Study Guide

Skyfall Behind the Scenes

  • Director

    Sam Mendes

    Sam Mendes started in theater, saying "exit, stage right" to stars like Judi Dench, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman. Well-known in the theater world, Mendes made a big splash in Hollywood with American Beauty, the 1999 Best Picture winner that had people going gaga over plastic bags.

    Having won an Oscar for American Beauty, Mendes continued directing films, plays, and marrying and divorcing Kate Winslet, until he took over the Bond franchise with Skyfall.

    While the director of family dramas like American Beauty and Revolutionary Road might seem like a weird fit for the Bond franchise, Mendes thought it was a perfect match. "This Bond is about a middle-aged Brit, made by a middle-aged Brit," he told The Guardian in 2012 (source).

    Mendes stuck with Bond to make Spectre in 2015, making him the first director since John Glen to direct two Bond flicks in a row. After Spectre, Mendes hasn't been attached to another Bond film. But in the words of Bond himself, never say never again.

  • Screenwriters

    Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan

    The dynamic duo behind Bond's adventures, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, have collaborated on six Bond scripts—The World is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002), and all four Daniel Craig romps (up to Spectre). They've basically made it their full-time jobs to pretend to be Bond.

    The two were hired by Barbara Broccoli herself: she was impressed that both men could remember where they were the first time they saw a Bond film. (Um, in a movie theater?)

    Barbara has also said, "It is a fine line between a Bond film and an Austin Powers film." [same source]. But Purvis and Wade have a bit of the Mike Myers in them, too: they also wrote the Bond parody Johnny English, starring Mr. Bean, a parody that wasn't nearly as beloved as the Bond movies themselves—but at least it's better than Quantum of Solace.

    Playwright John Logan, who had rewritten Shakespeare for Ralph Fiennes in Coriolanus, was brought in to help with the Skyfall script, and it appears he had a lot of influence on the dialog. Logan has talked about Bond's did-he-or-didn't-he moment with Silva, a moment that suggests Bond's possible bisexuality. Logan and Craig believe that both men—Silva and Bond—were putting on a show for the sake of intimidation (source).

    The three men collaborated again on Spectre, but Logan alone is rumored to be working on the script for the next Bond film (source). The other two may have to go back to pretending to be Bond for free, like the rest of us.

  • Production Studio

    Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayor

    Barbara Broccoli is the most powerful person in Hollywood named after a vegetable; she's even more influential than David S. Pumpkins. Barbara inherited Eon Productions from her father, Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, a man who lived the American Dream, proving you can go from being the son of vegetable farmers to the producer of one of the world's longest-lasting film franchises.

    Cubby Broccoli. Adorable. Sounds like a plush broccoli you can snuggle with.

    Eon has been producing Bond films for eons—or fifty-three years, to be precise—and these films include Skyfall and Spectre. Eon has produced only one non-Bond film: Call Me Bwana, a 1963 Bob Hope comedy. Ever since, they've focused only on Bwond. James Bwond.

    Err, Bond.

    Current head of Eon, Barbara Broccoli, is the queen of the vegetable kingdom, and she is the one who picked Daniel Craig for Bond. According to Skyfall director Sam Mendes, "Public support for Daniel [Craig] was zero. It was her saying 'that man over there is going to change the whole thing, I'm going to cast him'" (source).

    When Craig retires—or is forced out like, M in Skyfall—it will be Barbara who decides the man (or woman?) who will next wear the Bond crown.

  • Production Design

    Bond films are huge productions, and ARRI Group—a supplier of high-quality film equipment—called Skyfall the "biggest Bond yet."

    Roger Deacons deserves a lot of the credit for keeping the film from going rogue. As the chief cinematographer, Deacons was in charge of everything. In his commentary, director Sam Mendes talks about how 1/3rd of the film's entire production time went into the first eleven minutes. Deacons had to time the crazy chase sequences, which were shot over two weeks, in order to make the weather as consistent as possible. Through the magic of movies, it looks like Bond does it all on one sunny Istanbul afternoon.

    To continue ruining the magic for you, Mendes gives a shout-out to Andy Lister, Daniel Craig's stunt double. Although Craig does some of his own stunts, Lister does the super dangerous stuff, like almost anything to do with the excavator in the opening sequence (source).

    As if all that weren't enough, Mendes also brought in an honest-to-goodness martini specialist to mix the one drink Bond has at the Macau casino. The "cocktail consultant" served a Skyfall martini at the film's premiere. The $50 cocktail will leave you shaken and stirred—and your wallet empty.

  • Music (Score)

    Thomas Newman

    Thomas Newman worked on The Empire Strikes Back, The Help, and Wall-E, and he worked with Sam Mendes on Revolutionary Road. He has a huge range, and the score is really good, but, um, we just want to talk about the Adele song, because it is amazing.

    A Bond song defines the film. Some, like "Goldfinger," live forever. Others, like "Another Way to Die" from Quantum of Solace, are as forgettable as the films they introduce. "Skyfall" is in the first category, one of the best Bond songs, setting the tone for one of the best Bond films.

    Set against surreal images of bullet holes, skulls, and Bond with a target on him, the haunting music lets you know this isn't going to be the fun run-and-gun romp Bond was known for fifty years ago. This is an introspective Bond. A brooding Bond. A Bond who probably listens to Adele, just like everyone else on the planet.

    The lyrics are filled with meaning from the very first line. "This is the end," Adele croons, foreshadowing the death of Bond, the death of M, and the end of a fifty-year-old franchise. But she also lets us know that ends are also beginnings.

    ADELE: We will stand tall / and face it all / together / at Skyfall

    Spoiler alert: Adele is telling us that Bond will be working together with a team and facing evil together with it, instead of being the one-man army he has been in the past. Adele also mentions crumbling, hearts bursting, and other typically tragic Adelean images that let us know that this is probably not going to end well.

    It ended well for Adele, though: she continued paving her gold road to an EGOT with the Oscar for Best Original Song. And we didn't forget Mr. Newman, who also won the Oscar for Best Original Score.

  • Fandoms

    Bond fans have more books, short stories, and films at their disposal than Bond himself has gadgets. Ian Fleming, creator of 007, wrote twelve novels and two collections of short stories, but after Fleming's death, other authors continued writing Bond's adventures with the blessing of his estate.

    Eon Productions has made twenty-four Bond films (and counting), and there are even two non-Eon produced films. The first book was published in 1958, and Skyfall marked the 50th anniversary of the films in 2012. It might seem like Bond himself is getting gray and long in the tooth, but new writers, directors, and actors are always stepping in to keep Bond fresh.

    But all that doesn't stop fans from doing their own thing to get into the world of Bond. Generic "spy tuxedo" costumes are heavily inspired by Bond's well-tailored look. Those looking to tell their livers "You only live twice" can work their way through every alcoholic drink inspired by Bond. And for fans with a lot of time and not enough boundaries, there are James Bond/Harry Potter fanfiction crossovers.

    Does Bond still need gadgets if he has magic on his side?