Director Sam Mendes On How He Got Away With Skyfall's Surprising Ending
In the scene where we first meet Silva, when he starts putting this sexual power over Bond-- the entire audience kind of sits up and pays attention. And some people are arguing he's a gay villain, but I think he's just pulling out all the stops to throw Bond off his game. I really want to know if you have a take on it.
My take is that you have to see what you feel when you see it. But he's playing a lot of games, and whether or not it's for real, you never know. I think you're absolutely on the money. You're not sure-- is he fucking with him, does he want to fuck him? It could be both, it could be neither. That's part of the pleasure of it, I think.
Do you feel like you know or that Javier knows?
Do I think he knows? Yes. But I'm not going to say which one.
It's my understanding that you brought Bond back to England partly because of budget reasons, but it's also a more intimate story. How did you know that he and M both needed a more personal story this time?
I didn't know, it's just that was a story that was interesting to me, to reinstate MI6 at the center. London was not so much a financial choice as it was an emotional choice. I made a movie about a guy going away, coming back and finding that the country of his birth has changed and trying to find his place in it. And that's exactly what I was going through in some way. I went away, I was in America for 8 years and then I came back. I think that was incidental, but these things happen for a reason. If you're going well as a filmmaker, even on a big film, you subconsciously steer it toward things that concern you at the time. Like any art it becomes what your obsessions are. When we were writing it that's what I was thinking about. That's what fascinated me about Bond, and that seemed to be an option given how little time we had spent in London in the last two films.
As an American it's been fascinating to witness what feels like this British revival, with the Olympics and everything, all of this national pride. Do you feel like Skyfall is part of this?
Yeah, I tried to find a way that the movie could define Englishness as something other than cliche. I felt that, even though I had made the movie by then, I felt that Danny's opening ceremony was profoundly English, and parts of it only accessible to people who were English, And I loved that, because I felt it was the England I grew up in. I felt it helped me rediscover my country again. I think that's part of what I was going through with the movie too, what it is to be English. It dangerously flirts with corniness, but on the other hand it's true-- we are not who we once were, but still there are certain traits that we have as a nation that we should be proud of.
There are a couple of things you do in this that you can only do once-- you kill M, for example. I can see why you'd go in and say it's your one shot. Do you have to go to Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson and check, like, "Hey, can do I this?"
Yeah, yeah-- God I couldn't just kill people willy nilly.
Do they have a list of things you can and can't do?
No, they're very open to it. But big ones like that I had to ask. I talked to them, and clearly, Judi can't go on forever, she's 77--
So that was your call, not her call?
She was very pleased that this story was going to be about her, and sad that it was going to be her last one. She understood, absolutely, but it was tough having to tell her.
And then Ralph Fiennes, did he just seem right to take over?
Yeah, we wrote it for Ralph. We wrote it for Ralph, wrote it for Javier, and wrote it for Ben Whishaw.
Did you have to take your time to talk him into it?
Ralph got it. His concern was "Christ, they're going to be so angry at me for being the new Judi." I said, listen, they're not going to blame you for it. But he loved what Daniel does, and he's talking about a whole series of films, so for him it's a no-brainer if you want to be part of the franchise.
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