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An Interview With Roger Spottiswoode

By: Anders Frejdh
Published:
2004-09-06
Roger spottiswoode interview
Roger Spottiswoode, the director of Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) discusses the filming, what got cut and how "lies" became "dies." Our man in France, Kevin Collette, reports.

In a last minute announcement, former Bond director Roger Spottiswoode was named the Cognac 2004 Thriller Film Festival President. Spottiswoode’s filmography includes the classic thriller “Under Fire,” and the not so classic comedy “Stop or My Mom will Shoot,” and of course “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

Graciously granting a lengthy interview, Spottiswoode spoke candidly about the movie industry, President Bush - and Bond!

About Roger Spottiswoode:
Born in Canada, Spottiswoode began his film career as an editor working on advertising and documentary projects. He then moved to the United States and got to work as assistant editor with Sam Peckinpah on “Straw Dogs,” “The Getaway,“ and “Pat Garret & Billy the Kid.” He then worked with Walter Hill on “Hard Times” in 1975.

In 1980, following the slasher movie trend created by “Friday the 13th,” he directed his first feature-length movie, “Terror Train.” Most recently, he finished shooting “White On White” in the U.K. It’s a thriller based on a Patricia Highsmith novel.

[Kevin Collette:] When did you learn that you were selected by Eon Productions to direct the second Brosnan Bond, and how did you react?
[Roger Spottiswoode:] Well, I tend to balance “commercial projects” with more intimate ones. With Bond, I knew it would probably allow me to pursue my TV series further. So I signed. I was thrilled of being picked up. Actually, after the release of the Bond film, the producers came back to me to offer me another one, but I didn’t have any juice left for an immediate encore.

[KC:] Were you involved in the pre-production writing of the script?
[RS:] Yeah, for instance, that was my idea to have at least a strong woman in the story -- not just an “oooooh James“ bimbo. So I cast Michele Yeoh with that idea firmly in mind.

About the script, what happened was that MGM had a script by January 1997. It was revolving around Hong Kong being returned to the Chinese. Of course, we couldn’t use that for a movie due to open by the end of 1997, so we started almost from scratch at T-minus zero!

[KC:] What’s the real story behind that title?
[RS:] Well, the script revolves around a media mogul. The Tomorrow paper is really The European. And Carver is Rupert Murdoch. So, we had a list of 5 to 10 potential titles, amongst them “Tomorrow Never Lies.” It fit perfectly. A newspaper cannot tell lies… So we went for it and faxed MGM in Burbank, and on went with other things. But at the other end, the guy who received the script must have misread it because the next day we had a phone call from MGM, telling us “We love your title ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’! That’s going to be it.” Nobody dared to tell them the truth!

[KC:] The pre-credits sequence was supposed to be a bit different from what we finally saw on screen - a bit like 007 meets Stallone’s “Cliffhanger.” What happened?
[RS:] We did all the pre-production work on that mountain climbing bit indeed -- storyboard, scenery, etc. We had experts etc. But it the end it was simply too dangerous to shoot, so we decided to drop it.

[KC:] We heard many horror stories during the shooting of “Tomorrow Never Dies.” Any truth in that?
[RS:] Really? It has all been made up. The mood was great, the Broccolis very friendly. Nothing important really went wrong.

[KC:] Were you asked to come back as a director for another go?
[RS:] As I said, I was asked by the producer to direct a second Bond movie (TWINE), but I was too tired.

[KC:] You just finished shooting “White On White.” What’s next?
[RS:] Actually, I’ll be back on the set a little bit more after the festival. I also did a Kinder Chocolate TV ad with Claudia Schiffer. The funny thing is we couldn’t shoot kids actually eating the stuff . Merely suggest it! The exec went crazy about that rule…

I’m also working on a project of mine, called “Cathedrals,” about the big Salisbury or Amiens Church builders -- based on a William Goldman novel. It’s not really on religious topics, but more about the men behind those magnificent constructions. I would love to cast Jean Reno in the lead.

Interview © Kevin Collette/MediaBis 2004. All rights reserved.

Photo above:
Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Yeoh and Roger Spottiswoode during the filming of Tomorrow Never Dies. © 1997 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

For more information about Roger Spottiswoode, check out his profile on IMDB:

www.mgm.com/view/movie/2029/Tomorrow-Never-Dies/

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