Sam Mendes’ Time Directing James Bond Movies Really Informed 1917

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Spectre

Among Sam Mendes’ accomplishments last decade was contributing to the James Bond franchise through Skyfall and Spectre, but the filmmaker concluded the 2010s with 1917. On the surface, it might not seem like a World War I-set movie about two boys being sent on a mission would have that much in common with 007's global exploits aside from the inherent Britishness of both, but as it turns out, Mendes’ work on the James Bond movies informed 1917 quite a bit, especially Spectre.

1917’s first assistant director Michael Lerman recently noted how Spectre’s opening sequence, which tracked James Bond navigating through a Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico City, utilized the same kind of single, uninterrupted shot presentation that was used for nearly all of 1917. Recalling his time with Mendes on Spectre, Lerman said:

Doing that sequence on Spectre had to have something to do with where Sam got the idea. We had a great experience shooting that opening sequence in Spectre. I think it's a very strong point of that film in general.

Now obviously with 1917, the movie wasn’t literally shot as one take. It was stitched together to look that way from numerous other shots, and Michael Lerman mentioned that with Spectre, that was a compilation of five shots that were filmed over four days. When it came time for Lerman and Sam Mendes to tackle 1917, they repeated many of the same techniques they’d used on Spectre, such as rehearsing for “four or five hours” and then shooting for the same amount of time “until you get it and you go home.”

But the influence of the James Bond movies on 1917 extended past the continuous shot aspect. Later in his interview with Looper, Michael Lerman talked about it was important for the action in the World War I movie to be as practical as possible, just like what’s been done with James Bond on the big screen. As Lerman put it:

It goes back to the Bond films, really. On the Bond films, you try to do as much practical stunts and effects work as possible. You try to stay away from CG as much as you can.

Michael Lerman wasn’t willing to go into detail on how 1917 pulled off some of its biggest action-packed scenes using practical effects, but suffice it to say that the end result has been incredible well received. 1917 has been met with largely positive reception, and its accolades include two Golden Globe wins and 10 Academy Award nominations.

As for James Bond, his next movie, No Time to Die, was directed by Cary Fukanaga, making him the first American to helm a Bond flick. It will serve as the final appearance of Daniel Craig’s version of the character, with James Bond being called back into active duty to track down a missing scientist.

1917 finally opened wide on January 10 following its limited release on December 25, and No Time to Die will come out on April 10. Be sure to look through our 2020 release schedule to learn what other movies are hitting theaters this year.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.