John Logan, screenwriter of “Hugo” and “Coriolanus,” confirmed to The Playlist that “Skyfall,” the upcoming James Bond film to be directed by Sam Mendes, will not continue the same story that Martin Campbell started with “Casino Royale” and Marc Forster expanded in “A Quantum Of Solace.” “It’s standalone,” Logan said last week in a telephone interview. “It’s a new story with a beginning, middle and end. It’s very much a standalone piece.”
Suffice it to say that ‘Quantum’ was coolly received by audiences, especially after “Casino Royale” proved to be the most successful installment in the series’ history. But Logan said that he wasn’t interested at all in trying to right a ship that some might think went off course. “No, no, no, I don’t feel that’s necessary at all,” he insisted. “[Neal] Purvis and [Robert] Wade are fantastic writers and they did the grunt work on ‘Skyfall.’ I mean, they worked with Sam forever, so I have nothing but respect for the work that they’ve done all the way along.”
Logan revealed that he’s a huge fan of James Bond, both on film and in print, and indicated that his previous work with Mendes made their collaboration on “Skyfall” particularly fertile. “I love Bond,” he said. I mean, the first Bond I saw was ‘Diamonds are Forever’ and I just loved all the Bonds since then. I’ve got all the Ian Fleming novels and it was it was kismet. Sam Mendes, who I’ve known forever through theater circles and he and I had actually developed ‘Sweeney Todd’ for years before Tim Burton came on, we ran into each other in New York, and he said do you want to do it?”
“I instantly said yes because I thought it would be such a great adventure,” he continued. “That was a year ago – we’ve worked on it since January.”
Logan has worked with some of the biggest, most iconic directors in Hollywood during his career, including Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone, and of course, Martin Scorsese, with whom he collaborated not just on “Hugo” but “The Aviator.” After so many successful partnerships, Logan indicated that he’s able to tailor his work to suit the sensibilities of the filmmaker he’s working with. “This is the thing to remember about what I do – I do a very specific thing. I’m a dramatist. I’m not a poet. I’m not a novelist. I’m not a painter. My job is to write lines for actors to speak and to write scenes that inspire other artists or theater artists, so I’m all about the sort of the understanding of a filmmaker’s vision and working together to create a shared vision.”
“Maybe it would be different if I had a different job, but my job has always been get in the trenches with other colleagues and roll up your sleeves and get to work,” he observed. “So talking with Sam Mendes about ‘Skyfall’ was absolutely instrumental about how I wrote the script, and how I shaped it and the storytelling as it was laid out on the page. And it’s always that way, whether it’s Tim Burton or Marty Scorsese or Ralph Fiennes.”
When asked which of Mendes’ strengths he tried to play to, he explained that he approached “Skyfall” from the dual perspectives of character and spectacle. “I think Sam, because perhaps he comes from the theater, has a very, very strong understanding of character and character relationships and the way characters refract off one another,” he said. “One of the great joys for me is being able to turn these characters with the upmost complexity. But also, Sam is a showman — he is a real showman, and he has genuine panache to the way that he views the world. And I think that informs, is going to inform, is already informing every frame of ‘Skyfall’.”
That said, however, “Skyfall” follows in the footsteps of not one but two films that sought to reinvent Bond for a new generation of filmgoers, and a new cultural and political era. Because of that, both “Casino Royale” and ‘Quantum’ offered a greater sense of discovery than in Bond films past, and it seemed as if audiences and the filmmakers alike were refining and formalizing a mythology that reflected that of its predecessors but stood on its own as well. Having taken that approach for two films under actor Daniel Craig’s authorship of James Bond, will “Skyfall” hit the ground running, with a defined universe, or will it too start with a mostly blank canvas?
“I think you’ll find out in November,” Logan said.
“Hugo” is currently playing in theaters nationwide. “Coriolanus” is scheduled for wide release on January 20, 2012. And “Skyfall” arrives on November 9, 2012.