An exclusive look inside the making of Quantum of Solace, and Daniel Craig's next turn at playing superspy James Bond.
From the Print Edition:
Daniel Craig, November/December 2008
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Forensic intelligence links one of those MI6 traitors to a bank account in Haiti, with Bond immediately in hot pursuit. There, he encounters the rogue agent Camille (Kurylenko), who has a deadly score to settle with the apparently benign eco-friendly billionaire Dominic Greene (played by acclaimed French actor Mathieu Almaric), the chairman of Greene Planet who is in fact fronting for Quantum in orchestrating a Bolivian coup in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of desert land. In reality, that parched property will secretly allow Quantum to seize control of South America's water supply. But Bond's thirst to avenge Vesper's death puts MI6 in jeopardy after his reckless disregard of M's orders forces her to cut him loose from Her Majesty's Secret Service.
"There's a real internal struggle going on within him," explains Craig of Bond's self-destructive plight, "because he soon finds that everything he understood about the world has been turned upside down. What we set in motion in the last film escalates much further." It's why Broccoli and Wilson insisted on the film's ambiguous title, which some felt would leave filmgoers stumped and hinder the film's marketability. "It's an original Fleming title and it's very appropriate in telling the journey Bond is on in this film," explains Broccoli over afternoon tea in her Pinewood Studios office. "There was such a big brouhaha about using 'Quantum of Solace,'" she admits, rolling her eyes, "but everybody seems to have calmed down and accepted it. People are remembering the title because it is so unusual . . . and when audiences see the film, they'll completely get it."
Craig enthusiastically agrees with Broccoli. "Yeah, of course we could've gone with a snappier title, but we made such a huge effort on Casino Royale to take the series to a new place, and we wanted that to continue," he asserts. "I mean, this title is meant to confuse a little . . . it's meant to make you wonder, and that's exactly what we want as people come into the film. Ian Fleming always has a very emotional line through his books, and Quantum of Solace is quite a moving story for him—it debates relationships and how they hurt.
"And actually, I think it comes from the way Fleming was feeling in his personal life at the time," Craig elaborates. "What he suggests is that if you don't have that 'quantum of solace' in your relationship, you should give up. It's that level of comfort . . . and at the end of the last movie, Bond doesn't have that because the love of his life was taken away from him."
Craig praises Forster's skill at probing those darker recesses of Bond's psyche, but also is quick to point out that Quantum of Solace is not going to be some deeply disturbing psychological drama either.
"After all, we are making a James Bond movie," chuckles Craig. "But hopefully we've created something that is more a look back at the earlier Bond movies about style and locations and romantic ideas of how the world is." That retro feel extends to Craig himself, who many now consider the heir apparent to Sean Connery's brutal and brash interpretation of the iconic superspy. While Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan each brought a charming playboy panache to the role, Craig's Bond is dark, dangerous and menacing. Ironically, those singing Craig's praises the loudest are some of the same Bond purists who initially unleashed such vicious and vitriolic attacks on Craig when he was first announced as the new 007. Yet Craig remains modest about those comparisons to Connery. "It's hard to comment on something like that, but yeah, I can't help but be very proud . . . it's very nice of people to say that," he says, smiling. "Although not everybody thinks that . . . believe me, I know," he quickly adds. "Some people still don't think I'm any good!"
Flash back to March 2006, and Craig wasn't nearly as sure-footed when I interviewed him on the set of Casino Royale along the sun-drenched shores of the Bahamas. Though 007 had tangled with the world's worst villains and megalomaniacal madmen over four decades, Bond's greatest nemesis during the production of Casino Royale proved to be the media. SMERSH, SPECTRE, Auric Goldfinger and Blofeld were mere paper tigers compared to the Fleet Street tabloids, which locked Craig firmly in their crosshairs, taking potshots at the classically trained stage actor on an almost daily basis. Deposed dictators usually received a much warmer welcome from the populace. Hounded by the brutal and highly personal critiques of his seeming lack of necessary Bondian attributes, Craig tried his best to take it all in stride.
"Quite honestly, I didn't really expect this at all," Craig told me at the time, when his most recognizable films in North America were Munich and the little-seen Layer Cake and The Jacket. "I mean, I've been acting a while now, and I've been in some big movies before, but certainly nothing near this level. And I guess I'm learning that you can't believe the good stuff and you can't believe the bad stuff. You kind of still take it in, but I'm really trying to ignore it. I have to. I'm getting on with this."
Craig did admit, however, that the furor back home—where James Bond is a matter of national pride, considered as much a British institution as afternoon tea, the queen and the Beatles—helped him up the ante on his performance. "I've been giving 110 percent from the very beginning, and maybe now after all this criticism, I'm trying to give 115 percent . . . but I mean, I'm giving everything I possibly can," he insists. "We're making a fabulous movie here, and therefore, I think we're going to make a fabulous Bond movie. "So once it's all done and dusted, and the movie is out, then people can say whatever they want," he shrugged. "They can bloody criticize it then. But it's so silly for anyone to attack what we're doing because nobody has seen it yet."
Of course, the tide quickly turned once critics and audiences glimpsed Craig in action when Casino Royale premiered in November 2006. He recalls finally breathing a sigh of relief as the opening weekend box office figures started rolling in while he, Broccoli and Wilson were at a hotel bar in Switzerland on a promotional stop. "Suddenly, the studio starts texting all these numbers to us, and they kept coming and coming and going up and up and up . . . and that's when I really felt it. That's when the surprise really happened for me. I mean, we always knew we had a great movie, but people reacted way beyond how we thought they would." But he humbly admits there was no gloating on his part. "There was never a point where I punched the air," Craig says with a genuine sense of humility. "There was no kind of, 'See, I told you so!' I just always kept saying, 'We're making the best movie we possibly can . . . just wait.' And thankfully, that worked."
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