“Locations, like actors, present emotions in a movie,” he explains. “The interesting thing for me about Daniel Craig’s interpretation of Bond is that it’s a journey inward instead of outward, but at the same time, locations are part of the Bond texture.” Hence the jaunt to Colón, once a busy port on the Panama Canal before the U.S. withdrawal from the Canal Zone in 1999 led to rot and ruin. Other locales include Chile’s Atacama Desert; Lago di Garda in northern Italy; and Bregenz, Austria.
Long before Forster became a director, he had already lived a cosmopolitan life. Growing up in the wealthy mountain enclave of Davos, Switzerland, he enjoyed a childhood of rarefied privilege, with vacations to the family villa on the Mediterranean. But when he was 17, his father, a medical entrepreneur, suffered financial reversals. Forster recalls being traumatized as much by the family’s lost fortune as by the loss of friends who dropped them. (One of his more steadfast pals from that period is Princess Olga of Greece.)
To pay his tuition to New York University’s film school, Forster borrowed money from family friend Robert Louis-Dreyfus—the tycoon cousin of actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus—and he now calls the family’s bankruptcy “the best thing that ever happened to me.” What that means, he explains with admirable philosophical perspective, is that having lived with wealth and then learned to live happily without it, he’s not impressed by Hollywood flash. In fact, during the sensitive early negotiations over creative issues on Quantum, Forster says he avoided the subject of salary altogether.
“I’ve never made a decision based on money,” he says. “It’s always based on the story. So I said to my agent, ‘I need to figure out if this is my passion. If they make you an offer in the meantime, I don’t want to know.’”
One trait common to all of Forster’s otherwise varied films is the emotionally throttled protagonist, a character that reappears almost like a specter from the director’s emotionally chilly haute bourgeois upbringing. (Even Berry’s fiery performance had, as its counterweight, Billy Bob Thornton’s stony cop.) “The backdrop changes, but the characters stay very similar,” says Forster. “I just disguise them in different worlds.” It’s a mold that fits the aloof and mysterious Bond perfectly.
Forster’s own temperament has remained steady even as his career has taken off, says Kevin Tod Haug, the visual-effects supervisor who has worked with him since Finding Neverland. Forster maintains the ability to lead a vastly complicated enterprise without raising his voice, pulling rank or shredding producers’ nerves and budgets—behavior typical of “auteur” directors who hit the big time.