14th November 2022
The second act of 'Skyfall' could have been very different
By MI6 Staff
The second act of 'Skyfall' could have seen James Bond team up with the film's villain in an uneasy truce.
One of the many bumps in the road of MGM's financial journey came in April 2010 when the studio was heading towards a bankruptcy filing. The knock-on effect was that the production of the 23rd James Bond film had to be suspended. Sam Mendes became a 'consultant' on the film, rather than a director, as the film was not officially in production.
"People forget these things very quickly, but MGM went bankrupt and the thought among the town at that time was: ‘Oh, it’s all over. They can’t afford it, that’s the end of Bond," explained Mendes to THR recently. As production was suspended, neither Mendes nor writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade could officially work on the script, but that did not stop them from using the 10-month hiatus to think about the story and make significant changes.
The initial draft for the film was largely dumped, but the main hook of the story - the death of M - was kept. This was originally floated for 'Quantum of Solace', occurring half-way in that screenplay, but it was scrapped. This time, it was decided to use this as the anchor to the story.
Daniel Craig insisted on a villain that was a match for Bond, and what better opponent than M's previous 'favourite' field agent. Javier Bardem was long admired by Mendes and drafts of the script named the actor well before he was approached for the role. How Silva would play off Bond in his quest for revenge took some interesting twists and turns during the hiatus.
Mendes explained one of the big ideas that did not work out: "They teamed up in the middle of the movie, in a kind of uneasy truce. And it didn’t work because Bond works alone. Yes, he might have a woman at his side or partner with one along the way [in some of the other Bond movies], but it didn’t feel right to be paired with another alpha male. [Bond] needs someone to fight against, and those scenes lasted for as long as it took to write them. And I read it and thought: ‘No, that doesn’t work.’"
'Skyfall' is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, and Mendes proudly looked back on their work, except for one element: “I would think twice about having Bond stand on the rooftops of Whitehall, with the Union Jack flags in the breeze, given the last 10 years of serial incompetence from [London’s] conservative government,” Mendes said laughing. "We look back at that time as sort of a bizarre golden era. And Skyfall was very much of its time as a movie, and very much influenced by the fact that there was a genuine national pride about the country at that point. And it was also the 50th anniversary of Bond — there was Bond jumping out of a helicopter with the queen at the Olympics that year. So I think that pride, and the excitement around that, filtered and found its way into the movie."