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'Skyfall' Opening Credits: How Mendes Got Adele for 'the first good Bond song' and A Look at Past Openers and Songs (VIDEO)

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood November 19, 2012 at 2:02PM

One of the joys of "Skyfall" is its darkly psychedelic opening credit sequence, which combines to great effect Adele's soaring song with the iconic Bond graphics overlaid on Daniel Craig's sinking figure. We're basically watching Bond's fall into death as images pass before his eyes. Sam Mendes' latest installment in the franchise is crammed with purposeful references to 007 films of yore, but perhaps the best is that hit song. Music has long been used to sell movies, but never more than with the Bond franchise.
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A shot from the opening credit sequence in "Skyfall"
A shot from the opening credit sequence in "Skyfall"

One of the joys of "Skyfall" is its darkly psychedelic opening credit sequence, which combines to great effect Adele's soaring song with the iconic Bond graphics overlaid on Daniel Craig's sinking figure. We're basically watching Bond's fall into death as images pass before his eyes. Sam Mendes' latest installment in the franchise is crammed with purposeful references to 007 films of yore, but perhaps the best is that hit song. Music has long been used to sell movies, but never more than with the Bond franchise.

Think for starters of Brit Shirley Bassey's classic "Goldfinger" and "Diamonds Are Forever," Paul McCartney and Wings' "Live and Let Die" or Marvin Hamlisch and Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" for "The Spy Who Loved Me."

Mendes was lucky to nab Adele, today's reigning global pop diva, whose soulful belting also links to the past. In a recent interview with TOH!, the director describes how Adele came on board. She was initially hesitant because she wasn't sure if her trademark personal lyrics would vibe with a Bond theme. Mendes told her, "Just write a personal song. Nobody does it better. Just think in those terms." He then told her the story of "Skyfall," so that she'd have narrative reference points.

Adele took the script home with her and couldn't put it down -- she even read it while in the bath. Two months later she sent a music file to Mendes, who says he listened to the track on repeat for hours while driving through the countryside en route from a filming location. He then played it for producer Barbara Brocolli and Daniel Craig, "who both shed a tear, because it's the first good Bond song."

When the song "Skyfall" debuted on October 5, it immediately soared to the top of the iTunes charts. A week later, the song had rocketed from the Hot 100 on Billboard charts to the Top 10. Sitting at No. 8 and then moving up to No. 3, it wasn't even the reigning champ, but it is Adele's biggest debut to date. The November 9 opening of the film gave it another boost, kicking it up from spot 56 to 33, and placing it in the Hot Digital Songs Top 10 (with 91,000 downloads sold, as of November 16).

The memborable opening credits sequence accompanying the song was created by title designer Daniel Kleinman, who discusses the difficulties of the length of the sequence, paying homage to original Bond title designer Maurice Binder without making the graphics look like "knockoffs," and melding underwater photography with CG, here.

This article is related to: Features, Skyfall, Skyfall, Sam Mendes


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.