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Bond Reinvented

An exclusive look inside the making of Quantum of Solace, and Daniel Craig's next turn at playing superspy James Bond.
David Giammarco
From the Print Edition:
Daniel Craig, November/December 2008

London's famed Pinewood Studios is abuzz. Not only is the colossal 007 soundstage—the largest in the world—engulfed in flames and pyrotechnic explosions for the harrowing climax of the 22nd James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, but it's the last day of principal photography for what has been one of the most ambitious and tumultuous Bond films in the legendary franchise's 46-year screen history.

Two years ago, producers Barbara Broccoli and her stepbrother, Michael G. Wilson, took an enormous gamble on Casino Royale—amid much media and fan uproar—by completely rebooting the 007 series. Their back-to-basics decision meant jettisoning both the trademark fantasy formula for grittier storytelling, and the ultra-suave and sophisticated Pierce Brosnan for the more rough and rugged Daniel Craig. But the payoff proved to be an unexpected windfall, garnering not only glowing critical raves around the globe, but a record-breaking box office jackpot of nearly $600 million worldwide.

Now, in an effort to raise the bar even higher, more changes are in store for Quantum of Solace. Having proven himself worthy of the iconic tuxedo, Walther PPK and "00" license to kill, Daniel Craig considers that success double-edged. "Now people may look back and say, 'Oh, Quantum of Solace isn't as good as Casino Royale,'" muses the 40-year-old Craig. In other words, the fear is that Casino Royale's success was due in part to "the curiosity factor about the new guy," he says with a smile.

"So now if this one goes wrong, it really is all my fault," quips Craig with a huge burst of laughter.

But make no mistake: Bond is serious business. Especially for Craig. He repeatedly stresses the need to push the series even further with Quantum of Solace. "We can't just repeat what we did last time," states Craig. "Otherwise, we really will fail. What we've deliberately done, and I've really put all my energy into doing, is once again creating a very different movie. We have to. Because I feel we owe it to the people who loved Casino Royale to give them something different, and something even better."

The heat is on. Quite literally. The special effects team reignites the inferno for another take of Craig and Ukrainian-born actress Olga Kurylenko—playing the feisty femme fatale Camille—fighting their way out of a collapsing hotel, the exteriors of which have already been filmed on location in the desolate desert landscape of Chile (doubling for Bolivia) three months earlier. A team of makeup artists carefully applies one last coating of flame-retardant gel to the faces and extremities of Craig and Kurylenko.

The two get into position just outside a doorway jamb. Craig gives a confident nod to Kurylenko as they both pause to exhale a deep breath. "Action!" suddenly echoes loudly throughout the set. Right on cue, plumes of smoke billow out of the charred remains, ear-piercing detonations begin discharging and flames soar around the pair as they race through the collapsing building, dodging explosions and falling debris.

As the temperature inside the 007 soundstage quickly rises to stifling levels, the only person not breaking a sweat is the director, Marc Forster. With three cameras rolling simultaneously on the dangerous action sequence, Forster is calmly watching the pivotal stunt on multiple video monitors, intensely studying the pair's escape route through the crumbling smoke-filled set.

"Cut!" he yells over the controlled chaos. Breathless, Craig and Kurylenko return to Forster's side to watch their choreographed maneuvers on the playback monitors. If Forster strikes you as an odd choice to be helming a $200 million James Bond thriller, you're not alone. The soft-spoken, German-born filmmaker was just as perplexed when producers Broccoli and Wilson approached him with the unusual offer. Acclaimed for his low-budget, Oscar-nominated, intimate character-dramas like Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland and The Kite Runner, Forster admits he initially thought it was a practical joke when he received the phone call. "My first words were, 'I think you've got the wrong director,'" recalls the 39-year-old Forster with a laugh. "Then, 'Why me?'

"But Barbara said that because they started taking Casino Royale in a different direction with Daniel, they wanted to take it even further with a real storyteller. And they offered me total creative freedom . . . so I felt I could explore the fascinating psychology of the beginnings of James Bond. Plus, Daniel is such an interesting actor, and I had never done an action movie, let alone a movie with a budget over $20 million. So I figured I could learn a lot from this . . . "I mean, if you're going to make a commercial film, then why not do the crown jewel of them all," chuckles Forster. "And that's James Bond!"

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