MI6 guest writer David Leigh reports on the Casino
Royale World Premiere event and the audience reaction
from a British perspective...
Opinion - A Day With 007 - A British Perspective
15th December 2006
A DAY WITH 007 - A BRITISH PERSPECTIVE
REPORT & OPINION BY DAVID LEIGH
The only reason I ever visit London these days
seems to be James Bond and my latest trip was no exception. I
was lucky enough to have been offered a couple of tickets to
the world premiere of Casino Royale in the presence of the Queen,
and to me that is an opportunity that is impossible to turn down – especially
when you’ve devoted much more time, energy and money to
007 than could be expected of any sane adult.
On Monday morning, having arrived at Gatwick on Saturday in
order to spend some time with family and acclimatise, I headed
for the West End; sightseeing wasn’t on the agenda though – after
all I was born in the capital and until 2001 worked in an office
in Oxford Street (incidentally in the building that once housed
De Bry, where the literary Bond buys his coffee). And if that
wasn’t enough, I forgot to pack my map.
Instead I headed to Leicester Square to see
what was going on for the premiere the following day and also
to scout the area
for the pre-premiere venue. When I got there the gardens were
closed and before me lay a chaotic scene of carpentry, lighting
rigs, stages, cables and vans.
The following day I headed to Leicester Square
again, this time for a rendezvous with some fellow Bond fans.
Several hours later
my guest and I changed into black tie and we headed towards Leicester
Square again for drinks and a pre-premiere dinner at Ruby Blue.
Here we met up with a few MI6 regulars amongst the diners, although
everyone was keen not to fill up at the bar too much as we were
expecting to be seated in the cinema for well over 3 hours. There
was a real buzz of expectation in the air with everyone wanting
the new film, and the new James Bond, to be a huge success.
The tickets demanded that we were in our seats by 6.45 p.m.
with advice to leave Ruby Blue by 6.20. Therefore the anxiety
level was a little high when we were invited into the dining
room around 5.00. However, the kitchen staff at Ruby Blue pulled
out all the stops and the courses were cooked, served and devoured
in record time – I don’t know if it was deliberate,
but one of the main courses was steak with Béarnaise sauce,
which 007 orders in the novel.
We only needed to cross Leicester Square and so were ushered
onto the red carpet and through the gardens, barricaded from
the thousands of onlookers who turned out for the event. I suppressed
the urge to sign my autograph or to wave to the crowd, while
they must have been wondering who on Earth these people were
to get the red carpet treatment.
While the stars and the Queen were in the Odeon Leicester Square,
I had tickets for the Odeon West End, but the entire event was
broadcast to the cinema’s giant screen. We were able to
watch Daniel Craig arrive, looking relaxed and really enjoying
himself; this was his big night. He looked happy to be there,
shaking hands, signing and having the time of his life – he
was even taking photographs for fans, holding the camera so both
he and the camera owner were in the shot.
The other cast members arrived, including Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen
and Judi Dench, along with celebrities from the world of screen,
stage and music. Eventually the Queen and Prince Philip arrived,
to be introduced to the cast and crew by Michael G. Wilson. Once
Her Majesty had taken her seat the national anthem played and
the curtains closed. With the audience’s collective adrenalin
racing the curtain opened and the film began.
And what a beginning it is - the pre-titles sequence is a short,
sharp shock, a world away from the bloated Brosnan-era films.
This really is James Bond as you’ve never seen him before,
someone you’d not want to cross. At the end of the film,
a real 144 minute rollercoaster ride, the crowd cheered – I’d
been waiting more than just four years for this film, and many
of the people I spoke to felt the same.
All that was left to do was make our way back to Ruby Blue and
have a few drinks while discussing what we’d just seen.
On the way I saw Judi Dench - amongst others - being chauffeured
off to the post-premiere party and before reaching the entrance
I was stopped by some bystanders eager to know what the film
was like. The bar was buzzing with excitement again while everyone
discussed what they’d just seen. I chatted with some of
the MI6 regulars and stuck around until midnight, at which time
it was time to get to the underground and home.
I don’t want to give too much away and spoil it for anyone
who hasn’t seen the film, but there are many, many differences
to the recent Bond formula. One of the big positives is that
the script is full of much more subtle humour and there is not
a single groan-inducing pun to be heard. Daniel Craig plays a
Bond who is clearly a killer, with the most brutally intense
fight scenes ever seen in a James Bond film; after the wham-bam
pre-title sequence the film continues in the same line; Bond
is a completely ruthless killer who relies upon just his wits,
fists, guns and knives - and anything else that may come to hand,
including luck - to deal the death blow. And you really believe
he could do it.
We’ve never seen Bond suffer like he does in Casino Royale
either – he bleeds, gets bruised and scarred and bleeds
some more. This helps make James Bond a much more real person
and someone we can relate to – instead of dusting down
his suit he reaches for the first-aid kit.
But, how does it rate with the other Bond films? The truth is that it is so radically
different that there is little point in comparing either the film or Daniel
Craig with what has gone before. Some critics have likened Craig to Sean Connery,
but there is no way I could even begin to compare them - go and see the film
and make up your own mind. Just be prepared for a piece of cinema that leads
you on a tough and sometimes emotional journey that lets you leave the cinema
knowing that James Bond really is back. The countdown for Bond 22 has begun...
Royale World Premiere Report
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