How difficult can it be to make a good poker scene in a movie? According to James Bond director Martin Campbell the ‘Casino Royale’ remake poker showdown was as elaborate as any stunt 007 was involved in!
The 2006 movie grossed a monster $606million at the box office, with Daniel Craig’s ‘Bond’ and Mads Mikkelsen’s blood-eyed villain ‘Le Chiffre’ involved in the highest stake poker game of all time.
For poker fans, of course, seeing their beloved game depicted on the big screen is almost always more ‘miss’ than ‘hit’, so how did director Campbell manage to produce such an intense facsimile of a real highstakes game?
“What you realize is, it’s not just the card games — it’s the stakes. It’s also two guys eye-fucking one another, basically. That was the secret,” explained to Polygon.com.
With No Limit Hold’em replacing the Baccarat Chemin de Fer of the Ian Fleming book version, and the 1967 movie version…
…the cast and crew had to be taught the game basically from scratch to ensure everything from continuity to poker tells would come across as realistically as possible.
Not an easy task for poker consultant Tom Sambrook, the 2002 winner of the European Championships explaining:
“I’d just basically tell them what the absolute bare minimum was that they needed to know to look like they had been playing this game.”
Sambrook also admits to making a bit of money on the side, taking the actors for their ‘per diem’ in hastily-arranged games in the studios.
The Englishman, who finished ahead of Hendon Mobster Barny Boatman and EPT legend John Duthie to win his title, explained:
“We’d be playing games constantly between takes,” adding cheekily, “I saw it as their privilege to learn by paying me this money.”
Director Campbell somehow pulled together all the elements of the game in an almost believable series of poker scenes, mixed in with the usual action-packed adventures of a typical Bond movie.
He believes the 30 minutes of gameplay that made the final cut, showing three massive hands, was critical to the success of the film, admitting:
“It was the thing I sweated on more than anything else.”
After discovering Le Chiffre’s ‘tell’, Bond has to survive two assassination attempts in his bid to end the villain’s hopes of winning the $130million poker game.
“From a dramatic point of view, each of the card games has a good climax,” says Campbell, and if the final scene still grates with some poker fans, there is a reason.
The four-way all-in sees Le Chiffre’s full house lose to Bond’s straight flush, with most fans expecting a Royal Flush to win the day for the movie hero.
“He wins with an inconspicuous straight flush, rather than the royal flush,” Sambrook says, adding to Director Campbell’s vision of a “new Bond” , a less flashy, more believable hero.
Check out the finale yourself!
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