Thomas Newman discusses scoring 007 movies

Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman says scoring 2012’s Skyfall was a challenge “because I’d really never scored an action movie,” while adding his score for SPECTRE is “strong.”

Newman, who turns 60 on Tuesday, was interviewed on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune show and there’s now a summary of the interview on THE BBC’S WEBSITE.

Newman, part of a Hollywood family of film composers, was brought into the Bond series by director Sam Mendes. The move displaced David Arnold, who had composed the scores for the previous five 007 films.

With SPECTRE, the 24th film in the series, “I’ve been at it for three-and-a-half months solid,” Newman told the BBC. “Seven days a week, morning til night. There were tough moments but all in all, it’s strong and I feel good about it.”

Newman also said film music shouldn’t overpower a movie.

“If you notice it, maybe its working too hard, or maybe it’s too loud,” the composer said. “It’s all very delicate in the end.”

To read the entire BBC website story, CLICK HERE.

How James became Bond: A decade of Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

By Nicolás Suszczyk,
Guest Writer

How time flies! It was ten years ago we saw Daniel Craig rushing the Thames River on a speedboat to meet the press during his announcement as the new James Bond, on Oct. 14, 2005.

Casino Royale, set for November 2006, had many challenges: introduce a new Bond actor, reboot the series and provide a good balance between the action scenes the book lacked and the drama content that filled the pages of Ian Fleming’s first novel, published in 1953.

Directed by a familiar face, GoldenEye’s Martin Campbell, the film was the target of a lot of criticism concerning the new face of 007.

Craig, then 37, had a hard time when production started: a website boycotting him plus tabloids calling him “James Bland.” He seemed far different from Pierce Brosnan’s suave portrayal of the British spy, last seen in 2002’s Die Another Day, a movie that went too far with CGI effects and overly seen clichés.

However, the 2006 film proved to be a great box office hit and the press had to admit its misjudgment of Craig’s portrayal. The actor showed us a strong and fearless Bond. Lethal but equally weak and romantic, Craig’s Bond fell in love and tragically lost Vesper Lynd, the female lead of the movie played by Eva Green.

In Casino Royale, Craig’s 007 could balance Sean Connery’s ironies with Timothy Dalton’s violence, as well as bringing to screen a modern sense of humor. “Do I look as if I give a damn?” he says when asked if his drink should be shaken or stirred, or cuts M off the phone after interrupting her for an “urgent” call. Indeed, this was the Bond the 21st century needed.

Campbell’s crew
Much of the 2006 film success came, of course, by the expert hand of director Campbell and his crew: veteran cinematographer Phil Méheux, editor Stuart Baird, composer David Arnold and the second unit directed by Alexander Witt (who returned in Skyfall and now in SPECTRE).

Martin Campbell, director of GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

Martin Campbell, director of GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

Not to mention the cast selected by Debbie MacWilliams: Eva Green contrasting the original Vesper from Fleming’s book with a self-confident and seductive character that falls for the spy; Mads Mikkelsen bringing up a young and debonair Le Chiffre; and Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright bringing to life to René Mathis and Felix Leiter, 007’s allies in the novel.

The film wasn’t a success because it was a Bond film, but because it excelled in showing us “how James became Bond,” as the audience exploded into an applause when getting the classic “Bond, James Bond” introduction spoken by Craig in the film’s last minutes.

‘Direct sequel’
In 2008, Daniel Craig returned for the much anticipated Quantum of Solace, conceived as a “direct sequel” of Casino Royale.

Craig provided a fine performance, but the script fails to give the audiences what they wanted: Quantum of Solace was, in result, poor in comparison with Casino Royale, both technically and literary, as the script had to be completed during filming when the WGA strike affected Bond scribes Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Craig said he and director Marc Forster were de facto writers.

The film provides some nice shots of the Italian, Bolivian and Austrian landscapes courtesy of director of photography Roberto Schaeffer, as well as some original and dynamic music by David Arnold. But the story seems dull, uninteresting and full of badly shot scenes with Forster trusting many scenes to his second unit director, Dan Bradley.

Many moviegoers and Bond aficionados felt that the reboot and the idea of bringing up a redefined 007 went a bit too far with the 2008 film, that didn’t gross as much worldwide as its 2006 predecessor.

An original ending, where Bond faced of Mr .White one last time, ended up in the cutting room floor and was replaced by a final scene of the secret agent capturing Vesper’s treacherous boyfriend and throwing her distinctive necklace on the snowy ground.

Bond’s 50th
James Bond wouldn’t return until 2012’s Skyfall.

Once again, Daniel Craig returned as Bond. It was the longest gap between two Bond films with the same actor playing the main role.

As the series celebrated its 50th anniversary, the propaganda machine opted for leaving the Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace story behind and going for a completely different plot in which the secret agent would have to protect M (Judi Dench) from the hands of Tiago Rodrigues aka Raoul Silva, a dismissed MI6 field agent with a desire of revenge towards his former boss.

The first Bond movie directed by Sam Mendes promised a lighter Bond film, with many winks to the first adventures of the series and more humoristic situations: a gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 and references to an exploding pen, as well as the re-establishment of Q and Moneypenny, left apart after Pierce Brosnan was separated of the role, now played by Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris.

The idea for Skyfall was, apparently, steering away from the story arc started in Casino Royale and apparently closed in Quantum of Solace. In a very similar case that Goldfinger, Skyfall seems completely unrelated to its two predecessors: the 1964 film didn’t have SPECTRE as the enemy but the self-employed Auric Goldfinger and his plan to irradiate Fort Knox.

The 50th anniversary Bond film proved to be a great success, providing a story balanced between the classic Bond humor with dramatic and violent situations, plus elements taken from the two last Ian Fleming novels: You Only Live Twice and The Man With the Golden Gun.

The film has also had five Oscar nominations, including Adele’s main title song that got the Best Song award. The film also shared an Oscar for sound editing with Zero Dark Thirty.

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

In a couple of weeks, the 24th James Bond films will hit theatres. It’s simply called SPECTRE, as the old criminal organization led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Eon Productions convinced Sam Mendes to return one more time to the director’s chair, as well as many of his crew members. The base of the script was written by Skyfall’s John Logan, with the return of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and additional scripting by Jez Butterworth.

The script was leaked shortly after the film was announced on December 2014. While producers claimed it was only an old draft, it is understood that the story inside this leaked script featured many classic elements of the franchise, resulting in probably the most “traditionalist” Craig Bond film.

In SPECTRE, Bond travels from Mexico to London, Rome, Austria and Morocco to uncover the truth behind a criminal organization known as SPECTRE (according to Mendes, this SPECTRE is not an acronym, thus not related to Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). The organization’s leader, known as Franz Oberhauser (Cristoph Waltz) is someone from Bond’s past and has a vendetta against him.

The film apparently ties the story left over from Quantum of Solace, as 007 meets again with Mr. White, and there are a few connections with Skyfall’s plot. The movie sees the return of Ralph Fiennes as the new M, Ben Whishaw as Q and Naomie Harris as Moneypenny. New characters include Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann, Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra, the widow of a SPECTRE assassin, and Andrew Scott as Denbigh, a bureaucrat rival the new M will have to face.

The sixth Bond actor also is as co-producer with Andrew Noakes and David Pope. It is understood that this is due to his collaboration in the making of the film and his strong bond with director Sam Mendes, a closer friend of him since both met during the shooting of Road to Perdition.

Stephanie Sigman, playing Estrella in the upcoming film, said on an interview with that she learned a lot with Craig, since we was very technical with the shooting: “He’s very experienced doing films. He was helping me with how to move with the camera.” On the other side, The Telegraph claims that the British actor saw his films as a big story arc and had the idea of introducing the Bond folklore elements gradually.

It is still unknown if Daniel Craig will return for a fifth Bond: in some interviews he claims he’ll play the character as long as he can while sometimes he points out he’s way too physically tired from playing Ian Fleming’s character.

What is true is that the blonde guy who ten years ago raised some eyebrows as he wore a life vest while being taken on boat to the HMS President vessel for his introduction has made many achievements in the franchise and became a member of the James Bond family.

‘Writing’s on the Wall’ is the new ‘Only Myself to Blame’

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Sam Smith’s awaited main title song for SPECTRE, titled “Writing’s On the Wall,” was finally released last Friday.

As expected, the Bond fandom was divided between those who called it “an instant classic” and the ones who opened a petition drive to banish it to the end credits.

Still, even when Smith’s voice may not be the most appropriate, the orchestration and lyrics excel in examining James Bond’s feelings and emotions, something only given before by a discarded end title song, Scott Walker’s “Only Myself to Blame,” put away from 1999’s The World Is Not Enough in favor of the triumphant James Bond Theme.

“I walked way past midnight, I’ve driven for days I tried to forget in so many ways,” the vocalist sang Don Black’s lyrics. “From city to city, I still see your face… it follows me ‘round, all over the place. I shouldn’t look back, but I do just the same. And I’ve only myself to blame,” the song continues.

The composition, still available on track 19 of David Arnold’s soundtrack, was the first song to narrate the misfortune of a heartbroken Bond, far away of the “Nobody does it Better” or “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” fanfares.

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

As a vocal version of Elektra’s Theme (Black told composer Arnold “there was a song” hidden in it), it laments the ill-fated romance between James Bond and the young oil tycoon played by Sophie Marceau: an innocent girl, corrupted after being kidnapped, turning into a criminal mastermind capable to use both Bond (Pierce Brosnan) and her former kidnapper/lover Renard (Robert Carlyle) as fools.

As we know, the story ended with the cold shot of a 007 who “never misses,” but also takes a minute to caress her dead body.

Much like “Only Myself to Blame,” Sam Smith’s song “Writing’s On the Wall” tears miles away of the triumphalist conception of James Bond and dives into his biggest weakness: his inability to enjoy a lasting relationship due to the hazards of his violent job.

Times had been tough for Daniel Craig’s version of 007: in Casino Royale, his love interest Vesper Lynd commits suicide. That leads him, in Quantum of Solace, to Mr. White and subsequently to ecologist Dominic Greene to unravel a secret criminal organization while seeking the help of the vengeful Camille, who barely kisses him before walking away after the mission is over.

In Skyfall, all this story arc seems put away but Bond still has to face another challenge to his emotions: Judi Dench’s M dies on his arms after being wounded during the attack led by former agent Silva.

“I’ve been there before, but I always hit the floor,” Smith sings, evoking these fateful events between 2006 and 2015: the deaths of a love interest and a mother figure, facts that are supposed to come back with a vengeance in SPECTRE.

“If I risk it all… would you break my fall?” Smith powerfully sings, referring to Bond’s relationship with Madeleine Swann, apparently the first character to aim to his emotions and “analyze” him for the first time since Vesper told him that “because he’s done something doesn’t mean he has to keep doing it.”

Back at the beginning of September, Smith described his song for the film as “a love song,” a category that could very well fit older pieces such as “From Russia with Love”, “You Only Live Twice” or “We Have all the Time in The World”. Yet, Jimmy Napes’ lyrics go one step further by revealing the inner feelings of 007 facing the possibility of putting his heart at stake once more.

More than a love song, “Writing’s On the Wall” proves to be a declaration of love. The song goes: “But I feel like a storm is coming if I’m gonna make it through the day. Then there’s no use in running, this is something I gotta face.” Is it insinuating that, even if a disaster occurs again, he can’t run away of his feelings?

The title sentence seems to confirm it: “For you, I have to risk it all… ‘cause the writing’s on the wall.”

The expression “writing’s on the wall” refers to an imminent disaster coming, but it looks like, even if this disaster occurs, he’s willing to go all in. Compared to “Only Myself to Blame,” Bond (or the performer getting inside his inner thoughts) isn’t offering a retrospective reflection, and despite the negative connotation of the song’s title the vibe of Smith’s song proves to be more positive than Walker’s: “When all hope begins to shatter, know that I won’t be afraid.”

There’s almost a month to wait until we see if, this time, Daniel Craig’s Bond will have a happy ending with Léa Seydoux’s character. So far, it’s interesting to see “Writing’s On the Wall” as the comeback of an idea put away from a 1999 Bond film, a nostalgic song that wouldn’t have fitted the victorious ending of that story and would have raised the eyebrows of the fans, in a historical context where Pierce Brosnan’s 007 was meant to win.

Now, as Daniel Craig’s 007 ran away of many emotional battles that didn’t seem to be healed, an introspective Bond song will get the main titles treatment. We don’t know if this will turn out to be good or bad, but interesting for sure.

The ‘Hunt’ for Bond — M:I connections to 007

Spoilers after second paragraph.

A Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation poster

A Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation poster

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

It is uncertain if Tom Cruise wanted to join the Bondwagon in 1996 when his first Mission: Impossible film debuted, one year after the successful return of James Bond to the big screen in GoldenEye.

But thing is certain: Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the producer-star’s fifth movie based on the 1966-73 TV series, features a number of connections, intentional or not, with Bond films starring Daniel Craig.

Feel free to omit the over-hyped pre-titles scene of Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hanging of a plane on mid-air that reminds us of what Roger Moore (or one of his stunt doubles) did with Kamal Khan’s plane in Octopussy, or Hunt’s stylish exit shortly after when he activates the parachute attached to nerve gas tanks similar to Bond and Kara’s escape from the Hercules plane in The Living Daylights.

Moments later, a new character is introduced: Hunley, the CIA director played by Alec Baldwin, questioning the IMF’s procedures and asking to a Senate committee for the force’s disavowal. This character is somewhat reminiscent to Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes in 2012’s Skyfall and now returning in SPECTRE.

Action moves to Vienna, to a performance of the opera Turandot. What is seen here could perfectly be a mash-up between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, with Hunt fighting one of his enemies and trying to prevent a sniper shooting the Austrian chancellor, all as the play ensues.

Not to mention the shots of Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) preparing her weapon hidden in a clarinet are very similar to those of Patrice doing the same at the Shanghai tower, before shooting his victim.

(Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation may also owe a debt of gratitude to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much, which featured an attempted assassination during a concert.)

M:I Rogue Nation composer Joe Kraemer’s music is somewhat close to “African Rundown,” composed by David Arnold for 2006’s Casino Royale, when a high-speed bike chase comes along between Hunt and Ilsa through the Moroccan roads.

The IMF agent is stopped in a unique way – the woman stands right in front of him. Ethan crashes and falls in order to avoid her, a bit similar to the way Eva Green’s Vesper was tied on the road to make Bond (Daniel Craig) crash his Aston Martin DBS.

Just like in Skyfall, London is also used prominently in the film, including the last action scene that features Jens Hultén, who played one of Silva’s henchmen in the 2012 film. Solomon Lane himself, the villain played by Sean Harris, has a loose connection with Silva by being also a former British agent.

In another scene, the prime minister (actually Ethan Hunt in disguise) menaces MI6’s head Attle (Simon McBurney) with an enquiry, a situation Judi Dench’s M faced in Skyfall, too.

A big wink to the first Sam Mendes’ James Bond film is given right before the closing credits: Hunley, admitting his mistake, asks for the reactivation of the IMF. As the committee reinstates the force, Brandt (Jeremy Renner) addresses him as “secretary,” very much like Mallory becoming M at the end of Skyfall.

New questions about Bond 24

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig

There’s still a few months before Bond 24 is scheduled to start filming. So here’s some new questions about the project.

How extensively was the script reworked to get Sam Mendes back? The director confirmed earlier media reports that the original intention was to make Bond 24 and Bond 25 a two-part story arc. But Mendes didn’t want any part of that.

So to entice the Skyfall director back, the two-part arc plan was scrapped. But that’s about all the public knows. Did screenwriter John Logan merely rework things a bit to make Bond 24’s story self-contained? Or was the story thrown out entirely?

Something like the latter happened with Quantum of Solace, where two scripts were junked along the way. Director Marc Forster didn’t like the story done before he came aboard while producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli rejected another involving Bond looking for the child of Vesper Lynd. Scribe Paul Haggis started over and submitted a draft just ahead of a 2007 writer’s Guild strike.

In March, Logan was quoted by Empire magazine as saying he was almost done with the first draft of Bond 24’s script.

How many Skyfall crew members will return for Bond 24? When Mendes signed on last year to direct Bond 24, many fans assumed a lot of the main Skyfall crew would return.

That may still be the case. However, Skyfall director of photography Roger Deakins made it known he wouldn’t be back for a 007 encore.

Deakins was one of the people Mendes had insisted on for Skyfall. So was composer Thomas Newman. It’s not known if he’ll be back. Throughout the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions, only John Barry and David Arnold scored multiple Bond movies. So Newman will join an exclusive club if he scores Bond 24.

Will Bond 24 (figuratively at least) be Skyfall Part II? Logan told Empire that the Bond 24 script “continues the themes of Skyfall. Some of the characters and themes that we began to introduce in Skyfall will play out.”

In April, Mendes told television interview Charlie Rose that with Skyfall, “I started a number of stories that were incomplete…There was a missing piece now. I felt there was a way to create the second part of a two-part story.”

At the end of Skyfall, the villain (Javier Bardem’s Silva) and M (Judi Dench) were dead. But “themes” could cover a lot of ground, including more depiction of a now-aging Daniel Craig Bond trying to cope with the modern spy world. Also, it sounds like there could be more fleshing out of Ralph Fiennes’ new M and Naomie Harris’ new Moneypenny.

Who knows? Perhaps Judi Dench could even return via flashbacks.

From Russia With Love’s 50th anniversary Part II: John Barry

John Barry

John Barry

John Barry wasn’t a happy man after Dr. No came out in 1962.

Barry had arranged and revamped Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme. He thought the piece would only be in Dr. No’s main titles. Instead, it was inserted by editor Peter Hunt throughout much of the movie.

With the second 007 film, From Russia With Love, “John Barry’s irritation at seeing his work all over the film of Dr. No would soon turn to elation,” author Jon Burlingame wrote in his 2012 book, The Music of James Bond. Barry got the job of scoring the new 007 film and, in the process, established the Bond movie music template.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hired Lionel Bart to write the title song. But Barry would score provided all the dramatic music.

Barry’s impact was evident immediately. Dr. No’s gunbarrel logo utilized electronic noises. Barry instead used an arrangement of Bond theme. The pre-credits sequence, where where assassin Red Grant (Robert Shaw) kills a Bond double during a training exercise, was heightened by Barry’s music. In 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, composer Marvin Hamlisch did an homage to Barry’s work where Bond (Roger Moore) and Soviet agent Triple-X (Barbara Bach) are searching for Jaws amid Egyptian ruins. (CLICK HERE to see a Stuart Basinger-produced video comparing the two scenes.)

Barry’s work on From Russia With Love was the beginning of the James Bond sound.

“The 007 films demanded music that could be variously romantic, suspenseful, drive the action, even punctuate the humor,” Burlingame said in a 2012 E-MAIL INTERVIEW WITH THE HMSS WEBLOG about his book. “It was a tall order, and John Barry, especially, delivered what was necessary and helped define James Bond in a way that wasn’t possible with the visuals alone.”

Barry also composed what amounted to a second Bond theme, simply titled 007. It was used during two action sequences: A big fight between Bulgarians and gypsies working for MI6 and when Bond snatches a Russian decoding machine out of the Soviet consulate in Istanbul. Barry would end up bringing the 007 theme back in four more movies, the last being 1979’s Moonraker.

For the composer, this was just the beginning. He scored 10 more Bond movies and become one of the most sought-after composers in the movies. Remarkably, his Bond work never got an Oscar nomination. But he won five Oscars for non-007 films starting with 1967’s Born Free and ending with 1990’s Dances With Wolves.

Meanwhile, Barry’s template was something other composers had to keep in mind when they worked on 007 films. In the 1990s, David Arnold, a Barry admirer, produced new takes on classic Barry 007 songs. That helped him to secure work on five Bond films, making him the only composer so far besides Barry to work on more than one 007 film.

NEXT: Desmond Llewelyn’s debut as Q




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