With Skyfall going gangbusters at the box office, screenwriting duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, two thirds of a Bond writing troika that also included Gladiator scribe John Logan, dropped by the Empire podcast booth to talk about their fifth contribution to the “00” canon. It's the only interview the long-time writing pair gave about the film and it's a doozy, full of plot insights and nuggets on the making of this year’s smash-hit. Read on and enjoy some of the highlights or listen to the podcast in full. Heck, do both, but please be warned, major plot spoilers follow.
Neal Purvis: “Unfortunately Rob came up with the title. Not as a title, he came up with the name of the house.”
Robert Wade: “We were looking for a name for this house…”
Purvis: “Like Manderley in (Daphne du Maurier’s) Rebecca.”
Wade: “Exactly. It’s evocative, and you don’t really know what it means. And it was two o’clock in the morning, and the script had to go off, and I typed ‘Skyfall’. So it sort of fell out of the sky, actually. And I never thought that that would end up as the title of the movie. But it obviously struck a chord. But if we’d thought the name of the house would be the name of the film, and the name of the song…”
Purvis: “We’d have talked about it a little bit longer.”
Wade: “And maybe have done a three-syllable house name. Like Manderley – that’s pretty good, actually.”
Purvis: “Yeah. It’s the first two syllable Bond title, actually. Some people find that interesting (laughs).”
Robert Wade “In our minds Silva wasn’t a former ‘00’ agent, he was just an agent operating in Hong Kong for M. He was a guy she used but because he’d been compromised by the Chinese, she just made a decision. So he thinks he was 007 to her, but I don’t think he was. The hair? Sam (Mendes) made that decision, but it was Javier (Bardem) really. Sam didn’t think it would work, but Javier showed him and they realised that it was fantastic.”
Robert Wade: “Silva is aware of what happens on the boat, because he knows what’s going on, but I wouldn’t say it was his intention all along for Bond to kill Ola Rapace. That would be too elaborate. At one point there was more to (Silva's knowledge of Bonds actions in Shanghai), more logic to it, but it got erased in the post-production which is right, I think. How much planning has Silva done for the London Underground sequence? Well, quite a bit. It’s one of those things where you’re sort of making it up as you go along, and then you have to start going back into it to make it make sense. I don’t think you should analyse the plots too… I mean, there’s better things to do.”
Robert Wade: “It was clear that it was going to be the 50th anniversary movie by the time we wrote it and it was sort of, ‘Well, [Kincade] would be a great role – it would be a great moment.’ But we wanted Kincade to be a character that worked in its own right.”
Neal Purvis: “I think it would have been too much if it really had been Sean Connery.”
Wade: “It was more the idea of this man from his past who understands him.”
Neal Purvis: “We’ve always wanted to have Bond have a wet shave with a cutthroat razor, and we did have that. In Die Another Day when he escapes with that giant beard, we originally wrote that it’s a wet shave thing but they came along to us and said, ‘Well, Philips, or Norelco as they call it, they’d really like him to have one of their things. That was one of those decisions where we weren’t going to argue about because it brought in a lot of promotional money.
Robert Wade: “Well, it’s very difficult with a cutthroat razor as well.”
Purvis: “We write what we want to write, and then they look at what can go in the film, and then they make deals with people. But you know they only get advertising, they don’t actually get physical money I don’t think.
Robert Wade: “Because it was resolving Bond’s emotional problems connected to Vesper Quantum, Quantum Of Solace ended up as quite a bleak film. Sam (Mendes) welcomed the opportunity to let some light into it. We were coming from quite a claustrophobic film in a way and Sam came in to make a classic Bond film, a celebration of Bond himself. So we were certainly never thinking that we’d deal with Quantum as an organisation, or Mr. White, or all of those things. They’re still potentially out there, if anyone wants to pick them up and run with them."
Warning: BIG spoiler appears on the next page - you have been warned.If you haven't seen the film, don't click!
Robert Wade: “It wasn’t our decision, but M’s death (in Skyfall) was something that was agreed right from the outset.”
Neal Purvis: “We actually killed her in a draft of Quantum, but it was about halfway through the film, or two thirds of the way, and it happened too quickly. Once it was agreed that we’d go down that road again, we had to make the whole film really about their relationship.”
Wade: “So we knew where we were going with it and what it was ultimately leading to. But like I say, it finally only really made sense as a whole story when we came up with that third act of him taking her to Skyfall. Because that’s sort of him exposing himself emotionally to this woman. And actually he takes her there and there’s the man who taught him to shoot…”
Purvis: “The link to the past.”
Wade: “Yeah, and there’s these two old people. So it’s almost like Bond has reconstituted his family, by bringing Judi (Dench) there. And so that really retrospectively I think, with the work that John Logan did on the script, informed it, because it gave you this old, and the new which is all the other stuff. The new guard coming in.”
To hear Robert Wade and Neal Purvis' full discussion on Skyfall and Bond in general, have a listen below.