A filmmaker with both a flair for action and skill with character, Martin Campbell is in the unique position of launching two actors as 007: Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye (1995) and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale (2006).
Campbell was born in New Zealand where he spent his childhood before moving to England in 1966 to work as a cinematographer making his directorial debut with The Sex Thief (1973). Campbell became a producer on Black Joe (1977) and worked as an associate producer on Scum (1979), Alan Clarke’s tough, controversial, acclaimed study of the British borstal system for young offenders.
In the late seventies, Campbell moved into television, directing episodes of such popular UK shows as Shoestring, The Professionals and Minder. Yet he cemented his reputation with two miniseries; Reilly: Ace Of Spies (1983) starring Sam Neill and Edge Of Darkness (1985) starring Bob Peck, the latter winning a BAFTA TV award for Best Drama.
It was his work on Edge Of Darkness that brought him to the attention of Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli who chose him to direct GoldenEye. The film not only reintroduced the character after a six-year gap but also presented Pierce Brosnan as the new 007. Campbell delivered action with realism but with an added panache that was different from other 90s cinematic heroes.
“There were all these other heroes, the Bruce Willises and the Arnold Schwarzeneggers – they’re all blue collar,” he observed. “But there are no sophisticated antiheroes around. So I made GoldenEye a showcase for that kind of hero.”
Audiences welcomed the new Bond, the film becoming the most financially successful 007 film since Moonraker. After GoldenEye, Campbell stayed in the action genre with The Mask Of Zorro and Vertical Limit, as well as more serious fare such as Beyond Borders. He returned to the world of Bond with Casino Royale, again introducing a new 007 in Daniel Craig. The film included some of the most exciting action sequences in the series to date — a foot chase through a construction site shot in the Bahamas, a Venetian villa that crumbles into the Grand Canal and a Guinness World Record breaking Aston Martin barrel roll stunt — while making smaller, more intimate scenes, such as the central poker game, equally intense.
“The card game was probably the most difficult scene I’ve ever had to film,” he recalled. “It’s one thing to shoot a game of chemin de fer or 21, that’s very simple. When you’re playing Texas Hold’em poker with ten players around a table, that’s tough because it’s a more complex game and, with ten players all looking at each other. It’s very tricky to film.”
The finished film garnered multiple nominations, including a BAFTA win for Best Sound and further nominations including Outstanding British Film and Best Actor for Daniel Craig. Casino Royale became the first 007 film to earn other over $100 million at the UK box office and became the highest-grossing Bond film up to that point.