When “Skyfall,” the 23rd film in the James Bond movie franchise, was released in 2012, it turned out to be a spectacular celebration of the franchise’s 50th anniversary. Not only was the movie universally praised by critics, but it was also an instant smash. “Skyfall” has grossed more than $1 billion at the box office worldwide (with about $292 million from the U.S.) and now stands as the most financially successful James Bond movie of all time. (Skyfall” was also the No. 3 highest-grossing movie worldwide of 2012, behind “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”) But just a few years before “Skyfall’s” release, there was doubt that the movie would even get made, since it was delayed to due to financial problems with MGM, which is partnered with Sony Pictures to release James Bond films. “Skyfall” (directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes) is the third James Bond film for Daniel Craig, who plays the iconic spy James Bond.
“Skyfall” is a game changer in the franchise, since there are major events that happen in the film that will definitely affect the next few Bond movies. In addition to the blockbuster business generated by “Skyfall,” there has also been some recognition for “Skyfall” at movie awards shows. The 2013 Critics’ Choice Movie Awards named “Skyfall” Best Action Movie, while Craig won the prize for Best Actor in an Action Movie, and the movie’s title theme (performed and co-written by Adele) was named Best Song. The “Skyfall” song also won a similar prize at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards. “Skyfall” is nominated for two Screen Actors Guild Awards: Best Supporting Actor (for Javier Bardem, who plays Raoul Silva, the movie’s chief villain) and Best Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture. The movie also received five Oscar nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score and Best Original Song. Here is what Craig said at a New York City press conference for “Skyfall.”
The camera is still in a lot of the action scenes in “Skyfall.” Did that affect the way you trained for those action scenes?
The rule that we applied was I started rehearsing those scenes well before we started shooting. And the fight sequences are worked out very carefully, so they’re choreographed. I’m not a fighter. I pretend to be one. It’s called “bullsh*t boxing.”
I know we try and make it look good. We talk camera angles, and we talk about how to best take advantage of the situation. The stuff in the beginning [of “Skyfall”] on the train, you also have to deal with the train going from side to side, so you try and stay on your feet much of the time. But it’s very carefully worked out.
But Roger [Deakins, the cinematographer for “Skyfall”] knows where to put the camera, and Alexander Witt, in the second unit [director of photography], he knows where to put the camera. And we had a constant dialogue about it. We watch, we look, and we say, “This fits. This looks good.” It’s a lot of work and a lot of skilled people.
I had to do a lot of running in this movie, which I hate. I did a lot of sprinting and running. Bond doesn’t usually walk through a room. We have to change that. I ended up doing a day’s filming that, on paper, looked fairly easy.
There wasn’t any dialogue. “Bond goes from A to B. And he goes from B to C.” But he goes from A to B in a lick. He runs downstairs, he runs up the stairs. We usually do 10 takes at a time, so by the end of it … All I know is that [a lot of it] was on the floor of the cutting room.
We find out more about James Bond’s past life in “Skyfall.” What was it like exploring the personal side of Bond?
Nobody told me that we couldn’t make an action film with a good story. We always go back to [James Bond author Ian] Fleming when we sit and discuss [James Bond]. If you look at the novels, he’s so conflicted. Fleming tries to kill him off when he gets really pissed at him.
And he’s a killer. He kills for a living. It’s really kind of a dark place he goes to. But what I’m so proud about this movie is that the writing is so good. The lightness of touch is back that we wanted so much, that I wanted desperately. But you need good writing for that.
But hopefully, what we’ve done is that we’ve combined it with a very emotional story. They employed me. They knew what kind of actor I was. It’s their fault. Blame them!
It’s about family. This one is a little bit about families and parents and children, not in a heavy way, but just going back to his childhood to destroy it, really. And the moment to begin again.
“Skyfall” is one of the few James Bond movies in which we see James Bond cry. What was going through your mind when you had to do that emotional scene?
What was I thinking about? I’m thinking about what I’m having for lunch.
How much of “Skyfall” was influenced by “Goldfinger”?
I don’t think we were ever that self-conscious about it. There’s definitely an influence … and [“Goldfinger”] is one of my favorite Bond [movies]. I think there’s a similarity, but we try and include everything we can.
Certainly, the conversations we all had at the beginning was, “It’s 50 years, and we needed to mark it and to make the best Bond movie we possibly could, and to reintroduce and introduce new ideas. And just celebrate it a little bit.” I’d be lying if I said that we weren’t influenced by movies like “Goldfinger,” for sure.
You said you don’t like to run. How did you feel about the action scenes in the water? Did you ever panic?
When I was under water? No. Actually, the great thing about doing those underwater scenes, you can’t see it, but we’ve got safety divers off-camera, and they have oxygen tanks. Actually, it’s my favorite bit. No one can find you.
I spend most of my time under the water. [When] we’re not shooting, [I] swim to the bottom. There’s a huge tank, a terrific tank at Pinewood [Studios], about 30 feet deep, and I just sink to the bottom, put the respirator in, and hide.
It’s so great. And sometimes I fall asleep down there. It’s wonderful being in the water. And then you hear a voice saying, “Where’s Daniel?”
Were you disappointed that you didn’t get to play with more tech gadgets in “Skyfall” that you did in your previous James Bond movies?
No. It’s an interesting point. People talk about gadgets all the time. If you look at the original gadgets, what was sexy about them was that Bond took out a box, stuck it on a door, pressed a button, and a red light came on. That’s kind of sexy. It did something.
But to have Bond on a computer, on a screen, I think is f*cking boring. And I think technology, on a whole, is boring. But what I love about this is that we’ve brought Ben [Whishaw] in, who is Q and is a computer whiz — and we have this clash of the two worlds. And kind of together, there’s a potential there to make a really great team.
It doesn’t mean that Bond has to deal with technology. And we very deliberately kept it simple. We use [gadgets]. We don’t just put them in extraneously. They’re used in the movie, and they’re actually very important plot points. But that’s my instinct about them, that we should use them when we need the, but not have them for the sake of it.
You initially turned down the role of James Bond. What has kept you motivated to continue to do James Bond?
Money. [He laughs.] When [the James Bond movie producers] approached me, I was just a little bit bewildered that they would even come to me. It really wasn’t on my radar. I suppose I was concerned about being typecast, but when you weigh it up, it’s not a bad thing to be typecast as James Bond.
I’m incredibly proud and lucky to be in the position I’m in, especially to have made this film and to be around when [the James Bond movie franchise] is 50 years old. As soon as we get the script, I’ll be really up to doing [James Bond] 24 … Yeah, I changed my mind.
Can you talk about how you auction off some James Bond clothing for charity, as well as the power you get in real life from playing an iconic character?
I don’t think about it. I think if you can do something decent with it, that’s great, but only in that way. It’s just an extraordinary situation. I keep a few suits. I keep a few shirts. I keep them in my collection, and if someone asks me to contribute them to a charity, I just try and give them, and we try and raise as much money.
This charity event that Barbara and Michael [Broccoli, producers of the James Bond movies] apprised was a huge success. And if we can use the power you’re talking about for that, I will. I’m not a megalomaniac.
In Bond’s scene with Silva, Silva alludes to possibly having had a sexual relationship with Bond in the past. What are your thoughts?
What are you going to do? There’s a whole conversation on that. I don’t see the world in sexual divisions. It’s not the way I look at the world. Someone suggested that Silva might be gay. I don’t think he’s anything.
It’s a great flirt. It’s a game of cards. It kind of calls him out. It’s the right thing to say, and the way Javier plays it, he’s so great and it’s so beautiful.
But what’s so great about him and his performance is that he plays it for real, he plays it to the limit, and he never forgets that he’s playing a Bond villain. And that’s a testament to how good of an actor he is. I love that scene. It makes me laugh.
Was revealing more of Bond’s back story a conscious decision because today’s movie audiences expect to know more about Bond?
I just think good action movies have good storylines. We all approached this, as filmmakers, with the idea to make the best movie that we can. And then the Bond stuff, the rules that apply, we have to keep in those boundaries and make sure we remember it’s a Bond movie.
As I said earlier, it’s in the books. He’s complicated. They employed me. “I think he’s sad here.” Well, I’ll play sad. If you balance it right, it should work. And it doesn’t always work.
If you get the balance right, you can see into it. I don’t think I play him as somebody who wears his heart on his sleeve. For most of the movie, he thinks he’s in control. Or is he in control? He’s allowing those cracks in. We try to do it as un-self-consciously as possible.
What can you say about the Aston Martin blowing up in “Skyfall”?
It’s a joke. It’s a gag. It’s a good gag. The car’s beautiful. Everybody loves it. We might find another one. You never know.
For more info: “Skyfall” website