Two weeks ago, Cinematical received an invitation to a two-day press bonanza for Casino Royale. Events would kick off with a Sunday evening cocktail party and screening, followed by a day of round-robin interviews at a swank Park Avenue hotel, with catered breakfast and lunch. We want our readers to know that in order to safeguard our journalistic integrity, we politely declined all the free food and booze, except for a comp hotdog at the screening. Almost every notable from the film, with the exception of Judi Dench, turned up for the question/answer roundtables. Daniel Craig, the controversial choice to re-launch the Bond character, was there. So was the unnervingly beautiful French actress Eva Green, who plays Ian Fleming's first Bond girl, Vesper Lynd. Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, who was plucked from obscurity to play the film's snake-like villain, Le Chiffre, was also on hand. So was Italian beauty Caterina Murino, who plays a more traditional Bond girl in the film.
Director Martin Campbell, returning for his second Bond film after Goldeneye, and the series' longtime producer Barbara Broccoli, were also in attendance. The following is a sampling of the endless questions and answers bandied about on that day. Please note that it contains every possible spoiler about Casino Royale -- who lives, who dies, the ending, what will happen in the next film, etc ... if you want to be surprised, stop reading now.
Cinematical: Barbara Broccoli has implied that she felt Die Another Day was over-the-top. Is that something you personally want to avoid as you go forward with these films? "All I'm concerned about is that we cast the right people in the roles. As for being over the top, I mean for Christ's sakes, Mads weeps blood. That's quite over the top. But it's great because it's a beautiful Bond moment. It's done with a dab. I want it to be as stylish as it possibly can. You can do anything. If it's in the plot, you can do anything. If it's right and it feels good and it's not there because it's self-consciously there. We're in a fantasy world. This isn't real life."
Cinematical: Talk about your participation in this series going forward. Would you like to do three or four films, or more? "I'm signed for three. I actually feel now like we're ready to do another one. We've set up the idea that there is an organization out there. Maybe there's one person who is responsible, and now he has to go and get them. That's going to be where the next film takes us. There's obviously an element of revenge because the woman he loved had to die because of them. There's all those things we can take into the next movie, and hopefully that will make it as rich an experience as this one."
Cinematical: Did you have any conversations with either Pierce Brosnan or Sean Connery during the making of this film? "I spoke to Pierce. He's been very supportive. He said 'Go for it. You've got to go for it.'"
Cinematical: What was the biggest disagreement you had with either Barbara or Martin on the set? "I'm not eating this lunch! How dare you send it to me! [laughs] There's plenty of stuff. In fact, Barbara is very emotional and we would have, not arguments, but big discussions about stuff. I was very adamant and felt very strongly about certain things. So did Martin. So we'd have lots of discussions. Every day. Every day we'd have a discussion about something. 'Is this right? Are we doing this right? Is this good? Is this what will happen? How do we do this?'"
Cinematical: The movie you're doing next with Nicole Kidman, The Visiting. Is that Invasion of the Body Snatchers? "Yes, it's based on that."
Cinematical: What was with that quote in the press about the suicide bombing? You nixed a suicide bombing in the script for personal reasons? "There was never a suicide bombing in the script. That kind of got out of hand. But the important thing is that this is a Bond movie. There's no religious or political motivation for these guys. It's purely evil ... money ... these are Bond villains. But I do like the idea that by disrupting the world economy, they can take control of it. That's what these bad guys are about. They're disrupting it and taking control of it and they don't care who they hurt in the process. So we have to set them up in the right way."
Non-Cinematical Question: I want to ask about the scene where they torture your balls. It almost seems like there might have been some actual pain there. How did you get into that mindset? "To be honest, it was one of the simplest scenes to shoot because it was on the page. It's a great scene in the book, and basically there was a chair set up and I'm sat in the chair naked. The fact is that Mads and I and Martin talked about it a lot. We said 'We've got to make it real. It's got to be a scene that gets guys squirming.' Then I said 'I don't want him to lose.' Even though it appears to be all over and he thinks that Vesper is in the other room getting tortured and there's nothing he can do. The only thing that has to happen is that he still beats this guy. I have no idea what it actually feels like, and I never want to find out. I sat in the corner listening to The Clash and The Foo Fighters and got myself amped up, and that was it."
Non-Cinematical Question: There's a project you're working on after this called I, Lucifer? "No, no."
Non-Cinematical Question: There have been rumors about Roger Michell, your director on Enduring Love and The Mother, being brought on to direct the next Bond movie. Any truth to that? "I doubt it's going to be that. I'm certainly going to work with Roger again, but not on this. We've had conversations about things, and we've talked about it, but Roger and I've got other things to do, so it probably isn't going to be this film."
Non-Cinematical Question: What are your favorite older Bond films? "Dr. No and From Russia with Love. They're the best. They are two of my favorite movies. Sean Connery is physical ... scary ... complicated ... bad ... all those things. It's a great character. It's something he created that's lasted this long."
Non-Cinematical Question: The last shot of the film, where you're holding the assault rifle and you say "Bond. James Bond." What kind of preparation do you do for that? "People ask me about that line -- I didn't practice it. The first time I said it was on that set, then and there. We did it a few times. Mr. White is at the other end of the garden and I thought, 'Well, I could hit him with a handgun.' But I'm Bond. I don't want a handgun. I want an assault rifle -- a silenced assault rifle. I want to have that look at the end, which is 'He means business.' I didn't consciously try to be anything, I just thought 'He's doing business, so let's get on with this.' It's not how I approach things. I don't try to visualize it. I just think 'Does this feel good?' And then it's up to Martin to sort of shout 'cut' at the appropriate time.
Cinematical: Having not yet read the novel, I found Vesper's last scene, underwater, a little ambiguous. Is she intentionally breathing in water as a form of suicide? It looks like you actually take in a giant gulp of water. "It's a suicide, it's in the script. In the novel she takes pills, actually. It was very easy [to do]. It wasn't like 'oohh, I'm in pain' ... I'm an actress!'"
Cinematical: After Vesper's betrayal of Bond, there's no scene where she has an opportunity to explain herself. Why do you think that was? "It's from Bond's point of view."
Cinematical: The casting of your role was a big media hoopla. Every week there was a different actress being touted for the role. "I didn't know about it. I didn't know about the Bond girls thing. I was approached very quickly -- boom, boom, boom -- and it happened. Then everybody was like 'Oh my God ... after Angelina and Charlize ... you?' So, whatever."
Non-Cinematical Question: Talk about the scene on the train where you first meet Bond. "It was the screen-test scene, and I worked really hard on it. It was quite tricky because Martin Campbell wanted me to speak really fast. And I was like 'How can you speak that fast?' And it actually worked. It's like a mental poker game. He kept saying 'It's like Tracy and Hepburn.'"
Non-Cinematical Question: Your dress has a lot of cleavage, but you're so small. Did you have to do anything to like, train your body? "No, I didn't have a lot of action to do. You're talking about that black dress? Yes, it's quite booby."
Non-Cinematical Question: What did you want to change or adapt from the way the character was written? "I wanted the audience to see that she was torn between things. That she felt guilty when she starts to fall in love with him. It's quite tricky. I think you have to see the movie several times to understand all that Lady Macbeth guilt. In the shower, I couldn't get the blood off of my hands and just little things, but I don't know if you can see it. People would ask me 'Oh, she's just a baddie? She betrays him?' But she saved his life and completely fell in love with him."
Non-Cinematical Question: Vesper is one of maybe two Bond girls who has an impact on Bond's life, and after the events in this film it seems like the series might return to more traditional Bond girl territory. "She breaks his heart, but she has a big impact on his life. This is why he became the Bond that we know. An asshole. It's interesting, because I don't know what they're going to do in the next one. What are they going to do? I know he's going to try to take revenge or something."
Non-Cinematical Question: You're playing the Witch Queen Serafina in The Dark Materials. There's been talk that New Line Cinema might cut out all the religious stuff from the film. Is the religious material in the script? "Oh, yes. Absolutely. I hope the studio will be brave enough to keep the darkness. The Magisterium, the church, is very present."
Non-Cinematical Question: I don't think I've seen a film in the last ten years that was as different from theatrical release to director's cut than Kingdom of Heaven. Your role is so different in each version -- did that sour you on Hollywood filmmaking? "That's the thing about the studios -- they're scared of being too dark. It was really painful to do the publicity and talk about it, because it wasn't what I had done. It was more like a 'love interest'. But I learned a lot from it. I realized 'you know what? It was just a movie. It's not your life.' So, the movie exists now. Ridley was really angry."
Cinematical: Talk about the decision to replace Pierce Brosnan, who everyone agrees was an enormous success in the role. "It was a very painful decision. And it was a very risky decision. But we felt that we had to make a change. I think one of the reasons the series has lasted so long is that it has changed with the times. When they go down a path where they become too fantastical, then we bring them back. Like with Moonraker, where it went to outer space. Then they came back with a more personal story. That's the reality. It was not anything about Pierce, although unfortunately he ... it meant that we had to move on. That was very painful for him, and it was very painful for us."
Cinematical: As a producer, are you hesitant to bring to the series a writer/director who has a very vivid personal style? I'm thinking of Quentin Tarantino, of course, who actually tried to buy up the rights to Casino Royale. "I think the thing is that we've created a sort of genre and we have parameters. We like to have directors who are incredibly talented, obviously. Once the script and everything is agreed on, it's the director's movie. Film is a director's medium. But when you are in a series, there are certain parameters. And we set the parameters. I love Quentin Tarantino, but he has his style and it's not a style that would necessary fit into a series like ours. I just don't think that would work. The rating thing, too. He makes very specific kinds of films, and I love them."
Cinematical: Every time a Bond movie is being made, I always hear a rumor that there's going to be some kind of involvement with Sean Connery. What's the deal with that? Do you talk to him? Does he want to come back? "No, I can't imagine he would want to come back. But it always happens. It's one of those rumor things that goes on and on and on. And I'm sure it will happen on the next one too, but we haven't had a plan to do that."
Cinematical: In terms of looking for source material for the Bond films going forward, have you considered mining the John Gardner series of books like IceBreaker and No Deals, Mr. Bond? "Those are ..." [She makes a face. Everyone laughs.]
Cinematical: Daniel Craig made a statement recently in the press, saying that he believes Bond villains should only be interested in "a suitcase full of cash," and nothing political. "I think that's true of the series. These are not political films. They're sort of heightened reality. We take the world situation and then we create characters. They never represent a real country or anything. They're usually rogue individuals who are doing bad things. I think he's very much in agreement with that. They are entertainment. They are supposed to be fun action films. So I don't think we'd go down a path quite like that."
Cinematical: Did Richard Branson just turn up and offer you a million dollars for a cameo? He keeps popping up in rather obvious cameos in big-budget movies like this and Superman Returns. "I should have asked him, that's a good idea. Maybe I could hit him up for a million! No, he's a big film buff and we had a relationship with Virgin. We needed to have some planes and we shot that sequence in Prague. He gave us the use of a plane for a couple of days, which was great. But then he said "Can I be in it?" So Martin said "Okay, we'll put him in the airport and have him set the alarm off."
Non-Cinematical Question: Does Sony/MGM have lower box office expectations for this film? Is it understood that it may not do $125 million or $140 million? "I think we tend to take a longer view. Our feeling is that we have a great character and we have a very willing and supportive audience. There's a lot of good will out there for Bond. We have a responsibility to keep it healthy and to move and change with the times. I think this direction feels right for us, and the response we're getting is that the audience feels that as well. So I think we'll move down that path. We don't sort of sit down and say 'How much is this going to do?' I'm sure there are lots of people doing that, but I can't. Our responsibility is to make the best film we can."
Non-Cinematical Question: The end of this film, the last scene, implies that a SPECTRE-like organization is behind everything. Blofeld and SPECTRE are more terrorist-oriented than other Cold War Bond villains. Is that what's happening or is the series going down a different path? "Well, although these are not political films, we do like to get the atmosphere of the world situation and terrorism is a big subject on everyone's minds. It's not just the terrorism but the financing of terrorism. When we went to do Casino Royale, it was easy to adapt Le Chiffre and make him the banker to the world's terrorists. It's clear in this story that there is someone out there. In fact, there's a line in the book where Bond makes the decision to take on this task. He's going to become the warrior. He's going to go out to try and find the hand that holds the whip. The big menace. That's very much the spirit of the book and that's what we're going to continue on."
Non-Cinematical Question: Most Bond films are more like stand-alone adventures than serials where the main character has a direct memory of prior events. Will the next film be a direct continuation of Casino Royale? "At the end of this film, there is unfinished business. There is an evil force, but there's also internal unfinished business that he has to resolve. We're planning to go forward and resolve some of this. Quite how we do it I don't know at the moment. That's what we're working on. That's the big challenge."
Non-Cinematical Question: Talk about the ramped-up level of violence in the movie. It's probably the most violent Bond we've seen. "I think we've dealt with the violence in this film as responsibly as we could. It's not gratuitous. Part of Bond's struggle and conflict is that from the beginning ... if he's going to have a license to kill people, you want to see what the consequences of that are. The killing in the bathroom -- when he has the scene with Dryden, Dryden says "Made you feel it, didn't he?" -- and you can see on his face that it was horrible. He's not glib about it. He then assassinates Dryden easily. But that whole aspect of his job is difficult and he wrestles with it. At one point he decides he wants to give up because he may not have any soul left. That is a very interesting element of the character. By the end, you realize that he's shut down emotionally. He cannot be vulnerable anymore. He can put himself in the path of danger, but no one else."
Cinematical: Was the casting of Vesper Lynd a nightmare? It seemed to go on forever. "It was, in the sense that it took us a long time to find Vesper. We had gone to Hollywood and we had talked to one or two stars about it. At the time, we didn't have a final script and 'Bond girl' always has a connotation of tits and ass, basically. They sort of never have much of a brain and they wander around in bikinis. You know, the stereotypical image of a Bond girl. We considered a lot of people, we read some people, and then finally I saw Eva Green in Kingdom of Heaven. Her part was quite seriously cut in that film. On the DVD, it's been restored and she's terrific. Also the Bertolucci film. We got her over, tested her, and I was already shooting by the time we cast her."
Cinematical: By the time you signed on, was it already decided that Pierce would not be involved? "When I came on, it was already decided that Pierce wasn't going to do it. I was not involved in that at all. The idea was to get back to basics with Bond, and of course he's a much younger Bond. So clearly Pierce, having done four, wouldn't work."
Cinematical: It seems like the idea behind the re-launch is to slowly re-introduce us to Bond staples. I half-expected that one of Bond's colleagues would be revealed as Q at some point late in the film. Is that sort of the idea? "No, we stuck pretty close to the book and there's no Q in the book. We were pretty faithful to the book, even though we had to change the Cold War aspect of the story for obvious reasons. We kept away from gadgets because it doesn't really fit the tone of the movie. We couldn't suddenly have John Cleese come storming in with a rocket car or something. There was no way we could fit in that stuff. Maybe in the future, in some form, Q will be re-introduced. But there's been no discussion."
Cinematical: In terms of continuity, the one thing that threw me off was having Judi Dench return as M, even though she was Pierce Brosnan's M. How about that? "Well of course, it doesn't make any sense in the timeline. But we simply said, 'We've got to fuck that up' because you can't change Judi Dench. She's just too good. And oddly enough, there's been very little comment. You're the first. We did discuss it, because there's absolutely no logic to it, of course. But we just thought 'She's so perfect in the role.' Somehow a woman makes the relationship much better. There's more depth in their relationship than if it were a man. She brings a kind of communion with Bond."
Non-Cinematical Question: When you know the movie is going to be PG-13, how do you approach the violence? Did you have to shoot different versions of it? "It's interesting because for the American censors I had to cut back on the violence. I couldn't have the choking of Solange. Equally, in the opening scene in the bathroom, I had to pull back on that. In England, they didn't give a damn. They said 'Violence? Terrific.' In the stairwell scene, I had to take four or five blows out for the American censors. They objected to the violence. Go look at your gun laws, guys."
Non-Cinematical Question: There was so much criticism of Daniel Craig as the choice to play Bond. How did that insert itself into the filming process? "You always get upset by that stuff, but once you start filming ... I think he took it on himself. Of course, he looks at all that, so he can't help it. The criticism was so fierce, but once we started filming we talked about it and the position was 'Let's get on with the movie and to hell with the criticism. Let them judge at the end. We'll just get on with what we've got to do.'"
Non-Cinematical Question: Barbara Broccoli said that she had been asking you to come back to the series for a while. What was your trepidation about making a second Bond movie? "Simply repeating what I did on Goldeneye. How many submarine pans can you get off? That was the reason. Bond in Goldeneye is pretty much a set character. To be honest, he's another version of Connery. You know, Connery was terrific but the point about this story is that he's much more human than the other ones. It's also going back to the basics of the book, which was interesting. And they paid me a lot of money."
Non-Cinematical Question: When you signed on to direct this film, were there discussions about where this re-launch would take the series? What would happen beyond the first film? "No, the book was the only template. There was no saying 'In the next story, here's what happens ...' All we're left with at the end of this is that he's clearly getting after a dark organization. He's going to wreak revenge on whoever it was that destroyed Vesper. The idea was that you think Le Chiffre is the boss, but actually he's just a cog in a wheel and Mr. White is just a cog in a wheel. Where does it all lead to?"
Non-Cinematical Question: The last scene of the film seems to imply that Bond has stumbled onto a new version of SPECTRE and Blofeld. Is that the kind of thing that's in the cards? "I don't think they will go fantastical, if you know what I mean. You won't get the huge room with 27 people around a table and a man stroking a cat in a control room. Then one disappears into a shark tank or gets electrocuted. Which is all wonderful stuff, but I don't think you'll see that. I think you'll see a more realistic interpretation."
Cinematical: Now that you've sort of been introduced to American cinema, what American directors would you like to work with? "Michael Mann. And I'd love to work with the director of Little Miss Sunshine. That was such a wonderful movie. And Woody Allen. I would love to meet with him."
Cinematical: Did you film any scenes that didn't make the final cut of the movie? "They cut some frames that I did during the sex scene. And there's one shot that you see when the car arrives - do you remember? -- I shot this also, and that's it."
Cinematical: Is that actually you wrapped up in the hammock in the death scene? "Yes, you must recognize me. I was freezing and the hammock was all around my body. The make-up artist makes all these different blues here [points to her neck, indicating her character's strangling] for, you know, when you die, and after I came out of the hammock I had blue everywhere. It's me, absolutely."
Non-Cinematical Question: How do you prepare to be a Bond girl? [slightly insulted] "I'm an actress, okay? I took this role as an actress. I don't think of it as 'Bond girl.' My acting coach is a great fan of James Bond and she knows all the tricks, so I study with her and with a dialogue coach for the English."
Non-Cinematical: This is your first big American movie -- are you prepared for being a sex symbol? "Oh yes, I'm very excited about that. [laughs] I think that everything is so exciting for me now, but my life is going to go back to normal after January. I will come back to being a normal actress in Europe. I'd love to come back here to make some movies, but I'm very afraid to be cast only for beautiful, sexy woman. If I could show you all my fifty movies that came before, I'm always, sure, a beautiful woman, but the roles don't make the beauty important. I'm very afraid about that, because I've already received scripts with the same type of casting. I'm going to refuse everything."
Non-Cinematical Question: There was a lot of intense criticism over the choice of Daniel Craig to play Bond. Did you ever sense any of that on the set? Did it come up? "Yes, when I arrived in the Bahamas it was the beginning of the shooting of the movie and he was a little upset. Everybody was saying 'How can you judge him? You've seen all the movies he's done, like Layer Cake.' Just because he's blonde. All that bullshit. But I'm very glad, because all the bad things about him make people more curious. A lot of people are going to go to the cinema and say 'Wow.' I think Daniel was incredible because after twenty movies, he reinvents the role. When he kills somebody, in his eyes he's asking if he's killed somebody for a good reason. The bad and good is mixed."
Non-Cinematical Question: Did you make any changes to your character from the original script? "When I first read my character, I thought I was bad. I thought I was the bad one. And I tried to give some duality, to be good and bad. When I give [Bond] the information about my husband, for me, that is my husband saying 'Say to him that I am in Miami.' If you remember the scene where he arrives in Miami, Bond is not behind my husband. My husband is behind Bond. For me, in my mind, I sent Bond to him. But this wasn't the idea of Martin. For Martin, Eva was the bad one and I was the good one."
Cinematical: Barbara Broccoli is so involved with the making of the Bond films -- did you ever feel like you had two directors? "No, not even close. She was very involved in terms of loving and caring for us. She would never interfere with anything Martin did. If she did, it would be somewhere later on. She would never be standing there like 'No, I don't think so.' And that is a no-go. That is a catastrophe for a film to go like that."
Cinematical: You play a master poker player in the film. Do you actually know how to play in real life? "Yes."
Cinematical: Did you like playing a villain? You'd do it again? "I'll play a villain or a bad guy anytime, as long as the script is good and the director's got something."
Non-Cinematical Question: Le Chiffre is a banker and an accountant, but he also turns out to be someone capable of implementing torture. Do you think this is something he does out of desperation? "Once in a while, he gets his hands out of his pockets. It's in his nature, but if you leave him alone, he's fine. He hides in the shadows. He's the vampire, doing his work. But Bond wants him out of there, and that's a big mistake. Leave him alone! He's not running around the streets kicking cats. He's not into that, but while Bond is there, he's there and he might as well enjoy it. But you have to remember he's not [torturing] for pleasure, he's doing it because Bond's got something he needs."
Non-Cinematical Question: Talk about the scene where the other bad guys storm Le Chiffre's hotel room and threaten to cut off his girlfriend's arm with a machete. Does Le Chiffre care what happens to his girlfriend at all? "I'm in a delicate situation there. They are trying to scare the shit out of me. If I get up now, these guys are bigger than me and they have machetes ... listen ... I like my head. He's a mathematical genius, he knows the odds. Of course, I will buy her a new arm if it gets cut off, but that's no reason to get up. I think this guy was an orphan, a street kid when he was young. He wasn't the biggest. He was probably a small street kid, a smart one, carrying his own little pocketknife that ends up in his own eye, eventually. He knows the odds when he's facing two big guys. He's not Bond. He will take his revenge later."