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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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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.

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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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