This is a Bond film, it's not aspiring to be gritty realism, so it does function in a realm of fantasy. The characters, the villains, are heightened. They are richer than rich, they are more evil than evil, and they have these enormous ambitions, and I think within a Bond framework that works, that's what people want from these movies.
Did you take inspiration from any previous Bond villains?
Yes, I have a number of favourites. My top favourite - who is also Lee Tamahori's favourite, is Robert Shaw in "From Russia With Love". Although he wasn't the arch villain, it was one of those stories where you never saw the villain, you just saw the back of his head. Bob Shaw was the face of the villain, really. He was the hired assassin who was after Bond and I thought that he gave a wonderfully controlled performance. It was this controlled aggression that made you deeply nervous of him losing control. I really loved that, and also I love Donald Pleasence in his ones, as he had this really sinister, detached feel to him. What I wanted in this one was a combination of somebody who is arrogant and aggressive, but also, on the other hand, quite unhinged and sinister.
Did you have any embarrassing moments during the shoot?
Yeah, the scene where I parachute into Buckingham Palace, my mother-in-law lives quite near there and she got up very early and came along, and I was suspended in the air with this parachute on a crane, hanging there while they set up the shot down below.
Do you subscribe to the view that it's better to play a villain than a hero?
I think in the Bond movie there's more latitude for villains, because Pierce has already established himself as Bond, and once you're established as Bond you don't have much room to manoeuvre. The only room you have is what situation you are put in as that character, whereas playing a villain you have carte blanche, you can go wherever you want with it. I don't want to spend the rest of my career playing baddies, but it was a lot of fun in this case.
Did you get any injuries filming the sword fight?
I was very lucky, I came off pretty unscathed. We started training a month prior to shooting, and then we were supposed to film the sequence three months into the film but Pierce did his knee in, so by the time we actually got to the scene there'd been six months of training. All of us were just desperate to get it out of the way, but we were all highly trained by this point. If they'd done it three months into it, we probably would have damaged each other, but by the time they actually came to film it, we were so practised at it that it was a very safe fight. It was very dangerous because we had to really go for each other, so you had to trust that your opponent gets their sword in the way, otherwise I could have wrecked Pierce's face, or he could have wrecked mine, and I really wouldn't want to do that.