Website last updated: 4-10-2017

December 2011
A Conversation About Bond With Robert Davi

By: Anders Frejdh
Published:
2011-12-15
Robert davi interview
Our friends at Club James Bond France caught up with Robert Davi for an exclusive interview featured in issue 26 of their excellent Bond magazine, Le Bond.

Since our editor helped make this interview possible we are happy to feature the original interview in English on FSWL.

You were raised with love for bel canto; you were supposed to work at the opera… How did you end up being an actor, making it through Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler's Actor Studio classes?
[Robert Davi]: I was acting at the same time and had gone to Hofstra University on a drama scholarship. After college I went to Manhattan, studied with Stella Adler and got into the Actors Studio. My acting career took off pretty quickly when I did my first film with Frank Sinatra - and that in turn made me change direction.

How did your adventure with Licence to Kill (1989) begin? Could it be your common Italian roots with Cubby Broccoli...?
[RD]: I met Cubby's daughter Tina who was a fan and became a close friend - since I was Italian and born in Astoria like her father she thought we would get along. She also had always said I would make a good Bond villain, so I had dinner with Cubby and Dana in Beverly Hills. About a year later I had done a movie for CBS called Terrorist on Trial: The United States vs. Salim Ajami (1988). I had gotten tremendous reviews for it, and the night it aired, Richard Maibaum called Cubby and said: "put on CBS". Cubby said: "I have it on" upon Richard Maibaum said: "That’s our new Bond villain". Cubby replied: "I think so too". They called me in the next day to meet and I was told I would be the next Bond villain.

What did you know about the 007 universe before starting the project?
[RD]: Anyone with a love for film loves Bond. I was a huge Bond fan and am thrilled to be part of its legacy.

How did you prepare for the role... and for the whole Bond extravaganza?
[RD]: I researched quite extensively and went to the music of the region to get an inner feel, then of course the slight accent, read books on the cartels and met with a number of "interesting" characters. I also read Casino Royale (1953) - where it says Bond and the villain are mirror images of each other. For the Bond extravaganza - I had a lot of assistance - it was such a wonderfully tight knit family with Cubby and Dana (Broccoli) at the head - then John Glen and Timothy Dalton and of course Michael Wilson and Barbara (Broccoli) - both who are carrying the torch.

It was a special Bond production far from its British home in Pinewood. Shooting the film was said to have been difficult. How were things on the set? What are your memories of it?
[RD]: I have such fond memories of myself, Benicio Del Toro and Talisa Soto - I tried to incorporate the character so I would go out with them as if I were Sanchez - and it was a blast. Also John Glen who loves practical jokes as I do so we were able to have some wonderfully light moments - also Tim and I had a few fun evenings with Tequila. Mexico was a lot of fun! The only scary moment was when Cubby had gotten a little ill from the altitude.

What makes shooting and promoting a Bond movie different than any other blockbuster you were part of?
[RD]: Bond is the most successful series of films in the history of cinema - it was like working with an extended family and all the parts of the machinery were in exquisite sync - from travel to execution to publicity. Isn’t there a lyric in one of the Bond songs "Nobody does it better". That is a tribute to Albert R. Broccoli.

Timothy Dalton was sometimes criticized as Bond. Did you feel any particular pressure on him because he was to make this Bond grittier?
[RD]: No, the only pressure I felt for Timothy was it was a time when they wanted Bond to be less of a "womanizer" for political correctness - that seemed to take a part of the character out that both men and woman ultimately respond to - it was for that time - but if you look at all of Bond - the female characters were always strong.

They say playing the "villain" in Bond can typecast an actor. Did you feel any of this after Licence to Kill?
[RD]: There is a saying the best villains make the best good guys - there needs to be a certain strength to play a villain - I became the lead of my own TV series Profiler (1996-2000) for 4 years - I was the "good guy" - and have done it in some other films - you can say I am bi-castable - villain or hero - just give me great characters - of which Sanchez certainly is one.

If you have seen the two latest Bond movies with Daniel Craig, how do you feel about the evolution of the Bond saga with those new productions?
[RD]: Well I must say that transition really started with - License to Kill - which was ahead of its time - also look at drug cartels and the problems they cause now - as for the production value of the new films --it is excitingly like a video game and the technology and style reflect that.

You have played a lot of bad guys. Is that you in life? Isn't it too hard to assume as an artist?
[RD]: Of course not - I am most like my new album, Davi Sings Sinatra: On the Road to Romance. That is who I am at my core - the rest is just fun and games.

You met some household names – Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood and also Blake Edwards, Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner, Paul Verhoeven - what do you keep from these meetings? What do you think they may have in common with you?
[RD]: A deep love for what they do and the need to keep growing.

You have a very diverse and rich career. You are a director, an actor, a singer and you do some politics. What drives your artistic choices? What are your next projects?
[RD]: My album - Davi Sings Sinatra: On the Road to Romance – that came out October 24th and my upcoming show at The Venetian and subsequent tour of Davi Sings Sinatra. Also, a new script I wrote called "The Voice" that Mark Canton wants to do.

Photo above:
Robert Davi as "Franz Sanchez" in a promotion photo for Licence to Kill. © 1989 Danjaq S.A. & United Artists Pictures Limited. All rights reserved.

For more information on Robert Davi, visit official Robert Davi sings Sinatra website.

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