Courtesy of Sony Pictures
With 23 movies spread out over 50 years , it’s safe to say most people know what to expect from the James Bond film franchise. But Sam Mendes, director of the latest Bond film, “Skyfall,” plays by his own rules.
“The producers said, ‘We don’t want a Bond, we want your Bond,'” Mendes said in a college conference call. “I think it’s one of the more personal things I’ve ever done before and it’s very much the movie I wanted to make.”
“Skyfall,” which is slated to hit theaters Friday, stars Daniel Craig as the suave secret agent charged with saving secret intelligence agency MI6 from an attack by a former agent.
Though Mendes is known for directing character-based dramas such as “American Beauty” and “Revolutionary Road,” he said the transition into directing an action film was exciting.
“I wanted to get myself out of some habits and scare myself,” he said. “That’s what drew me to it.”
Though the last Bond film, 2008’s “Quantum of Solace,” directed by Marc Forster, received mixed reviews from critics and fans alike, Mendes said he didn’t feel pressured to deliver a more crowd-pleasing film.
“When I came on, there wasn’t a script and I spent a little time pretending that we didn’t have to do all the things we wanted to do … (to) find out what the story was at the root before adding all those things back in. You tell a story that hasn’t been told before and you push the characters in a direction they haven’t been pushed before,” Mendes said.
Citing Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy as inspiration, Mendes said he strived to make a darker, edgier blockbuster film.
“We are living in a world where people don’t equate large commercial films with having to be light,” Mendes said. “It’s possible now to be dark and push the envelope a little bit more with bigger movies.”
David Hoops, a second-year in exploration, said he is planning to attend the midnight premiere of “Skyfall” at Gateway Film Center.
“When I was little, my dad and I would watch them all … so I’ve been a fan for a while,” Hoops said. “I’m going in with no expectations, but I think they’ll try to do some cool stuff to wrap up the Daniel Craig era.”
Joey Chagnon, a first-year in mathematics, also said he is a fan of the series and is interested in seeing “Skyfall.”
“I’ve seen all the other Bond movies. It’s a great series,” Chagnon said. “All of the movies seem to follow a consistent pattern – a bad guy trying to do something evil and Bond having to stop him – so I’m expecting (‘Skyfall’) to do the same.”
These kinds of fan expectations, however, were difficult to balance, Mendes said.
“Everyone has their own opinion of what they want a Bond film to be,” Mendes said. “One minute someone would say, ‘I wish you’d put some more humor into it,’ and the next minute someone would say, ‘It’s so much better now that you’re not trying to be funny.'”
As a longtime fan of the Bond series, Mendes said he tried to “tune out” other people’s opinions and make the film into something both his adult self and his 12-year-old self would want to see.
“I think if you think too much about what the audience is going to think, you stop making the film you want to make,” Mendes said. “The nice thing about Bond movies is there’ll be others who come along and have their vision of Bond.”
Mendes did, however, incorporate his interest in character development into “Skyfall” by exploring Bond’s history and his relationships with other characters, including Judi Dench’s character, M, who heads MI6 and has a pivotal role in “Skyfall.”
“I just wanted to create interesting, multidimensional characters that had a few tricks up their sleeves … and had some kind of layers and depths and some kind of sense of they’re not always what they appear,” Mendes said. “It’s about telling a story, whether the character was called James Bond or not. My way of treating him was not to just assume that the audience knew him at all.”
In one scene from the film’s trailer, Javier Bardem’s character, the villainous Raoul Silva, asks Bond what his hobby is, to which Bond replies, “Resurrection.” Mendes said that quote can be applied to the Bond film franchise as a whole.
“The franchise has to move on and so much of Bond is about regeneration,” Mendes said. “It’s about regenerating stories when you think you’ve reached a dead end – that was one of the things I was most excited about.
“When people say they can’t wait to see the next one, that’s the sign of a successful film, and I hope that’s how people feel after seeing the movie,” Mendes said.
Check thelantern.com Friday for a review of “Skyfall.”