by PAUL ROWLANDS
Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Almaric, Gemma Arterton, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Anatole Taubman, David Harbour, Joaquin Cosio, Fernando Guillen Corvo, Jesper Christensen, Rory Kinnear, Tim Pigott-Smith. 106 minutes.
QUANTUM OF SOLACE, the 22nd ‘official’ James Bond film, was a huge financial success, but was considered disappointing after the critically heralded and box-office hit that was CASINO ROYALE (2006). It had a lot to live up to. Like TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997), Pierce Brosnan's second 007 picture, it had the task of following up a film which had breathed new artistic and commercial life into the series (GOLDENEYE, 1995). CASINO ROYALE engendered arguably the most critical acclaim of the series and was a blockbuster to boot (non-inflation adjusted, the biggest grossing of the series). It was the series' first 'reboot' and a film that, in the shape of the excellent Daniel Craig, took the series back to the more real-world, ruthless, complex portrayal of the character that Timothy Dalton had begun with his two films THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) and LICENCE TO KILL (1989).
The follow-up was first announced to be released on 2nd May 2008, only eighteen months after the release of ROYALE (which would have made it the shortest gap between ‘official’ Bond films since the same gap between 1973’s LIVE AND LET DIE and 1974’s THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN), but problems creating a strong script, and the short window to prepare such a big movie, forced the filmmakers (Eon Productions) and the studio (Sony) to go for the traditional two-year gap and a Winter 2008 release. Michael G. Wilson had announced at the press conference to unveil Daniel Craig as 007 in ROYALE in October 2005 that 'work had already started on the 22nd James Bond film'. It's likely the treatment existed well before shooting on ROYALE was completed. Roger Michell (NOTTING HILL, 1999; CHANGING LANES, 2002), Craig's director on the dramas THE MOTHER (2003) and ENDURING LOVE (2004), had worked on developing the script until August 2006, but he told The Times Online, he left: '... because in the end I didn't feel comfortable with the Bond process, and I was very nervous that there was a start date but really no script at all. And I like to be very well prepared as a director. I'd be doing it for my friendship with Daniel Craig. I'd be doing it for the money. And not really because I yearned to do it.' (OCEAN'S ELEVEN writer Ted Griffin worked on an early script according to the L.A. Times.)
Martin Campbell, the director of CASINO ROYALE, was most likely approached but he confirmed his non-involvement in the film at the Chinese premiere of ROYALE in Shanghai (29th January 2007). Paul Haggis, who had been brought on to ROYALE to polish up the script and add ideas, was approached but turned it down. 'There are certain things you can write and there are certain things you can direct. I just felt that it takes a big commitment to direct a Bond film. It's a 120 day shoot. It's a two year commitment, basically, to do it. If you do that on top of writing, it's almost a three year commitment. So I just didn't want to dedicate that much time.'
Rather than be cautious as they were with TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997) and hire a craftsman (Roger Spottiswoode, who did a great job on the film), Eon Productions decided to be brave and gutsy and hired quirky, independent-minded film-maker Marc Forster (FINDING NEVERLAND, 2004; THE KITE RUNNER, 2007). Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, explained that 'We had a great experience working with Marc on STRANGER THAN FICTION (2006) and we are excited to be working with him again. He's an actor's director; he approaches material with intelligence and taste.' (Forster had also directed Halle Berry's Oscar-winning performance in MONSTER'S BALL, 2001. Berry took a break from filming the Bond film DIE ANOTHER DAY, 2002, to attend the Oscar ceremony.)
Forster was the first director of the Eon Productions Bond series who had not hailed from a British Commonwealth country. He was born in Germany but raised in Switzerland, and like the literary version of Bond, has a Swiss mother. He had also never directed an action movie before, nor helmed a big-budget film. The challenge excited and intrigued him: 'There was a quote (Orson Welles) made at the end of his life. His biggest regret was that he never made a 'commercial movie' or a 'mainstream movie.' So I thought I would like to make a movie more people will see than any of the six films I have done put together.' As for why he accepted the task of directing Bond, he told The Guardian that 'CASINO ROYALE is why I was interested in making QUANTUM OF SOLACE and getting involved with Bond. I think Daniel's interpretation really grounded Bond back in reality and in a human sphere which I was able to connect with. I felt at the end of CASINO ROYALE, Bond was in a very vulnerable state and it was the perfect opportunity to lead the character into new territory.'
Forster had a monumental task ahead of him, not in the least because when he signed on, there was a release date but no script or title. Arguably the most accomplished and acclaimed director of any Bond movie (until Sam Mendes and SKYFALL, 2012), with ten Oscar nominations and two wins for his films, Forster and his creative collaborators at Eon and Sony set out to make a film that would be the first direct sequel of the series. (According to the L.A. Times, Tony Scott, Jonathan Mostow and Alex Proyas were also considered for the director's chair.) Co-producer Michael G. Wilson explained that 'We realised that we'd left Bond in a very interesting place emotionally. There was still story left to be told. His relationship with Vesper (Eva Green's character in CASINO ROYALE) was so intense that to suddenly forget about it wouldn't have done the first film justice.' Wilson also told Total Film, that the film '... starts an hour after the last film.' (Paul Haggis told the Coming Soon website that it 'picks up 2 minutes after the last one', confirming that the actual passage of time was a loose one.)
THE SOURCE MATERIAL
The title of the film stems from a W. Somerset Maugham-inspired short story written by Ian Fleming that appears in the 'For Your Eyes Only' collection of Bond stories, published in 1960 (UK: 11th April; US: August). It was first published in 'Cosmopolitan' magazine in November 1959 (or according to Henry Chancellor in his book 'James Bond: The Man and His World', in 'Modern Woman' the same year), and according to Chancellor was based on a true story told to Fleming by his mistress in Jamaica, Blanche Blackwell (mother of Island Records supremo and DR. NO location scout Chris Blackwell) about a police inspector (renamed Philip Masters in the story). Fleming bought her a Cartier watch to show her his gratitude.
'Quantum of Solace' is an atypical Bond story in that Bond is not involved in the story at all. Bond is in Nassau, The Bahamas following a mission (reluctantly preventing arms getting to Castro rebels by blowing up two cabin cruisers carrying arms), and is invited to a dinner party at Government House. After revealing that 'I've always thought that if I ever married I would marry an air hostess' as the final guests leave, Bond is told a true story by the Governor about the tumultuous marriage between a young civil servant (Philip Masters) and his air hostess wife (Rhoda Llewelyn) who moved to Bermuda after marrying. Masters suffered a nervous breakdown after suffering his wife's open affair with the eldest son of a wealthy Bermudian family. Masters's employers sent him on an assignment to Washington to recuperate, and upon returning, instead of divorcing his wife, he divided his home into two sections (one for him, one for her), having no relationship with his wife except for their public profile as a couple which he maintained. In the end, he returned to the UK, leaving his wife stranded in Bermuda with heavy debts. The experience of his bad marriage had turned him into a cruel man, and his revenge had cost him his humanity. The Governor explains his theory of 'the quantum of solace', paraphrased later by Bond himself:
The Governor goes on to inform Bond that Rhoda Masters re-married, to a Canadian millionaire. And that they had been the guests Bond 'thought a bore'. The short story ends with Bond learning something new about life: 'I must pay more attention to people' and that:
'Suddenly the violent dramatics of his own life seemed very hollow. The affair of the Castro rebels and the burned out yachts was the stuff of an adventure-strip in a cheap newspaper. He had sat next to a dull woman at a dull dinner party and a chance remark had opened for him the book of real violence - of the Comedie Humaine where human passions are raw and real, where Fate plays a more authentic game than any Secret Service conspiracy devised by Governments.'
Reflecting on the conference with the Coast Guard and the FBI in Miami' that will follow in the morning, Bond finds that the 'prospect, which had previously interested, even excited him, was now edged with boredom and futility.'
The story is perhaps one of the most personal Fleming ever written. It is indicative of his love for Maugham's writings. Wesley Britton notes in his excellent article 'Seeking a Quantum of Solace: From W. Somerset Maugham to Daniel Craig', that they were close friends, had similarities as people, wrote nice things about each other's work - and that Maugham was the one who insisted Martinis should be 'shaken, not stirred'. Britton also points out that there are elements in Maugham's work that probably inspired Fleming's novels, and that, according to biographers, the story also reflects his turbulent marriage to Ann Rothermere (Ben Macintyre) and the 'harsh realities... of colonial life in the tropics' (Andrew Lycett). He also notes that at 'the heart of the tale...is the question of boredom and alienation, and how to escape from this, which was something of a running theme throughout Fleming's novels and particularly interested the author. Fleming's hero was often worried about going stale, as was Fleming himself.' Henry Chancellor sees parallels between 'Quantum of Solace' and Maugham's story 'His Excellency' from his collection 'Ashenden, or The British Agent' (1928). A read of the story leaves little room for doubt. Apart from the obvious similarities, it's also interesting in that Maugham's tale is a typically realistic view of espionage at odds with Fleming's. John Le Carre was influenced by Maugham, and the two could hardly be any different in outlook from Fleming. The movie version of QUANTUM OF SOLACE would also present a view of espionage more in keeping with the cynicism and disillusionment of Maugham and Le Carre. Two of the stories from 'Ashenden, or The British Agent' ('The Traitor' and 'The Hairless Mexican'), were adapted into the Alfred Hitchcock film SECRET AGENT (1936). Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) was one of the models for Harry Saltzman and Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli when they began their series of James Bond films in 1962 with DR. NO.
The film began shooting with the working title of 'Bond 22'. QUANTUM OF SOLACE was announced (at Pinewood Studios, home of the 007 Stage) as the title on 24th January 2008, seventeen days after the official start of principal photography. Daniel Craig helpfully explained a title that got as much a cold reception as his initial casting announcement in CASINO ROYALE, telling The Guardian that after the death of Vesper in CASINO ROYALE 'Bond is looking for his quantum of solace and that's what he wants, he wants his closure'.
The number two seems to be a 'Jinx' to the Bond series. The sophomore outings for Sean Connery (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, 1963), Roger Moore (THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, 1974), Timothy Dalton (LICENCE TO KILL, 1989) and Pierce Brosnan (TOMORROW NEVER DIES) all endured rocky productions and/ or releases. QUANTUM OF SOLACE would be no exception. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (Bond scribes since 1999's THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH) handed in a final draft in April 2007 from an initial story apparently conceived by Michael G. Wilson. Paul Haggis came on board for polishing/ rewriting duties the following month. The script was considerably changed, and then in June, would almost be completely rewritten once Marc Forster was hired (he was announced on the 19th). 'Once I signed on to do it we pretty much developed the script from scratch because I felt that it wasn't the movie I wanted to make and we started with Paul Haggis from scratch. And I said to him, "These are the topics I am interested in, this is what I would like to say, what's important to me. And we developed it from there together. Then Barbara and Michael said they liked where we were going and they liked the script.'
But Forster and the producers didn't like at least one of Haggis's ideas. 'Haggis had an idea they weren't fond of, and I didn't know if it would work or not. The idea was that Vesper in the last movie, maybe she had a kid, and there would be an orphan out there. It wasn't anything to insult the franchise. But they felt it wasn't particularly Bond - him looking for the kid. I think Paul thought he just leaves the kid, he doesn't deal with it. But (the producers) thought that would be really nasty, too, because Bond was an orphan himself. If he found a kid, would he just leave it? They were so vehemently against it. That was the only time I saw, really, "No, we can't do that." They said, "Once he finds the kid, Bond can't just leave the kid. it's not right." ' In an interview with Esquire in October, Haggis complained that 'the original idea for the next 007 adventure was thrown out at the last minute. I thought I had come up with a terrific plot, and we'd worked it all the way through, and yesterday we tossed it out.'
Interestingly, at the end of the Fleming Bond novel 'You Only Live Twice' (1964), Bond becomes the father of a child with former Japanese Hollywood starlet Kissy Suzuki (whilst suffering amnesia and believing himself to be a Japanese fisherman named Taro!), but never gets to find out. The short story 'Blast from the Past' (1997), written by Raymond Benson, is a direct sequel to the story and reveals that the child was a boy.
The 'revenge' aspect of QUANTUM OF SOLACE would give the series the opportunity to explore Bond avenging the death of a woman he loved. In the movie version of ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969), Bond's bride (Tracy) was murdered on her wedding day, as she was in the 1963 novel. The following film, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971) had a different actor playing Bond (Sean Connery returned for the first time, replacing John Gavin who had been signed up), and it was decided not to pursue the revenge angle (apart from in the pre-credits sequence where an angry Bond tries to hunt down Ernst Stavro Blofeld, whose henchwoman Irma Bunt had killed Tracy in O.H.M.S.S., which doesn't necessarily follow on from the previous film, there are no indications of this being a sequel to the previous film). It is possible to read into Bond's vengeful state of mind in LICENCE TO KILL that it is not Felix Leiter's maiming at the hands of the villains that tips him over the edge but the death of another innocent female that he failed to protect on her wedding day (Della, Felix's bride). There is a reference to Bond's marriage before the villains catch up with Leiter and his bride (Felix: 'He was married... but it was a long time ago'), and after 'M' reprimands Bond for getting involved in finding those responsible, Bond does angrily exhort 'And his wife?'. But it isn't explicitly stated in the screenplay.
From June until November, Haggis, Forster, the producers and Daniel Craig worked on developing the script further with the threat of a Writer's Guild Strike looming that came to pass in November. Forster stated that 'The good thing is that Paul and I and Daniel all worked on the script before the strike happened and got it where we were pretty happy with.' Haggis's rewrite was completed just in time for the 5th November deadline. As Neal Purvis noted, 'They'd have been in real trouble otherwise.'
Forster stated he was 'pretty happy' with the quality of the script that was filmed in January and February (the strike ended on February 12th), but Joshua Zetumer, who had written a spec script that had impressed Forster, was brought on to fix up the later part of the script, which would cover the rest of the filming schedule. Dialogue was apparently written by him depending on the ideas of the actors each day, and Forster liked to rehearse because of his fondness for continuous scenes.
In the run-up to, and early filming of QUANTUM's follow-up (and 50th anniversary Bond film), SKYFALL, Daniel Craig would tell a different version of the story to Time Out: 'On QUANTUM we were f***ed. We had the bare bones of a script and then there was a writer's strike and there was nothing we could do. We couldn't employ a writer to finish it. I say to myself, "Never again", but who knows? There was me trying to rewrite scenes - and a writer I am not. Me and the director were the ones allowed to do it. the rules were that you couldn't employ anyone as a writer, but the actor and director could work on scenes together. We were stuffed. We got away with it, but only just. It was never meant to be as much of a sequel as it was, but it ended up being a sequel, where the last one finished. Thank God it worked, and it worked like gangbusters. But for me personally, on a level of being satisfied, I would want to do it better next time. That's really important to me.'
The fear of failing to live up to, and capitalise upon, CASINO ROYALE must have never been far too away from their minds. Also impacting on the script were budget constraints imposed by a studio financing a follow-up to ROYALE that would cost $50m more (ROYALE had cost $150m). This resulted in the scrapping of Forster's idea to shoot in 'fabulous' and 'romantic' Peru for ten days in March 2008. One of the highlights of the movie, the rooftop chase in Siena, was nearly left out of the picture until Forster convinced everyone that it could be filmed on actual rooftops rather than rooftops being built at Pinewood. Forster had insisted on filming mainly on location, and as a result, SOLACE would be the most globe-hopping of the series, visiting seven countries. Filming on location added to the expenditure and also placed additional stress on the filmmakers.
ITALY: The opening car chase was filmed on the twisty roads, quarries and towns around Lake Garda (including Malcesine,Tremosine and Limone) during April and May 2008. The car chase resulted in two injuries involving stuntmen, one of the stuntmen being in critical condition for a period of time. On top of this, an Aston Martin mechanic driving a DBS to a press event lost control and ended up,unhurt, in Lake Garda.
Second-unit footage of the bi-annual Palio medieval horse race in Siena had been captured on 16th August 2007, some six months before the official start of principal photography), with Daniel Craig watching from a hotel window. At that time, it still wasn't even clear how the race would be incorporated into the film. Second-unit filming of the rooftop chase in Siena had started in February 2008 and had taken eight weeks; the first unit started filming in April. Instead of emerging out of the underground tunnels via the fountain of the Piazza del Campo in the middle of the Palio race, Bond was originally meant to emerge through the Duomo di Siena cathedral. This idea was rejected on the grounds it would have been disrespectful. Mathis's beautiful villa was shot in Talamone, Tuscany, and is a privately-owned stone building dating back to 1, 000 AD (it was originally built as a fort).
The U.K.: Fourteen sets were built at Pinewood Studios, including the MI6 safehouse and art gallery rope fight from the Siena location; Bond's hotel room in Bolivia, the new, stylish HQ of MI6, and the explosive climax set in the desert (it was the last filming of the movie). Daniel Craig managed to get kicked in the face in an action scene, the gash necessitating eight stitches and plastic surgery. He also sliced the top off of a finger filming the climax.
The extensive location filming in the UK would encompass the Sculpture Garden outside the Barbican Centre in London (for the scene when 'M' and Tanner speak to Bond via cellphone whilst he is in Haiti - Tell her he was a dead end!'); the exterior of the Water Gardens block of flats in Burwood Place, London (Craig Mitchell's abode); the Bruneval Barracks in Aldershot (for the last scene of the movie set in Kazan, Russia - another part of the base had been utilised for the hovercraft chase in DIE ANOTHER DAY, 2002); Farnborough's TAG airport (Greene's meting with the CIA on a private jet and Bond getting his credit card rejected);the Bodyflight building in Bedford (Craig and Olga Kurylenko trained there for quite a few weeks with the stunt team for their freefall skydive sequence before doing one day's filming); 'The Base', Virgin Atlantic's training facility in Crawley (Bond and Mathis's deep conversation on the plane to Bolivia, where 007 drinks six 'Vesper' martinis and has his first ever drunk scene!) and The Reform Club in Pall Mall, London (previously the location of the sword fight in DIE ANOTHER DAY, this was used for 'M's confrontation with the Foreign Secretary, played by Tim Pigott-Smith).
PANAMA/ CHILE: Panama (Old Town, Colon, Panama City) doubled for Haiti and some of the scenes set in Bolivia (including Bond's luxurious hotel, actually the Inac Building in Old Town, Fields greeting Bond and Mathis at the airport, and the scenes where we see Leiter and Beam in their impromptu office and then Leiter meets Bond) in February. All the desert scenes, despite representing Bolivia, were shot in the Atacama Desert in Chile, during March and April. The eco-hotel (Perla de las Dunas) is actually the Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert, some 6, 000 feet in altitude and entailing a two-hour trip for the cast and crew to the location. The location's airstrip was also used in the aerial dogfight scene. Bad weather conditions forced the cancellation of action scenes to be filmed at the Incan Citadel of Macchu Picchu in Chile. The (suspended) Mayor of Sierra Gorda in Chile disrupted filming in Chile, protesting his country doubling for Bolivia in a few scenes.
SPAIN: Unspecified filming took place in Madrid in the last week of April.
AUSTRIA: The Bregenz scenes were shot on real location and entailed two weeks of night shoots at the city's Festival House from late April to May. Bond's driving scene in Austria was shot in the Austrian state of Feldkirch.
MEXICO: The aerial dogfight was filmed in Baja California, in Mexico in January and February, for seventeen days, with a crew of 66, under the direction of Dan Bradley.
Despite the fact that the film was a shorter shoot than usual, and didn't go over its 103 day schedule, one can easily imagine the cast and crew hoping that the end of production (Pinewood Studios, 22nd June 2008) and the release of the movie would bring a 'quantum of solace'.
SOURCES (still under construction):
'Agent of Change' by Logan Hill, New York Magazine site, 2nd November 2008.
'Bond 22 Delayed', Total Film site, 25th September 2006.
'Bond 22 Plot Tossed Out?' by Matt Weston, Commander Bond site, 12th October 2007.
'Bond Update: Bond 22 Cast Talk!', Total Film site, 24th January 2008.
'Casino Royale Shanghai Premiere' (report), MI6 site, 30th January 2007.
'Everything Changes But Bond' by Mark Brown, Guardian UK site, 24th January 2008.
'Forster Back in Action with Bond 22' by Tatiana Siegel/ Borys Kit, Hollywood Reporter site, 20th June 2007. Paid access section.
'For Your Eyes Only' (compendium of short stories, specifically 'Quantum of Solace' and 'For Your Eyes Only') by Ian Fleming, Jonathan Cape, 1960.
'Haggis Has Bond’s Number Again' by Jay A. Hernandez, L.A. Times site, 23rd May 2007.
'How James Bond Nearly Became a Father' by Logan Hill, Vulture site, 3rd November 2008.
'Los Angeles Film Festival - Directors Marc Forster and Paul Haggis Talk "Bond" Over Coffee' by Fred Topel, Hollywood.com site, 5th July 2007.
'My Work is My Bond', Mail and Guardian Online site, 27th November 2008.
'New Bond Film Title Announced', BBC News UK site, 24th January 2008.
'Paul Haggis Talks Bond 22' by Steven Chupnik, Coming Soon site, 25th August 2007.
'Quantum of Solace - Bond Done Differently' by Matt Weston, Commander Bond site, 12th November 2008. An overview of a Hollywood Reporter article that is currently offline.
'Quantum of Solace is Marc Forster's Art Film' by Randee Dawn, Hollywood Reporter site, 11th November 2008. Now part of the paid access section. Can be read here.
'Quantum of Solace - Marc Forster Answers Your Questions' by Ben Childs, The Guardian UK site, 21st September 2008.
'Roger Michell Discusses Turning Down Bond 22' by Devin Zydel, Commander Bond site, 4th June 2007. Interview originally appeared on The Times site, but latter is now a paid access site.
'Roger Michell in Talks for Bond 22', The Hollywood Reporter site, 17th July 2006. Currently offline. Report on the news here.
'Seeking a Quantum of Solace - From W. Somerset Maugham to Daniel Craig' by Dr. Wesley Britton, Dr. Shatterhand's Botanical Garden Site, 2008.
'The Script - Drafting a New Bond' by Stax, Rotten Tomatoes site, 4th April 2008.
Paul Rowlands is a Japan-based writer. After completing a BA Humanities course (majoring in English and Science) at the University of Chester, he moved to Japan in 1999. He writes for the James Bond magazine, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and has had an almost lifelong obsession with cinema, something the advent of DVD only increased.