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The cast and producers of the 23rd installment of the James Bond saga, the highly anticipated Skyfall, recently gathered in New York City to discuss their involvement in the franchise during its 50th anniversary.
The epic three-hour-long press conference gave stars Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe, director Sam Mendes and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson separate opportunities to speak with the press, and we have all the details below.
Most of what’s divulged or referred to below can be seen in Skyfall’s numerous trailers. However, if you wish to go into the movie cold, you may want to bookmark this page for later viewing.
DANIEL CRAIG (James Bond)
James Bond himself took the stage in a characteristically tailored black suit and sleek white shirt, and immediately lifted the veil regarding his physically capable on-screen counterpart. “I’m not a fighter, but I pretend to be one – it’s called ‘bullshit boxing,’” he exclaimed, to chorus of chuckles from the audience. “I had to do a lot of running in this movie, which I hate. Bond doesn’t usually walk through a room. We’ll have to change that.”
Of Skyfall’s exploration of the darker, more personal side of Bond, Craig said, “Nobody told me that we couldn’t make an action film with a good story. We always go back to Fleming when we just sit and discuss. And if you look at the novels, he’s so conflicted … he’s a killer – he kills for a living. It’s a very kind of dark place he goes to.” When someone pointed out that we get to see Bond crying on screen – an unusual sight – I don’t cry! That’s sweat!” And what was he thinking of to conjure that emotion? “I’m thinking about what I’m having for lunch,” he deadpanned.
Craig has numerous underwater action sequences in Skyfall, and when asked whether those caused any panic, replied, “No, there are safety divers off camera, and they have oxygen tanks.” He also admitted to using the large water tanks on set to unusual advantage when he wanted a break. “I would just swim to the bottom, put the respirator in and hide,” he said. “Sometimes I fall asleep, as well – you can actually get some sleep down there! And then you hear a voice saying, ‘Where’s Daniel?’”
When questioned regarding his character’s pared-down gadgetry in Skyfall, Craig said it harks back to the earlier Bond films, when, “What was sexy about them was Bond took them out of a box … to have bond on a computer at a screen, I think, is fucking boring. I think technology on the whole is boring. That’s my instinct about them, is we should use them when we need them and not sort of have them for the sake of it.”
Regarding the recent deal Craig struck to star in two more Bond films, he said, “When these two [Broccoli and Wilson] approached me originally, I was a little bewildered.” He went on to admit, “When you weigh it up, it’s not a bad thing to be typecast as James Bond, really. I’m incredibly proud and lucky to be in the position I’m in here.”
SAM MENDES (director)
Skyfall’s director offered insight into what went into many of the film’s key action sequences, explaining he relied heavily on prep work. He previsualized most of the full-scale scenes, including the opening sequence, using computer-generated imagery with an animator. “It takes a long time,” Mendes admitted. “Almost as much as to shoot.”
Of teaming with renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins, Mendes admitted he’s “particularly proud” of the movie’s Shanghai sequence, which utilizes mirror-like windows and colorful projected imagery. Regarding the film’s aesthetic, he said, “I wanted it to be shot in the classic style. The frame was always pretty tight; we put a lot of stock on proper shot composition rather than to shoot it with long lenses. We were careful, and it took a lot of time as a consequence. It was all about prep, really.” He called Deakins “a great cinematographer” and went on to say, “He’s proved himself to be one of the greats – with a cinematographer, it’s my chief relationship outside of the cast. And he guided us toward very distinctive looks toward each sequence.”
Mendes also admitted that the temporary bankruptcy of MGM, which suspended production in 2010, ended up being “a stroke of luck.” “In that time, we worked on the script,” he said. “And that was key to me – I knew every scene intimately.” They also had a read-through of the material (the first on a Bond movie, according to Broccoli), which allowed the actors to further embody their characters.
When asked if he felt any pressure to include references to previous Bond films because of the 50th anniversary of the 007 franchise, Mendes said, “There’s nothing in the movie that I don’t stand by and didn’t want to put in myself. I felt about the homage elements that you have to earn them. If you put them in at the wrong time, they’re going to strike a false note. You have to rediscover your 13-year-old self. … It was a delight for me to find that part of myself again.” He called producers Broccoli and Wilson, “Very incredibly trusting and hands off once I’d explained to them my vision.” Of his early descriptions about villain Silva, Mendes said, “I wanted a certain kind of villain – even very early on, the kind of feeling of a flamboyant, lip-smacking relish of this particular kind of villain that dates back more to the early Bond movies, the Connery pictures.”
And can we expect to see Mendes helming another Bond film? “It’s been a fantastic experience, but it’s been completely exhausting,” he admitted. “I’m a shadow of my former self. I don’t know, and the truth is I’ve never sought to be a primarily commercial filmmaker, the challenge for me was it’s all about timing in your own life. And it was what I needed – a challenge and a sense of excitement and something totally new. And I felt like everything I wanted to do with a Bond movie, I put into this film. So I would just have to be convinced that I could do something that I loved and care about.”
JAVIER BARDEM (Raoul Silva)
Bardem’s brilliantly villainous, flamboyant presence as Silva is inarguably the highlight of Skyfall, and he called the character “fun to create.” He also admitted he was drawn to the role because it would, “Bring the opportunity to do a kind of humble homage to the Bond classics, with something more modern mixed in.” During early conversations, Mendes gave Bardem, “this great note, which is ‘uncomfortableness,’” Bardem said. “We wanted to create somebody who created uncomfortable situations.” Of working with Mendes, he said, “He really encourages to approach the same scene from different angles … which for me was a huge surprise, because this is my first big movie, and I thought he was going to be more kind of everything has to be in place. It was a nice surprise – nothing was written on stone, which I think was great, and it was a great risk for a movie like this.”
And did Bardem feel any pressure entering into the Bond world? “No. The pressure I’m feeling now when I’m promoting the movie and I see the poster!” he admitted. “I’m like, ‘Wow, this is James Bond.” Bardem admitted his awe caught him by surprise on the set at one point, saying, “There was a day I was shooting, and I saw Daniel and Judi [Dench] looking at me, and I forgot the lines! And Sam came to me, ‘Cut! What happened?’ He was laughing, but he already knew.”
He went on to divulge a funny secret about, of all things, Dench’s ringtone. “We were shooting the scene with Judi, and then I hear … ‘dun dun dun,’” Bardem said, humming the Bond theme song. “That was the tone of the Judi Dench cell phone!” he exclaimed, laughing. “It was like a dream come true!”
Silva’s required Bardem to go blond, both dyeing his eyebrows and donning an … interesting … wig. He said the crew quickly got used to it, although it was a bit of a surprise at the beginning. “I remember Ralph Fiennes,” Bardem said. “He was there and I remember his face like, ‘What? What is that?’ That’s me! ‘Well, that is brilliant.’ We laugh a lot about that.” He went on to admit, “People get used to it in a very weird way, you have to remind myself this is not normal.”
NAOMIE HARRIS (Eve)
Harris, as Bond’s butt-kicking MI6 colleague, is no stranger to action (she starred in Danny Boyle’s 2002 film 28 Days Later), but her fitness regime to get in shape for the driving and shooting stunts was second to none. “I had to do two months of preparation, I was out five days a week, two hours a day, three days a week on the gun range,” she said. “I was also doing stunt driving twice a week. It was hard work, to be honest, because I’m actually incredibly unfit, and when we started I couldn’t run around the block.” It wasn’t all work and no play, though, “I was really excited to be working with guns because I’ve never worked with them before,” she admitted. “I discovered that I have a real taste for guns!”
Speaking of guns, what of the fact that the script called for English-bred Harris to accidentally shoot her country’s hero? “I thought I’d never live it down!” she said. “I was really not happy about that bit!” We have a feeling her friends and family will forgive her, though, as she’s bringing them all to the film’s London premiere.
Harris was scouted for the role because of Boyle, whom she credits with taking a risk on her in 28 Days Later and completely changing her life. The director again cast her, this time in his play Frankenstein, which is how Mendes and Skyfall casting director Debbie McWilliams saw her. “Once again, Danny changed my life,” she said. “In the beginning when they called me, I really thought it was kind of a joke. I never saw myself as a Bond girl.” Once the deal was sealed, Harris had to hold off from telling anyone for two months, until the public Bond announcement. “It was really difficult living with that secret,” she recalled.
Perhaps most surprising is that although Harris never auditioned with Craig, their chemistry is off the charts in the film, something she credits to luck. “It just worked,” she said. “We just had a lot of fun with it. Daniel is a really, really funny guy.” Despite the film’s star putting her at ease, she admits, “It was hugely intimidating. I thought, ‘My God, it’s Bond. But he kind of took me under his wing. The chemistry comes from that.”
Of working on such a massive production, Harris revealed, “You have to be incredibly careful. It takes half an hour to reset, so if you mess up a take … you have to be a lot more precise. I found that really difficult in the beginning.” She credited Mendes with creating a comfortable environment on set, saying, “He makes sure that there aren’t too many people on set. Some days there’d only be literally 50 people on set, because, for him, the most important thing is to create an environment where the actors feel comfortable and relaxed.”
When asked if the subject of race was ever a conversation during casting, she said, “No, it never was. And to cast the character of Eve they auditioned all different races. I’m really proud of the choices that Barbara, Sam and Michael have made – they’re really progressive choices, they’re reflective of society today.”
BÉRÉNICE MARLOHE (Sévérine)
As the mysterious, gorgeous woman who breezes into Bond’s life, French actress Marlohe got to use her imagination when it came to creating her character. “When I think about a Bond girl, I immediately think of the kind of strange animal between a male and a female, something powerful and a bit vulnerable,” she said. “I took my inspiration from the Chimera. I really wanted to create a strange, powerful self-confident kind of animal, but also I wanted for the audience to just feel her humanity.”
And what of her infamous shower scene with 007? “I almost get to see him naked. Hard job!” Marlohe recounted, laughing. “But I was so disappointed. … I tried to get to see him but I never managed to do it!”
Of the very revealing and sexy black dress Marlohe wears in a key scene, she said, “It’s a real symbol of what I imagine when I think about a Bond movie – a this transparency, and this black, dark color.” She even had input into the design. “I had the chance to tell my point of view on the dress,” she recounted. “Because it’s so important when you want to create a character. Practically speaking, it was very long to get in it – not an easy task. But once you get to wear it, it was very comfortable – like a snakeskin.”
Regarding the history between Sévérine and Silva, Marlohe admitted, “We didn’t talk that much about the relationship between Silva and Sévérine. I just built everything with my imagination, and that is very exciting, too, because there’s room for accidents on set.”
BARBARA BROCCOLI & MICHAEL G. WILSON (producers)
Broccoli and Wilson took the stage with Craig, and discussed their roles behind the scenes on the production, a family legacy passed to them from Broccoli’s father and Wilson’s stepfather Albert “Cubby” Broccoli.
Regarding the surprising lack of Skyfall, Wilson chalked it up to luck. “We had 300, 400 scripts out with technicians, cast, crew – and none of this got revealed, so I have to say that’s tribute to the professionalism,” he said. Broccoli divulged that details were so secret, her 20-year-old daughter was shocked upon a family screening a few days earlier.
A large sequence of the film is shot in Shanghai, and when asked whether it was difficult to receive permission from the Chinese government, Broccoli said, “As with many countries in the world, when you apply to shoot in the country you have to submit the script. We had a lot of very good cooperation from the Chinese government – we had a wonderful time shooting there.”
As far as the film’s move from Cold War-era plotlines to more modern cyber issues, Wilson said, “There is a cyber war going on out there. … It’s a real war, but the pubic aren’t aware of it. Nothing we showed is beyond the present capability of any of these to achieve.”
Wilson also got a good-natured jab in after a discussion about the many underwater scenes in the film, referencing both Skyfall and Craig’s infamous emergence from the ocean in Casino Royale, saying, “Barbara always makes sure there’s a scene in the film where Daniel gets wet.” Broccoli simply smiled and shrugged.
Skyfall hits theaters nationwide Nov. 9.