Out of Daniel Craig’s four films as James Bond so far, 2012’s Skyfall remains arguably the most successful. It was the first – and, at present, only – Bond movie to cross the coveted $1 billion mark at the box office and it was also met with pretty much universal critical and fan acclaim.
A lot of that success is to do with the storyline, which was surprisingly strong for a franchise that’s never been known for its incredibly well-written plots. Featuring several tweaks to the usual formula, including a climax in Bond’s Scottish family mansion, it’s most notable for killing off Judi Dench’s M, but it also gets an unexpected amount of emotion from Bond and M’s surrogate mother/son connection.
In the original treatment for the film, though, Skyfall sported a very different take on M’s last stand. As revealed in the 2015 book Some Kind of Hero, which provides a retrospective on the history of the franchise, the initial plot from screenwriters Peter Morgan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade was much darker and grimmer.
Like in the finished film, the main threat has ties to M’s past. However, instead of Javier Bardem’s rogue agent Silva wanting revenge, a past affair that a young M had with a KGB agent during the Cold War would have come back to haunt her. This dirty secret in her closet would have led M to be blackmailed by the bad guys. She still died in the original script – but, in an eyebrow-raising final twist, it was Bond who killed her, forced to do so in order to protect the integrity of the British secret service.
It’s clear that Skyfall‘s initial plotline was heavily inspired by Craig’s earlier movies, 2005’s Casino Royale and 2007’s Quantum of Solace, which were very stripped-back takes on the 007 legend. The version of the film we ended up getting, which celebrated Bond’s 50th anniversary, had a slightly broader, lighter tone that gelled with wider audiences. Though it was bold enough to kill off M, it definitely wasn’t dark enough to have Bond do the deed.