November 14, 2006
Hello, and indeed goodbye, from the post-premiere party in London's Berkeley Square.
A world premiere is always an event. If it is attended by the Queen that makes it more special and when it is the Bond film, everyone works to make it that little bit bigger. But I'm not quite sure where we are left to go for Bond 22 - this was as big a film event as any I've seen. Leicester Square is the home of London premieres but for the first time, all three cinemas around the square have been taken over for a simultaneous premiere, all in aid of the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund who are old friends of the Bond family. Each year, one film is selected for a Royal Film Performance attended by the Queen and this year, as it was for DIE ANOTHER DAY, it's us.
It's been a terrific way to finish what has been an extraordinary experience for us all. For months I've been telling you what a great Bond we have in Daniel Craig - now, as the reviews flood in, the world's media seem to agree.
But ultimately, it's not our opinion, nor the critics, that counts. Our job is done, yours is just beginning.
We hope you like it.
Thanks for coming on the ride with me.
Until next time...goodbye.
The Eve of Release
November 7, 2006
Well, we're nearly there. A week away from opening - it seems a lifetime ago that we were settling into Prague.
The Bond circus is now on the road - Daniel and the team are in the States as part of their publicity tour while back in London, everything is in being put in place for the World Premiere, fittingly, one of the biggest ever staged and attended by Her Majesty, The Queen.
It's a busy period and probably not the best point to catch up with the producers but then, there hasn't really been a good time for that in the last 12 months! So let's see how they are feeling on the eve of the film's release.
They seem remarkably calm but then this is a familiar position for them. However, there is an air of excitement about finally getting a chance to film this story. When, at last, they acquired the rights about six years ago they knew they had a chance to do something different, as Michael Wilson explains.
"It seemed like this was the great opportunity. The opportunity had been missed all the way along and we could finally make Casino Royale the way it should be".
There have indeed been some curious versions of the story before this but in returning to the novel, Ian Fleming's first about Bond, there was plenty to explore. As Barbara Broccoli told me, Fleming put something of himself into creating his character. Written in Jamaica as Fleming finally abandoned his bachelor life style, she can see echoes of this in his writing.
"There's a parallel between Fleming giving up a life that he was enjoying, being a sort of vagabond and a playboy in order to have a more stable life. And I think he was wrestling with that and so a lot of those demons came out in the character of Bond".
That means the film-makers have been able to take a different approach to this film which Michael Wilson is confident is right for this story.
"It's quite a different film. It goes back in tone to the Dr No, From Russia With Love films. It's quite different from the last few films we've made. And so, there's a possibility of alienating some people - the people who went maybe just for the action and the glamour, the girls and the gadgets. But we think that the audience is ready for a more gritty Bond and a more realistic Bond."
Barbara Broccoli is sure that even the most fervent fans will respond well. You'd expect any producer to say this, of course, but these two are more in touch with their audience than most producers so can be pretty confident of how their film will be received.
"I think the hardcore fans will love it. I think they're going to welcome the idea of going back to the real essence of Bond and the classic type of Bond story which isn't about saving the world on a huge scale. It's a lot more personal and I think people will respond to it. The world has changed a lot and I think one of the reasons why Bond has maintained this sort of success has been because the movies have changed with the times and it's a more serious world and we expect our heroes to fight the battles with better judgement, more responsibility and less frivolity".
You'll see from this why it was immediately clear to Michael and Barbara that the new film required a new Bond. Contrary to all other rumours, it really was a one horse race for them. Daniel Craig was the only one they ever really considered as a contender. Barbara is well aware that casting a new 007 always attracts discussion.
"There was a lot of controversy when Sean Connery was first decided upon because he was not what people were expecting and there's something really exciting about that. I think Daniel is the sort of actor who will always surprise people because he will find something that no one else could find in a role. He just absolutely got under the skin of the character and from the minute you see him on the screen in the role, you forget everyone who's come before, which is a pretty remarkable thing"
Well, from next week, you'll be able to judge for yourselves.
Until next time,
October 23, 2006
It's not a bad job sometimes, this whole Bond thing.
This, not entirely original, thought comes to me as I am sitting in the middle of a converted church in Hampstead, North London, with the Bond theme swelling all around me. You don't often get a chance to sit in the middle of one of the world's premiere orchestras and it's astonishing how powerful their sound is when you are in its centre.
This is AIR Studios, the recording facility set up by the Beatles' producer, George Martin, where our composer David Arnold is putting the finishing touches to the score. David is an old hand now having been, in effect, composer in residence since TOMORROW NEVER DIES but what's novel about this project for him is having a James Bond who has a real interest in the music. Right from the beginning, Daniel had expressed an interest in who would perform the main song so David is relieved he likes Chris Cornell though that's perhaps not so surprising as Chris was chosen, says David, because of Daniel's performance in the film.
"Watching Daniel Craig in the role, the thing that struck me about it was this notion of masculinity in music".
So David was looking for the right voice that would fit Daniel's rugged performance and when someone suggested Chris, he knew it was the right choice and kicked himself for not thinking of it.
"I was quite ashamed. Because I have been a fan of his for years. I just thought that's the only idea that makes any sense to me because when I see Daniel Craig in that role, I am thinking what do I want to hear and when you hear Chris sing, especially on this song, you know there's no mistaking what the whole thing is about."
And now we have our first male vocalist since our Norwegian chums on THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. Chris is a vastly experienced musician not just with Soundgarden and Audioslave but with his own solo work. Yet working with such a large orchestra is a novelty for him.
"It's a kind of disconcerting in a way. It's actually fairly new for me and of course it really lends itself to the feel of the song and the fact that it's a Bond theme song and so I am excited to see what it will sound like when it's all finished".
From where I'm sitting, in the middle of that orchestra, I think his excitement is not misplaced.
Until next time,
The Aston Martin
October 9, 2006
I was filling you in last time on the complexities of working on water in Venice. But judging from the number of questions I've had, it looks like you are more interested in our land vehicles and specifically the Aston Martin.
Jordan, Steve and others have inquired about it and two of you, Anthony and Paul, had picked up on the fact that there are actually two Astons in CASINO ROYALE.
You'll see Bond acquire a DB5 in classic 007 style and, of course, a girl, Caterina Murino, to go with it. But later in the film, he also gets his own, government issue, brand new DBS. You are not the only ones to be excited by it. Daniel Craig has enjoyed being in the driving seat.
"This is very special because it's the new DBS which is somewhere between a DB9 and their new racing car which they're going to race hopefully at Le Mans. So, technically, that means that it just goes very fast and it's a beautiful car and it suits Bond perfectly."
However, because it's a racing car, the DBS has given the stunt crew some problems. In the trailer, you might have seen the multiple roll that the car does. It proved to be rather more tricky to achieve than they had anticipated. Adam Kirley, the stunt driver explains how they began to prep the stunt using a test car for practice.
"We started off with a test car using a six inch ramp, just turning into the ramp about 65, 70mph and rolling the car like that. We did two rehearsals at that to perfect it."
However, when they got their hands on the DBS itself, it performed very differently. Gary Powell, the stunt co-ordinator, takes up the story.
"Originally, what we wanted to do was to use a tiny little ramp because we wanted at all costs to keep the car low to the ground and it worked with the test car. Then, when we went to the Astons, obviously they're built completely differently, the centre of gravity is lower. They're essentially a race car that's allowed on the road. So when we did the first one on the ramp it basically went up in the air, it corrected itself and came back down again."
Even when they increased the size of the ramp almost 400%, the stability of the Aston defeated Adam's attempts to roll it.
"Gary Powell decided to raise the ramp to just under two feet in the end. I came in at the 75, 80 miles an hour speed, hit it with the two left hand side wheels, anticipating it to roll very easily. But the car just literally took off in the air, levelled pretty much, and landed on all four wheels. Completely. No chance of rolling whatsoever because of the stability of the car."
But you don't get to be on the stunt team of a Bond without having a few tricks up your sleeve and calling in his colleagues in the Special Effects department, Gary soon had a solution, as Adam reports.
"We decided then on using a cannon. The special effects guys had put a cannon in which sits just behind the driver's seat. It has a cylinder that, as you press a button, releases a load of air which punches the cylinder into the road which then, in turn, turns the car over. And that's how we ended up doing it in the end."
So successful was this that they managed seven and a half rolls before crashing to a stop. A new world record even for the Bond team.
So, an excellent testament to the stability of the Aston Martin but not perhaps an exercise that I'll be trying out at home!
Until next time,
Arriving in Venice
September 26, 2006
I was talking last time about our ebullient Executive Producer, Callum McDougall. Our other Executive Producer, Tony Waye, was considerably less cheerful in Lake Como, not because of his temperament, but because of what he was working on at that time.
He filled me in during a brief visit to the lakeside set before going back to Venice, our next stop. Tony ("Anthony" if you are reading the film credits) is a veteran of many Bond films going back 25 years to FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and as such, often gets some of the trickier jobs. You'll recall it was he who was doing the underwater unit work with Ivana Milicevic in the Bahamas. This new job sounds just as attractive in the abstract and even more complicated in reality. He is doing a helicopter shot of the SPIRIT 54, Bond's yacht, arriving in Venice. The route across the lagoon there is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world so getting the shot right has proved to be interesting.
As he explains it,
"The approach we needed was in one of the shipping lanes and because the yacht has a very deep keel, 2.2 metres, we had to have fairly deep water but we also needed a southeast wind and we needed the sun on an angle on the building. So you wanted the the best of all worlds."
Unfortunately what they got instead was Croatian customs problems and extremely severe weather. The yacht had been loaded onto a ship and travelled all the way from the Bahamas where it had featured in earlier scenes. It then got held up in Split for a couple of vital days while Tony and his crew stood by. When it finally arrived, they got an afternoon of shooting done before the weather socked in completely. But did they get the shot? If you've seen the trailer, you'll have had a glimpse of the answer.
This hasn't been Tony's only problem with this location. Venice is, of course, a beautiful city but a logistical nightmare for film-makers.
"Everything has to go by boat or you walk. So you've got to first of all train the crew how to get to their location each day. Very complicated. We've had maps drawn of how to get to the location. But I think they make things even more complicated."
Instead he has come up with a novel way of directing the crew.
"What I'm going to try and do is say - you walk out of the hotel, turn left. And you head for Prada and turn left at Prada and turn right at Gucci and left at Brioni because I think people will take more notice of the shops than they will of the street signs".
Well, even if we don't make it to the set, at least we'll be well dressed!
Until next time,
September 12, 2006
Italy was the next stop on the road for the CASINO ROYALE travelling circus. We completed the casino scenes in Karlovy Vary before moving through the mountains to Lake Como in northern Italy.
This part of the world has been a haven for tourists and invalids for centuries, people drawn there by its beauty and tranquillity. Indeed, that's why Bond is here - to recuperate from what he has undergone at Le Chiffre's hands.
The location is the Villa del Balbianello, a beautiful retreat in its own grounds overlooking the long lake that runs north from the town of Como itself. Daniel and Eva are on the lawn with Martin and the crew crouched around them. Yours truly is on the other side of the villa looking north. Partly, I must confess, because the tea trolley is here but mostly because the set around the corner is surrounded by the crunchiest gravel south of the Alps making movement impossible during takes. And also, there's something compelling about the view.
We're looking down into another garden whose balustrades prevent anyone from falling into the lake below us. There is an eerie sense we have been here before, perhaps in some previous life - an unexpected shiver of the unknown which lasts for about a minute until the cheerful figure of executive producer, Callum McDougall, hoves into view. Not only does Callum usually know the answer to your question, he remains unfailingly affable, two attributes which make him welcome wherever he appears.
In this case, the answer he gives is less than supernatural. The view we are looking at featured in STAR WARS: Episode II, ATTACK OF THE CLONES. This is where Anakin kissed Padme.
So that explains how familiar it looks - we're in Planet Naboo!
I can only hope Natalie Portman enjoyed the pizza on her visit to Lake Como as much as I did.
Until next time,