Call me ignorant, but I had no idea Marc Forster was German until he sat down next to me. He's made iconic movies both American (Monster's Ball) and British (Finding Neverland), so I figured he must have grown up somewhere speaking English. So while the German accent came as a surprise, the level of intelligence and passion he brought to our roundtable discussion about Quantum of Solace was not.
He spoke for over half an hour to me and several other journalists about his planning process making the latest Bond movie, including how Daniel Craig's presence was what convinced him to do it to begin with, how he plots out the movie's insane action sequences, and his feelings on the shaken not stirred debate. Preview: He thinks you guys should just get over it and enjoy the movie already.
What specific things did you do in this film to put your distinctive stamp on it?
I basically thought, OK, what is the Bond film I always wanted to see. I first included very specifically all the visuals, the styles from the 60s. And then, in the Bond films, I thought the MI-6 offices were outdated, so I wanted to create the MI-6 office completely new. [I used] new artists for the title sequence. Stylistically, how do I want to tell those action sequences. I wanted to tell a story in them, that they move, like a character, forward. And then the technique of the intercutting was something which I wanted to do, because I thought it would be more interesting than purely haing an action sequence. I wanted to dive into the pain of Bond, to create an emotional texture of Bond. The movie should be really fast, start like a bullet, keep you on the edge of your seat until the last frame.
Did you realize you were directing a sequel at first?
Yes, that was the plan when I first met Barbara and Michaell, the producers. They said, we want to start half an hour after Casino Royale, and it should be a direct sequel. I thought it was interesting, because I thought, I don't have to deal with Bond fresh after he lost the love of his life in the last one, now we have a Bond again, oh, where are the next 10 women I can consume. It's literally a Bond who is in pain and is dealing with this emotional texture. That's why I created this character of Camille, who is a mirror to Bond. She is out for revenge too.
You've stripped Bond of a lot of his gadgets, even more than Casino Royale did.
I just felt like we have so many gadgets in our lives these days ourselves, and also gadgetry in general reminds me a little bit more of superheroes these days, and takes me a way a little bit from reality. I didn't want to go to this comic superhero world. I thought it was more interesting to set Bond in reality, and in this background that was politically accurate to what's happening today.
How do you go about making the action sequences?
When I first set up those sequences, I thought, OK, this is going to be tricky and crazy. Basically step by step you just put them together. It needs a lot of patience and just a lot of pre-production. The main bulk of the movie is made for me in pre-production.
Can you talk about casting Mathieu Amalric?
I just always loved his French movies, and I think he's such an interesting actor, so I brought him in. And the first thing he said to me was 'Can I have a scar or a hook or something? I need a crutch, I'm playing a Bond villain.' So I said to him, 'Look, I think it just doesn't really work. I think you just should play it totally straight, nice guy.' He at the beginning was a little insecure about it, but he trusted. I thought it would be interesting to play him different from other Bond villains.
What about leaving out the shaken not stirred catchphrase?
It just felt like one of the interesting things about Bond is that is constantly gets reinvented. They always can bring them back. It's kind of a fun thing to do.
Was there any action you wanted to do that you weren't able to?
In the boat chase sequence I wanted to do a different setting, but budget-wise and time-wise I had to compromise. In Panama we shot the sequence in the harbor, there were these mangroves and this lake that were just spectacular. It's crazy how beautiful and intense it could have been.
Can you talk about the title?
When I first found out about the title, Barbara and Michael asked me into their office, and there was this board and Quantum of Solace was on it. I was like Quantum of Solace, what's that about? At the beginning it took me a little while to get used to it. But it kind of grew on me. I really liked it. Yes, Bond gets his quantum of solace at the end of the movie.
What does Daniel Craig bring to the role?
First, I think his interpretation of Bond humanizes the character. He plays the character closers to the way Ian Fleming wrote Bond than anybody has done before. I also think he's a really smart actor, and that's the reason why eventually I signed on. He's a real collaborator.
It's interesting to see Dame Judi in this.
I wanted to make her part bigger, because I think she's such a brilliant actress, and she's always underused in those Bond films. I just love her. She could read the phone book, and I would watch her.
You've obviously learned a lot about making action movies from this. Would you make another action movie after this that isn't Bond, or would you want to go in another direction?
Probably two people in a room talking. I eventually might do another action film, and do another big movie, but right now I'm going to keep it small.
What did you learn about action doing this?
I learned a lot about action. Action needs to tell a story. I realized, if you're not connecting to your lead characters, even the most spectacular action is empty. As in a small movie, you always have to connect emotionally to your lead character, which in that case is Bond. What I also learned is juggling shooting in six countries, juggling an enormous amount of crew. The first time I ever shot with second unit.
How do you go forward after having a big budget like this?
You have to make compromises on this movie, as well as ay movie . In a sense, yes, you get all the toys you want, and much more freedom than on other films. But ultimately I had to make compromises, cut two scenes, slim things down.
Did you try to set up anything in this movie for where Bond will go next?
i think it's set up that he finds quantum of solace, the story is completed. If they want to do a trilogy, they can follow into the heart of Quantum, and follow that organization, and go further up the ranks to find it. Or they can start new with a different story line.