Skyfall: Interview with Director Sam Mendes

Daniel Craig is back as James Bond 007 in Skyfall, the 23rd installment of the longest-running film franchise in history.  In Skyfall, Bond’s loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is tested as her past returns to haunt her.  007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

 

The film is from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

 

When Bond’s latest assignment goes gravely wrong and several undercover agents around the world are exposed, MI6 is attacked, forcing M to relocate the agency. These events cause her authority and position to be challenged by Mallory Ralph Fiennes), the new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.  With MI6 now compromised from both inside and out, M is left with one ally she can trust: Bond.  007 takes to the shadows–aided only by field agent, Eve (NAOMIE HARRIS)– following a trail to the mysterious Silva (JAVIER BARDEM), whose lethal and hidden motives have yet to reveal themselves.

 

Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions presents Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 in SKYFALL.  The film also stars Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Ben Whishaw, with Albert Finney and Judi Dench as ‘M.’  Directed by Sam Mendes.  Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.  Written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan.  Executive Producer is Callum McDougall.  Director of Photography is Roger Deakins, ASC BSC.  Production Designer is Dennis Gassner.  Editor is Stuart Baird, A. C. E.  Costume Designer is Jany Temime.  Music by Thomas Newman.  Co-Producers are Andrew Noakes and David Pope.  Featuring “Skyfall” performed by Adele.  Sony Pictures Releasing is distributing with MGM handling select territories.

 

Skyfall is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking.  The film will be released on October 26, 2012 in the UK and on November 9, 2012 in the U.S.

 

In approaching Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond adventure, the filmmakers were very attuned to the fact that 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of James Bond on film.  They were determined that this entry in the longest-running film franchise in history would deliver everything that has made Bond, Bond: heart-stopping action, scene-stealing villains, beautiful Bond women, exotic locations, a killer theme, the Aston Martin DB5… and, of course, 007 himself, played by Daniel Craig.  But a Bond film is not a collection of puzzle pieces; these elements combine – like gin and vermouth, shaken, not stirred – to serve the story. For Skyfall, bringing it all together is Academy Award®-winner Sam Mendes.  “I knew that Sam would put everything behind it,” says Craig, who marks his third film as Bond in Skyfall.  “He would put all of his knowledge of movie making behind it, but also his knowledge and love of Fleming and Bond.”

 

While Mendes might be best known for directing a different kind of movie, he says that high entertainment and artistic integrity are not mutually exclusive.  “I have my own, personal relationship with Bond, which began when I was 9 or 10 years old – when Live and Let Die came out,” he says.  “We happen to be living in a time when it’s possible to make a big, entertaining, glamorous, escapist movie that also says something about the world we live in.  With Daniel’s performances in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, James Bond feels like a real man in a real situation again.  It reminded me of the way I felt when I watched the Sean Connery movies.”

 

For the producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the anniversary brings with it added expectations.  “It’s our 50th anniversary and 23rd film so the pressure’s on to make the best Bond ever.  We have an extraordinary cast, an incredibly talented creative team and an emotionally charged script,” says Wilson.

 

Broccoli adds that Mendes’ relationship and history with the Bond films adds a personal element from the very start. “With his knowledge and history, he identifies with the audience – he knows what works and what an audience is expecting. And, frankly, that’s great to watch on set,” she says.

 

Throughout these 50 years, it has been the Broccoli family –first Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and partner Harry Saltzman, and then Cubby’s children, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli – who have been the overseers and caretakers of the James Bond film franchise.  “Michael and Barbara are extraordinary because they work very well as a team,” says Mendes.  “Barbara has a remarkable skill for making people feel like she knows their name and knows what their issues are, and if there’s ever a crisis, she’s the one who will handle it.  Michael brings an enormous amount of experience and wisdom, combined with such a gentle presence on the set – he never bullies or lectures. If you have an idea and are wondering, ‘Has Bond done this before,’ ask Michael – he knows.”

 

It was Craig, with the support of Wilson and Broccoli, who invited his friend, Mendes, to direct the film. “When we started talking about it, I felt a connection with someone who had exactly the same enthusiasm and respect for the Bond films that I did,” says Craig. “And, of course, I deeply respect Sam as a director.  I said to him, ‘This is going to be a new experience for you – trust me, because I made two of them and it was a very new experience for me.  Nothing can quite prepare you.’”

 

SKYFALL welcomes back screenwriters Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and introduces Academy Award®-winner John Logan to the Bond writing family. Logan explains, “I felt greatly encouraged by Sam and Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson to make the screenplay as unique as I could, using my particular strengths as a writer. Coming from the world of theatre, for me, it has always been about character and dialogue.  When you look over the vast panoply of Bond films, things tend to emerge, like a lightning bolt: great moments of dialogue, great moments of character interaction – whether it’s Bond and Goldfinger, Bond and Blofeld, or Bond and Vesper Lynd. Those are the amazing scenes that just stop your heart because they’re unexpected in what’s considered a genre movie.”

 

Of course, for each individual Bond film, it is the director who guides and shapes the picture.  Mendes says he felt the freedom to put his own stamp on the legendary franchise.  “I have been given an enormous amount of freedom – and I’ve never felt constrained or hidebound by the genre or the franchise,” he says.  “Part of that is Daniel and Judi Dench, both of whom I already knew well.  Frankly, I’d love the two of them to be in any movie I directed. But part of it is also the enthusiasm with which the Producers greeted new ideas about Bond and M and the franchise as a whole.”