Martin Campbell, being honored tonight at tonight’s BAFTA/LA Britannia ceremony with the John Schlesinger Award for excellence in directing, remembers having second thoughts when Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson approached him about directing Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as James Bond.
The two producers had been impressed by Campbell’s BAFTA-winning miniseries “Edge of Darkness” and hoped he might resuscitate a series that had hit the wall.
“The trouble with directing Bond films — or any of these big commercial movies — is, like actors, you get pigeonholed, so people send you nothing but big, big action movies,” Campbell says.
Campbell decided he would be a fool to pass on the opportunity. “I did ‘Goldeneye’ because I had not made a film that had taken (in) a dime, quite honestly,” he recalls. But he was still concerned.
Amid questions from the press about whether the Bond franchise itself should be put out to pasture, Campbell recast the spy’s boss M as a woman — with none other than Judi Dench — and let her say the words on everyone’s minds: “I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War.”
It worked. The fans loved Brosnan, and “Goldeneye” became the series’ top earner.
“I was subsequently offered them all after that,” Campbell says, “but the character’s got nowhere to go. You simply have to repeat yourself.”
Feeling the typecasting closing in, he turned down ensuing Bond offers until the producers acquired “Casino Royale,” author Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel.
“The great thing about coming back on ‘Casino’ is that the guy was a rough diamond; he had flaws,” says Campbell. “He wasn’t even Bond at the beginning of the movie, so at least there was somewhere to go.”
Campbell may have kickstarted the franchise twice, but “Casino Royale” was the first time he felt he’d done something truly original with the character. The producers were glad to have him back, giving Campbell creative freedom.
“We knew he could deliver on all counts,” Broccoli says. “He and Daniel (Craig) created a new template.”
Campbell is now eyeing a bigger challenge: convincing Hollywood he can do more than just action blockbusters. He’s spent the last few years developing “Edge of Darkness” as a film script with writer Andrew Bovell (“Lantana”), transplanting to Boston the story of a police inspector obsessed with his daughter’s murder.
“You have to show another side of your work, so I’m deliberately trying to choose something character-driven and personal for my next project,” he says.