Celebrating 50 Years of James Bond: Actor Rick Yune Looks Back On Die Another Day

Zao, played by Rick Yune, was the man with the diamond-studded face in Pierce Brosnan's final outing as Bond.

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James Bond fans are gearing up for the monumental Bond 50 Blu-ray box set, which MGM Studios and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment are releasing September 25, 2012. The set, which is the first time all 22 Bond films will be available together in high definition, commemorates 50 years of Agent 007 on the big screen.

A decade ago, as fans celebrated the 40th anniversary of Bond, Rick Yune starred in 2002’s Die Another Day as Zao, the villain with the diamond-studded face. That film signaled the end of era for the franchise, as it was Pierce Brosnan’s final outing as the iconic secret agent. It was also one of the series’ biggest hits, raking in approximately $432 million worldwide.

As he gears up for the release of The Man with the Iron Fists (due in theaters November 2), Mr. Yune was gracious enough to share some memories of his days as a Bond villain.

Rick Yune as Zao before diamonds (164x250).jpgWith the 50 year anniversary upon us—plus the 23rd movie, Skyfall and the Bond 50 Blu-ray collection right around the corner—just how cool is it to be part of such a legendary legacy?

I can’t begin to tell you. It is a cool thing. I’ve been a fan of the Bond movies since I was a kid. They were one of the few things that I shared with my dad, who was working all the time. We always found time to watch a James Bond movie.

As a young man, did you draw inspiration from the character of James Bond?

When I saw Sean Connery [as Bond], I saw qualities in him that I wanted to emulate when I grew up to be a man. The filmmakers, [longtime Bond film producer] Barbara Broccoli is one of the most amazing women that you’ll ever meet. And working with Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry, and just being involved in that history of films—it’s something I’ll be proud to tell my kids.

You played Zao, the terrorist whose face becomes embedded with diamonds. Did you have to audition for the role?

They offered it right to me. There were a couple of people—that had a career—that they were gunning for. When I made Die Another Day, I was relatively inexperienced, to tell you the truth. But it was right after I did The Fast and the Furious [in 2001], so I had some momentum. I moved right into it.

Rick Yune as Zao (350x229).jpg

What was it like working on a mega-budget film like Die Another Day versus a smaller-scale production?

My first film, Snow Falling on Cedars, I did only a couple years before [in 1999], and then I jumped on The Fast and the Furious. I had no foundation for a perspective on how to look at it all. I was just there and doing the best that I could. But now, looking back on it years later, and having worked with amazing actors like Russell Crowe and artists like RZA [on The Man with the Iron Fists], it does put things in perspective. Die Another Day is a big, blockbuster movie with a lot of action and a lot of different elements. So you don’t have as much intimacy involved. You have to bring it to the screen, because ultimately it is about relationships and characters.

Being a James Bond extravaganza, I bet the promotional blitz for Die Another Day was a one-of-a-kind experience. What are your memories of that time?

Those were some of the most fun times I’ve ever had. Let me tell you, the pre-production, the making of the film, and also promoting the film was probably the best time of my life up to that point. You can only imagine a guy like me, who had a previous career, and was all of a sudden on a private jet with Halle Berry and Pierce Brosnan, going all throughout Europe and the rest of the world. I went everywhere, Europe, South America, Australia, Asia. It was a blast.

The James Bond experience is universally appreciated, its appeal seems to cross over everywhere.

It really made me understand how much of an impact the Bond films have in the world. Because they bring people together no matter what country you’re in. The same type of excitement is all around it. And, you know, that’s a form of art in itself and being a part of it was spectacular.

There’s much more coming soon with Rick Yune in part two of my interview—only on TMR. Yune can be seen in the Quentin Tarantino production The Man with the Iron Fists, directed by RZA, November 2. The 23-disc Bond 50 Blu-ray can be preordered now, in advance of its September 25 release.

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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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