With James Bond pre­par­ing to take on an old en­emy, Jane Crowther opens the en­tic­ing file on Spec­tre...

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

It’s a Bond year! So we find out what’s keep­ing the fran­chise go­ing af­ter 53 years.

It’s the same bloody char­ac­ter. He’s done 23 movies,” says Sam Men­des. “He’s been to most places in the world. He’s had chases in ev­ery pos­si­ble en­vi­ron­ment. How do you make it fresh?” Holed up in his edit suite in Lon­don’s Soho as he tries to get SPEC­TRE ready for its bow 16 weeks away, Bond’s di­rec­tor is mus­ing over the eter­nal co­nun­drum that is 007. And the chal­lenge fac­ing any di­rec­tor com­ing on board an es­tab­lished fran­chise. “In many cases, it’s us­ing the same el­e­ments, but telling them so you feel you’re dis­cov­er­ing them again, al­most for the first time.”

Given that Men­des’ own per­sonal favourite Bond ( and the first he saw at the cin­ema) is Live And Let Die it’s hardly sur­pris­ing that one of those el­e­ments in SPEC­TRE, the sce­ne­set­ting pre- ti­tle se­quence, has a know­ing nod to LALD’s vil­lain, with Bond wear­ing a skele­tal mask dur­ing a Day of the Dead pa­rade in Mexico City. “You see the skull­face and you’re like, ‘ Oh, it’s Baron Samedi!’” nods Men­des en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. “It’s ac­tu­ally quite dif­fer­ent, but of course there are echoes there. But part of the joy of Bond is a riff­ing on the iconog­ra­phy of it, and teas­ing you with things — I don’t know who it was who said that the job of the artist is to make the fa­mil­iar strange and the strange fa­mil­iar. That’s part of the game you play with Bond. So I was very aware of all the homages that were be­ing paid.”

Add that cin­e­matic wink to Bond’s fire­spout­ing As­ton Martin DB10, a key scene atop a snowy moun­tain in Aus­tria that nods to On Her Majesty’s Se­cret Ser­vice, a train jour­ney and en- route fight that evokes From Rus­sia With Love and plenty of other homages. And, Men­des prom­ises, Bond might also have a few more quips and a bit more fun than he did in 2012’ s ul­tra- se­ri­ous – but ul­tra- mon­eyspin­ning – Sky­fall. “Casino Royale re­moved pas­tiche en­tirely from the fran­chise – pas­tiche was al­most all it had by the time Pierce [ Bros­nan] fin­ished. But Casino Royale went right back the other di­rec­tion,” Men­des says when think­ing back to his first at­trac­tion to di­rect­ing Sky­fall. “But we all missed and loved the fun of those early mid-’ 70s Bonds, the early Roger Moores, the later Sean Con­nerys, where there was a sense of tongue- in- cheek. We didn’t have much of that in [ Sky­fall]. There’s def­i­nitely more mis­chief at the be­gin­ning of this movie. But un­der­pin­ning it all is still a se­ri­ous story.”

That se­ri­ous story then: af­ter the events of Sky­fall ( M slain, MI6 de­stroyed, Bond venge­ful), 007 sets off on a rogue mis­sion to un­cover the links to sin­is­ter crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion SPEC­TRE ( Spe­cial Ex­ec­u­tive for Counter- in­tel­li­gence, Ter­ror­ism, Re­venge and Ex­tor­tion). Dur­ing his in­ves­ti­ga­tions he meets Dr Madeleine Swann ( Léa Sey­doux), widow Lu­cia Scar­ria ( Mon­ica Bel­lucci), hulk­ing hench­man Mr Hinx ( Dave Bautista) and the vil­lain of the piece, the mys­te­ri­ous Franz Ober­hauser ( Christoph Waltz). As Bond beds and bat­tles his way round Europe, MI5 and MI6 are un­der threat from head of the Cen­tre for Na­tional Se­cu­rity, Max Den­bigh ( An­drew Scott), and Moneypenny ( Naomie Harris) must fight to save Bond’s very way of life. That syn­op­sis of­fers up another glance back at the Bond legacy with the rein­tro­duc­tion of SPEC­TRE, a sta­ple of Flem­ing’s books and first ref­er­enced on- screen in Dr No, but ab­sent from the fran­chise for years due to le­gal wran­gling. SPEC­TRE was co- cre­ated by Flem­ing and Kevin McClory, who re­tained the rights to the name and con­cept, which led to the cre­ation of the unof­fi­cial Bond film Never Say Never Again, un­der McClory’s stew­ard­ship.

Pro­duc­ers Michael G Wil­son and Bar­bara Broc­coli had wran­gled for years to set­tle the rights with McClory’s es­tate, and fi­nally suc­ceeded in 2013. “I had [ SPEC­TRE] in our back pock­ets,” con­fides Wil­son when we catch up with him and Broc­coli on- set at Pinewood. “When we saw this script as it un­folded, we came to the con­clu­sion: maybe we should bring SPEC­TRE back. That was a nod to­wards the tra­di­tion in a way. Just like we brought back the Bond char­ac­ters Moneypenny and Q and M.”

But how will this ver­sion of SPEC­TRE wreak havoc on the world when back in the old days they were con­nected to the Gestapo, the Mafia, Soviet group SMERSH and, on film, were of­ten af­fil­i­ated with Cold War of­fen­sives. “I re­mem­ber when we were mak­ing Gold­enEye, ev­ery­body was say­ing, ‘ The Cold War’s over. There’s no vil­lains. The world’s at peace. What are you go­ing to do? There’s no need for Bond any­more’,” re­calls Broc­coli. “Well, that wasn’t true then, it isn’t true now. Our vil­lains are not po­lit­i­cal, they don’t have any spe­cific agenda. They’re just good, old- fash­ioned, nutty bad guys!” So what is SPEC­TRE’s agenda? “Let’s say it re­flects con­tem­po­rary con­cerns that are

We all missed and loved the fun of those early mid-’ 70s Bonds

go­ing on to this day, things about how we live, how we’re ob­served,” dodges Wil­son with a smile. “Who’s re­ally in con­trol,” chimes in Broc­coli, “that kind of Flem­ing cre­ation of these char­ac­ters who are pulling the strings be­hind the scenes.”

re­turn­ing vil­lain?

Bring­ing back SPEC­TRE opens the way for the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s most fa­mous mem­ber and leg­endary be­hind- the- scenes string- puller, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. So is Waltz’s Ober­hauser ( who shares a name with the man who took in an or­phaned James Bond as a boy when his par­ents were killed) ac­tu­ally Blofeld? Waltz smiles enig­mat­i­cally at the ques­tion, “Of course we know the sub­ject, so we jump at con­clu­sions.” Well- drilled in se­cret- keep­ing over the years, Wil­son and Broc­coli aren’t say­ing ei­ther, while Craig and Men­des protest that au­di­ences pre­fer to be kept in the dark.

Which is all well and good if se­crets can be kept, as they have been on pre­vi­ous Bond films. (“Amaz­ingly, no one re­ally found out that Judi [ Dench] died!” mar­vels Men­des of the big Sky­fall twist.) But the fan spec­u­la­tion on SPEC­TRE has reached new heights thanks to an en­tire script and stu­dio notes be­ing leaked as part of last year’s Sony hack­ing. The doc­u­ments seemed to in­di­cate squab­bles over bud­get, an un­sat­is­fac­tory end­ing and a shock­ing fam­ily link for Bond.

“It was an old script,” dis­misses Broc­coli, “and the stuff about us hav­ing fights about the bud­get: well, what’s new? We want to put all the money on the screen. We want to de­liver the best film we can. We fight for as much money as we can to make the film. And that’s no se­cret.”

Men­des is sim­i­larly un­fazed. The script, he ex­plains, had al­ready mor­phed from the leaked ver­sion. “When you’re work­ing on a script you’re go­ing down blind al­leys, try­ing a new char­ac­ter out, try­ing a se­quence out... It’s like build­ing a gi­ant Mec­cano toy. You build a bit, it top­ples over, you take it off again, and you put on another bit. If any­one was ac­tu­ally try­ing to piece it to­gether, they would get nowhere, re­ally, be­cause so much of it changed.”

In fact, for Men­des, the leak was the least of his prob­lems on a gru­elling shoot globetrotting from Rome and Lon­don to Aus­tria, Mexico and Tang­ier. “I had one day off in eight months of shoot­ing and nine months of prep. It’s one of

those movies that was re­ally hard un­til half­way. It was par­tic­u­larly tough, phys­i­cally gru­elling – a lot of in­juries, ill­ness. We hit the wall half­way, then broke through it. By the end, we were... I won’t say sprint­ing ex­actly, but we weren’t stag­ger­ing over the line!”

Men­des may be on set ev­ery day but most of his cast are not. Apart from one man. “If you’re do­ing what Daniel’s do­ing on a film, that is ex­haust­ing be­cause you’re in there ev­ery day – that’s just as ex­haust­ing as do­ing a play,” com­ments Craig’s Q co- star, Ben Whishaw. Craig ad­mits the hours can be tough: “Life takes sec­ond place, which is ter­ri­ble. I’m not alone, the crew are in the same boat. We some­times work ter­ri­ble hours and the crew don’t see their fam­i­lies for weeks on end. It’s re­ally fuck­ing tough. You have to look af­ter each other and take care of each other and jolly each other along a bit be­cause it sucks.”

That jol­ly­ing along isn’t just cheer­lead­ing ei­ther. Craig is in­stru­men­tal in de­ci­sions on Bond, as keen to pro­tect the 007 legacy as Broc­coli and Wil­son. “I said to Bar­bara 10 years ago, ‘ I need the con­fi­dence to walk on set and pre­tend to be James Bond be­cause I’m not James Bond’,” he laughs. “‘ I’m a long way off be­ing him. But if you give me the con­fi­dence to feel part of what’s go­ing on, and to be able to in­put into this, what the films are about and what we can col­lab­o­rate on, then I can give it a go.’ They did. They opened their arms.”

Now on his fourth film, Craig’s in­put proved in­valu­able to Men­des and was part of the lure to di­rect a sec­ond time af­ter he said he wouldn’t come back for more. “What’s lovely about it the sec­ond time around is you have that short­hand,” says Men­des. “When I came on Sky­fall, he knew the part bet­ter than I did be­cause he’d done two movies play­ing this role. On this one, he was ab­so­lutely in­valu­able. He had great in­stincts and we were more re­laxed with each other. We had a lot of laughs and worked in­cred­i­bly hard and pushed each other.”

what would cubby think

So what has that col­lab­o­ra­tion cre­ated, es­pe­cially un­der the ex­treme au­di­ence ex­pec­ta­tion and stu­dio pres­sure to beat Sky­fall? “As my dad [ Cubby Broc­coli] used to say, ‘ fear fo­cuses the mind’,” Broc­coli smiles, “and I think we’re all fo­cused very much on de­liv­er­ing a movie that is go­ing to meet – if not sur­pass – ex­pec­ta­tions, and that’s part of the fun and the chal­lenge.” SFX won­ders what he would have made of where his su­per­spy fran­chise has ended up...

“He would love Daniel,” says Broc­coli, light­ing up. “That’s a real sad­ness from me, that he never got the op­por­tu­nity to see him be­cause I think he would have loved the way that Daniel por­trays the char­ac­ter. He was a great be­liever from the very be­gin­ning that Bond was very sus­tain­able and would go on and on and on, be­yond him, be­yond all of us. I think it’s a great kind of af­fir­ma­tion of his belief that we’re all still here.”

Speak­ing of go­ing on be­yond, there’s lit­tle left of Flem­ing’s orig­i­nal books to use so thoughts in­evitably turn to where Craig might go in his next, and – ap­par­ently – fi­nal, film. “If you’re a Flem­ing fan – and if you’re some­one who reads them over and over again – you’re al­ways look­ing for clues, and they’re few and far be­tween,” Craig ad­mits. “We’ve mined as much as we can, and maybe we’ll find some more.” And don’t count on Men­des re­turn­ing for a hat trick: “If I’d [ thought about do­ing a sec­ond film] with Sky­fall, I wouldn’t pos­si­bly have en­vis­aged this movie. You only make what you can make. Where he goes next and where it goes next, is for later on. You can only re­ally fo­cus on what you’ve got in front of you,” says Men­des. “I’m sur­prised I ended up do­ing two, even now, but I’m re­ally pleased that I did...”

The crew don’t see their fam­i­lies for weeks on end

And he had mate in two! You can’t have a Bond film with­out amaz­ing cars.

Sam Men­des and Léa Sey­doux keep warm in­side from the snow. Daniel Craig needs a wind­screen spe­cial­ist. Dave Bautista brings ex­tra Drax ap­peal.

He flies through the air with the great­est of ease…

Mon­ica Bel­lucci plays a widow that Bond gets close to. Ben Whishaw’s Q: bet­ter with tech­nol­ogy than jumpers. SPEC­TRE is the first film of any kind Daniel Craig has made since 2012’ s Sky­fall.

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