Martin Campbell on Edge of Darkness and Green Lantern
Edge of Darkness will get a lot of attention for Mel Gibson’s return to acting after all his controversy. It’s also notable as a Martin Campbell film. The director of Goldeneye, Casino Royal, both Zorro movies and the original BBC series on which Edge of Darkness is based, will next tackle the big screen adaptation of Green Lantern. Campbell let us geek out with him in an exclusive interview.
Crave Online: Is there an art to tough guy talk?
Martin Campbell: I suppose there is. The script was written by Bill Monahan who, as you know, did The Departed. So he probably has a very firm grip of tough guy talk. I think some of the scenes with Mel dealing with, for example, the lawyer and so forth clearly is a lot of tough guy talk.
Crave Online: These characters are so grizzled and gravely, were audio levels ever a problem? Did you have to ADR some of that grizzled dialogue?
Martin Campbell: No, very little. Very little ADR.
Crave Online: Is there a certain BBC style, pace, rhythm you captured?
Martin Campbell: No, not really. The truth is the pace is, look: If you compare this to, say, Taken, which in the first four and a half minutes of the movie dispenses with all its emotional story. The rest of it is Liam Neeson with a gun dealing with these bad guys in Paris, shoots about 200 of them which is a terrific film, by the way. I actually thoroughly enjoyed it, not least of all because of Liam Neeson. He gives it a kind of credibility that perhaps it may not have had. Whereas this is a slower burn, it’s about loss, it’s about grief, it’s about a detective discovering things about his daughter he had no idea she was involved in. So there are other elements to it and an emotional core throughout the movie I hope. So getting back to your point about pace, I think that has to dictate its own pace rather than start off at
Crave Online: You’ve reinvented things before, but this is the first time reinventing your own work. How different is that?
Martin Campbell: To be honest, I didn’t even think of the series when I made the film really. I dismissed it, thought, “You know what? I’ve just got to treat this as a completely different movie.”
Crave Online: Did you have any Déjà vu moments where you felt like you’d been here before?
Martin Campbell: Only once and that’s one shot I do in the scene of the aftermath of the killing of his daughter and he’s sitting on the sofa. Whitehouse approaches and I do a shot where I’m on Whitehouse and I just jib down to Craven’s face. I did exactly that shot in the series. That’s the only time I kind of indulged.
Crave Online: Did you always cut after Danny Huston says, “What does it feel like?”
Martin Campbell: No, there’s a little bit after that which you’ll see in the DVD when they put in the extras. There’s a little bit of a scene where he comes around to Craven and Craven talks to him about the break-in. It felt superfluous. It was so much more powerful to come out on that. A powerful cut that is. It was my editor’s suggestion and Mel’s actually. We all sat there and said, “You know, there’s got to be a better out to this scene.” Of course he repeats that very line when he sits in the car with the gun pointed at Bennett.
Crave Online: But it also pays off because the first moment is so powerful.
Martin Campbell: Well, it’s also such a mad line. It’s such a crazy line.
Crave Online: It also occurred to me, there’s nothing wrong with a stunt double, is there? All this crap about actors doing their own stunts…
Martin Campbell: Sure. First of all, they don’t do it themselves. They may say it but they don’t.
Crave Online: Well, they probably don’t know a second unit came in. So they did all the action they know about.
Martin Campbell: Certainly when truth becomes the legend, print the legend kind of notion. I suppose some reason is that once you see a scene all put together, you do kind of allude to it was you that did it. Not least of all, insurance companies won’t let you go near it.
Crave Online: But it works better visually to cut in a professional stunt double.
Martin Campbell: Yeah, these doubles, stunt people know exactly how to sell it. They’ve watched the lead actor, the way they move, the way they do action, the way they walk. So clearly they can get a very good footprint on terms of their character.
Crave Online: Your next one, Green Lantern, seems tricky with aliens and this ring. How will you approach that?
Martin Campbell: Well, first of all, it’s the origin story so I think people, certainly Green Lantern fans know what that’s about. It’s Hal Jordan. As you know, there’s probably been five Green Lanterns. So it pretty much sticks to the origin story. It sets up Oa, the planet where the Green Lantern calls his base. It sets up Hal’s training on Oa and becoming a Green Lantern. Fear clearly is the enemy. So it’s got all of those.
Crave Online: Is it also a chance to have your own franchise? Bond and Zorro had movies before, but yours will be the first Green Lantern movie.
Martin Campbell: Mm hmm. Well, in a way, Goldeneye sort of, I knew there’d been Bond before but there was an eight year gap between for legal reasons on Bond. So I’m not fearful of that. At the end of the day, you just set up and make the best possible film you can.
Crave Online: Whether it’s Green Lantern or anything else you do, what do you want “A Martin Campbell Film” to mean to audiences?
Martin Campbell: I don’t think I’m that pretentious to even offer up a kind of explanation to that. I suppose the one thing is that they’re entertained. I’m very much of the school of if you want to send a message, send it Western Union and let the film sort of speak for itself. I just think make it as entertaining you can. I’m not there to preach or send messages or make it meaningful.
Crave Online: How do you reflect on your two Bond reinventions? Goldeneye came at an interesting time where it was both postmodern and retro.
Martin Campbell: The thing about Goldeneye at the time was I remember thinking I’ve got to change all this. I felt the Tim Dalton Bonds had sort of gone downhill so much and I was all for how are we going to redo it? Let’s completely rewrite the book. Then I realized, I had an epiphany and thought this is crazy. This series has been so successful for so many years. Why am I f***ing about with it? Why don’t we keep all the good stuff and let’s just make a nod to the ‘90s, i.e. Bond is, I think the line was a male chauvinist dinosaur. Let’s put in a female M and then we’ve done what we’ve got to do. We’ve told an audience what they’re already thinking. Is he relevant, is he not? Now get on with just making a Bond film. So that’s what I did. Casino Royale of course was an opportunity to go back to the tone of the books which they never were in the original movies. They never have been. Even the Connery movies are not in the same tone as the book. Again, I was lucky enough to have an origin story. Bond really doesn’t become Bond until the last frame of the movie. He’s a f***ed up guy. He’s a guy who smokes too much. He doesn’t smoke in the movie but in the books he certainly smokes too much, he drinks too much, he abhors a certain kind of violence when it’s very messy and ugly. It’s something he hates. He finally shoots someone in the forehead with a bullet, but the bathroom scene is very distasteful and ugly and clumsy and messy. So there are elements to Bond, and of course a great relationship with the girl which allowed you the one meaningful relationship in his life apart from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service where he marries the girl. So that was a really great opportunity to get into the tone of the books and make him a much darker, more f***ed up character which was way more interesting in my opinion.
Crave Online: Goldeneye made the best video game though.
Martin Campbell: Oh, apparently it did, of which I didn’t get a cent.