This weekend the latest James Bond entry "Skyfall" opens nationwide and will be rocking people's socks off from coast to coast. Directed by Sam Mendes (read our interview here) and starring Daniel Craig in his third outing as the super-spy, it's a very different movie than the previous two installments ("Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace"), with more color, humor, suspense, and melancholy. While attending the film's press day, we learned the principles – Craig, Mendes, producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, Javier Bardem and Bond girl Naomie Harris — detailed the making of the movie, and the various aspects of the production. Be warned, though: MAJOR SPOILERS follow. Read this piece after you see the movie. Seriously.
Daniel Craig Isn't Nearly As Tough As He Seems
While Craig comes across in the films (and, to be honest, a little bit in person) as something of a bruiser, in real life he's much more demure and, when outfitted in one of Tom Ford's beautiful custom suits, sort of a dandy. He was surprisingly open about this. "I'm not a fighter," Craig said. "I pretend to be. It's called bullshit boxing. We talk about camera angles and with all that stuff with the train at the beginning. It's very carefully worked out and Roger knows where to put the camera. It's constant work and skilled people." However, there was one aspect of the character that Craig was ready to jettison by the time filming was done. "I had to do a lot of running in this movie, which I hate," Craig noted. "Bond doesn't usually walk through a room. I'm going to have to change that."
One Major Plot Twist Was The Only Thing Retained From Peter Morgan's Script
Somewhat infamously, before veteran Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (and, later, Tony-winning playwright John Logan) intricately crafted "Skyfall," Peter Morgan, the vaulted writer of "The Queen" and "Frost/Nixon," wrote a draft of the screenplay. (He later quit during the film's prolonged, bankruptcy-induced downtime after clashing with Mendes; early reports that Purvis and Wade would incorporate elements from his draft proved untrue.) However, the death of M, played by Judi Dench, remained intact from Morgan's early work on the project. "It was the one thing that was in the Peter Morgan treatment that I thought worked," Mendes said, somewhat bluntly. "I thought, generally, that the treatment wasn't an entirely successful document. But it was there." Not that the two sequences came were executed in the same way. Mendes explained: "It was done very differently but it was the one thing I inherited before I came on. The way it happened in the treatment was very different but the idea was very present."
Amazingly, There Were No Plot Leaks Even Though Hundreds Of Scripts Circulated
While the air of a MI-6 style security lockdown is one that is perpetuated in the press, producer Michael Wilson, a longtime shepherd of the franchise, said that it wasn't strictly under lock-and-key. "We always try to keep the scripts confidential," Wilson said with a shrug. But due to the massive size of the production, there were literally hundreds of scripts distributed (each one a source of potential leaks). There's no way to keep an eye on that many screenplays. "We had 300, 400 scripts out to all the technical people, actors, but we had no extra security or anything." However, producer Barbara Broccoli, daughter of series originator Cubby Broccoli, kept the film's major death even from her immediate family. "I'll tell you how secret it was – my daughter, who's 20, sat next to me at the premiere," Broccoli explained. "And when M dies she turns to me and said, 'Mama, how could you do this to me?'"
Daniel Craig Found A Unique Place To Relax On Set
"Skyfall" comes complete with a pair of thrilling underwater sequences – one towards the beginning of the film (at the conclusion of a breathless pre-title action sequence) and one near the end, when Bond finds himself tussling with a baddie under a frozen pond. Daniel Craig, he welcomed the opportunity to get wet, and in fact, he would sometimes hide in the underwater tank to get away from the hustle and bustle of the production. "The great thing about doing those underwater scenes is we have safety divers off camera and they have oxygen tanks and that's my favorite bit because no one can find you," Craig said. "When we weren't shooting I would swim to the bottom, put the respirator in, and hide." Although Craig did occasionally did a little too comfortable down there. "Sometimes I fall asleep as well. And then you'll hear a voice like 'Where's Daniel?'" Wilson then chimed in: "Barbara always makes sure that there's a scene where Daniel gets wet."
Mendes Had A Clear Understanding Of Where He Wanted Bond To Go In "Skyfall"
The one thing that is very apparent, from almost the first frame, is how different a Bond outing "Skyfall" really is, and this is something that Mendes was very adamant about. "I wanted to push the franchise into areas that it hadn't been before," Mendes said. "I felt what I had seen in 'Casino Royale,' was a Bond as an actor, capable of handling a much bigger personal journey." Looking back at the franchise, Mendes thought that it had gotten a little bit off-track, something which he wanted to try and course-correct. "I think there was a point around 'Moonraker' when it lost most of its thriller roots and went into more of an action adventure element and Bond became the kind of tape to string it all together." Mendes has an almost academic breakdown of where the franchise went. "He almost, from that moment on, had no journey at all. You have to be the reason we get to all these places. I'm being unfair to some of the movies in between, but in 'Casino Royale' Bond was back at the center again," Mendes explained. "He had emotional stakes and it was no coincidence that it was based on a Fleming novel. So to find that personal weight at the center of the movie was really important."
Celebrate The Franchise's 50th Anniversary Was Also Important To The Filmmakers
But, of course, "Skyfall" isn't all bold new ground (although there is a lot of that) – this is the fiftieth anniversary of the franchise, after all, and there are many tips of the proverbial hat to the spy's previous adventures. "'Goldfinger' is one of my favorite Bonds. We tried to include everything that we can. Certainly the conversation had at the beginning was, 'This is 50 years. We should mark it.' We had to reintroduce some things and introduce new ideas and celebrate it." (Keen-eyed Bond fanatics and casual observers of the franchise will both notice specific call-backs to previous entries.) In addition to reintroducing M and Moneypenny, Mendes had a very specific idea for the heavy: "I really wanted, even very early on, a flamboyant kind of villain, that dates back more to the early Bond movies." Naomie Harris, for her part, kept mum. When asked about what it was like taking over the mantle of Moneypenny, she demurred: "I can't answer any questions, I'm sorry."
Naomie Harris Says Danny Boyle Changed Her Life (Twice)
Naomie Harris has had a solid career, appearing in two "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, Michael Mann's big-screen "Miami Vice," Brett Ratner's "After the Sunset," and Michael Winterbottom's "Tristram Shanty: A Cock and Bull Story." But her big break came in the form of Danny Boyle's revisionist zombie thriller "28 Days Later." That role broke her out and paved the way for her career. And it turns out Boyle was also responsible for her "Skyfall" gig. "I was in a play called 'Frankenstein,' directed by Danny Boyle. And that is what Debbie McWilliams and Sam Mendes came to see and that's how they cast me," Harris explained. "So it's the second time Danny Boyle had changed my life." Even after she found out she had gotten the part, too, she couldn't tell anyone. "For two months I couldn't tell a soul because they were waiting for the Bond announcement. It was really difficult living with that secret." Still, it probably got her prepared to tackle a woman with mysteries of her own.
Javier Barden's Key Word Was "Uncomfortableness"
When someone brought up the amazing scene where Bardem's Silva confronts Bond for the first time and is both threatening and seductive, Bardem said that one of Mendes' notes to him was the word "uncomfortableness" (which isn't really a word but works anyway). "It was part of the game. But it wasn't the entire game," the actor noted. Bardem then elaborated on the nebulous sexuality of the character. "Sexuality was there as something important to create a behavior but it's not the main thing," he explained. "The main goal was uncomfortableness. In that you can read it however you wish. It is more about putting the other person in an uncomfortable situation. With that comes the rest. Create something unexpected." Unexpected is definitely what Bardem created.
Bardem Also Connects With A James Bond Baddie From The Past
One of the more shocking sequences in the movie is when Bardem's Silva, explaining that he had tried to kill himself using an MI-6 suicide pill, shows that he has become grotesquely deformed. It seems to be a nod to the more freakish Bond villains of the past, and one in particular, who Bardem already had a connection with. "The first time I saw a movie was 12 and I saw 'Moonraker' and I was immediately drawn to Jaws," Bardem said. "I could tell that he was a beautiful person. So you see 007 and so many memories of the times you went to the movie theater and enjoyed those movies, it comes with you in a flash." Sometimes, though, this kind of awe got the better of him. "One day I was shooting and I saw Daniel and Judi looking at me and I forgot the lines," Bardem said with a laugh. "It was like 'Jesus, that's M and James Bond and I'm in a crystal cell.' Sam Mendes laughed and yelled cut and said, 'What the hell happened?' Because he understood."
Mendes Asked Himself, "What Is The Point Of Bond Movies?"
A lot of the movie deals with old and new – MI-6 is relocated to a WWII-era bunker, James Bond drives his old roadster, and the old Q (previously played by John Cleese) is replaced by a hip young nerd – and for director Sam Mendes, this was the key to the entire movie, which then takes on a meta-textual quality. "It was very clear, to me, the discussion at the center of the movie, should be, 'What is the point of secret service?' and therefore 'What is the point of Bond?' and then 'What is the point of Bond movies?'" Mendes said. "And it's an argument for all three." Mendes wanted to go back to the thematic core of the series. "I'm talking about old values – honor, trust, friendship, courage. It's deeply old fashioned in its values but I think they never go out of date," he said, stating that while this all sounds highly intellectual, it's also what gives the movie its emotional heft. "That's what the old is in the movie. As embodied by the relationship between Bond and M. That's something that runs right through the picture and reaches its natural conclusion."