Martin Campbell: interview
‘Casino Royale’ director Martin Campbell has transformed his classic 1985 BBC eco-thriller ‘Edge of Darkness’ into a big-budget Hollywood movie starring Mel Gibson. Here he talks about dildos, De Niro and directing James Bond
What would you to say to fans of the original TV series who are thinking of seeing the movie?
‘Obviously it’s different. We’re reducing a six-hour mini-series to 110 minutes. And 25 years is a long time, the political climate has changed completely. Plutonium ain’t what it used to be. But the stakes are fundamentally the same: a father loses his only daughter, and sets out to discover a world he knew nothing about.’
When you made the series were you committed to bringing a cinematic sensibility to TV?
‘Absolutely not. At the time I thought of it as just another series. I didn’t have any idea of the impact it would make. The BBC was great in those days. I went out and shot for four months and didn’t even hear from them. I arrived back a week before Christmas and the head of BBC2 said, “Where have you been, then?” And I said, “Making your fucking series!”’
Did you re-watch the series before making the movie?
‘To be honest, not only did I not re-watch it, I simply put it out of my head. I didn’t feel under any pressure to outdo myself. I thought: It’s a good story, just tell it.’
Did you know you’d have to tone some things down for a US film-going audience?
‘If you mean kissing the dildo, I would have loved to do it. But could you imagine Mel Gibson kissing a dildo? He would’ve done it beautifully, but the press would’ve had a field day!’
It’s Mel Gibson’s first lead role in eight years. Did you feel under any pressure because of that?
‘I didn’t feel any of it. There was pressure on me because Mel is a very fine director. I’m directing a director, a producer and an actor. But he came to me at the beginning of shooting and said: “Listen, I’m just the actor, I’m nothing more.” And he stuck to it. Of course he came up with suggestions, but very few, as it happens.’
Robert De Niro left ‘Edge of Darkness’ a few days into filming. How did you react?
‘It comes under the category of artistic differences. The euphemism is not there to hide a bigger agenda. He came in, he did the first day’s work, I didn’t agree with what he was doing, and we sat down that night and agreed to go our separate ways. He was a man about it. Had this been a studio picture I would’ve had six executives huddled round saying, “Jesus Christ, we’ve got to sort this out!” The great thing about independent finance is those decisions can be made quickly and effectively, and it was all over in an eye-blink. And I love Ray Winstone, he’s a terrific actor. Like De Niro, he’s got a lot of weight. And I don’t mean physically!’
What do you think of Sam Mendes directing the next Bond movie?
‘Sam will do a splendid job. I felt “Quantum of Solace” completely lost its way. We were lucky on “Casino Royale”, it was the origin story of Bond. Bond had the one and only affair that meant anything to him, and affected him throughout the rest of the series. I had sympathy for the writers after that because clearly the guy can’t have another meaningful relationship, he’s been fucked over by the last one. But you’ve got to do something with the character, he’s got to go somewhere. I’m sure Sam and Peter Morgan will come up with something. The secret to Bond is to remember it’s Bond. It’s been successful for 22 incarnations. There are a lot of elements that work, so don’t fuck with them.’
It’s an action-hero cliché to say, ‘I’m getting too old for this shit.’ When does that happen for a director?
‘I just enjoy it. My next movie, “The Green Lantern”, is another big one. I’ve never done such an effects-heavy movie. But I’ll do something small after. Who knows, I might have a holiday!’
Read our review of ‘Edge of Darkness’.
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