The Making of Casino Royale

New Delhi: He’s unquestionably one of the most enduring characters in cinema, and now, James Bond is back for another outing.

The new Bond film Casino Royale which opened at cinemas across the world this weekend, is being described as a back-to-basics reinvention of the series.

It is after all, adapted from Ian Fleming’s first novel to feature the ultimate secret agent which was published in 1953.

Casino Royale traces the early career of James Bond and his first 007 mission. In fact, the film reveals another side to Bond, one that we’ve been unfamiliar with so far — the romantic side.

In many ways, the film shows us how he came to become the Bond that we have known and loved so far, introducing us to the the events and the people who will shape Bond’s life forever.

Much to the dismay of critics and die-hard Bond fans, the film’s producers last year cast British actor Daniel Craig as the new 007.

Amidst continuing controversy over his height, his rugged looks and the colour of his hair, Craig stepped into the shoes of previous Bonds Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan.

The agenda this time round was clear. After 2002’s special effects heavy Die Another Day left fans a tad disappointed about the direction the series was going in, it was decided that the new film would portray Bond a little darker, a little grittier and a little more realistic than previous times.

So, there are fewer gadgets, almost no digital effects, and a Bond who gets all down and dirty, occasionally getting the crap beaten out of him.

“There are aspects of his character that we have probably never seen in a Bond film before. He is a darker character, he is grittier and stronger, he is more sensitive, vulnerable and he genuinely falls in love with Vesper Lynd in the movie,” says Director of Casino Royale, Martin Campbell.

Sex and Bond have always gone hand in blouse, but neither of the two Bond girls in Casino Royale are the kind he uses and disposes. Italian actress Caterina Murino plays Solange, the beautiful but unhappy wife of the villain’s ruthless associate.

When her husband is rude to her in front of a whole casino, she decides to get back at him by going off for a romp with Bond.

Meanwhile, French actress Eva Green plays Treasury official Vesper Lynd, the woman Bond loses his heart to. Both ladies were drawn to their roles primarily because they weren’t playing the kind of stereotypes one is used to seeing in most Bond movies.

“I really fell in love with the character when I read the script. I thought that the character of Vesper was very funny and very romantic. It is also very unusual and beautiful. She starts off as somebody on her guard, reserved and later opens up and falls in love and shows a lot of sensitivity,” says Green.

Comparing the earlier Bond films with Casino Royale, Murino says, “I think the earlier movie was chauvanistic. Now, everything has changed. I think now the young generations of women will be huge fan of Bond.”

For the role of Bond’s nemesis, Le Chiffre, a banker to the world’s biggest terrorists, the producers cast Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, who invites Bond to a high-stakes poker game at Casino Royale.

In one of the film’s particularly disturbing scenes, Le Chiffre tortures a naked Bond by strapping him to a chair whose seat has been ripped off, and by whipping his underside.

The actors in the film admit Casino Royale is more violent and more bloody than previous Bond films, but there’s an upside to that, they insist.

“If you want people to believe what they see, you have to go that way because you can get more bloody; it is not in the documentary style. The energy is more brutal and if you do violence, it is important that you show the horror of violence,” says Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Le Chiffre.

Green says depicting violence in the film is important as it “shows that he is a secret agent”. The character, she says, “is more physical and realistic”.

With close to $140 million at stake, the fate of Daniel Craig as Bond, and the box-office performance of Casino Royale seem inter-related. The question is, can Daniel Craig succeed in making James Bond cool again after almost 40 years?