License To Thrill

This November, Daniel Craig is back as James Bond 007 in SKYFALL, the 23rd installment of the longest-running film franchise in history. In SKYFALL, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past returns to haunt her. 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

We happen to be living in a time when it’s possible to make a big, entertaining, glamorous, escapist movie that also says something about the world we live in. With Daniel’s performances in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, James Bond feels like a real man in a real situation again. It reminded me of the way I felt when I watched the Sean Connery movies.

Director Sam Mendes

Producer Barbara Broccoli explains that Skyfall explores the relationship between Bond and M – perhaps more than in any of the 22 previous films. “We wanted to really mine the relationship between Bond and M, because it is the most significant relationship he has in his life,” says the producer. “M is the only person who represents authority to him. You have two extraordinary actors, and we just thought – let’s go all the way. It’s worked extremely well. It’s a very emotional story.”

“Their relationship is based on mutual respect,” says Craig. “They both know that every time the chips are down, one of them will have to make a sacrifice – it’s difficult to have a touchy-feely relationship with someone under those circumstances. But at the same time – and Sam was very keen on this – Bond’s always had in the back of his mind that there’s a bit more. It’s something he never shows, but the connection is there – and I get a kick out of that as an actor, to play a life you can’t show.”

The Cast

Daniel Craig as James Bond

Leading the way is Daniel Craig in his third film as James Bond. “Bond is actually remarkably difficult part to play, because he says very little, and the moment you make him say too much, it’s not Bond anymore,” says Sam Mendes. He operates on instinct a lot of the time. He has his own inner demons and he doesn’t reveal them to other characters, and yet the audience needs to be aware of them, especially in this particular movie. In Skyfall the audience has got to see him, in a sense, fall apart and put himself back together again, but none of the other characters see what’s really going on behind the curtain. Daniel’s done that, I think, brilliantly.”

Judi Dench as M

Dench, who returns for her seventh film as M, has left an indelible mark on the character – simultaneously filling a classic role and making it her own. For Skyfall, the chance for the actress to re-team with Sam Mendes was irresistible. “Sam directed me in ‘The Cherry Orchard’ when he was very young – it might have been the second or third thing he did – so I know him very well and we have a very good working relationship. We tease each other – we each give as good as we get.”

Javier Bardem as Silva

Javier Bardem describes his character, Silva, as “An angel of death – a very clean-shaven person who happens to be rotten on the inside.” The Oscar winning actor explains finding the character inside the villain. “He has a very personal objective – he’s not trying to destroy the world,” he says. “And he is on a straight line to that objective: he is a man seeking revenge. It’s about being focused on the one person he wants to eliminate.”

Naomie Harris as Eve

Naomie Harris plays Eve, a MI6 field agent. Eve is a brilliant field agent who’s very independent, intelligent, witty, fun and courageous,” says Harris. “She’s not afraid to stand her ground with Bond, and I think that makes her so much more interesting. Playing Eve really allowed me to highlight the more adventurous side of my personality, which was a lot of fun.”

In recent years, the Bond films have featured two girls – one an exotic type and the other a home-grown type. Naomie manages to be both.

Sam Mendes.

Bérénice Marlohe as Severine

Another key role in Skyfall is that of Severine, played by Bérénice Marlohe. “If I could have invented a Bond girl, it would be Bérénice,” laughs Mendes. “I wanted to find somebody with all of the classic components of a Bond girl: voluptuous, sexy, a woman and not a girl, mystery. Bérénice is half-Cambodian, half-French. She gives us that mystery. On top of all that, she happens to be a fantastic actress.”

Marlohe explains that she was encouraged to make Severine unique, “I felt I could use my own personality and imagination to create my character’s style – I had the freedom, knowing that this kind of movie allowed me that space.”

Ben Whishaw as Q

In Skyfall, Ben Whishaw becomes the fourth actor to play Bond’s quartermaster, affectionately known as Q, who makes a welcome return to the Bond franchise. The role began with Peter Burton as Major Boothroyd in Dr. No, followed by Desmond Llewelyn (in 17 Bond films between 1963-1999), and John Cleese (who appeared as Q’s assistant, R, in The World is Not Enough and was later promoted to Q in Die Another Day).

Producers Wilson and Broccoli describe why Ben Whishaw was the man for the job: “When it came to trying to reintroduce the character of Q, it made sense that he would now be a young technical genius and the character was written with that in mind. Ben was the obvious choice because he has this wonderful kind of openness to him, and a real intelligence and wit.”

Ralph Fiennes as Mallory

Ralph Fiennes plays Mallory, a government official with oversight of M’s agency. Fiennes explains, “On the surface, Mallory has a charm, an old-world courtesy, but underneath, there’s a steel there. He is absolutely able to stand up to M and go head-to-head with her.”

Michael G. Wilson adds, “You’re not sure where Mallory’s loyalty lies in the film – whether he’s going to be a help or a hindrance to M and to Bond. He seems to ask a lot of difficult questions and be very critical. It’s a very ambiguous character.”

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Now that you’re up to speed on who’s who, your mission dear reader is to go catch Skyfall – opens in cinemas 1 Nov

Images courtesy of Sony Pictures Singapore

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