Director Marc Forster on the new James Bond 007 film 'Quantum of Solace'

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Dave Calhoun catches up with Marc Forster, the director of 'Quantum of Solace', as, in a race against time worthy of his fictional subject, he strives to finish editing the latest in the James Bond 007 spy franchise

Marc Forster, the slim, suave, German director of the new James Bond movie, is holed up in his bunker-style headquarters in Soho. There are some trappings of a permanent office – an assistant, a couple of sofas, a dog even – but, even though Forster has managed to bag himself a really rather grandiose desk in this anonymous building on Dean Street, the general feeling is of a makeshift base that can be dismantled as quickly as it has been put together. And, indeed, Forster’s project is temporary: in two weeks’ time he must deliver a first edit of ‘Quantum of Solace’, the twenty-second official Bond film, to his paymasters and keepers of the Bond flame, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, daughter and stepson of the original Bond producer, Cubby Broccoli. No wonder Forster is a man with his eye on the clock.

‘I have way too little time to edit,’ he says calmly and frankly. ‘We wrapped the movie just a few weeks ago and I’m basically editing right now for another week or so. Then I show it to Michael and Barbara at a little preview screening and then I have another week to cut. So I have, like, five or six weeks to edit the whole movie. Normally, I’ve had 14 weeks for any of my films so far. Six weeks for this film is crazy.’

Forster, a welcoming and gentle presence, takes me downstairs and introduces me first to one editor and then another. The two of them are working round the clock to finish the film. One, a rough-haired, bearded chap called Matt Chesse, has worked with 39-year-old Forster on six previous films, from ‘Everything Put Together’ in 2000, via ‘Monster’s Ball’ in 2001 and ‘Finding Neverland’ in 2004, to last year’s ‘The Kite Runner’. The familiarity is deliberate: one way in which Forster has staked his ground after he accepted the mammoth gig of directing the new Bond – taking over from Martin Campbell, who helmed ‘GoldenEye’ and ‘Casino Royale’ – has been to bring in several new heads of department, which means that the production designer, costume designer, editors and several other key figures on the film are of his own choosing. But he’s no fool: he knows very well that making a Bond movie is as much about tradition (‘there are always the girls, the car and so on’) as it is about progress. He admits he initially had doubts about taking the job at all but says that he was won over by the personal touch offered to him by producers Broccoli and Wilson who act as buffers between him and the studio.

‘I’m used to making movies for between $20 million and $40m with total creative control,’ he explains. ‘Everyone leaves me alone. So I thought: What’s the upside for me to make a Bond film? It seemed there was none. “Casino Royale” was a huge success. Everybody loved it, it was critically acclaimed. So, I thought, if my movie’s not as good or better, it’ll be a failure. There was no upside. Then I met with Daniel Craig and I met with Barbara and Michael, and I thought: If I’m going to do a commercial film, it may as well be Bond because I’m not dealing with a studio, I’m dealing with them. They promised me, and they have kept to their word so far, to fight for my creative vision. I’m thankful for that. But let’s see what happens when I show them the first cut…’

Forster plays me a scene on which his editors have been working: we watch as Bond arrives at a lakeside opera house in Bregenz, Austria, dressed, of course, in the requisite dinner suit. Central to the existing set for the opera is an enormous human eye the size of the entire stage. ‘It’s very Bond,’ says Forster.

We see a flash, too, of the new Bond villain, French actor Mathieu Amalric, who plays a character with the decidedly unvillainous name of Dominic Greene. ‘In the old Bond films, it was clear who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Today, it’s not so clear. I feel like Mathieu looks so sympathetic and normal, the type you can’t see right away is the villain.’

Again, talk turns to time – and the lack of it. ‘I wish we would have more time to craft the film properly,’ he regrets. ‘For instance, with “The Dark Knight” Christopher Nolan had a year to cut his movie, to work on the visual effects, to reflect. I don’t have that time and so compromises have to be made.’

If it sounds like he’s making excuses for what’s to come when the film opens at the end of October, it doesn’t feel like that in the moment. Overall, he sounds confident, both of the film and his vision of it, which he says will tip a hat to the groundbreaking designs of Ken Adam in the first Bond films. Several times he mentions what he believes will be at the heart of the new film: character. ‘The great thing is that Daniel and I had an intense relationship, so between us we could always go back to the character.’

Forster and his cast and crew travelled the world, from Italy to Austria to Chile and back to Pinewood Studios to shoot the film. The plot, as ever, remains under wraps and Forster gives little away. What we do know is that the story begins just 20 minutes after the end of ‘Casino Royale’ and that key to it is Bond’s grief over the death of Vesper, the love interest played by Eva Green in the last one. ‘There’s this conflict going on: he’s an assassin, but he’s also lost someone he loves. We’re asking: where’s the psychological conflict in that?’

Forster says that he didn’t find directing the action sequences too difficult and reminds me that he had the luxury of a second-unit director to fall back on. Still, why does he think the producers picked him – a director with no experience of action whose successes have almost exclusively been character-driven dramas?

‘I think they wanted to bring more of an emotional component to the movie,’ he says. ‘And they wanted to have the franchise go in a different direction. Last time, they took a risk with having Daniel Craig in the film. That was a success, so this time they felt they could take it another step and see how it goes with another filmmaker.’ Time’s up, and Forster returns to his particular vision of what a Bond movie should be about: girls, cars and a healthy dose of angst.

Quantum of Solace’ opens on Oct 31.

Author: Dave Calhoun



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