Spy Harder

18 APRIL, 2002: The Diamond Mine, E Stage

Halle Berry is chained to a hydraulic robot arm, with a laser pointing menacingly in her direction. She’s in a tiny studio, packed with several other robot arms whose normal purpose, Total Film is later told, is to make diamonds. But Berry’s not trussed up for long. Pierce Brosnan arrives, having evidently dispatched some local goons, and releases her. This is clearly the first time the characters have met. Jinx tells a dubious Bond that she’s US National Security Agency, which means she’s on the same team. But he doesn’t look convinced. An uneasy alliance has been struck.

By this stage of the production, things are looking very healthy. The Diamond Mine scene reveals that Berry, now an Oscar winner for Monster’s Ball, is going to be a Bond girl with, if you’ll pardon the expression, spunk. Brosnan’s JB, meanwhile, has lost none of his cold-hearted charm. And, over at the 007 stage (the largest soundstage in the world), the cavernous and awesome Ice Palace set has been completed, ice-effect furniture, bearskin covers and all.

However, there have been hiccups. The tabloids have recently gone big on the story of how Halle Berry damaged her eye as a result of an explosion during the Spanish shoot. “It’s totally ridiculous,“ says Berry, later. “It was nothing really. We were shooting a scene where there was a little gun fire and dust got in my eye and I went to the doctor simply to be safe rather than sorry. I got eye drops, went home and the next morning I was as good as new. It was blown way out of proportion.”

Brosnan, though, has suffered a real injury, damaging his knee during the opening sequence hovercraft chase. He had to take a week out for keyhole surgery in LA, shunting the production behind schedule. But Tamahori laughs it off. “What people want to believe about these productions is, it’s hell out there. Tamahori’s putting everybody in hospital, Pierce’s knee is out, Halle needs an operation on her eye... People love that shit, they want to believe it for some reason... Chaos! Turmoil!”

When Total Film joins Brosnan in his trailer, just behind Stage E, he’s the very antithesis of chaos and turmoil. He is obviously wiped out, but calm and in good spirits. Although he is desperate for a cigarette – so desperate, in fact, that he’s willing to accept a Marlboro Red when he really wants a Marlboro Light. But the brief joy of getting his nicotine fix doesn’t distract the exhausted Brosnan from talking Bond...

Total Film: Returning to this role, do you feel you have to try something new, or do you just not worry about it?
Pierce Brosnan: Well, no, you have to worry about it. With the success of the last three, you want this to be the best and you give it 120 per cent every day. You have to, because you set the bar for yourself, really.

TF: Has filming Die Another Day been tougher than your previous Bonds?
Brosnan: It’s certainly been more physically demanding and consequently the knee blew out there. I was gutted, though. I thought: “The production’s going to close down because of me.” It kind of created mayhem for a while, but we’re on course now.

TF: How did it happen?
Brosnan: I didn’t warm up that morning, and suddenly you have to do a 150-yard dash through explosions and jump on a moving hovercraft and bingo! You end up with a meniscus problem, like I did.

TF: You’re 007 for the 40th anniversary movie. Does that mean you feel a heavier sense of responsibility?
Brosnan: Well, I wouldn’t like this to be my first Bond, that’s for sure! You just get on with it. It’s a leviathan of a piece. But this script has a good flow to it. I think Tomorrow Never Dies was a very hard one to understand. Sometimes the audience lose the plot. But in this, the narrative is much more stiletto and lean.

TF: What’s been the toughest thing about the shoot so far?
Brosnan: Well, every day is a challenge, because there’s no easy scenes in this per se... You know, action scenes, just running down a corridor, running up steps into a hot tub carrying a girl...

TF: Sounds terrible!
Brosnan: Yeah, sounds terrible if you happen to smash yourself up! You can look at the scene and you’ll say: “Oh that sounds easy.” And then when it comes down to it, you have to run across a set with six cameras filming, squibs going off and explosions, and you have to know where the explosions are... [Sighs] It’s great stuff, though. It’s wonderful. It’s a buzz! You know, it’s like no other job. There’s nothing like a Bond movie. It’s wall-to-wall action.

TF: How has working with Halle Berry been?
Brosnan: She’s someone who I’ve been watching for some time now. Not only is she beautiful but she’s a hard-working actress and she is an actress and that is... you know... “Please get an actress. Get someone who you can act with and who’s going to give it back to you!” So I’m very excited to work with Halle.

TF: And how about Lee Tamahori?
Brosnan: Well, Lee’s in the same vein as GoldenEye director Martin Campbell. He has the same kind of ferocious intensity to film-making, but a different style. Lee is much more improvisational, so that took a bit of getting used to at the beginning, and it means he’s on a knife-edge, too. Not that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he very much knows what he’s doing. He’s not going to pull any punches and I like that, because we’re trying to bring this down... I mean, it’s gotten so away from what used to happen back in the days of Connery. But the films are so fantastic now that you can lose the character in there. And Lee’s a good man for pulling this down and making it a reality-based, character-driven piece. He’s hungry for it.

TF: Will you be returning for a fifth Bond?
Brosnan: Well, people keep asking me and it’s easier to say, “Yes, I’d love to do one.” I’ve had the time of my life the last six years. I don’t think I could have done that without Bond. One can only take the high road with something like this and just enjoy it. So yes, I’d love to do a fifth. Sixth? I don’t know.