Film director Sam Mendes answers questions about the latest James Bond film Spectre
Braced to unleash Spectre onto the world, all that’s left for the artful director is to sit back and see how audiences react to the “very big ideas” he’s been fighting hard to keep secret for the better part of two years, he tells Dave Calhoun.
How do you deal with all the rumours around the making of a Bond movie? It sounds peculiar, but you have to embrace it. These movies are a dialogue with their audience. It’s not a dialogue that just takes place in the two and half hours you’re watching the movie. It begins two, three years earlier and it evolves. They will review and comment on everything from the choice of title, car, cast, actor, poster image, first trailer, second trailer. That’s an important part of making the film. You have to acknowledge it’s a two-way process. On the other hand, you have to seal yourself off from too many opinions as it does affect what you’re doing.
You must have known that the title Spectre would raise rumours that Blofeld was back as the villain… Yes, of course… And you know, the movie will reveal all in that regard. You want to present some mysteries that are going to be solved by seeing the movie. When you’re making a detective story, who wants to go in knowing who the murderer is? I’m not being coy, I just don’t want to ruin people’s enjoyment of the film.
Are you confident that some very strong mysteries have been preserved? Yes, we’ve managed to get this far, so yes. With Skyfall, we were terrified that the death of M was going to be revealed before the movie opened. It actually was in a tabloid months before. But there were so many wrong rumours that nobody picked up on that one as they thought it was just another rumour.
What were the toughest action scenes to pull off this time? The opening in Mexico City is pretty full on. And London is, too. Try staging a sequence on the River Thames at night when it’s unlit. It’s very difficult. We lit it up like a Christmas tree. There were 28 generators along the banks. But that ignores a massive night-time car chase in Rome. And a huge Alpine sequence, both of which challenge anything in the last movie for technical difficulty.
What’s new about Daniel Craig’s Bond this time round? He’s not an actor ever to tread water, is he? No, he is the opposite of treading water. He has no neutral gear. He’s found a great balance in this movie. He fully inhabits the role now. There is a wisdom and vulnerability as well as the credibility of someone who can kill a man. The darkness is present, but there’s also romance in this film. He spent most of the last movie playing catch-up. Here, he’s the main driver of the story and much more proactive. He’s given much more to do.