The ‘Skyfall’ director Sam Mendes was interviewed in the British Sunday newspaper The Observer on December 9, and offered some more reflections on his helmsmanship of the 23rd James Bond movie. He also sought to dampen down some of the rumours already linking him to the next 007 movie.
As Bond fans are well aware, ‘Skyfall’ has been breaking numerous records in the UK and across the globe generally, and the 007 producers went on record recently to especially thank the UK’s cinema-going public. They also thanked Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes in particular.
The new interview with Mendes, conducted by the Observer’s Kate Kellaway, started out by giving an overview of the Bond director’s career, both in the theatre and in film, noting how his ‘charmed career has reached new heights’. Mendes, Kellaway reminded Observer readers, started out as a 24-year old ‘dynamo’ directing Judi Dench on stage in London’s West End. The young Mendes also founded and ran the now-famous Donmar Theatre for 10 years from 1990. Moreover, he won five Oscars for his debut film ‘American Beauty’ in 1999, when he was not even 35.
Other movies followed, including ‘Revolutionary Road’. But, as Kellaway noted: ‘Skyfall is something else again. It broke UK box office records in its first week – taking £37.2m – and is now Britain’s highest-grossing film ever. Now the only question is whether Mendes is going to make the sequel’.
Mendes, who is now aged 47, responded to Kellaway’s question in the following way: ‘It’s not true that I’ve worked out a new plot for Bond. Nor have I made any commitment to another Bond movie. I have said that I have put everything I wanted into this film. The idea I can simply start again makes me feel physically ill. I need to get back to the theatre, spend more time at home and then… and then it might be someone else’s turn’.
Above all, Kellaway noted, Mendes needs a ‘good story’. He said: ‘Directing depends upon a story’s rhythm – a good story should breathe in and out’. He also pointed out to Kellaway that making ‘Skyfall’ was exhausting, ‘like making four movies in one’. It was half-pleasure, half-pain. He had to be a ‘good dissembler’, instil confidence, and be the leader: ‘If you are scared, you have to hide it – it is not useful’. A Bond film is ‘frightening’, said Mendes, because ‘one’s personality could be consumed by the machine’.
On the other hand, Mendes also acknowledged that the new 007 film had been liberating, too. After the worries and pressures of his previous mixed-genre arthouse and ‘relationship’ movies, Bond was different: ‘It was nice to say: my sole job here is to tell a great story’.
Interestingly, at one point, the interview also touched upon the extent to which Mendes had a creative hand in Adele’s theme song for ‘Skyfall’. Mendes said the decision to use Adele was a ‘joint thing’, and he remembers how the singer was worried about writing the Bond theme song, as her lyrics are always very personal: ‘I told her to write a love song’. When she did, Mendes said he was ‘over the moon’ with the result: ‘Coming in from the country to shoot, I listened to her song solidly for two hours’.
Mendes also told Kellaway that, even though ‘Skyfall’ is ‘about a middle-aged Brit’, and was directed ‘by a middle-aged Brit’, at the same time the movie aimed to satisfy the ‘inner 12-year old’ within Mendes and also satisfy his own 9-year old son, too: ‘One of the biggest reasons for doing this was to make a film my son could see’.
Towards the end of the interview Mendes, who, after years of living in the USA is now based in London, and also has a house in the English countryside, gave some further brief reflections on his career as a director so far: ‘I have been down some blind alleys and felt I was repeating myself. I did Skyfall to shock and wake myself up. And it has certainly done that – and then some’.