COVER STORY


License to Cut
Matt Chessé & Richard Pearson Bond Editorially on 'Quantum of Solace'
by Bill Desowitz


Quantum of Solace editors Matt Chessé, left, and Richard Pearson at Dukes Bar in the Soho district of London, England in August 2008. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega

Editors Matt Chessé, A.C.E., and Richard Pearson, A.C.E., were neither shaken nor stirred––just stoked––to be working on the latest James Bond film, Quantum of Solace.  The 22nd 007 adventure in the longest-running franchise opens November 14 through Columbia Pictures.  But then, this is no ordinary Bond film––and no ordinary editing gig. 

For Chessé, who’s now edited seven films with director Marc Forster (including the Oscar-nominated Finding Neverland), Quantum obviously represents quite a departure from their usual indie fare.  And for Pearson (Get Smart and The Bourne Supremacy), it means a step up in stylish action/adventure.  However, they’ve both managed to infuse this sequel to Casino Royale (the most popular in the franchise’s history) with a totally unique Bond vibe centered on a first-time character arc for the world’s most famous superspy. 

Indeed, for Daniel Craig’s second outing as 007, he’s uncharacteristically conflicted as he searches for the truth (and a “quantum of solace,” or measure of comfort) behind the betrayal and death of the woman he loved and lost in Casino Royale.  Working from their Soho-based headquarters in London, the two Avid editors spoke with Editors Guild Magazine about their first-time collaboration and working on Bond…James Bond.

Editors Guild Magazine: Matt, what was your initial reaction when Marc Forster decided to tackle Bond?

Matt Chessé: I usually don’t hear about things from him until they’re pretty well baked, so when he came to me after his first really positive meeting and asked what I thought about this, I jumped out of my chair.  I think all the principal people who regularly work with him felt the same way.  He was in a lather to do it, and I admire that he had some caveats that were important to him and didn’t just jump at it.

EGM: Talk about the significance of making the first direct sequel and first Bond film to focus on his character and his humanity.


Richard Pearson: Well, it seems like the right time to do it, particularly with the response to Casino Royale and Daniel’s portrayal.  There’s a real hunger to continue to reflect this change in the franchise that the audience wants to see.

MC: Yeah, I think the Bourne franchise changed the game a bit.  But I also think the main reason for this change in Bond is Daniel.  As an actor and as a presence, he has the potential to do that credibly.  He has a lot of layers and a lot of mystery to play with.  It’s a very complicated character that he brought to Casino, and so I think you want to go below the surface of that.

Matt Chessé, A.C.E.
Editing Credits
Quantum of Solace (2008)
The Kite Runner (2007)
Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Stay (2005)
Ellie Parker (2005)
Finding Neverland (2004)
Monster’s Ball (2001)
Ellie Parker (2001)
Everything Put Together (2000)
 
Richard Pearson, A.C.E.
Editing Credits
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Get Smart (2008)
Blades of Glory (2007)
United 93 (2006)
Rent (2005)
A Little Trip to Heaven (2005)
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
The Rundown (2003)
Men in Black 2 (2002)
The Score (2001)
Drowning Mona (2000)
Bait (2000)
Muppets from Space (1999)
Bowfinger (1999)
From Earth to the Moon (TV) (1998)


EGM: How was the work divided between you two?

MC: How it broke up was organic and depended on whose plate was full at the time and what was coming down the pike.  There was a rhyme and reason.  So, if Rick was working on an action piece, he’d take on the header to that––scenes that connected so that if you started it, you’d also want to finish it.  I took on an aerial sequence, so I would do the stuff before and after that, and Rick was doing a boat chase, so he began and finished that.

RP: It’s really not practical to divide a film by action and drama…

MC: Especially the way Marc did this film.  There’s drama in the action and action in the drama.  I don’t think Rick came to do the movie for the action.  I think he brought all facets of talent and experience to this movie.  There’s humor  and romance in a Bond movie.  We were all working on that stuff together and Rick and I helped each other to figure out these characters and bounced ideas off each other constantly. 

We would follow the lead if somebody got the dailies of a character and spent time with that person.  We would get the next couple of scenes that represented that character’s identity coming together, so one of us would build that person.  But we also handed stuff back and forth within a sequence.  I don’t think there was a clear line in who did what.  It was very collaborative.

EGM: Matt, what was it like to experience team cutting for the first time?


MC: It was only a challenge in concept, not execution.  With Rick, we picked well.  I knew coming in that he was going to be part of it, and I was anxious to experience team-cut movie.  I also have a family who were here with me and I didn’t want to take something on like this alone.  And it turned out great.  One of the things appealing about Rick, besides his résumé, was his team experience.  And I looked to him to show me how it had been done before––how it had worked, how to break stuff up, how to share the project.

EGM: What was it like rushing to do a five-week preview cut?


MC: They’re always tight and it’s always a little crazy.  But this one has been a little tighter and a little crazier than usual––given that the prep for the shoot was rushed, which gives you an anxious feeling.  As it’s turned out, I think we have had enough time because Rick and I cut very hard the whole time they were shooting.  We had five weeks with Marc, but he looked at a lot of stuff and we were quite far along.

EGM: And how did the remainder of the editing go?

MC: There were a few blank spots that we knew we had to fill in because we had temp graphics, but for the most part, everybody stayed with it and there was a real high satisfaction level––much more than Rick and I were expecting.  People got most of the emotional intention of the movie.

EGM: Did you do it without too much spoon-feeding?


MC: Marc is a very subtle guy and doesn’t like things to be too on the nose, so I think we did a respectful job of keeping it intriguing and smart and stylish.  The main thing is that we went in and repaved a couple of things.

EGM: Marc has very tight movies and he said the plan was to keep this just under two hours.  Did you stick with that?


MC: Yeah, we’re a little leaner than that.  I think it’s about an hour and 45 minutes.  Marc is definitely a lean guy and edits as he goes with the script, so I think everything that was shot was included, for the most part.  There’s one little thing that we dropped at the end, but I don’t want to get into it because it’s a surprise.

EGM: What was it like doing a very different Bond film while still making it Bond?

RP: I remember looking at some dailies early on.  Daniel had a carafe of Scotch and pulled the top off and examined it.  There’s already something imbued as this Bond element, so it makes you realize that you have this wonderful Bond intangible thing to play with. 

MC: You’re talking about those moments of reflection.  Some of those beats are in the script.  But I think as an editor you find yourself creating the time for some of those places––where you can afford it and where you say, “This is such a Bond moment, I’m going to open up and just watch him ride that boat or sit at that bar and have that drink.”

As an editor, sometimes you’re also bringing your super audience self to the proceedings.  You’re getting those dailies and seeing those things that you know the audience wants and what you want as an audience member: “Oh, he looks so cool, so let’s stay here for a moment, find a cool piece of music and work that.” Daniel is so complicated as Bond, even if he’s just driving, you look at that face and we get that he’s grieving, that he’s healing, that he screwed it up.

EGM: Talk about how that transfers to the stylish opera house sequence in Bregenz, Austria, where they’re performing Tosca in the background.


RP: First of all, it’s a spectacular location in Bregenz, where the opera house sits on a lake.  Matt actually went out there and saw it first-hand.  But it’s also great to see all of these guys in their tuxes––it’s such a classic Bond setting.  And it’s where Bond begins to discover the identity of this underground organization [Quantum].  In a way, they’re hiding in plain sight.

MC: You also have this opera performance, and it’s almost a wordless segment at the beginning when Bond arrives and gets the lay of the land.  It’s a setup and we explore the space and watch him take control of the situation.  It’s really one of the best parts of the movie. 

It’s very stylish, an abstracted opera staged in a conceptualized way that’s very unconventional.  I think it’s a metaphor for what Marc is trying to achieve in the movie, which is old-school suavity with respect to the older Bond movies––yet pushing it forward in a modern way while rewarding people with what they expect.

EGM: What about cutting the iconic pre-title sequence, which picks up minutes after the end of Casino Royale?

RP: I think this particular one is an exciting intro.  We’re dropped right into the middle of a set piece [a high-speed car chase through the marble quarries of Italy], and it’s a full-run almost right up to the title sequence.  Then it slows down a bit and there’s a reveal and a little smile, and you know this is the Bond we’re going to spend nearly two hours with.  It should be mentioned that the big player in this is Dan Bradley, the second unit director.  There are both practical and creative elements involved in pulling this off.

EGM: And what distinguishes the action here from the Bourne franchise?

RP: That was something that we were both cognizant of: not emulating Bourne.  There’s a certain language that can be applied to this Bond world.  And unless we wanted the audience not to be sure of what’s going on spatially, we consciously avoided that kind of frenetic cutting.

MC: Yeah, it wasn’t Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli’s taste [as Bond franchise producers] to take that on and meet Bourne on that level.  They pulled back, even though Rick and Dan have worked on Bourne.  I think we were trying to get our own pace.  Everything was shot wider, cleaner and less scrambled so you could decode what was happening and not lose people.  And everyone wanted everything to be plausible and make sense––where there’s causal links to everything––and with a sense of composition because the action is shot very stylishly.

EGM: Rick, I wanted to ask you about your upcoming keynote in November at the New York Post|Production Conference and how that might tie in with Quantum.

RP: I try not to be too analytical about this sort of thing, but I will probably use an example of a troubled scene and how to fix it, as well as talk about some of the tools that we use to tackle things and tell the story that we want to tell.  I might end up bringing a before and after scene from Quantum, if we could get approval to do it––to show some of the areas where we need to make sure that we understand Bond’s motivation and where we connect a few dots that were perhaps a bit muddier before.

EGM: How would you two describe this experience?


MC: For Rick and me, driving this Bond bus, playing around with the music and the Bond theme and throwing it up with picture––it’s a real gas.  Monkeying around with something iconic, to get to play with that character and make him throw those punches and jump those walls; it’s been amazing.

RP: And suddenly I’m like a ten-year-old boy again at the drive-in with my parents watching these James Bond movies.  How cool a job is this?   l

Bill Desowitz is editor of VFXWorld (www.vfxworld.com), part of Animation World Network (www.awn.com).  He can be reached at bill@awn.com.

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