When we weren’t marvelling at the ‘Skyfall’ seat covers, we chatted to producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and star Naomie Harris.
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[Related story: Whishaw, Deakins and co. to return for multiple Bond movies]
Warning: spoilers below!
With the film now done and dusted at cinemas (it did okay), we felt safe to discuss why they killed off a main character and introduced some new (actually old) ones. We also got some candid answers on Oscar and BAFTA snubs, as well as tantalising tidbits on the future of the franchise.
Here’s a handy 25-point summary of what we learned…
The origins of Skyfall and killing M
- The death of M, played by Judi Dench, was the starting point for the writers, and discussed by Sam [Mendes], Barbara [Broccoli], Michael [G. Wilson] and Dan [Craig] right at the beginning. “We’d all agreed to kill Judi Dench and that gives you this amazing hook,” said Robert Wade.
- ‘Skyfall’ was an original story, but the writers mined two novels for inspiration: ‘You Only Live Twice’ and ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’. The films of the same name were only loosely based on the books.
- The seeds of the Silva character [played by Javier Bardem] came from ‘Golden Gun’.
- The theme of M, MI6 and Britain in crisis came from ‘You Only Live Twice’. Wade said: “The Japanese won’t share their intelligence with us and Bond, considered to be burnt out, is sent on a mission to restore British prestige. If he doesn’t succeed he’ll die and Britain is finished. It’s interesting that that’s what appealed to us, it kind of summed us [Purvis and Wade] up too.” The duo have quit the franchise to pursue other projects.
- Daniel Craig was the driving force behind Bond being out of shape and too old. “[He] really embraced the idea of looking done in and being washed up - played out,” said Purvis.
- The writers came up with the idea for Bond’s journey back to the Skyfall lodge in Scotland while Purvis was on a train, chatting to Wade. He was possibly passing through Croydon.
- Judi Dench was very emotional at the end of the film. Harris said: “She’s been with the family a really long time. And it is a family. There’s a kind of love. To say goodbye to that is tough for anybody.”
Reviving the franchise after 'Quantum Of Solace'
- The Bond team took the criticism doled out to ‘Quantum Of Solace’ onboard while planning ‘Skyfall’. Purvis admitted the film felt “one note” and too focused on Bond’s revenge. Translation: it was depressing.
- Producer Michael G. Wilson said they also listened to fans who wanted classic characters back. “People said, ‘we miss these characters’. The thought was to bring them back, but in a more up –to-date way... we do these [films] to please the public, not ourselves.”
- Producers only told Naomie Harris she’d be playing Moneypenny in her third audition. “The first two times I didn’t know at all,” she said, “and then I met Sam and Barbara and they said ‘this is who the character really is’”. Maybe they were scared about spoilers leaking out?
- It was Daniel Craig, along with Sam Mendes, who wanted to bring “more lightness” back to Bond again after the deadly serious ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Quantum’.
- Naomie Harris thinks ‘Skyfall’ was planned as a “reboot”. She said: “Sam and the writers wanted to go back to the grassroots. To start again almost like it was a baby. To look again at the books. Because you are creating something totally original, you need to go back more to the novels, to ground it, to get the true essence of what it means to be Bond. They really listened to people’s reactions to the previous films.”
Introducing new villain Silva and that seduction scene
- The scene that introduces Silva in a single shot, walking through the warehouse and giving his ‘rats on an island’ monologue, was apparently inspired by a story told to Sam Mendes by Conrad Hall, his cinematographer on ‘American Beauty’.
- Sam Mendes had the set for this scene (a huge warehouse) designed to be just the right length to fit Bardem’s monologue.
- The famous ‘seduction’ sequence right after this - where Silva flirtatiously intimidates Bond - was in the script but amped up by Craig and Bardem. “It was a real headgame, both seeing how far they can push the other in a psychological chess game,” said Wilson.
Daniel Craig’s BAFTA snub and behind-the-scenes influence
- Purvis thinks Craig’s BAFTA nomination for ‘Casino Royale’ cost him one this time round. “I think that worked against him.”
- Barbara Broccoli considers Craig to be “the best actor of his generation” and was the driving force behind hiring him originally.
- Wilson was annoyed that Craig was not acknowledged for ‘Skyfall’. He said: “I don’t think he gets enough credit in the awards end of things. I do feel that he hasn’t been acknowledged for the important role, and for his talents in the awards this year, which I think is a shame, because he’s so highly talented and deserving of something.”
- Craig should have a producer credit, according to Harris, as he puts so much work in behind the camera on his character and the direction of the franchise.
Why Bond doesn’t win Oscars
- Bond has been nominated for 42 BAFTAs but only won once before this year (for Ted Moore's cinematography in ‘From Russia With Love’ in 1963). “I think it is weird,” said Purvis.
- Bond is too British to win at the Oscars, according to Wade. “Bond represents Britain. He was the most memorable thing about the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Bond is this symbol of what Britain could be or might’ve been or was once and this doesn’t go over well with the Americans. British optimism versus the American optimism. Look at the films that are nominated. ‘Argo’, about an American success. Same with ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, ‘Lincoln’, even ‘Django Unchained’ is celebratory.”
The future of James Bond
- Wade reckons Mendes assembled a “fantastic troupe of actors” to stand the franchise in good stead for several movies. “Naomie Harris. Ben Whishaw. Judi Dench is a hard act to follow but Ralph [Fiennes] is not too shabby himself. And he knows his Fleming as well.”
- No one confirmed that Mendes will be back, but it’s clear everyone wants him to. “I would love that,” said Harris. “I’m sure everyone would like him to come back and do another one,” said Wade. It seems inevitable.
- Broccoli and Wilson seem fairly certain that the behind-the-scenes talent like cinematographer Roger Deakins, nominated for an Oscar for ‘Skyfall’, and production designer Dennis Gassner, will also return for ‘Bond 24’ with Mendes. “We’d love to have them all back, they’re really top notch,’ said Wilson. “[For] the next film or two, I hope so.”
- The duo has not considered a replacement for Craig yet when he eventually hangs up his tuxedo. “It’s kind of like saying to someone who’s in love, ‘what if you break up? ‘What if your wife leaves you?’ I don’t really want to think about that,” said Broccoli.
Skyfall is out on DVD and Blu-ray now.