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Interview: Regisseur Martin Koolhoven (2)

Vorige week sprak ik met Martin Koolhoven over het laatste nieuws rondom No Time To Die. We hadden het over de Coronapandemie en hoe het de filmindustrie in een wurggreep had. Daarnaast hebben we veel gesproken over de kunst van het film maken. Nu verder over de toekomst.

Scroll down for the English interview

Veel productievertragingen, meningsverschillen tussen filmmakers en de verderfelijke Coronapandemie zorgden 2,5 jaar voor moedeloze geluiden binnen de fan community. Maar na veel puffen en zuchten kunnen we dan na een pauze van 6 jaar eindelijk op donderdag 30 september van 2021 “No Time To Die” aanschouwen. De 25e Bond-film is de eerste grote blockbuster voor de Amerikaanse regisseur Cary Joji Fukunaga. Wat kunnen we verwachten van deze film? En andere films die op de planning staan? Hoe staat de 007-franchise er nu voor? En is regisseren nou daadwerkelijk nog zo idyllisch als veel filmliefhebbers doen voorkomen?

Ik sprak met één van de bekendste Nederlandse regisseurs en tevens zelfverklaard James Bond-fan: Martin Koolhoven (Meervoudig Gouden Kalf-winnaar, waaronder voor Brimstone uit 2016, en presentator van VPRO’s De Kijk Van Koolhoven). We vroegen ‘m zo vlak voor de première van de nieuwe Bond-film natúúrlijk het hemd van z’n lijf. Want ook hij is razend benieuwd naar het eindproduct van zijn collega Fukunaga.

In het uitgebreide tweeluik kwamen verschillende onderwerpen aan de orde, variërend van z’n tijd voorafgaande aan zijn rijke filmcarrière tot aan de fijne kneepjes van het scenarioschrijvers-vak. En van z’n omvangrijke regie-ervaring tot aan andere uitingen van zijn diepgewortelde filmliefde. Om ook buitenlandse Bond-fans een inkijkje te geven in het werk van zowel een regisseur als scenarioschrijver, werd het interview geheel in het Engels gedaan. 

Vandaag deel 2 van het interview:

Gert: Before the break we talked about the action/spy genre. Let’s keep that idea in your mind for a while. How come you haven’t been making any new films as of late?

Martin: “I could say I have been doing lots of other things, like introducing movies in Eye Film Museum and other theatres, presenting my TV-shows about films (De Kijk Van Koolhoven) and even my own theatre show (Klassiekers Met Koolhoven). But the truth is: I could do all these things and still continue writing. I think screenwriting is the most difficult aspect in moviemaking. And when something is not right in my life, I can’t do it. It’s already difficult enough without personal problems. It seems things now are clearing up a bit, so hopefully we will get a bunch of movies from my hand pretty soon after each other. The good thing is I have been writing in the last years, but that’s just not finished yet. So….wish me luck!”

Gert: We wish you lots of luck with that Martin. And we trust all of your work, including directing/writing movies, will continue to baffle and inspire us. Having said that, do you think conveying your passion for movies (filmmaking) is more gratifying by teaching us about the very subject in your TV Shows (De Kijk Van Koolhoven: Koolhoven’s View On Movies) or by doing this directly via a finalized film?

Martin: “In all honesty, making movies is the core reason why I have been put on this earth. Talking about movies is just pure fun.”

Gert: But directing and/or screenwriting can also be more stressful? How stressful is it to actually direct/write a movie?

Martin: “Directing a movie is very stressful, especially if you are very ambitious and particularly if you don’t have a high budget. But it is also fun; I feel very much alive on a movie set. Writing a screenplay is something completely else; you use different muscles. I wouldn’t call it very stressful, because I don’t let myself become stressed when I’m writing. If it takes longer, it takes longer. Writing is more lonely, more painful ánd more frustrating though.”

Gert: Apart from brainstorming about some ideas for a Bond-film right now, both as a director and a screenplay writer, you were actually contemplating to make a movie about the Dutch East Indies. What is the status of this particular project?

Martin: “Yes! I am currently writing Emerald Butterfly, an epic noir-thriller set in Batavia (present day Djakarta), 1946.”

Gert: Let’s move back for a bit to your work as inspirator, presenter and lecturer, perhaps by also taking into account the inspiration you get from writing Emerald Butterfly. Are there currently some plans for a new series of De Kijk Van Koolhoven? Could we expect an episode about historical epics? Or an episode specifically dedicated to the James Bond films or the espionage genre at large?

Martin: “De Kijk van Koolhoven is the result of a close collaboration between three people: David Kleijwegt (director, VPRO), Reinier van Brummelen (camera and effects) and me (content). The crux is always in the agendas. We’re all busy and try to get that together. The most time is actually spent in the complete post-processing (I don’t have much to do with that proces myself) and that takes a lot of planning.”

Gert: We are eagerly awaiting a new series of De Kijk Van Koolhoven and as long as you feel attracted by presenting us with your wonderful views. About ‘attraction’. On several occasions you mentioned that Octopussy (1983) is your favourite Bond adventure. It was also your very first Bond film that you saw in cinema. What attracts you so much about thís particular Bond-film?

Martin: ”You have a moment, Gert? I have asked many people what their favourite Bond movie is and quite a lot of them picked the first one they saw. I guess most people see the first one as a young teenager and the sense of adventure probably speaks to you the loudest during that period. The first cut is the deepest, as they say. But if I try to find a better reason it is because of this: Like I said, the Bond-franchise started out trendsetting, but later on it adopted elements of what was popular at the time. This way the series always stayed relevant and fresh. Off course, some things were more tailored to my taste than others. I liked the blaxploitation elements in Live And Let Die (1973) tremendously, but thought the space station in Moonraker (1979) (obviously influenced by Star Wars) or the Miami Vice-vibe in Licence To Kill (1989) were a bit too farfetched. When Octopussy was made, audiences were craving for high adventure stories, because of the success of Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981). You can see the DNA of that movie in all of Octopussy’s pores. And I think it suits the Bond-franchise very well. The adventurous action, the way the movie is light-hearted, I love it all. The suave opening theme song [‘All Time High’], the exotism, the water dripping from the yo-yo saw, the old-fashioned bad Russian general (Steven Berkoff), the slick Louis Jordan (Prince Kamal Khan) the scary Kabir Bedi (Gobinda), the beautiful Maud Adams (Miss Octopussy): they defined for me what Bond was about and it all suited Roger Moore perfectly! He might have been slightly too old to play the part (even though he did it one more time), but he had the charm to pull it all off. When asked who my favourite portrayal of James Bond 007 is, I always name Sean Connery (most people here actually tend to pick the first one they saw) and I always wonder if it [Octopussy] would have been even better with Connery playing the part. To be honest I don’t think so, no. But if I could pick a Bond film in which I could replace the actor playing Bond for Connery it would be On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).”

Gert: You already mentioned Connery, but during that same year 1983 he returned to the role one final time, in Never Say Never Again. So 1983 was obviously a busy Bond year. Did you see that one in cinema too? And if so, what did you think of it at the time?

Martin: “I don’t think I saw it in the theatres. So I guess the first time I saw Never Say Never Again was on video a few years later. I kind of liked it, but also felt that something was missing. Without the James Bond theme song, without the logo on the credits, without the pistol barrel shot, I guess it felt a bit like Pepsi instead of Coca Cola. Also, I have seen the movie several times and I always seem to forget the story. I know it’s the same as Thunderball (1965), but somehow that one seems more memorable.”

Gert: Moving from a fan’s eye to the filmmaker’s eye. In the 1980’s Bond fans were able to see a Bond-film in cinema every two years. It’s 2021 now, Cubby’ Broccoli passed away in 1996, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are the current stewards of the franchise, yet we barely see new Bond films in cinema again. If you’re lucky you can look forward to a new Bond adventure every 5 years. 6 years if you talk about No Time To Die! Why do you think this is?

Martin: “It has been said that it has to do with the fact that they [Barbara & Michael] are running out of Ian Fleming stories. But I also read it all depended on the financial situation the American studio that was backing up finances, was in. If they were in bad shape, it would take longer. But to be honest, I don’t know the exact details. I think every three years would be perfect and enough for me ”

Gert: You mention the problems behind the scenes of movie studios. But should the Bond film franchise keep trying to step up its productivity again in order to not let the Bond films become a living relic of something from the past and let it become a more vivid leading icon again in our collective pop-cultural consciousness?

Martin: “Let me present you with a clear and crisp answer to that. I think every three years would be perfect and enough for me.”

Gert: And since you know very well how complex filmmaking is, what would you advice the producers of the Bond film franchise? More direct appeals to the fans like Marvel is doing? Or let it stay a franchise with a certain distance between (older) fans and filmmakers?

Martin: “I’m sure Disney has already tried to buy the franchise by now. Like I said, it has more potential possibilities than Indiana Jones. I could see spin-offs in different directions and even alternative timelines. They could even do an animated children series. Though Bond is an extremely commercialized franchise with a lot of product placement, hit singles and merchandise. To me it [the franchise] still feels that the heart, the core of it, is genuine and it doesn’t feel like its sole purpose is to make money. I don’t know for how long the franchise is going to last though. How long can Barbara Broccoli resist the drooling mouths of Disney or Netflix, who are going to offer billions for the franchise. Personally, I hope they will keep things the way they are and keep control over the franchise. I wouldn’t mind a spin-off with another agent (for instance a female one), but we shouldn’t be overflooded with Bond. Just pick a new Bond, preferably a British actor, and give us a new Bond movie every three years!” deze keer wel met uitroepteken

Gert: One thing’s for sure: 30th of September we Dutch movie lunatics can start drooling on another Bond adventure! So let’s start wrapping up our conversation with a few ‘which would you choose’-questions. From Russia With Love or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?

Martin: “From Russia With Love!”

Gert: Next one. Live And Let Die or For Your Eyes Only (1981)?

Martin: “Live And Let Die!”

Gert: Casino Royale (2006) or Skyfall (2012)?

Martin: “Skyfall! (except for the first act of Casino Royale)”

Gert: Lastly, you were in Norway during the month of August. The country is one of the most important locations for the new Bond-film No Time To Die. Where you there for private reasons? Or were you trying to get some fresh ideas for potential film projects there?

Martin: “Well, since 1993 I have a relationship with a Norwegian girl. We are going there every summer and every Christmas.”

Gert: I did not see that one coming Martin! In any case, thank you so much for this extensive, in-depth interview. We obviously look forward to seeing you on the red carpet during the Dutch premiere of No Time To Die next month. Because, let’s face it, there really is no time to die anymore after such a long wait for a new Bond-film.

Martin: “And I hope to see you in the flesh soon Gert!”

James Bond Nederland bedankt Martin Koolhoven hartelijk voor alle tijd en moeite die hij stak in dit interview.

Klik hier om het eerste deel van dit interview terug te lezen.

Gert Waterink

Gert werd al op vroege leeftijd geprikkeld door het intense schatergelach van zijn vader bij het zien van een James Bond-film. Rond z’n tiende zag hij zijn eerste Bond-film op TV, You Only Live Twice. De rage was begonnen. Zijn favoriete film is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, maar in het Daniel Craig-tijdperk weet hij niet welke film beter is: Casino Royale of Skyfall. Gert heeft als andere grote passie (film)muziek en verzamelt veel boeken over films, en natuurlijk Bond.


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