If Casino Royale is still basking in the afterglow of being declared both the best and most successful Bond movie ever, what will that make Quantum of Solace?
In Eon’s plush, high-ceilinged Piccadilly offices, fit for Bond to roam through and feel very at home, producer Barbara Broccoli chuckles lightly: “I’ll settle for ‘As good as...’”
The sell for Quantum of Solace is Bond goes rogue. That’s what Eon and Sony’s marketing. In Solace, Craig is slaking his vengeful bloodlust in far-flung corners to find the mysterious man – or men – who drove Eva Green’s Vesper to suicide.
“Bond has had the love of his life taken away from him and Vesper was not what she seemed,” says Daniel Craig. “She ripped him apart.”
More than any other actor since Connery, Craig should know what drives Bond. A large part of Royale’s success was fuelled by Craig’s lean, mean makeover of Ian Fleming’s martini-loving civil servant.
Bond’s tormented psyche is something that Craig and débutante director Marc Forster were intent on exploring further in Solace. Spending weeks together with the sketched-out script handed over to them by Paul Haggis.
“Paul Haggis didn’t give us a finished script so Daniel and I really developed it together,” says Forster. “There was a very intense relationship between us while we were doing that.”
Eon arrived at the unusual choice of Forster after a desperate hunt “to find a director that I would find inspiring,” says Craig. The German born director of Monster’s Ball at first rebuffed their advances, but once he was won over Forster and Craig quickly formed an alliance.
Their mutual vision for Solace embraced the spirit of legendary production designer Ken Adams, pushed for deploying locations over sets and integrating action into story rather than awkwardly crowdbarring it in.
“I said to Daniel at the end of the shoot, ‘I think it was a great collaboration because we couldn’t have done it without each other.’ We never had an argument about anything stylistically; we always were in sync, which was really surprising.”
“Visually, Marc wanted to push the envelope in terms of creating a world that is – how did he describe it? – a little retro but post-modern in structure,” says Broccoli.
Pushing the envelope meant pushing the budget, with reports pegging Solace’s cash-consumption at $230m – by far the most expensive Bond film ever. “Without a doubt,” admits Broccoli. “But the money’s always on the screen. There’s twice as much action as the last movie.”
Forster and Craig’s other brainwave? To burrow under Bond’s skin, into his brain, more than any prior outing for the secretive spy. To show a flintier, nastier Bond, but also one attempting to heal deep wounds.
“Everything he understood as being good turns out to be bad.” Forster nods. “He’s always been a mystery to the audience, which is part of the intrigue, but in this film he gets to figuring out who he really is.”
Out in Austria
“Tonight I’m gonna run through a restaurant and shoot people”, says Daniel Craig to Total Film in Austria. “While eating linguini...”
We’re standing in a restaurant overlooking Lake Constance. The bond crew are shooting a sequence in which Bond has tracked Solace villain Dominic Greene to the lakeside hamlet.
Having confronted Greene, Bond is forced to flee as two of the villain’s hench-thugs chase him through the packed eaterie.
For several takes, Craig repeats the sequence in a dynamic display of action and performance that superbly demonstrates why many feel the 40-year-old actor may go down as the greatest 007 ever. And one of the most hands-on...
“That was one of the things I’d said when I was being barracked into doing it: ‘I want to be involved with as much of it as possible,’” says Craig.
“That doesn’t mean I want to be making huge decisions but I want to have a say because it means I can feel that I know what’s going on and how things are working. It’s my job to encourage: do we want Marc Forster to direct this movie? Yes we do. I can’t make the decision but I can certainly make the phone calls.”
One of those decisions was to limit the amount of CGI. “What we are achieving in this is more what it would do in real life,” says special-effects supremo Chris Corbould.
“Where a car smashes into the side of a building and doesn’t blow up into a million pieces. It’s going to be much more hard hitting than seeing great balls of flame go up in the air or a car that does four pirouettes as it goes off a cliff.”
This of course makes things a bit riskier. “There’s always a potential for danger because we’re creating scary situations on film,” says Craig.
“We do things that look incredibly dangerous as safely as possible. But things like my finger – it’s an accident, it’s a small thing but it happens...”
As was widely reported, Craig ended up in hospital back in England for a few hours when a small chunk of his finger fell to the Pinewood soundstage floor.
But producer Broccoli recalls a more terrifying moment, during the shooting of Solace’s explosive climax, when Craig vanished into the flames of multiple explosive charges... and didn’t reappear.
“We’re sitting there watching the monitor and there’s 15 explosions, collapsing staircases, things going off – and we’re going, you know, quietly, ‘Where’s Daniel?
“We’re just 100ft away and yet we’re thinking, ‘My God, what have they done to him? He’s in the middle of a fireball. And then he pops up. Oh, thank God!!!”
Back in England
Six weeks after Austria, Total Film journeys out to Pinewood, to watch part of Solace’s scorching finale being filmed.
A few months earlier, the production had camped out in Chile at the Paranal observatory, but now its hotel has been recreated on soundstages.
Mathieu Amalric (who plays Dominic Greene) wanders over to have a chat with Total Film after running through a take.
“It’s exciting, it’s like a game – it’s a big toy! I love it, I just love it. I was expecting the explosion but it wouldn’t come.
“I was running and I say, ‘Shit, it’s not working.’ And then bam!! I just wanted to get my arms down earlier so they see my face. But something hit me so I forgot.”
Amalric approached the characterisation of Greene with as much enthusiasm as he does the set pieces. Working with Bond-girl Olga Kurylenko, the pair created a back story for their characters that explains their relationship in the movie.
“We said to the new writer who was on set that we had invented this thing”, he tells. “It’s very intimate but I think it’s a reason to kill somebody: does he make her come?
“He has a doubt, and if she’s lying, he’s not a man anymore. That can make you crazy. Sexual frustration – I think that’s why you’re a villain. A man is not very complicated.”
In his climactic fight with 007, Greene gets frenzied, scratching and clawing and kicking... “We tried to do things that are wild and disgusting, something that’s not allowed.
“I had to see with Daniel, How much could I hit him? And he had to hit me too because you feel it. We’re not in the ’50s anymore. So that’s where there’s a big intimacy and respect for the other actor. I still feel it in my ribs because he punched me all the time and you do it 15 or 20 times. And each time you say, ‘No, more more more!! More!’ You get crazy.”
When Total Film meets Forster embroiled in post-production in London, he undoubtedly feels like he could use a miracle of his own.
Slumped, he bemoans Solace’s truncated editing schedule – “all my other movies, I had like 14 weeks; on this, I have four or five weeks. It’s just rush, rush, rush.”
The pressure is on. When we tell him that Craig has already told Total Film he’s looking forward to viewing Forster’s cut in time to put in his input in, the director’s mouth tightens and his cheeks twitch.
“I said I will show it to him before I do the preview,” he nods, “but I haven’t ever got notes from an actor. So I will show him the movie and hopefully he likes it and if he doesn’t, it is what it is.”
Forster’s already decided he won’t be returning for Craig’s third stint as the tuxedoed assassin, much to Broccoli and Wilson’s chagrin.
“I said to the studio, ‘The only problem with Marc Forster is who’s going to follow him?’” says Broccoli. “That’s the real challenge because he’s been impeccable – an extremely cooperative, wonderful director of great vision. He’s remarkable – a very, very tough act to follow.”
And having so strongly resisted the early advances, is Forster glad that he finally sought Solace? “If the movie’s successful, it will be great to celebrate it. If it’s not, it will be a hard burden to carry because so many fans will be disappointed.
“You want the fans to continue the celebration of Casino Royale. It’s something I didn’t really process while I was doing it, but now suddenly that comes closer and I just hope that all those expectations will be fulfilled.”