Skyfall: Stunts and Effects

Stunts always play a large role in Bond films and Skyfall is no exception.

Director Sam Mendes, Second Unit Director Alexander Witt and Stunt Coordinator Gary Powell worked closely together to create a physical and believable journey for Bond.  It was important for both Mendes and Powell to approach the film from a more realistic point of view. The action started on the pages. “Writing action sequences is one of the great challenges and the great joys of being a screenwriter,” says screenwriter John Logan. “The challenge as a writer on Skyfall was to find ways to make the action as ‘Bondian’ as possible – which to me means it’s tough, it’s real and it’s heightened.”


Of course, no actor had more stunts than Craig.  Javier Bardem describes watching Craig take on the role: “There is some physicality to the role that you have to be prepared to do, but of course mine compared to Daniel’s was nothing.  And he does the action scenes so easily – From the outside, watching him, I was thinking, ‘If I were you, I wouldn’t be doing that!’” Bardem laughs.  “I mean, I did a little bit, but nothing in comparison to with what Daniel did.”


“Daniel’s an extremely hard working actor, probably the hardest working actor I’ve ever seen,” says producer Michael G. Wilson.  “And it’s not only the mental preparation, but the physical preparation. He works out like a demon, like a professional athlete.  He is really committed to the role, committed to being Bond.”


While stunt coordinator Powell appreciates the advance in digital technology and computer graphics, he prefers the action to be real. “All of us, Sam and Gary especially, felt that we need to push this movie as far as we could. And we’ve always relied on the fact that we do things for real in Bond movies, and that’s just the way it is. If it’s CGI, it’s just to help out, as opposed to creating the scene. Standing on top of a train, travelling at 50 kilometers per hour, fighting with Ola Rapace going over a bridge was probably a stand out moment.”


Broccoli adds, “Daniel contributes a great deal to designing the action and the fights in particular and he’s the one who really pulls it off, because he wants to do as much of it as he possibly can. We were in Turkey for the train sequence and I had my heart in my mouth the whole time; he and Ola were fighting on the roof of a moving train and the moves that they were doing were just heart stopping. Daniel’s the reason why the action works as well as it does because he sells it, he’s up there and I think audiences know that.”


Although the opening sequence lasts only twelve minutes on screen, it took three months of rehearsals and two months of filming to produce. Powell enlisted motocross champion Robbie Maddison, former Top Gear’s ‘Stig’ Ben Collins and British rally car champion Mark Higgins to round out his stunt team. “It’s important to lock down the action step by step so my team can learn it like the back of their hand. After rehearsing for months on end, it gets ingrained in the memory, making it less likely to make mistakes,” says Powell.


Though the action is fast paced, Mendes says the filming process is not“I’ll put it this way: editing action is a good deal more exciting than shooting action.  Shooting action is very, very meticulous, it’s increments, tiny little pieces.  To me, the challenge is to create parallel action so you’re never locked into a linear chase.  It’s never just A following B, there’s something else going on simultaneously, so you’re following several overlapping stories at the same time.”


Writer Neal Purvis adds, “You can have as many explosions as you like but the dramatic core of it has got to work.”


Another undeniable element to the Bond franchise is Bond’s car. The Aston Martin DB5 has become synonymous with Bond over the years.  Wilson says that when it comes to Bond’s wheels, there’s one car that says James Bond.  “We’ve flirted with other cars from time to time, but we always do come back to Aston Martin,” says Wilson.  “It’s a signature car for Bond and a classic one, his own personal one.”  And there’s no Aston Martin more closely tied to Bond than the DB5, the 60s-era production model that Bond first drove in Goldfinger.  For this story, this film, this nod to Bond’s history not only would appeal to the fans, but make sense for the story.


Writer John Logan was thrilled by the return of Bond’s most iconic car. “We’re in love with the DB5! When you think of Bond, you think of certain things very clearly and one of them is that particular car. It is Bond’s essential car and in a movie about reorienting Bond to his past and to his future, we just had to use it – beyond the fact it’s completely cool.”


Daniel Craig too, fell under the spell of Bond’s classic car, “I love them, and this story was the perfect platform to re-introduce the DB5. The film is about Bond returning to his roots and confronting old demons, so it felt right. We get some good use out of it, too.”