Skyfall Director Admits Big Regret About His Bond Movie

Skyfall forever changed the James Bond franchise. But ten years later, director Sam Mendes still has regrets.

James Bond Skyfall
Photo: Eon Productions

Few would disagree that 2012’s Skyfall is among the best entries in not only Daniel Craig‘s 5-film run as James Bond but the entire franchise. The movie featured all the standards of a proper Bond film, complete with Adele’s torch song, nifty gadgets from Q, and a diabolical villain in former MI6 agent Raoul Silva (who, yes, has a physical abnormality, because this is a Bond film). But Skyfall also added new twists to the series, including showing the death of M, who had only been replaced without comment in previous movies, and exploring 007’s youth, finally putting to rest the popular fan theory that “James Bond” was a codename swapped between agents.

But despite all that director Sam Mendes achieved with the film, some regrets hang over him as he looks back at the movie a decade later. If he had the chance to do the movie again, Mendes admitted to The Hollywood Reporter, he would “think twice about having Bond stand on the rooftops of Whitehall, with the Union Jack flags in the breeze, given the last 10 years of serial incompetence from [London’s] conservative government.”

Mendes’ comments might come as a surprise to some readers. After all, he did use London to great effect, especially with Silva’s attack that destroys MI6 headquarters, proving that the baddie can seriously wound the organization. Furthermore, no one would call the Bond franchise politically progressive, as it does follow the exploits of a man who kills people to defend the British Empire and its financial interests. Such patriotism is baked into the series, which counts among its best moments a ski stunt in The Spy Who Loved Me that ends with the reveal of a Union Jack parachute.

But for Mendes, the fervor of the moment unbalanced the film. “We look back at that time as sort of a bizarre golden era,” the director said. “And Skyfall was very much of its time as a movie, and very much influenced by the fact that there was a genuine national pride about the country at that point.” As he explains it, when combined with the 50th anniversary of Bond and London hosting the Olympics, national pride was hard for British filmmakers to avoid at the time. “So I think that pride, and the excitement around that, filtered and found its way into the movie,” Mendes recalled.

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Despite this misgiving, Mendes largely looks back at Skyfall with greater pride than he does its follow-up Spectre, which hit theaters three years later. Where the long creative process on Skyfall allowed Mendes and his collaborators to find powerful moments, such as the word association test done on Bond or Silva’s interrogation scene, they didn’t have that luxury for the sequel. “I felt there was some pressure,” he revealed. “Certainly [Bond producers] Barbara [Broccoli] and Michael [G. Wilson] exerted some pressure on me and Daniel to make the next one, so that makes a big difference.”

Whatever his worries, it’s clear that the Craig run remains among the most respected in the series, lifting up Spectre and solidifying Skyfall near the top of all ranking lists, something that embarrassing nationalism cannot undo.