A lot of people think there's no more to directing a movie than to be able to make framey fingers while yelling "Action!" and "Cut!" Needless to say, there is more to it than that, but to make a James Bond movie requires a very specific toolbox.
Sam Mendes, who won an Oscar for "American Beauty," takes his first stab at the British superspy with this week's "Skyfall," and we're going to run down the most important things he needs to bring to the table in order to hit this 007 out of the park.
Below, check out our how-to guide on how to make a successful James Bond flick.
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Bond may be the epicenter of this franchise, but the spice is always provided by an ever-changing roster of colorful baddies. In a post-"Dark Knight"-era the bar has been raised for supervillains, so taking on the part of 007's nemesis this time around is Javier Bardem as blonde cyberterrorist and former MI6 agent Raoul Silva, who not only wants to take down the agency but also shares some crucial ties to Bond's past. Supposedly Bardem kills it in "Skyfall," and proves a worthy successor to such other classic Bond villains as Goldfinger, Blofield, and ol' bloody-tears Le Chiffre (left).
Even-More Memorable Henchmen
Behind every weird villain is an even weirder henchman, and the series is chock full of 'em. There's Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and his razor-sharp throwing hats, or the ever-handsome Jaws (Richard Kiel) and his giant metal teeth. Whether "Skyfall" has henchmen with as much bite (pun intended) as these guys we're not sure, but they tend to, more often than not, turn out to be surprisingly effective career launchers, as with Robert Shaw in "From Russia With Love" or Benicio del Toro in "License to Kill."
Honey Ryder, Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead, Penelope Smallbone, Xenia Onatopp. You know the names, and maybe the faces, but every Bond outing needs a stunning femme fatale to lure bond into a web of deceit… and parts beyond. They must be seductive, but with a hint of danger so that our secret agent probably knows he's getting into trouble but doesn't really care. She should also preferably come with a double entendre name that "Austin Powers" didn't exploit yet. As of now, Mamrie Knockers, Felati O'Toole, and Engorge Dlabia are all still available.
Numerous Exotic Locales
The Bond canon is pure escapism at its finest, and perhaps the biggest part of that is for audiences to eat, drink and seduce things they will never experience, including travelling to some of the most beautiful places on Earth. Daniel Craig continues this globetrotting tradition in his films, including the new one. Besides their homebase of England, the "Skyfall" production set up camp in Scotland, Istanbul, and China to give the film a sense of true scope. You won't see Bond pop up in Guatemala or Detroit anytime soon, that's for sure.
These are big movies, and we mean HUGE. The cost of "Skyfall" is $150-million at least, and when you're dealing with the kind of practical stuntwork and on-set special effects they require you've got a recipe for disaster. Just on the last three movies Daniel Craig had his teeth knocked out, a finger broken, there was a fire at Pinewood Studios' 007 Stage, a stuntman wound up in intensive care after a car chase went wrong, and a stunt rider crashed a motorcycle into a crystal shop in Istanbul.
British national treasure Dame Judi Dench has been in not only every Daniel Craig Bond movie, but also every Pierce Brosnan one as well. Her role as Bond's perpetually flustered overseer M is the glue that ties all these movies together. She's the one who's there to point out Bond's not-so-latent womanizing, his brashness, reckless ways, just to remind the audience why we like the guy so much. She herself has become a beloved part of this institution.
The Three Cs: Comfortable Casting Couch
Is it any secret that Sam Mendes' marriage to Kate Winslet collapsed around the same time he started work on "Skyfall?" Probably. But either way, that dude had to be ready to audition some of the most gorgeous models Eastern Europe had to offer, and that wedding band was only going to get in the way. If you don't think picking who 007 will bed is one of the perks of this gig, just look at all the perfect 10s that have been cast over the years. Now imagine the 9s and 8s who vied for those roles… not too shabby, eh?
One of the most common hallmarks of a Bond director is that they understand that they are not going to futz with the winning formula. The Broccoli family and EON productions have fielded offers (or overtures, anyway) from all sorts of top-tier filmmakers over the years, from Steven Spielberg to Quentin Tarantino to Christopher Nolan, but all those guys are too used to getting their own way. Tarantino's plan was to shoot "Casino Royale" in black and white and set it in the '50s, but we can't imagine the folks at EON being too pleased with that. Ultimately, for all the nuance Academy Award-winner Mendes is bringing to the table, he's still making an EON movie, plain and simple.
A Flavor-of-the-Month Popstar
One of the key components to any Bond movie is its signature opening title sequence. After a design team drops acid and paints a bunch of naked women weird colors, there's still the essential pop song that must blare loudly and proudly over the psychedelic imagery. Generally speaking, these are sung by the most disposable time capsule artists you can imagine, from Lulu to a-ha to Garbage. Yes, class acts like Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, and the immortal Shirley Bassey ("He loves GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLD!!!") have all crafted sparkling, classic tracks for 007, but whether our children will know whether Adele was a singer or a small green wooded valley is anyone's guess.
A Functioning Studio
The last Bond outing, "Quantum of Solace," made nearly $600-million worldwide, and almost immediately after it was released plans began forming for "Skyfall." However, with MGM's money woes and bankruptcy, filming was suspended for a good long while, nearly costing Mendes the job. With Daniel Craig getting up in years (he's 44) the delay may very well have cost him the role as well, as it did for poor Timothy Dalton. Dalton was all set to make a third go at playing the part, but a protracted legal battle from 1990 to 1994 between EON Productions and MGM slowed his roll, and by the time they got to making "Goldeneye" the world was not enough for him.