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

by Drew Taylor
November 6, 2012 2:52 PM
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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.

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.

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  • Sarah | November 7, 2012 2:15 PMReply

    Its interesting reading this and learning what Sam Mendes was trying to achieve. I am beyond excited for this new Bond movie, I love that it is taking a darker tone than any of the previous films. I will also be watching to see all of the shout outs to the previous movies; it’s nice that he thought to include those. To prepare for this movie, a coworker at DISH and I have been re-watching all of the previous ones. It is interesting to see how much they have changed throughout the years and how different Daniel Craig is from previous James Bonds. Watching the movies has been really easy with Blockbuster @Home from DISH. I love that you can get the DVD delivered through the mail, or exchange it in the store if we can’t wait. This movie seems like it is going to really change the Bond movies from now on, and I am thrilled to watch that transformation.

  • Ed | November 6, 2012 8:02 PMReply

    I'm going to be honest: I really didn't get into the film. I never felt any suspense - thanks to Thomas Newman's music (which sounded totally disconnected with what was on the screen), and the slow story line. The whole film felt lost to me, so I read this article to understand what Sam Mendes was trying to achieve. Now I don't think he knew either. It's not an especially dark film. Daniel Craig looked in top physical shape throughout, and immaculately dressed (very inconspicuous?) in Istanbul/opening sequence. The film was totally 2 dimensional, there was nothing to think about. It was more like an episode of the A-team towards the end. I think (re-)introducing 3 new permanent characters was an interesting step, but the audience was never given a reason to like them. In fact, all the characters (except Q) including Bond seemed completely incompetent at their jobs. We're also supposed to believe a sly army officer is somehow qualified to run mi6? There wasn't a scene that I found believable. The poor quality CGI didn't help. I hope there is a directors cut, which does this Bond episode more justice. I could go on about things that could have been done to a more authentic standard. But it may ruin it for others...

  • Olaf | November 6, 2012 3:31 PMReply

    It's not "some", I mean.

  • Olaf | November 6, 2012 3:30 PMReply


  • Piotr | November 6, 2012 3:26 PMReply

    Um, spoilers.

  • Yss | November 6, 2012 3:22 PMReply

    The movie is fantastic but My Lord the cinematography is on a whole nother level, so beautiful, so many iconic images... Great work by Mr. Deakins!

  • Christian | November 6, 2012 3:02 PMReply

    Good luck topping this one! Best action of 2012 next to The Dark Knight Rises. Thanks, Sam Mendes!

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