Sam Mendes: Licence to Thrill... Even More - A Culture Show Special The Culture Show

Sam Mendes: Licence to Thrill... Even More - A Culture Show Special

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Well the world's about to find out because the latest Bond film,


Skyfall, is directed by our very own Oscar-winning Sam Mendes. The


man who brought us Jarhead Revolutionary Road and of course


American Beauty. Sam Mendes directing a Bond movie is a bold


and exciting prospect. Actors love working with him hesm is renowned


for getting award-winning performances out of them. He has a


great sense of humour. He is good at steering everybody in the right


direction, all the time. He put great people together and he gave


them the freedom to bring what they had on their minds and work with it


in a way that maybe in a movie such as big as this is not very usual.


You feel he's completely in command So, what surprises lie in store


end up in the Bond hotseat in the first place?


Sam, welcome to the Culture Show. Thank you very much.




I went


I went to


I went to see Live and Let Die. Tessa a bazaar movie. It the most


bazaar. The women have no clothes on at all. For absolutely no reason.


There is all that voodoo stuff. The voodoo stuff scared me and the boat


chase thrilled me. I remember it vividly. I remember the great song


and all of those things. Live and Let Die was the first Bond film I


saw. I remember thinking, it has everything, action, adventure and


stuff that shouldn't be in a film that I'm allowed to see. I don't


remember the story at all. No. Well, I think there is a point in Bond


movies. I think it's the movie that followed that story became


irrelevant. It's particularly Moonraker became less of - it lost


touch in some way with its thriller routes. The Fleming books have


their feet in a different kind of world. I have always felt that the


first true Bond movies, as opposed to Bond book, was not a Fleming


story was North by North West. For me, the middle-aged, cool,


effortlessly stylish, sexy glamorous Bond figure was Gary


Grant in that suit. When I meet an attractive woman I have to start


pretending I have no desire to make love to her. What makes you feel


you have to conceal it? She might find the idea objectable. Then


again she might not. I talked about it in Daniel's suit in the opening


reel of Skyfall. For me, the movie start as thrillers. You get to a


point around Moonraker where it's a travelogue, an action adventure


story. You feel them thinking, where haven't we been, we haven't


been to Rio or Venice. Let's do Rio and Venice and a cable car. Now we


have to join them up. How with we join them snup I know, Bond. He


becomes the glue. He stopped being the story around that time much I


felt one of the brilliant things that Daniel did with Casino Royale


is that he became the story again. He became the centre of the movie.


He had a journey. That was something that I was very conscious


to try to do. My own feeling is Bond found its feet again since


Casino Royale. Quantum of Solace was a misfire fire. I think you are


back on track. How much of this is Mendes and how much of this is


Bond? Obviously, it's a huge franchise which has certain things


built into it. Yet, this feels like your film? There are givens for the


Bond movie. Have you to acknowledge that. It's being handed the


furniture and told to build the house. Here is all... If you are


not careful you get a pretty ugly house. For us, it was all about


pretending we didn't have the furniture for a long time. OK, what


if we didn't need though things? What is the story we want to tell


about Bond. Trying to ease those elements into the story in a way


that didn't affect the central story. I may have a shot. It's not


clean. Repeat, I do not have a There is a tunnel ahead. I'm going


to lose them. Can you get into a Bert position? Negative. There is


no time. Take the shot. I said, take the shot! I can't. I may hit


Bond. Take the bloody shot. It in a sense Bondis. He comes back to find


the world utterly changed, nothing he knows is the same. He, through


challenging every element of his life, of his existence and also by


inference, MI6, what is the point of the Secret Intelligence Service,


what is the point therefore of Bond, he gets himself back to the centre


of it again. Surrounded now by an entirely new team. That was a,


clear early idea. When you talk about taking the furniture away.


The elements are there. The chase sequences, the guns, the one thing


you make a gag about is the gadgets. There is a specific gag, this is


what now passes for gadgets. That felt like you were acknowledging


this is one thing we can put aside. How did you feel about that? That


was a deliberate choice. It was very much me saying, look, we live


in a world now where you can walk into the Apple store and buy almost


any gadget you can imagine, you know? A world of gadgets is no


longer exciting to us because everything is available or so far


fetched it's not credible any more. One of the things that I felt


happened with Daniel's arrival in the franchise, as it were, was the


removal of this. The idea that a gadget could be bordering on silly


or comic I wouldn't have it as it felt wrong. It feels wrong with


this Bond and this story. Bond movies open with an action sequence


every single director who has come to Bond goes, this is the mountain


to climb? It's the Albatross. You feel... I think we spent 50% of the


time working on the movie simply working on the first 10 minutes.


For me, what I loved was the idea of a series of Russian dolls. You


think it's this action sequence, and it becomes something else and


something else again. For that we needed a great location that gave


us a series of ideas and ways to develop the thing in unexpected


areas. Mendes chose Istanbul for the opening extravaganza. It was


first seen in 1963's From Russia With Love. Lovely view. The action


sequence I would have shot in Mumbai or in Cape Town would be


totally different from the one we shot in Istanbul. You can't... If


you are looking around you, it starts giving you ideas. That was


one of the big blessings was finding, not finding, I found a


great city, it's call Istanbul. You know what I mean. Arriving at


Istanbul and discovering it for myself and seeing what an amazing


place it was and how much it gave you. Which Bond movies do you


remember in terms of their opening sequences? Being honest with you,


the way of the finest is Casino Royale. That haunted me most on


this movie was the brilliance of that opening sequence. And, I think


that set the bar high for any movie that considers starting with an


We drop down in the middle of something, you know, basically, in


the middle an event that has gone wrong. Right at the beginning. You


have having to play catchup as an audience and try to figure out what


the story is within that. Have you a new character who you know is a


Bond girl, but seems to be doing the things that Bond girls don't do.


I play eve. She a field agent, very capable, very independent. When you


first meet her she is on a mission with Bond. The mission is, kind of,


gone a little bit wrong. They are trying to rectify things. Eve is


having the time of her life. She is with the ultimate field agent.


all of those things layer it in interesting ways. What surprises


can people expect from the film? They can expect the introduction of


characters they have not seen in a while in a totally different way. I


think they can expect some humour that's maybe been absent for a


while. Or this kind of droll humour. I hope they will be moved. That is


not something you can say about every Bond movie. It's something I


hope is the case with this one. All of those things. Skyfall sees


Daniel Craig reprise the role of Bond for the third time. Mr? Bond,


James Bond. Alongside Judi Dench's M and supporting cast featuring


Javier Bardem as a blonde Euro villian and Ralph Fiennes as an


ambiguous government official. Did Daniel Craig bring you to the Bond


movie? Yes, he did. He was doing a play on Broadway. I was saying -


when are you doing the next Bond? It was late in the evening. Hi a


few drinks. Sam, I think, had been rehearsing something. He said, I


don't know. I said, who is directing it? I wasn't fishing.


had a few more drinks, I said, why don't you do it? A second later I


found myself saying, yes. High a feeling in the pit of my stomach.


The next day he thought - hang on a minute, I'm not allowed to offer


Sam the job. It's not my position. If I hadn't gone and Daniel hadn't


said it, I wouldn't be sitting here and I wouldn't have done. It


maintain if this had gone wrong I could have just blamed the drink.


still of Daniel Craig as the best Bond. I think he is the best


embodiment of Bond. Daniel is the top of the first division. It take


as certain kind of woman to wear... He is the hardest working and most


committed actor I ever met. I never watched anyone having to bear the a


movie so much as he, in every respect. Not just the fact he is


almost in every scene. He is physically challenged all the time.


The movie makes no bones about the fact he is in his 40's. You know, I


don't think Bond has had to hear so many times - you are too old, stop,


give up. He had to allow himself to go into that territory. I think


Daniel's Bond is definitely the Bond for our time. We no longer


want that, sort of, 1970s shaken not stirred, slap on the arse and a


wink in the eye. You have to have naughtiness. He can't be PC Bond,


Christ! There is a ruthlessness in Daniel's Bond that echoes an aspect


of Fleming Bond. He is damaged goods, Daniel Craig's Bond. That


rings true to a generation of people who, you know, have watched


similar figures to Bond now and have seen it said with a much


darker, darker vein running through. It Daniel has that in his Bond.


It's good. It's hot, sexy. The Bond girl at the centre of this is Judi


Dench character. It's as much about her as it is about Bond. That


seemed to be a Sam Mendes touch? That was deliberate. I felt from


the very beginning that M was the central character. I'm going to


find whoever did this. One of the things that I love about Bond is


that there is never a sense he tries to make excuses for himself


or explain his actions. The one person who understand that is is M.


The one person who understands him is M. Have you that wisdom with


Judi Dench that can bring that Tell me about how important it is


texture to a Tory. That something I Tell me about how important it is


wanted to find a way in for Bond's soul and the one person who can see


played by people Well, it's very important,


is writing roles good enough for them to say yes to in the first place.


OK. For me as a director, I'm only as ever as good as the actors.


I love actors, I love working with them.


I've spent my life doing it.


And they are my chief creative relationships.


And with the actors, I'll develop the character.


Here, we probably did invent quite a lot, particularly with Javier.


And with the actors, I'll develop the character.


Here, we probably did invent quite a lot, particularly with Javier.


And took it beyond what was on the page at the beginning.


And took it beyond what was on the page at the beginning.


The creation of a classic Bond villain is not something that's formulaic.


And we've seen it done wrong.


The interesting thing with this is


you do feel that is a three-dimensional,


genuinely worrying, twisted villain.


Did she send you after me knowing you're not ready? Knowing you would likely die?


Mommy was very bad.


Tell me about the character.


Well, he was the one person who didn't say yes straightaway.


He said, I love the package, I love the rest of the cast,


I like the script very much, I like you,


but the character doesn't quite do it for me yet.


Tell me where you think we can go with him.


He said, I love the package, I love the rest of the cast,


I like the script very much, I like you,


And so I said, Look, I think we can push him in certain areas


but the character doesn't quite do it for me yet.


Tell me where you think we can go with him.


And so I said, Look, I think we can push him in certain areas


and I think it's going to happen the moment you come aboard.


and I think it's going to happen the moment you come aboard.


And so he came aboard on trust, in a way. Not bad.


And so he came aboard on trust, in a way. Not bad.


Not bad, James, for a physical wreck.


Not bad, James, for a physical wreck.




It was


It was an


It was an opportunity for him to do something different. It's very


Bondy and bad guy. So much his own take on it. It's so interesting.


Since I was 12 I have seen all the James Bond movies. So, you know,


more or less, how it feels. The classic of the Bond villian,


something classic about it, that we also wants to bring into Silva.


bad, not bad James for a physical wreck. He developed the way he


looked and his care colour, and his eyes. You caught me. Now, here is


your prize, the latest thing from my local toy store. It's called


It's bring it on. It's... I love. It it's the hair, the limp, the


lisp, it's everything and more. do hope that wasn't for me? No. But


What about about the fact that the film sets up a relationship with


Ralph Fiennes' character that we don't trust him or like him? That


is one of the most difficult things we have had to achieve. Give him in


few scenes a journey. That is when you need somebody like Ralph.


play Gareth Mallory who you meet as a government official. He calls M,


Judi Dench, into a meeting and gives her Judi Dench a hard time.


Three months ago you lost the drive containing the identity of every


agent embedded in terrorist organisations across the globe.


Every scene you learn something new about him. You see him in a


different light. You watch Bond react differently to him as well.


only have one question, why not stay dead? That is the skill of


Ralph. That is why you need somebody like. That five scenes. So


much of film acting is about economy. It's about how much you


can put into the smallest amount of time. You know, a good film actors


can do that. Getting great performances out of his act orsors


is second nature for Mendes. He was celebrated as the wonder kid of


British theatre directing Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes on stage


when in his 20's. When you first started working in theatre, did you


see that as actually where your future lay? Were you always


thinking theatre and cinema? It's fair to say that when I started in


theatre I wasn't thinking about cinema. I definitely had a couple


of moments when I was at university in the cinema. They became touch


stones later on when I decided I wanted to try to make a movie.


There were key moments in that era of film making that woke me up to


the possibilities of film. Theatre has always been where I felt most


comfortable, most at home. That is where I started. No doubt that is


where I will end up. You have a long history with Judi Dench. You


directed her in your 20's which must have been worrying it's Judi


Dench? I was 24, in fact. Somehow I got up and made a speech. No idea


what I said. It would bring me out in a cold sweat if I had to listen


to it now. She was generous. don't remember. That I remember


saying to him - Sam, do you think I could possibly try this scene in a


slightly different way? Could I show you? I just have an idea about


it. His reaction was this "you can, but it won't work." he turned like.


This so, I remembered that. And during the scene in this he said


"how about trying it?" I said to him "yes, I will, but it won't


work", I said. I got my own back. was astonished that he would have


the knowledge to direct one of the greatest living actors. That utter


confidence in what he was doing and his confidence in what Judi was


doing in the play meant that she accepted him. What is extraordinary


about her. There is a lot of stuff about, dear Dame Judi Dench, she is


so nice and this and that the other, what is amazing about Judi is how


much goes on that the public and the audience just don't see. There


is a real fire in her. She is always in the moment. Always alive.


And, she is one of those actors who looks other actors in the eye and


they get better. I worked with Sam first on the production of


Shakespeare in 1990. It was my second season there. He was this


young director. No-one had really heard of. He was making a name for


himself. Sam did a very clear, funny and beautifully pitched


production which has gone down as one of the better productions of


the play. I remember he developed a particular sequence which took an


enormous amount of effort and lots of hours of work from the actors


involved. The very last week he said, we will scrap it. It's not


working. I know you have spent a lot of time on it, that is going.


Ta that is very Sam. He is ruthless with himself in the last stages of


rehearsal in cutting away stuff that he thinks is sue per flus. He


cuts away, cuts away. Instead of holding his work sacrosanct he is


good at editing his own work all in the interests of clarity, but also


in the interests of making sure that nobody's bored. He is very,


very specific about the changes of emotion your character might go


through. He wants to chart those with you. I just remember about


what is happening on the stage and what it means. Lovely to work with


him again on the Bond. I remembered, yes, this is what Sam is great at.


This very, clear, focused direction. He truly, really relishs and loves


working with actors. It's something that gives him artistic pleasure,


but also pleasure as a human being. Next stop for Mendes and his


talents was the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden, a struggling theatre


that he completely turned around. It was a genuine sense that every


time a new show was announced people would stampede to get the


tickets, it would sell-out so quickly. He has an extraordinary


eye for what, this might sound unattractive, an eye for what is


fashionable. What was it about you and the Donmar that was so


particular? What I remember profoundly about it was, it was


attracting the kind of reviews that blockbuster movies did. Why was it


so important? The Donmar is a magical theatre. It's all... It a's


very difficult to do something in that space that doesn't work. I'm


not saying this as a kind of false modesty. I think it's almost the


perfect theatre. It has enough size to be epic. Yet enough intimacy to


be able to work in incredible detail. It has a touch of magic


about it, but I had to bring in audiences to the space. We will no


funding. We had nothing at all. I really fought for it, but there was


also a sense in which I had to create a kind of commercial


environment inside the theatre. So, name act orsors were important. A


kind of working outside of the classical repertoire. Working in


modern revivals. That bred a pop art atmosphere about the place.


of his first big hit was a revamp version of Cabaret starring Alan


Cumming. I go out daily to earn daily bread. Cabaret was this kind


of explosion of sensuality and sexual pleasure and heed nisism.


Some people have two people. My character was, basically, a


gloryified rent boy. The Clark was born out of that. Brilliant central


performance from Alan Cumming which I think was another example of Sam


just being able to help an actor just take the lid off. I think he


has a really great combination of being very, very precise almost


anal, you might say. He is very controlling. You feel very secure.


At the same time as that, he encourages you to be experimental


and to be wild. Cabaret treated the audience as part of the story.


a very dark story. It was a production, when you came in there


were table and chairs you sat it. - at. It was like you were in a


cabaret. He created an amazing world for everyone. Seeing Cabaret


in that small space with an amazing cast, it was just like a breath of


fresh air. It was a sense of being light on its feet. It wasn't a


heavy old musical with a big orchestra. It was just sharp. Sharp.


It changed the whole way that people thought about musicals,


actually. And, it reinvented that one. It made people think


differently about how you could take an established and traditional


musical and, with the production, completely reinvigorate it.


hits kept coming, the awards soon followed. Award goes to. A Fine


Batsman. Mendes won Best Director at the Olivier Award for two of his


productions. The Glass Menagerie starring Zoe Wanamaker. And the


Stephen Sondheim mueszcle, Company. -- musical, Company. I would like


to thank everybody who works at and has worked at and who has supported


the Donmar Warehouse over the last year. Thank you very much.


Donmar at that point was the hot place. I think it still is. It had


just, again, like Sam, had burst into the theatre consciousness.


of Mendes greatest coups was luring Nicole Kidman to the Donmar to take


on a risk arole in The Blue Room. She had been to the Donmar. She was


a theatre animal. Had a real appetite for it, but had been


looking for the right place, the right play, the right person. I


think Sam's way of just everything else outside the rehearsal room


just does not matter. He was protective about that and wise and


mature about how to deal with all the noise around the fact that


Nicole was at the Donmar. In the end, when the audience sat down to


watch the play, they were watching a great actress. The buzz


surrounding it was incredible. There were hoards of people every


night outside the theatre. You had to battle your way through them to


get in. The production itself was electrifying. The atmosphere in the


auditorium was extraordinary. I mean, like nothing I can remember


in the theatre. I suppose, the excitement in the end, is always


going to be about superb performances, exploding into that


space. The Blue Room's success in London was recreated on Broadway.


Last night, blue room fever swept New York. Inspired, perhaps, by


descriptions of Nicole Kidman naked on stage, it sold out weeks ago.


Tickets have changed hands for eight times their face value.


gives you something different in the sense that every night you have


to recreate the roles and you really have to stay present. It


requires I think more discipline than film does. That has been...


That's been a learning experience for me. Some of The Blue Room's


stateside press coverage went too far. There was a map in


Entertainment Weekly that printed a diagram of the court theatre in New


York where it was staged. With little marks next to the seats


where you could see more than Nicole's arse. I thought, I'm


giving up. Wow! That is not right. No. That is really creepy? It was.


Stalker creepy. Yeah. There it was on the page. The Blue Room's stint


on Broadway was part of a transatlantic connection with


Mendes. His production of Cabaret had also moved to New York where it


caught the eye of Steven Spielberg. He approached Sam Mendes with an


unexpected film offer. What do you think Spielberg saw in Cabaret that


made him think, OK, you can do films? I said to him - why do you


think I can make a film, as a matter of interest? He was - you


will be fine. He was always very certain. His certainty, kind of,


rubbed off. Spielberg entrusted Mendes with American Beauty. The


film starred Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening with Spacey playing


a depressed suburban father who decides to turn his life around


after developing an infatuation with his daughter's friend.


really enjoyed that. Congratulations honey, you were


great. I'm Janie's dad. Hi. In terms of thinking of myself as a


film director. It's taken me a wild. I felt a fraud. When you call


"action" it feels silly. The first shot I did in American Beauty I


forgot to say "cut" they carried on doing stuff. And I was told "you


have to say cut." I was "oh, sorry, cut." There is a story that the


first stuff you shot for American Beauty had you to re-do because you


messed it up, is that true? Absolutely. It was bad. It was two-


days' worth. That scene was the scene in the burger restaurant, the


drive... It's a drive-in restaurant in the movie. It wasn't when we


first did it. One of the great strokes of luck for me about the


first two-days of my first picture It was clearly wrong that I went


back and and said to the studio - can I do it again. It's what I


don't want to do. From that moment on they were relieved because they


knew I would say if I thought it was bad. When you see that scene in


the movie, different location, costume, performances and staging,


everything. Her husband. We have met before. Something tells me you


are going to remember me this time. You are so busted. What was it


about it that in your mind that worked? There is a patch in the


centre of the film, in the middle, that is one of the best things I


have ever done. It starts with them watching the plastic bag in the


wind and shifts to a row around the dinner table in which Kevin Spacey


throws the plate of asparagus. He goes upstairs, there is a scene


between Jane and the mother. She walks to the window and undresses


and sees Ricky opposite her in the window. It flips three or four


times. It absolutely works. Visually it feels like it has a


grace and beauty and a scale that almost it didn't deserve. As well


as it's cinematic moments, when it hit the screens the film's


exploration of sexual obsession with American gun culture all felt


particularly timely. One of them was the immediate post-Columbine


obsession with what is the person building in the garage next door?


The sense that you can be close to someone and somehow, you know,


literally, inches away and not know them at all. Suburbia was a


breeding ground for that kind of thing. It was very beautiful to


look at. It had these incredible performances, particularly Kevin


Spacey. It had a clarity about it and a wit that felt very, very


fresh. Ah! There was something happening, I think, with Kevin


Spacey in that film where you were going, I haven't seen that


Octoberor do that or I didn't see that within them. What? Whose car


is that out front? Mine. 1970, the car I always wanted. Now I have. It


I rule. I was at a place in my own life where I wanted to do new


things and try new stuff. Leicester gave me the opportunity to do more


comedy that I have ever done. I played a character who was affected


by the thix things in his life and the people in his life. It was an


astounding first film. So confident and so bold. I know Sam publicly


talks about his cameraman and publicly talk abouts how much he


was helped. Still, that is very Sam. He is always very modest. Maybe we


should shoot this at 30 frames. is someone who you would say, here


are the tools to make a film. Quickly he would go, OK, right,


this, this. I see. Would learn and listen. Everything he understood


from thaelter -- theatre was there on the screen. You had his


understanding of relationships and how to tell a story. Yet with this


new thing he brought to, it which was just to have the scope of what


a film can give you. Spacey's performance as a man in full-blown


mid-life crisis won him an Oscar for Best Actor, one of five the


film was awarded including Best Director for Mendes. For his next


movie Sam would try something completely different. 2002's Road


To Perdition was a gangster drama set in depression era Chicago, with


Tom Hanks cast against type as a mob-enforcer seeking vengeance for


the murder of his family. Give him this message. What is it? The film


saw Paul Newman in his final screen role as mob-boss, John Rooney,


father of the man Hanks is hunting. What you are asking me is to give


you the key to his room so you can walk, in put a gun to his head and


pull the trigger. I can't do it. It's my favourite movie I have done.


There was something about the beauty of the States and the winter


and that city. I just love. It I love the place that is we were. I


love how it looks on film. I'm very proud to have made a move and made


Paul Newman's last film. Natural law. Sons are put on this earth to


trouble their fathers. Tom Hanks in the middle it is under rated. I


think it's a really, it really grows as it you watch it that


performance. The whole thing I feel, that is what I meant. That is a


very unusual feeling. You normally, it's slightly to the left or to the


right, if it's any good. It's a long way off if it's not. It was


also Mendes's first collaboration with Daniel Craig. I was looking


for someone to play Paul Newman's son. There were certain demands


that the role had. One of them was being, kind of, you know, coiled


spring. Somebody dangerous and unpredictable. The other was the


blue eyes. Those are the two things. Which scenes particularly stay with


you? Well I think I'm most fond of the scene where Tom Hanks kills


Paul Newman. Where Sullivan kills Rooney at the end. Which happens in


almost in silence. It was something that I kept reaching for and I


couldn't get that scene right. Two- days before the end of the mix,


which is really two-days before you finish the whole movie after a


year-and-a-half and two years. I said - let's try it without the


sond, and it worked. -- sound, and it worked. I think that one's


enjoyment of what one does as a general idea doesn't make sense.


Most of the time it's just... It's hard work. It's 5.00 am in the


morning and you have sudden moments where you are able to stand back


and you think - this is great. What a fabulous thing to do with your


life. How lucky to be in this position. Fire fights or the lack


of them was one of the main themes in Jarhead, Mendes's film about a


US Marine Unit and their wait for direct action in the Gulf War. Jake


Gyllenhaal starred as a frustrated sniper who never gets to fire his


weapon. Fire. What did you learn from what happened with Jarhead? I


remember, at the time, you were very honest, you said - we ran out


of time. The film didn't... It wasn't quite finished the way we


wanted it. You made a commitment that you weren't going to be put in


that position again? Jarhead was really interesting. I got lost in


Jarhead in a way. Looking at it now, I was very aware that I was making


what was a fundamentally an artd house film for a lot of money. If


you are trapped in that position, it is difficult. You feel a loyalty


to the people paying for the film and make a film an audience will


see. In spirit the film has more in common with Beckett than Oliver


Stone. It's a war film. Suggested technique for the marine to use in


the avoidance of boredom and loneliness. Masturbation. Re-


reading of letters from unfaithful wives and girlfriends. Cleaning


your rifle. Working on Jarhead was a world away from the work he had


done on American Beauty. The sheer scale of the film and the physical


pressure of making that film. I can just remember the, you know, the


heat and the sand that just got into everything. And, it was, you


know, it was a very tiring film to work on. I think the cast found it


tough and I think Sam found it tough. The biggest challenge was


doing the oil wells at night. I think emotionally in Jarhead there


were two sequences that obviously was the highway of death that


really stands out. It was so simply done that it was just a combination


of the way it was staged and the way we shot it, just the simplicity


of it. I thought that was emotionally moving. They were


trying to get away. Come on. horse going through the oil fires.


Not only the fact it was an oily horse. The way Jake reacted with it


and it worked. Sorry. You're going to be all right. It's all right.


Some moments you think, oh, that's like, well, just when things just


come together. The thing I regretted about that film is that


the politics got taken out of it. That was my fault and my


responsibility. I felt like, you know, every time the studio said,


we can't have too much anti-George Bush stuff in there because it's a


$60 million war movie. I watered it down. That, for me, I really regret


that aspect of it. Post-Jarhead, Mendes would turn his attention


back to the theatre. He began to work on his most ambition stage


venture to date. The Bridge Project brought together a transatlantic


cast of stars from film and theatre including Ethan Hawke and Rebecca


Hall to form a unique company that toured all over the world. It's all


right. It's all right. My little boy died. He drowned.


commitment to the Bridge Project was a five-year-long commitment in


terms of putting it together, the rehearsal periods, the shows going


up, each one going off around the world, book ending New York, London,


the next one goes into rehearsals. It was a major venture. The idea


that he had somehow been lost to the theatre was bollocks, frankly.


Is there a comparison between what Bridge Project would later achieve


in your own relationship with Hollywood, this transatlantic power


structure? Bridge Project was an attempt to bring the two sides of


my life into one place. At that time I was living in New York I


wanted to keep working with the people I had relationships with in


England in theatre, Simon Russell Beale, people who I wanted to work


with. At the same time, you know still be able to rehearse in New


York when my kids were at school. You know, work with people like


Ethan Hawke or Josh Hamilton, people who I was euthusiastic about


from America. I dreamed of being an actor. This feels in very old


school definition of what that word means "being an actor", you know.


There is a buzz, if you want to talk about acting, that you get on


stage that doesn't exist in cinema. At that point, my theatre career


was in entirely English and my film career was entirely American. I


felt a need and desire to see if we could create some kind of organic


entity out of the two, you know? lot of the attention at the time


was on the differences between British and American actors. There


were slight differences in the early part of the rehearsal process.


In the end, we all bowed down, let's face, it to Sam's methodology.


That is what you do? New actors, I think in all of the three, I think,


incarnations of those companies, they came back with the same story,


which is this extraordinary rigour and enthuse asism and ambition and


his ability to get people excited even if, perhaps, they know him,


not from being part of the British landscape, but from their American


experience. We did three consecutive years of the Bridge


Project. At the heart of it was his idea that, to have a company of


actors performing more than one play and staying together over a


series of months. Now, is the winter of our discontent. Made


glorious summer by this son of York. The end of the Bridge Project cycle


saw Mendes and Kevin Spacey reunited for a thrilling version of


Shakespeare's Richard III. It is a quarrel most un narlg... --


unnatural... It was theatre at its most cinematic, but in total


contrast, Mendes's film-making had returned to a more intimate


theatrical style. We have Revolutionary Road and Away We Go


which concentrate on relationships but they seem to be a pair of


films? I didn't have a very good time making Revolutionary Road. I


felt I was reaching for the book. I was always - it was a book I admire


greatly. I felt like we were aspiring to be as good as the book.


I didn't have the insight and the skill, the gifts, to get inside it


in a way that was poetic, you know? It it felt literary and very


literal. Both were things I felt we were struggling with the whole time.


Revolutionary Road was an adaptation of a cult novel by


Richard Yates. With Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet playing


Frank and April Wheeler a young couple whose relationship begins to


unravel under the conformity of 1950s Connecticut. It was all the


more intense because Mendes and wince wince were themselves married


at the time. It was very well- received. It was nominated for


significant awards. There are scenes in it which do zing. What


does work for you? I think the performances are fantastic. I think


that, if only I felt the style of the movie had been the equal of the


act orors I think Kate and Leo were amazing. Revolutionary Road was a


tough film. It was quite intense. It was mostly set in this one house.


To get the performance Sam wanted he shot in continuity as much as he


could. It makes it difficult technically to move from room to


room and go back-and-forth. It was unpleasant to make because it was


so uncomfortable. It led to a pressure cooker. By the time they


kind of explode at the end, Kate and Leo, it really happened for


real. There was something... There was something really visceral about


that. Tell me the truth, Frank, remember that? We used to live by


it. You know what is so good about the truth, everyone knows what it


is however long they have lived without it. He rehearses with the


actors on the day. It develops right there and then on the morning


of the shoot. A lot of the day can actually be spent rehearsing. It's


the one thing ha he keeps a handle on the spontaneity is the ability


to look at it on the day and change his mind which can infuriate people,


I know, but it's... That's the way he works. That's how his work has a


freshness that is maybe some other directors work doesn't have.


think in Sam's work, on film, there is a complete lack of fear about


delving into a character, in a way, that perhaps, you know, that...


Other film directors wouldn't be able to exercise. Now, I'm crazy


because I don't love you. Is that the point? Wrong. You are not crazy.


You do love me. That's the point, April. But I don't. I hate you.


When the lid did blow off and we found a style to match the power in


the material, which was in the last 15 or 20 minutes of the movie, I


felt proud of that. Mendes presented a playful view in his


relationships in Away We Go. You're leaving a month before the baby is


born? You're moving 3,000 miles away from your grandchild? I think


it's more than 3,000? I think so. They set off on a road trip around


the States to find somewhere to bring up their baby. God, look at


you. You're only six months in. Jesus, you're huge. It was a way of


letting off steam. It was like writing a book of short stories


after writing a big novel. I felt completely relaxed. I thought, what


if we want to do this scene outside instead of ib inside. You got lucky.


There was an improvisatory quality that freed me up a little bit. You


don't need a set. You don't need structures that are going to hem


you. In you don't have to pre- determine what the movie is going


to be. Can you play around with it on the day. That was a great thing


for me, I think. The low budget rom-com was a world aparred from


the James Bond that was to come next. Mendes was forced to adapt


his usual methods when directing Skyfall. Directing for me is a


private process. With aectors I like peace and quieted a and not to


be listened to or watched. Most of the time in movies you can achieve


a bubble with a core crew and Bond, forget it, you have to shout all


the time. Not in anger, in order to be heard and communicate, you know


what I mean? It's the first time I grabbed a megaphone out of the


hands of my MD, shouting at 400 extras "move over here." giving


detailed direction to Daniel Craig who is metres away on the roof of a


train, you know. The pressure on Mendes to deliver a classic Bond


movie has been huge because this year marks the 50th anniversary of


the franchise. 1962's Dr. No is saw Sean Connery make his debut as 007.


I admire your luck Mr License James Bond. In the decades that


followed we have had an Aussie Bond, a smooth Bond, a thespian Bond, an


Irish Bond and today's incarnation, a roughly hewn blonde Bond. Bond


remains a part of popular culture in a way hi creator, author Ian


Fleming, could never have imagined. What the film achieves is that it


feels like a modern Bond film. It refers back to the classic era of


Sean Connery. Did you feel that yourself? That was very deliberate.


I mean, when you talk about the 50th anniversary there are a couple


moments in the film where I I myself make a nod to the 50th


anniversary, there is the presence of the DB5. The car? The Aston


Martin. It's about the old and the new effectively. I wanted at a very


particular --add a vision to the third act of the film that it would


be set in a world where there wasn't any technology. From the


moment you see the DB5 to the end of the picture there is nothing in


it that is anything younger than 50 years old. Staying true to his


creative vision has been paramount for Mendes, but he doesn't really


consider himself an auter. There is a lot of mystify kaition of the


role of film director. I think that there are true artists of which


maybe each generation have three or four. To me, these are true artists.


The rest of us are on the whole good story tellers if you are


concentrating and craftsmen. For me, so much is about the mechanics of


doing things and putting things together. Rolling up your sleeves


and working out how it's done at the same time at retaining your own


individual tastes. Your sense of what you like and what you don't


like. You know? Also, not just what you like, but what you're good at.


I think that trying to hold on to that, in the midst of something, in


this case, very, very huge. Hold on to your instinct, push everything


away so that you have space to think. To say not just, does that


work, but do I like it? Sometimes it works, it went bang at the right


time. Is that what I want in the movie? Is that the style we talked


about? Is that what Daniel and I will like in the cutting room? That


is the most difficult thing. Beyond that it's about craft. One of the


things that is a characteristic of everything he does is a beautiful


clarity and a simplicity, you know, there is never anything between the


audience and the film. It's all about conveying the story in the


most simple and clear way for the audience. I think that's why people


love what he does so much. I think making a film is as much an


emotional gut reaction to what is in front of you as it is an


intellectual. Probably more of a gut reaction than an intellectual


one. I think that's... I think that's something that Sam


understands. I think he goes with his gut. I feel his films are


strong. He has a strong visual sense. Sam, very, very clear. Very


beautiful. I think it's really great. I'm full of admiration.


There is a confidence having as a theatre director listen to


audiences and being amongst them that he brings questions that he


asks of performances and how long he let's moments endure for and how


things linger and how things are framed. It's a study without


indulgence. That is exciting. understands team playing. That is


what he brings out in his company. He makes sure when he directs a


scene or a film it's not in one character, it's not in the camera


or him, it's all of that. The fact he can harness all those talents


and all those energys is why he stands out as a director. I think


he is twice told me I'm shit straight out. That is not his style.


He has twice done it. In tune with a career that's aults been full of


surprises, Sam's next project a stage musical version of a Roald


Dahl classic. You have landed the Bond movie got the franchise back


on track. 50th anniversary it's safe, it worked. You are going to


go and do Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Yes. By the time I finish


any movie, let alone this movie, I'm back to get into a rehearsal


room and do a play? Why Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? I want to do


something my kids can see. Dahl is one of the greats for me. Again, a


little bit like Bond and Fleming dates back to my childhood. That is


the first children's book I fell in love with that. At the end of that


I will want to do a film again. I'm able to go back between the two.


While they pay me to do things like that I will carry on doing it.


Thank you very much. Thank you. A great pleasure.


# Is the end # I'm drowned and dreamt this


moment # So over do do I owe this


# Swept away, I'm stolen # If the Skyfall


# When it crumbles # We will stand tall and face it


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