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Interview: Sam Mendes Talks Directing 'Skyfall,' Pursuing Javier Bardem For The Villain & Misconceptions About The Bond Producers' Control

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist November 6, 2012 at 2:52PM

This weekend, "Skyfall" is unleashed on cinemas nationwide. Almost from the very first sequence you will realize this is a very, very James Bond movie, and although it's the third in the Daniel Craig series, "Skyfall" almost feels like a hard reboot of the entire franchise, with winking nods to the previous entries and some bold expansion in other areas. The film is also laced with both melancholy and humor, both of which were absent in the hard-driven previous two.
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Skyfall, Daniel Craig
Can you talk about John Logan’s involvement?
Huge. Massive. You know, [regular gatekeeping 'Bond' screenwriters] Rob [Wade] and Neal [Purvis] did amazing work and they have a huge knowledge of the Bond movies, they’ve written the last four or something, but John took it to another level. And John’s collaboration was absolutely central to making it the movie it is. If the script hadn’t been good, then the movie wouldn’t have been good. And I think that if the script hadn’t been terrific, then I wouldn’t have gotten Ralph [Fiennes] and Javier [Bardem] and Ben [Whishaw]. I got them because I sent them a great script and they said, "Yes, I want to do this." Logan has really been a huge part of the movie.

You’ve sort of changed the course of things going forward. Are the surviving cast members going to return?
I hope so! It’s not my choice. Not only have I set up a world where they have a new Q and a new Moneypenny and a new M, but also a world where all three of those people can go out in the field. Q is "have laptop, will travel," Moneypenny is an ex-field agent, and M is an ex-army officer, who can use a gun  -- we’ve seen that. You’ve got a team there that can surround Bond, which is really interesting. And M is now much closer to Bond’s age, he’s much more of a contemporary, Ralph is only 4 or 5 years older than Daniel so he’s no longer a father figure or mother figure. And he’s also capable of being tough and an adversary. I think there are a lot of places to take it now.

Skyfall, Daniel Craig
Were you directly or indirectly inspired by Christopher Nolan and what he did with ‘Batman’?
Directly inspired, yes. I wasn’t inspired directly in terms of the movie, but in terms of what he’s achieved, specifically what "The Dark Knight," the second movie, achieved, which is something exceptional. It was a game changer for everybody. We’re now in an industry where movies are very small or very big and there’s almost nothing in the middle. And it would be a tragedy if all the serious movies were very small and all the popcorn movies were very big and have nothing to say. And what Christopher Nolan proved was that you can make a huge movie that is thrilling and entertaining and has a lot to say about the world we live in, even if, in the case with "The Dark Knight," it’s not even set in our world. If felt like a movie that was about our world post-9/11 and played on our fears and discussed our fears and why they existed and I thought that was incredibly brave and interesting. That did help give me the confidence to take this movie in directions that, without "The Dark Knight," might not have been possible. Because also, people go, "Wow, that’s pretty dark," but then you can point to ‘Dark Knight’ and go, "Look at that – that’s a darker movie, and it took in a gazillion dollars!" That’s very helpful. There’s also that thing – it’s clearly possible to make a dark movie that people want to see.

If you don’t return to direct, have they talked about you shepherding things creatively?
No. I think they’re impeccable producers and they don’t need me around. If I was going to direct, I’d just direct.

And at one point you were attached to the graphic novel adaptation of "Preacher."
Yeah, in the end I passed on that because I couldn’t get it to work. It’s a difficult one to make work. It’s a fantastic series but difficult to film. I love graphic novels, I love that medium, and I always read them with a view of, ‘I wonder if this is a movie.’ But with "Preacher" I just couldn’t get it. I could easily see myself doing another graphic novel, sure.

Can you talk about working with Roger Deakins?
Well, I’d worked with Roger twice before and we know each other quite well. It was just a pleasure. He and I both do a lot of prep work beforehand and in this one we did a lot of prep work. I think it pays off. And I think that’s why it looks like no other Bond movie.

Was there anything you wanted to do and couldn’t?
That’s a good question. Other than shooting in Mumbai, no. I really wanted to shoot in India but the intricacies of that opening sequence [prevented it]. I am thrilled we shot in Istanbul. In the end Istanbul probably gave us more than Mumbai could have done, but I was really keen on going to India. It just didn’t work out. It would have been chaos. We would have shut down the center of the city.

They shut it down with “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” did they not?
No, they didn’t. That was like a tiny second unit crew and they shot everything else someplace else. I didn’t see 'Mission: Impossible' because I was making this one and I didn’t want it to interfere.

This article is related to: Skyfall, Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Features, Interviews, Interviews


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