August 29, 2006Hello again.
Although I was commenting the other day on how much of this film was rooted in Ian Fleming's original work, there have been some changes to the story. The reasons for these changes are often revealing as they give you an insight into how each aspect of the plot is worked out and how seriously the film-makers take each twist of the tale.
The casino scenes are a good example. We're playing a different game of cards here and producer Michael Wilson explains why.
"Casino Royale when it was written by Fleming involved a Chemin de Fer game in the South of France and that was a big stakes game in those days. Today the big stakes game is Texas Hold'em. It's not unreasonable for ten, twenty million dollar pots to be seen. So, when we came to think about what the game would be, Chemin de Fer didn't seem appropriate but Texas Hold'em was".
This sequence had Michael revealing an hitherto unseen side - the card expert. Actors are often rehearsed in the techniques they will need - fencing, shooting, horse riding or whatever - and for this scene, Michael set up a poker school.
"The problem was that we hired nine people to play against Bond at the table and they come with a various degree of experience so we've had to educate all the actors so they look like they are poker pros. We brought in Thomas Sanbrook as our poker expert and he's been working with the people on their techniques for betting, sometimes playing with the chips, how to look at their cards and examine them without protecting them, how to throw their cards in when they're throwing their cards in, how to stack their chips, all of those things, and each one coming up with sort of an individual style of playing and that's meant that not only that they rehearse the games, which I was helping them do but also, they play tournament poker as part of their preparation among themselves, and they've turned themselves into quite good poker players along the way".
Indeed, poker playing became rife amongst both cast and crew. Between takes there were games springing up all over the place and it continued well after wrap.
Mads Mikkelsen, Le Chiffre, enjoyed learning the game from Michael.
"Oh, he's good. Some of us found a little casino the other day and went down there and played some Texas Hold'em and of course within half an hour Michael was there as well. So we meet each other a lot in the casinos. He's been playing for many years and I think it's one of his little darlings, these particular scenes with poker, and he's really up to that."
Jeffrey Wright in his role as Felix Leiter was part of the poker training and he joked,
"It's a tremendous amount of work. From the time we leave the set we're straight to the casino, working into the early morning hours, getting up the next morning, coming into work, just continuing around the clock, a gruelling schedule".
More from Jeffrey another day as some of you have been asking about him but for now a final word from an old friend of the Bond series, Tsai Chin, who one of those nine actors Michael mentioned at the table. Here she plays Madame Wu but you might remember her as Ling in a previous film.
"I was in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE with Sean Connery. I was a good deal younger then and I'm the person who was responsible for his assassination. I spent three or four days with Sean in bed. Who wouldn't want to be with Sean in bed for three or four days?"
So, as an expert witness, what did she make of our new Mr Bond?
"I think Daniel is really very manly, very manly. I don't think I've liked all the James Bonds in the past, but he'll do very well. He's a good actor. I think that's the secret of Sean, as well."
To find out how they have all coped as card players, we'll need to visit the Casino Royale itself. It's evening dress only so if you'll excuse me, I'll just go and get changed.
Until next time