ISTANBUL - I’ve just left the stunning landscapes of Istanbul, Turkey where the new James Bond film “Skyfall” is shooting an elaborate opening sequence for this, the film that marks the fiftieth anniversary of Albert R. Broccoli’s indelible Bond franchise.
Indeed, it was 49-years to the day that EON productions was filming Sean Connery in “From Russia with Love” in Broccoli’s beloved Istanbul when we met with director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”), producer Barbara Broccoli, Bond himself Daniel Craig, Bond’s two new leading ladies, Berenice Marlohe and Naomie Harris and the opening sequence’s brutal baddie, Ola Rapace, at the breathtaking Ciragan Palace located along the Bosphorus coastline. Stay tuned for more from our interviews with the cast and creators as well as the five essential things to know about “Skyfall.”
In the interim, allow us to take you through what we saw of “Skyfall’s” heart-stopping and elaborate opening. Audiences will likely recall the innovative Parkour sequence in 2006’s “Casino Royale” and perhaps wonder what Daniel Craig’s third turn as Bond will bring in terms of action. And though I feel fairly certain that the filmmakers are holding their central set piece close to the chest, I am also confident that we were granted a peek at one of the film’s essential and establishing action sequences.
We were escorted through the colorful and bustling Spice Market beside Istanbul's Yeni Camii Mosque. The air was rich with the scents and delicious flavors of the culture, the colors were vibrant shades set against the grey tones of the ancient stone architecture creating an atmosphere that speaks to the way that Istanbul so uniquely merges antiquity with modernity.
As we moved beyond the security gate and onto the set of “Skyfall” the first thing that crystallized was that the production designers have done a remarkable job of seamlessly melding their constructed location with that of the native cityscape.
There are stalls filled with merchants selling their wares, locals and tourists alike make their way through the fruits and tapestries that pepper the streets with fishermen grilling fish fresh from the shining waters of Bosphorus river in the background. Throngs of pigeons (which have been assigned a “pigeon wrangler” by the animal-loving stunt coordinator to ensure that none are harmed) sweep the air in a decidedly cinematic cascade.
Bond is in the middle of a chase which has resulted in he and the lovely and capable MI6 agent Eve (Naomie Harris) crashing their Land Rover into the midst of the bursting marketplace. They are on the hunt for the nefarious Patrice (Ola Rapace) who has given chase in his Audi A5 which has demolished a nearby stand.
Bond and Patrice quickly abandon their respective vehicles and engage in a gunfight through the dynamic setting which leads into a motorcycle chase along the rooftops of Istanbul’s famous Grand Bizarre and finally an on-foot pursuit atop a train.
Ola Rapace in the opening sequence of "Skyfall."
The multi-faceted opening will shoot for roughly a month which will result in approximately five adrenaline inducing minutes of screen time. We weaved through the crowd of extras passing legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins (“The Shawshank Redemption”) as he discussed the beats of the upcoming shot with director Sam Mendes. We were taken to the monitors which displayed the four camera angles on Craig’s Bond ducking behind an orange stand as he and Patrice exchanged a barrage of bullets. From what the monitors revealed of the use of color and framing in “Skyfall” will not disappoint in terms of the aesthetic promised by the combined talents of Deakins and Mendes.
We were shuffled away to a safer distance once the cameras rolled, but we did have an advantageous view of a suited up Craig (literally his suit was truly something to behold so a special tip of the hat to costume designer Jany Temime) going toe-to-toe with the imposing Rapace. The smoke filled air added to the atmospheric sense of urgency and sound of gunfire was nearly enough to have us ducking behind an intricately crafted fountain.
In our brief, but glorious, time on the set of “Skyfall” one thing became absolutely clear: EON and partners MGM and Sony are pulling out all the stops for the fiftieth anniversary of the franchise that has brought Ian Fleming’s beloved series to life on the big screen.
We will have more from the cast and crew and our incredible journey into the heart of the “Skyfall” production shortly.
“Skyfall” opens in AMC theatres on November 9th.
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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