to the other Bonds. Do you agree with that?
[incredulously] Dumb? That's what I like about him, is that it's shoot first and ask questions later. But I take that from the books; that was always Ian Fleming's image of Bond. It was always, kick the door in, see what happens. If he's standing on top of a tall building, there's a 20-foot 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 hurt himself, and therefore he'll move on. And if that's dumb...
It seems you have a love-hate relationship with Olga Kurylenko's Camille. Is there more punching or kissing between your two characters?
There's been an equal amount of both. [laughs] It's physical at first, but Olga is playing an agent and she's on her own mission, so we kind of clash at first. But, you know, in the nicest possible way.
According to Marc, he plans to bring a more psychological dimension to 007.
That's why he's here. He's tying all these people together. That's what you want. It's going to be a major part of this film, is tying together all those psychological battles that are going on.
Did you feel any challenge coming back to the role?
No, because we're picking up an hour after the last one finished so I'm picking up where I left off. If it was 10 years down the line and he'd had four more wives, then there would be a challenge to find out where he was at, but I was pretty clear where he was. I'd been working on this all last year. We'd been having script meetings and discussions; I've been living it for a long time. It only brings me the challenges I like.
Olga Kurylenko: The Bond Girl
You beat out 400 other actresses to land this role. Were you a bag of nerves in your audition?
After I got the role, Marc [Forster] said, “So, tell me one thing. How come you were so calm at the audition?” I [said], “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, the other girls, they came in and they were freaking out. And you came in and I said, 'Wow, she just doesn't give a shit, she's so cool.'” I said, “I was freaking out!” I was nervous but I also said to myself, if I was going to show that I'm nervous, I would not get the part. You have to take yourself in hand.
Was it ever a dream of yours to be a Bond girl growing up in the Ukraine?
No. I didn't think it's possible. I was too far away from it.
Do you have a favorite Bond girl?
No. It's not a question I ask myself. Michelle Yeoh [in Tomorrow Never Dies] was good because she did the fight scenes by herself, so I think that's pretty impressive. Because I do that in this movie, I rewatched that movie to see how she did it.
What specific training have you done?
I did fight training. And I did work with weapons, to learn how to shoot a gun and physically try different types, a machine gun, too — that was cool. It was impressive, it was quite scary. And I learned how to strip a gun apart and then put it together. I actually became really good — I did it in eight seconds!
Camille's out for revenge in Quantum Of Solace... Can you say much about her background?
Her background is quite tough. Everything she is doing in the movie is because she is driven by everything that happened to her in the past. That's quite vague, but you know what I mean. Definitely she had tough things happening in her youth.
What are Camille's qualities?
She's persistent, and she's determined and independent. These are pretty good qualities even in life. It's very good to know what you want in life, and she definitely knows what she wants. She takes risks, and she's not afraid.
Do you get to kiss James Bond?
I don't know — I'm waiting to see if he behaves well in the movie, and then if he behaves well, I give him a kiss. But if he's a bad boy, I'm not gonna kiss him. You have to earn the kiss. So it's all gonna depend on his behavior.
So it's up to you, it's not in the script...
It's up to me. I decide if I kiss him or not. [laughs]
Mathieu Amalric: The Villain
In what tradition do you see Dominic Greene?
I don't know. I was so scared that I prefer not to watch the old Bond films again because if I watch them, I would have just said, “Okay, I can't do that.” The villains often are amazing: [Christopher] Walken, [Klaus Maria] Brandauer, Curt Jurgens, Christopher Lee, Jonathan Pryce. So I prefer to forget all that and try to focus more on Casino Royale and this one, because it's a sequel — you have James Bond that wants to understand why this woman committed suicide in front of his eyes and betrayed him. Bond has sort of a broken heart, no?
Did you take inspiration from anywhere?
He has more to do with the world we are living in. I mean, who are the villains today? It's quite difficult to guess. We don't know where they are. We can't point them out. When you watch TV, when you see politicians, when you see CEOs, when you see ecological organizations, it's like the ultimate weapon is the smile. And everybody wants to save the planet, and everybody has good feelings and is sad that we kick out the immigrants from our country, really, but it's for their [own] good... So that's who this character is. He works in ecology, he's very nice, very civilized, very smiling... Adorable!
Is it hard to play a role where people have so many expectations?
If it's not hard, it's not fun. Each time it's hard, even in a small independent French film. Because you have to surprise yourself. I have lots of ways of being surprised in this film. The practice of the stunts, to try to work out this fight and maybe it would be more interesting if the bad guy doesn't know how to fight. Because why should I know kung fu? He's just a guy that works in a college, and it would be very strange that he has a secret skill.
Do your children view you differently now that you're starring in a Bond movie?
No, I don't think so. There will be a video game with the film so that will be great — they can kill their father when they want to.
Marc Forster: The Director
Are you a Buddhist? It's amazing how calm you appear in the midst of this huge-scale production.
I'm very calm as a person, and I do most of the preparation before I start shooting so everybody knows when we come to shoot exactly what to do. But I feel like if I get nervous or agitated, it doesn't really help me. I know some directors love working in chaos, and they can be very creative like that, but I need to have everybody calm around me.
Are you sure you're not just hiding it?
I'm not, actually. I let go to fate, because ultimately, I can't change it. If something happens, I try to do my best, but I can't change it or do it differently. In that sense, I'm a fatalist — whatever happens, happens, and I believe it's the best and just, out of the situation, try to adjust.
What direction are you pushing James Bond in this film?
Emotionally, there's an interesting thing because in the last movie he lost someone, and in this one he starts out, “What is the meaning of taking someone's life?” An assassin, in any sense, can't be a balanced person; psychologically, they must be a little screwy. And to go a little deeper into that is interesting. I'm not here to psychoanalyze Bond, but I want to give an insight into who this person is, what motivates someone to do a job like that.
Is there a feeling you have to push the boat further this time because of Casino Royale?
Yeah, the expectations are really high because everybody loves Casino Royale, and it's been such a big hit, and now people want more. But it was very gutsy of Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson to hire me, and I said to them, “Look, if I do it, I need freedom to create the movie I want to create.” And so far they have stuck to that. I must say this collaboration with them is almost better than I had on any small art films. They've really gone to bat for me and fought for my vision.
But originally you turned them down. What changed your mind?
There was Daniel Craig and a lot of other reasons, but the one thing that pushed me over the edge was I read this interview by Orson Welles where they asked him, “What do you regret most in your life?” and he said, “I never made a commercial movie.” I thought, “That's actually right; I've never made a commercial movie on this scale... Maybe it's time to do this.”