2006’s Casino Royale is not only one of the best Bond films, it’s also one of the most important. The franchise reached a crucial turning point with the release of 2002’s Die Another Day, and in the wake of 9/11 the prospect of an international spy battling invisible cars seemed trite. The franchise needed a reinvention, and that came with a controversial new Bond in Daniel Craig and a serious, dramatic reboot courtesy of director Martin Campbell—who had already successfully rebooted Bond with 1995’s Goldeneye.
The resulting film, Casino Royale, was largely hailed as one of the best Bond movies in recent memory, as Craig’s much different iteration of the superspy gained acceptance and acclaim. So hopes were high to see the story continue in the 2008 sequel Quantum of Solace, which marked Finding Neverland and Monster’s Ball filmmaker Marc Forster’s biggest movie yet. And then the Writer’s Strike hit.
Chasing a release date, Quantum of Solace entered production without a finished script and with no writers, leaving the crafting of the movie in the hands of Forster and Craig. The resulting film failed to earn the praise that Casino Royale garnered, and the production was a stressful one for Forster.
Recently Collider’s own Steve Weintraub spoke with Forster at the Toronto International Film Festival, where his new film All I See Is You had its premiere. During the course of their lengthy conversation, Steve asked Forster about his experience on Quantum of Solace, and the director was candid about the experience of entering production without a completed script, admitting that at first he considered dropping out of the project altogether:
“It was tricky because we didn’t have a finished script… Ultimately at that time I wanted to pull out. Ron Howard pulled out of Angels & Demons which Sony was about to do and they sort of shut down, and at the time I thought, ‘Okay maybe I should pull out’ because we didn’t have a finished script. But everybody said, ‘No we need to make a movie, the strike will be over shortly so you can start shooting what we have and then we’ll finish everything else.’ I said ‘Yeah but the time crunch’…”
And so filming began. Knowing full well the strike may not end before production was completed, Forster said he went in with the mentality that he could craft Quantum of Solace like a 70s revenge thriller:
“So ultimately I said ‘Okay’. The idea was to make a follow-up to Casino Royale and ultimately I felt like, ‘Okay worst case scenario the strike goes on, I’ll just make it sort of like a 70s revenge movie; very action driven, lots of cuts to hide that there’s a lot of action and a little less story (laughs). To disguise it.”
Forster admitted that he and Craig pretty much handled the rest of the writing during filming, adding that the pressure of following up a movie as good as Casino Royale weighed heavily:
“It was pretty crazy because you’re under incredible pressure, especially doing a Bond film, and especially doing the follow-up Bond film to Casino Royale which is the best book Ian Fleming ever wrote, I feel, and was the best Bond movie in a long time. The script was so good, the story was so good, it was a true emotional story especially when Vespa dies, with the sinking house—it was really well done. Then ultimately you have a follow-up with an incomplete script based on no book and you have to deliver. At the same time, we only had five or six weeks to cut the movie once we finished principal photography. You have six weeks to edit before the movie actually then goes into sound and comes out.”
Indeed, while the editing process was truncated, Forster said he had bigger problems on his mind:
“While you’re shooting you’re also editing, and you’re trying to figure out if the story works… That was, to be honest, the least of my concerns because we were editing as we were going and the key for me was to make sure the visual effects are looking good, and to make sure the story would work. My nightmare was if the strike keeps going, we don’t have a completed story, plus we have a release date, plus we have five weeks to cut it, plus if all of this doesn’t work the film still comes out and you’re the person responsible for it. So I thought, ‘Okay, am I going to work after this?’ (laughs)”
Ultimately, though, Forster says he was happy with the finished product, and notes that the film has gained more appreciation as the years have gone on:
“But in the end I’m pretty happy with the film, and I must say now eight years after it seems like people have been embracing it more and more. When it came out it was very successful and people seemed to like it, but I think it gained more momentum as time went by.”
As Bond is now on the cusp of another potential reboot, it’s interesting to look back at the film that followed one of the most crucial Bond movies in history, and Forster’s candor is certainly appreciated. For more with Forster, here’s the portion of Steve’s interview on All I See Is You.