This being the 50th anniversary since James Bond first stepped on to our screens, the producers knew they had to create something special for the latest 007 outing, Skyfall.
“We wanted this one to be a real landmark,” says the co-producer Michael G Wilson. “A real classic Bond film.”
If that wasn’t a tough enough mission, in 2010, work on the film was suspended indefinitely after the debt-ridden studio backers MGM looked set for bankruptcy. The end of 007? Don’t believe a word of it.
With Sony stepping in to rescue the franchise, this 23rd James Bond adventure sees Daniel Craig back in the tux for his third outing as Ian Fleming’s suave British secret agent.
“[We wanted] something that looked back and was very present, all at the same time,” says Craig, who was instrumental in recruiting his Road To Perdition director Sam Mendes to direct. “Not something that was nostalgic – that would be wrong. Bond films have never been nostalgic. They’ve always been about the here and now.”
And so it is with Skyfall, which sees Javier Bardem’s cyberterrorist Raoul Silva take revenge on MI6 and Bond’s superior M (Judi Dench). Likewise, the Bond girls are no longer the bikini-clad babes of old. “They’re much more modern,” says Naomie Harris, who plays the field agent Eve. “I don’t think you can even call them Bond girls anymore. They’re just women who happen to be characters in a Bond movie … and they can be equal to Bond.”
Bérénice Marlohe, who plays Sévérine, the “link to James Bond and Silva”, admits she prefers another term. “If suddenly people want to call us ‘Bond women’ … why not, for the 50th anniversary? This is quite elegant.”
Still, there are enough nods in Skyfall to the Bond canon. Adele’s booming theme tune brings to mind that classic Bond diva Shirley Bassey. The reappearance of the Aston Martin DB5 (the classic 007 car first glimpsed in Goldfinger) and Q (now played by Ben Whishaw) will also satisfy fans, as will the subtle references – from the agent’s return to Macau last seen in The Man with the Golden Gun to his unusual escape route in one scene reminiscent of the “stepping stones” he used in Live and Let Die.
Then there’s Bardem’s blonde-haired villain – a phenomenal creation from the Spanish star who won an Oscar for the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men.
“Sam Mendes put it very well when he said ‘James Bond movies are in the middle ground of fiction and reality’ – especially when you’re playing a villain,” he says. “It’s a genre in itself – a Bond villain. And in a movie such as this, celebrating 50 years, there’s something special about that character that has to be there – a homage to Bond villains.”
If Silva is a tribute to Bardem’s favourite character, Jaws – Richard Kiel’s metal-toothed henchman from The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker – Craig’s Bond has become an intensified version of Timothy Dalton’s interpretation of the character in the late 1980s. “I go back to the Fleming,” says the actor. “Fleming tried to kill him off on a number of occasions. This guy was dark and he was married to his work, and there was no other life. So that part of it I find fascinating – this is the life he has and he can have no other.”
With such luminous talents as Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney also on board, the principal cast has 16 Oscar nominations and two wins between them. Could one of them be the first actor ever to win an Academy Award for a Bond performance? Craig shrugs, not wishing to heap further pressure on a franchise that’s had to withstand so much. “I don’t know how this film’s going to end up. I’ve really no idea. But I think we’ve done a great job for the 50th anniversary. We couldn’t have done better.”
Skyfall is out at midnight on Thursday in UAE cinemas. Turn to page 16 for timings