1. Dennis Gassner On Designing 'Quantum of Solace'

    By Devin Zydel on 2008-11-22

    Dennis Gassner discusses his vision for the 22nd James Bond film

    Production designer Dennis Gassner was requested by Marc Forster (Director) to bring his signature stylistic set design to Quantum of Solace. Gassner describes his first meeting; “When I first met Marc with Michael and Barbara [the producers], I’d seen his films and, as a person, he was amazing to be with. I thought he was a kindred spirit, somebody who is alive, energetic, and very soft and sensitive which is a lot of my spirit too. We found a common ground immediately so once you have emotional common ground you know the work is going to go well, and it has done. You have to go with your instincts. I go with my instincts on every aspect of how I design films, it’s all emotional response to things. I’m the always the first person to go and see the movie so if it feels good to me, then hopefully it feels good to the rest of the audience and that is my method.”

    Daniel Craig

    Daniel Craig is James Bond in Quantum of Solace

    Gassner joined the team early in pre-production and explains how he began the task of designing a project the size of Quantum of Solace; “When I first started, I viewed the film as a blank canvas. I was asking Marc for something to hold on to, we needed to find something, a touchstone. When it occurred to me, it was so obvious, it was Daniel. He is our James Bond. It was my third time working with Daniel and he has changed and evolved as an actor, but there is one thing that has always been consistent–that great face; it is angular and chiselled, he has great textures to his face and, of course, his piercing blue eyes. From that moment we started to create the language and it built up from there, combining Marc’s taste and mine in great textures. If you look at the film it’s full of that, it’s full of small to large elements, creating this fibre that embraces Daniel.”

    Pressed to pick a favourite location, Gassner sights the ESO Paranal set at 6,000ft altitude in the Atacama Desert. “I think it would have to be the ESO hotel in Chile. It is the furthest location we travelled to and it came to me in a very serendipitous fashion. We were looking for deserts in the world and the Atacama came up in conversation, so I went on line. The first web page on the Atacama had a very, very small photograph of the ESO hotel and it just jumped right out at me. I was here in London, Marc was in LA at his computer and within 5 minutes he called and said ‘we have it, this is it!’.”

    Choosing Chile as a location was a concern to production in terms of budget, but Gassner and Forster were confident it was the right decision. “That is what it was going to take to make this movie, who knows how hard the next one is going to be or the one after that. When you look at the history of these [Bond] films, they have always worked so hard to stimulate the audience in different ways and this was no exception, we were taking it to a new level.”

    The ESO Paranal building gives a wink to the sets associated with the Bond films of the sixties, Gassner comments; “I actually didn’t pick the ESO hotel because of the dome, which gives reference to that great scene in Dr. No, it just happened to be the situation. I’m glad for it because I love that scene but it wasn’t conscious at all. What I was doing was solving my problems. The history of the Bond’s are always in the back of your head but it was more motivation to know we were making the right decisions.”

    'Quantum of Solace'

    Quantum of Solace

    Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli are the producers who inherited the Bond legacy from their father Cubby Broccoli in 1995 and have continued to take the franchise from strength to strength. Gassner enjoyed the experience of working with them. “It is great history and great respect is due to Michael and Barbara who are wonderful to work with. They are inquisitive, interested, always there, letting you do your job and asking the right questions. It’s a great family, it’s important to have that in these films.”

    One of the most striking set designs in the film is the MI6 Head Quarters. Gassner designed a state-of-the-art secret service nerve centre full of light and glass. “I pushed the notion to modernize MI6. The feeling I had from Casino was that Judi was at a place that was a bridge between the older M world and Bond’s world and I wanted to get her up to speed, I wanted her on a computer. Her voice is the signature for MI6, her voice is the ultimate command. I decided she should have a smart wall and her voice should activate anything she needs, to command and control her world. That became a fun image to play with. I wanted the character to feel strong and commanding but still be Judi, so there was still a softness. For example, we built the room for M’s house which was modern but had soft light and furnishings, we were respectful of her past but we wanted to give her character an edge.”

    Early in pre-production, Gassner received a phone call from Daniel Craig. “Barbara handed the phone to me and it was Daniel on the line, he said ‘Dennis, I’m so glad you are on this film. I have one thing to tell to you, I want your gloves off and your knuckles bloody on this one.’ The statement stayed with Gassner throughout the film. “It’s been great to work with him again, what I like about Daniel is he works hard at character and he is always trying to find truth in the character and that’s all I’m trying to do, to find the truth in the character and hopefully it all connects up.”

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