Last Friday, Columbia Pictures and MGM released the new James Bond film “Skyfall,” starring Daniel Craig. This action film is the 23rd in the Bond series, but it is Sam Mendes’ first time directing a Bond film, continuing the legacy of the longest-running film franchise of all time.
“Skyfall” tests Bond’s loyalty to M, played by Judi Dench, and also incorporates a new villain, played by Javier Bardem, as MI6 comes under attack. Daily Bruin’s Andrea Seikaly participated in a round-table interview with Mendes in anticipation of the film’s release.
Daily Bruin: Someone tweeted their favorite quote as Bond saying that everybody needs a hobby, and his hobby is resurrection. How did you resurrect Bond from the previous film and keep the franchise going without it becoming repetitive and irrelevant?
Sam Mendes: You tell a story that hasn’t been told before and you push the character in directions that he hasn’t been pushed before. I had producers who were willing to let me go to places that they had never been before in a Bond movie. If I felt we were just doing the same thing as the last 22 movies I probably wouldn’t have been interested in making it. You also have to have an actor who’s capable of taking the character into new areas.
DB: What were some of the challenges or rewards of working with veterans like Javier Bardem and Judy Dench?
SM: The rewards are huge and there are very few challenges, to be honest with you, because if you’re used to working with actors then you’ll know that these are the best in the world. They do make your life much easier because their starting point is where a lot of actors would be finishing. So for me it was just a pleasure and that was one of the biggest delights in working on this movie. We’d finish a scene with Javier Bardem and then in would walk Ralph Fiennes and then we’d finish with Ralph Fiennes and in would come Judi Dench. Not to mention Daniel Craig and Naomie Harris and Albert Finney and Ben Whishaw. So for me it was a huge pleasure and I’ve never done a movie in which every single person I offered a role to said yes. Almost always there’s one or two parts that get turned down by somebody and you have to go to a second, third, fourth choice. I felt blessed. The only challenge is that Judy (Dench) and Albert Finney are both in their 70s and they had to do action scenes. That was quite funny. But they loved it and they were game and they’ve turned out great in the end.
DB: You’re known for character-based dramas like “American Beauty” and “Revolutionary Road.” What drew you to Bond’s character?
SM: What drew me was that it wasn’t a character-based drama. It was a change and a challenge. I wanted to get myself out of some habits that I had gotten into before. All of those things are what drew me to it. I felt that there were lots of opportunities.
DB: You brought together a crew of Bond-film newcomers and veterans. How do you think this combination of new and old talent has influenced the making of “Skyfall”?
SM: Well I think that a director is only ever as good as his collaborators. I’m very lucky in that I had a lot of new people that I brought on … They brought a sense that they could do anything and didn’t need to observe the rules of previous Bond movies. At the same time, I used a lot of people who had a lot of experience, like the head of special effects, head of stunts and the second unit director. I think it’s a good combination of people trying out something new for the first time and people who have the wisdom and the experience of having made Bond movies in the past. I think, hopefully, that we had the right mixture.
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