CATEGORIES Movie NewsWhen it comes to moviemaking, Sam Mendes has certainly been around the block. However, as the Oscar-winning director conceded: Making a James Bond movie is something else entirely.
Indeed, Mendes was an unexpected choice as the helmer of the newest Bond installment, "Skyfall." But, after the wince-worthy "Quantum of Solace," he was just out-of-left-field enough to renew the spirits -- and curiosity -- of audiences and critics. Here, Daniel Craig returns as the perma-suave agent who is charged with protecting MI6 and M (Judi Dench) from a ridiculously coiffed villain (Javier Bardem) hell-bent on revenge. Luckily for fans, the movie is already being heralded as the best Bond ever -- a fresh take on the franchise, with a nod to bygone tropes.
"I'm so happy," Mendes said of the response, smiling ear-to-ear at New York's Crosby Street Hotel. The director spoke to Moviefone about the roller-coaster ride of making "Skyfall," being compared to Christopher Nolan and why Bond is different than "The Avengers."
How dangerous is hype as a filmmaker? [Laughs]. Big movies need it now. One of the things that struck me, not having been on this particular rollercoaster before, is that everything is reviewed. The trailer is reviewed. And then the story from the trailer. And then there's another trailer and then there's a teaser. And then there's a snipit about the story and then the poster gets reviewed and then another one-sheet comes out. I mean, that's what, for me, has been amazing. It's so difficult to control the information about the film, and when you've got some major spoilers in the movies you go, "Christ, how are we going to hold onto these pieces of information?" Astonishingly, we've managed to do it.
How much did the negativity surrounding "Quantum of Solace" affect you? It didn't at all. One of the things that was nice about is "Quantum" is the second part of the "Casino" story so I knew that was done...We had this one really good stroke of luck -- which at the time didn't feel like it, but now, looking at retrospectively was -- which was MGM bankrupting, because there was a nine-month hiatus and we just wrote the script. We just carried on working.
With a lot of these movies, the date's announced before anything exists, let alone a script. The funniest letter I got -- they were sending [a packet for] "The Avengers," right? For directors to pitch -- and I got a package, which was full of comic books, but no treatment; there was no script. But the cover letter said "Marvel's 'Avengers' will be released on May 3, 2012" or whatever it was. That was the first sentence of the cover letter. Not, "We have the pleasure of enclosing the materials..." or "Here is the script for..." But the release date. That was the first sentence.
Is that when they were shopping around for a director? Yeah. It was a few years ago.
And had you ever considered it? No. I wasn't interested. I mean, that's not my world particularly. I'll go see it, particularly with my kids, but I didn't want to make it. But I was probably one of 50 that got sent it; they didn't target me specifically.
When Javier first meets Bond, it's far more, well, intimate than most introductory scenes. How was that to film? Oh, a joy. We got the giggles a lot. But, also, a bit of tension because [it was] Javier's first appearance, we all know what it means, and I pushed him hard to make Bond as uncomfortable as possible. I felt like that was his game. And I love all the homoerotic subtext in all the Bond villains anyway.
Did you ruin a lot of takes with giggles? No, there weren't many. But when he started unbuttoning Daniel's shirt, we did get the giggles. [Laughs]. He was like "What the f-ck are you doing?" [Laughs]
Was any of that improv'ed? Yeah. [The actors would ask] "Can I push it?" And I would say, "Yeah, you can push it further, push it further." It's not all that it seems, as well. He's testing Bond, he's pushing him to see whether he...he's f-cking with him.
The Vanity Fair cover story on Daniel makes reference to a much coveted blooper reel... Yeah, this is bizarre. There is a very long and funny blooper reel. But most of it's Judi-related. Because she's the funniest -- she's the biggest laugher of the lot.
The legend goes that Daniel came up to you at a party and drunkenly offered you this job, true? That's basically true. He wasn't that drunk and he didn't really offer it to me, he suggested it to me. It was a conversation...And then it kind of went from there. I didn't really have any doubts. Had I not gone to the party, I think someone else would have directed it. I think it's true. And it may not have even, weirdly, occurred to me. I know it sounds crazy, but it was because someone said it to me and I thought, "Oh, what a good idea." Because, it's not like "The Avengers," Bond movies don't get sent around. You're in a dialogue from early on, I think.
You're getting a lot of comparisons to Christopher Nolan, how do you feel about that? Well, he's the man, isn't he? I think he's amazing. This movie would not have been possible, I think, at least in the way that it is, without "The Dark Knight." We're living in a world now where movies are either tiny or huge and there's nothing in the middle. I mean, the movies that I made for ten years, I can't make those anymore. I couldn't make "American Beauty," I couldn't make "Road to Perdition"; they just don't make those films. [Nolan] showed that you could make an A movie -- that is a world class movie, that has in it some sense of reaction, reflection of the world that we live in -- without being ponderous or po-faced or take itself too serious. And it had great acting, and I mean that. I mean, Heath Ledger, that is a great performance. That was a game changer for me, as an audience member. I just thought, "Wow. That's a proper movie."
In "Skyfall," you played around with the genre -- Bond didn't order his drink "shaken, not stirred," instead there was a bartender shaking a martini and he said, "That's perfect." How much of doing Bond is subverting Bond tropes? That's me having fun with the franchise a bit.The thing about those moments is the timing of it in the movie. You need to earn it. It's just about good storytelling to me. It's being able to keep the thread taut, the narrative, and then you can relax it for a bit. You let the audience just breathe and then you can start again.
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