Skyfall is the twenty-third in the James Bond series of spy films, produced by Eon Productions and distributed by MGM and Sony Pictures Entertainment. It features Daniel Craig’s third performance as James Bond, and Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva, the film’s antagonist. The film was directed by Sam Mendes and written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan.
In the film, Bond investigates an attack on MI6; it transpires that it is part of an attack on M by former MI6 operative Raoul Silva. The film sees the return of two recurring characters after an absence of two films: Q, played by Ben Whishaw, and Miss Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris. Skyfall is the last film of the series for Judi Dench, who played M; a role which she had played in the previous six films. The position is subsequently filled by Ralph Fiennes’ character, Gareth Mallory.
Mendes was approached to direct the film after the release of Quantum of Solace in 2008. Development was suspended when MGM encountered financial troubles, and did not resume until December 2010; during this time, Mendes remained attached to the project as a consultant. The original screenwriter, Peter Morgan, left the project during the suspension. When production resumed, Logan, Purvis and Wade continued writing what became the final version of the script, whilst incorporating Morgan’s ideas. Filming began in November 2011, and primarily took place in the United Kingdom, China and Turkey.
Skyfall premiered on 23 October 2012, and was released in the United Kingdom on 26 October 2012, and in the United States on 8 November 2012. It was the first James Bond film to be screened in IMAX venues, although it was not filmed with IMAX cameras. The film’s release coincided with the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series, which began with Dr. No in 1962. The film was positively received by critics and at the box office, becoming the highest-grossing James Bond film.
MI6 agents James Bond and Eve assist on a mission in Turkey to recover a computer hard drive stolen from a murdered MI6 agent that contains details of almost all undercover NATO agents in terrorist organizations. Bond and Eve chase the killer, mercenary Patrice, and attempt to recover the disk. During the chase, Bond is shot in the shoulder. While fighting Patrice, Bond is accidentally shot by Eve and is later considered “missing, presumed killed”.
The head of MI6, M, comes under political pressure to retire during a meeting with the Intelligence and Security Committee Chairman, Gareth Mallory. On her return from the meeting, MI6 is hacked and an explosion occurs in the offices, killing a number of MI6 employees; the service relocates to its emergency offices underground. Bond, having used his supposed death to retire, learns of the attack and returns to London. Shrapnel taken from his earlier shoulder wound helps identify Patrice, and Bond tracks the mercenary to Shanghai.
Meanwhile, three NATO agents are killed after their identities are exposed, and further releases are threatened. After Patrice assassinates a target, he and Bond fight. Patrice falls to his death before Bond can learn of his employer. Searching Patrice’s equipment, Bond finds a gambling chip which leads him to a casino in Macau. Sévérine, whom Bond saw earlier during the assassination, warns him that he is about to be killed, but promises to help him if he will kill her employer. Bond beats his attackers and joins Sévérine on her boat. They travel to an island, where they are taken prisoner by the crew and delivered to Sévérine’s employer, Raoul Silva. A former MI6 agent who worked under M, Silva holds her responsible for his torture and imprisonment by the Chinese. Silva kills Sévérine, but Bond overpowers his guards and captures Silva for extraction to the UK.
Back at MI6’s underground headquarters, Q attempts to decrypt Silva’s laptop, but inadvertently enables it to hack the MI6 systems, allowing Silva to escape. Pursued by Bond, he uses the tunnel system under London, including part of the London Underground, as part of his plan. Silva disguises himself as a policeman and attacks M during a public inquiry into her handling of the stolen hard drive. Bond arrives to join Mallory and Eve in beating off Silva’s attack, and M is hurried from the building by her aide, Bill Tanner. Bond drives M away from the scene and takes her to Skyfall, his remote childhood home in Scotland. He instructs Q to leave an electronic trail for Silva to follow, a decision supported by Mallory.
Bond and M are met by Kincade, the gamekeeper to the Bond family estate. The trio are only lightly armed, but they improvise a series of booby traps. When Silva’s men arrive, Bond, M and Kincade fight off the first assault, although M is wounded. Silva arrives by helicopter with a second wave, and Bond sends M and Kincade off through a secret tunnel at the back of a priest hole to a chapel on the grounds. The second assault uses firepower from the helicopter, and Silva throws incendiary grenades into the building. Bond detonates two gas canisters with a stick of dynamite and retreats down the same tunnel as M and Kincade. The resulting blast causes the helicopter to crash, killing most of Silva’s men. Silva sees Kincade’s torch beam, follows, and arrives at a frozen lake ahead of Bond. Bond fights Silva’s sole remaining follower, and the two fall through the ice, where Bond kills him. Silva meanwhile makes his way to the chapel and forces his gun into M’s hand where he begs her to kill them both. Bond arrives and kills Silva, but M collapses from her earlier wound and dies. Mallory becomes the new head of MI6, while Eve—introducing herself as Eve Moneypenny—decides not to return to the field as an agent, but to work as M’s secretary.
The main cast of Skyfall was officially announced at a press conference held at the Corinthia Hotel in London on 3 November 2011, fifty years to the day since Sean Connery was announced to play James Bond in the film Dr. No.
Daniel Craig as James Bond, agent 007. Director Sam Mendes described Bond as experiencing a “combination of lassitude, boredom, depression [and] difficulty with what he’s chosen to do for a living.”
Judi Dench as M, the head of MI6 and Bond’s commanding officer. Skyfall is Dench’s seventh and final appearance in the role.
Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva (Tiago Rodriguez), the film’s main antagonist. Silva is a former MI6 agent turned cyberterrorist who is seeking revenge against those he holds responsible for betraying him. Bardem described Silva as “more than a villain”, while Craig stated that Bond has a “very important relationship” to Silva. In casting the role, director Sam Mendes admitted that he lobbied hard for Bardem to accept the part. Mendes saw the potential for the character to be recognised as one of the most memorable characters in the franchise and wanted to create “something [the audience] may consider to have been absent from the Bond movies for a long time”. He felt that Bardem was one of the few actors up to the task of becoming “colourless” and existing within the world of the film as something more than a function of the plot. In preparing for the role, Bardem had the script translated into his native Spanish in order to better understand his character, which Mendes cited as being a sign of the actor’s commitment to the film. Bardem dyed his hair blond for the role after brainstorming ideas with Mendes to come up with a distinct visual look for the character.
Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, a former lieutenant colonel in the British Army and now the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. His position gives him the authority to regulate MI6. Fiennes stated that he could not say anything specific about the role other than that it was a “really interesting part which is really quite fun”.
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny. Harris’ role was initially presented as that of Eve, an MI6 field agent who works closely with Bond. Despite ongoing speculation in the media that Harris had been cast as Miss Moneypenny, this was not confirmed by anyone involved in production of the film, with Harris herself even going so far as to dismiss claims that Eve was in fact Moneypenny, stating that “Eve is not remotely office-bound”. According to Harris, Eve “[believes] she is Bond’s equal, but she is really his junior”.
Ben Whishaw as Q, the MI6 quartermaster.
Bérénice Lim Marlohe as Sévérine. Marlohe described her character as being “glamorous and enigmatic”, and that she drew inspiration from GoldenEye villain Xenia Onatopp (played by Famke Janssen) in playing Sévérine.
Albert Finney as Kincade, the gamekeeper of the Skyfall estate. Sean Connery was almost approached to play the role in nod for it being the 50th anniversary of the film series.
Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner, the MI6 Chief of Staff.
Helen McCrory as Clair Dowar, a British minister. McCrory joined the cast after Sam Mendes contacted her personally and offered her the part.
Ola Rapace as Patrice, a French mercenary who “is a man of few words” and “loves violence”.
The cast and crew of Skyfall on location in Istanbul (L-R): director Sam Mendes, actors Naomie Harris, Daniel Craig, Bérénice Marlohe and Ola Rapace, with producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.
Production of Skyfall was suspended throughout 2010 because of MGM’s financial troubles. They resumed pre-production following MGM’s exit from bankruptcy on 21 December 2010 and in January 2011 the film was officially given a release date of 9 November 2012 by MGM and the Broccoli family, with production scheduled to start in late 2011. Since then, MGM and Sony Pictures had announced that the UK and Ireland release date would be brought forward to 26 October 2012, two weeks ahead of the US release date, which was 9 November 2012. The film’s budget is estimated to be between $150 million and $200 million, compared to the $200 million spent on Quantum of Solace.
Skyfall is part of year-long celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Dr. No and the Bond film series. According to producer Michael G. Wilson, a documentary crew is scheduled to follow production of the film to celebrate the anniversary. Skyfall was also the first James Bond film to be released in Imax venues.
In August 2011, several news websites reposted a rumour that originally appeared in Serbian newspaper Blic stating that Bond 23 would be entitled Carte Blanche and would be an adaptation of the recent continuation novel by Jeffery Deaver. On 30 August, Eon Productions officially denied any link between Bond 23 and Carte Blanche, stating that “the new film is not going to be called Carte Blanche and will have nothing to do with the Jeffery Deaver book.” On 3 October 2011, fifteen domain names including ‘jamesbond-skyfall.com’ and ‘skyfallthefilm.com’ were reported to have been registered on behalf of MGM and Sony Pictures by Internet brand-protection service MarkMonitor. This led to supposition in media that the film had been given the name “Skyfall”. These reports were not confirmed at the time by Eon Productions, Sony or MGM. Skyfall was later confirmed as the title at the November press conference, during which co-producer Barbara Broccoli said that the title “has some emotional context which will be revealed in the film”. The title refers to the Skyfall Lodge, Bond’s childhood home and the setting for the film’s finale.
Skyfall was directed by Sam Mendes, who first signed on to the project shortly after Quantum of Solace was released, and remained on board as a consultant during the period of uncertainty surrounding MGM’s financial situation. Speculation in the media suggested that Mendes had commissioned rewrites of the script to “[remove] action scenes in favor of ‘characterful performances'” with the intention of bidding for an Academy Award. Mendes denied the reports, stating that the film’s planned action scenes were an important part of the overall film.
Peter Morgan was originally commissioned to write a script, but left the project when MGM filed for bankruptcy and production of the film stalled; despite his departure, Morgan later stated that the final script was based on his original idea, retaining what he described as the film’s “big hook”. Director Mendes adamantly denied this, saying, “Absolutely not. Definitively not. That’s a lie. I don’t want to make a big story about it, that’s just not true … I read that treatment of Peter’s and nothing remains. He wrote the treatment, but they binned it when I arrived. That credit grabbing is not fair on the writers.” The final script was written by Bond screenwriting regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, as well as John Logan. Logan recounted being brought into the project by his long-time friend Sam Mendes, describing the process between Mendes and the writers as “very collaborative”, and that writing Skyfall was one of the best experiences he had had in writing a film.
Roger Deakins signed on as cinematographer, having previously worked with Mendes on Jarhead and Revolutionary Road. Deakins used the Arri Alexa camera for filming. Dennis Gassner returned as production designer, the costume designer was Jany Temime, Alexander Witt was director of the second unit, the stunt co-ordinator was Gary Powell, and Chris Corbould supervised the special effects, while the visual effects supervisor was Steve Begg. All have worked on previous Bond films. Daniel Kleinman returned to design the film’s title sequence after stepping aside to allow graphic design studio MK12 to create the Quantum of Solace sequence.
Sam Mendes and Barbara Broccoli travelled to South Africa for location scouting in April 2011. With the film moving into pre-production in August, reports emerged that shooting would take place in India, with scenes to be shot in the Sarojini Nagar district of New Delhi and on railway lines between Goa and Ahmedabad. The production crew faced complications in securing permission to close sections of the Konkan Railway. Similar problems in obtaining filming permits were encountered by production crews for The Dark Knight Rises and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Permission was eventually granted to the Bond production crew, with some additional restrictions put in place at the request of the Indian authorities; however, it was later reported that the production crew had elected not to shoot in India. Further reports emerged stating that filming would take place in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square, the Hagia Sophia museum, the city of Fethiye and the Varda railway bridge near Adana, with production expected to spend three months in the country. Adana stands in for the outskirts of Istanbul in the film.[
Mendes confirmed that China would be featured in the film, with shooting scheduled to take place in Shanghai and “other parts” of the country. The first official image from the film was released on 1 February 2012, showing Daniel Craig on set at Pinewood Studios, within a recreation of a skyscraper in Shanghai. Set reports dated April 2012 recorded that scenes would be set on Hashima Island, an abandoned island off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan. In actuality, the scene was set on an unnamed island off the coast of Macau, though based on the real-life Hashima. A scene set in the swimming pool of a Shanghai hotel was shot in London.
Shooting of the finale was planned to take place at Duntrune Castle in Argyll, but was cancelled shortly after filming began. Glencoe was instead chosen for filming of these scenes. Although supposedly based in Scotland, Bond’s family home of Skyfall was constructed on Hankley Common in Surrey using plywood and plaster to build a full-scale model of the building.
Principal photography was scheduled to take up 133 days. Filming began on 7 November 2011 in and around London, with scenes shot in Southwark and Whitehall, the National Gallery, Smithfield meat market and St Bartholomew’s Hospital for the scene in which Bond enters MI6’s underground headquarters, Canary Wharf, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Charing Cross station (not the District line as in the film, but the disused Charing Cross branch of the Jubilee line) and the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, with residents reporting further filming as taking place in Cadogan Square, Tower Hill, and Parliament Square. The Vauxhall Bridge was closed to traffic for filming the aftermath of an explosion at the MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall Cross. Unlike The World Is Not Enough, which also featured an explosion at the building—which was filmed at a large-scale replica—the explosion in Skyfall was added digitally in post-production.
Production moved to Turkey in March 2012, with filming reported to be continuing until 6 May. A group of Turkish teenagers infiltrated a closed set in a railyard in Adana to film rehearsals of a fight scene on top of a train before being caught by security. Parts of Istanbul — including the Spice Bazaar, Yeni Camii, the Imperial Post Office, Sultanahmet Square and the Grand Bazaar — were closed for filming in April. Store owners in the affected areas were reportedly allowed to open their shops, but were not allowed to conduct business, instead being paid TRYTurkish lira symbol 8x10px.png750 (US$418) per day as compensation. Production faced criticism for allegedly damaging buildings while filming a motorcycle chase across rooftops in the city. Michael G. Wilson denied these claims, pointing out that the film crew had removed sections of rooftops before filming began and replaced them with replicas for the duration of the shoot; when filming finished, the original rooftops would be restored.
- 50th Anniversary
- Daniel Craig
- Eon Productions
- Financial Troubles
- James Bond Film
- James Bond Series
- Javier Bardem
- John Logan
- Judi Dench
- Miss Moneypenny
- Naomie Harris
- Neal Purvis
- Peter Morgan
- Ralph Fiennes
- Robert Wade
- Sam Mendes
- Sony Pictures Entertainment
- Spy Films
- Two Films