Hasitha Fernando dives into the story behind Quantum of Solace as it turns 15…
Quantum of Solace has often been labelled the low point of Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond, but in its defence, a problematic production rife with script related issues certainly played an integral role in muddling the proceedings. Whatever the case maybe, let us now dive in and have a more in-depth look at what actually happened 15 years ago during the making of this flawed Bond adventure…
The movie was already planned before Casino Royale started production
In October 2005, before production had even begun on Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond, producer Michael G. Wilson announced that franchise regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were working on a screenplay for the next film.
The duo deliberately wrote Casino Royale to tie into the next film so they could explore to what lengths an emotionally broken Bond would go to avenge Vesper’s death. The writers first storyline followed Bond releasing Mr. White so that he could tail him and find his employers. Bond would later infiltrate the mysterious organization, led by the villain Dante, who is aligned with Yusuf Kabira, Vesper’s boyfriend.
As Casino Royale entered post-production in July 2006, Eon Productions announced that Roger Michell – who directed Craig in Enduring Love and The Mother – had entered negotiations to direct the sequel based on a new story. However, a few months later Michell exited the project citing slow progress on the latest version of the script.
Marc Forster was a very left-field choice as a Bond film director
After Purvis and Wade completed the latest draft of their script, Casino Royale’s Paul Haggis was brought on for a script polish. During this timeframe the producers were in a mad rush to find a suitable candidate that would fill the shoes left by Michell. Tony Scott (Man on Fire), Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), Alex Proyas (I, Robot) and Marc Forster (The Kite Runner) were the top picks considered to helm the film.
In June 2007 Foster was confirmed as director, a decision which even he was surprised about considering he wasn’t a big fan of the franchise. However, he was convinced to take the gig after watching Casino Royale and the overall direction the producers wanted to take the James Bond character. German born and raised in Switzerland, Forster turned out to be the first Bond director to not hail from a country that belonged to the British Commonwealth, but the fact that Bond’s mother was Swiss does make Forster somewhat of an apt choice for the project. The filmmaker also turned out to be the youngest director to helm a James Bond flick in the history of the franchise.
The flick only had a bare-bones script when production commenced
From the get-go the production of Quantum of Solace was plagued with continuous script-related problems and the situation only worsened with the advent of the unprecedented 2007 Writers Guild of America Strike. It is said that screenwriter Paul Haggis famously handed in his draft of the script a mere two hours before the strikes kicked off. But the draft of the script Haggis submitted was far from perfect and required quite a bit of retooling, and this inevitably became a major source of vexation to Forster, Craig and the producers during filming.
Marc Forster & Daniel Craig did uncredited rewrites of the script
With production in hot water due to an incomplete script and the absence of professional writers due to the ongoing writers’ strike Forster and Craig reluctantly took matters into their own hands and rewrote the script on the fly, in-between takes. The director also strongly collaborated with producers Barbra Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson during the creative process and quite interestingly the decision to make Quantum of Solace a direct sequel to Casino Royale – as was previously envisioned by writers Purvis and Wade – was actually the end product of all the script changes that were made while the writer’s strike was going on.
In a December 2011 interview, Craig stated: “We had the bare bones of a script and then there was a writers’ 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”. After the strikes concluded writer Joshua Zetumer was hired to reshape certain scenes Forster was dissatisfied with, during the latter half of the shoot.
The title was decided on the eleventh hour
Producer Michael G. Wilson decided on the title Quantum of Solace just a few days prior to the official announcement on 24 January 2008. The title was the name of a short story found in Ian Fleming’s 1960 anthology For Your Eyes Only. Wilson saw that this rather strange title related to one of the film’s thematic elements in that: “when the quantum of solace drops to zero, humanity and consideration of one human for another is gone”.
Even Daniel Craig had initial reservations regarding the title admitting, “I was unsure at first. Bond is looking for his quantum of solace and that’s what he wants, he wants his closure. Ian Fleming says that if you don’t have a quantum of solace in your relationship then the relationship is over. It’s that spark of niceness in a relationship that if you don’t have, you might as well give up.”
Quantum was also the name of the mysterious criminal organization that was responsible for the mayhem in Casino Royale and events that transpired in this movie. Quantum was chosen to replace S.P.E.C.T.R.E – the organized crime enterprise detailed in Ian Fleming’s novels and made popular by Sean Connery’s Bond films – because Eon Productions didn’t own the rights to that IP or the character Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the fictional leader of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. This situation, however, changed with the passing of Kevin McClory who owned the aforementioned IPs, paving the way for their re-introduction with 2015’s Spectre.
Quantum of Solace was more physically demanding for Daniel Craig
Craig’s gruelling physical training regime for his second outing placed extra attention to running and boxing to spare him the injuries that he sustained while doing his stunts in the first film. He also practiced speedboating and stunt driving extensively with the stunt team. Because of this Craig felt Casino Royale was [physically] “a walk in the park” compared to Quantum of Solace, which required a different performance from him because Quantum of Solace is a revenge film, not a love story like Casino Royale.
Craig also sustained many injuries during the making of the sequel. While filming in Pinewood Studios, he suffered a gash when kicked in his face, which required eight stitches, and a fingertip was sliced off. He laughed these off, noting they did not delay filming, and joked his finger would enable him to have a criminal career. He also had minor plastic surgery done on his face.
Mathieu Amalric based his villainous performance on two real-life politicians
For the movie’s primary antagonist Dominic Greene, director Marc Forster had a much more grounded approach in mind. Which is why the character doesn’t sport a steel toothed appendage like Jaws or have a physical ailment like Le Chiffre’s deranged tear duct. Instead, he’s just Dominic Greene – a leading member of Quantum posing as an influential businessman with environmental inclinations.
Amalric modelled his performance on “the smile of Tony Blair [and] the craziness of Sarkozy”, the latter of whom he called “the worst villain we [the French] have ever had … he walks around thinking he’s in a Bond film.” Forster and Amalric even reconceived the character’s fighting skills, by making him more like someone fighting from pure animalistic instinct as opposed to using a specific skill set.
A plotline in the movie was based on an actual water privatization issue in Bolivia
One of the major plotlines in Quantum of Solace featured the villainous Dominic Greene pushing to take over Bolivia’s water supply by facilitating a regime change through a coup d’état. This mirrored a series of tumultuous events that transpired a few years prior in in Bolivia’s Cochabamba and La Paz/El Alto regions in the early 2000s, which concerned the privatization of water supply and the subsequent uprisings that took place against it.
Amy Winehouse recorded a demo track for the Bond theme song
Before Jack White of The White Stripes and Alicia Keys collaborated on “Another Way to Die” to create the first Bond music duet, another exceedingly talented artist already had a demo track recorded for the movie. That musician was none other than the late Amy Winehouse. British record producer Mike Ronson and Winehouse collaborated on this effort but in the end, Ronson explained that the singer’s well-publicized legal issues in the weeks prior made her “not ready to record any music” at that time. A loss for all James Bond aficionados, the world over, for certain.
A box-office winner with a mixed reception
Made on a production budget of $200 million, Quantum of Solace went on to rake in more than generous $589.6 million worldwide, becoming the seventh highest-grossing film of 2008 and the fourth highest-grossing James Bond movie, unadjusted for inflation.
However, the critics response to the movie was something of a major mixed bag. Praise was extended once again to Daniel Craig’s brilliant portrayal of Bond but the uninspired action sequences and the choppy editing which heavily mimicked the contemporary Bourne franchise were not that well received.
The Guardian, which gave the flick 3 stars, summed the movie up best as follows, “Quantum of Solace isn’t as good as Casino Royale: the smart elegance of Daniel Craig’s Bond debut has been toned down in favor of conventional action. But the man himself powers this movie; he carries the film: it’s an indefinably difficult task for an actor. Craig measures up.”
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Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.