Book Review - Bond on Set: Filming Skyfall

Chris McEneany

Well-known Member
Movie-geeks and the franchise-devoted love their merchandise.

From genuine screen-used props and laser-scanned sculptures of the stars and phenomenally articulated and equipped action figures so accurate you would swear that voodoo had been used in the creation process, to Darth Vader Pez dispensers and Hellboy boxer-shorts, the uber-fan wants it all.

But possibly the most mainstream-acceptable memento that arrives during the marketing-assault that accompanies each new hot property is the lavish coffee-table tome. Admittedly, these normally come in two distinct flavours – the sumptuous ART OF and the endlessly back-slapping MAKING OF, with one or the other including some or even all of the shooting script – but there are also the types that boast page after page of gorgeous, glossy production stills and intriguing, guard-down, one-in-a-million behind-the-scenes pictures as a generous spread of majestic eye-candy.

In many ways, these can be the most disposable and yet the most honest. Without being weighted-down by text or spin-doctored self-promotion, they act as a simple portfolio or visual album of a time spent putting a movie together.


With James Bond reaching his fiftieth in superb style with Sam Mendes' thrilling and surprisingly emotional caper, Skyfall, publishing giant DK unleash a fantastic tie-in book called Bond On Set: Filming Skyfall. And following the trend that was started with a similar volume on Casino Royale and then followed-up with Quantum of Solace, this 208-page fly-on-the-wall study, the fourth such chronicle compiled by the ever-watchful Greg Williams (a sure-fire “right place, right-time” photographer), is stuffed with awesome images from the shoot and from the set-ups between takes, and wonderful portraits. We have a foreword from Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and a section at the tail-end that shows us some Pre-Production activities, but the majority of the book is a distinctive and stylish exposé of the creation of one of the most eagerly anticipated films since the 007 franchise received its Daniel Craig reboot.


Many of the stills are superb, pose-heavy and iconic shots of Bond – looking mean on the motorbike, standing proud on the bow of a luxurious yacht, strolling into a casino, and strutting about the Scottish glen (actually Surrey!) with a shotgun – but there are some more light-hearted moments captured as well. There's a grinning breather after an intense shootout, some candid glimpses of Berenice Marlohe sporting a hairnet, hugs and kisses for producer Michael G. Wilson and supporting player Albert Finney, and there are snapshots from the training sessions that were necessary for the film's copious action sequences. A trio of publicity girls line-up with an array of weaponry. The cast and crew lark about aboard the heavily guarded yacht of Javier Bardem's bad boy Raoul Silva. The gothic estate used in the film looks all windswept and foreboding, and the mysterious neon dreamscape of Shanghai gets a moody selection. It's funny how Berenice Marlohe's exquisitely beautiful Severine looks even more irresistibly sexy in the shot seen through a blown-out window and from a distance… but, fear not, the Bond-babe gets plenty of pages that could be destined to become well-thumbed. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Naomi Harris, whose sultry MI6 agent Eve scarcely gets a look in.


Clapper-boards and those cute furry booms make their presence felt, broadening the nuts-and-bolts aspect around the periphery of the action that we all pay rapt attention to. Technicians and stunt-supervisors fill the frame during some of the early money-shots with the train-fight in Istanbul. It's a wonder we didn't see them in the movie with their orange high-visibility vests! Mendes offers advice and direction from the sidelines in some shots. We can even see the little dots on the face of Craig's stunt-double for the vigorous pre-credits sequence, and Dame Judy's cankles are also in full effect. Sorry, Mrs. M!

The flow of the book is film chronological so those who have not seen Bond 23 yet would be best advised to avoid casually dipping-in or shelf-browsing until they have. Or, at least, just keep to the first section, which has already been slavishly revealed in the trailers. There are snippets of the screenplay embroidering the pages as a random decoration, and copious notes and descriptions about the often amazing imagery that we are presented with, but this is a decidedly visual odyssey.

For big-time fans of the Daniel Craig series of Bond films, this is essential. There are no anecdotes and no interviews but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. It is a weighty slice of merchandise, but the price-tag of £25 is not too steep given the overall quality, especially as the book can be found for less in some places. Use up your Smiths vouchers or put it on your Christmas list, but this book is well-worth getting kitted-out with.

James Bond will return … in another great big book like this.
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