By John Geddes - Monday, November 19, 2012 - 0 Comments
There’s something uneven about the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, though not in a bad way, and I think it has to do with the juxtaposition of luxury and austerity. Near the start of the movie, when 007 has dropped out of sight, he’s shown boozing at a low-rent beach bar. Near the end, when he needs to make a final stand, he retreats to a derelict stone manor glowering over the starkest of Scottish countrysides. So the story is bracketed by evidence of Bond’s ultimate need for little or nothing. Yet in between our eyes are treated, of course, to the usual black ties and backless dresses, luxury yachts and elite suites.
By Amanda Shendruk - Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
It’s opening weekend for Skyfall, the new James Bond film starring Daniel Craig. It’s Craig’s third stint as Bond and is likely bring in millions this weekend, but we’ll have to wait until the end of its box-office run to see how its bottom line compares to other films in the franchise.
Below, a Bond history of kisses, kills and box-office earnings.
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 2:01 PM - 0 Comments
I saw Skyfall at a press preview in Manhattan, before the Flood, back in mid-October, when I also had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Craig. I can’t remember the last time that my excitement to see a much ballyhooed Hollywood blockbuster was so richly rewarded. I came out of the screening thrilled by what I’d seen and immediately tweeted that Skyfall is “the best Bond movie ever—and that’s not hype.” Which drew a startled response. At least one journalist asked if I wasn’t worried I might want to recalibrate that superlative in the cold light of morning. But I had just re-watched all my favorite Bond films while researching an epic essay on the franchise for the Maclean’s special issue commemorating 50 years of 007. So I felt confident making the claim.
However, as Skyfall finally hits theatres this week, I have no desire to review it. As a film critic, I have the privilege of being able to see a movie fresh, before people like me ruin it with a lot of clever opinions and observations. With most Bond movies, there’s not much to spoil: Bond infiltrates megalomaniac’s lair, gets captured, stops world from ending, escapes with the girl. But Skyfall has a story that’s stronger than most of those dreamt up by Ian Fleming, and it has some serious surprises. So I’m not going to offer a shred plot summary—there’s more than enough in the trailer. Instead, let me spell out with a few broad strokes why Skyfall is the best Bond film ever.
Sean Connery originated the role and will always be the quintessential Bond. But Craig is the first actor to really wrestle with the tormented psychology of the character Fleming created. He’s also the first actor who does not seem trapped in the role. As Craig pointed out in his interview with me, having a strong measure of creative control was an essential part of his deal when he was cast for Casino Royale. He took that one step further by personally recruiting an Oscar-winning filmmaker, Sam Mendes, to direct Skyfall, and with him came a prime echelon of Oscar-pedigree talent like no Bond film has ever seen—notably Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, and the promotion of Judy Dench’s M into a much meatier role.
Mendes, meanwhile, recruited cinematographer Roger Deakins, the Coen brothers’ go-to DOP, whose influence cannot be overstated. Bond movies tend to revel in eye candy, but none has been so uniformly gorgeous as Skyfall, which unfolds as a suite of stunning visual compositions, from the neon aquarium of Shangai to the moors of Scotland. Deakins has nine Oscar nominations for pictures ranging from The Shawshank Redemption to No Country for Old Men; it would be cool to see him finally win for a Bond movie.
Skyfall elevates the Bond genre to a new level of A-list refinement. But it’s a game-changing movie in more ways than one.
Casino Royale smartly rebooted the franchise, which had been languishing in overblown spectacle and campy farce. Craig slammed it back to earth with a vengeance and more than earned his license to kill, and to shag. It was a movie that had a lot to prove. Then, with a script hobbled by a writers’ strike and a miscast director (Mark Forster), the follow-up, Quantum of Solace, turned out to be a mess. With Skyfall, Craig no longer looks like a guy trying to prove himself. He’s supremely comfortable in the role. And the movie reconnects his character to the franchise by embracing, and deflecting, its classic tropes with a deft wit. But it goes beyond Bond, and takes him places that Fleming never dreamt of.
The result is a rather belated coming of age for the most successful franchise hero of all-time. Coinciding with the golden anniversary, it’s something to celebrate. If you wait long enough, retro fashion eventually comes back into vogue—as a new generation discovers 007, Bond hasn’t been so cool since the 1960s. Enjoy it while it lasts.
For Brian D. Johnson’s video montage of 007 through the ages, go to: Best of Bond.
Daniel Craig on riding atop a train in Turkey, drunkenly choosing his own director and making the best Bond
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 10:16 AM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Brian D. Johnson
On the golden anniversary of the 007 franchise, Daniel Craig, 44, makes his third outing as James Bond in Skyfall, which opens in theatres Nov. 9. Shot on location in Turkey, Britain and China, the story begins with Bond surviving a near-death experience. The plot is driven by a cybervillain named Silva (Javier Bardem), who hacks the identities of MI6 spies, targets its London headquarters and compromises the credibility of M (Judi Dench), whose role is greatly expanded. With Q recast as a young computer geek (Ben Wishaw), Bond’s mission takes him to Shanghai, Istanbul, and back to his childhood roots in Scotland.
Directed by Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty), with cinematography by nine-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins and a cast that features two Oscar winners (Bardem and Dench) plus Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney, no Bond movie has been so loaded with talent. Even one of the film’s two Bond girls, Naomie Harris, is a Cambridge-educated, classically trained British stage actress. Skyfall is a game-changer, and Craig is clearly more player than pawn.
Q: I was blown away by Skyfall. I think it’s the best Bond film ever. And what really sets it apart is the pedigree of the cast and the filmmakers. Bond has always been a guy with class, but the franchise hasn’t always been worthy of him. Was this a deliberate attempt to turn it into more of a class act?
A: The short answer is, yes, it was. It was to make literally the best Bond we could. We had a lot of criticism about the fact that we’d taken the ‘Bond-ness’ out of Bond. After a four-year hiatus, I felt we could rediscover it. In the other two movies [Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace], there wasn’t time to do that—the first one especially, the second one because we had a writers’ strike and we were struggling a little bit. But this one we had the time, and Sam coming in tempted a lot of people to get involved. It doesn’t always work when you throw a ton of talent into a room. Sometimes it can really go wrong. But it seemed to come together. People were really up for it.
A: Because I asked Sam to do it when I was drunk at a party so they kind of didn’t have a choice [laughs]. I phoned up Barbara and Mike and said, “I might have overstepped my job description slightly: I’ve asked Sam Mendes.” And they were very excited. They felt—and I certainly felt—that Sam was ready. His pedigree is that he ran a theatre in London, he directed major musicals, major theatre events, and films, obviously. He’s got great skill at pulling huge amounts of people together. I thought the action sequences, they don’t take care of themselves, but he’ll understand them, and he’s a Bond fan.
Q: The fact you chose the director—it seems you own Bond in a way your predecessors didn’t. Do you have more clout?
A: I’ve been very lucky. Michael and Barbara have given me room to express myself. I asked them flat out when they offered me the job: “You need to give this to me, the ability to be involved. Even if you’re pretending, just let me feel like I am.” Because this is a big acting job for me. I’m not this guy by a long stretch of the imagination—I’m as far removed from James Bond as anybody. It’s a push. Anyone will tell you.
Q: But you do like a drink from time to time.
A: [laughs] Coming from a Canadian, I think that’s pretty rum, to use a bad pun.
Q: Anyway, I get your point: the job requires a lot of acting. But do you ever feel you’re playing an actor? I mean, Bond never actually pretends to be somebody else—that’s sort of the kind of spy he is—but his style and bravado are a construct, even for him.
A: I think that’s interesting, and that’s what has always appealed to me about him. Most people who behave in a macho way, it’s bluster. Most of the time we’re all bulls–tting our way through life. There are strong people on this planet, but it’s all the swan technique: it looks beautiful on top and the legs are going like this underneath, you know? We’re all like that, and anybody who thinks differently is full of s–t as far as I’m concerned. Someone like Bond is, it’s 90 per cent confidence. And that’s an interesting place to play when that gets knocked, and how he gets up and then succeeds. If you have a superhero who, in the first frame is going to save the world, and then in the last frame he saves the world, it’s like, who gives a f–k what happens in between? And I’m not talking, as someone said the other day, “Oh, it’s the Dark Knight of the Bonds.” I’m like, “Oh, f–k off.” Everybody has to compare it to something else. I’m a big fan of Dark Knight, don’t get me wrong. But all we’re trying to do is tell good stories.
Q: Is it hard to make Bond real with all the iconic baggage he brings?
A: For sure, but also you’ve got to celebrate that, because it is good baggage. It’s nice-looking luggage.
Q: You almost seem to deflect the tropes in this film by delivering them in a backhanded way, whether it’s the classic martini or the classic Aston Martin.
A: It’s introducing it without commenting on it. What I love about the script is there’s a lightness of touch that allows laughs to happen. It’s not that [screenwriter] John Logan sat down and wrote a page full of gags and went, “Yuk yuk, this one’s a good one.” The gags came out of the situations and we improvised. Some of the lines just came up on the day, and hopefully they allow the audience to sort of get some relief out of the tension.
Q: But to be fair, there’s a lot more tragedy than farce.
A: That’s for sure, yeah.
Q: It seems every generation gets the Bond it deserves. Connery was a rogue, saying ‘damn the consequences.’ You’ve given us an existential Bond—he’s so conflicted.
A: But you read the [novels by Ian] Fleming, which I do, and the conflict is through every book. He doesn’t want to do this job, and Fleming put his own angst into the character. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it—it’s Fleming’s fault!
Q: The complexity of your character is rooted in the relationship with Judi Dench’s M, especially in Skyfall. What’s that all about?
A: It’s Psychology 101: she’s his mum. But we hinted at that in the last two films, and in this one with Javier’s character—he’s the prodigal son. There’s a love there.
Q: Is M the ultimate Bond girl?
A: I think so. She’s the one woman who held his heart in a way that no other woman did.
Q: She’s Mother England, as well. Not unlike the Queen, if I can segue to . . .
A: Please. Beautifully done!
Q: So what was it like playing that scene with Her Majesty for the opening of the Olympics?
A: It was surreal, to say the least. It was a day off. I was right in the middle of shooting, and suddenly it was like, “Oh, God, we’re doing that thing on Saturday.” Got in the car and drove to the palace and sat around a bit, got into my tuxedo, and there she was. She was more than happy to be there, more than happy to be involved, was loving every second of it. Danny Boyle [director of the Olympics opening ceremony] is a genius. He came up with this and came to visit me on set. I went, “Oh, f–k off. Are you visiting someone else and coming here to wind me up?” He said, “No, this is what we want to do. She’s really into the idea. She thinks it’s great.”
Q: Did you make any small talk with the Queen?
A: A little, yeah. I mean, as much as it’s possible to have small talk with a head of state. She was very relaxed.
Q: What did you talk about?
A: Please, come on! Now you’re crossing a line. The weather, the flowers in the back garden: “They look great . . . ”
Q: Hey, at least I’m not asking personal questions about your relationship . . .
A: With the Queen!
Q: Then let’s talk about your relationship with Javier Bardem. This film is full of plot points that I wouldn’t want to spoil—and this may be one of them—but there’s an amazing 6½-minute scene between you and Bardem. You’re tied to a chair, like in Casino Royale, but different.
A: I’ve got my clothes on.
Q: And he’s not beating your genitals with a rope; he’s flirting with you. Was that in the script?
A: It was Javier’s instigation. He said, “We have to push this.” Sam came to me and went, “I think he really would like to push this physical-contact thing,” and I went, “Just tell him to knock himself out.” It’s very funny, and very Bond in the modern way. Lots of people suggested to me that [Bardem's character] is a homosexual. I don’t think he’s homosexual—I just think he likes f–king things.
Q: While we’re on the subject of vices, Bond has addiction issues in Skyfall. That’s new.
A: It is, but I like it because Fleming drank a bottle of whatever a day and had a bottle of very special pills that sat next to his typewriter that he popped all day, and smoked himself stupid all day. I’m not a condoner of alcoholism, or smoking, or any of these things. But he has a troubled mind and he’s in a lot of pain, emotionally and physically. It’s a very simple way of dealing with it, but it’s sometimes quite successful.
Q: The sexual politics of the Bond character have fluctuated to reflect the times. Traditionally he’s been able to separate sex and emotion quite efficiently. He’s having more trouble doing that these days.
A: I don’t think he has trouble with it—it just affects him more. It’s kind of nice to watch it affect him as opposed to him just being dismissive. Sexual politics has come a long way since ’62, unless you want us slapping ladies on the ass and telling them to go and wait in the other room because the men are talking and that kind of stuff. Bond remains a little bit of a chauvinist, which I think is good, because it means if you stick strong women in front of him, then s–t happens. It doesn’t take the sexiness out of it. The fact is he could die at any minute, and therefore he might as well jump into bed with somebody. In this movie, he’s more prepared to say, “Look, let’s have a drink and a good time because tomorrow I might be out of here.” That’s a Bond movie.
Q: What’s the toughest thing about playing Bond? Is it physical or mental?
A: A bit of both. They’re unusually long shoots—six, seven months—or more like nine because I start prepping before the shoot. We’re doing six-day weeks and the seventh is usually a day of meetings. I’ve got people around me feeding me energy bars, but it gets quite exhausting.
Q: The potential bankruptcy of MGM delayed Skyfall, but that gave you and Mendes a lot more time to prepare the script.
A: To rethink. To actually think it through. Yeah, you’re right. But I don’t want it to be four years before the next one. I’m going to be way too old then.
Q: What’s the most fun you had making this movie?
A: The collaborative process. Everything from the fact that you’re on set with this incredibly talented bunch of people, feeling the need to up your game; to the pressure relief when we can hold a party and all get smashed and just enjoy ourselves, to celebrate that we’re doing a Bond movie and it’s all going okay. But riding on the top of a train through the Turkish countryside, that’s quite exciting.
Q: Not scary?
A: At first it was, but you get blasé. I don’t recommend it.
Q: A lot of the movie is set in Britain. And no Bond film has championed English heritage like this one. A Turner painting is referenced and Judi Dench recites a Tennyson poem.
A: There was a financial issue attached to this one—we were tied into shooting in London, but it really worked out well. We got to film in places you normally don’t get the chance to film in, so we could show London in a cinematic way. It couldn’t get much more British than running down Whitehall with Big Ben in the background—it’s ladling it on. I love the Tennyson. I was nervous about it, but when you have Judi Dench reading it, the poem’s very clear. It’s about [how] we need heroes, and let’s hope they’re out there. But not in any kind of jingoistic way. Being secretly patriotic is very British.
Q: Your character has aged since Casino Royale. He’s battered and bruised and he’s told that, at 44, maybe he should get out of the game.
A: There are a number of reasons. He gets shot and seriously injured, and how he survives a 300-foot drop, we’ll never know. The other thing is the clash of the old world and the new politics. The way wars are fought through drone technology and spy satellites, you don’t send men out there because it’s risky and costly. He’s of the old school, and that sort of clash is something we play with in the film. Hopefully by the end of it, we feel like he’s fixed. I don’t know—I’m contracted for two [more Bond films]. We’ll see.
A: I hope I’ll jump out before I feel like that. That’s always been my instinct in situations—last to arrive at the party, first to leave. It doesn’t always work out like that, but that’s the credo I try and live by.
Q: Well, congratulations. I predict it will be the first Bond film to get at least one Oscar nomination in a major category. I’d be very surprised if Javier doesn’t get one.
A: Right. So would I. Bastard!
AVAILABLE NOW: The best of Bond
To commemorate 50 years of James Bond—from his screen debut in 1962 in Dr. No to next month’s hotly anticipated Skyfall—Maclean’s presents a special edition of pictures and stories about the villains, the guns, the gadgets and the girls that crossed paths with secret agent 007
Available on newsstands or at www.macleans.ca/bond
By Jessica Allen - Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 3:08 PM - 0 Comments
Hint: I never wanted to be a Bond girl. I wanted to be 007 himself.
When our James Bond special commemorative issue celebrating 50 years of 007 in film arrived in the office, I experienced an awakening; a Proustian moment, if you will. “Holy geeze,” I thought to myself, slowly flipping through the 100 pages of photos, stories and incredible graphics. “James Bond has defined me as the human being I am today in more ways than I care to admit. Nevertheless, here they are:
Born: Legend has it I weighed close to 12 lb. Auspiciously drop 1.5 lb. in first day, as though I knew preparation for a life of disguises must start now.
Age 4: Brother and I build bombs from Lego and odd wires we find around the house. Learn how to diffuse said bombs in under 10 seconds, saving both ourselves and our family.
Age 5 to 6: Watch first 007 film, Moonraker. Take up smoking crayons and drinking Kool-Aid martinis. Try to charm classmates in the kindergarten play kitchen with rehearsed slick moves. Dress up as the villain Jaws for Halloween by fashioning steel teeth from bubble gum. Nobody gets it, but me.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 11:42 AM - 0 Comments
Celebrating 50 years of 007 movies
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the coolest secret agent of all time, Maclean’s put together a 100-page special collectors edition of all-things Bond. We’re talking the movies; the books; the women; the villains; the cars; and those gadgets. Find it on newsstands now or order it online for $12.95.
In the meantime, watch this best of Bond montage—sequences assembled by our film critic Brian D. Johnson:
By Brian Bethune and Mika Rekai - Friday, October 5, 2012 at 5:47 PM - 0 Comments
From Miss Moneypenny to theme songs, plus the best #CanadianBondMovies on Twitter
Dr. No to A View to a Kill (14 films)
Lois Maxwell, the first Moneypenny, was a Canadian actress born Lois Ruth Hooker in Kitchener, Ont. She grew up in Toronto, where her first job was working as a waitress at Muskoka’s legendary Bigwin Inn. During the Second World War, when she was just 15, she ran away from home to join the Canadian Women’s Army Corps. She began her career as an actress with the Army Show and the Canadian Auxiliary Services Entertainment Unit, where she appeared alongside the CBC’s Wayne and Shuster. When the army discovered her age, she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London to avoid deportation to Canada. There she was classmates with future 007 actor Roger Moore. She played Moneypenny in 14 Bond films.
Thunderball (novel, 1961)
In his peripatetic youth, when he weighed much less, arch-villain Ernst Blofeld travelled about on a Canadian seaman’s passport. And Blofeld’s second-in-command, Emilio Largo, had a Canadian captain on his yacht. That skipper had been drummed out of the Canadian navy for drunkenness and insubordination, but once Largo smashed him over the head with a chair leg, the Canadian was amenable to discipline.
By Ken MacQueen - Friday, July 27, 2012 at 9:54 PM - 0 Comments
What better place to tap the British soul on the eve of the Opening Ceremonies?
7:45: I set out from Team Maclean’s palatial rental home in Tufnel Park in search of fellowship.
7:55: Walking, walking. So many pubs, which to choose? I’m in Kentish Town in northwest London. A strange name for a neighbourhood. It’s as though the townsfolk couldn’t quite agree on Kent. They wanted a Kent-like name, but not Kent, just something Kent-ish.
Hullo, what’s this? The Assembly House. Noise pouring out the door, garish wallpaper in the British tradition. Long rows of draft taps on the bar. TV screens aflickering. I’m home!
8:05: Meet Katherine Twamley, a transplant from Ireland, her husband Ricardo Grau-Crespo from Cuba. “It’s funny, I think we have been critical up until this point,” says Twamley, “and now that it’s arrived I feel much more congenial towards the whole thing.” Grau-Crespo doubts the economic activity the Olympics generate will come close to offsetting the cost. But he gives a cheerful shrug: “It will be a waste of money, but it will be a nice waste of money.”
8:20 Anna Patrick, a construction project manager, figures the best sort of place to watch the Games is from places like this: full of buzz, beer and friendship. She didn’t even try for event tickets. She’s lived through all the years of Olympic dramas and naysayers, and now she’s ready to enjoy the moment. “You just have to put that aside because London is like that anyway,” she says. “We have doubts and fears about everything.”
8:30-ish in Kentish. “If you’re not going to be at the ceremony” says Ben Saw, a recruitment consultant, “you might as well be at a pub.” Saw and his friend, Chris Goodman, a general practitioner, have stepped out for a breath of fresh air. “I’m hoping for a good British sense of humour,” Goodman says of the ceremonies, “an idiosyncratic kind. I quite like that they’ll have a bit of Mary Poppins there, and James Bond. It’s not like the Beijing Olympics. I don’t think we should do bombastic fireworks. A bit of history, a bit of what we’re about. What we have contributed.”
8:40 and on-ish. Barkeep, another pint of Medal Pursuit, it goes down rather well. Now we’re getting to the pith and substance of the opening ceremonies. And like the good, er, Dr. Goodman, said, there’s plenty of history. There’s sheep and maidens and 1,000 people bashing away on drums. The Industrial Revolution is celebrated, with smoke-spewing chimneys rising from the floor. No erectile dysfunction here, unlike that unfortunate cauldron incident in the Vancouver opening ceremonies. Here in the bar they’re cheering a celebration of the National Health Service. Wow, would that ever happen in Canada?
Another pint if you please, and one for my new friend Paul Johnson, back home in London from his teaching job in Bangkok.
“To be honest,” Johnson says, “I’m not a massive fan of the Olympics. People on the whole are a bit skeptical.” He pronounces the evening’s early going “a bit weird. I’m waiting for the Teletubbies and the Hobbits to come out of the ground.” He returns to his table of mates with a final thought: “Let’s hope they don’t f–k up.”
I keep calm and carry on. My heavens, there are indeed Mary Poppinses, a whole squardron of them falling from the sky with their brollies. And wow, there’s Daniel Craig as James Bond, and that woman with the corgis.
Good Lord, did she really jump from the helicopter? Steady on, old girl, leave that sort of thing to the grandkids. William or Harry would be up for it. This bitter is rather stronger than I thought. Hey, Mr. Bean. I love Mr. Bean! The crowd here is going wild and I note Mr. Johnson is laughing and cheering with the best of them. All told, it’s a grand show, without being too full of itself. It can’t seem to go five mintues without throwing in a few inside jokes. I like that; there’s altogether too much stuffiness in these Olympic ideals.
But it goes on, as these things do, once the parade of athletes begins. So many countries; 204 seems rather excessive for this little planet, perhaps amalgamation is in order? Get it down to a baker’s dozen or so. The poor old Queen, first the helicopter jump then having to wait until way past midnight when all the flags are planted before she could declare these Games open.
But open-ish they are, finally.
No, barkeep, no more, I’ve an early morning, off to see the rowing, don’t cha know.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, July 6, 2012 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
Book by Tom Mankiewicz and Robert Crane
Mankiewicz wrote three James Bond films and the hit TV series Hart to Hart, but by the standards of his family, that put him in the middle of the pack. His father was Joseph L. Mankiewicz, writer-director of movies like All About Eve; his uncle Herman wrote Citizen Kane, and other family members can be found in everything from TV dramas to his cousin Ben Mankiewicz’s hosting gig on Turner Classic Movies. With that kind of family lineage—and with a schizophrenic mother who committed suicide—it’s no wonder insecurity about being “Joe Mankiewicz’s son” is a recurring theme in this book, which he and Crane completed shortly before Mankiewicz died of pancreatic cancer in 2010.
Apart from Mankiewicz himself, who had written a Broadway musical and major films before he turned 30 (“Genetically,” he says, “the Mankiewiczes have something about writing”), the dominant figure in the book is his brilliant father, who used his movies to express “many of the emotions he was somehow unable to express freely in real life.” There are plenty of stories about the love lives of both men. Mankiewicz relates how he lost his virginity on the set of a John Wayne movie, and claims Judy Garland got pregnant by his father and had an abortion: “I can’t prove this, but I know it’s true.”
With the name-dropping of every celebrity Mankiewicz knew, it feels like a collection of anecdotes rather than a full-fledged autobiography. But there are stories about how he shepherded the Bond transition from Sean Connery to Roger Moore, and his rewrite of Superman, which created the template for every superhero movie up to today. If he didn’t take work as seriously as his dad, that was by design: Joe was lost after his retirement because he “never had an interest” beyond movies. Tom took it easier and “found out how much life there was other than in show business.”
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
It’s kind of unbelievable to read reports in the British press that Queen Elizabeth II, a woman who fulfills her job and duty with utmost diligence, has agreed to be filmed bestowing a “knighthood” on a fictional character for the world to see. Though let’s be clear–this isn’t just any old personality but James Bond, her most loyal and swashbuckling civil servant—albeit one with a licence to kill—who saves her realm with dizzying regularity and loves being “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
The scene is reportedly part of a spectacular opening ceremony being created for the London Olympics. Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) is the event’s artistic director. And he and Daniel Craig, the latest Bond beefcake, have both been filming at Buckingham Palace recently. The speculation is that the scene will include the Queen giving Bond a mission to open the Games, which he apparently does via a parachute. “Daniel Craig was here in black tie one morning in early April,” says a source to the Evening Standard. “Judi Dench [who plays M, the head of MI-6] was also here, and the talk of the Palace was that Bond was going to be knighted that morning.”
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, January 31, 2011 at 9:29 AM - 6 Comments
One of the most famous of all film composers, John Barry, died of a heart attack at the age of 77. He hadn’t done a score in some time, but from the ’60s through the ’90s, he built up one of the great bodies of work in film scores; even if you took out his work on the James Bond series, you’d still have a lot of exceptional scores. Sometimes his music was the best thing about a movie, whether it was an Oscar winner like Out of Africa or a Star Wars ripoff cheesefest like Starcrash (or Moonraker for that matter).
The U.S. composer he resembles in a lot of ways is John Williams, and not only because they were associated with incredibly successful franchises. Like Williams, Barry’s sound changed over the years from one that reflected a background in jazz and pop (the James Bond theme was based on melodies by Dr. No‘s composer, Monty Norman, but it was Barry’s big-band sound that made it a classic) to a more lush, symphonic, stately approach. You can hear the change reflected in his Bond scores, from the electric guitars and whooping horns of the ’60s to the almost classical style of some of the later Bond scores.
Also like Williams, he was more of a chameleon when he was younger; by the ’80s and ’90s his sound would be more similar from film to film, whereas if you look at his amazing run in the late ’60s — with exceptional scores for classic films from Petulia to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service — there are Continue…
By Paul Wells - Sunday, December 7, 2008 at 11:15 AM - 15 Comments
Here in Afghanistan (for that is where my assignment has taken me, for the last several days and a few more), internet access is spotty and not exactly zippy. You rarely hear about that because apparently there are other problems too. Anyway, I am sorry I have not been blogging much. Indeed I’m not really blogging now, except to steer you toward two pieces I wrote for the print edition. Both were finished before the current coalition unpleasantness. The first had a long “lead time” imposed by production deadlines for our super-fabulous Newsmakers issue. The other just took a long time to research. Here:
- A column, theoretically packed with larfs, about ideas for the next several Bond movies.
- An article for our mysterious back pages about the odd tendency for Canadian orchestras to play works by Canadian composers once, and then never again. As the article acknowledges, many new Canadian works richly deserve to be played only once. But others deserve a happier posterity and don’t get it. This is my attempt to explain why that’s a problem. If I was certain our new Minister of Canadian Heritage had job security, I would urge him to read it.
Don’t read them both at once! They have to tide you over to the weekend. I miss you all.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, November 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM - 3 Comments
Vancouver’s Dennis Gassner has given ‘Quantum of Solace’ a major makeover
Who let a Canadian set designer loose on the new James Bond film? For the last 25 years, every Bond adventure except one had sets created by Peter Lamont, who had been in the series’ art department since Goldfinger; even as 2006’s Casino Royale gave the series a new grittiness and a new Bond, the producers kept Lamont. But shortly before the filming of Quantum of Solace (opening on Nov. 14), Lamont was replaced by Dennis Gassner, a Vancouver native who has mostly worked on offbeat movies, including six by the Coen brothers. This may well be a bigger change than the switch from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig, because in 007’s world, the sets are as important as the guy in front of them.
From the first James Bond movie in 1962, this has always been a series where moviegoers came in part to gape at the scenery. Ken Adam (Dr. Strangelove), who designed most of the Bond films in the ’60s and ’70s, created an ultra-modern, stylized, spacious look that gave every room the appearance of belonging to a world that’s a little cooler than our own. It’s one where villains and heroes alike live in huge rooms with angular furniture. “It’s heightened reality,” Gassner explains of the Bond style. “We’re going for a post-geometric kind of modernist feeling.”
But if all the Bond movies share that basic larger-than-life look, why bring in a different designer? Lamont was once expected to handle Quantum of Solace, and in 2007 he was talking to a French James Bond fansite about plans for the film. But when Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) was brought in as director, he may have thought that the series needed a new look to match the new tone of Casino Royale. “I think Marc felt that in the last film, Daniel brought a new energy to it, but it still held onto a lot of the old feeling of the previous films,” Gassner says. “When Marc came in, he said, ‘I think we should change that.’ ” While Casino Royale featured Lamont’s plush, beautiful-looking settings, Quantum of Solace goes for a style that parallels the darker tone of the Craig films. Gassner and Forster abandoned some sets that had been standing for years: “I got to redesign MI6, a totally new look for Judi Dench. I thought she was a bit tired in the last film, so I thought, let’s bring her into a new world.”
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 2:58 PM - 4 Comments
In his debut as James Bond in Casino Royale, Daniel Craig carved his signature onto the role in blood. He didn’t just prove himself. He took violent possession of the character, slammed it back down to earth, and reminded us that Bond was a killer—that the most glamorous and successful action hero in the history of cinema is, essentially, a high-priced thug. After 45 years of the Bond franchise, Casino Royale wiped the slate clean and retooled 007 from scratch. Like Batman Begins, it was a prequel. Now comes the sequel to the prequel, the strangely named Quantum of Solace, which shows Craig firmly in command and firing on all cylinders. Before seeing the new movie, I talked to Daniel Craig for a piece in Maclean’s, which you can find by clicking on: Bond’s Revenge. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I can appreciate what Craig was telling me—that the ultimate Bond girl, and perhaps his deepest love, is none other than Judi Dench’s M, the spy-master as Queen Mum. In the new movie, the brilliant interplay between Craig and Dench lies at the core of the drama, even if it’s overshadowed by spectacle.
Just as every actor who plays Bond re-brands the role (and himself), every director who comes to the franchise puts his own stamp on the formula, either by screwing with it or paying homage to it. Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster does both. Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) has never made an action movie before, and as with a lot of non-action directors who tackle Bond for the first time, this must be a big part of the attraction: an opportunity to play with some serious toys. Quantum of Solace is much more of a flat-out action movie than the previous one. Anybody who got bored during the marathon poker scenes in Casino Royale. won’t have that complaint this time. Bond doesn’t even set foot inside a casino; not once does he introduce himself as “Bond, James Bond”; or step up to a bar and order a martini shaken not stirred (although we do see him looking sodden after downing eight martinis that employ a revisionist recipe of vodka and gin).
For the most part, Quantum of Solace quotes the franchise’s tropes, rather than recycling them. But it does open with a souped-up version of the classic Bond car chase, involving an Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo hugging a cliff-side road on the Italian Riviera. (You can consider it homage or larceny—Bond producers singed a three-picture $100 million deal with Ford for exclusive vehicle product placement rights). Then the revisionism kicks in with a vengeance, by reversing the usual protocol of credit music. Instead of running the vintage John Barry theme and gun-barrel shot over the opening, that’s saved for the closing credits. Instead, the new Jack White/Alicia Keys theme song plays over the opening title sequence—a lazy bullet drifting through dunes and skin—and both the song and the animation are vapid and slickly over-produced, telegraphing the cold-blooded tone of what is to come. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, October 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM - 1 Comment
After making the skeptics eat their words, the best actor ever to play 007 is back, and this time it’s personal
Daniel Craig is on the line from London. He’s being cagey, as if there’s something unmanly about opening up to the media. James Bond would never sit still for it. When I reassure him I’m more curious about Bond’s private life than his own, he expresses relief. Frankly, I’m relieved we’re not talking face to face. Two years ago in New York, when he sat down with a group of journalists to promote his Bond debut in Casino Royale, it was unnerving just to be in the same room. He had a brusque manner and ice-blue eyes that looked like they could bore a hole through your skull. But he was feeling especially prickly then, after skeptics had derided the idea of a blond Bond and dubbed him Mr. Potato Head.
Craig got even, and then some. Now as he anticipates the Nov. 14 launch of the oddly titled Quantum of Solace, the 22nd movie in cinema’s most successful franchise, he has no one to live up to but himself. Casino Royale became the most lucrative Bond movie of all, earning $600 million worldwide. Craig was widely hailed as the best actor ever to have tackled the role. And, blondness notwithstanding, he incarnated the dark menace of the character novelist Ian Fleming created 55 years ago. The debonair stylings of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan had reduced 007 to a male model in a pageant of gadgets, gizmos and campy innuendo. Craig repatriated Bond’s masculinity with visceral power, recasting him as a sophisticated thug. A Bond with balls.
James Bond is the most enduring male sex symbol in the history of movies, and as he gets caught in the riptides of masculine fashion, every era gets the Bond it deserves. In an age that fetishizes hardened physiques and retro styles of macho chic, Craig has created a rugged, messed-up, hyper-masculine 007 who is knotted with repressed rage and treats women as an alien species. “I wish I could say it was my idea,” says Craig, “but Fleming’s Bond is full of self-doubt and his relationship with women is very strange.”
Does Bond even like women? I ask Craig.
“I think he adores them,” he says. “If you’re asking, does he like the touch of a woman’s skin, yes, he does. In handfuls. But the way I perceive it, he has had a male life for a long time, surrounded by men because he’d been fighting for so long . . . I think he has a deep respect for M, and it’s fantastic that Judi [Dench] plays M because that relationship is the key to the whole thing.”
Could M be a kind of Bond girl?
“She is the Bond girl,” says Craig, “because she’s the one person that he probably respects and loves more than anybody.”
Bond’s matriarchal boss has, in fact, been given a larger role in Quantum of Solace, which is a direct sequel to Casino Royale (again co-written by Canadian Paul Haggis). And the movie’s theme, Craig explains, is “loyalty—finding out where your true loyalties lie.”
So if Bond loves M, and M represents the the Queen and Mother England, maybe Bond is just another English schoolboy trying to live up to an imperious mum and an absent dad. Which brings us right back to Ian Fleming, an upper-class Eton boy who lost his father in the Great War at 8 (Winston Churchill wrote his obituary); who fled to Jamaica and thrived on drink, adultery and rough sex; who died at 56 not long after attending his mother’s funeral against the advice of doctors who said he was too ill to go.
By Paul Wells - Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 10:32 AM - 6 Comments
In the new Quantum of Solace trailer, we see that Bond and M have managed to get their hands on John King’s CNN touch-screen computer. Hijinx ensue.