ARTICLES




National Post Online
12/31/02
Master of the blades
by Richard Cohen 

Bob Anderson has taught swordplay to the greats of the actingworld, including elfin Arwen FELPHAM, England - The latest handiwork of Bob Anderson, who hasspent nearly 50 years making sword fights on the screen look convincing, can be seen in the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Lord of the Rings. 

Though the battle scenes have drawn praise from some critics, the results are not, Anderson is quick to point out, fencing in thetraditional mode. "We use weird weapons," he said. "It's not fencing, I've got to tell you. It's hammering each other with swords. Tremendous!" With Tolkien setting his story in Middle-Earth, conjuring up medieval times, Anderson said he had to deal with "all sorts of characters -- barbaric creatures, really ugly-looking brutes." "So I made it bestial, but there's still some really neat swordplay," he added. 

Anderson prides himself on his reputation for safety, and will not accept any shortcuts. When Liv Tyler, who plays the young heroine Arwen, was told to practice for her sword fights, she was less than enthusiastic and faced the full force of the sword master's wrath, he said. 

"I told her I was going away for a while, leaving her with my assistant," he said. "If she wasn't properly rehearsed on my return, I would report as such to the film's director, Peter Jackson. When I got back, I could see a gleam in my assistant's eye so I knew something was up. Liv put on one of the best fights I've ever seen a girl do." 

Anderson is widely acknowledged as the master of his craft. No one else can match his experience, imaginative swordplay or longevity. "It started in 1952," he said. "I was in England, in the Royal Marines, and had made the British sabre team for the Helsinki Olympics." 

Ten days before the games he was asked if he was free to act as double and fight arranger in an Errol Flynn movie, The Master of Ballantrae. He said he hit it off with Flynn immediately, but during a duel in Sicily he played a French pirate, and pierced Flynn in the thigh. Flynn said immediately that it was his own fault -- he had been distracted by a boat passing by -- and soon the two men were off drinking together. But for long afterward fellow stuntmen mercilessly recalled the thrust. "That's the man who stabbed Errol Flynn," they would warn actors, Anderson said. 

He went on to work with Flynn on two other movies. During a career of more than 100 films, he doubled for Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, taught Richard Gere his swordplay for First Knight and tutored Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones for The Mask of Zorro. 

During half of his film career, he fenced competitively. At the Helsinki Games, he narrowly missed the final because of an injury. In 1954, he was appointed Britain's national coach, remaining until 1979. He won the British sabre title from 1962 to 1964 and the professional championships in all three weapons -- foil, sabre and épée -- for four years in succession. He went to seven Olympics, first as competitor, then as coach. 

Anderson's film fights often emphasize the romantic Three Musketeers style of swordplay, which is different from the ultrarealism of such films as Rob Roy or The Duellists, or the impossible swordplay of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, in which the skills belong to the special-effects room, not the fencers. He is the first to point out, though, that competitive fencing and the film version are worlds apart. 

"Everything's bigger on film," he said. "You have to pull back your arm before making a foil or épée thrust, and at sabre almost take it back over your head so the audience can see it coming." Whenever possible, he likes to train actors to do the fight scenes for themselves, he said. "A double never has quite the feeling of the actor," he said. "There's always something mechanical about them." 

But he had to stand in for Sean Connery in the original Highlander as here wasn't time to teach the actor the moves. 
At 6 feet 1 inch tall, marine-fit and handsome, Anderson said he thought for a while that he might have a career as an actor, but an early film, playing a heavy who is forced at sword point to the edge of a cliff and mortally wounded, taught him that there was more to the craft than he thought: 

" 'That's no good, Bob,' the director said. 'You're meant to be dying, but you look as if you're enjoying it.' " Enthusiasm is a trait he has passed on to his actors: When Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes appeared in the 1987 film The Princess Bride, they would go on slashing away at each other long after cut was shouted, and had to be called to order for the next scene. 
Many actors he has trained have been fine athletes, he said. For the 1998 Mask of Zorro, the actors practiced their fight scenes for more than two months, sometimes fencing 10 hours a day until they got it right. Zeta-Jones has trained in ballet and Banderas was rated by Anderson as the best natural talent he has worked with. 

He starts each action sequence by teaching the rhythm he wants, and works slowly up from there. "The most important thing is the changing rhythm of the blades," he said. "If all goes along at the same tempo it gets boring, so you have to go broad and slow, then fast and fluid." 

Swords are usually aluminum replicas, light and well balanced, but they sound dull as they strike, so the actual clash of steel against steel has to be added later. 

"We used to call him Grumpy Bob on the set, he was such a perfectionist," said Martin Campbell, the director of Zorro. "He was incredibly inventive, and also refused to treat any of the actors as stars. They would complain about the intensity of the training, but having worked with him, there's nobody I'd rather use." Preparations are underway for the same team and cast to make a sequel in 2002. 

After each film, Anderson says he is going to retire, but then he recants. He is now in England, preparing the sword fighting for the new James Bond film. The film should be ready by November, although so far only Pierce Brosnan has been cast.
 



HOEFN, Iceland (AP)-
007 Crew Films in Iceland: No snow. No 007. No Problem.
March 13, 2002 

No matter. 

A film crew moved trees, flew in some snow, and got on with work this week on the next James Bond movie, "Die Another Day." 

Star Pierce Brosnan was recovering from knee surgery and couldn't make it. He was injured a few weeks ago during filming of a hovercraft stunt scene. 

"I wanted Pierce to be here, but we couldn't get him," said second unit director Vic Armstrong, adding that images of Brosnan filmed back in England could be inserted into the Icelandic scenes later. 

Roughly 200 crew members were shooting at the dramatic Joekulsarlon glacial lagoon in southeast Iceland for a five-minute chase sequence in the 20th Bond film. 

"It's the climax to the middle of the movie. Bond is being chased and he must escape to save Halle Berry from the Ice Palace that's about to sink," said Armstrong, who also worked on Bond films "Tomorrow Never Dies" and "The World is Not Enough." 

"It's the scene with all the guns and gadgets." 

In "Die Another Day," set for release Nov. 22, the villain's henchman, Zao (Rick Yune), lives in Iceland. 

The chase involves a convertible green Jaguar and a gray Aston Martin racing across the frozen lagoon with turquoise icebergs as obstacles. The eight cars used in production were modified to drive on ice. 

Armstrong said he aims to "keep the cars flowing, spinning. It will be like a ballet." 

Joekulsarlon is on the edge of the Vatnajokull glacier, the world's third-largest ice cap. The lagoon, 240 miles from Reykjavik, was formed mostly after 1950 when the glacier began receding. It is about 330 feet deep in places, and is one of Iceland's most popular tourist attractions. It has appeared in numerous films, including the Bond film "A View to a Kill" and last year's "Tomb Raider." 

Ice on the lagoon must be at least a foot thick to support the crew and cars. To strengthen it, the filmmakers blocked the inlet to keep out warmer sea water. 

"We hired two bulldozers and dammed the enclosure using only natural materials," says Leifur Dagfinnsson, unit manager. "We basically enhanced what nature does every year." 

Nature also failed to oblige the film's need for snow in a scene set in a forest. So the action was moved to a glacier, snow was flown in, and a forest was manufactured from 225 Norway spruce taken from the Hallormsstadur National Forest in eastern Iceland. 

Iceland has few trees - woodlands cover just 1.3 percent of the land - but Throestur Eysteinsson, general director of the Forestry Service, said the sacrifice caused no pain. 

"The trees were mainly the small young ones and needed to be thinned out of the stands," he said.


YAHOO: For Your Wrist Only, James
June 25, 2002

He may have a licence to kill and spend his time with some of the most gorgeous women in the world draped over him but it would seem that James Bond star Pierce Brosnan can't keep his hands on his watch.

It's been reported that, during the filming of the latest 007 flick, Die Another Day, the absent-minded spy has managed to lose three, yes three, of the expensive Omega watches worn by his character. Not to worry, though, as part of the contract Bond producer Eon Productions has with the watchmakers states that the star gets the pricey timepieces replaced free of charge.


Yun Lee's role to 'Die' for 
July 30, 2002

For "Witchblade" co-star Will Yun Lee, doing double duty-shooting the
series and the latest James Bond flick, "Die Another Day" simultaneously-
was nothing short of heaven. 

Declares Lee,"I felt like a 5-year-old with the giggles every time I was on the
movie set. It was like a dream come true to actually be part of a James Bond movie." 
To complete both projects, Lee found himself flying between Vancouver,where his
series shoots, and the film's London location every week for 4 1/2 months. 
And while  Lee says "sleep was my biggest sacrifice" he'd do it all over again
for a chance to battle Bond, James Bond. 


Vanity Fair: "For Your Eyes Only"
September 2002

The September 2002 issue of Vanity Fair has a four page photo spread taken on the set of 'Die Another Day'. The photos are by Greg Williams and will appear in the book 'Bond On Set: Filming Die Another Day'. Vanity Fair's Bruce Handy finds out more about 'girls, gadgets and guns.'
For the latest James Bond adventure, November's Die Another Day, director Lee Tamahori made sure to give Pierce Brosnan the full quota of gadgets and gunfire. But when the latest Bond girl is Halle Berry, Bruce Handy learns, 007 may also get the best sex he ever had....

Ring, ring. Lee Tamahori is on the phone from Pinewood Studios, outside London, where he is wrapping up his chores as director of the 20th James Bond movie, 'Die Another Day,' which should not be confused with 'Tomorrow Never Dies,' the 18th Bond film and the one with the most idiotic title, since no one really expects "tomorrow" to "die," being that it's a point in time and all. Best Bond title? 'Thunderball,' hands down; it works on so many levels.

But anyway, Lee Tamahori is on the phone. He is previously the director of 'Once Were Warriors,' 'Mulholland Falls,' and 'Along Came a Spider.' How, we want to know, does a director of such relatively idiosyncratic fare - certainly in comparison with 'Octopussy' - navigate the ritualized narrative, the popcorn Kabuki, that is a Bond movie? "Girls, gadgets, guns," he says, "those are indeed your building blocks. I mean, you know that since it's a Bond he's going to shoot someone and drive a car. But I always head for a sense of logic. It's a thriller, and in a thriller everything has to be treated seriously." 

One example: "In lovemaking, Bond's PG requirements have traditionally meant you can only show post-coital sex. You know, clothes strewn about the room, the camera slowly pans over to the bed.... But we thought, why couldn't Bond have the best lay of his life? So we shot a very hot love scene. Whether it survives the censor's cut - or the producers' - we'll see."

Pierce Brosnan returns for his fourth spin as 007, while Halle Berry has been anointed the new "Bond girl." As a follow-up to her Oscar-winning role in 'Monster's Ball,' it's an interesting choice, for both her and the series: there have been other Bond girls who could act, but only rarely were they asked to. Tamahori insists this time will be different. "It's been a joyride," he says, now heading into the editing room. "I'll regret it if it comes out the same old Bond."


Maxim Fashion (Excerpt)
The Man Who Saves The World
Oct 2002

“Seventy- Three, Take One”

A rough outline of how James Bond got here runs thus:  Betrayed during a covert operation in North Korea, Bond has been held hostage for some time – enough at least to grow this image changing mane.  Finally, he’s released, but he loses patience with Dame Judi Dench and her stuffed shirt MI6 cronies during his debrief aboard a Navy Vessel and decides to jump ship, literally. Into the waters of Hong Kong – a city represented cinematically by a few Christmas tree lights on a black cloth background which miraculous appear like a distant metropolis when viewed in playback.

In this brief scene Bond is to exit from a bulkhead door, evade two sailors who are scouring the ship for him, and leap into the water.

Cameras roll.  Brosnan approaches the door barefoot, looks quickly around it, strides to the side and jumps.

He falls five feet to an out of shot mattress where his slippers are waiting.

But somehow it’s not Bond enough.  “It felt kinda wrong,” Brosnan ticks himself off quietly.  “You’re trying to be stealthful, but you’re dressed in pajamas and a Robinson Crusoe wig and you’re James Bond.”  He and director Lee Tamahori have a few words.

Brosnan does it again.  This time the action is slower.  He looks almost bored as he hides from the scurrying seamen.  With casual sangfroid, he walks to the side of the deck and then, with a quick look over his shoulder jumps into the sea.

This time he’s not playing it as if he’s in her Majesty’s Forces issue pajamas.  He’s playing it as if he’s wearing the sharpest Saville Row suit yet made.  Much better.





Cinescape: Stock In Bond (12/02)

New 007 Director Lee Tamahori refuses 
to be trapped by franchises 40-year history

August  2002
By: Andrew Osmond

"I’ve always been a Bond fan,” days Lee Tamahori self styled “wife-beating” director from New Zealand (a joking referenced to Tamahori’s acclaimed Once Were Warriors). But the helmsman of Die Another Day says he lost interest in the series for a while.  “I got tired of Bond during the Roger Moore years, as a lot of us did, when it got a bit hokey.  Timothy Dalton was OK, but it was when Pierce Brosnan came along that Bond got re-enlivened.  Goldeneye revamped the character in a really fantastic way.  Instead of a smooth suave sophisticate, this was now a new MI6, SAS assassin-type Bond.

In Goldeneye, Judi Dench’s M famously called Bond “a sexist misogynist dinosaur, a relic from the Col War”.  But Tamahori leaps to agent’s defense.

“There are some facets to the character that everyone has grown up loving,” the director says.  “If some those seem anachronistic and antediluvian, so be it.  We try and reshape those to fit into a modern idiom, but I’m not going to be the person to turn Bond into a New Age guy on the shrink’s couch.  This is the man that saves the world and we’ve all seen it many times and we like him to keep doing it.  There’s only on James Bond and he’s been going for 40 years.  Let’s face it, he’s always been desirous of beautiful women!  You cannot escape the fact that Bond is about girls, gadgets and big action.  It’s a kind of mantra.” 

Girls, gadgets and action – is that all there is to it?  Tamahori says no.

“If you only serve those things up I think you do a disservice to 40 years of the genre,” he says.  “I grew up watching Bond as Cold War spy thriller -- From Russia With Love was probably my favorite.  Later the series moved into the outrageousness of You Only Live Twice, then into the high-camp Roger Moore years with big action and spectacular stunts.  All the time, it’s been metamorphing.  You can’t go back to Ian Fleming’s Bond now, because 40 years and 19 past movies have changed people’s perceptions of what this guy is.  He’s not Sean Connery anymore, and certain things do not hold true now.  I find it very dull when Bond goes off to casinos of the opera – it’s so boring!  Tuxedos and wandering around Monaco and chips and roulette wheels… you need some more juice these days.”

What kind of juice?  Modestly, Tamahori gives credit to his colleagues.

“Michael Wilson [Bond Producer since the 70’s] and the writers [Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who also scripted The World Is Not Enough] are always striving to enrich Bond,”  Tamahori says.  “They put a modern spin on the story, no matter how outrageous it becomes in terms of stunts and action and highly unbelievable situations Bond winds up with girls.  If you look through some of the recent stories they’ve been running Rupert Murdock type magnates [Tomorrow Never Dies] and oil scams in Azerbaijan [The World Is Not Enough].  There’s always someone who wants to take over the world.  Donald Pleasance set the bar in You Only Live Twice and you’ve just got to come up with new ones!

The chief villain in Die Another Day is supposedly benign business whiz kid called Gustav Graves, played by Brit Shakespearean thespian Toby Stephens.  This time out Tamahori went for the unusual contrast between Bond and the baddie.

What’s interesting is that this is now Pierce’s fourth Bond outing,” the director explains.  “He’s getting more mature, which I like.  Usually the chief villains are the same age or older. But we decided to peg this villain as much younger guy.  He’s 30ish, brash, cheeky, energetic, high-octane and very physical. We made him an extreme sportsman, giving him the spirit of Ayrton Senna or Donald Campbell – guys who pushed themselves to the edge.  When he and Bond go at each other in this movie, they do it with great physical gusto because that’s what the roles entail.”

And what of the reports that Graves is modeled on British tycoon Richard Branson?  Tamahori harrumphs loudly.

“I don’t want Branson to come down on me like a ton of bricks!” muses Tamahori.  “I really admire him, his public persona, I like his cheek, the really brash way Branson just takes on the world.  I wanted our villain to have this charisma, so I talked about his Bransonesque personality.  I am not saying Branson is a megalomaniacal villain!”

Die Another Day uses an unprecedented amount of CG for a Bond film.  Although the film promises masses of “real” action courtesy of revered stunt veteran Vic Armstrong, the director acknowledges the CG may worry fans.

“It’s creating lots of nervousness because the Bond movies are historically very orientated toward real stunts, “ Tamahori says.  “They do things for real, throe people off cliffs and blow things up.  There’s usually not much Matrix style CG.  We’re embarking on one sequence which uses a lot of CG only because it could not be done as a real stunt, and I knew that when I put it in.  It’s a massive, gigantic, monstrous action piece, costing a fortune, that’s never been seen before. “ (Clue: Tamahori had the idea for the sequence when filming his wilderness picture The Edge) 

For all Tamahori’s progressive ambitions Die Another Day mark’s Bond’s 40th anniversary with many nods to the past.

“I’m jamming in dozens of references to all the old movies, homages for those who love them,” he says.  Many involve gadgets and hardware but new Bond girl Halle Berry (fresh from her Oscar Win for Monster’s Ball) also recreates a very famous scene from Dr. No.  “How could we miss Halle redoing Ursula Andress in a bikini?” asks Tamahori rhetorically.  “She did it brilliantly!”

And does the director feel pressured by the anniversary?

“Not really,” he says. “It’s just that, given this is the 40th anniversary and 20th movie, I’d better not  f**k it up!”