Casino Royale (2006) is the twenty-first film in the James Bond series; it is directed by Martin Campbell and the first to star Daniel Craig as MI6 agent James Bond. Based on the 1953 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, it was adapted by screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis.
It is the third screen adaptation of the Casino Royale novel, which was previously produced as a 1954 television episode and a 1967 satirical film. However, the 2006 film is the only EON Productions adaptation of Fleming's novel. It is a reboot of the Bond franchise, establishing a new timeline and narrative framework not meant to precede any previous film. This not only frees the Bond franchise from more than forty years of continuity, but allows the film to show a less experienced and more vulnerable Bond.
The film is set at the beginning of James Bond's career as Agent 007, just as he is earning his licence to kill. After preventing a terrorist attack at Miami Airport, Bond falls for Vesper Lynd, the treasury agent assigned to provide the money he needs to foil a high-stakes poker tournament organized by Le Chiffre. The 22nd James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, will be a direct sequel to Casino Royale and will continue some aspects of the story such as Le Chiffre's associate, Mr. White.
The casting for the movie involved a widespread search for a new actor to portray James Bond, and significant controversy over Daniel Craig when he was eventually selected. Some Pierce Brosnan fans threatened to boycott the film in protest. Despite this, the film, and Daniel Craig's performance in particular, earned critical acclaim. Casino Royale was produced by EON Productions for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures, marking the first official Bond film to be co-produced by the latter studio, which had produced and originally distributed the 1967 non-canonical film version.
In his first mission as Agent 007, Bond pursues an international bomb-maker named Mollaka in Madagascar. After a parkour chase across the city to the Nambutu embassy, Bond kills his target and blows up a part of the embassy to enable his escape. He obtains Mollaka's mobile phone and discovers that it has received an SMS from Alex Dimitrios, an associate of Le Chiffre in the Bahamas. Bond travels there, wins Dimitrios's Aston Martin DB5, and seduces Dimitrios's wife, Solange Dimitrios, who reveals that her husband is flying to Miami on business. Bond follows him to Miami, where he kills Dimitrios, and observes Le Chiffre's henchman, Carlos, leaving for the Miami International Airport. There, Bond foils Le Chiffre's plan to destroy the prototype Skyfleet airliner while managing to kill Carlos, leaving the banker with a major financial loss, since he had shorted and bought put options on Skyfleet stock, which then expired worthless.
Now under pressure to recoup his clients' money, Le Chiffre sets up a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Hoping that a defeat would force Le Chiffre to aid the British government in exchange for protection from his creditors, MI6 enters Bond into the tournament. He meets up with René Mathis, his ally in Montenegro, and Vesper Lynd, a treasury agent, who is assigned to look after his handling of the government's $10 million buy-in. As the tournament progresses, Bond loses his initial stake and becomes enraged when Vesper refuses to authorise him to buy back in because she considers his play reckless.
Distraught over his failure, Bond prepares to assassinate Le Chiffre when he is intercepted by one of the other players, who introduces himself as CIA officer Felix Leiter, who is also out to get Le Chiffre. Leiter believes Bond has the skill to beat Le Chiffre and offers to supply him with enough funds to re-enter the tournament in exchange for allowing the CIA custody of Le Chiffre. Back in the game, Bond rapidly recoups his losses. When Le Chiffre and his associates attempt to poison him, Bond narrowly survives due to Vesper's intervention. Bond wins the tournament on a straight flush. Following her celebratory dinner with Bond, Vesper is abducted by Le Chiffre, who uses her to lure Bond into a near-fatal car chase and ultimate capture. Le Chiffre tortures Bond for the access code to the game's winnings and when it becomes clear that Bond will not yield, Le Chiffre prepares to castrate him. At that moment Mr. White enters and executes Le Chiffre and his associates for their failure. Bond and Vesper are left alive.
Bond awakens in a hospital on Lake Como and orders the arrest of Mathis, who had been identified by Le Chiffe as a double agent. Bond admits his love for Vesper and vows to quit the service before it strips him of his humanity. Accordingly, he posts his resignation to M and goes on a romantic holiday in Venice with Vesper. However, Bond soon learns that his poker winnings were never deposited into the Treasury's account. Realising that Vesper has stolen them, he pursues her as she meets members of the organisation she is working for into a building under renovation. Bond shoots the floatation devices supporting the structure to gain access to the building, but as he does so the foundation starts to slowly collapse into the Grand Canal. After killing the henchmen in the building, Bond finds Vesper imprisoned in an elevator. Apologising to him tearfully, she locks herself inside as the elevator plunges under the rising waters. Bond dives in, breaks into the elevator and pulls Vesper onto the roof of the collapsed building. She dies, despite Bond's attempts to revive her. Mr. White, watching from a balcony, walks away with the money.
M tells Bond that Vesper had a French-Algerian boyfriend who was kidnapped and held for ransom by the organisation behind Le Chiffre and White. Bond learns that she agreed to deliver the ransom money (his winnings) only if they would consent to leave Bond, as well as her boyfriend, alive. He discovers that Vesper has left Mr. White's name and number in her mobile phone for Bond to find. White, arriving at a palatial estate near Lake Como, receives a phone call. As he asks the identity of the caller, he is shot in the leg. Bond approaches, with a UMP in hand, and replies, "The name's Bond. James Bond."
Two major exclusions from the film are the characters of Q and Miss Moneypenny. Their exclusion makes Casino Royale the second film in the series without Q (Live and Let Die being the first), and the first without Moneypenny. In October 2005, producer Michael G. Wilson stated that the characters were not in the movie because they were not in the book, though Moneypenny was mentioned by Bond in the novel. The decision to leave Moneypenny's character out from the film coincided with the announcement by actress Samantha Bond, who had portrayed the character in the previous four films, that she would not reprise the role. Casino Royale includes a cameo by British entrepreneur Richard Branson (seen being frisked at Miami airport) The cameo was cut out of the in-flight version shown on British Airways aircraft, as was a shot of the Virgin Atlantic aircraft Branson supplied.
Director Quentin Tarantino expressed interest in directing an adaptation of the Casino Royale novel, though this was only a personal interest, and he did not follow this up with EON. In the June 2007 issue of GQ (UK) Tarantino confirmed his desire to make Casino Royale after Pulp Fiction. Tarantino claims to have worked behind the scenes with the Fleming family, and believes that this was the reason why filmmakers finally went ahead with Casino Royale. In February 2005, Martin Campbell was announced as the film's director. Later in 2005, Sony led a consortium that purchased MGM, allowing Sony to gain distribution rights starting with this film.
EON admitted that they had relied too heavily on CGI effects in the more recent films, particularly Die Another Day, and were keen to accomplish the stunts in Casino Royale "the old fashioned way. In keeping with this drive for more realism, screenwriters Purvis, Wade, and Haggis wanted the script to follow as closely as possible to the original 1953 novel, keeping Fleming's darker storyline and characterisation of Bond.
Casino Royale became the first Bond film to take its title from a Fleming novel or short story since 1987's The Living Daylights. It is also the first Bond film since then not to be adapted as a novelisation. Instead, a film tie-in edition of Fleming's original novel was published.
In May 2005, Daniel Craig announced that MGM and producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli had assured him that he would get the role of Bond, and Matthew Vaughn told reporters that MGM offered him the opportunity to direct, but EON Productions at that point had not approached either of them. A year beforehand, Craig rejected the offer as he felt the series had descended into formula: only when he read the script did he become interested. Craig read all of Fleming's novels to prepare for the part, and cited Mossad and British Secret Service agents who served as advisors on the set of Munich as inspiring because, "Bond has just come out of the service and he's a killer. [...] You can see it in their eyes, you know immediately: oh, hello, he's a killer. There's a look. These guys walk into a room and very subtly they check the perimeters for an exit. That's the sort of thing I wanted.
On 14 October 2005, EON Productions and Sony Pictures Entertainment confirmed to the public at a press conference in London that Craig would be the sixth actor to portray James Bond. Significant controversy followed the decision, as it was doubted if the producers had made the right choice. Throughout the entire production period Internet campaigns such as
danielcraigisnotbond.com expressed their dissatisfaction and threatened to boycott the film in protest. Craig, unlike previous actors, was not considered by the protesters to fit the tall, dark, handsome and charismatic image of Bond to which viewers had been accustomed. The Daily Mirror ran a front page news story critical of Craig, with the headline, The Name's Bland — James Bland.
The next important casting was that of the lead Bond girl, Vesper Lynd. Casting director Debbie McWilliams acknowledged that Hollywood actresses Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron were strongly considered for the role and that Belgian actress Cécile de France had also auditioned, but her English accent "wasn't up to scratch. Audrey Tautou was also considered, but not chosen because of her role in The Da Vinci Code that was released in May 2006. It was announced on February 16, 2006 that French actress Eva Green would play the role of Vesper Lynd.
Principal photography for Casino Royale commenced on 30 January 2006 and concluded on 21 July 2006. The film was primarily shot at Barrandov Studios in Prague, with additional location shooting in the Czech Republic, the Bahamas, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The shooting schedule concluded at Pinewood Studios.
Initially, Michael G. Wilson confirmed that Casino Royale would either be filmed or take place in Prague and South Africa. However, EON Productions encountered problems in securing film locations in South Africa. After no other locations became available, the producers had to reconsider their options. In September 2005, Martin Campbell and director of photography Phil Meheux were scouting Paradise Island in the Bahamas as a possible location for the film. On 6 October 2005, Martin Campbell confirmed that Casino Royale would film in the Bahamas and "maybe Italy." In addition to the extensive location filming, studio work including choreography and stunt coordination practice was performed at the Barrandov Studios in Prague and at Pinewood Studios where the film used several stages as well as the paddock tank and the historic "Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage". Further shooting in the UK was scheduled for Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, the cricket pavilion at Eton College (although that particular scene was cut from the completed movie) and the Millbrook Vehicle Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.
One segment of the film involved the Body Worlds exhibit of plastinated human cadavers. Several well-known displays from this exhibit are shown prominently, including a Bond-appropriate poker game. Gunther von Hagens, creator of the exhibit, appears in a cameo - identified by his voice and trademark black hat - leading a tour near where Bond stabs Dimitrios.
After Prague, the production moved to the Bahamas. Several locations around New Providence were used for filming during February and March, particularly on Paradise Island. Footage set in Mbale, Uganda was filmed at Black Park, Country Park in Buckinghamshire concluding on 4 July 2006. Additional scenes took place at Albany House, an estate owned by golfers Ernie Els and Tiger Woods. The crew returned to the Czech Republic in April, and continued there, filming in Prague, Planá and Loket, before completing in the town of Karlovy Vary in May. A famous Czech spa Karlovy Vary, in German known as the Karlsbad, was used as the exterior of the Casino Royale, with the Grandhotel Pupp serving as "Hotel Splendide". The main Italian location mentioned by Campbell was Venice, where the majority of the film's ending is set. Other scenes in the later half of the film were shot in late May and early June at the Villa del Balbianello on the shores of Lake Como. Further exterior shooting for the movie took place at properties such as the Villa la Gaeta, near the lakeside town of Menaggio.
On 30 July 2006, a fire broke out at the 007 Stage. The damage was significant, but had no effect on the release of Casino Royale as the incident occurred one week after filming had been completed, and the sets were in the process of being dismantled. On 11 August 2006, Pinewood Studios confirmed that no attempt would be made to salvage the remains of the stage, instead it would be rebuilt from scratch.
In designing the credit sequence for the film, graphic designer Daniel Kleinman was inspired by the cover of the 1953 British first edition of Casino Royale, which featured Ian Fleming's original design of a playing card bordered by eight red hearts dripping with blood. Kleinman said, "The hearts not only represent cards but the tribulations of Bond's love story. So I took that as inspiration to use playing card graphics in different ways in the titles," like a club representing a puff of gun smoke, and slashed arteries spurting thousands of tiny hearts. In creating the shadow images of the sequence, Kleinman digitized the footage of Craig and the film's stuntmen on the Inferno visual effects system, at Framestore CFC in London; the actors' silhouettes were incorporated into more than 20 digitally animated scenes depicting intricate and innovative card patterns.
For the rest of the film, Special Effects and Miniature Effects Supervisor Chris Corbould, as with the producers, wanted to return to a more realistic style of film making and significantly reduce digital effects. According to Corbould, "CGI is a great tool and can be very useful, but I will fight to the tooth and nail to do something for real. It’s the best way to go". Three scenes involving primarily physical effects in the film were the chase at a building site in Madagascar, the Miami Airport chase sequence, and the sinking Venetian house, with sets located on the Grand Canal and in Pinewood Studios.
First on the schedule were the scenes on the Madagascar building site, shot in the Bahamas on the site of a derelict hotel which Michael G. Wilson had become acquainted with in 1977 during the filming of The Spy Who Loved Me. In the scene, Bond drives a digger toward the building, slamming into the concrete plinth on which Mollaka is running. The stunt team built a model and put forward several ways in which the digger could conceivably take out the concrete, including taking out the pillar underneath. A section of the concrete wall was removed to fit the digger, and reinforced with steel.
The sequence at Miami International Airport was partly shot at the Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, with some footage from the Prague and Miami airports. In filming the scene in which the engine thrust of the moving aircraft blows the police car high into the air, second unit directors Ian Lowe, Terry Madden, and Alex Witt used a crane with a strong lead cable attached to the rear bumper of the vehicle to move it up and backwards at the moment of full extension away from the plane.
The sinking of the Venetian house at the climax of the film featured the largest rig ever built for a Bond film. For the scene involving Bond following Vesper into the house undergoing renovation supported by inflatable balloons, a tank was constructed at the 007 stage at Pinewood, consisting of a Venetian piazza and the interior of the three-story dilapidated house. The rig, weighing some 90 tons, incorporated electronics with hydraulic valves which were closely controlled by computer because of the dynamic movement within the system on its two axes. The same computer system also controlled the exterior model which the effects team built to one-third scale to film the building eventually collapsing into the Venetian canal. The model elevator within the rig could be immersed in of water, and utilised banks of compressors to strictly regulate movement.
The scene involving the car crash was devised using an Aston Martin DB9 that was especially modified to look like Bond's Aston Martin DBS V12 and reinforced to withstand the impact. Due to the low centre of gravity of the vehicle, an 18-inch (450 mm) ramp had to be implemented on the road tarmac at Millbrook Proving Grounds and stunt driver Adam Kirley had to use an air cannon located behind the driver's seat to propel the car into a roll at the precise moment of impact. At a speed exceeding 70 mph (113 km/h), the car rotated seven times while being filmed, and was confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records on 5 November 2006 as a new world record.
"You Know My Name" is the first theme song since 1983's Octopussy to use a different title than the film, and Cornell is the first male performer since a-ha in 1987's The Living Daylights. It is the fourth title theme after Dr. No, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Octopussy, that does not make any reference to the title of the film. It is the first title song to be repeated in the end credits since "A View to a Kill". The end titles begin with the James Bond Theme, but halfway through, an abbreviated version of Cornell's song is played. The song's main notes are played throughout the film as a substitute for the James Bond theme, to represent Bond's immaturity. The classic theme only plays during the end credits to signal the end of his character arc.
Only two days following the premiere, pirated copies appeared for sale in London. "The rapid appearance of this film on the streets shows the sophistication and organisation behind film piracy in the UK," said Kieron Sharp, from the Federation Against Copyright Theft. Pirated copies of the DVD were selling for less than £1. Craig himself was offered such a DVD while walking anonymously through the streets of Beijing wearing a hat and glasses in order to avoid being identified.
In January 2007, Casino Royale became the first Bond film ever to be shown in mainland Chinese cinemas. It was reported that the Chinese version was released without alteration, but it emerged that it had been edited before release, with the reference to the Cold War re-dubbed and new dialogue added during the poker scene explaining the process of Texas Hold'em, as the game is less familiar in China. Casino Royale earned approximately $11.7 million in China since its opening on 30 January on 468 screens, including a record opening weekend collection for a non-Chinese film, with $1.5 million.
After critics dubbed Die Another Day "Buy Another Day" because of around twenty product placement deals, EON limited their promotions for Casino Royale. Partners included Ford Motors, Heineken Pilsener (which Eva Green starred in adverts for), Smirnoff, Omega SA, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Sony Ericsson.
Opening day estimates in the United States and Canada showed Casino Royale on top with $14,750,000, while opening weekend estimates showed it in second place with $40,600,000, as well as earning another $42,000,000 internationally. Although Happy Feet won the overall weekend box office contest, the significance of such a comparison in earnings is problematic, as Happy Feet has little more than half the running time of Casino Royale, and therefore had significantly more screenings per day, which translates into more potential gross. A better indication of the film's relative performances is that Casino Royale, per theatre, outperformed Happy Feet, which was released in 370 more theatres. According to Box Office Mojo, Casino Royale took in, on average, $11,890 per theatre, while Happy Feet grossed $10,918 per theatre.
Casino Royale opened at the first position in 27 countries, with a weekend gross of $43,407,886 worldwide. As of 30 March 2007 it had grossed over $593,352,994 globally, breaking both the domestic and international box office records of Die Another Day. The film held the opening weekend record in India, taking in over $3,386,987, which was the highest for a foreign language film at the time. In Russia, the film made over $4.5 million, the eighth largest opening for a non-Russian film.
A three-disc edition of Casino Royale will be released in the United Kingdom on 20 October 2008 (and the following day in the United States). As well as features present from the 2007 release, the collector's edition contains an audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes and a storyboard-to-film comparison.
The film was similarly well received in North America. MSNBC gave the movie a perfect 5 star rating. The film was described as taking James Bond "back to his roots", similar to From Russia with Love, where the focus was on character and plot rather than the high-tech gadgets and visual effects that were strongly criticised in Die Another Day. Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie an aggregate rating of 94%, the highest rating for a wide-release of the year. It is the fifth-highest rating for a Bond film on the site behind Goldfinger which received a 95%, The Spy Who Loved Me and From Russia with Love which both received a 96%, and Dr. No, with a 97% score. Metacritic gave the movie a Metascore of 81, signifying "Universal Acclaim. Entertainment Weekly named the film as the fifth best of the series, and chose Vesper Lynd as the fourth best Bond girl in the series. Some newspaper columnists and critics were impressed enough by Craig's performance to consider him a viable candidate for an Academy Award nomination. Roger Ebert gave the film a four out of four star rating, the first for any of the James Bond films he reviewed. Ebert stated that Casino Royale answers many of the questions he had begun to ask himself about the 45-year-old series, like why no character seems to have any real emotions. Ebert also felt that this was the first Bond film that got him to care about Bond, and the rest of the characters.
However, the film met several mixed reactions. Though American radio personality Michael Medved gave the film three stars out of four, describing it as "intriguing, audacious and very original... more believable and less cartoonish, than previous 007 extravaganzas", he commented that the "sometimes sluggish pacing will frustrate some Bond fanatics. Similarly, a reviewer for The Sun praised the film for its darkness and Craig's performance, but felt that "like the novel, it suffers from a lack of sharpness in the plot" and believed that it required additional editing, particularly the finale. Commentators such as Emanuel Levy concurred, feeling the ending was too long, and that the film's terrorist villains lacked depth, although he praised Craig and gave the film a B+ overall. Other reviewers responded negatively, including Tim Adams of The Observer who felt the film came off uncomfortably in an attempt to make the series grittier, and criticized Craig's performance with the review title "You might be shaken, but this Bond won't leave you stirred". Steve Sailer of The American Conservative also criticised the film, saying it was "mediocre in execution and bloated in conception, wrapping the usual elephantine Bond movie mechanics around Fleming's minimal plot".
The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2006.
Roger Moore wrote, "The script showed him as a vulnerable, troubled and flawed character. Quite the opposite to my Bond! Craig was, and is, very much the Bond Ian Fleming had described in the books – a ruthless killing machine. It was a Bond that the public wanted." So impressed was Moore that he chose to buy the DVD.
Casino Royale won the Excellence in Production Design Award from the Art Directors Guild, and singer Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" won the International Press Academy Satellite Award for Best Original Song. The film was nominated for five Saturn Awards — Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film, Best Actor (Daniel Craig), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Green), Best Writing (Purvis, Wade and Haggis) and Best Music (David Arnold). The 2006 Golden Tomato Awards named Casino Royale the Wide Release Film of the Year. Casino Royale was also nominated for, and has won, many other international awards for its screenplay, film editing, visual effects, and production design. At the 2007 Saturn Awards, the film was declared to be the Best Action/Adventure/Thriller film of 2006. Several members of the crew were also recipients of 2007 Taurus World Stunt Awards, including Gary Powell for Best Stunt Coordination and Ben Cooke, Kai Martin, Marvin Stewart-Campbell, and Adam Kirley for Best High Work.