Friday, 25 January 2013

THE LOST ART OF INTERROGATION - Daniel Kleinman Interview

What was the first James Bond film were Daniel Kleinman worked in? If you answered GOLDENEYE, you're wrong! It was LICENCE TO KILL. Actually, he didn't worked in the film per se, but in the music video for Gladys Knight's song for Timothy Dalton's swan song as 007 in 1989.

Graduated from Hornsey Art School, Kleinman worked as an illustrator and collaborated on storyboards for the music video industry, which led to design many videos since 1983 for icons like Prince and Madonna. He also created commercials during the '90s with complex special effects for Sony, Johnny Walker and Guinness, to name a few brands, and directed some TV drama and comedies like BAFTA winner SMASHIE AND NICEY - THE END OF AN ERA. Nowadays, Daniel works in Rattling Stick staff, a company of commercial directors he co-founded.

Daniel Kleinman, main title designer for
six James Bond films since 1995
After Maurice Binder's death in 1991, he was known the man responsible for transporting the classic James Bond visual iconography into the 21st century: he redesigned the gunbarrel sequence for GOLDENEYE, giving it a slightly digital touch, and created the main title sequences for all the Pierce Bronsan and Daniel Craig adventures except for QUANTUM OF SOLACE, where MK12 did a not so memorable job. From the fall of the Soviet Union to the cybernetic ladies and the black gold. From Bond's torture in the North Korean cell to the flying poker cards and shadows stalking our hero in an underwater limbo, we practice the "Lost Art of Interrogarion" with Daniel Kleinman, discussing GOLDENEYE, SKYFALL, design and Maurice Binder trough the other side of cyberspace.

First of all, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for the site, Daniel. How did you get to work in the GOLDENEYE main title sequence? Was it related to your work in Gladys Knight's "Licence to kill" music video?

I believe it was, there had been a 7 year hiatus between Bond films and sadly Maurice Binder died during that period. I was asked to take his place probably because people had liked my video for Gladys Knight "Licence to Kill", I'd meant it in part to be a "homage" to the title sequences, which I had always admired.

The main titles of GOLDENEYE reflected the
end of Communism in a rather suggestive way

Let's talk about GOLDENEYE a little. How did you concieve the idea of the Cold War political context of it? It was absolutely your idea or the writers gave you a hand?

I was given the script to read, there was nothing written in there for the titles, but the fact that the pre title sequence was at an earlier time to the post title film gave me the idea to make the titles be about time passing and also to illustrate the great political upheaval that had occurred during the period in question. The fall of the Soviet State and Communism was also very pertinent to the plot of the film so it all fit. I liked the idea of making the titles help the narrative of the film and I love classic Soviet art, it's very graphic.

Have you heard some of the left-winged parties in India protested against it? What do you think of that? I mean, nobody usually makes so much noise about a main title sequence, even when the Bond ones are very memorable.

I didn't know about that, I believe the film didn't get a release in some Communist countries, I think it was due to the titles and Michael Wilson joked with me about it, although I don't think the producers were very happy that they'd lost a territory. I suppose that the events in Soviet Russia and the shift away from Communist ideology was still fairly recent at the time of the film's release, I certainly didn't think I was making any moral judgements just illustrating in a playful way factual events. Statues really were torn down, as is seen later in the movie, and although it wasn't literally girls in lingerie who caused icons to fall and the Soviet State to break up, in an analogous way perhaps it was, the Soviet people wanted what the west had, goods and glamour, remember not that long time before then people had been smuggling in Levi's. 

Have you met somebody of the cast of GOLDENEYE? Or you just worked with the crew and your team of artists?

I worked with my own crew and chose the team to create the titles. To a certain extent the titles are an autonomous unit, the rest of the main film unit is usually still working and very busy.

The classic gunbarrel was CGI rendered for Pierce Brosnan's debut
in GOLDENEYE. The animation was until DIE ANOTHER DAY,
where a digital bullet was added.

Who was your mentor in animation designing? Was Maurice Binder an influence for you in Bond and beyond?

I went to art school, I didn't really have a mentor as such, I admired many designers Maurice Binder among them, of course Saul Bass and Robert Brownjohn are also great in terms of title sequences. I didn't really set out to make titles and I have only ever worked on James Bond titles as I'm a fan, my influences are really more painting, illustration and film than title sequences per se. 

Your only absence in Bond since 1995 was for QUANTUM OF SOLACE. You were unable to do it or they didn't hire you? And what do you think of MK12's work there?

The director of that film (Marc Forster) wanted his own team MK12 so I was left behind on that one. I thought they did a great job, I like the ideas and images and there is certainly a different vibe to it compared to my work, which is a good thing. There are many difficulties, practical and intellectual, when creating such a sequence and I felt they pulled it off well.

Now, if you had to rate all your Bond main title sequences from GOLDENEYE to SKYFALL, which was was the most difficult to create and what was the one you enjoyed the most doing?

Each sequence has had it's own difficulties and challenges, much of this is due to the changing nature of the technology, digital editing and post production. For GOLDENEYE the sequence was edited in an analogue edit suite first, then copied by eye on a high resolution digital film compositing machine which at that time was very, very slow and a cumbersome way of creating optical effects. The good thing about that method was that I had a lot of control and was able to get the sequence just how I wanted quite easily in the relatively flexible analogue suite but at far too low a resolution to be able to put it back to 35mm film. The bad side to it was that the sequence had to be created twice making the process long and expensive and very labour intensive. For the next few films I worked on I went straight to the digital machines to try and streamline the process but even then the time it took to process and render the pictures made the work very slow and frustrating, also it gave me very little room to change anything if I wasn't happy with it. Finally by the time I did CASINO ROYALE the technology had sort of caught up and I was able to work in a more spontaneous and flexible way so I think I started enjoying the process more. I certainly enjoyed the 'creative' part of GOLDENEYE, CASINO ROYALE and SKYFALL as I feel they were closest to what I had in my mind.

The acclaimed titles of 2012's SKYFALL, the latest
work of Kleinman in the Bond series.

What about your other projects, anything on the horizon yet?

I am always working on commercials, that is really my main job, I do the James Bond titles for fun.

From THE GOLDENEYE DOSSIER we'd like to thank Miss Florence Roberson from Rattling Stick ( for making the arrangements for this interview, and of course we thank Daniel for sparing a little of his time for us to answer the questions and, of course, we wish him success in his projects and, oh yes, we hope he returns for Bond 24 and surprises us as he always did with his creative mind!

All stills copyright of EON Productions and Danjaq and used with illustrative purposes only.

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