Eva Green also shares the screen with famed Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini, who plays Mathis, a grizzled MI6 operative stationed in Montenegro. “Giancarlo is very crazy in a nice way, very charismatic,” she observes. “He is relaxed about his work and often had a wicked glint in his eyes that made it hard to keep a straight face during our scenes.”
Although she was not involved in many of the film’s elaborate action sequences, Green learned to scuba dive for her final scene, where she becomes trapped underwater in a fallen elevator cage inside a dilapidated Venetian palazzo. “I had to learn how to control my breathing underwater,” says Green. “In the beginning it was scary, although of course it is perfectly safe because there are so many people looking after you. Also, I’m nearsighted, so I couldn’t really see what was going on. I rehearsed in clear water, but during the takes the water had to be murky, like the Grand Canal. I think they used broccoli to get the right color!”
Green is full of praise for producers Broccoli and Wilson’s distinctive approach to moviemaking. “They are passionate about filmmaking and will do anything to make it work. I’ve never had such positive involvement from producers before. In the beginning they helped me enormously with the character. They made me feel as if I was part of this big family. Being surrounded by calm people keeps the pressure off, and I could just focus on the work at hand.”
“He’s ice cold.” — Mads Mikkelsen
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen was thrilled to take on one of cinema’s most despised (and prized) roles: the Bond villain. “I’m attracted to scripts where my character might have some secrets, so to be offered the role of Le Chiffre, ‘the Cipher,’ a man with no real name, was perfect. Many actors say that playing the villain is more interesting than playing the good guy because he always has a twist in his character. But I think if you are playing the bad guy, you try to show a good side to him sometimes, and if you are playing the good guy, you try to show a flaw in him, so it’s not one-dimensional for the audience. My favorite Bond villain was Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill. He’s got what it takes to be a good villain.”
Mikkelsen purposely chose not to read the Ian Fleming novel before production began on CASINO ROYALE, preferring instead to develop his character exclusively from the screenplay and his extensive discussions with director Martin Campbell. He notes that Le Chiffre isn’t the typical Bond-movie bad guy: Rather than a megalomaniacal madman looking to take over world, Le Chiffre is an amoral criminal mastermind with a thirst for hard currency.
“He’s living in the contemporary world and trying to make as much money as possible, just like everybody else,” says Mikkelsen. “He’s smart and clever and doesn’t boast about his successes. He rarely gets his own hands dirty, but he will if he has to. When we meet him he’s rich and successful, but Bond is on his tail. And when the chips are down he doesn’t show his emotions. He’s ice cold.”
In order to recoup his massive stock-market losses, Le Chiffre organizes a poker game in Montenegro for international high rollers with a $10 million buy-in. The actors took poker lessons and rehearsed the games before filming began in order to keep the performances fresh as the hands were played and replayed over several days.
Producer Wilson, a self-described poker “addict,” supervised the rehearsals himself. “Most of us could already play poker and, as well as rehearsing the tournament, we played poker for fun,” says Mikkelsen. “In fact we often ended up playing in the corridors of [Prague’s] Barrandov Studios between scenes.”
Playing cards on camera for three weeks apparently only whet the actors’ appetite for the game. One night Mikkelsen and some of his fellow actors ventured out to a casino in Prague – where they promptly ran into Wilson.
Like most gamblers, Le Chiffre has a tell, an involuntary tic that reveals how he feels about his hand, explains Mikkelsen. “He has a scar on his eye, and the vein starts to pump when his heart rate increases, so he casually presses his finger against it to stop, but Bond notices. It has to be as subtle as possible, of course, or he wouldn’t win many poker games. But Le Chiffre manages to turn this flaw to his advantage.”
“I’m drunk with power.” — Judi Dench
Oscar winner Dame Judi Dench returns in her fifth film as M, James Bond’s steely superior at MI6, the British Secret Service. “Judi is now so much a part of Bond, she is a national treasure,” says Campbell.
Unlike in her previous roles in GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day, in CASINO ROYALE we get a glimpse of M’s home life when the brash young Bond sneaks into her house to gain access to a secret database using her computer. “It’s a riveting question,” says Campbell. “What kind of home do you imagine M has? An old Georgian house in an elegant London square? No, this woman is full of surprises, so we’ve gone for a modern penthouse on the river in London’s Canary Wharf. And it suits her!”
Dench agrees. “I love the flat that Peter Lamont has designed for M. I think it will be a shock for people who might have expected her to have a little house in Kensington or a pied-a-terre in Covent Garden. It’s very minimalist, very tasteful. And of course the exact address is a secret, except to me, and now James Bond!”
Dench, who has been nominated for five Academy Awards and received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar® for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love, also enjoyed the opportunity to take her character out of the confines of London’s MI6 headquarters, shooting scenes at Barrandov Studios in Prague and on location in the Bahamas. She was also happy the film steered clear of any high-tech spy gizmos. “In this film I don’t have to get entangled with any gadgets, which is just as well, as I can’t even work an ironing board!”
In CASINO ROYALE, M has only recently awarded Bond 00 status and her relationship with him is still in its early stages. After she gets raked over the coals by Parliament over a bloody shootout in a foreign embassy, the senior intelligence officer makes it perfectly clear that she expects Bond to stick to protocol going forward. Instead, he disregards his superior’s instructions and heads off on his own to the Bahamas to investigate the origins of a bombing plot, further infuriating M.
“After that, she’s reluctant to entrust him with the responsibility of playing in the poker game, but she seems to have no alternative,” says Dench. “By the end of the film you understand that Bond has grown, and M knows she is onto a good thing.”
Dench gives a hearty thumbs-up to the actor who has stepped into the role of her maverick subordinate. “Daniel has a wonderful presence. He’s very handsome and strong, but at the same time, you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of him. Those are all perfect traits to have as an actor. He seems to have relaxed into the role. I’m sure it gave him some anxiety, as it would any actor, but he doesn’t show it on set. He has a great sense of humor, and I always find a shared sense of humor is the first clue to working well with an actor. He also has a kind of self-deprecation about him that is very attractive.”
The venerable stage and screen actress describes director Campbell, with whom she first worked on GoldenEye, as “a safe pair of hands.” “I did my first-ever Bond with Martin, and it’s good to come back to work with him again. He is very enthusiastic and knows the conditions that actors like to work within. He knows that when you are doing repeated takes, you need to have an atmosphere of suspended calm and quiet, so you can get to the next take quickly while everything is still clear in your mind. There’s nothing worse than an enormous break between takes, with people relaxing and wandering about. Martin is encouraging, gentle and excitable. And he knows the Bond scene very, very well.”
“She has great sex. Then he’s gone!” — Caterina Murino
Italian actress Caterina Murino almost missed out on the opportunity to play Solange, the beautiful but unhappy wife of Le Chiffre’s ruthless associate, Alex Dimitrios. She was filming in Argentina when the first casting session took place in Paris, but she got a second chance while filming in Rome where another audition was being held. “The day before my appointment I fell from a horse while rehearsing and ended up in the hospital with a back injury. I went to the casting session filled with painkillers. I could hardly walk! And then they asked me if I could ride, and I had to answer that I had just fallen off a horse!”
Despite the rocky start, Murino soon received the call at home in Sardinia offering her the role of Solange. “I was filming that day, dressed as a male soldier, with a false beard and a baby – the opposite of a Bond girl! Everyone was asking me, ‘Are you sure the call was for you?’”
Although CASINO ROYALE marks Murino’s first film role in English, languages come naturally to the 29-year-old actress. “I learned French in four months to play Jean Reno’s sister in a French film, and I also filmed in Spanish in Argentina. But while I’ve worked in English on a television drama, I had to practice my English, and my horseback riding, for a couple of months.”
Murino describes Solange as a very modern woman with poor taste in men. “My husband is Dimitrios, Le Chiffre’s right-hand man. He is strong and rich and bad, a powerful combination, which attracts women. When she meets Bond, her husband has just been very rude to her in front of the whole casino. She decides to have some fun and get back at him, so she goes off with Bond. She doesn’t know who he is. He’s just a sexy guy who invites her for a drink. She has great sex, and then he’s gone. But she pays a high price for her fun.”
Describing Bond’s near-universal appeal to women, Murino says, “We always fall in love with the impossible man, the man you have for one night who never comes back. James is tough, dangerous and smart. He travels the world, but he never gives his heart, only his body. You shouldn’t fall in love with him. With Bond and Solange the energy is purely sexual. It’s chemistry.”
“Normally I don’t find sex scenes very comfortable,” the actress adds. “But Daniel and Martin Campbell made it very easy, and I felt very calm. Martin has a lot of energy and a lot of authority. You can see that he likes to make action movies, but he’s also great with intimate scenes.”
Murino says she was also thrilled to be working with Judi Dench, although under unusual circumstances. “I had only one scene with Judi, and by that time I was dead. Can I still say I acted with Judi Dench, even though I was only acting dead?”
“It is a great story and a great thriller.” — Ivana Milicevic
Portraying Le Chiffre’s deadly female sidekick, Valenka, is Bosnian-born American Ivana Milicevic, whose numerous television and film credits include HBO’s “Mind of the Married Man,” Just Like Heaven and Love, Actually.
“I watched 007 when I was a kid, and I remember being terrified of Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me,” says Milicevic. “Suddenly to be an adult and cast as a villain in a Bond film is fantastic.”
While most of Milicevic’s considerable acting experience has been in dramas and comedies, she says she felt right at home on the set of CASINO ROYALE. “In a way, it’s like working on the independent films I’m used to. We would discuss each scene, rehearse, discuss the details and all come up with ideas. I was impressed that this was the way Martin Campbell handled such a big movie. A Bond film seems like a family who know exactly how to bring out the best in one another. You feel comfortable that everyone is really focused on what they want, which is great.”
“I hope all the Bond fans are going to love CASINO ROYALE,” says Milicevic, “but I also hope people who have never seen a Bond film watch it as a great story and a great thriller.”
Casino Royale (2006)
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Caterina Murino, Tobias Menzies, Ivana Milicevic, Simon Abkarian, Giancarlo Giannini, Sebastien Foucan
Screenplay by: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis
Production Design by: Peter Lamont
Cinematography by: Phil Meheux
Film Editing by: Stuart Baird
Costume Design by: Lindy Hemming
Set Decoration by: Lee Sandales, Simon Wakefield
Art Direction by: Peter Francis, James Hambidge, Michael Lamont, Simon Lamont, Steven Lawrence, Dominic Masters
Music by: David Arnold
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity.
Distributed by Columbia Pictures, Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Release Date: November 17, 2006