After the strong start that was 2006's Casino Royale, the re-booted, Daniel Craig-led James Bond series hit a major rough patch with Quantum of Solace. After a four-year break, though, Bond is back and better than ever in Skyfall, which is already burning up the box office charts overseas. (It opens in the U.S. on Friday.) The cast and crew of Skyfall -- including Craig, Javier Bardem (who plays his nemesis, Silva), Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe (the requisite Bond Girls) and director Sam Mendes -- passed through New York recently and spoke with the press about celebrating Bond's 50th anniversary with one of the best 007 outings to date.
Daniel Craig on The Intentions Behind Skyfall
Nobody told me that we couldn't make an action film with a good story. We always go back to Fleming when we sit and discuss. When you look at the novels, he's so conflicted. Fleming tries to kill him off; Bond's a killer, he kills for a living. There's a dark place he goes to. What I'm proud of with this movie is that the writing is so good and the lightness of touch is back. We all desperately wanted it and you need good writing for that. We have that and we combined it with a very emotional story. This one's a little about families and parents and children, not in a heavy way -- it's just part of the plot. Certainly the conversation we all had at the beginning was that it's been 50 years we needed to make the best Bond movie we possibly could and celebrate the franchise a little bit.
Sam Mendes on Directing the Action Sequences
Every sequence had different rules, but the one rule we had across the board was that we didn't want to shoot the action in a handheld way. I wanted it to be made in a classical style, so the camera only moved when it needed to move, it moved stealthily, the frame was always pretty tight and we put a lot of stock in proper shot composition instead of just shooting with long lenses. The challenge of any action sequence is that it has to be shot in very, very small pieces in order to tell the story clearly. To me, the enemy of action sequence is shooting with seven cameras and cutting it together so that it feels like it's got energy, but it doesn't quite make sense. The most difficult challenge is to tell the story with every shot, so that it's not just generic action. Doing that is a very meticulous, painstaking and time-consuming process. We were careful and it took a lot of time as a consequence. I think it's easier when you've got a big movie to shoot is to put as many cameras up as possible and just do it all in the editing room. I think there were times when the studio thought, "Why are you only shooting with one or two cameras?" But working that way, you can control the way a movie looks much more precisely. And Roger [Deakins] is a great cinematographer; as always, the cinematographer is my chief creative relationship outside of the cast. I listened to him and I trusted him and he guided us to very distinctive looks for each sequence.
Javier Bardem on Creating a Formidable, But Believable Bond Villain
Sam and I wanted to create someone who could be an homage to the classic Bond villains, but with something a little more modern mixed in. Above all, he's a human being, not just a larger than life character. He's a broken person, which is easier to portray than a symbolic idea. Sam gave me this great note, which was "uncomfortableness." We wanted someone who would create uncomfortable situations rather than somebody scary or threatening; someone who really creates a scenario of insecurity or of something unexpected. We worked with these ideas until we reached a point where we found the character would make sense. The great thing with Sam is that he really encouraged us to approach the same scenes from different angles. It was fun, which was for me was a huge surprise. This was my first big action movie and I thought everything would have to be in place. But I found it a great creative laboratory of performers with a great director in charge.
Sam Mendes on Improving the Script
We had a stroke of luck on this movie ultimately, which was the temporary bankruptcy of MGM. At the time, that was a bit of a nightmare, because I really prepped the movie and was ready to go into full-scale pre-production, but then we had to halt everything for something like nine months. But in that time, we worked on the script and from then on, I knew every scene intimately. We did two weeks of rehearsals, which I think was a relatively new thing for the Bond franchise. We had a read-through of the script and the producers said to me, "That's the first time we've ever had a read-through on a Bond movie!" We took the time and care, so when we got to those scenes, every emotion and nuance had been discussed. Some of the scenes that give me the greatest pleasure is that amidst of a big action movie, you'll have a scene like Javier's first scene, which is six-and-a-half minutes of dialogue in which he and Bond barely move. He walks up and sits down and they talk. But I like to think that that scene is as gripping as any in the movie.
Bérénice Marlohe on What It Means to be a Bond Girl
When I think about Bond girls, I immediately think about a strange kind of animal between a male and a female: something powerful, but also vulnerable. I took my inspiration from a Greek creature called the chimera, which is a mix of a dragon and a snake. I used a lot of music, too. I would listen to a lot of Shirley Bassey on the set; for me, she's the ultimate Bond girl. She has such a huge presence and powerful voice, one that's so sexy and so beautiful. To be a Bond girl for me is a very beautiful, heavy historical title. It's a real privilege and honor to be part of a James Bond movie.
Naomie Harris on Her Training Regimen
I had to do two months of preparation for all the action stuff. I spent five days a week, two hours a day doing yoga, combat training, running -- all kinds of action stuff. And then it was three days a week on the gun range and one day a week doing just combat training with the stunt guys and then I was also doing stunt driving twice a week. I had never worked with guns before and I discovered I had a real taste for them. I'm such a pacifist, but it was really, really fun. It was hard work to be honest, because I'm actually incredibly unfit. When we started, I couldn't run around the block and now I can do 2.5 K and that for me is amazing. It was really hard work, but I got a lot out of it. I feel a lot more energized now for having gotten fitter.
Daniel Craig on His Own Running Skills
I had to do a lot of running in this movie, which I hate. Bond doesn't usually walk through a room. It's hard to change that. I'd find I'd end up doing a day's filming which on paper should look fairly easy: there's no dialogue, it's just Bond goes from A to B and then from B to C. But he goes from A to B at a lick! He runs down the stairs, he runs up the stairs and we had to do ten takes at a time. So at the end of it, I'm wiped.
Javier Bardem on Being Bond's Mirror
It was obvious with my character that we were talking about a guy who used to be M's favorite. I would have been some "00" in the past. That allows him to look eye-to-eye with James Bond, like, we're the last two standing here, so we're the same -- a different side of the same coin. I've been acting for 25 years now and I can say that what sticks with you is not the failure or success of the move, it's how that experience was. It's always about human beings and people and Daniel is an extraordinary human being. He made you feel protected and secure and also free to go and do your thing.
Daniel Craig on Coming to Feel Comfortable Playing Bond
When the producers approached me originally, I was a little bit bewildered that they would even come to me. The role wasn't even on my radar and I suppose I was concerned about being typecast. But when you weigh it up, it's not a bad thing to be typecast as James Bond, is it? I'm incredibly proud and lucky to be in the position I'm in here. As soon as we get the script, I'll be up for doing 24.
Sam Mendes on What Skyfall is Ultimately All About
It was very clear to me that the discussion at the center of the movie was: what's the point of a secret service that was created during the Cold War now that the world has changed? And therefore, what is the point of Bond and therefore, what is the point of Bond movies? At the core of this movie is an argument for all three. It's deeply old-fashioned in its values -- honor, trust, friendship, courage. But I think those never go out of date.
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