Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall and also the next 007 adventure, was interviewed at a special film event in London a few days ago and revealed just how much importance he places on the script and getting it right. He also said the script for the as yet untitled Bond 24 is still ‘ongoing’.
Mendes appeared before film afficionados at the National Film Theatre (NFT), on the evening of Tuesday, 20 May, as part of a special celebration of the 30th anniversary of Wim Wenders’s 1984 masterpiece Paris, Texas held by the British Film Institute (BFI), as part of their BFI Screen Epiphanies series.
The cult movie received a special screening in the NFT1 screen auditorium, part of the BFI’s Southbank complex near the River Thames in central London. Mendes introduced the special screening and was interviewed on stage in NFT1 by film critic Danny Leigh.
The Oscar-winning director of American Beauty and Skyfall told Leigh how much Paris, Texas had inspired him and how Wenders, with his outsider’s view of life in America, had crafted a haunting story about loss, redemption and the strong bonds that hold families together. With some stunning cinematography by Robbie Muller, an acclaimed score by Ry Cooder, and highly memorable performances by Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinkski, Mendes revealed to the NFT audience how much he was impressed with the way that Wenders had realised Sam Shepard’s simple but powerful story.
Inevitably, at one point in the interview, the conversation turned to the next 007 movie, which will be no.24 in the fifty-year old franchise. Mendes shared with the NFT1 audience how making Skyfall and also coming up with concepts for the upcoming new James Bond movie had been done in tandem with his work on the stage show Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in London. He said: ‘At a certain point, there’s no question that working on Skyfall and Charlie at the same time, as I was for three to four years, one work fed the other’.
He also described to the NFT audience the sheer challenge of helming his 007 duties while also overseeing the complex development work on his stage version of Roald Dahl’s famous story for children, and he noted several interesting connections both between James Bond and Charlie, and Ian Fleming and Roald Dahl: ‘They are two great iconic characters, by iconic writers – Fleming and Dahl – both of them quite strange. Both of them in a sense became more famous after they were dead. More lauded now than when they were alive. Considered populist and perhaps not entirely to be taken seriously. And yet now seem to be two of the greater writers of the 20th Century in this country. Both had odd relationships with the country itself. And they created these two great iconic characters – Willy Wonka and James Bond’.
Mendes continued: ‘So there was lots of back-and-forth going on I felt. And they did of course come into contact… they knew each other. So they were drawn to each other as well. So it’s interesting that there are parallels’.
At another juncture in the interview, Mendes offered some brief reflections on Daniel Craig’s power as an actor and his interpretation of Bond. He revealed to Leigh that he had been to see Daniel Craig’s recent acclaimed stage performance on Broadway: ‘I went to see Daniel Craig in Betrayal and I was reminded what a fantastic actor he is outside of James Bond’. He continued: ‘It inspires you to think of other ways to use him and allow him to express that. Ralph Fiennes is another great example’.
Asked about the progress of the next Bond movie and whether he could offer any clues about the storyline, Mendes was, unsurprisingly, very cautious in his response: ‘It’s being written, that’s all I can tell you. If I told you I’d have to kill you!’ He added: ‘The next one – it’s being written… It’s ongoing’. He also emphasised the importance of a solid basis to the movie’s story: ‘For me, so much of it is about script. It’s like the building of a boat – once the boat gets on the current, it’s gone. If there’s a hole in the boat, you’re f—ed . So you’ve got to make sure there’s no holes in the boat, and that’s what we’re doing now’.
Bond 24 is being scripted by Skyfall writer John Logan, who recently collaborated with Mendes on the new Gothic TV series Penny Dreadful, which has received very good reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.
According to the latest information obtained by the JBIFC, Bond 24 is due to start principal photography in late October, 2014.