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Director Marc Forster talks at length to MoviesOnline

27-Oct-2008 • Quantum Of Solace

MoviesOnline sat down with Marc Forster at the Los Angeles press day to talk about his exciting new film, “Quantum of Solace,” the 22nd James Bond adventure in the longest running franchise in film history. Directed by Forster from a screenplay written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Oscar winner Paul Haggis, the film stars Daniel Craig as the legendary secret agent, James Bond, and picks up the storyline just one hour after the end of Casino Royale.

Fueled by the betrayal of Vesper, the woman he loved, Bond's determination to track down the mastermind behind a mysterious and sinister organization leads to Haiti, where he finds an unlikely ally in Camille (Kurylenko), a beautiful but feisty stranger who has her own vendetta. The film also stars Judi Dench, Jesper Christiansen, Mathieu Amalric, and Giancarlo Giannini.

The “Quantum of Solace” production filmed in more overseas locations than any other movie in the 46-year running James Bond franchise. The crew started filming at Pinewood Studios in the UK before traveling to Panama City and Colon in Panama, the Atacama Desert in Chile, Sienna, Carrara, Lake Garda and Fonteblanda in Italy and Bregenz in Austria, with an additional unit filming an aerial sequence in San Felipe, Mexico.

Marc Forster made his directorial debut in 2000 with a psychological horror movie entitled “Everything Put Together,” which he also co-wrote. The film premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and Forster went on to direct a string of critically acclaimed blockbuster hits including, most recently, “The Kite Runner,” based on Khaled Hosseini ‘s best seller.

Forster’s impressive filmography also includes “Monster’s Ball” (2001), which received two Oscar nominations with Halle Berry winning Best Actress, and “Finding Neverland” (2004), which starred Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet and received seven Academy Award nominations, five Golden Globe nominations and eleven BAFTA nominations all including Best Picture. Forster was also nominated Best Director by his peers at the Directors Guild of America.

In 2005 Forster helmed the reality bending thriller “Stay” starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts and went on to direct the hit comedy “Stranger then Fiction,” with Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and Queen Latifah, the following year.

Marc Forster is a fabulous guy and we really appreciated his time. Here’s what he had to tell us about “Quantum of Solace”:

MoviesOnline: I haven’t heard anyone say they don’t like the film.

Marc Forster: I’m glad they like it. The pressure was hard enough because “Casino Royale” was so successful and the expectations were so high. I felt like “oh my God” and the pressure’s still there to hope that the film performs.

MoviesOnline: Did you feel like you were making a sequel or did it feel brand new and you just happened to be talking about people who were in the last film?

Marc Forster: No, I mean I wanted to approach it as if I’m making the movie I wanted to make and the Bond movie I would like to see artistically and any other way. But I still felt like okay, there are some characters I’m inheriting and I’m taking along for the ride, so, in that sense, yes. What I thought was interesting for me was to do a sequel because in the last 5 minutes of “Casino Royale” Bond loses the love of his life and he’s in this emotional state. I felt to continue that state into “Quantum of Solace” would be a good thing instead of starting him out fresh and Bond feels there’s no attachment and he forgot the girl he loved and now where’s the next girl I can be with? And so I kind of like to have that sort of kind of pain, you know?

MoviesOnline: You make some very interesting editing choices which look great on-screen. How early on did you decide to do that?

Marc Forster: A lot of the action sequences I developed when I went to locations and that’s sort of how it came together. My first idea of intercutting the sequences, especially the sequence in Siena and the opera and the final sequence, came from Siena. They showed me the cisterns which the Roman’s built under the city, the water channels, and I thought it would be interesting to put the safe house underground. Before, it was up on a roof in a building and then there was a rooftop chase. I thought it would be interesting to put it underground and then start the chase exactly when the horse race starts and have them intercut those 2 chases and then he pops up in the middle of the Palio and then we have him sort of on ground level and then he goes up to the roof and then crashes through the dome from the top.

Originally, in the script, it was to enter the dome from the ground and fight up some scaffolding. I thought it was more interesting and more spectacular to crash in from the top and have the intercutting between the race and them. And then with the opera sequence—that sequence was set in the script in a U.N. type of setting with people overhearing these conversations through different languages and stuff and I thought it was interesting, but visually I just couldn’t get it in my head and I felt it looked a little familiar and then I saw the opera set and the eye reminded me of Bond and it was blue and I always loved the influence of Hitchcock on the early Bond films and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” certainly popped into my head.

I thought that kind of film could really work [and be] really interesting because I knew it was Tosca. I thought Tosca was a parallel to our story and so I could have the opera and him and then after this sort of Mexican standoff go into this dream-like action sequence which wouldn’t be based on reality. I always enjoyed it also in those “Godfather” films, how Coppola dealt with it, and so I thought it would be kind of a cool sequence.

MoviesOnline: How was it shooting coverage on this film? Are you the type of filmmaker that likes to use a lot of cameras or are you very focused? Do you have everything in your mind in terms of how it’s going to be?

Marc Forster: I mostly have a lot of it in my mind in dramatic sequences anyway. When I shoot with actors, I usually shoot with one camera, sometimes 2, because it restricts your lighting. In action sequences, I shot with more cameras because that’s just easier otherwise you lose too much time. But usually I try to limit the amount of cameras.

MoviesOnline: Do you enjoy doing all the huge action set-pieces or are you ready to do another small, quiet drama?

Marc Forster: No, I think there’s some switching genres and something smaller again. I mean, I enjoyed making the film and it was creatively satisfying and I loved working with Daniel. I mean he’s been such a great collaborator and it was really so satisfying working with an actor like him. And the producers really supported my visions. I have nothing to complain about but it’s just hard to carry that kind of size of production and shooting….and it was my choice to shoot in 6 countries. It wasn’t theirs. I mean like up to them. They said, oh, we can shoot it all in Pinewood on green screen, but I thought no, we need to shoot in real locations. It has to feel real.

I want to be there like in these old Bond movies. They sort of lost it a little bit along the way. They started shooting more in studio and had the 2nd unit out on locations. And I felt no, I want to shoot on locations. I think it’s more intimate and feels better. And so I’m in London prepping and shooting it there and my production guys are in Panama prepping that and then I’m seeing images of locations and suddenly I chose the locations [and saw] that the wall was gray and I said we have to change the color to green. And then I see images and then when I arrive on the day I say well, that’s not really the green I wanted, but it’s too late to change, you know? And then while I’m arriving there, he’s already in Chile prepping the Chile locations so they’re always ahead of you prepping and the details make the movie.

You have to be so aware. And it’s hard on the computer when they send you these photos because the color changes depending if you’re using a flash or what the lighting situation is, so it gets tricky. And yes, if you’re doing a DI you can change the color again on the DI but it gets very complicated to get the color right and I’m really particular about that because it affects you subconsciously, the way you feel about the movie and the space and the characters. So that kind of stuff…if you shoot at one location, you know I’m always in control and I think most directors are control freaks.

MoviesOnline: When you watch the movie now, are there still scenes where you’re like “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that green’s still in the background”?

Marc Forster: No, Dennis Gastner, the production designer, is really phenomenal and he really has a good eye. I chose him because he did 8 movies with the Coen brothers. He did “The Truman Show,” you know. His credits are really great. He has great taste. We worked it out very quickly. It happened here or there but we could always fix it at the last moment.

MoviesOnline: What location or which scene was the greatest challenge for you?

Marc Forster: They were all challenges because I had this idea I wanted to do 4 action sequences and 4 elements—water, fire, air, earth. And so every time you work with the elements, you know, you put your actors into fire it gets very hot, so it’s very hard. You put them in water, you have the wind, the waves. It’s hard and dangerous. I think the hardest one for me to actually push through because of different reasons was the Siena scene which ends at the art gallery cathedral. Originally the rooftops were supposed to be built in Pinewood and we couldn’t afford it. It was too expensive. So they said we’ll just have to cut the rooftops. I said no, I can’t cut the rooftops. I need that foreplay.

I had already shot the cathedral scenes and the beginning of the chase so I had him up on the thing and I said no, he should just run up into the tower and crash through the cathedral. I said no, I need the rooftops and then it was really hard to shoot that. So then I said why don’t we ask Siena if we could shoot on the real rooftops in the final location. So Siena, the city, allowed us to shoot on the real rooftops and I’m so thankful to them. Engineers had to look at the weight of the buildings and it’s quite extensive. And then he flies from one rooftop to the other side where the balconies are. That was all in the real location. That was all shot in Siena on location.

Then there was an issue with the bus. The bus got too expensive, but then I said no, now we have him on the other side. We have to get him over and they said I know but you can figure something out. The bus thing is too much money and too complicated. But I said I have him on this side, how can they link…we’ll just cut into the tower. Then I was thinking, no, that doesn’t work and we have to get him over there. I need the bus.

MoviesOnline: You got your bus?

Marc Forster: Yeah, I got the bus finally. But no, no the bus was always in the concept but I didn’t see another way to get him over except when he jumps on the bus and he gets over and goes up again anyway.

MoviesOnline: Were you shooting in Siena during the Palio?

Marc Forster: Yeah, we shot the real Palio and I shot that actually August 16th last year before we shot anything and the script wasn’t finished. At that point, I didn’t really completely 100% know where the Palio would fit in.

MoviesOnline: Was there any stunt sequence that you were particularly worried about shooting? The fire scenes at the end seemed very dangerous.

Marc Forster: Yeah I know. I mean, it’s actually Daniel. What is really dangerous is when he leaves the villa where Mr. Green is…after he pulls him up and he runs across and the thing crashes down. That’s all Daniel. And things are exploding left and right next to him and it’s all real. And he’s in the midst of those flames and then at the end of it he stands there for a moment and then he goes into this door which is a side door, but it’s all extremely hot. And he has protective tissue on but it’s still…and also once the thing crashes through the door, it’s like he’s there. He enters the door, the thing crashes behind him and he enters the room which is filled with flames as well. So that was intense, yeah.

MoviesOnline: You mentioned that you shot that sequence in Siena in August.

Marc Forster: Yeah.

MoviesOnline: It was leaked on the Internet that you were filming there and people were taking photos. What was that experience like for you? Did you realize there was so much interest?

Marc Forster: I heard about it. Very early on I said okay, I can’t follow this online or go onto any blogs or anything because people say, “Okay, they’ve chosen a director who has never done action. What is he going to do?” And I felt if I went in and started reading that stuff it really would affect me.

MoviesOnline: How do you make sure Bond’s character and humanity remain intact when there’s so much action?

Marc Forster: I felt like the main thing is what I was always concentrated on. Like I said at the beginning, I can’t approach it like a big franchise movie. I have to really think about the character. I see it as sort of an “art film”. How can I make this my own within that Bond framework? And it’s all about Bond and the character and the intensity and how I feel. I felt because he lost the love of his life in the last one, the Bond girl should be sort of a mirror to him and in a sense have her own revenge motives. And because of that mirror, we can get an emotional response out of Bond, but just in his eyes when she opens up a little bit. At the same time, I thought also when he’s with the Giancarlo Giannini character, Mathis, there’s a nice sort of thing about the two of them that you feel how much pain he’s really in.

MoviesOnline: Can you talk about the selection of Jack White and Alicia Keyes to do the theme song? How much were you involved?

Marc Forster: Basically, I heard that Jack White was interested. He loved Bond movies and he was interested in writing a Bond song. I thought okay. I love his music. I’m a big fan and I thought it would be really an interesting combination. It was his idea to have Alicia Keys as a duet. I always wanted to work with her. I thought that would work out great and I thought it’s important not to have the typical Bond song because it’s not a typical Bond movie and I thought to go against the grain a little bit and then he sent us that song in a rough version. I thought that would work. That goes in the right direction.

MoviesOnline: The score sounds very contemporary and not like your grandfather’s Bond score.

Marc Forster: Yeah, it’s the same composer, David Arnold, [who did Casino Royale], but I also worked with David very much. I wanted to push him more. I played him some temp tracks which we were thinking of and I thought it would be more interesting than going full orchestral and give it a little bit more of a modern edge. And even at the end credits, after the Bond theme, there’s this artist called Fortet who took one of his compositions and re-mixed it in an interesting way. So that was my approach.

MoviesOnline: What’s your reaction when you read the final script? Were there a lot of adjustments that were made along the way as the film proceeded?

Marc Forster: There wasn’t really ever a final script. It was just evolving, a constant evolving and changing especially with all the action. You know, you can’t sit on a blank page and just write. It’s just looking at the locations. How can we make this work and what can we work and what’s the possibility? And then mainly what I was focusing on in the script was the dialogue sequences and sort of what happens in that structure.

MoviesOnline: Why did you pick Olga? What was it about her that blew you away?

Marc Forster: I saw hundreds of tapes and then from those hundreds of tapes I selected around 20 girls to come in and read for me. Out of those 20 I selected 4 to read with Daniel Craig and just basically they played the scene and I saw who would connect in the most natural way with Daniel. Olga just seemed to naturally connect with him well and it was like sort of an alignment and I thought there was some depth in it and there was something in her eyes where I felt like she has lived life. It was important for me in Camille’s character that she was a fighter and she had this tragedy in her past and I thought when I met Olga that she had these sort of qualities about her.

MoviesOnline: What can fans look forward to on the DVD/Blu-ray as far as deleted scenes or extras? Or are you even thinking about that yet?

Marc Forster: Not so much yet but there is only one little deleted scene and then there’s tons of footage from behind the scenes. You know we made the whole behind the scenes piece and several other pieces that they’ve been working on. I just looked at it a little bit but that’s probably what will be included.

MoviesOnline: Was that scene a different ending?

Marc Forster: That scene? Actually yes, where it ends now there was another scene following, but I took that scene out.

MoviesOnline: Can you tell me what this scene might be?

Marc Forster: No, you don’t want to spoil that because…it’s better just to keep it as it is. I mean it’s like I was thinking we shot the scene and it worked. I think it’s a great scene and everybody loved it and the first screening I had was with that scene and then we just felt no, let’s just end it right there on that necklace. He got his quantum of solace. That’s where it is. That’s where the movie ends and let’s not even go there.

MoviesOnline: How long is it?

Marc Forster: It’s like a minute.

MoviesOnline: Interesting.

Marc Forster: I tell you that he does encounter Mr. White in that scene.

MoviesOnline: Really? You’re killing me now.

Marc Forster: So you can almost start the next movie with that scene.

MoviesOnline: That’s what I wanted to know.

Marc Forster: I don’t know if it’s a trilogy or not but they’re thinking…I don’t know. I was thinking to them if they wanted to they could just like…

MoviesOnline: I was curious about that because this one ends like it’s a bookend. It’s a part 2 of 2 and that scene would have been part 2 of 3.

Marc Forster: And that’s why because it gives them the opportunity to either start completely new or to….but with that scene you’re almost forced to follow the movie into a trilogy.

MoviesOnline: How come you didn’t use the catch phrase? The Bond, James Bond? Do you like not having that in your film?

Marc Forster: You know, interestingly enough I did shoot it and it was taken out. I did cut it. I did shoot the line, but the producers felt the same so I lost it.

MoviesOnline: Are there a lot of little scenes like that and one-liners here and there that were in the film but were cut out of it?

Marc Forster: No, no, no. Just that particular one.

MoviesOnline: You’ve done a wide range of films that are all distinctly different. Is there a genre you haven’t worked in that you’d like to do in the future?

Marc Forster: I would like to do a Sci-Fi. I’d like to do a musical. So those are the two. And I would like to do a big epic love story. A couple of genres.

MoviesOnline: Would you like to do another Bond movie?

Marc Forster: They offered me the next one but at this point the pressure is so intense and it’s a year off and I don’t know if I want to do that again. It’s literally not having a life and I mean that’s not exaggerated. I feel like life is short, you know. You have to find a balance.

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