Moviehole at the 007 Skyfall Press Do in London


Harry Richards was assigned a pretty tough case; get his inner action-hero on and head to Sony’s lavish press conference for Bond 23….. now officially known as “Skyfall”.

Here’s his report, just in from carrier pigeon :

Mission Specs : The Corinthia Hotel, London. 3rd November 2011. Harry Richards for Moviehole.

As a 007 geek of twenty years standing, I’m all too aware how much nonsense seeps onto the internet when a Bond film is in the offing. Development delays have meant there’s been even more slow news days to fill for the tabloid press so I will do my best to keep it real and restrain my urge to speculate… Well, maybe the odd educated guess!

Today’s official press launch was a day of confirmations and denials but there were also some interesting nuggets of new information that came to the surface.

It’s been 50 years to the day that Sean Connery was first announced to play Ian Fleming’s superspy on the 3rd November 1961. Apparently the release dates next year will fall within day’s of Dr. No’s golden anniversary. Together with Bond 23, the golden anniversary will include a documentary amongst other plans. An overdue blu-ray release for the full series will no doubt be one of them.

The title of Bond 23 was “the worst kept secret in London” according to producer Michael G. Wilson. It is, of course, Skyfall. It will be directed by Sam Mendes and it will star Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Bérénice Marlohe, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw.

Does Skyfall use any original Fleming source elements? According to Barbara Broccoli, it does not. She revealed that the title has “emotional resonance” so don’t expect some daft Moore/Brosnan era plot featuring a tractor beam plucking space junk out of orbit. ”Frost/ Nixon”’s Peter Morgan recently said that the last version of the script he read retains his “shocking” central idea but that it has been almost entirely rewritten by Bond regulars Neil Purvis, Robert Wade and ”Gladiator”’s John Logan.

I asked Sam Mendes if we were going to see more of Quantum, the modern day S.P.E.C.T.R.E. inspired organisation that has dogged Craig’s Bond so far. Would we finally meet the head of the snake? To my surprise he replied “No.” This will be a standalone film with no strings attached. Mendes was asked if the same applied to his involvement in the series and it was hardly unexpected to hear that he is only signed up for this one film. He is by far the most distinguished director to take the reigns of a Bond film and his involvement seems to signal a two-way flow of quality. There has never been such a carefully assembled ensemble in this series and I’m sure they have been attracted primarily by Mendes’ involvement.

Homegrown talent Naomie Harris has long been touted as Miss Moneypenny. Not true. She will play field agent ‘Eve’ and has been doing the Bond boot camp thing. “Yoga, 3 times a week.” She then quickly added she particularly enjoyed “firing machine guns!”. Hmmm, so not Miss Moneypenny then! I’m quite glad, actually. Harris is far too beautiful to play an unrequited love interest for Bond but the same was true of Caroline Bliss and Samantha Bond. Louis Maxwell owned that role, not because of any sexual tension she created but because she played the relationship as a mutually playful crush. It was a sustained female friendship that transcended Bond’s less than steady sex life.

French beauty Bérénice Marlohe will play the traditional love interest, Séverine. She has also been out on the firing range but I suspect she’ll be leaving the heavy fire power to Harris. Today, she wore a crimson number by Antonio Beradi (apparently!)

Javier Bardem will be bad and I can’t tell you how excited this makes me! His Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men’s was a masterclass of seething menace. He’s a notoriously picky actor and I believe this villain will be a complex and meaty role. “Misunderstood” mused Craig with a grin. No details on who he plays or what he’s planning to dominate. Expect nothing less than the devil incarnate!

Albert Finney, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw have all been confirmed today but their roles remain classified. Might Bond fans recognise their character names? “Might do. Might not!” teased Mendes. Dare I float that we’ll see Mr. Moneypenny patting Daniel Craig’s “perfectly formed ass”? Best not! I have heard rumblings that Finney will outrank Judi Dench’s ‘M’ in some official capacity. On the other hand, a reboot for gadget master ‘Q’ is unlikely. The film makers were previously engaged in an ill advised arms race to keep up with the expansion of civilian technology, culminating in ”Die Another Day”’s invisible Aston Martin. Tomorrow’s world is here today.

It was noted that Craig has been furiously busy between Bond adventures. Is he worried about being typecast as 007? “I just like working. If I can be doing this for a few more years, I’ll be happy.” Will he? “Yes!” And will Daniel and Javier bare their chests? “Damn right!” jumps in Broccoli enthusiastically. How the tables have turned! Another question from the floor – “How does playing Bond compare to playing Mikael Blomkvist?” “Completely different” replies Craig dismissively. “Struggling to find what else to say.” Got to love the man’s refusal to engage with BS.

Some may find Mendes an unusual choice. Hiring an award baiting director didn’t work so well with Marc Forster who seemed intent on messing with the good stuff and not in a good way. Broccoli described Mendes’ giddy schoolboy excitement as “infectious” and I do feel he has more reverence for the franchise than his predecessor. Like Bardem, Mendes waxed lyrical about fond Bond childhood memories at the cinema. He singled out Live And Let Die as a favourite.

The exquisite talents of Director Of Photography Roger Deakins will no doubt raise the bar further. It’s also good to see veteran editor Stuart Baird back in the edit suite and I have faith that Dan Bradley’s nauseating action sequences from ”Quantum Of Solace” have been put to bed. ”Casino Royale”’s Alexander Witt looks like a safe pair of hands to reclaim second unit duties with regulars Chris Corbould and Gary Powell on SFX and stunts.

Shooting locations include Shanghai, Istanbul and Scotland. Interesting there was no mention of South Africa but I believe that was probably an oversight. Much has been made online over the location switch from India to South Africa for an extended cargo train action sequence. Indian bureaucracy was cited as the reason although I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. Some of the proposed locations in India had such a wonderful ‘old world’ feel to them and I can’t think South Africa will be able to match that. Maybe next time!

According to Craig, filming begins today in Whitehall. If he’s involved with shooting from the get go, it’s interesting to see him sporting so much stubble! His head hair was buzzed and peaked at the front. A new look for the blond Bond? Oops, speculation again. God this is hard.

One journalist observed that Bardem, Fiennes, Finney, Dench and Mendes have amassed a total of 17 Oscar nominations between them. What with the 50th anniversary excitement, were there any ambitions in this direction? Mendes rejected Oscar aspirations as a motivation for movie making. “It’s not the reason you make any film, let alone a Bond film”! He insisted Skyfall would be for the audiences’ eyes only.

Usually, Bond films are released on alternate years. The four year lull between ”Quantum Of Solace” and Skyfall is the longest break in the series with a returning actor in the Bond role. MGM’s financial woes deprived us of a Bond film in 2010. Will there be cutbacks? “Does it look like we’re cutting back?” laughed Barbara Broccoli, gesturing to her distinguished cast and director. According to Michael G. Wilson, the budget will be in the “same range” as the ”Quantum”’s $200 million (£125 million). Expectations for Daniel Craig’s third outing will be sky high. Let’s hope those skies don’t come crashing down.