Yarborough, the name may mean nothing to us today, but it is through this character that is believed to be fictional with a mysterious identity that EON promoted his Bond movies (and a game). Indeed on the official websites of The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and the game Everything or Nothing, it was him who gave news to fans from inside. If the official sites of these Bond no longer exist today (and that no one considered it useful to transfer the knowledge that was there to the new official sites), we have nevertheless recovered these reports. Here are those from Casino Royale:
And here we are again
Hello to you all – how have you been? It’s three and a half years since I filed my last report from behind the scenes on DIE ANOTHER DAY (October 29th 2002 for those who are counting). Where did the time go?
With our website now up and running it’s time to fill you in on what’s been happening on this latest instalment of 007’s journey. Since I’ve been away, it seems that everyone has started blogging about their lives, but only here will you get the real story of what is happening on our set.
In the months that lie ahead, I hope to give you some sort of insight into how this film is going and introduce you to some of the people who are making it happen.
That should really be « re-introduce you » of course as there are so many familiar faces on the crew and we’ll meet them again as we go. The producers, Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, like to foster a sense of family and familiarity on set. But never mind all that for the moment, there’s one new face that’s getting all the attention.
How’s our new Bond doing? Well, we’ve had a good laugh at some of the wild speculation in the papers. The truth is – he’s doing a great job. You’d expect me to say that, of course, but oddly enough, it’s true and as you get to learn a bit more about what we’re up to, hopefully you’ll see what I mean. He’s taken the film makers’ new approach to the story and made a character that is both rooted in Ian Fleming’s creation and also completely his own new take on the role.
And what is this new approach? Well, in short, we have gone back to the start of the Bond story. CASINO ROYALE was Fleming’s first Bond book and the film has stayed true to the shape of the novel so if you know your book, you won’t be expecting to see a featured role for Moneypenny or meet Q.
In this film we’ll see Bond get his 00 status, his licence to kill. What will happen to him in this story will inform all the Bond stories that followed. But it’s not set in 1953 when the book was published – it is a contemporary story with a much more realistic feel than some of our previous outings. No villains in hollowed out volcanoes but more pain and danger for our hero.
But not too much for us hopefully as we travel with him!
For now, welcome back
Filming In Prague
As you might have heard, this 21st Bond film is based, not at dear old Pinewood Studios, but here in Prague – the capital city of the Czech Republic, a cultural jewel of central Europe and home to some of the world’s finest beers.
There are probably all sorts of sound financial reasons for being here but speaking as one who is still having trouble working out an exchange rate for Czech crowns, one of the main advantages of stepping out of the comfortable environment of Pinewood is the fresh feel it gives to this very different Bond film. I wouldn’t want to give the impression we have abandoned the UK – there’s a production office at Pinewood, crucial scenes to be shot on the 007 stage and a long sequence at a British airfield – but starting in this new atmosphere has certainly made us all re-think our take on the series.
Some things are familiar from previous production starts, like the « beginning of term » feel – finding our new offices, seeing old friends, making new ones. And of course, to continue the school theme, we have a new head boy in Daniel Craig. On the eve of shooting, his gruelling schedule of preparation has him down most days with the stunt team at their Modrany Studios set-up. We’re working out of two studios in Prague – Barrandov, our home – and Modrany, a converted steel works which provides some of our stages and areas for the departments to work in. « Converted » is perhaps misleading, the emphasis is still on utilitarianism and it wouldn’t be the most attractive of places to spend time. If you’re planning a visit to Prague I would still put the Charles Bridge on your itinerary ahead of Modrany Studios. But its practical air, enhanced with a coating of snow, suits the serious approach that the film-makers are taking to this project.
In shed number 9, stunt co-ordinator Gary Powell is finding out what his new star can do. Gary, like many, is an old Bond hand. Now on his fourth Bond film, you’ll have seen him driving the St Petersberg tank in GOLDENEYE and doing the barrel roll in the jet boat for the opening sequence of THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH.
Like the rest of us, he is enthused by the script and is working with Daniel on an approach to the action that will suit the story. On the Bond films, there is a tradition of doing as much as possible for real. So, as Daniel points out, the best way of getting a high-energy action sequence to look right is to do it at the real speed.
« I think it’s the only way to inject the pace of the movie. If you film the pace then you know nine times out ten that’s what’s going to show on screen, so I don’t think we had much choice »
And the results? Well, my next report will be from Day One of shooting.
Until next time.
More with Prague/Gary Powell
Here we are on the eve of shooting and I’m back with Gary Powell, stunt co-ordinator, and his team who are working out final moves with Daniel. Prague is bitterly cold in late January and there are enormous flaming heaters in the chilly rehearsal halls. But, as I walk through them, above the roaring noise of the blowers, I can hear shouts and visceral grunts. This is where Daniel is doing his training.
I call it training but that gives too frivolous a concept of it. There’s no Fiji water and upbeat music here – it’s more like a boxing ring in the East End of London. Jovial but deadly serious about the work.
Instead of easing gradually into the more physical scenes, which is often the approach on other productions, the film-makers have decided to get right into the action scenes. So no effort is being spared to get ready. Next door, there’s an intermittent rattle of machine gun fire as the cast playing Nambutu embassy guards get familiar with their Kalashnikovs. (And no, you didn’t miss that lesson in geography, it’s a fictitious country). Their shots serve as a staccato reminder that the clock is clicking down to the first take.
Call sheet #1 Monday January 30th – and we’re off again. Sebastian Foucan, who plays one of our villains, Mollaka (more on him another day), is hammered by Daniel through the Nambutu embassy set on stage 11. Director Martin Campbell is taking the cast and crew right into the thick of it. Although it is good to start with a bang, as Daniel Craig has already realised, it is all in a day’s work:
« It just helps everybody, focuses everybody’s mind. It is a big sequence but actually it’s not by far the biggest so we’re kind of breaking in gently, I think. »
And watching Daniel, the training is paying off – this is a much more aggressive looking Bond we’re seeing already. Physically confident and easy with the work. Comparisons are being made with the early Bond films but I think we’re seeing something new in the Bond canon. And Martin Campbell agrees:
« He’s pretty terrific you know, he looks fantastic, he’s worked up, he’s muscled up and he’s got a short haircut, he actually reminds me of Steve McQueen at the moment, that can’t be a bad thing »
This is only day one of a six month shoot but if we’re going to keep up this pace, maybe I should get down to the gym too!
Until next time
Modrany Studios/Dr von Hagens
Hello again from a slightly spooked Yarboroughâ€¦
We’ve moved out of Modrany Studios for a couple of days on location. Now I’ve been on some strange sets in my time, but I think this one is one of the most memorable. We’re working with the people from Gunther von Hagens’ BODY WORLDS and that’s all the detail I want to give on that for the moment. After all, why should I be the only one stirred by this scene? I want you to have your own reaction to it when you see the film.
You might have heard of Body Worlds, the anatomical exhibition of real human bodies. As they’ve toured over 35 cities around the world and had about 20 million visitors to their exhibitions, the chances are you will have come across something about them. German anatomist, Dr. Gunther von Hagens, is the inventor of Plastination, a groundbreaking method of halting decomposition of the body after death and preserving it for anatomical study and display.
There’s been a lot written about this so I was interested to meet Dr von Hagens in, so to speak, the flesh. But instead of his work, we’re talking about his childhood and his knowledge of James Bond. He grew up in East Germany and at the age of 23, in 1969, was arrested trying to cross the border from the Czech Republic into Austria to escape the Communist regime. A prison sentence followed.
One of his enduring memories from growing up in a Communist society was watching James Bond films. Bizarrely, they showed the Bond films in Eastern Europe despite the fact 007 spent much of the Sixties wrestling and overthrowing Communist plots. So for Dr. von Hagens, actually standing on a Bond set is a particularly moving experience.
« Being here, I still have a problem believing it’s real because I’m reminded of my time in East Germany where I spent two years in prison. I saw GOLDFINGER as a youngster, one of the first James Bond films. And now working with James Bond it’s unbelievable. »
There’s a further wrinkle for von Hagens in that the set is actually at the Vitkov Monument, a former shrine to the Czechoslovak regime that was responsible for his arrest in 1969.
As David Minkowski, a local co-producer on the film, explains, it’s an appropriate location for our Body Worlds’ shoot.
« It was built in the Twenties, originally as a monument to the fallen soldiers of World War I but then it underwent a transformation when the country went communist after World War II and when the first Czech communist president died, they put him here and had his body on display sort of a Lenin’s tomb of Czechoslovakia at the time. So historically, this place has always been a little strange for the locals because of its association. Now it’s run by a national museum but it has very interesting history. »
And our filming at this location has certainly added another twist to that interesting history.
Until next time
Welcome Back to Judi Dench
I’ve been wading my way through your questions and in the next few weeks we’ll get round to answering as many as possible. But let’s start with a question that goes straight to the heart of this new film with a new star.
Hi Yarborough, glad to see you´re with us all again for another instalment in the series. Could you say more about Daniel and what are your personal feelings towards his approach? Is this movie closer to the originals? Flemingesque? Conneryesque?
– John P.
Well, rather than hear my thoughts on it, let’s go to someone who has got a bit more authority – Judi Dench, back once more to reprise her on-going role as M.
We’re out on location again, this time at the Strahov Monastery, a beautiful monastery that has stood overlooking Prague since the 12th Century. Today its baroque grandeur is being borrowed for a scene set in the House of Commons where Bond’s actions have had repercussions for his boss. Although she is acting angry on set, the real Judi Dench is more cheerful and gives us her take on the approach to this film.
« I’m glad that we’ve gone back to Ian Fleming again and just really pleased to be here. What an interesting script and what a good story to tell. »
It’s a new angle on the character she has made her own since a debut with our current director, Martin Campbell, on GOLDENEYE. Interestingly, as an awards-laden actress of both stage and screen, she appreciates Martin’s sensitivities towards the actors.
« Martin is very enthusiastic and he knows the conditions that actors like to work in. He knows that when you have to do take after take after take after take it is wonderful if an atmosphere is kind of suspended between takes of just quietness and you go very quickly into the next take so that you have the thing still very clear in your mind. That’s marvellous working with him, its wonderful, you don’t often get that »
Because of his experience with launching Pierce Brosnan on GOLDENEYE, she also appreciates Martin’s handle on the world of Bond.
« He knows the area. He knows the Bond scene very well. He was great to work with on GOLDEN EYE »
In this film, we’re seeing a 007 in the making so her relationship with Bond starts and finishes in a slightly different place from usual.
« She’s only just given him 007 status and so he’s very untried and raw. But it’s a good arc of story because by the end I think you understand that he has done right and that she knows she’s on to a good thing. »
And what of her take on Daniel, the other part of John’s question? She has worked with so many well known leading men and is impressed with this one.
« He’s got a wonderful presence, very attractive and strong and he has relaxed wonderfully. I’m sure he has got anxiety but he doesn’t show it, he’s very relaxed. »
There’s a lot more to catch up on with Judi but for now, she has to get packed for the Bahamas so…
Until next time
Move To the Bahamas
Many of your questions are interesting and well informed – the only problem with some of them is…I don’t know the answer! Take this one from Scott for example.
« I think it’s a great idea to start at the beginning of Bond with Casino Royale. Now where will you go with Bond and Daniel Craig next? Remakes or original missions? »
Good question. Valid question. But the answer? No idea. Not even our producers will confirm anything about that yet. So the only thing I can say about where we’re going with Bond right now is that we’re off to the Bahamas.
Now I realise that most people think we spend our lives in glamourous corners of the world but regrettably, that isn’t the case. More often than not it’s a muddy corner of some industrial estate, wind whistling round the corners of the trailers and a hapless location manager chasing polystyrene cups being blown across the set.
But this is a Bond film after all and so, once in a while, we do get to unpack the sun cream and put on the shades. Having said that, there’s a lot of tough work to do on a distinctly unattractive building site here, but we’ll get into that on another day. For the moment, let’s just enjoy the picture postcard aspect of this location. That’s what I’m doing anyway, after a month of snow and ice in Prague.
There’s all sorts of reasons we’re here – firstly, it’s a location in the film. We’re working at the One & Only Ocean Club where Bond comes to check out a lead. But the Bahamas is versatile enough to double for other places, (as we’ve proved before in THUNDERBALL, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and THE SPY WHO LOVED ME) and in this case, it is also standing in for Madagascar. That’s the dusty, derelict location on the other side of the island – more of that another day. Here on the north side of Paradise Island it’s more what you would expect from Bond’s world – waving palm trees, white sand beaches and ice cold drinks.
Or it would be if you could see any of it because we’re on night shoots and the unseasonably cold weather means that our drink of choice is now hot chocolate rather than the kind that come in tall glasses with umbrellas in them! The One & Only, which appears as itself in the film, has thrown open its doors to us and the five star resort, where the loudest noise is usually the tinkling of ice in those previously mentioned tall glasses, now has cables in all directions, a forest of lighting stands and the usual small army of crew, extras and locally recruited staff to turn their rather pleasant library into a casino. James Bond is following a trail that will lead him, eventually, to the gaming tables of the Casino Royale and here he picks up the scent of his villain, and being James, picks up an exotic young woman too.
Caterina Murino plays Solange, the bored wife of a dangerous man. The beautiful Italian actress is refreshingly honest about what Bond sees in her character – for them, this isn’t the greatest love story ever told.
« We have only sex chemistry – we have nothing else, we are not going to be friends and we are not going to invite him to drink tea. »
So no tea for Mr Bond, at least in this part of our story. There is romance ahead for 007 and, if not tea, perhaps a refreshing martini. And for me? A nice cup of hot chocolate, please.
Until next time.
Underwater in the Bahamas
In case your sympathies weren’t totally engaged by my complaints about the cold weather in the Bahamas, let me enlist the considerably more glamourous support of Ivana Milicevic.
She plays the enigmatic Valenka, part bodyguard/part girlfriend of our villain, Le Chiffre. So, in the best traditions of the Bond girls, her costumes haven’t really required huge amounts of material and correspondingly, wouldn’t be your first choice for this chillier weather. Her main job in the Bahamas has been in and out of the water – diving off Le Chiffre’s yacht.
As I have mentioned before, the Bahamas have given us several locations for CASINO ROYALE but its underwater attractions are just as useful to the unit as its land based ones.
The crashed Vulcan bomber from THUNDERBALL, for example, remains a popular dive site and the clear waters off the islands have once again aided us in our shooting.
Unfortunately, as Ivana made clear to me, this hasn’t been quite as comfortable as my reading of her scenes had suggested.
« That whole experience was freezing cold because I had a lot of underwater stuff swimming in my Bond girl bathing suit and I’m basically free diving. Mind you, I’m in my bathing suit, the rest of the crew that’s underwater is in really thick wet suits so it was a freezing experience, especially as I had to go into the water at six a.m. »
At least she has earned the admiration of Tony Waye, executive producer and director of this underwater unit.
« She was a great trouper. Fortunately the giant Sunseeker yacht that we had, had a hot water tap on the back and they were having to hose her down with that. » We’ll hear more from Ivana a bit later in the production but for now, let’s head back to dry land to join Daniel Craig and Judi Dench on their location here in the Bahamas.
Until next time.
On location with Dame Judi
After the last couple of reports which have made much of the cold weather, it’s a relief to report that we are now back to the blue skies and sunshine that we had hoped for in the Bahamas. The contrast with the chill of Prague is noticeable to our new arrivals, particularly Judi Dench.
« Its something about going from the two heats, from the two temperatures. You’ve been very, very cold in Prague and suddenly to be really hot here and swimmingâ€¦. I’m so lucky. »
This is a significant film for Judi as M. Not only does she get to work in Prague, she also joins the unit on location in the Caribbean which makes a change for her as most of her 007 work up to now has been based in the UK. Of course, there’s also the small fact that she’s working with a new James Bond.
Taking us back to the beginnings of their relationship, CASINO ROYALE, as it does in so many other areas of Bond’s life, establishes a pattern that is played out across the subsequent stories. Judi’s done a lot more work with Daniel Craig since we last spoke in Prague and her appreciation of him as an actor has only increased. But, and this is always important for Judi who loves to laugh, the main thing is, they can have fun together.
« He’s got a great sense of humour and that’s always really the first clue working with somebody I think. There’s a kind of self deprecation about him that’s very attractive and when you have a sense of humour in somebody it makes working much easier »
That’s just as well as the scenes coming up next here on location are enough to test anyone’s sense of humour to the limits.
The construction site
Just delving into the mailbag again.
A chap called Steve had asked me (amongst other questions)
« How long/brutal is the intense chase scene in Madagascar we have been hearing so much about? »
So let’s head off to the south side of Grand Bahama where the units are working on this sequence at two separate locations. The main unit is on the Madagascar shanty town set hidden amongst the foliage and undergrowth. The call sheet for today advises proper footwear as snakes can cause problems for the unwary so if you’ll excuse me, Steve, we’ll bypass them and go straight on down the road for a few hundred yards to where the 2nd unit are currently based.
This is a slice of land belonging to the Bahamian Ministry of Defence where long ago, some hopeful entrepreneur started to build a hotel. That didn’t get very far but tourism’s loss is our gain – with the addition of enough steel girders to build a second hotel, it makes a very convincing construction site.
Bond will have to chase his villain, Mollaka, across this site and it won’t surprise you to learn, there’ll be a certain amount of damage to the location as he does so. Again, the emphasis here, as stunt co-ordinator, Gary Powell reminds me, is on doing it for real.
« People have been sort of swamped over recent years with CGI stuff and I think they are actually getting bored of it now. So to go back to the route of actually doing it for real is definitely more satisfying, and hopefully for the public too who will be more satisfied knowing they are actually seeing real people taking real chances. »
He’s working with another Bond veteran, Visual Effects Co-ordinator, Chris Corbould, who feels just as strongly about this.
« I am passionate about my art, you know. I will fight tooth and nail to do it for real. I mean obviously if there is a danger element or a cost element , those are probably the only two reasons that I will back off and admit defeat, but no, we’re trying to do a lot for real on this. If it’s possible to do it for real it’s probably the best way to do it. »
Having a new Bond who is as committed to this approach as they are has certainly helped them achieve their aims. But they are also fortunate in the casting of Mollaka who is played by free-runner, Sebastien Foucan; as physically able a performer as any I have ever seen. Let me see if I can track him down for you.
It’s time to meet Bond’s protagonist in these early scenes, Sebastien Foucan, who plays a character called Mollaka.
Sebastien, from France, is not an actor. He’s a free runner. That’s what he says he does for a living but what he actually seems to do is bounce. I haven’t done a DNA test on him but I’m pretty sure he is about a 75% rubber to 25% bone composition. That’s the only explanation I can think of for his extraordinary ability to careen about the set like a cartoon character.
The first time I came across him was in the stunt team’s workshops at Modrany. Chatting to the co-ordinator, Gary Powell, I glanced up into the rafters and saw a lithe figure swinging along hand over hand from the girders. As he dropped to the floor and commenced a series of backward flips, I realised that this must be our villain from the early scenes
So what is free-running? Well here’s what a cast biography of him says
« Founder of Parkour, with his childhood friend David Belle, Sebastien Foucan developed the discipline (also known as Free-running) to combat negative energy. He has created and given names to many of the trademark Parkour moves, now used throughout the movement, which is becoming increasingly well-known and respected as an extreme sport world-wide. However, for Foucan, Parkour is not a sport, it is primarily an art form. »
But that fails to give the complete impression. You might have seen him in commercials for Nike and Toyota or perhaps in Madonna’s video for Confessions On The Dance Floor. Those have captured a bit more of his exploding energy and gravity defying leaps.
The adrenaline fuelled chase that will kick start the film began on a stage in the Czech Republic and then continues outside in the Bahamas. That’s the magic of the movies, of course, going from temperatures of minus something on one continent to plus something very much warmer halfway across the world. And just to confuse matters, the chronological sequence is exterior first (the shanty town followed by the construction site sequences) and then into the already completed Embassy interiors we shot a long time ago in Prague. But although he’s a novice to this scale of film-making, Sebastien seems to be taking it in his stride.
« I feel very good. I feel very happy to be here. Sometimes its strange because I don’t realise it’s so big, you know, but for me it’s fantastic. I enjoy every second I’m here. I have sun, I have sea, I practice my discipline, it’s a dream for me »
As he bounces across the landscape, he has one eye on Daniel coming up fast behind him.
« Daniel doesn’t practice my discipline but he’s athletic, he is very strong and it’s not very difficult for him to do something. For me, my discipline is about adapting yourself and to be an actor, it’s exactly the same thing – you just have to play something »
This is all impressive sounding stuff to someone like Yarborough whose discipline is limited to having only one doughnut when the caterers come round at tea-time. Talking of which……
Until next time
A Birthday Party
Reading back over my reports, you might get the idea that this crew does nothing but work all the time.
That is, of course, exactly right. I wouldn’t want you to have any other impression. But there are the occasional moments of relaxation to be had. Like this one.
It’s a Saturday night. Everyone on the unit from the director to the local guy hired for a day knows there is going to be a party that evening. Everyone, that is, except the person in whose honour it is being held. Appropriately for a crew filming the activities of MI6, the secret has been kept. Daniel Craig thought he was going out for a quiet dinner to celebrate his birthday.
This is the biggest surprise party any of us have been to. We’re on a beach on the southern side of the island – smoke is rising from the barbecues and food stalls, there are bottles stacked high and the waves are lapping on the coral sand. Some crew members have brought their families out for a holiday but the children aren’t the only ones running around with a smile on their faces. Your own correspondent makes his first foray into a local speciality, conch fritters. Unfortunately, the pronunciation, « conk fritters » causes some initial confusion, as I always thought conk was another word for a nose. Not quite so appetising. But Daniel is having a plateful so I venture back to the stall again.
There’s a great deal of good will towards Daniel and it comes from professionals who appreciate a job well done. These are the people who have watched him week after week as he, literally, throws himself into the role. They’ve worked with actors in all sorts of roles and on all types of films but few of them have seen this level of determination and drive. When you have put all your energies into making your contribution as effective as possible, there’s a great deal of satisfaction in seeing your star reflect an even higher level of commitment.
So there’s a good feeling tonight. A chance to celebrate more than a birthday with Daniel.
But that’s not the only thing that makes this evening stand out. We’re all guests of the producers, Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. They’re the ones who have laid this on and it’s this generosity that makes the Bond experience special. Perhaps it’s her Italian ancestry but Barbara Broccoli takes her duties as a hostess very seriously. Empty plates or glasses are an aberration to her as she flits from group to group making sure we are all having a good time. It’s admirable but all the more so in that she is just as concerned when we’re on location at seven in the morning to make sure we are getting enough breakfast and are dressed correctly for the weather.
But even Barbara has to stop and watch as the junkanoo band comes marching out of the darkness and on to the beach. Junkanoo? Think Mardi Gras, via the Carnival in Rio but with costumes that make those events look models of restraint. The colours are loud and the music is louder.
It’s impossible not to be moved (or deafened) by such an enthusiastic performance But before I give myself up to the rhythm completely, perhaps there’s time for one more conch fritter.
Until next time,
Back to Prague
Hello again from Prague. We’re only just back and the tans are already fading but it feels strangely like coming home.
We’ve gone straight into shooting the interior of Le Chiffre’s yacht, the exterior parts of these scenes having just been shot in the Bahamas. It gives me a bit of time to catch up with our villain which will come as something of a relief to Lillian who sent me a question about him. Well, eventually she got to the question. First, she was refreshingly candid.
« I’m new to this whole James Bond thing. To be honest, it doesn’t do anything for me. But I’m a big Mads Mikkelsen fan! Because of Mads, CASINO ROYALE will be the first Bond film I’ve paid to see and watched all the way through. Will you have news or stories about Mads in your blog soon? »
Lillian is not the only one interested in Mads whose reputation has already grown beyond the borders of his native Denmark. Not for his role as Tristan in KING ARTHUR, although I am sure that had its admirers, but for the series of outstanding performances he has given in a wide range of work both on stage and on screen. I was enthusing last week about Barbara Broccoli in her role as party giver. That’s important but more relevant here is her interest in actors and their casting. She and the other film-makers have made some really strong choices in this film, starting of course with Daniel, and Mads is a key part of this process. (It’s pronounced « Mess » incidentally. Lillian, you probably knew that).
As I think I’ve said before, this script takes us in new directions for Bond and one of these new directions leads us to a different kind of villain. This is a role that needs a good actor and, although we’ve had many of those before, Mads is enjoying the challenge.
« He’s not the mad scientist who’s trying to take over the world but he’s trying to make as much money as possible, cheating everybody he can, which of course gives him a lot of enemies but he is a little more human than you probably normally would see in a Bond villain. He’s a man who has got a lot of greed, he just wants money in an easy way and that’s going to be his Achilles Heel in the end. »
If you know the book, then you’ll recognize this as a pretty faithful description of Le Chiffre’s character. But how does he see our Bond differing from previous incarnations?
« Bond is different, he’s a more whole person, he’s got skeletons in the closet as well and he’s got weaknesses – not only the women this time but personal weaknesses. It’s a very strong thriller not only a Bond film but also a very strong story. »
Again, there are interesting parallels here with Ian Fleming’s creation. What do you think? Keep sending in your questions to me on the Ask Yarborough link.
Until next time.
Fire at Pinewood
You’ll probably have heard about the fire on the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios on Sunday 30th July. They are still working out the details of what caused it but with no-one hurt and shooting finished on that set, it could have been much, much worse.
This was the Venice set for our closing sequence. We’ve done a lot of filming in Venice itself but, for reasons that will become apparent when you see the film, we have also had to build a massive recreation of a Venice palazzo and square on the 007 stage.
Technically, the 007 stage belongs to Pinewood itself, being named because of its long association with the Bond franchise. It was on this stage, for example, that Zao drove his Jaguar into the Ice Palace on DIE ANOTHER DAY, it housed the Nuclear Test Chamber in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and its capacity for holding gallons of water was explored as long ago as THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, when it provided the submarine pens for Roger Moore. So it has been enormously useful, not just to the Bond films, but to a host of other film-makers as well.
However, its destruction was felt especially by the Bond family. Though honesty compels me to admit it was never my favourite stage. A huge structure of corrugated iron, it was always freezing cold in winter and boiling hot in summer. Perhaps the new stage will be a little more comfortable to work in.
Until next time.
On the Train
With shooting now wrapped, there’s a moment to catch our breath and look back at some of the sequences I haven’t had time yet to bring you up to date on. There’s been so much happening on this film that I could be writing till next year to cover it all!
Like the scenes in the Pendolino. That’s one of those high speed trains that does not spill your coffee into your lap as you go round a corner. Although they are already state of the art, this one was re-designed by our art department to fit the requirements of the story. The train itself was actually hired from Czech Rail and runs into Prague but in our world, we’re en route to Montenegro, the home of the Casino Royale so we had a dining car and a corridor down the train (but, as far as I could see, no Robert Shaw on the roof).
There are some interesting early scenes here between Bond and Vesper – verbal sparring matches that will set up the relationship to come. It’s a good introduction to our leading lady, Eva Green, and to how she sees her character.
« Vesper is a kind of enigma. She’s quite complex and it’s difficult to see through her. That’s why I think James Bond gets attracted to her, because he can’t really see through her. »
Eva’s another example of the interesting casting choices that have been made on this film. As I was saying the other day, the producers were actively involved in this as Eva makes clear.
« Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson really helped me with the character. They talked me through the story, which is quite complicated on the first reading, there’s a lot of sub-text and they were very much involved in the design of the costumes, of Vesper’s look, and I’ve never seen producers like that before, it’s so unusual and great. »
We’ll learn more about both Eva and Vesper down the line but before we go, what’s her take on our new James Bond?
« It’s amazing because Daniel is so hypnotic, magnetic, and he’s a gentleman, he’s strong but he’s not mannered, and you know he’s very rough and rugged and is quite attractive I think, quite dangerous. »
Thank you. That’s the right answer!
Until next time.
You’ll have gathered by now that this was a long shoot – about six months of early starts and late finishes – so stamina became increasingly important as we moved forward. All eyes were on director Martin Campbell, a man who still crackled with energy and determination on every take. Woe betide any crew member who let his concentration lapse when Martin was on set or left their mobile phones ringing, a particular dislike of our director.
This gave the crew and actors a focus to their work that they found invigorating. Speaking about halfway through shooting, producer Michael Wilson was constantly impressed.
« Martin’s still got the enthusiasm and the drive, working five and six day weeks and preparing for the next day, he’s in sometimes at five in the morning, looking over the set, preparing a shot list. He has plenty of drive and it really tells. »
Eva Green agreed.
« Martin’s a character. He’s very present, full of energy, very warm. He’s like a child actually. You know for him everything is new and exciting and it’s quite contagious, you know, you’re always quite alive. »
Daniel Craig has been working with him since before Christmas.
« I knew he was good before we started the job. But I think his energy is inspiring. »
Both Daniel and Martin attacked every day as if it were the first day of shooting and Daniel found this as vital for the quieter days as it was for the big action moments.
« Martin’s energy is just infectious and you need that because the fight sequences are energetic but you also need it in quieter scenes like the Casino because it’s very complicated stuff. »
Ah yes, the Casino. Complicated indeed. Let’s take a look at that next time.
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
The Salon Privé
Well, the title of the film is CASINO ROYALE so let’s take a look at the Salon Privé of the Casino Royale in Montenegro. It was actually Stage 6 at Barrandov Studios in Prague but you’d never have known that from sitting at the card tables. There was a view through the doors, beyond the terrace and across to the Hotel Splendide opposite. We filmed at a real Hotel Splendide exterior in Karlovy Vary as well but this one was painted by scenic artist David Packard and the effect is wholly convincing.
This is a classic James Bond scene – Daniel Craig in his dinner jacket, soft lights, long drinks, beautiful women and dubious looking opponents. Observing it all with a wry eye is Felix Leiter played by Jeffrey Wright.
Amandeep had written in asking about this role.
« Could you tell us anything about Felix Leiter? How is Wright taking the role and how is he weaved into the story. After all him and Bond don’t meet till ‘Dr.No’. More importantly though, how is the chemistry between him and Daniel Craig? »
Bringing Leiter in at this stage is one of those tweaks that the writers have made to the structure of the novel which will make sense when you see the film. And on the subject of Daniel and him? I asked that very question.
« I’m very excited about what I see because I think that what he’s bringing is a certain realism to Bond, that we may not have seen before and there’s a grit and a kind of animal drive to him that I think is very exciting. Obviously Bond is about glamour and is about excitement and all these things and we have that as well but there is also at the same time, the undercurrent of blood that is a part of being someone who’s licensed to kill and I think you know Daniel brings a danger to it and an excitement to it as well that will enhance the legacy. »
That’s a longish way of saying the chemistry seems to be pretty good! Which is just as well because they spent a long time in this room together. Director Martin Campbell describes this as the most difficult scene in the movie which is surprising when you look at how many big sequences he has on his plate. But it’s the challenge of making the scene as compelling as all the others that exercises him.
One thing I’ve learnt, however, is don’t play poker with actors. They are professionals when it comes to the poker face. After all, it’s their job.
Producer Michael Wilson agrees.
« Actors seem to do quite well in the professional poker tournaments so I suppose they do have an advantage over the rest of us ».
And that applies to Daniel in particular. He had less time to practice than the others because of his other training commitments but as Michael says, the others learnt to be wary of his skill.
« I’ve played a couple of times with Daniel and he ended up with all the chips ».
Pierce was fond of backgammon between takes, Daniel is good at poker. Perhaps I should stick to snap.
Until next time,
Italy was the next stop on the road for the CASINO ROYALE travelling circus. We completed the casino scenes in Karlovy Vary before moving through the mountains to Lake Como in northern Italy.
This part of the world has been a haven for tourists and invalids for centuries, people drawn there by its beauty and tranquillity. Indeed, that’s why Bond is here – to recuperate from what he has undergone at Le Chiffre’s hands.
The location is the Villa del Balbianello, a beautiful retreat in its own grounds overlooking the long lake that runs north from the town of Como itself. Daniel and Eva are on the lawn with Martin and the crew crouched around them. Yours truly is on the other side of the villa looking north. Partly, I must confess, because the tea trolley is here but mostly because the set around the corner is surrounded by the crunchiest gravel south of the Alps making movement impossible during takes. And also, there’s something compelling about the view.
We’re looking down into another garden whose balustrades prevent anyone from falling into the lake below us. There is an eerie sense we have been here before, perhaps in some previous life – an unexpected shiver of the unknown which lasts for about a minute until the cheerful figure of executive producer, Callum McDougall, hoves into view. Not only does Callum usually know the answer to your question, he remains unfailingly affable, two attributes which make him welcome wherever he appears.
In this case, the answer he gives is less than supernatural. The view we are looking at featured in STAR WARS: Episode II, ATTACK OF THE CLONES. This is where Anakin kissed Padme.
So that explains how familiar it looks – we’re in Planet Naboo!
I can only hope Natalie Portman enjoyed the pizza on her visit to Lake Como as much as I did.
Until next time,
Arriving in Venice
I was talking last time about our ebullient Executive Producer, Callum McDougall. Our other Executive Producer, Tony Waye, was considerably less cheerful in Lake Como, not because of his temperament, but because of what he was working on at that time.
He filled me in during a brief visit to the lakeside set before going back to Venice, our next stop. Tony (« Anthony » if you are reading the film credits) is a veteran of many Bond films going back 25 years to FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and as such, often gets some of the trickier jobs. You’ll recall it was he who was doing the underwater unit work with Ivana Milicevic in the Bahamas. This new job sounds just as attractive in the abstract and even more complicated in reality. He is doing a helicopter shot of the SPIRIT 54, Bond’s yacht, arriving in Venice. The route across the lagoon there is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world so getting the shot right has proved to be interesting.
As he explains it,
« The approach we needed was in one of the shipping lanes and because the yacht has a very deep keel, 2.2 metres, we had to have fairly deep water but we also needed a southeast wind and we needed the sun on an angle on the building. So you wanted the the best of all worlds. »
Unfortunately what they got instead was Croatian customs problems and extremely severe weather. The yacht had been loaded onto a ship and travelled all the way from the Bahamas where it had featured in earlier scenes. It then got held up in Split for a couple of vital days while Tony and his crew stood by. When it finally arrived, they got an afternoon of shooting done before the weather socked in completely. But did they get the shot? If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll have had a glimpse of the answer.
This hasn’t been Tony’s only problem with this location. Venice is, of course, a beautiful city but a logistical nightmare for film-makers.
« Everything has to go by boat or you walk. So you’ve got to first of all train the crew how to get to their location each day. Very complicated. We’ve had maps drawn of how to get to the location. But I think they make things even more complicated. »
Instead he has come up with a novel way of directing the crew.
« What I’m going to try and do is say – you walk out of the hotel, turn left. And you head for Prada and turn left at Prada and turn right at Gucci and left at Brioni because I think people will take more notice of the shops than they will of the street signs ».
Well, even if we don’t make it to the set, at least we’ll be well dressed!
Until next time,
The Aston Martin
I was filling you in last time on the complexities of working on water in Venice. But judging from the number of questions I’ve had, it looks like you are more interested in our land vehicles and specifically the Aston Martin.
Jordan, Steve and others have inquired about it and two of you, Anthony and Paul, had picked up on the fact that there are actually two Astons in CASINO ROYALE.
You’ll see Bond acquire a DB5 in classic 007 style and, of course, a girl, Caterina Murino, to go with it. But later in the film, he also gets his own, government issue, brand new DBS. You are not the only ones to be excited by it. Daniel Craig has enjoyed being in the driving seat.
« This is very special because it’s the new DBS which is somewhere between a DB9 and their new racing car which they’re going to race hopefully at Le Mans. So, technically, that means that it just goes very fast and it’s a beautiful car and it suits Bond perfectly. »
However, because it’s a racing car, the DBS has given the stunt crew some problems. In the trailer, you might have seen the multiple roll that the car does. It proved to be rather more tricky to achieve than they had anticipated. Adam Kirley, the stunt driver explains how they began to prep the stunt using a test car for practice.
« We started off with a test car using a six inch ramp, just turning into the ramp about 65, 70mph and rolling the car like that. We did two rehearsals at that to perfect it. »
However, when they got their hands on the DBS itself, it performed very differently. Gary Powell, the stunt co-ordinator, takes up the story.
« Originally, what we wanted to do was to use a tiny little ramp because we wanted at all costs to keep the car low to the ground and it worked with the test car. Then, when we went to the Astons, obviously they’re built completely differently, the centre of gravity is lower. They’re essentially a race car that’s allowed on the road. So when we did the first one on the ramp it basically went up in the air, it corrected itself and came back down again. »
Even when they increased the size of the ramp almost 400%, the stability of the Aston defeated Adam’s attempts to roll it.
« Gary Powell decided to raise the ramp to just under two feet in the end. I came in at the 75, 80 miles an hour speed, hit it with the two left hand side wheels, anticipating it to roll very easily. But the car just literally took off in the air, levelled pretty much, and landed on all four wheels. Completely. No chance of rolling whatsoever because of the stability of the car. »
But you don’t get to be on the stunt team of a Bond without having a few tricks up your sleeve and calling in his colleagues in the Special Effects department, Gary soon had a solution, as Adam reports.
« We decided then on using a cannon. The special effects guys had put a cannon in which sits just behind the driver’s seat. It has a cylinder that, as you press a button, releases a load of air which punches the cylinder into the road which then, in turn, turns the car over. And that’s how we ended up doing it in the end. »
So successful was this that they managed seven and a half rolls before crashing to a stop. A new world record even for the Bond team.
So, an excellent testament to the stability of the Aston Martin but not perhaps an exercise that I’ll be trying out at home!
Until next time,
It’s not a bad job sometimes, this whole Bond thing.
This, not entirely original, thought comes to me as I am sitting in the middle of a converted church in Hampstead, North London, with the Bond theme swelling all around me. You don’t often get a chance to sit in the middle of one of the world’s premiere orchestras and it’s astonishing how powerful their sound is when you are in its centre.
This is AIR Studios, the recording facility set up by the Beatles’ producer, George Martin, where our composer David Arnold is putting the finishing touches to the score. David is an old hand now having been, in effect, composer in residence since TOMORROW NEVER DIES but what’s novel about this project for him is having a James Bond who has a real interest in the music. Right from the beginning, Daniel had expressed an interest in who would perform the main song so David is relieved he likes Chris Cornell though that’s perhaps not so surprising as Chris was chosen, says David, because of Daniel’s performance in the film.
« Watching Daniel Craig in the role, the thing that struck me about it was this notion of masculinity in music ».
So David was looking for the right voice that would fit Daniel’s rugged performance and when someone suggested Chris, he knew it was the right choice and kicked himself for not thinking of it.
« I was quite ashamed. Because I have been a fan of his for years. I just thought that’s the only idea that makes any sense to me because when I see Daniel Craig in that role, I am thinking what do I want to hear and when you hear Chris sing, especially on this song, you know there’s no mistaking what the whole thing is about. »
And now we have our first male vocalist since our Norwegian chums on THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. Chris is a vastly experienced musician not just with Soundgarden and Audioslave but with his own solo work. Yet working with such a large orchestra is a novelty for him.
« It’s a kind of disconcerting in a way. It’s actually fairly new for me and of course it really lends itself to the feel of the song and the fact that it’s a Bond theme song and so I am excited to see what it will sound like when it’s all finished ».
From where I’m sitting, in the middle of that orchestra, I think his excitement is not misplaced.
Until next time,
The Eve of Release
Well, we’re nearly there. A week away from opening – it seems a lifetime ago that we were settling into Prague.
The Bond circus is now on the road – Daniel and the team are in the States as part of their publicity tour while back in London, everything is in being put in place for the World Premiere, fittingly, one of the biggest ever staged and attended by Her Majesty, The Queen.
It’s a busy period and probably not the best point to catch up with the producers but then, there hasn’t really been a good time for that in the last 12 months! So let’s see how they are feeling on the eve of the film’s release.
They seem remarkably calm but then this is a familiar position for them. However, there is an air of excitement about finally getting a chance to film this story. When, at last, they acquired the justifys about six years ago they knew they had a chance to do something different, as Michael Wilson explains.
« It seemed like this was the great opportunity. The opportunity had been missed all the way along and we could finally make Casino Royale the way it should be ».
There have indeed been some curious versions of the story before this but in returning to the novel, Ian Fleming’s first about Bond, there was plenty to explore. As Barbara Broccoli told me, Fleming put something of himself into creating his character. Written in Jamaica as Fleming finally abandoned his bachelor life style, she can see echoes of this in his writing.
« There’s a parallel between Fleming giving up a life that he was enjoying, being a sort of vagabond and a playboy in order to have a more stable life. And I think he was wrestling with that and so a lot of those demons came out in the character of Bond ».
That means the film-makers have been able to take a different approach to this film which Michael Wilson is confident is right for this story.
« It’s quite a different film. It goes back in tone to the Dr No, From Russia With Love films. It’s quite different from the last few films we’ve made. And so, there’s a possibility of alienating some people – the people who went maybe just for the action and the glamour, the girls and the gadgets. But we think that the audience is ready for a more gritty Bond and a more realistic Bond. »
Barbara Broccoli is sure that even the most fervent fans will respond well. You’d expect any producer to say this, of course, but these two are more in touch with their audience than most producers so can be pretty confident of how their film will be received.
« I think the hardcore fans will love it. I think they’re going to welcome the idea of going back to the real essence of Bond and the classic type of Bond story which isn’t about saving the world on a huge scale. It’s a lot more personal and I think people will respond to it. The world has changed a lot and I think one of the reasons why Bond has maintained this sort of success has been because the movies have changed with the times and it’s a more serious world and we expect our heroes to fight the battles with better judgement, more responsibility and less frivolity ».
You’ll see from this why it was immediately clear to Michael and Barbara that the new film required a new Bond. Contrary to all other rumours, it really was a one horse race for them. Daniel Craig was the only one they ever really considered as a contender. Barbara is well aware that casting a new 007 always attracts discussion.
« There was a lot of controversy when Sean Connery was first decided upon because he was not what people were expecting and there’s something really exciting about that. I think Daniel is the sort of actor who will always surprise people because he will find something that no one else could find in a role. He just absolutely got under the skin of the character and from the minute you see him on the screen in the role, you forget everyone who’s come before, which is a pretty remarkable thing »
Well, from next week, you’ll be able to judge for yourselves.
Until next time,
Hello, and indeed goodbye, from the post-premiere party in London’s Berkeley Square.
A world premiere is always an event. If it is attended by the Queen that makes it more special and when it is the Bond film, everyone works to make it that little bit bigger. But I’m not quite sure where we are left to go for Bond 22 – this was as big a film event as any I’ve seen. Leicester Square is the home of London premieres but for the first time, all three cinemas around the square have been taken over for a simultaneous premiere, all in aid of the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund who are old friends of the Bond family. Each year, one film is selected for a Royal Film Performance attended by the Queen and this year, as it was for DIE ANOTHER DAY, it’s us.
It’s been a terrific way to finish what has been an extraordinary experience for us all. For months I’ve been telling you what a great Bond we have in Daniel Craig – now, as the reviews flood in, the world’s media seem to agree.
But ultimately, it’s not our opinion, nor the critics, that counts. Our job is done, yours is just beginning.
We hope you like it.
Thanks for coming on the ride with me.
Until next time…goodbye.