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October to November has offered a whole month of celebrating the 50th anniversary of James Bond films, with retrospective documentaries and comprehensive re-releases of the films on video. The first Bond film, Dr. No was released in 1962, and of course the character dates back even further in the books of Ian Fleming. The 23rd film in the series, Skyfall, is Daniel Craig’s third outing as agent 007.

Fleming author of James BondCraig began his run as James Bond with Casino Royale, a re-boot of the franchise based on the original Ian Fleming novel that introduced the British secret agent. The producers are out of original Fleming books on which to base movies, but Craig says Fleming is still very influential on the new stories.

“Nobody told me that we couldn’t make an action film with a good story,” Craig said. “We always go back to Fleming when we sit and discuss. If you look at the novels, Fleming’s so conflicted. He tries to kill Bond off. Fleming gets really pissed at him. And Bond’s a killer. He kills for a living. It’s really kind of a dark place Fleming goes to. But what I’m so proud about this movie is that the writing is so good.”

Skyfall explores Bond’s relationship with his commander, M (Judi Dench), which touches on things that we learn happened even before  the first film, Casino Royale. Craig maintained his position on what makes a great Bond movie.

Judi Dench as M in James Bond movie“I just think that good action movies have good story lines,” Craig said. “We all approached this as filmmakers and therefore the idea was to make the best movie we can. Then the Bond stuff and the rules that apply, we have to keep within those boundaries and make sure that we remember that it’s a Bond movie. Again, just harking back to what I said earlier about Fleming, it’s in the books. He’s complicated.”

In the 50 year pantheon of James Bonds, the third film in each actor’s series seemed to set the precedent for their series. Goldfinger is arguably the definitive Sean Connery film and The Spy Who Loved Me established a formula for Roger Moore’s next four adventures. Skyfall combines the gritty realism of Craig’s previous two movies, while adding in some familiar supporting characters like Q (Ben Whishaw) and a little more humor. Could this be the direction in which Craig’s series is heading?

"I don't think we're ever that self conscious about other bond movies." Craig said. "I think the movies are definitely influenced by previous ones. it's a very nice comparison. I mean, Goldfinger is one of my favorite Bonds so if you think there's a similarity, we succeeded. We try and include every (element) we can."

Sean and Tatiana“Certainly the conversations we all had at the beginning was ‘It’s 50 years. We need to mark it and to make the best Bond movie we possibly can.’ To reintroduce and introduce some new ideas, but just to celebrate it a little bit. I’d be lying if I was saying we weren’t influenced by movies like Goldfinger for sure.”

The director of the 50th Anniversary James Bond movie is Sam Mendes, Academy Award winning director of American Beauty. He had a new vision for the franchise to build upon its 50 year history.

“I wanted to push the franchise into areas it hadn’t been before,” Mendes said. “Clearly, there’s no point in doing something that’s a rehash or just re-covers the same ground and I felt that what I saw in Casino Royale was an actor who was capable of handling a much bigger personal journey for Bond.”

A lifelong Bond fan, Mendes admits to owning a plastic model of the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger as a child. However, knowing the entire series so well, he identified some missteps the films took.
Bond in pool
“The thing about Bond for me watching the old movies, is that there was a point around Moonraker  where it lost some of its thriller roots and went into more of an action-adventure almost travelogue type feeling. There was just  immense gorgeous locations, beautifully shot, one henchman, a baddie and Bond,” Mendes continued. “The character of Bond became the Sellotape [British brand Scotch tape] that tied it all together. How can we get Bond from Venice to Rio, and how can we get Bond from Venice to a cable car? From that moment on, he had almost no journey at all. It was just that there has to be a reason for Bond to get to all these places.”

Mendes added, “I’m being unfair to some of the movies in between, because there have been some great films in between, particularly Casino Royale, where I felt like Bond was back at the center of the movie. That doesn’t mean because he was on screen the whole time. It means because he actually had a journey. He had some emotional stake. To try and find that level of personal weight in the center of the movie was really important so that was something we really concentrated on.”
Bond infront of mirror
Craig has been finding those moments throughout his Bond films. In Casino Royale he had a genuine heartbreak. In Quantum of Solace he dealt with his grief. He cries in Skyfall,  but Craig remains nonchalant about it.

“I don’t cry, that’s sweat,” Craig said.

Craig holding gun“They employed me, he continued, “They know what kind of actor I am. I’m going, ‘I think he’s sad here. I’m going to play sad.’ If you balance it right, it should work. It doesn’t always work, but if you get it right, you get the balance right, you can see into it. I don’t think I play him as someone who wears his heart on his sleeve. Most of the movie I think he either thinks he’s in control, or he is in control. It’s just allowing those cracks to open enough to see into the character a bit, I think is worth doing. We try to do it, as un-self-consciously as possible.”

Mendes enjoyed layering in some references to past Bond movies in his Skyfall. It made him feel like a kid again. “In making a Bond movie, you have to rediscover your 13-year-old self,” Mendes said. “It was a great delight to me as someone who also has kids, to find that part of myself in making a film again. All my films have been R-rated movies. Here I was trying to get in touch with the part of myself that loved the DB5, that had that model like pretty much every boy of my generation, and was thrilled by it again. So that was part of it too, is just trying to find my inner 13-year-old.”

Skyfall has all the Bond villains, gadgets and cars covered, but perhaps the most important supplement to a Bond movie is the Bond Girl. Skyfall has two stunning ladies as dangerous allies to 007.
Naomi Harris and Berenice Marlohe
We first meet Eve (Naomi Harris) in the opening scene. In the middle of a mission, Bond and Eve pursue a terrorist from the Grand Bazaar in Turkey onto a moving train. Eve may cause Bond more danger than assistance, but she looks great doing it, and we don’t want to spoil any of the excitement.
Bond peeking thru window
Later in his mission, Bond meets Severine (Berenice Marlohe) in Macao while pursuing a lead. Severine turns out to be the evil Silva’s mistress, so Bond is playing with fire there. That’s how he likes it though. What better way to flush his nemesis out of hiding than to make a play for his woman?

The Bond Villain of Skyfall is Silva, played by Javier Bardem, with blonde hair and eyebrows, and flamboyant fashion and style. Bardem gets many laughs in the film, but he said the key direction came from Mendes. Mendes gave him the word “uncomfortableness.”
Bond and villain Raoul Silva
“We wanted to create somebody who creates uncomfortable situations, rather than being somebody scary or threatening, somebody that creates in a scenario of insecurity, of something unexpected to happen, in front of the person he’s dealing with,” Bardem said. “From there came the character’s looks. We brought pictures. I brought some ideas of people that I know, people that are publicly known. And we work with it until the point where we find that it will make sense. Because this thing about hair or looks, they all have to make sense. I guess, I hope, I wish that when you watch the movie and you rewind, and you see Silva’s character and how he is inside, then you will understand the outside. It makes sense.”

Once he was on the set, the legacy of 50 years of James Bond movies got to Bardem. “There was one day, I’m always telling this story but it’s true, that I was shooting and then I saw Judi and Daniel looking at me and then I forgot the lines. It’s like Jesus, that’s M and that’s James Bond and I’m in a crystal cell, and they’re looking at me. So I’m the villain in a James Bond movie and I forgot the lines,” Bardem said. “Sam came to me, cut, what happened? He was laughing because he kind of knew. I said, ‘Well, man, I’m sorry. I’m a human being. I just realized I’m in a James Bond movie.’ And he said okay, are you ready now? Let’s keep on moving.”
Cast of Skyfall
That wasn’t the end of Bond serendipity on the set of Skyfall. Bardem was able to learn that Dench takes her work as M home with her. “That same day we were shooting the scene with Judi, a very intense scene, I hear [the theme music],” Bardem said. “That was the ring-tone of Judi Dench’s cell phone. I said “Wow, that was pretty brilliant, I have to say. It was like a dream come true, M, your cell, giving the music to the scene. It’s a privilege for me to be in a movie that celebrates 50 years of Bond, and is such a good movie as it is.”

Daniel Craig as James BondCraig is only at the halfway point as Bond, and who knows? He may keep going after his next two. Roger Moore made seven films, and Connery did six plus an unofficial seventh. Originally Craig was hesitant to play Bond for too long, but after three films he’s grown comfortable with these cinematic missions.

“I think that when [producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson] approached me originally I was just a little bewildered that they would even come to me,” Craig said. “It wasn’t really on my radar. Of course, I suppose I was concerned about being typecast. but when you weigh it up, it’s not a bad thing to be typecast as James Bond! I say that now, it’s easier now.”

Craig  concludes, “I’m incredibly proud and lucky to be in the position I’m in here. Especially to have made this film and to be around when the franchise is 50 years old. As soon as we get the next script, I’ll be really up for doing number 24. Hopefully this’ll be a success and we’ll have some momentum.”

Skyfall opens November 9 in theatres everywhere!

 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 140 - September 2018
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