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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.

Skyfall, Daniel Craig
Can you talk about developing Javier Bardem's character? He said earlier that you had given him some options of how to play the character – what were the other options?
Just the usual bullshit. I was just trying to persuade him to do the fucking part! It’s like, "Please do the part, you can do it anyway you want!" I was very conscious that I needed a great actor to fill in the blanks. There was a certain amount of invention and it needed someone to ground it in reality. And Javier’s great thing was that he made it a human being, it’s not some construct. He somehow managed to find a beating heart to this person that’s vulnerable and weird and theatrical and funny and camp – all of these things that make him very disturbing.

Where did Javier's island lair come from?
The island was based on a real island called Mishima, near Nagasaki, which is an island that was built for miners and then abandoned when the mines went dry. And it’s very, very like that. That is a spectacularly weird place and know you can’t go there because of radiation. You have to wear a mask and stuff. But we based it all on that. It does exist and floats in the middle of the sea – it’s very strange.

But yet it has the theatricality of an underground volcano or something.
No, it’s the baddie’s lair! I wanted that moment of "Oh Christ, that’s where he lives."

Skyfall Daniel Craig Javier Bardem
Can you talk about working with Thomas Newman?
Thomas has done all my movies with me and I know him very well. I feel very safe with him. I feel like he’s done a brilliant job of taking all the Bond themes and weaving them into something very original, but acknowledging, all the time, the original theme, the John Barry traditions. So that’s how he did it.

Did you have a checklist of things you wanted to get done?
No. Sometimes it is very funny. Unless you were there, on the frontline, putting the movie together, you don’t really know what you want. But if you’re in a room, you find you have very specific ideas. And usually that means you’re the right person to do it, if your ideas are very clear. I didn’t know I had them, really.

The climax is something that we certainly have never seen before. Can you talk about approaching that?
Fucking hell. It was much easier to have it spread out over a much larger area, in truth, because you can keep moving and keep changing the environment. What was difficult was keeping that weird, coffin-like intensity of shooting in that dark house in the kind of half-light. It was incredibly complicated. I wanted that feeling that [Bond] had to depend on his wits.

"Skyfall" opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, November 9th.

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

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