We Got This Covered: Sam, what drew you to Skyfall other than it being a James Bond film?
Sam Mendes: I wanted to have a huge challenge, and it was no question that they don’t come bigger than Bond in terms of scale and expectations. I wanted to wake myself up and try something completely new, and I also wanted to come back to England and make a movie. I’ve never made a movie in England, bizarrely, despite the fact I’m English, and I wanted to work with Daniel and Judi Dench again who I haven’t worked with for a while.
What I didn’t know was I was going to have two producers (Wilson and Barbara Broccoli) who were going to encourage me in a way to make something as personal for me as all the other things I’ve done. My only concern going in was if I were going to be making a movie by committee, and they have an amazing way of guiding you without seeming to guide you which is the art of producing.
We Got This Covered: Sam, what made you realize that Javier Bardem was the one to play Raoul Silva?
Sam Mendes: I was privileged to be able to work on the script from the ground up as it didn’t exist when I came on, and we did literally say “who would you most want to see as a Bond villain?” And we all said “Javier Bardem” and we did write the role for him. I could honestly say to him when I sent him the script “we wrote this part for you.” But I don’t think anyone imagined he would take it into the particular area that he took it of how he looks and how he moves. It is truly an original creation built on top of a very excellent script by Robert Wade, Neal Purvis and John Logan, but he brought his own brilliance to it as well.
We Got This Covered: Sam, what made you decide to cast Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine?
Sam Mendes: I considered every possible person for that role but she came in and that particular mixture she has of east and west, French and Cambodian and her general excellence as an actor and her sex appeal and all those things. Once she came in, it was pretty clear that the part was hers.
We Got This Covered: The James Bond tradition is now fifty years old, but Skyfall is like a reboot which also combines those long standing traditions that the movies in general have. What were discussions in production like when you talked about merging the two?
Sam Mendes: Everything has to be work shopped. An idea was to have Q back and I said yes. For a while he was an older man and then the idea came up that he should be a younger man and that was interesting, so I said let’s run with that and see where we get to. One of the most important people to this film was screenwriter John Logan, who came in and was very clear-sighted about getting all our ideas and putting them on paper. Until they’re on paper, they’re meaningless.
We Got This Covered: Sam, can you tell us more about the locations you shot at, and also was it your decision to make James Bond more vulnerable here or was that already decided?
Sam Mendes: London and Scotland were both for me incredibly evocative and very powerful, poetic landscapes if you get them right. We worked hard to give them real specific atmospheres like the rainy, mystery of the London Underground and creating the world of MI6 that was underground. I don’t think London is a particularly photogenic city as it’s quite difficult to shoot in an interesting way. Scotland’s the same because it can be a very bleak but beautiful landscape, very un-Bond like.
It’s fair to see that the point of locations in a Bond movie is to try and find a reason why you’re there that isn’t just the way it looks. It has to have a reason to be in the story, and in this case it had to do with Bond’s emotional state; most of the time we went to places that meant something to him.
Even when you go to Shanghai, the kind of weird modernist slightly alienating landscape is where Bond is at that moment. He’s detached. He’s not sure whether he should be going back to doing what he’s doing again and there’s something inhuman about it the way we shot it. So there’s a reason for those things that isn’t just hmm, what would look beautiful? What would look nice? But what means something in the story? That’s the key, I think. When he, as it were, gets his mojo back, you find him going back into that classic Bond world, the casino, those beautiful reds, the richer colors, gold and what have you. It’s almost like he steps back in time and he’s back in the tux and he’s fully shaved. That’s where he is emotionally on a journey at that point, so we try as much as possible to make the locations mean something other than just the way they look.
We Got This Covered: Daniel, in playing Bond do you ever fear getting that potential call one day where the producers say they no longer want you in the role?
Daniel Craig: I get a huge kick out of doing this and I can see myself doing another film (he’s contracted to do at least two more). The whole point is that they take such a huge chunk out of your life. There’s so much work involved, but I would love to do another one.
We Got This Covered: We need to talk about Judi Dench who plays M. This is the most we see of her character in the movies she’s been in.
Daniel Craig: She’s an extraordinary woman, actress and just wonderful to be with. When Judi walks into the room she lights the whole room up. She’s got such an energy about life and she loves doing what she does. I’ve been a fan of her all my life, and she loves to play around on set. She takes her job very, very seriously but she laughs all the time.
We Got This Covered: Is Skyfall meant to be a set up for the next two Bond movies, or is it simply a stand-alone picture?
Daniel Craig: It’s a happy accident if it’s a setup. I mean, genuinely, I think so. I think by introducing some new and old characters, I think we have.
Sam Mendes: I agree. I think it’s one of those things that just sort of organically emerged. For me, one of the things that I’m most delighted by when people see it is they come out saying, “I can’t wait to see what happens next,” and that’s saying a lot for a 50-year-old franchise when you’ve just sat through two hours and 20 minutes of movie to say, “I want to see what’s going to happen next with this set of characters.” So obviously, it’s turned out, in a way, a new beginning. That can only be a good thing, but I don’t think we sat around trying to work it out. It just emerged organically like that as we worked on it.
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Sam and Daniel for talking with us. Be sure to check out Skyfall, now in theatres.