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James Bond SKYFALL: Five Things You Must Know From Our Istanbul Set Visit

November 6, 2012
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The latest James Bond cinematic franchise offering, "Skyfall", opens in AMC Theatres this weekend. Take a look at our report from AMC's May 2012 visit to the Istanbul, Turkey set below and purchase your tickets HERE!

ISTANBUL – The James Bond franchise is known to have several key elements: A roguishly handsome, coolly collected and impeccably dressed Bond, dangerously beautiful and deadly women, fantastical gadgetry, a variety of colorful villains with increasingly creative implements of death, martinis (shaken not stirred) and a slew of breathtaking global locations.

“Skyfall”, the 23rd cinematic Bond offering, has already filmed in London, Scotland and Shanghai and at 105 days in, it is well on its way to completing principal photography. The film is currently on location in Istanbul, Turkey where its stunning and intricately crafted opening sequence takes place.

(Read a description of our visit to the set as well as the film’s impressive first action sequence here.)

Take a look at our breakdown of the five essential pieces of information we learned on our visit, as well as a more elaborate detailing below:

The decision to bring the production to Istanbul for the film that marks the fiftieth anniversary of Albert R. Broccoli’s EON productions cinematic adaptations of Ian Fleming’s spy novels effectively locates the “Skyfall” within larger context of the franchise (it was 49-years ago that Sean Connery filmed “From Russia with Love” in the lively metropolis) as well within geo-political context of our contemporary world.

James Bond was, in a sense, re-booted when Daniel Craig took on the iconic role in 2006’s “Casino Royal” which had a grounded, gritty tone more in the vein of our modern action franchises. The emphasis was on character and relationship development which added a sense of weight and emotional consequence to the larger-than-life world of spymasters and their nefarious foes.

“Skyfall” continues the progression that “Casino Royal” began, increasing the stakes for the characters within the framework of a “classically” Bond-esque tone.

Producer Barbara Broccoli has amassed an impressive pedigree of talent for “Skyfall” in honor of fifty-years of Bond. Director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) takes the helm with legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins (“The Shawshank Redemption”) behind the lens. Daniel Craig (Bond) is joined by a cast that includes Judi Dench as M, Ralph Fiennes as M’s mysterious M16 counterpart Gareth Mallory, the terrifying Javier Bardem as the villain Silva, Naomie Harris as agent Eve and Bérénice Marlohe as the latest in a long line of stunning Bond women.

Here is the brief synopsis for the film:

In "Skyfall" Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

Though an air of mystery surrounds the production, our time in Istanbul did yield several insights into what we can expect from this latest installment in the Bond franchise. 

Here are the five essential things we learned on our set visit to Istanbul:

1) A Different Kind Of Bond Girl:


There is a grand and glorious tradition of alternatively gorgeous, conniving, sweet-natured and ever so enigmatic beautiful Bond women. From Pussy Galore to Grace Jones’s May Day, the ladies of Bond always bring something fresh and fruitful to the tale.

“Skyfall” does not disappoint with its latest additions into the “Bond girl” hall of fame: Naomie Harris and French model/actress Bérénice Marlohe. Harris plays MI6 agent Eve (rather than "Moneypenny" as was previously rumored) and reports that she is introducing a whole new dimension to the range of what is possible for a Bond woman.

“I feel like a different category,” Harris says of her character. “Because she’s not there to wear slinky frocks and be sexy. She’s a capable woman out in the field. She’s not necessarily a match for Bond, as such, but her ambition is to be as skilled as him in the field.”

The actress spent eight months in heavy training that ranged from strength and conditioning, to combat, weapons and stunt driving. So we can expect to see her go head-to-head with 007 in more ways than one. Indeed, she plays a crucial role in the aforementioned full throttle opening sequence.

Harris was delighted when she discovered just how significant her character would be in the larger framework of the story. She auditioned with a scene froom "Casino Royal" and signed onto the project sans any real sense of who she would be playing. "I was really excited [when I read the script],” she said. “Largely because of my part, selfishly. I didn't realize that I would have that size part."

We look forward to seeing which side of the antagonist/protagonist line Harris’s “lead Bond into temptation” Eve will fall on.

Not to worry, however, Ms. Marlohe will deliver on the glamour that every Bond film requires. "There is one extremely theatrical, spectacular, extremely glamorous outfit which is completely surreal,” Marlohe said of her character, Severine's look and costuming, “you never see that in movies."

She describes Severine as a nuanced femme fatal. “You could say she's a good girl or bad girl or Bond girl,” Marlohe mused. “She's complex, like Daniel did for James Bond. He revealed something with different colors that could seem opposite, very tough but very vulnerable, human but very cold. I wanted to do the same for her.”

2) Classic Bond Film In A Contemporary Setting:


The time in between 2008’s “Quantum of Solace” and the start of production on “Skyfall” gave the filmmakers the space to really nail down the screenplay. Technically Craig and Mendes were not meant to discuss the project as MGM went through a complex bankruptcy process, but secretly they were in constant communication about the story, characters and the kind of Bond film they wanted to produce.

Mendes calls “Skyfall” a regeneration of the Bond character, which includes the foundation that Craig introduced in “Casino Royal” with the addition of some of the traits of a more old-fashioned 007. He has said that this is a film in which he has been able to create the expansive escapism of a quintessentially Bond-esque actioneer, while still reflecting something of our modern times.

“Sam felt very strongly that, by making the best Bond movie we can, we’re gonna look back a little,” Craig recalled. Though he is quick to clarify that, “this has an individual look to it, something that I don’t think you’ve seen in any other Bond movie.”

“It feels like classic Bond,” producer Barbara Broccoli added.

“There’s a ton of stuff that we’ve done and style has been the key,” Craig continued. “Not only just how the stunts are created and how they’re designed but style has been really a key through design; production design, costume design, and even some of the casting.”

Indeed, the aesthetic that Mendes and Director of Photography Roger Deakin’s look to be creating feels as though it is a harmonious blend between the old and the new, the dark and the light.

The action in this film is being given as much attention as the story, however, and Mendes is referencing some high standards as his influences in that arena.

“The challenge is to create parallel action so you're not locked into a linear chase, which is something that Chris Nolan, for example does very, very well,” Mendes says. “It's never just A following B, there's something else going on simultaneously, and they overlap."

The multi-teared opening sequence is a reflection of the type of action we can expect to see in "Skyfall."

3) There Will Be Laughs:


One of the defining characteristics of a classic Bond film is the dry humor the sophisticated agent brings to the table. Naomi Harris reports that the main shift in the script from her initial read to the version they worked from during production was the addition of more of the Bond wit.

”They felt that, in the last two Bonds, there wasn’t enough humor,” Harris said. “There’s a real emotional and quite dark side to the film as well, though,” she adds.

Craig, who is visibly excited to share this film with audiences continually emphasizes the strength of the script that John Logan (“Hugo,” “Gladiator”) penned with contributions by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade. “Humor comes out, I think, more of situation than it does out of gag lines,” Craig reflects. “I think there are some very funny moments. I have a very dark humor, though.”

“Well so did Fleming," Broccoli says. “It’s very Fleming-y. It has the wit of Ian Fleming. The acerbic wit.” Indeed, Broccoli reports that whenever they get lost they simply, “return to Fleming.”

4) Franchise Wide Shifts:


There is very little known about the specific story details and plotlines in “Skyfall”. We do know that there will be a foray into M and Bond’s mysterious past, a further development of the maternal relationship that M has engendered with the orphaned Bond and an exploration of Bond’s conflicted feelings about what he has chosen to do with his life: kill.

“I thought it was a master stroke when they cast Judi Dench,” Mendes said. “There was much more complexity in the relationship and I think we’ve taken that a little further.”

We cannot say for certain how all of the various threads will weave together (nor would we want to) but all signs indicate that “Skyfall” will, as Mendes says, radically regenerate the beloved Bond franchise. The role of M, in particular, seems to have taken on a whole new significance in this film.

“I didn’t just say yes to doing a Bond movie, I said yes to doing a Bond movie with Daniel Craig. This Bond movie with Judi Dench. It’s a question of what can we give her that will take her to another level that we’ve never seen her before?  What can we do with her that will surprise or challenge even her? We pushed it further and we pushed other characters further, too. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

5) A Fearsome Villain:


Javier Bardem gave a chilling performance as Anton Chigurh in 2007’s “No country for Old Men” and it feels as though he will be adding a new character to his villainous repertoire with “Skyfall”. Daniel Craig was determined to have Bardem join the cast and initially approached the Academy Award-winning actor at a party they were both attending.

Sam Mendes was equally committed to bringing a vivid antagonist to the screen with his Bond offering. “One of the things I thought when I watched them and rewatched them, was it’s been a while since there’s been what I would call a classic Bond villain,” Mendes said. “I wanted somebody perhaps a bit more flamboyant, perhaps a bit more frightening, and so I felt like we needed a great actor to achieve that.”

Bardem ultimately had a great deal of influence on the construction of his character, Silva.

“Javier said, ‘Well, I’m interested. Let’s start talking,’ and we talked about the role and it began to develop from there,” Mendes recalled. “It gave us time to receive his ideas, let them percolate a little bit, get them into the script and then, at a certain point, he trusted that it was something he could make his own.”

“I love his energy,” Ola Rapace, who plays one of the film’s other resident foes, Patrice, said of Bardem. “Sitting beside him in makeup is intriguing. You never know what goes on in that mind, and I love that quality in an actor. I want to know what goes on in his mind. And that's cool for the kind of character he plays in the film. You've got to wonder: What is he doing? What is he thinking?”

We should have our answer to that pressing question no sooner than when "Skyfall" opens this November. We will, however, be granted a small glimpse of the tone and flavor of this particular Bond offering when the teaser trailer premieres in front of “Men in Black III” on the 25th of May.

“Skyfall” opens in AMC Theatres this Friday, November 9 - purchase your tickets HERE.

Sam Mendes directs a cast that includes  Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Ola Rapace, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney and Judi Dench from a script by John Logan (“Hugo,” “Gladiator,” “Rango”) with contributions by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade. The “Skyfall” Director of Photography is the legendary Roger Deakins (“The Shawshank Redemption”).

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