James Bond movies have traditionally been the domain of action directors, folks capable of handling the complex special effects and sophisticated stuntwork associated with the blockbuster 007 franchise. So when Marc Forster, director of the modestly budgeted dramas Stranger than Fiction and The Kite Runner, appeared on the shortlist of choices to helm the follow-up to 2006's Casino Royale, fans were taken aback. None were more surprised, however, than Forster himself, who had never pursued the job. Despite his protestations, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson hired him anyway.
The Swiss-born Forster sat down with us recently to talk about his experience in the Quantum of Solace director's chair, and why he'll probably never direct another Bond flick again.
ReelzChannel: Were you surprised when they chose you to direct this?
Forster: Yeah. I met Michael and Barbara in their office and my agent said, "Look, they want to meet you for the Bond film. They want to offer it to you." I said, "I don't want to do a Bond movie. I have no interest." He said, "Oh yes, but they really want to meet you. Just do the meeting." So anyway, I met them and I thought they were lovely, charming, interesting people to talk to. And I said, "You know, I don't think you're got the right director. Action is not my forte. I love action movies and would love to do one at some point, but not necessarily the 22nd of a 40-year-old franchise." I'd always heard that they were very controlling about everything, but I liked them and they were charming and they kept coming back to me. I said, "OK, look. If I can use the people, can bring my creative team to the movie, and do the movie in my head that I imagine I want to make, then I will be interested in doing it."
ReelzChannel: Did you have any idea what you were getting into?
Forster: No, I didn't, because otherwise, looking back, I wouldn't have had the insanity to actually get myself into this!
ReelzChannel: Did the producers give you any rules, in terms of what you could or couldn't do with the Bond character?
Forster: No. The only rule was that Bond doesn't kill innocent people. They pretty much gave me freedom, but they said that Bond can't kill the innocent.
ReelzChannel: Would you be willing to direct another Bond movie?
Forster: They offered me the next one, but I would like to switch genres. I don't want to do [Bond 23] because when you're doing these kinds of movies, you're like, you don't have a life. You're working a year, 24-7, around the clock, and that's what your life has become. I don't necessarily want to do that again.
ReelzChannel: The producers mentioned that it was your idea to have the Quantum of Solace plot revolve around water, as opposed to oil. What inspired you to go in that direction?
Forster: I believe that the next crisis will be water. I think there are so few people who have access to drinking water, and I think it's a really emerging problem. There are so many people like Greene who are buying up water sources. And water, right now, is already way more expensive than oil. I think the main bulk of politicians in this world hopefully understand now that we have to move away from oil and look for alternative energy sources, and have to rethink that. But I think nobody has understood, yet, the essential necessity for water and how that will affect us in the coming millennium.
ReelzChannel: Costar Marc Forster said she felt that this was the first movie to show that Bond had a heart. Was that one of the points you wanted to get across?
Forster: I felt like part of the success of Bond is he's a mysterious character, and you don't want to go too deep into him. You want to keep that mystery about him. But I wanted to get some emotional texture from him. I felt that there are glimpses of him where you feel that he has a heart, but he has this enormous amount of pain, too. So I felt like, especially like the scenes with Mathis, for instance, you feel his heart there. He opens up a little bit more.
ReelzChannel: You brought in writer Paul Haggis, who worked on Casino Royale, to rewrite the script. Was it his decision to expand Judi Dench's role as M?
Forster: I said to Paul, when we sat down, I told him all the points that I wanted to explore...and that I felt that Judi Dench was underused. Even in Casino Royale, where he was involved. I said, "I really want that relationship to be there. I want her to have a substantial part between the two of them, because I feel like you have Judi Dench, one of the greatest actors in the world, and you always under use her." She's also interesting psychologically, because she's the only woman Bond doesn't see in a sexual context.
ReelzChannel: When did you come up with the idea of withholding the gun barrel scene till the end?
Forster: When I looked at it, I just felt like it didn't feel right. I wanted to put it at the end. I mentioned that to Barbara and Michael and they said, "Oh, we're not sure." And I said, "No, no. We can't put it at the beginning. I'm not going to do that. You have to put it at the end." And that leaves you in a good space, too, when you put it at the end. When I showed them the movie for the first time, they saw it at the end and they said, 'Yeah, it works.'"
ReelzChannel: Can you give us a hint about the deleted scene that might end up on the Quantum of Solace DVD?
Forster: Yeah, there was a scene after where the movie ends now. Right now, the movie felt sort of complete with Bond finding his quantum of solace. If I would have kept the scene, then producers wouldn't have had a choice but to make it a trilogy, like that. Now they can start new. They have the opportunity. But if I would have kept the scene -- let's put it this way: Bond encounters Mr. White at the end of that scene...you wouldn't have had a choice, if you would have ended it like that, but to follow that lead.
ReelzChannel: Your producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, are really the caretakers of the Bond franchise and its legacy. What's it like working with them?
Forster: That was the reason that I accepted it, because I felt like these are the only two people I have to deal with. It's not some bureaucracy in a studio. That's it, that's where it starts and ends. They control the marketing, poster, anything you see. Anything that comes out is signed off by Barbara and Michael. Nothing happens without them. And that's incredible power. Except for George Lucas on Star Wars, and maybe Spielberg, nobody has that.
ReelzChannel: But they are pretty controlling, right?
Forster: I think on a script level, they're very collaborative and they have opinions. But this whole journey, I never had a conflict with them. Everything I wanted, they tried to get for me. I've worked with producers who would have never in a million years done that. It was very old school.