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Russell says he was happy to be along for the ride via Mendes's long-time mixer Scott Millan (who handled score and dialogue, while Russell handled effects). But when he sat down to do the temp mix and first got a load of Deakins's work, he was floored.
"Everything that raises the bar, raises the bar," he says. "Period. And when you look at visuals that are just outstanding, and clearly you find yourself mesmerized, you want to do your best to sonically deliver the goods. It’s a ballet of visuals. And you just go, 'Wow.'"
Russell says Mendes wanted the score to rule in the film. Dialogue clarity was of course number one, but the director was consistently conscious about Newman's work being propulsive.
"We were going to find all of our opportunities in and within that," Russell says, "but not obscuring that. Any time we are overloading the track to where we’ve lost the thread of music, it’s a no-no. We want the tone and theme and signature lines to never be obscured. There’s certainly tons of opportunities within the movie for effects to be thriving. But we really wanted to stay clear of the music and let that be the prominent driving force within the film."
Deakins says the entire enterprise had an added element of difficulty because everyone had to stick within a certain sort of genre, to a degree. That of the Bond genre, not to put too fine a point on it. "Because if you stretch too far out of it the audience is going to go, 'Hey, wait a minute. I came to watch a Bond movie,'" he says. "I think Tom felt, in a way, that was a restriction. But I thought it was brilliant the way he wove in the new music with the original kind of themes and with Adele's song and stuff. It's so rich and varied."
Newman was equally floored by Deakins's work when he got a look at the film and began turning over ideas in his head of how to work within that genre -- which of course has a long history of music -- but still offer something fresh.
"It was just out of the gate gorgeousness, you know," he says. "Just in terms of the geometry of the design and the sense of how light was used. I'm a huge fan of Deakins. We've kind of run into each other along the way. He's such an approachably nice guy and an interesting guy just to have a conversation with. I love his work."
And when he saw the fully completed mixture at the London premiere of the film at Royal Albert Hall, he was delighted at how sound and image worked together. "Of course it was a huge, huge boomy room," Newman says, "but I was very impressed by how it all sounded. It was very exciting moment-to-moment and very, very believable. I was really very much in the spaces and locales that I was in."
We'll see if Russell, Newman and Deakins can make it to their 16th, 11th and 10th nominations, respectively, for "Skyfall." But whether they do or not is plainly beside the point. The film is awash in craft, and it doesn't stop with this oft-recognized trio.
From the production design of four-time nominee (and winner for "Bugsy") Dennis Gassner -- along with his twice-nominated set decorator Anna Pinnock, to the film editing of two-time nominee Stuart Baird, to the sound editing of three-time nominee (and winner for "Braveheart" and "The Bourne Ultimatum") Per Hallberg, it's a crew that knows its stuff. And that's to say nothing of those on the team who probably ought to have received some Academy recognition by now, like costume designer Jany Temime. They've all come together to deliver what is already seen by many as the best installment of a 50-year-old franchise.
"There’s a lot to be proud of," Russell says. "And I think everyone resonates that same sentiment, that we all have a lot to be proud of to be part of this movie."
"Skyfall" is now playing at a theater near you.
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