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It took a freshness of approach to lure Martin Campbell back to direct a James Bond movie again after a decade, a freshness that was actually a back to basics approach, he tells Andrew L. Urban.

M stands for Martin … Martin Campbell, and it also stands for Meticulous planning, and for Managing the production to ensure that the Movie is on schedule and within the budget – which of course runs to Millions with a film like Casino Royale. “It’s not fun at all,” says Campbell, sitting in the armchair of a Sydney hotel suite, “it’s a Murderously gruelling and tough process.” But he Manages because “I’m a planner, and I’m paranoid about getting the script right before we start shooting – the odd line aside. But I don’t believe in rewrites.” (In his personal life he also likes “to have things in order…”)

Campbell, the New Zealand born director of an earlier Bond film, GoldenEye (a decade and four Bond films ago), as well as two Zorro films with Antonio Banderas, is used to big budget movies, and although he’s stirred by the demands of the process, he’s not shaken by it. Indeed, he seems to have his feet firmly on the ground; his economic manner and matter of fact charm suggest he is fairly focused when working. “We worked French hours,” he says, “which means we start at 7am, don’t break for lunch – we have it on the run - and finish at 5.30pm. Not 5.45 or 5.55, but 5.30… and the crew love this because they know they’ve got the evenings free [they can make plans] and have a life. So it makes for a very concentrated workforce. It’s fantastic.”

But Campbell himself is on set by 4am “planning the day’s shoot” and then stays behind after 5.30 to watch rushes on the editor’s monitor.

Our interview is briefly interrupted when a sassy female (could have been a Bond femme fatale) pops in; Campbell’s partner Sol, judging by the hello and goodbye kisses and intimate small talk, discussing an afternoon shopping trip. Campbell apologises and asks his minders to add the lost time to my allotted time slot; only a pro would do that.

The odd thing is, considering GoldenEye was such a hit, why hasn’t Campbell made another Bond film since? “Well, I was asked I think for just about every one that’s been made, but I said no because I felt I’d be repeating myself. What could I bring to it that was new … until now.”

"changing the film’s tone"

The difference with Casino Royale, he says, was the insistence by producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael J. Wilson to changing the film’s tone and getting Bond back closer to the original character. “With the rights to the book now available, this was a great opportunity ... it was a perfect fit to introduce a new Bond. So when they asked me, I read the book and said yes.”

The book was the first of the Ian Fleming Bond series, introducing the secret agent to a Cold War world, written in the 50s. The story is much the same, even if the Cold War is over in this film adaptation. It is with some trepidation that MI6’s M (Judy Dench, who in a wry aside at one stage pines for the good old days of the Cold War) gives secret agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) his first 007 assignment. His mission is to stop Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a deadly villain who is banker to the world’s terrorists, winning a $100 million poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro. If Le Chiffre wins, he will use the money to repay the terrorists money he owes them, thus funding further terrorist acts. Treasury sends its own agent, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), to keep an eye on the Government’s money with which Bond will play the game. Thrown together in a series of life threatening confrontations with Le Chiffre, James and Vesper develop a romantic bond, but this increases the risks and as the climactic race for the winnings intensifies, events unfold that will shape James Bond’s life forever.

A strong, well defined story, some unexpected betrayals and hidden corners, sensational locations and an absence of gadgets make Casino Royale a right royal Bond movie. Campbell keeps control of the pace by slowing it down to allow for characterisation and relationship building, which adds welcome texture to the film.

At the time the producers approached him to direct Casino Royale, Campbell was finishing the second Zorro film (The Legend of Zorro) and by December 2004, the producers were “getting fidgety” that he hadn’t really started working on the new Bond film – the 21st and arguably the most critical for the survival of the franchise. And there was plenty of work to do, especially polishing the script.

“I wasn’t really ready to shoot until we had the Paul Haggis script. Neil Purvis and Robert Wade had written the story and the structure, but Haggis would provide the all important character work – and wit.

"level of energy"

“It’s back to basics,” says Campbell, “revealing more about Bond as a human being. Warts and all. But it doesn’t lose the iconic elements, like the self effacing jokes … although not the clunky ones – and all the action.” But the film poses challenges in that regard, such as when the action stops for the central dramatic device, the poker game at the Casino Royale (in the book it’s baccarat, but hey, do you understand baccarat?). “The action stops but the tension doesn’t,” says Campbell. “That’s the secret.” As the new James Bond, Daniel Craig puts it, “Martin fires everyone up. You obviously need that level of energy in the action sequences, but it’s equally valuable in quieter, dramatic scenes like the poker tournament.”

The most important aspect of getting the film right, was getting the tone right, says Campbell: “That was the big balancing act …especially as we only had five weeks to do the editing. I’m so busy with everything I never worry about what people are going to think of it until I finished the editing and we’re doing the mix. And then I start to sweat …”

Published December 7, 2006

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Martin Campbell


Casino Royale Australian release: December 7, 2006

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