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Posts Tagged ‘Sam Mendes’

Back in 210 when production of the as yet unnamed 23rd James Bond movie was indefinitely suspended due to MGM’s financial troubles, I speculated about the future of Daniel Craig as the worlds most famous secret agent. Remembering what had happened the last time there was a delay and Timothy Dalton walked away from the role, I feared the worst. I looked at who could replace Craig should he drop out. As it happened there was nothing to worry about. When the film now named Skyfall finally arrived at the back end of 2012 it turned out to be one of the best Bond films ever and my favourite film of the year. It has since been revealed that Craig will appear in two more Bond films, at least one of them reuniting him with Skyfall director Sam Mendes. It is believed that “Bond 24” as it will be know until a title is chosen with be released in November 2015, suggesting Craig’s final outing will be two or three years after that by which time he will be somewhere around 50 about the right time to hang up his Wallther PPK .james bond daniel craig

This leaves a problem with some of my other suggestions for the next bond. If Craig does fulfil his commitment for another two (five in total) Bond films it will be around 2020 before a replacement is needed, by which time some of my other suggestions will be too old. Idris Elba: already in his 40’s Elba will be the wrong side of 50. The long time favourite Clive Owen will be 50 next year so will be way too old, his chance realistically went when Craig was first cast.

Michael Fassbinder (1977): The German born Irish actor has been in hugely varied movie and TV roles. He is very at home in period settings as seen in a lot of his films including Inglourious Basterds and X-Men: First Class making him the perfect choice for a 50’s or 60’s set Bond. He will be in his early 40’s by the time “Bond 26” goes into production, just about the right age.Michael Fassbinder

Henry Cavill (1983): For so long the nearly man, Cavill was the first choice for McG’s Superman but lost out to Brandon Routh when Bryan Singer took over as director. He was the fans favourite to play Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter but lost out to Robert Pattinson. He was author Stephenie Meyer‘s choice to play Edward Cullen in Twilight, again missing out to Pattinson. He narrowly missed out to Daniel Craig to play Bond in Casino Royale. All these casting choices turned out to be right, he was too old to play Diggory and Cullen, too young for Bond and eventually got to play Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel that was better than Superman Returns. He will be about the right age to play Bond in 2020.Henry Cavill

Tom Hiddleston (1981): Having worked mainly in television for a decade I had never heard of Hiddleston until he played Loki in Thor then all of a sudden he was everywhere with War Horse, The Deep Blue Sea and a small but memorable performance as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris. He will always be associated with Loki and this villainous typecasting could help bring the necessary cold edge to Bond. Again he will be about the right age to play the part.Tom Hiddleston

There are lots of other names mentioned who I can’t see as Bond for one reason or another: Tom Hardy (1977) is probably to visceral and brutal and would need to slim down from his Warrior/Bane bulk. Christian Bale (1974) probably brings too much baggage (Batman) and is at the upper end of the age range. I could have seen Guy Pearce (1967) as Bond a couple of years ago but think he will be too old by the time the part becomes free. Jon Hamm (1971) is probably the right age now making him too old when Craig steps down. I also can’t see an American Bond.

Then we come to the leftfield choice: Nicholas Hoult (1989) at 23 he is too young to play Bond now and will still be at the bottom end of the age range in 2020, however it could work. Bond movies have always moved with the times (although often behind the times) without any mention of a reboot until Casino Royale (2006). This is a perfect opportunity to not only reboot the series but to return to Ian Fleming’s eleven key novels (skipping the short story compilations and The Spy Who Loved Me (1962) whose format would need a lot of tweaking):

Nicholas Hoult

  • Casino Royale (1953)
  • Live and Let Die (1954)
  • Moonraker (1955)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1956)
  • From Russia, with Love (1957)
  • Dr. No (1958)
  • Goldfinger (1959)
  • Thunderball (1961)
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963)
  • You Only Live Twice (1964)
  • The Man with the Golden Gun (1965)

If they start with a young enough actor and make a film every couple of years we could see an actor grow into age in the part. Possibly taking certain books and playing with the order a little we could have rise, fall and rebirth of bond including a SMERSH trilogy and a Blofeld trilogy. The big question is when to set the stories. Although always assumed to be contemporary at the time they were written Fleming was always as vague about the passage of time as he was about the age of his hero. The two options are either present day or 1950’s. I would go with 1950’s partly for the look of the films but also to help keep the stories close to the source material without the distraction of modern technology.

In truth the next Bond will most likely be someone we have never considered or possibly somebody we have never heard of. Although aware of Daniel Craig before Casino Royale I have never considered him as a potential Bond. Whoever they choose, we have two more Craig outings to look forward to, we can only hope they are as good as Skyfall.

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I have written about possible Bond directors on a couple of occasions, but now Sam Mendes has ruled himself out of “Bond 24” it’s a good time to bring the subject up again. While there are lots of names doing the rounds, there is only one that stands out for me: Kathryn Bigelow. There is however a problem, it isn’t what you may think, it isn’t her sex, its her nationality! Born in San Carlos, California, she is too American. Yes that’s right, no director from the home of cinema has ever helmed a movie from cinemas most iconic franchise. The closest was Irvin Kershner, who made Never Say Never Again, but this was not part of the Bond, EON franchise.Kathryn Bigelow

If the producers can overcome fifty years of history and hire Bigelow they need to insist she brings Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal with her. They also need to dispense with the intelligence of Mendes, the grit of Marc Forster and the slick of Martin Campbell and produce a simple, dirty and possibly even dumb action movie. Having celebrated the 50 year milestone with gusto and splendour it would be impossible to top it, it would be foolish to try. I am not suggesting Bond becomes a purely action based franchise, but this is the time to make a one-off 90 minute genre movie.Bond

The plot possibilities are endless but a few thoughts on where they should go: stick with the minimal use gadgets, scale back the plot to something simple and personal, keep Moneypenny and M’s role to a minimum. Two possible outlines that would work in the spirit of the character and in line with some of the stories from Ian Flemings novels would involve Bond on his way home from a mission, shown in the obligatory pre credit sequence where he is either, A: distracted by something he sees happening and decides to investigate or B: is called to the aid of a friend who needs Bonds help. A setting for the film is obvious, America. Bond hasn’t spent any significant screen time “stateside” since Licence to Kill in 1989.James Bond Action Movie

I fear none of this will happen, as the filmmakers will fall into the usual trap of trying to make a bigger and bolder movie than what went before. Only time will tell, the one hope, they did listen to me once (in my dreams).

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The Oscar for Cinematography is not a beauty contest, it isn’t about how pretty a film looks, it is about how well it is lit and photographed, in the same vein, the best director Oscar doesn’t go to the best film, that’s what the best film category is for! While, the Best picture Oscar is really the sum total of all the awards, the acting, the music, the photograph, the script, the direction and all the other elements that make up a film, the best director Oscar, is based purely on the process of directing. It is worth remembering that although the winners are selected by the Academy membership as a whole, the nominations are made by the academy’s directing branch. In other words, the nominations come from the directors and their contemporaries.

Michael Haneke Benh Zeitlin Ang Lee Steven Spielberg David O Russell

This years nominations are: Michael Haneke – Amour, Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild, Ang Lee -Life of Pi, Steven Spielberg – Lincoln David O. Russell -Silver Linings Playbook. I am yet to see Lincoln and Amour so will reserve judgment on the strength of the category but have selected five directors I would have liked to have seen nominated:

Kathryn Bigelow – Zero Dark Thirty
Wes Anderson – Moonrise Kingdom
Ben Affleck – Argo
Sam Mendes – Skyfall
Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight Rises

Each of them has crafted a fantastic movie that would have been run of the mill in lesser hands if they even existed. All would have been worthy winners.

Kathryn Bigelow Wes Anderson Ben Affleck Sam Mendes Christopher Nolan

Should Steven Spielberg win it will put him the elite company of : William Wyler and Frank Capra with three best director Oscars and just one behind John Ford with four. Ang Lee has picked up one win and one other nomination in the category previously (Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon respectively), David O. Russell has been nominated before (The Fighter), it is Michael Haneke’s first nomination. Not only is it Benh Zeitlin’s first nomination, it is his first feature.

Whoever loses, or indeed those who weren’t nominated, it is worth remembering they are in good company, despite thirteen nominations between them Alfred Hitchcock (5), Federico Fellini (4) and Stanley Kubrick (4) didn’t win a single best director Oscar.Alfred Hitchcock Federico Fellini Stanley Kubrick

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Yet another Bond/Skyfall post, in my defence as a huge fan I write about James Bond all the time, I‘m not jumping on the bandwagon. In a variation on my recurring Drinks in Movies thread I am going to look at the drinks in Skyfall. There are films that are full of nuanced symbolism and metaphors, in other movies what you see is what you get. I could be cracking open the secrets of the film or reading too much into it you decide. Whatever your thoughts, there are lots of spoilers here so don’t read unless you have seen Skyfall.

As I have mentioned before Bond drinking a vodka martini is a bit of a cliché that is only partly true. In the Ian Fleming novels Bond invents the Vesper in Casino Royale but drinks various different things but favours Scotch Whisky, no great surprise, his farther is from Glen Coe after all. Around the half way point of the movie Silva (Javier Bardem) gives Bond (Daniel Craig) a glass of his favourite Whisky, a Macallan 1962 Fine and Rare Vintage, he describes it as being a 50 year old. Most likely a reference to the 50th anniversary of Bond rather than the drink itself. So what can we read into this? Silva knows everything about Bond, something thay he prides himself on. We also see M (Judi Dench) drinking the same Brand of whisky, something that I am sure hasn’t escaped Silva’s notice. Does it go deeper? Is it also the Writers (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan) or the director (Sam Mendes) telling us they know there character, they aren’t filmmakers for hire, paid to churn out the next Bond film, they know their character inside out.  Its one of those great little touches that fans will appreciate but many people won’t notice like giving Bond a midnight blue dinner jacket instead of a black one.  

We do see Bond drinking a martini in the Macau casino but we never hear the shaken not stirred line or the Vesper recipe. This is still the Bond we have known for 50 years (longer in the books) and we aren’t going to forget that, but he is moving on. This works in the same way as the exploding pen conversation with Q (Ben Whishaw) being a reminder of the past and a signpost to the future.

There has been a lot of fuss over Bond drinking Heineken, this is unfounded as he is no stranger to beer having drunk it many times in the books and films. As a product placement Heineken has appeared in several films including Craig’s other two outings as Bond. Product placement is certainly nothing new to Bond, in the books he has drunk more champagne than anything favouring Taittinger. In Cassino Royale he remarks that “[1943 Taittinger] is probably the finest champagne in the world” but a long standing placement deal means he has drunk little but Bollinger since Live and Let Die 1973). I wouldn’t read much into beer or the product placement, but it is worth considering when he drinks it. In the scenes where Bond is “dead” he is living away from his spying world as a broken man, an ordinary man and not the supper hero that Bond has become, beer as the great leveller of men, a memento mori.

Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) pours M (Judi Dench) a glass of cognac, Courvoisier VSOP, this is a gesture seen many times in Bond films where M gives Bond a drink. A possible hint towards Mallory being the new M as he does at the end of the film. It actually goes a stage further than that. In GoldenEye Bond (Pierce Brosnan) meets the new M (Judi Dench’s first appearance) for the first time. When she offers him a drink he tells her “Your predecessor kept some cognac in the top drawer of…” she tells him that she prefers bourbon (She actually gives him Jack Daniel’s, a Tennessee Whiskey rather than a bourbon, but a common mistake in England). Later in the movie we see Mallory as M in an office more reminiscent of the one inhabited by previous M’s Robert Brown and Bernard Lee than the modern one Dench uses, the office and the return to Brandy could just be a further reference to Bonds past in his 50th year on screen, but it could also be a suggestion of a return to classic Bond of the 60’s.

As mentioned I am probably reading too much into this, but next time you watch Skyfall take a look and see what you think. And while you are at it look out for the scrabble score mug Q (Ben Wishaw) drinks his Earl Grey in. 

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Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred,Lord Tennyson. quoted by M

(I have attempted to limit spoilers to things seen in trailer)

M16 have lost a computer hard drive containing the true identities of NATO agents undercover in terrorist organisations. James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Eve (Naomie Harris) are in pursuit until Bond is shot and presumed dead. Held responsible for losing the drive, M (Judi Dench) is under political pressure when things take a dramatic turn for the worse. Bond returns, a shadow of his former self and sets about tracking down the person responsible, it soon becomes clear the answers lie close to home for M.

Die Another Day marked the 40th anniversary of the Bond movie series. Packed with nods to earlier movies some of which worked better than others but the film was terrible. I’m happy to report that isn’t the case here. For every nod to the past (The Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5) there is a reminder that this is a new modern Bond that exists closer to the real world than ever before (Q (Ben Whishaw) telling Bond they don’t go in for gadgets like exploding pens anymore). It is also a more serious film than we have come to expect, concerned with threats to national security not mad men bent on world domination. Another notable thing about Skyfall is how much of it is set in the UK. Although largely set oversees, Ian Fleming’s novels did spend a significant amount of time in England. The movies dispensed with this in favour of ever more exotic locations. Aside from the golf match at Royal St George’s in Goldfinger there is little of significance set in the UK. The travelogue of exotic settings helped cement Bonds image but in the ever shrinking world populated by increasingly well travelled people it takes more than that to impress viewers.

Bond movies live and die on the strength of their villains, the best villains are often the ones that are a reflection of Bond having a similar skill set but less honourable motivations. Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga rescued the otherwise poor The Man with the Golden Gun. Goldeneye took things up a notch by making the villain former 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). So how does Javier Bardem stack up? Anyone who has seen him as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men would know he was born to play a Bond villain. There are elements of his character and appearance that are typical archetypes of a Bond Villain, but there are also some new things thrown in. The most notable of the henchmen in Patrice (Ola Rapace) who doesn’t say much but shares some great action scenes with Bond.

To craft a beautiful looking film isn’t new for Bond, whatever you may think of Quantum of Solace, there is no denying that director Marc Forster and director of photography Roberto Schaefer’s film was stunning to look at. Skyfall improves on this, to make a desert landscape or an old DC-3 plane flying over it look good is one thing, but the drab underground interiors of Skyfall look as good as the bleak Scottish landscapes. It isn’t just the way the movie looks that sets it apart the, director Sam Mendes and writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan have achieved the near impossible, a modern day reinvention of Bond set in the present day but that feels live a Fleming story from the 60’s.

A staple of the Bond movies, is the so called Bond girls, they often fall on both sides of right and wrong and often straddle the fine line. Skyfall has just two such woman, Eve (Naomie Harris) a field agent working with Bond, who I expect to see again in future films. Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) who Bond comes across in the course of his investigation. But the greatest amount of screen time is given to Judi Dench’s M, the pair share a history and respect that along with comments on Bonds age suggests a lot has happened since Quantum of Solace. This is a Bond that would fit in well sometime after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service a damaged forty-something Bond that picks up after the last of the Ian Fleming novels. And that’s the interesting thing in three movies Craig has gone from newly promoted 00 to older more jaded version of the character than we expected. In short Craig has a greater character arc than all his predecessors put together. The cast is rounded of by a perfectly cast Albert Finney who lends a link to Bond’s rarely discussed past and Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, again a character we will most likely see again.

Well paced with the right blend of action and intrigue, is it the best Bond film ever? I am actually not sure, it has gone so far from what we have come to expect of Bond that I hesitate to call it the best Bond film of all time, but it is certainly one of the best films to feature Bond. Best of all it suggests the new beginning and a new direction will continue in future films. Craig is signed on for another two films but who will direct them? The franchise has a history of bringing back successful directors to direct multiple movies, Sam Mendes is one director really should come back to continue what he has done with Skyfall.

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With the long awaited, Sam Mendes directed James Bond movie less than six months away the internet is awash with images from the new film. Some official, some blurry grainy unofficial set shots. Below are a few of them along with some random thoughts.

In an early scene in In Dr. No. (1962) James Bond (Sean Connery) is forced to hand his beloved Beretta M1934 in to be replaced by 7.65 mm Walther PPK (the scene is taken almost verbatim from Ian Fleming’s novel after a readers recommendation that the Walther was a more suitable weapon for Bond). Bond continued to use his trusty PPK until Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) when he first got his hands on the new Walther P99. Keen eyed viewers may have noticed that in Quantum of Solace (2008) Bond (Daniel Craig) had reverted to the PPK. This and other images show him using the iconic old gun again in Skyfall.

First seen in Goldfinger (1964) the Aston Martin DB5 has become one of the most recognisable cars in movie history. Bond drove it again in Thunderball (1965). It didn’t appear again until Golden Eye (1995), where it appears to have become Bonds personal car where it is involved in a great scene involving a race with a Ferrari 355. A DB5 also had a brief appearance in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) but made a more significant appearance in Casino Royale when Bond won one in a poker game. This image shows it will appear in Skyfall, and from the grey overcast sky I am guessing Bond has shipped his prize from the Bahamas to the UK.

When it was announced that Naomie Harris would appear in Skyfall, early speculation had her playing Moneypenny, it has since been announced that her character is called Eve. Little is known about the character but the description of her as “a field agent” suggests she will be far more than just eye candy. Images of her firing guns back this up.

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