"This is a bit of an odd press conference," director Sam Mendes admitted at this morning's swish London media gathering to cut the ribbon on production of the 23rd and latest James Bond film. "Usually at these things, you have something you can talk about."
He wasn't kidding. With producers Michael J. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, plus stars Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Juli Dench, Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe, Mendes rocked up at the ballroom of Whitehall’s plush Corinthian Hotel – a venue one suspects Bond himself would choose – to tell us… well, not very much at all. Actors confirmed, but not present, include Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Ben Whishaw: no surprise that Mendes’s Bond movie looks on course to be the luvviest one yet.
One journalist’s question after another was shut down with a slightly sheepish smile and a “maybe, maybe not” response. The one major nugget of information they had intended to reveal today had long been cracked open by the internet: “Introducing the world’s worst-kept secret,” Wilson said rather ruefully, as the film’s confirmed title, “Skyfall,” flashed onto the screen behind him. What does it mean? They can’t tell us, of course. It has “an emotional context,” offered Broccoli, reassuringly.
This much we also learned: the film will be shot in London, both at the legendary Pinewood Studios and on location in Whitehall, with excursions to Shanghai, Istanbul and Scotland. (Where in Scotland? “The wilds of Scotland,” Mendes promised, helpfully.) It’s not based on any existing Ian Fleming work, and it’s not a continuation of the Quantum storyline from the last two Craig-led Bond pics. Several character names aren’t being revealed: is that because avid Bond fans might recognise some of them? “They might do,” Mendes replied airily. “Then again, they might not.”
Beyond that, you could pretty much report on what was said without even attending the conference. The actors are excited. The producers are excited. Mendes is excited – though he did dryly admit, when pressed as to whether he might consider doing another entry in the series, that the answer hinges on “if I feel as excited in six months’ time.” Bardem, a Bond fan from childhood, plays the villain, but in his words: “Who says a villain is a bad person?”
Little-known French stunner Marlohe stunned the room by revealing that she’s playing “a glamorous, enigmatic character called Severine” – who’da thunk it? Craig earned the biggest laugh of the press conference by curtly cutting off a hapless Swedish journo asking how he compared playing Bond to alternative action hero Mikael Blomkvist in the upcoming “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”: “They’re completely different,” he said without expression. Naomie Harris, playing a field agent, has discovered a taste for firing machine guns. And so on and so forth.
In other words, they’re shooting a James Bond movie. Cutely enough, today’s press conference took place 50 years to the day since then-rising star Sean Connery was announced as the star of the first Bond adaptation, “Dr. No”; when it’s released next year, “Skyfall” will mark the franchise’s golden anniversary. Perhaps in honor of the occasion, they’ve pushed the boat out a bit with an unusually high-end cast, as well as the first Oscar-winning director to steer one of these action-oriented larks. Other than that, it all sounds like business as usual, and hurrah for that: “Awards aren’t the reason you do any movie,” a sly-looking Mendes said to one journo who had asked if Oscar gold was on the cards. “They certainly not the reason you do a Bond movie.”
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