Even though the latest James Bond adventure Skyfall doesn't open in North American theaters until this Friday, it's already earning overwhelmingly positive feedback along with record-breaking box office earnings internationally. Thanks to MGM's financial woes a few years back, it took longer than fans and those involved with the production hoped to get the followup to Quantum of Solace - or at least, another Daniel Craig Bond performance if not a direct sequel - off the ground.
Director Sam Mendes however, has been there since the beginning, serving as a pre-production consultant in the extra months it took to get the project greenlit. Those extra months gave Mendes and co. more time to write and plan Skyfall, extra time that made a big difference, extra time that a Marvel Studios production like The Avengers never got.
Mendes, having earning critical acclaim on his previous directorial efforts with American Beauty, Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road, represents an unusual, yet inspired choice for the Bond franchise, and one arguably needed to redefine the brand after the disappointing Quantum of Solace failed to raise the bar set by Casino Royale. For some film aficionados, Mendes may have been a surprising choice for the James Bond franchise, and to them we ask, how would you feel about him directing The Avengers?
As it turns out, Mendes was one of many who had the chance to pitch for the gig, but as he explains, it wasn't for him. In discussing how the negative reception to Quantum of Solace affected Mendes with Moviefone, he said it didn't and the timing of it all and the way Quantum ended, it actually helped.
"It didn't at all. One of the things that was nice about is 'Quantum' is the second part of the 'Casino' story so I knew that was done... We had this one really good stroke of luck -- which at the time didn't feel like it, but now, looking at retrospectively was -- which was MGM bankrupting, because there was a nine-month hiatus and we just wrote the script. We just carried on working.
"With a lot of these movies, the date's announced before anything exists, let alone a script. The funniest letter I got -- they were sending [a packet for] 'The Avengers,' right? For directors to pitch -- and I got a package, which was full of comic books, but no treatment; there was no script. But the cover letter said 'Marvel's 'Avengers' will be released on May 3, 2012' or whatever it was. That was the first sentence of the cover letter. Not, 'We have the pleasure of enclosing the materials...' or 'Here is the script for...' But the release date. That was the first sentence."
For Joss Whedon, Marvel president Kevin Fiege, and everyone involved with The Avengers, the release date mentality and rushed nature of the project didn't end up negatively impacting the superhero team-up, at least financially. The Avengers earned positive reviews across the board in addition to the records for biggest opening weekend and third biggest worldwide box office haul of all-time. Critics and fans can point out the flaws in ambitious project, but they were completely overshadowed by what the film accomplished. A similar rushed schedule affected the production of Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class, but like this year's team superhero epic, it managed to succeed among critics while at the same time restoring faith in the X-Men film franchise.
Mendes was sent that package for The Avengers a few years ago, but he didn't want the job.
"No. I wasn't interested. I mean, that's not my world particularly. I'll go see it, particularly with my kids, but I didn't want to make it. But I was probably one of 50 that got sent it; they didn't target me specifically."
A few weeks back, Mendes also said that he doubted he'd direct another Bond movie, even though star Daniel Craig signed on for another two films. We can't knock the director for wanting to never get stuck on one path, or defined by one franchise or genre of film.
Skyfall stars Ben Whishaw, Daniel Craig, Helen McCrory, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, and hits North American theaters November 9, 2012. The Avengers stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Tom Hiddleston and Stellan Skarsgard, and is now available on home video.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.
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