20 Things to Know About SKYFALL From Our Istanbul, Turkey Set Visit; Plus Video Blog Recap

     May 1, 2012


James Bond is under fire and pinned down.  He’s stuck behind a fruit stand wearing a form fitting gray suit with his gun drawn.  About fifteen feet to his left, Naomie Harris is in the front seat of a damaged Land Rover.  As he looks around the crowded outdoor Istanbul market filled with hundreds of bystanders, he notices an older motorcycle attached to a cart.  When the gunfire slows down, Bond runs to his right and kicks the bike free.  He gets on and speeds off after his assailant.

Let me back up a second.

For those just learning a new James Bond movie is being released this year (October 26 in the UK and November 9 in the US), Daniel Craig is back as James Bond and it’s being directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Away We Go).  The film also stars Javier Bardem (as the villain Silva), Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Ola Rapace, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney and Judi Dench as ‘M.’  Skyfall Director of Photography is Roger Deakins (one of the best in the business) and it was written by John Logan (Hugo, Gladiator, Rango).  Neal Purvis & Robert Wade also contributed to the script.  Continued after the jump.

skyfall-james-bond-imageFor the past few days, I’ve been covering the upcoming James Bond movie, Skyfall, in the beautiful city of Istanbul.  While studios often invite journalists to visit the set of a movie while it’s still filming, Sony is taking the unusual approach of letting the visiting reporters write about what we saw and learned a day after it took place.  Meaning, I literally saw Daniel Craig and Naomie Harris filming the scene I described yesterday afternoon!   Besides watching them film, I got to participate in roundtable interviews with the cast (Craig, Harris, Marlohe and Rapace), producer Barbara Broccoli, and director Sam Mendes.  While everyone was very guarded about revealing any of the big secrets, I was still able to put together a list of 20 Things to Know About Skyfall.

But before getting to that list, whenever I do a set visit, I record a video blog with a fellow journalist.  Usually it’s in a hotel room after getting back from set.  But since we were in Istanbul, I wanted to make sure the city was featured.  So Matt Patches (from Hollywood.com) and I recorded our conversation on a rooftop near the production.  More on Skyfall below the video.

20 Things to Know About Skyfall from Our Set Visit

skyfall-movie-image-daniel-craigEven though everyone working on the movie was guarded about revealing any of the secrets of Skyfall (including what the title means), I was still able to learn a few things.  Also, while on set, we were told how the action we saw fits into the movie.  Since I hate revealing spoilers, all I’ll say is that the opening of the movie takes place in Istanbul and it’s a big action set piece that involves cars, motorcycles, rooftops, trains, secret agents, cops, and more.  It’s also been filming for a very long time so I’d imagine the scene is going to be at least a few minutes of screen time.

While the full synopsis is under wraps, Sony and MGM have revealed a one liner:

“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.”

naomie-harris-skyfall-imageHere’s what you need to know:

–  While many of the James Bond films spend most of their time in exotic locations around the world, a lot of Skyfall takes place in London.  They also filmed in Turkey, Shanghai, and the highlands of Scotland.

–  Ralph Fiennes plays Mallory, a government official with oversight of M’s agency.

–  The shoot is 133 days.  The film has a constantly working second unit.  Yesterday, during the action scene, both units were filming.

–  The day I was on set was 49 years ago to the day they were filming From Russia With Love in Istanbul with Sean Connery.

–  Sam Mendes likes to use a lot of cameras.  During the scene outside the Spice Market in Istanbul yesterday, Mendes had four cameras going at once.  One was close up on Daniel Craig, one was a medium shot, one was a wide shot, and I believe the last one was able to move around.

–  Roger Deakins is shooting Skyfall on the ARRI Alexa (which is a digital camera).

berenice-barlohe-daniel-craig-naomie-harris-skyfallDaniel Craig talked about strength of the Skyfall script and the humor.  He said:

“The humor’s not something that we’ve tried to do, it’s just that we’ve got a great script.  Humor comes out, I think, more of situation than it does out of gag lines.  We’ve got some very funny lines in the movie, but who knows how an audience may find them?  I remember with Casino, one of the lines we didn’t think was particularly funny, the audience really got a hold of.  So I’m just excited about showing it to an audience and showing the dialogue we have and the situations we have, and to see how they react to it.  I think there’s some very funny moments.  I have a very dark humor though.”

Even though Rory Bruer, Sony’s President of Worldwide Distribution, announced at CinemaCon that Bond 24 would hit theaters in 2014, Craig and Broccoli wouldn’t confirm the news.  Broccoli told us:

“He was getting a little overexcited (laughs).  We’re just actually focusing on this movie.  One hopes that in the future we’ll be announcing other films, but no one’s officially announced it.”

Craig echoed her statements by saying:

“No one’s announced anything.  He got a little ahead of himself (laughs).  It’s very nice that he has the confidence to be able to do that, but we haven’t finished this movie yet.”

–  When Naomie Harris was first announced for Skyfall, rumors hit that she was playing Miss Moneypenny. This is not true.  Harris is playing a field agent named Eve and she’s a big part of the movie.

–  Harris says her character’s ambition is to “be as skilled as him in the field.”  She also revealed that she trained for eight months.  She said some of the things she did was flexibility training, jogging, kickboxing, learning to drive vehicles, fighting, falling, weapons training (including learning to fire rifles, Walther PPK handguns, and Glocks), and driving with a lot of speed while doing 360 turns.

skyfall-image-daniel-craig–  Harris revealed that most of her scenes are with Daniel Craig and we find them at the beginning of the movie on a mission together.  She also said she does not have a double-0 number.

–  While some actors get a role and the next day it’s in the trades, Harris found out she was cast months before it was announced.

While most scripts change during pre-production, Harris revealed that the main difference between what she first got and what they’re shooting is the humor.  She said:

“The main difference was that they wanted a lot more humor and a lot more wit like the old classic Bonds.  They felt that, in the last two Bonds, there wasn’t enough humor.  So they injected that into it and that has really been the only difference.”

skyfall-daniel-craig-imageWhen I asked Ola Rapace the same question about changes to the script, he echoed Harris’ statement by saying:

“For my character, it’s almost identically the same as when I first saw the script.  For the film, I’m not really sure because they work a lot on it but I wouldn’t dare to try to judge what they change or not.  The sequences I’m in, they had to stay pretty much the same because it’s really complicated, there’s a lot of action.”

As I already said, Rapace plays one of the villains in Skyfall.  While it was not confirmed, I assume he works for or is in business with Javier Bardem.  Rapace confirmed he has scenes with Bardem.  When we asked what was it like to work with him, Rapace replied:

“I love his energy.  Sitting beside him in make-up is intriguing.  You never know what goes on in that mind and I love that kind of quality in an actor. I want to know what goes on in his mind.  That’s cool for the kind of character he plays in this film. You’re going to wonder, ‘Why does he do this and what is he thinking?'”

SKYFALL Sam MendesSam Mendes credits the delay with helping make the movie stronger.  While they waited for everything to come together, Mendes worked with the actors and screenwriter John Logan.  He said:

“I think it’s fair to say that without the extra time we wouldn’t have written such a good baddie, and I don’t think we would have gotten Javier [Bardem] to play him.  There’s been a while since there was a classic…what I would call a classic Bond villain.  I thought Mads [Mikkelsen] was particularly good in Casino Royale.  But I wanted somebody perhaps a bit more flamboyant, perhaps a bit more frightening, and so I felt like we needed a great actor to achieve that.”

Mendes revealed that Skyfall reveals a bit more of Bond and M’s relationship.  He told us:

“We’ve gone further into their relationship and without giving too much away, I think something interesting happened. I thought it was a master stroke when they cast Judi [Dench] way back, seven movies ago I think, because the character, who was a fairly distant male figure, became this female figure; there was a maternal aspect to it.  There was much more complexity in the relationship and I think we’ve taken that a little further.”

Mendes also likes recent films like The Dark Knight and the Bourne movies because:

“There are characters at the center who are, to some degree, in conflict about what they do and are pushed right to the edge.”

He continues by saying:

“That is one of the wonderful things about what’s happened to these movies recently is that audiences have embraced movies that go darker and more personal.  Having said that, they all have the thrills and spills you expect, as well.  It’s about a balance.”

SKYFALL SKYFALL Sam MendesAnd even though audiences love action, filming it is long and tedious.  Mendes talked about the challenges of directing action by saying:

“Editing action is a good deal more exciting than shooting action.  Shooting action is very, very meticulous, it’s increments, tiny little pieces.  To me, the challenge is to create parallel action so you’re never locked into a linear chase, which I think is something that Chris Nolan, for example, does very, very well.  It’s never just A following B, there’s something else going on simultaneously and you’re following these things and often they overlap. So I work very hard to try and…and again, that’s something that we were able to do in the script; we didn’t get locked into something that we couldn’t get out of, in a way.  So, the rest of it is just detail, just detail and shot-making and the business of movie-making but on a much more complex and time-consuming way. It just takes time. You have to sort of…I remind myself that I’ve spent three weeks working on a sequence that’s only going to be four minutes long.  It’s crazy.  I’ve made movies that cost less than one car chase.”

Berenice-Marlohe-Skyfall-James-BondThe role of Severine (also known as the “Bond Girl”) is being played by Bérénice Marlohe.  She’s half-Cambodian and half-French and she definitely looks the part.

When we asked Marlohe about her character, she said:

“Well we have used, previously, glamorous and enigmatic.  Enigmatic is important for me because I really want her—and the script is made in this manner too—to not be obvious.  You can’t put her in an obvious field like you could before, saying she’s a good girl, a bad girl, a Bond girl.  So she’s complex, like Daniel did for James Bond.”

For people that like to know about clothing (specifically what Marlohe will be wearing) she told us:

“There are some more casual but very feminine, sexy things.  There is one extremely theatrical and spectacular, extremely glamorous and femme fatale outfit.  It’s completely surreal, you never see it in movies.  There are some more—you know in Hitchcock movies, very classy women? We play with several outfits.”

And for those who think you have to know someone to land a big role in Hollywood, Marlohe shows that it can be done outside the norm.  When we asked her how she got the role in Skyfall, she told us:

“So finally I heard about this audition and I always felt connected to the James Bond movies, because I knew as it’s between reality and fiction that I would have the opportunity to be given the freedom to enjoy creating something colorful and that I would not be limited.  So I tried to find the name of the people involved in the project on the Internet or by sending my stuff, and finally I managed to find [casting director] Debbie McWilliams email and I sent her my reel and it started from there.  She really liked my work and I got to meet Sam and did the auditions with him, he saw my previous tapes and then I met Daniel.  So yeah this is the fruit of working a lot (laughs).”

daniel-craig-skyfall-imageFinal Thoughts

While some set visits reveal all the twists and turns of a movie, for Skyfall, I still have no idea what it’s about besides the one liner.  I also don’t know the meaning of the title.  Or much of anything.  And I love it.

However, what I took away from the set visit is everyone involved is very confident in the script, and they’re giving off an aura of calm that comes from confidence.  If I were a betting man, I’d say Skyfall is going to give Casino Royale a run for its money in terms of which one is the best Daniel Craig Bond film.

For more coverage from our set visit:

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