Perhaps no photographer in the last 20 years is more closely associated with Bond than Greg Williams. His intimate, unguarded portraits of the stars of the films and much loved 007 poster campaigns are the hallmarks of the style this former reportage photojournalist (who early in his career covered war zones in Burma, Chechnya and Sierra Leone) has brought to more than 200 film shoots. To celebrate the release of No Time To Die Greg, in partnership with EON Productions, has released 007 X GWP – a limited edition series of prints of 25 of his favourite images taken during the making of Daniel’s Craig’s five 007 adventures. Here he talks to 007.com about his time behind the lens for 007 and picks some of his favourite Bond images..
Let’s talk about your Bond journey, where did you and 007’s paths first cross?
I was shooting an on-set book about film sets and I reached out to EON and asked about visiting the set of The World is Not Enough. They had this huge set for Zukovsky’s Caviar Fishery. I was told, “Look, we can’t get you in front of Pierce Brosnan but if you want to come and shoot this set because it’s the biggest set being constructed in Europe…” So I went to the water tank at Pinewood, climbed up to the top and did a Hockney-style montage. I took like 60 photos because there wasn’t a lens wide enough to get the whole set in one picture. So I shot that and then I didn’t think about Bond until they were about to shoot Die Another Day when I get this phone call going, “You’re doing it.”
So Die Another Day was the first time you were hired specifically to cover the making of a Bond film?
It was just extraordinary because I’d worked on some big movies like The Talented Mr. Ripley but nothing on the scale of a Bond. And suddenly it was literally like, “Here’s your script. Here’s the schedule. Go and do whatever you need to do”. And so I just came and went as I needed. I think I probably spent 50 days on the film. Pierce let me be wherever I wanted to be. I shot him in his trailer. I shot him all over the place. And it was an incredibly free-ing and eye-opening experience to really see up close the family of Bond. And they let me inside. And I was just this sort of cheeky little bastard all the way through it.
What kind of relationship did you build with Pierce?
A very good one. We’re still very friendly today. At the time I was just respectful. Distanced. Did my thing. But there’s a lot of fondness there when we see each other today. It was a greater project and Halle Berry was obviously a very big deal at that point. I took pictures on the beach in Cadiz which doubled for Havana when she came out of the sea in the orange bikini and I did some of my favourite photos ever of her and Pierce playing around. It was just fabulous.
Did you work with Daniel before he was 007?
I’d already started to get to know Daniel before he was Bond. I’d met him many years before at the Cannes Film Festival. It was my first ever Cannes and he was there with Love Is The Devil in ‘97. We took photos on the Carlton beach in Cannes. And then I was asked to shoot him on the set of Layer Cake. So by the time it came for him to screen test for Bond I knew him and I had been hired to photograph the screen tests. Then once he was confirmed as Bond, Daniel said to the producers, “It’d be great to have Greg around” and so my working on his Bond films just segued beautifully into that. He’s a great man.
You’ve had a very close view of Daniel’s time as 007 haven’t you?
It’s been just extraordinary. It started off so difficult for him with the press. They were so mean to him. And he just absolutely blew it all out of the water, didn’t he? Casino Royale was such a brilliant film – everything about it, even the title sequence with the playing cards. Everything about that film was so exciting. And it was lovely at the premiere, there was so much goodwill for him. He had so many friends there and everyone was just sharing their hearts. And he absolutely smashed it. So yeah, it was an amazing journey to see. I worked on every film apart from Spectre and saw it all leading to where he is today. What’s the right word – he’s just got this incredible authority when he’s Bond.
What did you shoot on No Time To Die?
I came onto the film about two months into filming and I shot stuff of Daniel in his trailer which is amazing and I shot him training. Remember that picture of his leg in the cast? I then also did publicity shoots and the film posters. I was in the scene in the woods with the Land Rovers flying through the air. And I was out in Matera for that amazing doughnut square scene with the DB5 which was incredible. We got a lot of lovely material.
Do you still get a buzz being on a film set?
Yeah, I love it but there’s a number of buzzes. There’s the buzz of creativity. There’s the buzz of a crew that are all the very best in the world at what they do. And then there’s the buzz of knowing you’re where a huge amount of people would love to be but can’t. It’s a mixture of all of those. I think the thing that I love the most in my photography is the interaction with great artists. If you think cinema and television are the prominent artforms of our generation I get to hang out with these amazing people and do something that still has my voice attached to it which is really amazing. It’s an amazing experience to be able to do that.
You haven’t become cynical about it all then?
No, not at all. I think my experiences in war zones were very helpful to me because after that I always knew I was working in the entertainment industry. So when things get stressful I’ve always been pretty quick to go, “This really isn’t a problem. I’m just going to walk outside.” You should take your work very seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously and you’ll be fine. I’ve always had a healthy balance of knowing I’ve seen much tougher jobs and I’m very grateful.
Greg On Some Of His Favourite Bond Photographs
After Daniel’s injury he was having to keep himself in shape and having to get himself ready to get back into filming and he had to do it in a very short space of time. Daniel’s always worked incredibly hard in the gym and his physique is part of his character and this image to me is about process. It’s the process you have to go through when you’re carrying an injury and you’ve still got to be James Bond. Do you know what I mean? You’ve still got to walk like Bond and be like Bond and do your stuff. It’s a process picture.
This is Daniel just checking the take and seeing he’s happy or seeing if he wants to go again. This was during a fight scene in Matera so there was a big punch up. Technically speaking I’m on about a 28mm lens so I’m probably about three quarters of a metre from Cary and about a metre from Daniel. At this moment, I wouldn’t have been in auto because that back light would have screwed my exposure up. I tend to work in auto and then I open up when I need to. My view is you expose for your subjects, not for the picture.
This was in Daniel’s trailer. We had a meeting and I took that picture as he was sitting there. Simple as that, really. It’s James Bond in his trailer. Super exclusive, do you know what I mean?
This is my favourite picture I’ve ever taken on a film set. Our view of Daniel’s Bond has always been quite bold and in this, you really see Daniel having a laugh, which of course he does a huge amount of the time. It’s just a really silly, joyful, fun picture that you can see from the people’s clothes in the background that it is modern day but that photo –you could have seen that picture in Life Magazine in the ‘50s, right?
So this is the last scene in Quantum Of Solace. It’s when Bond is out for revenge after Vesper dies and it was shot at the barracks that I stayed at when I was a cadet when I was 18. Yeah, really.
This was from Quantum Of Solace and again it’s a picture about process. Generally when people are doing love scenes, photographers are nowhere to be seen and it’s just about getting some documentation of it and getting the hell out of there before I’m told to.
Jumping off the roof in Italy. Daniel really, really threw himself around – he did a lot of his own stunts in that film. Yeah, there’s an element of luck in getting a shot like this but I’ll also accept that you make your luck and if you look at someone doing an action scene and when you know they’re at the high point, you’ve pushed the button, you’re going to be lucky.
This is the scene in Casino Royale when Daniel’s won the DB5. He’s just literally chilling before a take, waiting for the crew to be ready. This is another one of my favourite pictures. What’s interesting about the Casino Royale ones is that they’re actually becoming vintage, they’re almost old enough.
Daniel and Eva kissing on the beach in the Bahamas for Casino Royale. Again, it’s showing the filming process and the stuff people don’t usually get to see.
This is Daniel in his trailer during Casino Royale. He was filming the parkour scene.
That’s Daniel and Eva when Bond’s in rehab on Lake Como in Casino Royale. I’m shooting through a tree. It’s slightly voyeuristic. I like it because it sort of leads the eye. Well, I don’t really know why I like it. I just like it. I don’t always know why I like pictures.