1. I want to deliver an action picture that's up there with other action movies.

    By David Winter on 2002-07-22

    Australian-based newspaper Sunday Mail has interviewed Bond 20 Director Lee Tamahori, additionally they've published a great article on the shooting of Die Another Day.

    DRESSED in striking white fencing garb and with sabre in hand, Pierce Brosnan looks fit as a fiddle as he takes part in a friendly thrust-and-parry with his To Die Another Day co-star Toby Stephens.

    Brosnan is, after all, Bond — James Bond.

    And with Brosnan at 50, the suave British action hero is facing his toughest test — younger villains who are set to shake, not just stir, the decades-old film franchise.

    Spoiler Warning (Highlight To Read) The fencing scene from the latest instalment is crucial to the development of the plot.

    The setting is the fencing parlour of an elaborate London gentleman’s club, complete with glass cases full of swords and suits of armour.

    The exteriors are the Reform Club in Pall Mall and 33-year-old Stephens (aka Gustav for the purposes of this film), son of actors Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens, is the youngest Bond villain ever.

    Spoiler Warning (Highlight To Read) The idea of the fencing scene is that when the action suddenly gets serious, Gustav’s true nature begins to be revealed.

    Brosnan refers to Stephens as "the best bad guy in the four Bond movies that I've done". (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough are the others.)

    And that suits To Die Another Day's New Zealand director, Lee Tamahori, who was keen to keep his villains young (there are also two young Asian-American baddies, Rick Yune, memorable from Snow Falling on Cedars, and newcomer Will Yun Lee) to appeal to the under-30s audience.

    "The under-30s are growing up on a high level of video-gaming and we have to deliver a higher level of high-end visual action, and you can't do that '80s Bond movie any more," says Tamahori, who concedes he is still best known for his hard-edged "wife-beating" drama, Once Were Warriors.

    "Since (director and fellow Kiwi) Martin Campbell came in in the '90s and re-invented the Bond formula with GoldenEye, we've had to keep moving forward.

    "I want to deliver an action picture that's up there with other action movies."

    Tamahori has made this 20th Bond movie faster and more furious than the previous 19, and his movie boasts not one but two impressive, death-defying, stunt-filled set pieces, Spoiler Warning (Highlight To Read) one involving a hovercraft (shades of Bond on the Thames in The World is Not Enough) and the second a car chase among Iceland’s glaciers, which was shot partly on freezing locations and partly on the 007 sound stage at Pinewood Studios, outside London..

    The set, comprising glaciers and an ice palace — which Tamahori describes as "bigger than the Sydney Opera House" — is the largest since the submarine bay in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me.

    The scene will also see the return of Bond in a silver grey Aston Martin car, the new B12 Vanquish (Brosnan got one this month). Stephens drives a racing-green Jaguar XKR and the Bond girl for this outing, Halle Berry, a hot pink Thunderbird.

    British film icons Dame Judi Dench (as M) and John Cleese (as R, replacing Desmond Llewellyn's Q) also star.

    Spoiler Warning (Highlight To Read) The story, which is set in North and South Korea, Hong Kong, Cuba (Spain was a substitute) and London, has mostly been kept under wraps and tells of Bond, assisted by Bond girls Jinx (Berry) and MI6 agent Miranda Frost (deftly played by blonde British newcomer Rosamund Pike) trying to unmask a hi-tech evil-doer and to prevent a global war.

    It seems there's every likelihood that Berry might just steal the show, and that's OK with the ever-generous Brosnan, who will most likely be back for two more films while the Bond girls usually don't get another day.

    "If Halle does that, fair play to her," he says. "She is brilliant, she is at the top of her form.

    "Everyone was behind her 100 per cent. Here is someone who really has worked hard and if her performance makes the audience come in, makes the movie better, then fantastic.

    "The trick is ego-no ego, which is a very hard row to hoe."

    Berry was a casting coup for Tamahori, who wanted the actor after seeing her in Swordfish, long before the strength of her performance in Monster's Ball (she won an Oscar) became known.

    His emphasis was on quality acting rather than bimbos for his Bond girls.

    Tamahori wanted to pay homage to other Bond movies as much as he could, Spoiler Warning (Highlight To Read) and in one scene has Berry clad in bikini rising out of the water in the fashion of Ursula Andress — or Undress, as she has often jokingly been called — in 1962’s Dr No.

    However, there will be no nude Berry here. "We couldn't afford it," the director jokes.

    The film, which wrapped last week, contains an undisclosed scene where Madonna might just turn up in a cameo. She sings the film's title theme.

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