Earlier today, Total Film went to the swish Corinthia hotel in Whitehall, London, for the Bond 23 (or as we now officially know it, Skyfall) press conference.
Here’s the full lowdown on the movie, from the people that matter:
It’s exactly 50 years since Sean Connery was announced as Bond in Dr No...
Michael G. Wilson (producer): “Thank you all for coming, this is a great day. It’s the 23rd Bond and next year when we open the picture it’ll be within days of when Dr No opened 50 years ago. So it’s our golden anniversary and we’re really looking forward to making a fantastic picture, we got a great crew and a great cast. And now I want to confirm the worst kept secret in London, the title of the film. [Skyfall appears on the screen with the Bond theme playing].”
Sam Mendes (director): “I’ve got various bits of information to impart. There’s rumours I can confirm and there’s some rumours I can’t confirm. And the first is to say that we will be shooting the movie Skyfall, here in London, obviously, a large section of it is in Whitehall which is why we’re here rather than dear old Pinewood. Although we will be shooting a lot of the movie in Pinewood. Bond’s journey takes him to China, to Shanghai and other parts of China, to Istanbul in Turkey and other parts of Turkey, and to Scotland.
“And I think that Rob [Wade] and Neal [Purvis] and John Logan have written a fantastic script, I’m incredibly excited to be doing it, and I think it has all the elements of a classic Bond movie including, to quell any rumours, a lot of action. And many other things too. There are various members of the cast who because of work commitments can’t be here, all of whom I’m delighted to confirm. Ben Whishaw, who will be playing a part I can’t tell you about in scenes that I can tell you nothing about. And Albert Finney, who’ll also be playing a part I can’t really tell you about in scenes I can’t really tell you about and Ralph Fiennes, who, similarly, I can give you very little information about. But just to say that those three make up the first of, I think, eight fantastic actors I am genuinely thrilled to have the most fantastic cast.” [Mendes then introduces the cast: Bérénice Marlohe, Naomie Harris, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem (who he confirms as the villain of the piece), and Daniel Craig].
So what attracted Mendes to the film?
Mendes: “Well I’ve always been a huge fan of the Bond movies. As a child, of course every young English schoolboy grows up with it, it’s in a sense part of my life, y’know, and I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the impact it had on me. But there was something else, which was, frankly… I got very excited when I saw my friend Daniel play James Bond in Casino Royale, and I thought it opened up all sorts of wonderful possibilities for the character. I love that movie and when Barbara and Michael and Daniel came to me, I thought the story was fantastic, I love Daniel and I love Judi and I wanted a huge challenge. For me this was an enormous challenge and one I’m extremely pleased that I’ve taken, thus far.”
Barbara Broccoli (producer): “Working with Sam is a dream come true. Ever since I saw his theatre work, initially, and his films, I’ve just hope that we’d be able to entice him and come and do one of these and the enthusiasm and the enormous commitment he’s brought to this, and his sort-of boyish excitement is really infectious, and he’s assembled this extraordinary cast, so we’re thrilled.
Wilson: “Back in the early days when Dr No was going to be released no-one really thought that we were going to get to 50 years of Bond, let alone 23 pictures. At that time, United Artists had a deal with Cubby and Harry for four pictures, and even then they thought that was stretching it. But no-one contemplated this kind of success, and it’s really down to the public, they’re the people, the fans, that keep on supporting us and we’re really delighted.”
Daniel, feeling comfortable third time round?
Daniel Craig: “Very comfortable and just tremendously excited; just look at the people we’ve got in the movie. And we’ve assembled an incredible crew, and Sam’s at the helm and we actually start shooting today so this is it! It’s too late now, no turning back.”
Judi, have you really got a grip on who M is seven films in?
Judi Dench: “I’ll never get a grip on who M is, like I won’t get a grip on anyone in my office either, no. But, that’s my job isn’t it? Just try and keep a grip.”
Javier, was Bond a part of your life growing up in Spain?
Javier Bardem: “Of course it was. Some of the most beautiful memories I have with my family was when I was a kid and I went to the theatre to see all these movies… I would say it was one of the first experiences of really having this experience, of seeing amazing movies, amazing stories on screen. So of course yes.”
Bérénice, what about you growing up in France with Bond movies?
Bérénice Marlohe: “Oh yes, I saw them since I was a child too, so when I got the auditions, it took me a few days to realise that I was finally going to be part of it, and I’m so very excited about it.”
Naomie, what’s your feeling sitting here today?
Naomie Harris: “I still can’t believe it’s happening really, I’m still having to pinch myself. I’m totally, so excited, raring to go. I’ve spent two months training so far so I feel really ready for the rollercoaster that’s about to commence.”
So there’ll be plenty of action, but what about gadgets and everything else we expect from a Bond movie?
Mendes: “ This is an odd press conference because there’s so little… Normally one is involved in a press conference when you’ve got something to announce and talk about and you won’t be surprised to hear me say, ‘I can’t give much away.’ As far as that is concerned the movie will reveal everything, and there’s a lot of surprises, I will say that.”
Daniel, are there any comparisons between Dragon Tattoo’s Mikael Blomkvist and Bond?
Craig: “They're completely different [laughs]. I’m struggling to find anything else to say, I’m sorry.”
Could the new Bond ladies expand on their roles?
Marlohe: “Well I play a glamorous, enigmatic character called Severine.”
Harris: “I play a field agent called Eve.”
Dench: “You’ll just have to wait to see the film to find out.”
Sam, tell us about the Scottish elements and Bond going back to his roots.
Mendes: “You’re not entirely accurate about him going back to his routes… there is a Scottish element, and it is the wilds of Scotland.”
Will there be any budget cuts for this one?
Broccoli: “Does it look like we’re cutting back? [Gestures toward Mendes and cast.]”
Wilson: “It’s in the same range as the last film, and we really haven’t had to change anything in the script to get what we want, in fact we keep on adding. But no, we’re not feeling that we’ve had to sacrifice anything.”
Broccoli: “And it’ll all be up on the screen.”
Wilson: “All of our crews are back, the same effects crews, the same production crews, the visuals effects, stunts… everything is as it was in the last two films.”
Could you explain how Skyfall relates to any existing Fleming property or story?
Mendes: “It doesn’t.”
Any ideas who’ll do the theme song?
Broccoli: “We’ve been considering various people but we haven’t got anyone to announce at this stage.”
Daniel, what have you tried to bring to the Bond character?
Craig: “It’s really… I don’t know how to answer that. All I know is that in doing a third one, and being lucky enough to get the chance to do the third one, it was my intention to make the best Bond movie that we possibly could, and Bond with a capital B, and I’m just incredibly proud to be part of this gang of people here who’ve agreed to come and do it, and with their help we’re going to make that happen. So, bringing to the character? It’s in the script, really. That’s where I get it from and we’ve got a great script.”
Javier, how do you feel being selected by the production as the bad guy?
Bardem: “Who told you that a villain is a bad person? [Craig: “Misunderstood?”] Exactly. For me it’s an honour to be on this table for many reasons. First, because of the background story that Bond has on me. Second, because of the quality of these professionals, that is beyond words. Third, because of it being fun to do, and for me it’s a pleasure and an honour to be here. About the big production thinking of me as a bad person, I think that… I don’t know what to answer to that really. That means that independent productions think I’m a good guy?”
Javier, you’ve played such a formidable bad guy in a previous film [No Country For Old Men], how can you top that?
“It’s not about improving, there’s not even a comparison, it’s about really taking a different journey, taking a different path and doing something that’s related to the great story that we have. [Can’t you expand?] As you saw… no!”
Sam, traditionally Bond directors haven’t handled the action sequences, will you be hands-on in that respect?
Mendes: “Have you told Martin Campbell and John Glen that? I think they have! Traditionally they’re very hands-on, working in tandem with a great second-unit director, and I’m very lucky I’ve got a fantastic second-unit director Alex Witt, alongside Chris Corbould, who is the king of special effects, and Steve Begg on visual effects and Gary Powell, stunt coordinator, these are the people who, for me, it’s been a new experience to work with and it’s one of the reasons it’s been so exhilarating so far. That’s the world that’s new to me and I’ve embraced it because I’ve found it very fascinating, and it’s exciting. Alex [second-unit] director, he does a lot of that, it’s entirely part of the main body of the movie. It’s not that dominant, the action needs to co-exist with the drama. That’s the balance we have to strike.”
Sam, you got a great Oscar-heavy cast and crew, are you hoping the golden anniversary might tie in with a few golden statuettes?
Mendes: “It’s not the reason you do any movie, and it’s certainly not the reason you do a Bond movie. I don’t think in those terms about anything, and it would be… for me, Bond is for the audience and only for the audience, like any good movie should be. And the rest is just what happens afterwards and that’s out of my hands.”
Will any of the older films be re-released as part of the anniversary celebrations?
Wilson: “Well we’ve got a documentary in the process of being made that looks back across the history of Bond, and we have a lot of other things planned, but we’re not prepared yet to announce them. But certainly, Sony and MGM and ourselves are looking at a lot of opportunities to give the fans something to celebrate on the golden anniversary.”
What sort of training have the cast had to do for their roles?
Bardem: “For me – learning English vowels! That’s a lot of training, that’s all I can say.”
Craig: “I’ve got nothing as generous as that.”
Harris: “I’ve been doing yoga three times a week, to get into shape, and also stunt-driving and firing machine guns, which I discovered I had a real taste for. What else have I been doing? All the stunt training as well, jumping in and out of cars and running up stairs very fast and all things like that.”
Marlohe: “I’ve been training a bit to fire guns for the first time in my life so it was very fun, and I enjoyed it very much.”
Sam, if this films a success, are you open to doing another one?
Mendes: “[Gestures to producers, Broccoli shouts “Yes!”] If it’s as much fun… if in six months’ time I’m still feeling as excited as I am now then the answer would be yes. There’s a lot to go on, there’s a lot that’s going to happen between now and then.”
What does Skyfall mean?
Broccoli: “That’s a good question! [laughs]. It has some emotional context which will be revealed in the film. You have to wait and see.”
Daniel, how frustrating has the wait been, and was there ever any doubts that it would get going again?
Craig: “Strangely, it wasn’t frustrating because there’s really nothing I could do about it, it was a financial issue and I just had to let them get on with it, and I was just fortunate enough and lucky enough to be able to go off and do some other projects so I kept myself busy. It’s kind of been frustrating, funnily enough, over the past three months, because now, everything’s ready, and I just wan’t to get going, and the past few months have just been to this point. So… it was OK?”
Will this film continue with Quantum organisation?
Mendes: “No. It doesn’t. It’s its own story. It doesn’t connect with the last two movies, other than these two characters sitting next to me.”
Were you worried the film would never get made?
Craig: “They just kept at it and at it, and the reason we’re here today is because of these two [producers], and on a personal note I’d just like to say, having these two people in my life has changed my life… they made it happen, basically.”
With the high pedigree cast and director, was there a sense of wanting to take the films in a new direction?
Wilson: “With Casino Royale, we started down a path, and we’re sticking to that path, and it’s really the same kind of idea: and interesting story well written, with a great cast and plenty of action.”
You won’t reveal Fiennes, Finney and Whishaw’s character names, is this because Bond fans will recognise them?
Mendes: “They might do. On the other hand they might not.”
Are we guaranteed Javier and Daniel will be taking their shirts off quite a lot?
Broccoli: “Damn right!”
Craig: “That’s the gig.”
Wilson: “If Barbara gets her way it’ll be more than just their shirts…”
Craig: “We had to cut a few scenes out… It’s when I keep my shirt on we should be talking about. And Javier’s stripped naked for most of the movie.”
Daniel, you pursued a lot of diverse roles recently, have you actively tried to avoid being typecast as Bond?
Craig: “I just like working. I mean it’s as simple as that. I don’t think about it, genuinely. And like I said earlier, I’ve been lucky enough to get some really nice roles thrown at me, and I grabbed them. If I could do this for a few more years I’d be more than happy.”
Will you be doing this for a few more years?
Craig: “[Nods to Broccoli] Ask her.”
Broccoli: “Yes. Yes, definitely!”
[As they leave Broccoli stumbles] Craig: “That’s the only action we’re going to have!”
And just in case you were hungry for any more details, here’s the official press release:
LONDON, UK, November 3rd, 2011 – Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli today presented the cast of the 23rd James Bond adventure, entitled SKYFALL. The film, from Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, is directed by Academy Award® winner Sam Mendes and stars Daniel Craig, who returns for his third film as James Bond 007. The screenplay is written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan. SKYFALL, which goes into production on Monday, November 7th, will begin its worldwide roll-out in the UK and Ireland on October 26th 2012 and in North America on November 9th 2012.
Joining Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Director Sam Mendes were members of the cast of SKYFALL, including: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Dame Judi Dench, Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe. The filmmakers also announced Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Ben Whishaw.
In SKYFALL, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.
“We’re so delighted to have Sam Mendes direct SKYFALL and be working once again with Daniel Craig. We've a great script, an extraordinary cast and an incredibly talented creative team for this latest James Bond adventure,” said Wilson and Broccoli.
The Director of Photography is Roger Deakins, a nine-time Oscar® nominee who previously shot the films Jarhead and Revolutionary Road for Mendes. The Production Designer is Oscar® winner Dennis Gassner, who previously designed Quantum of Solace and collaborated with Mendes on the films Road to Perdition and Jarhead. The Editor is Stuart Baird, A.C.E., whose many credits include Casino Royale. Jany Temime, whose many credits include the Harry Potter series, In Bruges, and Children of Men, is the Costume Designer. Action specialist Alexander Witt is the 2nd Unit Director. Gary Powell is Stunt Co-ordinator, Chris Corbould is SFX Supervisor and Steve Begg is Visual Effects Supervisor, all of whom have worked on previous Bond films.
Skyfall opens on 26 October 2012.
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