Bond Week Interview: Quantum of Solace Director Marc Forster
by Alex Billington
November 11, 2008
After first seeing Quantum of Solace a few weeks back, I was given the immense opportunity to sit down and chat with the man behind this latest iteration of James Bond. Marc Forster is one of the most talented filmmakers working today with a very diverse filmography including Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, and Stranger Than Fiction. It wasn't until I started talking with him that I realized he is a lot more brilliant than I could've ever imagined, and it shows in Quantum in the ways he applies independent filmmaking techniques to a big budget action movie. It may be a fairly short interview, but what Marc talks about in relation to Bond is certainly incredible - especially once you've seen the movie.
As much as I want everyone to read this before seeing the movie, I also think everyone should read it again after they've seen Quantum of Solace. You'll take away a lot more once you know what he's actually talking about. It's also amazing to see how much of an influence he had on the movie in the end and subsequently learning how that all came about. No matter when you read it, it's still a fascinating interview!
What really interested you in taking on a Bond film or were you more interested in simply doing an action film?
Marc Forster: I always wanted to do an action movie, not particularly Bond. But at the beginning I didn't want to do it, and then slowly I came around after meeting Daniel Craig. I think that sort of helped me. He's really interesting and he's such a multilayered actor and I felt I really clicked with him and thought okay, I can make an interesting movie with him. And then I felt -- okay, if I'm making a Bond film, let's make one I always wanted to see, like the Bond film I would love to see. And I always imagined it as being sort being like a bullet, and that's why the bullet is also in the title sequence.
It should feel like a bullet from start to end and have me on the edge of my seat and keep it very tight, the whole film. And then I thought it would be fun to set the action sequences in four elements: fire, water, air, earth, because only in a Bond film can you do that. And I love the early Bond movies, so I wanted to do a bit of a throwback in design and even in choosing the DC-3 [airplane] and things like that, to give it a bit of a retro feel to it, but at the same time modernize MI6 and to -- the smart walls and smart table and stuff like that and juxtapose it against each other. And then Daniel and I worked on sort of having an emotional tissue to the character, a little bit that is not just pure action.
You almost answered my next question -- how do you go about adding something unique and fresh to the 22nd film in a franchise?
Forster: I just felt I have to somehow put my own stamp on it or make the film my own even though it is this franchise. And almost at the beginning I would have thought I'm working on a political censorship and still have to get my message through subversively, but ultimately I felt like I just have to approach it like a character driven piece and I can't see it as a big franchise movie, and just stay with the character and add an emotional component to it and really focus on that. And not take it too serious, have a little bit of tongue-in-cheek and some humor in it and visually just make it very distinct, what I just mentioned before, with the throwback and the modernization and stuff like that. And then bring in a few homages of Bond because I love Goldfinger and things like that.
Do you feel the pressure to keep it very Bond-like? And how do you, from your standpoint, make sure it doesn't become just a standard action film and it stays specifically a Bond film?
Forster: I think it's important to keep it Bond, even though I made some changes I still feel like you have the girls, and I think that Bond's mannerisms are important and even -- I don't have certain lines in regards to the way he likes his drink or the famous line, I still have him at the plane drinking martinis. So having the Bond references but just twist them around a little bit, I think it's important because, ultimately, it's a Bond movie and you want it to be different. And do you want this guy to have this sort of like cool flair about him and the way he's dressed and his style because I think it's not so much about the style but I felt like it's important to set it -- I felt, this Bond at least, Daniel Craig's Bond -- sort of in its real setting and it's a Bond who is in pain, that you feel his pain.
He's dealing with his demons and really that comes across because I thought the perfect Bond, how it used to be in the era before, because Bond today would be a farce, because the world has changed and you have to sort of accept the political changes. And, people, I think, don't want to see that perfect hero anymore because I think -- and it's in a lot of action films happening that way -- I think Batman is a little bit like that, too, that you have this sort of more darker hero which is slightly broken and faces his own demons.
It was mentioned earlier that you and Daniel Craig collaborated a lot on this. I'm interested in knowing more because he is one of the constants between the films in the franchise. Does he have a lot of that say into what happens with the story, what happens with Bond, or how much collaboration do you have with him?
Forster: You know, at the beginning I accepted it because of him, as mentioned, but I thought it's the first time, it's a different situation, because usually I come in, I create the character from scratch. And with him, he's played the character already, and I said, look, what really interested me is the last five minutes of Casino Royale. He lost the love of his life -- where is the character, what kind of pain and issues does the character have and how do we continue that. And I wanted to pick his brain where he left it off and then I told him where I would like to bring it to, and I think it was important to feel that emotional tissue of him. It was important for me at the end, too, and I said that to him, like when he faces Yusef, who was indirectly responsible for the death of the person he loved, that he doesn't kill him, the only person he doesn't kill in the movie and he walks away from him, and he still finds his quantum of solace.
And that was important to me that we have that bookend with the movie, and he agreed with that. And I thought it's important to feel that he feels why Vesper didn't betray him and actually died for him. And just to have some -- between all the action and adventure and everything because there's a story that's an emotional through line, and he agreed with that. He had a lot of influence on me when we were working on the scenes, sometimes we thought it doesn't work or he had ideas, and he constantly has ideas and he's so good with them that we often changed dialogue around it or did scenes differently than they were written. And if it didn't feel right to me, then I'd change it, but the script was never finished and was always in flux, so I actually enjoyed the process. On Stranger Than Fiction, the script was so good that I stuck to every line because it was just such brilliant writing from Zach Helm that I felt like I really just want to shoot the page. But, here, it was always in flux and there was never anything perfect, so it was just an evolution.
When we were talking with Daniel earlier, he mention that there was some improv and that he would do a different interpretation on every take. I thought that would be weird in a Bond film, just because I would expect the script to be so structured and thought out, but I never felt like that was an issue while I was watching this.
Forster: When I signed on, there wasn't a finished script. I was scouting locations without a script. I said, okay, I like the opera, I like the Palio, I should shoot the Palio, but I didn't even know -- I know what I probably wanted at the beginning because they came from Lake Como with the car chase and we end up in Sienna, so I knew I wanted to intercut it somehow in that realm, but I still had structure that I didn't have figured out and then I saw the eye at the opera which had no place, and there was a setting at the U.N., so I said let's change this into opera. All these pieces, all these locations are these iconic figures in Bond films so I thought it just has to be driven like that.
And how important is it for this Bond film to shoot on location?
Forster: I thought it was tremendously important because the last few ones, except Casino Royale, were half and half, but was shot in studios and I felt like they just don't feel real and I thought we have to go on location like in the old days. The early Bond films were much more on location and sort of give that extra texture to it because we have to set it in a realistic realm.
Do you have a favorite Bond film?
Are there any favorite Bond gadgets you have as well or favorite moments from any of the films?
Forster: I always loved that car in the water, the Lotus.
Right, from The Spy Who Loved Me?
Forster: Yeah, I just always thought that Lotus, the swimming Lotus, just when I was younger, I just got a kick out of that, it was just too much.
You should have worked that into this one somehow!
Forster: Yeah, it just felt we have so many gadgets these days so I went a little thin with the gadgets.
Thank you to Marc Forster and everyone at Sony / MGM for putting together this interview! After seeing Quantum of Solace, I was truly honored to get the opportunity to chat with the man behind one of my favorite Bond films. Don't forget that it hits theaters this weekend!