“I am motivated by my duty.”
BOND 24 . QUANTUM OF SOLACE
Commander Bond is still-Bourne...
And like most first sequels, Bourne II did not bother to improve on the original. For that, as per sequel traditions, we have to wait for Bourne III - and indeed, this first time 007 sequelising was planned for three films. Oh very Bourne.
No hiding it this time as the 007 producers ran to Dan Bradley as second unit director. He had the same job on Matt Damon’s second and third Jason Bourne films
And yet, the new (and first non-British Commonwealth) director Marc Forster said:
Bond should never be in the Bourne vein.
Bond has a different kind of quality.”
The choice of Bradley to back up a non-action director was to “continue” the gritty style of Casino Royale. So why didn’t they hire same team - led by director Martin Campbell, a true action man - particularly as the new film begins one hour after the end of the previous one.
Instead of which, the main casting legends about Bond 22 was about... the director.
Before Bond 21 was completed in 2006, producer Michael Wilson started devising Bond 22... to open on May 2, 2008. Roger Michell, who made Enduring Love and The Mother with the new Bond, Daniel Craig, was asked to direct. He balked: too little time. The only one of the four scripters with an Oscar, Paul Haggis, also backed off. For him, the 18 months production would take too much of his time
Craig suggsted Forster, a German-born Swiss film-maker (Bond had a Swiss mother), feted for such small independent winners as Monster’s Ball (which won Bond Girl Halle Berry her Oscar) and The Kite Runner.
Forster did not get his way... He wanted Bruno Ganz - the German Anthony Hopkins - as the villain. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli had already selected Mathieu Almaric, known as an intellectual actor in France. He’s now known as the worst Bond villain in history, making the meek ’n’ mild Louis Jourdan and Jonathan Pryce look positively evil! Almaric claimed to have built his character on the smile of ex-English Prime Minister Tony Blair and “the craziness” of French President Nicolas Sarkozy - “he walks around thinking he’s in a Bond film.”
But, er, didn’t those guys have... charisma?
He did not get his way, either. Forster vetoed all his pleas for disguises, scars, etc. The Frenchman (in Steven Spielberg’s Munich, he was the son of Moonraker villain Michael Lonsdale) cheerfully signed on “because it’s impossible to tell your kids that you refused to be in a Bond film!”
Forster could not understand why he had been chosen. Nor could critics. All he brought to the cannon was brevity: 106 minutes, Having refused the producers’ plan for flashbacks from Casino Royale, Fortster’s Solace is a real quantum: the shortest Bond, “tight and fast like a bullet” (due to often inexplicably bad editing), to make up for Casino being the longest: 144 minutes. Stitch ’em together - and cut ’em in half and, perhaps, Solace might work better.
Marc Foster was also hampered, of course, by
the most pretentious title in the Fleming canon.
It stemmed from Ian Fleming’s vain attempt to match the majesty of W Somerset Maugham. Solace is an anecdote told to James Bond at a dinner party inspired by a true story told to Fleming by one-time lover Blanche Blackwell. It was part of Fleming’s short Bonds in the eighth book, For Your Eyes Only, 1960.
However, the runway for the new film is less Solace and more Risico - Bond on a vengeance mission.
Daniel Craig was involved in deciding the title - nearly used for Timothy Dalton’s Licence to Kill, 1989. “In the great tradition of Bond movies,” declared Craig, “the title is often meaningless... I was unsure at first. Bond has lost the love of his life. He’s looking for his quantum of solace [a measure of comfort]. Ian Fleming says that if you don’t have [that] in your relationship, you might as well give up. Bond doesn’t have it because his girlfriend has been killed in Casino Royale... She was a double agent, she sold him out. Their relationship was a lie. Therefore, he’s looking for revenge to make himself happy with the world again.”
The title could have been worse.
In Croatian, it was
A Grain of Encouragement.
Camille Montes . The producers had wanted a South American actress as the similarly vengeful Camille Montes, the first Bond Girl unbedded by our hero. Forster, however, chose Ukranian model Olga Kurylenko o - because she appeared the least nervous of some 400 contenders. Being also a lookalike of Sophie Marceau in The World Is Not Enough, 1999, counted in her favour.
“There were three auditions altogether,” recalls Olga, who had already starred in the Bondish Hitman, 2007. “I knew that I was going in the right direction after I was called back. The last audition was really so intense, because it was when I met Danny for the first time. Then, it was three weeks after that I got the call that I had gotten the role - on Christmas Day.
“I really liked that it was a totally different type of Bond Girl. She’s so strong. I really didn’t want to play the typical girl in these films. I was very excited, because I had seen Casino Royale, and seen that the concept had changed. The Bond Girl could be very interesting. I had so much to do in this film. Really? I’m happy because that one took a long time! I trained every day for six months for this film. Every day I wasn’t on the set, I was training. And before we started shooting, I trained every day for months, four hours a day.?? Four hours of fight training a day, and then I went on to do two hours a day of the skydiving training in the wind tunnel - for a month. The wind tunnel was insane, but it’s also insanely addictive. You’re flying! You do all these tricks - you learn to turn and flip. Then, I had to learn to work with guns. To shoot, and aim, and to strip a gun apart, and to put it back together. I really had to know what I was doing.
“He’s not even thinking about sex, because he’s just lost the woman he loved the most. Obviously, Bond is pretty playful and he’s used women many, many times [laugh]. But what’s great about these new films is that it’s proven that Bond can fall in love. My favorite of all the previous films would still probably be Casino Royale. It’s great to see the old films, but this series had to evolve. You can’t do the same things over and over again.”
Strawberry Fields . Stana Katic, a Canadian multi-lingual actress of Croatian parentage, tried out and lost and was given a smaller role. “It was a blast! I really wanted to be a part of that film. They felt I wasn’t right for Strawberry - plus I didn’t want to play someone who got killed... and everyone gets killed in that bloody movie! [Laugh]. I got to spend three days working on that legendary sound stage. Daniel Craig was great, very funny, very charming. And Marc Forster has such an amazing, light touch as a director and, at the same time, has this incredible core strength, which is a great combination for a director.”
American blonde Jessica Biel also auditioned. So did Freida Pinto, the Mumbai Elite model discovery of the multi-Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, 2008. Plus - again - Keira Knightley, having as little fortune here as for the Casino Royale redux. And by now she had proved her Bondian mettle by playing a model-turned bounty hunter called Domino. (Oh very Thunderball!). In fact, the 2008 film was based on the life Domino Harvey, daughter of Laurence Harvey, almost the Bond in Thunderball and a Bond the '67 Casino Royale.
The far more effective newcomer Gemma Arterton, 22, won her third only film from 1,500 hopefuls vying for Fields - “just Fields,” as she tells Bond. Although it’s never mentioned, her full name is... wait for it... Strawberry Fields . The British polydactyly (six fingered hands) had only been acting for six months, and after two auditions (one with Craig), she was adjudged was perfect for the secretary at Bolivia’s British consulate. “Not as frolicsome or femme-fatale as other Bond girls,” she said. “Instead, fresh and young.” And enough to blow all other female roles away, She equalled Die Another Day’s Rosamund Pike as the best home-made Bond Girl in years.
Daniel Craig was paid £4.5m, more than double his debut pay. He earned it. With hairy stunts, requiring four facial stitches and surgical screws in a shoulder - and good reviews. Rolling Stone called his Bond “one nasty-ass dude, with the kind of rough-edged style that the 007 franchise hasn’t seen since the glory days of Sean Connery.”
“The first film,” said Craig, “was a successs and in a way that nobody could have predicted. Quantum was about keeping it interesting, relevant... I know the work we put in. We didn’t have a complete script, so Marc and had to batter it into shape, to find the story we wanted to tell.”
Quantum, or rather QUANTUM, by some sheer happenstance, is now the name of the new evil crime organisation, trying to take over the world like SMERSH and SPECTRE of old. Although we never saw Blofeld, etc., advertising themselves by having S lapel-badges the way Almaric sports a Q.
And QUANTUM isn’t an acronym. Or not yet.
The most expensive Bond film ($225m) opened in the 50th anniversary year of the writing of the short story and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming. It featured another nod to British cinema history - Charlie Chaplin’s grand-daughter, Kiera, had a bit as a hotel receptionist.?
As for the critics, the London Sunday Times Arts Editor Richard Brooks, called it: James Bond, licence to bore. It lacked Casino Royale panache and brio... “any wit, ironic or otherwise... No sex either [nor] much violence.”
He praised the long action sequence of Bond’s ancient, Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang of a plane chased through mountains by a jet and a chopper. This was Marc Forster’s tribute to North By North West by the man asked to direct the first Bond film: Alfred Hitchcock. Just as the name of the UK Prime Minister’s treacherous adviser is Guy Haines - aka Farley Granger’s tennis star in Hitch’s Strangers On A Train, 1951.
Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers said the fun had gone...
“Bond seems to have come down with
a serious case of Jason Bourne penis envy.”
And the most unerring of US critics, Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, begged for another reboot for Bond 23. “Please understand: James Bond is not an action hero! He is too good for that. He is an attitude. Violence for him is an annoyance. He exists for the foreplay and the cigarette.”
(Ebert forgot - we all forgot in our moans - that this Bond was exactly the same as the last Bond because the sequel (and we’re not used to Bond sequels) picks up on the same day as at the end of Casino Royale. There has been no time yet for the new Bond to pick up his famous “sex, snobbery, sadism” habits).
Even so, according to The Economist, which obviously counts more than dollars and euros, Craig drank more martinis in his fist two films (the same film,. really) than the other spies (before switching to Skyfall’s beer).
“Daniel Craig remains a splendid Bond” - Ebert was right about that - “one of the best... handsome, agile, muscular, dangerous... a fine actor. Here they lock him down... Leave the action to your Jason Bournes. This is a swampy old world. The deeper we sink in, the more we need James Bond to stand above it.”
Footnote: The two 21st Century Bonds were filming at Pinewood Studios simultaneously. They never met. Pierce Brosnan made sure of that. He sent scouts ahead to make sure he avoided any chance meet - or photography - with Craig. Particularly when Brosnan was encased in blue spandex for his Mamma Mia finale!