EXCLUSIVE A chat with Marc Forster, the director of "Quantum of Solace," about Bond traditions.
What’s the secret to making a film franchise that is still going strong in its 46th year? It’s taking the very familiar and the completely unexpected and putting them together into a satisfying cocktail that is best shaken, not stirred. "Quantum of Solace" is the 22nd entry in the James Bond franchise and opens Nov. 14 as the follow-up to the top-grossing 007 film ever, "Casino Royale." Daniel Craig is back as the most haunted and sinewy version of the British spy but the director this time is Marc Forster, who is operating well outside expectations by taking on an action blockbuster after making his name with "Finding Neverland," "Monster’s Ball" and "The Kite Runner."
I saw "Quantum" last week and it’s a strong action film — it’s relentless as it hurtles forward and I’m really intrigued by the arc of the Bond character these days. A few days ago, I talked with Forster about the familiar Bond-isms established by the venerable franchise and how he chose to embrace some, tweak others and leave a few behind. The 39-year-old filmmaker did not come to the project as a a major Bond fan and he said that gave him the freedom to make his choices based on the present, not the past.
Gadgets: Exploding pens and flame-throwing bagpipes, camera rings and rocket-launching boom boxes, even a razor-edged tea tray — the Bond franchise has been a sort of kooky Sharper Image for spies through the years. Not this time. "People might say there are no gadgets in this movie but to me the idea of carrying around five or six gadgets, that seems very old school to me. People have iPhones now and we are all accustomed to devices that consolidate different technologies. A suitcase full of gadgets seems odd and also reminds me of all these superhero movies now. We wanted Bond to be more believable and realistic." So 007 has to settle for a sweet Sony Ericsson C905 phone and a non-exploding Omega Seamaster wristwatch.
Martinis: In "Casino Royale," Bond was troubled, flawed and rough around the edges — far from the cool and polished spy of the classic Sean Connery movies. "Quantum" finds him on the path to that familiar cool and, during a break in the action, getting a lesson in martinis. He’s aboard a Virgin Atlantic flight and the bartender in upper class makes him a martini, shaken not stirred, and recites the ingredients for the attentive spy. It was a way to touch on the familiar but with (ahem) a twist. "That was a fun way to show he is becoming the Bond that is familiar," Forster said.
The music and credits: Jack White and Alicia Keys team up for the Bond theme song this time around, "Another Way to Die," a curious combination of menacing rock thunder and slinky spy themes. But Forster looked to the visuals of the opening credits to signal his affection for the old Bond films — unlike "Casino Royale," "Quantum" returns to the classic montage of silhouetted women in varied states of undress. "We wanted those iconic images, the women and the guns, the retro look. The design company MK12 did the work and it is in the tradition but it’s also new and bold."
"Bond, James Bond": You won’t hear that classic motto uttered in "Quantum of Solace" but Forster had hoped that you would. "We had that, he said ‘Bond, James Bond.’ But it was in a scene that ended up getting cut. It was the only scene that got cut; not because of that line, only because the scene itself was not working." What about next time, will the German native return for an encore directing effort in the franchise and hear the spy deliver that money line? "Right now, I am not planning on doing another one. I believe I will be going in a different direction with my next film. But, as they say, never say never…"
– Geoff Boucher
Credits: Marc Forster on the set of "Quantum of Solace" and image of Danial Craig in the film, both courtesy of Columbia Pictures. Bottom photo of Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Marc Forster by Rosie Greenway/Getty Images.