By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist April 26, 2012 at 9:02AM
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, one of the longest-running and most successful film series of all time. Four years after "Quantum Of Solace," Daniel Craig is returning as 007 in "Skyfall," arguably the most prestigious entry yet with Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes at the helm, a top-notch creative team behind him, and a cast that includes heavyweights like Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris, among others. But so far, the film's secrets have remained relatively locked up.
But with the film's trailer set to debut in a month, paired with the release of "Men In Black 3," some more info has started to leak out, with Bond the cover star of the latest issue of Empire Magazine, who've been on the set of the movie. The magazine is on newsstands now, and it's a must-read for Bond fans, with features not just on "Skyfall," but also on "Dr. No," "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," "Live And Let Die," "Licence To Kill" and "Goldeneye." Below, we've rounded up five of the key reveals about "Skyfall" from Empire.
Announced well over two years ago, the choice of Oscar-winner Sam Mendes, a theater veteran known for independent-minded comedy-dramas "American Beauty" and "Away We Go," and glossy prestige pictures "Road To Perdition," "Jarhead" and "Revolutionary Road," was an unusual one for the Bond series, which has always shunned A-list helmers for journeymen-type directors. In fact, the initial suggestion came from star Daniel Craig; the two had worked together on "Road To Perdition" a decade ago, and stayed friends. At a party after Mendes had come to see Craig on Broadway with Hugh Jackman in "A Steady Rain," the actor suggested, "What about doing the next Bond movie?" Mendes, a long-time fan of the franchise, wasn't sure at first, but tells Empire that "I think, like lost of people, 'Casino Royale' woke me up again to the possibilities of Bond. It seemed for the first time to be a real person in a real situation."
2. The director has three rules for what makes a Bond movie work.
Like most Brits, Mendes grew up on the series, and knew when he came in to develop the project (with writers that included franchise veterans Neil Purvis and Robert Wade, Peter Morgan and "Hugo" scribe John Logan) that there were three essentials to a Bond movie: 1) "There needs to be a female contingent that interacts with Bond in a way that verges on the racy side." 2) "He doesn't live entirely in the real world, in the sense that you can't put him on the street. He's not Bourne. Bourne is a footsoldier. You walk into Waterloo station this morning, he's probably there, standing next to you. Bond can't do that. He has to have his own space around him." 3) "He also can't work in tandem with another man of a similar age. You can't be Butch and Sundance. You can't have a buddy. There's this constant tension where he only has relationships with his senior figures in MI6 - and women." Sounds about right to us.
Plot details are still firmly under wraps, bar a brief logline, but producer Michael Wilson says that the film "is about Bond defending MI6, the country and the realm" from Javier Bardem's villain Silva, and Empire suggest from their on-set visits that his plot involves "computers and the control of information." But for the moment, it doesn't seem that cast member Ralph Fiennes is plotting with him. Early rumors suggested that he might be playing a villain (some of the more far-fetched rumors even pegged him as Bond nemesis Blofeld), but the magazine reveals that he's playing a senior figure in MI6 named Mallory. This doesn't rule out him being a turncoat figure, but given that regular rumors suggest that this film will mark Judi Dench's final appearance as Bond's boss M, could Fiennes' character initial be taking over? Either way, he's not going to be stuck behind a desk: the first still of the character sees him taking cover and wielding a gun.
4. The film's likely to be more playful than the last two Craig films, with more nods to classic Bond.
While we like "Casino Royale" a lot ("Quantum of Solace" much less so) they were unusually dour for the series, nodding more to the Timothy Dalton era than the Connery films. But with the revenge plotline jettisoned for the moment, Mendes suggests that this film could be lighter in tone, with the director saying that it's "more playful than the last two," comparing it to "Goldfinger" as well as the darker "From Russia With Love" and "Live And Let Die." Bond's most closely identified car, the Aston Martin DB5, will return to the franchise, while the presence of Ben Whishaw as Q means we're likely to see a host of gadgets, something that's been absent from the Craig era so far. All that being said, Mendes' aesthetic will be in full display, particularly thanks to the presence of legendary DoP Roger Deakins. Visual effects supervisor Chris Corbould tells Empire that the tone is "Probably arthouse. I think people will look at this and think, 'That's a beautiful shot.' But there's lots of action, don't get me wrong!" And it sounds like there will be, with sequences mentioned including Bond chasing down Silva in the London Underground, and a gunfight with a helicopter outside a Scottish country home.
"Quantum of Solace" made history as the first direct sequel in the franchise, picking up almost directly where "Casino Royale" left off. It's been known for a while that "Skyfall" would be a stand-alone adventure, disappointing fans who hoped to see Bond moving further up the ladder of QUANTUM, the shadowy organization responsible for the death of Vesper Lynd, and to whom the last film's villain Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amarlric) belonged. But while producer Michael Wilson says "This story doesn't involve them," none of the producers seem to be ruling out the thread being picked up down the line.
"Skyfall" opens in the UK on October 26th, and will hit U.S. theaters on November 9th.