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November 2014
Issue: October 1, 2006

DIRECTOR'S CHAIR: MARTIN CAMPBELL - 'CASINO ROYALE'

By: Iain Blair

LONDON — Casino Royale, the new James Bond film, is the latest installment in the longest-running franchise in the history of cinema. It’s based on the first Bond book written by Ian Fleming, which introduced the sexy, glamorous secret agent to the world for the very first time. Appropriately enough, the latest installment, which also introduces Daniel Craig as the newest “007,” is directed by Martin Campbell, who also guided Pierce Brosnan in his first outing as Bond back in 1995’s GoldenEye and whose stylish and kinetic work on that film helped rejuvenate the Bond franchise.

The film also marks a return to the more serious, violent and real world that first made Bond an international icon. There are no cat-loving villains with personal rockets and death-rays hiding inside fake volcanoes on exotic islands this time. Instead, with a script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and Crash’s Oscar-winner Paul Haggis, Bond’s first 007 mission leads him to international villain Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), banker to the world’s terrorists. In order to stop him, and bring down the terrorist network, Bond must beat Le Chiffre in a high-stakes poker game at Casino Royale, and he’s none too pleased when a beautiful British Treasury official, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), is assigned to deliver his stake for the game and watch over the government’s money.

At press time, the New Zealand-born Campbell, whose credits include the Zorro films, Vertical Limit and Without Borders, was back in London where he was deep in a hectic post production schedule after months of location shooting around the globe. Here, in an exclusive interview, he talks about making the film, and the huge challenges of posting the eagerly-awaited release, which is scheduled for November 17.

POST: How has directing a Bond film changed since you did GoldenEye 11 years ago?

MARTIN CAMPBELL: “Obviously technology has improved and you can do so much more with digital effects now, but otherwise, not that much. This time I’m working from the book instead of a concocted story. It’s a slightly darker, more reality-based film, but hopefully without losing any of the fun Bond stuff that we all know and love.”

POST: What sort of film did you set out

to make?

CAMPBELL: “I wanted to keep it very much like the book, and the Bond of the book is slightly different from the Bonds of the movies. I think Daniel Craig is the perfect casting for the character that Fleming envisaged, as he’s a little tougher and grittier. He’s not the pretty boy looks we’re used to. He’s more rugged, more dangerous, in the Connery mold and persona.”

POST: How tough was the shoot?

CAMPBELL: “Very, very hard. We shot for 118 days all over the place: Prague, the Bahamas, Italy, where we shot in Venice and Lake Como, and then Britain. But as usual with a Bond production, it’s a well-oiled machine and as shoots go, it went pretty smoothly and was relatively problem-free, although obviously filming is nothing if not a huge exercise in solving problems. It helped that I had a very experienced DP, Phil Meheux, who’s shot a lot of my films, including GoldenEye and the Zorro ones, so he’s part of my regular team.”

POST: Didn’t you start off as a cameraman?

CAMPBELL: “Yes, I was a video cameraman and began in TV when cameras all had fixed lenses, so I learned all about camera movement and tracking, and it was a great learning experience. You’d move the camera around on live TV shows and dramas, and do up to 120 moves in a show. Now, it’s all on electronic zooms and very different.”

POST: You’ve worked so much with Phil Meheux. How does that relationship work?

CAMPBELL: “I began working with him back in 1977 when I produced Black Joy, and when I directed my first film I used Phil as we’d worked so well together, and now it’s just shorthand.”

POST: All your films seem to be very complicated in terms of locations and logistics. Are you attracted to that aspect?

CAMPBELL: [Laughs]. “No, I’m not. I just seem to get offered them and then I end up doing them. When I look back to the first Zorro, logistically it was a nightmare, because of all the locations and having to move everyone, and that was filmed entirely on location in Central Mexico. On this, we were moving around the world, so you have to be super-organized in every department, and we were.”

POST: What was the most tricky scene to shoot technically?

CAMPBELL: “We have a lot of big set pieces, including one right at the start, another half-way through, and then one at the climax, with smaller action scenes in between. The film’s got quite a lot of action, but believe it or not, it wasn’t any of the huge set pieces or any of the big action scenes with tons of visual effects and explosions. It was the big card game of Texas Hold ‘Em with Le Chiffre. When you have 10 players around a table, it’s extremely difficult to shoot, both technically and in a dramatic sense, as it’s a very complex game and there are so many set-ups.”

POST: Which part of the filmmaking process do you love most, and which the least?

CAMPBELL: “I like pre-production and post the best. I don’t like shooting at all. I find it grueling and tough, but I love post and the whole process of seeing the film finally come together. You start ironing out all the rough spots, and the really bad bits you just throw away [laughs]. So from day one of post to the last day, you see nothing but improvements.”

POST: What have been the biggest challenges of post on Casino Royale?

CAMPBELL: “The very short post schedule itself, because of the November 17th release date, which then dictates the rest of the schedule. So it’s been a race to finish. I had under five weeks to do my cut of the film, but luckily my editor, Stuart Baird, who cut Zorro for me, is extremely talented and very fast. Of course, on a film this size the only way you can cope is to cut as you shoot, so he was on set and in the cutting room in whichever location we were in. We’d have the Avids set up and assemble as we went. Now we’re back in London editing and posting at De Lane Lea, where we’re also doing the sound dubbing. We’re doing our DI at Framestore, and Phil is there grading and timing as we speak.”

POST: So many big films today seem to use teams of editors — one to cut action scenes, one for the dramatic scenes and so on. You didn’t need that?

CAMPBELL: “No, as Stuart is so good at it all. He’s so quick and efficient and has it all under control. You know, he also cut — but was uncredited on — Mission Impossible 11 and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. He’s simply one of the best around.”

POST: How does that relationship with Stuart work?

CAMPBELL: “We’d look at dailies together and he’d just start cutting scenes right away, and I’ll give notes, though not that many. He’s also very organized, and we have that shorthand between us, and we’re both workaholics, so all that helps [laughs]. What I do at the very end of post is go through every foot of film. No matter what my choicest takes are, I go over every single foot and re-select all the takes, and move sound around and do all sorts of stuff. So I really start over from square one and then hand my list of all my adjustments to him, and he then incorporates them. [At press time] we’re just about to start the temp dub, which will take a week, and then we have just one preview and then we go to the final mix. The other big challenge is making sure you have all the coverage you could possibly need before you get to this stage, which I made sure of. So we never had to go back and shoot any extra scenes or reshoot any material. And we’ve been ahead of the game in organizing all our digital material and effects.”

POST: Bond films always push the envelope in terms of amazing stunts, action scenes and visual effects. Will this one do the same?

CAMPBELL: “Yes, I don’t think audiences will be disappointed, although for a film this size, we’re not actually using as many visual effects shots as a lot of films do. We’ll only have about 300 — or at the most, 400 — shots, and of those at least 150 will be wire removal. And there’ll probably be a lot of sky replacement. There’s also a bit of background stuff we’re adding. For instance, there’s a big scene where this jumbo jet is at an airport —and it doesn’t blow up as has been reported, by the way — and that was all shot at this very secluded airport near Guildford, south England, and there’s no background there, so we had to drop a lot of stuff in. Steve Begg is our VFX supervisor and all the visual effects are being done through Kent Houston’s company, Peerless Camera Company, here in London. They worked on Vertical Limit, Tomb Raider and a ton of movies. Nothing’s being farmed out to ILM or anywhere else. It’s all British, and of course we get the tax incentives that way.”

POST: Do you like dealing with visual

effects?

CAMPBELL: “I do. I’m very closely involved and Stuart and I look at everything together and check each shot as they come in day by day. It’s a bit easier as we don’t have 800 or 900 effects shots like some of the big summer movies, but then I think it’s also better that the action is much more realistic in this film, and the more real you make it, the more effective it is. Casino Royale doesn’t go off into fantasyland.”

POST: What about audio and music? How important are those areas for you?

CAMPBELL: “They’re huge. For me, audio is as important as the visuals — it’s half the film. David Arnold is the composer and I’d never worked with him before, although he’s done previous Bond films. We’re scoring all the music at Air Studios in London. Chris Munro is our sound mixer, and it’s all being dubbed here at De Lane Lea, which is a great post place.”

POST: Now you’re getting close to the end of the race to finish, where does Casino Royale rank in terms of complexity and difficulty for you?

CAMPBELL: “It was bloody difficult to do, even though it was a smooth shoot, because I’d just come off doing Zorro 2 and my post on that was overlapping pre-production on this. That made it doubly tough, but it’s turned out great and I think we’ve made a film that takes Bond back to basics, which was the right choice. And I feel lucky I’ve had the chance to restart the franchise twice now.”

POST: Do you think you’ll come back for another Bond?

CAMPBELL: [Laughs] "I don't think so. It's too exhausting."