Spy Harder

8 AUGUST, 2002, The Editing Suite

With Die Another Day in the can, Total Film is invited back to Pinewood to talk to Lee Tamahori. Bond 20 has been a huge undertaking for him – and doesn’t he know it. “It’s a monster,” he says, slumping on the couch behind his editing desk. “I think the crew list for this will be well over a thousand people, when I normally make a movie with a hundred.”

It’s a monster he’s tamed, even though, as Armstrong puts it, he’s “never done action”. Indeed, Tamahori reveals a desire to shake the Bond formula up – as much as he’s allowed to, anyway...

Total Film: What was it like working with people who have done James Bond movies several times before?
Lee Tamahori: I think every director who comes into this is a little nervous about it because it seems like you’re walking into a cosy structure where everybody is in each others’ pockets. And what I don’t want is everyone turning in exactly the same stunt as last time or saying “Let’s go to this location…” Unfortunately, I have to tell you some of those things have happened, but that’s the minor downside of it. The best thing about it is that I needed as much expertise as I could muster. If I had to assemble my own crew to put this picture together, I’d be three months behind. These guys are so slick at doing it.

TF: Are you trying to make this a new kind of Bond movie?
Tamahori: I did an interview the other day with a journalist who said, “Look, every time I talk to one of you guys, you say you’re making a new Bond movie, then I go see it and it’s the same!” And I said, “Well, I’m not going to say that.” Because I came in here hoping that as well, but while this film is different, there’s so many things that look the same. You have to have girls, gadgets, big action. Pierce has to have his hair like this...

What I didn’t want to do was fall into what I call “the Roger Moore years trap”, you know? So I made sure that when I made this picture, it was going to be a reality-based thriller, but still with outrageous, outlandish aspects, like the stunts and the stuff that we all love.

TF: How has everyone adjusted to the “Tamahori” way of doing things?
Tamahori: You can’t work fast on a Bond movie. For the first three weeks I worked at my usual pace, which is pretty fast, ’cos I come from independent film. But that sent a lot of people into paroxysms of fear. Pierce flipped out, he was like, “Jesus, I’ve never worked this fast, we’ve gotta slow down.” But I convinced him, “Look, you’re in good hands – I love this genre, I’m not just going to come in here and crank out some lame-assed picture.”

TF: We hear there’s more CGI in this movie than ever before in a Bond.
Tamahori: Yeah, the much-vaunted, real-stunt end of Bond movies is, I think, coming to an end. I did an entire digital car stunt on my last movie, Along Came A Spider, because it couldn’t possibly be done for real. And I’m doing one on this movie – an entire digital stunt – which is costing a fortune and everyone is nervous about it. But I’m not.

TF: What did you make of all the rumours about Sean Connery’s cameo?
Tamahori: I proposed that for this movie! I thought it’d be great: Bond receives a message to go to Scotland, where he meets Connery, who tells him, “I was 007 like yourself. Let me tell you something, young fella. You’re supposed to die on the job. But I got out. I had enough of it.” I thought the audience would have loved it But everyone thought it was too dangerous a concept. Something to do with not having two 007s in one movie.

TF: Would you do another Bond?
Tamahori: Yeah, I would. I love the genre. Although I would do it differently. I know I’d want to do something revolutionary. Something that’d make me more energised, rather than be a director getting through it and collapsing after six months of shooting and just going, “Jesus, we got through that.” You feel wrung out like a dish rag!