When approaching the 24th James Bond movie, SPECTRE, the filmmakers were keen to ensure that the film followed on closely from its predecessor, the $1.1 billion global smash Skyfall. Daniel Craig, of course, was back for his fourth (and final) outing as 007.
The chance to explore all these characters’ stories was of vital importance to Sam Mendes, who came back for a second stint in the director’s chair. “It all starts from character with me,” says the Academy Award®-winner, “and I wanted to explore all sorts of different aspects of the characters that I’d left behind in Skyfall. We had populated MI6 with a whole new generation of people — a new M, a new Moneypenny and a new Q. I wanted to let those relationships develop and grow.”
For Daniel Craig, who is arguably the best incarnation of 007 since Connery, it was simply wanting this installment to be even better than Skyfall. “It is as simple as that. We didn’t have a choice; we had to be bigger and better. With Skyfall, we set something in motion and we wanted to go a bit further with it and experiment a bit more.”
Bond was rejuvenated at the end of Skyfall. “He had a sense of new beginnings,” continues Mendes, “and this had a profound effect on SPECTRE. In the new movie, the world’s most famous secret agent is an entirely proactive character, in control of his own destiny. He has a focussed mission from the outset and nothing, and no one, is going to stand in his way…Skyfall was an entirely reactive movie as far as Bond was concerned. In the first sequence he was pursuing somebody with all his old focus and drive, but he gets shot before the credits even roll and for the rest of the movie he is one step behind Javier Bardem’s character, Silva. You could even argue that at the end of Skyfall he has failed. He has not kept M alive, and though Silva’s death is a victory for Bond, there are other elements that are failures. Hence, with SPECTRE, I wanted to give him a chance of redemption.”
“What we’ve got here is a kind of creation myth at play,” says Mendes. “We are not adhering to any previous version of the SPECTRE story. We are creating our own version. Our film is a way of rediscovering SPECTRE and the super villain, setting him up again for the next generation.”
Craig concurs. “Having SPECTRE in the film opens up lots of avenues for us to explore,” the actor says. “Having this organization allows us to be both traditional while also bringing in something very new.” The filmmakers were also able to move a little closer to the Bond films of old in other ways. “We could work with a slightly different style from the other Bond films I’ve done,” says Craig. “This film is very individual but also harks back a little to what has gone before in the Bond films of the ’60s and ’70s.”
According to Mendes, SPECTRE recalls the classic Bond films in terms of the cars, the tone, the lighting and even the cut of 007’s suit. “Also, I wanted to get back to some of that old-school glamour that you get from those fantastic, otherworldly locations. I wanted to push it to extremes.”
There is also much more variety and a far greater physical and geographical journey in this movie than in Skyfall. “We couldn’t really do that in the last movie,” he adds, “because we were very London-based. Yes, there were sequences in Shanghai and Istanbul but the second half of the film took place almost entirely in London and Scotland.” The filmmakers wanted to immerse Bond in a magnificent festival in a Latin American city. “And it doesn’t get any bigger than Mexico City and the Day of the Dead,” says Mendes.
The filmmakers also wanted to send Bond to one of Europe’s great cities at night. They chose Rome, says Mendes, because of “the history and an atmosphere of darkness and foreboding — particularly if you’re dealing with 1920s and 1930s Fascist architecture. There is something dark and intimidating.”
When developing the romantic aspect of the film, the filmmakers opted to have Bond’s most intimate relationship blossom in North Africa, in Tangier and the Sahara desert. “If you want this incredible immense landscape, this emptiness, then where better than the Sahara?” asks Mendes. “So with all these locations you have these tones that are quite different, and quite extreme.”
–Special thanks to Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig and EON Productions.