In its third day at the box office, “Spectre” has already raked in $73 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Already a huge hit in Europe, foreign sales are up to $80.4 million for a whopping total of $153.4 million. And 007 is just getting started in this country.
Thursday evening, Bafta hosted a screening of “Spectre” for its members and guests, followed by a Q&A with stars Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, producer Barbara Broccoli and director Sam Mendes. (In the next theater, the ticket buyers were standing in line for a 7 p.m. screening of “Spectre” with no idea that Daniel Craig would be making an appearance just next door.)
The theater was packed and I had a front row seat. Daniel Craig looked great in blue jeans and a close fitted shirt. He carried an Olympus camera he put by his feet during the Q&A.
When asked how she liked being the new Bond girl, Seydoux said, “I was very happy when Sam added me to the cast.”
Mendes then told the story of how Seydoux may have initially been underwhelmed by the screenplay, which he brought over to her personally because, he said, “confidentiality hovers over the script.” He meant to wait while she read it, thinking, “She’ll probably get through it in two hours. She was in her dressing room. I waited two hours and I was nervous because I wanted her to like it,” he said. “And I came in to find her in a deep sleep… slumped over page 3.”
It was reported that production on “Spectra” had to stop for several weeks because of an injury to Daniel Craig’s knee during a stunt. A Bafta member asked Craig if his knee was still injured. Not just his knees, “every joint in my body,” he replied. “But it’s worth it. All worth it, all worth it.”
As to what was included in the Bond movie to keep the tradition going, the director noted, “It’s a job of reverse engineering, to a degree. You know you have to have your action sequences, three big action sequences, beginning, middle and end, literally,” he said. “Then you’ve got to have your Christoph, you’ve got to have your villain. You have to have your girl, then you have to have two, possibly three more women,” Mendes said. “Here’s a blank page, go! That’s what it feels like. That is, in fact, the job to a degree. It’s like buying the furniture to a house and then having to design the house around the furniture.”
As the new Bond villain, Christoph Waltz was asked if there was a particular challenge in playing the villain and how he gave his character extra menace. “No, really my conviction is that the villain serves the purpose and the purpose is the hero and the obstructing of the hero’s path. So whenever the hero required serious obstruction, I did my utmost to (accommodate).”
The moderator asked Ralph Fiennes if he saw his character of M as a kind of father figure to Q and to Moneypenny, given that he gives them guidance.
“I texted my sister today, who saw the movie and she thought I was a father figure. But it was news to me. No, in fact I think what we felt was I’m a new M and this is a team that has been close to Bond in the previous film and that, in essence, we were sort of learning who we were.”
“Spectre” makes references and pays homage to previous Bond films, as anyone who has followed the 007 filmography knows. The head of Spectre is Ernst Blofeld, referred to as No. 1 in the Ian Fleming books. He is Bond’s greatest nemesis and appeared in “You Only Live Twice.” Spoiler Alert: “What you have, obviously, is a sort of creation story of how Blofeld came to be,” Mendes said, adding, “We find out how he got that scar. Of course he is alive again, so I may not have a job next time, but Christoph does.”
Waltz was asked if he was ready to shave his head for the next Bond film. “No, definitely not,” he said. “I think if you have Punch and Judy you need a crocodile.” (And of course in typical Waltz fashion, it was a funny retort, although I have no idea what he meant.)
One of the pleasures of Bond films is how they pick up on current political and personal fears. “Spectre” seems to be Bond in the Snowden era and the invasive and pervasive nature of surveillance. A Bafta members asked, how much did that play into scripting the film?
“That’s true,” said Mendes. “The last movie was a post Julian Assange movie and spoke to our fear of corporate crime and hacking, and this is a post Edward Snowden movie. There was a time when we unquestionably felt that Bond worked for the good guys, and we can’t be certain of that anymore. These days, there’s a concern that, yes, they’re spying but they’re spying on us, and the erosion of civil liberties and the idea that we’re being treated as guilty until proven innocent is of genuine concern.”
He added, “One of the nice things about starting with a blank sheet of paper is that you can write into these movies some degree of contemporary nightmare, contemporary concerns, contemporary worries about what’s happening politically, and so you (can) always animate that debate.”
Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig were asked about the first Bond movie they ever saw.
For both, it was “Live and Let Die.” “Roger Moore in his prime,” said Mendes, adding how he pays homage to the film in “Spectre.” “There’s a bit of voodoo. We pay homage to that in the beginning of this movie, the immortal line – I may paraphrase it – when he gets up and the woman to whom he’d just made love says, ‘Bond, you’re going to kill me? We’ve just made love!’ and he says, ‘Well, I wouldn’t want to kill you first. I’m not sure we can get away with that anymore.’” Barbara Broccoli called out, “Definitely not!”
Mendes added that it would be overkill to imagine too many references harkening back to previous Bond films in “Spectre.” “People see the snow and go, ‘Oh my god! ‘The Spy Who Loved Me!’ No, he’s just in the snow.”
Craig was asked, of all the gadgets in the film which would he most like to take home? (There aren’t actually that many in “Spectre.”)
“I hate electronics. I hate phones. I hate computers. I hate them. And I always sort of loved the sort of simple gadgets, the ones with kind of a button and the flashing red light,” said Craig.
The openers of Bond films are always spectacular, and this doesn’t disappoint with its massive explosions. On filming one scene where a building crumbles and Bond falls from a massive height to land on a couch, Mendes said some results were serendipity. “On the day he was supposed to land on his feet, and about ten minutes before we did it, I said, ‘wouldn’t it be funny if he was comfortable on a sofa?’ And Daniel was like ‘Yeah, let’s get a sofa.’”
Mendes began to deconstruct the scene and how it was shot, “And that shelf, by the way, is just Daniel standing on a…”
“No, don’t ruin it!” Craig interrupted loudly. “I’m falling from miles, 80 feet at least. That’s why my knees are gone.”