Cutting Edge Episode 11: BBFC and MPAA cuts to Casino Royale. By Gavin Salkeld
26th August 2014
Daniel Craig became the sixth actor to portray James Bond in the celebrated Eon film series with the 2006 release of Casino Royale. Craig's performance presented a darker and more human portrayal of Bond, very much in the same manner that
Timothy Dalton had pioneered in his two Bond films almost 20 years earlier. Dalton himself went on to praise both the film and Craig's performance, saying he was delighted for him .
Proved a safe bet
Whilst Casino Royale went on to be a huge success with critics and audiences alike, the film was beset by censorship problems in many territories across the world, with at least five different cuts of the film being released in various countries
around the globe. For instance, Chinese audiences had some luck in that Casino Royale was the first James Bond film to ever be officially released in China, although the Chinese censors did cut the film and demanded that a line mentioning the
Cold War be redubbed to instead make a vague reference to the old times. As another example, the German release was practically uncut, but one small change was made to an undetailed neck break to secure an FSK-12 rating. Other countries
got an uncut version, whilst the United States and the United Kingdom got two entirely separate cut versions.
In this edition of Cutting Edge, we'll be primarily focusing on the changes that were made to director Martin Campbell's original uncut version for both the UK and US releases of the film, and the results say a lot about the different attitudes
taken by the two different censor boards on both sides of the Atlantic.
Seeking BBFC advice on torture
After production wrapped in 2006, director Martin Campbell was in the process of editing Casino Royale in England and an unfinished rough cut of the film was submitted to the BBFC by the film's distributors, Sony Pictures, for advice on how to
achieve a 12A rating for the final UK release. Although the film has some particularly violent scenes, the BBFC took issue with only one part of the film - the torture of James Bond by the film's chief villain, Le Chiffre. This important sequence
(in both Ian Fleming's novel and the film itself) sees Le Chiffre repeatedly beating Bond in his testicles with a knotted rope; although in the novel a carpet beater is used. The BBFC declared that the film's torture scene contained too much
emphasis on both the infliction of pain and the sadism of the villain and later commented:
Casino Royale sat on the borderline between '12A' and '15' when first seen in unfinished form. The BBFC advised the distributor that the violence would need to be toned down if the desired '12A' category was to be achieved. The version submitted
for formal classification [was] appropriately placed at the upper end of '12A'... where the [BBFC] Guidelines permit violence provided there is no dwelling on detail or emphasis on injuries.
Minor changes were suggested to the filmmakers following the advice viewing, including:
...the removal of lingering shots of the rope, close shots of Bond's facial reaction and the substitution of a more distant shot of the beating.
Submission to the BBFC
Cut Scenes: Ballsy Resistance
The first -- and most obvious -- elimination in the UK version occurs as Le Chiffre approaches the naked and bound Bond with the rope. Le Chiffre speaks to Bond, remarking, You've taken good care of your body. As Le Chiffre encircles
Bond, he pauses to drape the end of the rope over Bond's shoulder, saying, Such a waste. The rope is then removed and Le Chiffre walks to Bond's side.
Removed shots including the Le Chiffre line: Such a waste
The shots showing the draping and removing of the rope and Le Chiffre's second line were removed entirely. In an interview with James Bond fan site MI6 in 2006, director Martin Campbell remarked that the BBFC's issue with this particular shot
was that it was a little too sexual for their tastes.
Now just one swing of the rope
Immediately afterwards, Le Chiffre begins to slowly swing the rope towards Bond's genitals. A shot from underneath the chair showing the rope swinging two times was reduced to just one swing for the UK version.
Shot extended to replace the close up
Missing close up
Le Chiffre's second strike with the rope is covered in two shots in the uncut version - a two-shot of Bond and Le Chiffre as the latter whips Bond with the rope; a close-up of Bond's grimacing face as he cries out in pain; and a return to the
previous two-shot as Le Chiffre walks away. For the UK version, the close-up of Bond's face was removed, and the two-shot held for the entirety of the second whipping with no cutaway.
Campbell appears to have incorporated the last BBFC change -- the substitution of a more distant shot of the beating - into his final edit of the film. When Bond is struck for the third time, the scene quickly cuts away to a long shot
of Bond screaming from behind.
More distant shot of beating
This shot exists in the uncut version too, and could possibly suggest that Campbell agreed with the BBFC's assessment and saw fit to remove the original offending footage in all versions of the film.
Following a formal submission of Casino Royale to the BBFC, it was passed without further cuts with a 12A rating on October 30th 2006. After suffering numerous BBFC cuts to his 1995 Bond film, GoldenEye, Martin Campbell was surprised that
such minor changes were all that was required to Casino Royale:
In England, they didn't give a damn, and said that the violence is terrific. It was amazing to me that they let as much through as they did.
On the other hand, the reaction from the British cinema-going public was not quite so terrific. As the BBFC later stated in their Annual Report:
Any one of our decisions may be controversial or at least subject to challenge and criticism. For example, were we right to make Casino Royale '12A', despite some scenes of violence and torture?
[It] was the most complained about film in 2006. The majority were about the level of violence in the film, commenting that it should have been a '15'. It was felt by some [that] the torture scene was still considered very strong despite being
The pre-cut UK cinema version was later passed with a 12 rating by the BBFC in February 2007 and released on DVD and Blu-ray.
No problems with torture in the US... but the MPAA required cuts to fight scenes
Martin Campbell submitted the uncut version of the film to the MPAA in the United States, with Sony Pictures keen to secure a PG-13 rating. In an unexpected move, the MPAA - usually more lenient on violence in action films than the BBFC - stated
that cuts would be required in two of the film's major fight scenes before a rating would be awarded. As it stood, the uncut version would receive an R rating; a rating that Sony were not willing to accept. In an interview with M2E Pictures,
Martin Campbell spoke about the American treatment of Casino Royale:
You have to have a PG-13 rating, you can't have a stiffer one, otherwise you'll be in serious problems on Bond. So the point is it has to be a sort of general audience movie. In the States, we took out a tiny bit of violence at the beginning of
the movie, and a little bit in the machete fight. Oddly enough the Americans let the torture scene go through without a cut.
Cut Scenes: That sinking feeling
Through the use of numerous techniques including small snips, the shifting of edit points and alternative footage, Campbell re-edited the film's opening bathroom fight and the later stairwell fight to secure a PG-13 rating in the United
States. The bathroom fight cuts are as follows:
The initial punch by Bond to Fisher's face is altered. When compared to the uncut version, the edit point has been moved to occur just as Bond's punch makes contact, which subtly lessens the impact of the blow.
Bond smashing a cubicle door into Fisher's face is removed.
Bond kicking Fisher in the face and moving in for another kick before Fisher throws a trash can at Bond is cut and merged into one kick. As Bond goes to kick Fisher initially, the US version cuts to Bond's second kick as Fisher blocks it
with the trash can.
Footage of Fisher choking and screaming as Bond moves him towards the sink is trimmed.
The drowning of Fisher is reduced in length, removing a close-up of Bond straining to hold Fisher down and a shot of Fisher spluttering in the sink.
Alternate footage of Fisher's legs kicking has also been inserted in place of more footage that shows Fisher drowning in the sink.
Some of the shots cut from the US version
Martin Campbell had intended this scene to be ugly and brutal; Bond is earning his stripes as a new Double-0 agent and in the novel Ian Fleming makes it quite clear that Bond has trouble dealing with such violence in his profession.
Campbell's intended effect is somewhat diluted due to the MPAA's changes.
Cut Scenes: Stairway to Heaven
The stairwell fight later in the film is also heavily cut in the US version. The main changes are as follows:
Obanno's bodyguard hitting the floor after Bond kicks him over the railing is removed, followed by the substitution of a shot showing Obanno kicking Bond in the stomach
Bond smashing Obanno's head into a window is cut entirely, along with Obanno swiping at Bond with a machete
Obanno grabbing Vesper's leg as she runs away is removed
A brief wide shot of Bond and Obanno struggling is missing
Bond kicking Obanno in the leg and smacking him in the face is cut, followed by Bond throwing himself at Obanno and Obanno shoving Bond into a wall
Bond elbowing Obanno twice in the back is reduced to one blow
Bond choking Obanno and yanking him backwards is slightly trimmed
The second of two shots showing Obanno's struggling legs is missing
Footage showing Obanno twice reaching for the gun on the floor is missing, along with footage of Bond continuing to choke Obanno
A shot showing Obanno slowly dying in Bond's grip is cut so that only the latter part of the shot remains after he is already dead
The final close-up of Obanno's dead and bloodied face is missing completely
Some of the shots cut from the US version
Following these alterations, the US version was passed with a PG-13 rating and this version was released on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Unlike many previous Bond films which have only ever been available with at least some censor cuts permanently incorporated into all final release prints, the uncut version of Casino Royale was actually released intact in many parts of the world
- Australia, France, Holland, Hong Kong, Japan, Portugal, Scandinavia and Taiwan all received uncut DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film. The Russian DVD release was also uncut, although the Blu-ray contains the cut UK version with the shortened
Celebrating James Bond's 50th anniversary with an uncut release in the UK (but not the US)
In 2012, Sony resubmitted Casino Royale to the BBFC for the film's Blu-ray release as part of James Bond's 50th anniversary celebrations. They submitted the original uncut version of the film, which was passed by the Board on August 13th 2012
with a 15 rating, and all previous cuts were waived. The UK now has a fully uncut version of the film, with none of the BBFC or MPAA edits. All of the fight scenes are intact, and the torture scene is uncut. However, the 12-rated DVD releases
still contain the cut UK version.
Uncut region free Blu-ray in the UK
The still censored PG-13 Blu-ray in the US
Unusually in such matters, American Bond fans were less lucky. Whilst Casino Royale was also re-released in the US in 2012 as part of the Bond 50 celebrations, the cut PG-13 version was once again released, and to date an uncut version remains
unavailable to US buyers in their home territory. In spite of this, it is not all bad news. The uncut UK Blu-ray (easily identified by its 15 rating) is Region Free, and can be bought at a very reasonable price. American fans can therefore import
this version from the UK and enjoy the film uncut in high definition on any American Blu-ray player without issue.
Cutting Edge Episode 11: Casino Royale
Gavin Salkeld extracts the truth about the BBFC and MPAA censor cuts
All articles are original works compiled by Gavin Salkeld, with occasional help from a small team of researchers. Particular thanks are due to the BBFC for their diligent and helpful explanations of their interventions.