Martin Campbell is a film and television director. He became known for the British miniseries Edge of Darkness (1985), for which he won the BAFTA Award. In the 1990s, Campbell established himself as a master of commercial cinema. He directed films such as ‘The Mask of Zorro’ (1998) and ‘The Legend of Zorro’ (2005) starring Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones; ‘Vertical Frontier’ (2000). He directed two of the most iconic films in the James Bond series – ‘GoldenEye’ (1995) and ‘Casino Royale’ (2006).
You became very famous with films like The Mask of Zorro, Casino Royale, GoldenEye. Why did you focus on this genre?
Look, James Bond had been famous since 1962. Then he achieved incredible success. I think people love him because he’s a great character. Bond is one of those characters that every man wants to be, and every woman wants to have in bed, so he’s really famous. The truth is that the Bond character is always great, always presenting something new even in the older movies he is an incredible character never seen before. I think the plot, when we talk about The Mask of Zorro, again includes a lot of action, and yet it’s Zorro, it’s not Bond; but Zorro is a hero – just like Bond.
I think people just enjoy it, they love the character because he is funny and they don’t have to think too much. I think they come out of the cinema feeling very good. They saw something that distracted them from the world and everyday problems for two hours. That’s how they really enjoy themselves.
When shooting, do you know in advance what viewers will like and dislike?
Here’s the thing. If it’s an action movie, of course, you have to work very hard to be able to engage the audience. There is no point in having one episode with action and 45 minutes of dialogue. I watch this very carefully and work hard to ensure that the action is spread throughout the movie. Surely with Bond and every other action movie, I think very carefully about the action itself. I always think about whether we can do something new, something unique, something that no one has ever seen before. But characters are no less important. I’ve seen a lot of action movies that I think are boring because they have not been able to make a connection between the character and the audience. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how good the action itself is if the characters don’t work for the idea.
You have filmed with many famous actors, it is easy or difficult to work with Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan, Angelina Jolie?
No. If we talk about Pierce Brosnan, he’s a great actor. With Angelina Jolie I made the movie Beyond Borders; I love working with her, she is a real professional – she always comes on time, she is always committed to the movie. Daniel Craig is the same – they’re all very good actors. They like to act, they like to be guided, to be asked, to be talked to and to discuss. And I’ve never had a problem communicating with actors and working with them.
Have you seen the latest James Bond – No Time to Die?
Yes! I loved it! It’s a long movie, but dying in the end has a great effect. Let’s face it, he’s dodged about a million and a half bullets in his entire career even without a scratch! But you know, I really liked it, I think it was a little long, but very well directed and amazing. The ending fits very well into the entire Bond series, at least in the Daniel Craig part.
American Beauty director Sam Mendes also shot two of the Bond movies. What impression did they make on you?
You know, I really liked Skyfall. I wasn’t that impressed with Spectre, but not because of Sam, on the contrary, he’s a great director, but I don’t think the half-brother story itself was good. The script didn’t fit in with Skyfall’s class, even though Sam was directing it again. I think there is more to be desired with the story.
And finally, one last question. What do you teach your students? What is the most important thing in creating a movie?
The most important thing is not just one thing. Three things are most important in every movie – script, script and script! It may be a cliché, but it’s true. It is difficult for students who want to become filmmakers, as there is not just one established path to achieve it. If you go to film school and after four years you suddenly find yourself on the street, what happens? I think that regardless of the circumstances, each of them should try to make their own movie. Make the movie, regardless of the difficulties! Reduce the budget, save money, if you can get free equipment and props from friends, use everything you can for free! Use a good script, whether you wrote it or someone else, but make a movie! This is the most important thing. Because only then you will have a finished product, and if it is successful, if you have done a good job and the movie turns out to be good, then you will also have a job. No matter what you do, try and make a movie! Perhaps it will cost a hundred thousand levs. Okay, but make it. Don’t give up no matter the low budget or obstacles! Call as many people as possible to help you and provide maximum free services and then become a director and author, this is very important! The most important thing is to try, try, try, keep trying and no matter how many times you fail, keep trying and only then maybe you will succeed!