After twenty-three installments, how do you keep James Bond feeling fresh? In Skyfall, the answers are manifold. First, hire an art-house director (Sam Mendes). Second, cast an art-house heartthrob as a sexually ambiguous baddy (Javier Bardem). Third, portray Bond in all his gristly, aging, wrinkled, faded glory. For it is only by acknowledging the institutional character of the James Bond franchise and by undermining its very foundations that the franchise can be renewed. But most important, probably, isn’t the self-awareness nor even the stellar performances; it’s all the cool stuff that’s on-screen. By this point, appearing in a James Bond film—though, no doubt, many if not all cameos are paid for—is the ultimate imprimatur of stylishness.
Much has been written about Daniel Craig’s Skyfall wardrobe. Here’s all you need to know. The suits were designed by Jany Temime and sewn by Tom Ford’s tailors in Italy. Ford is frequently cited for the costume credit, but this is incorrect. Temime conceived the silhouette and cut, made the sketches, and selected the fabrics (light mohair-wool blends in somber colors). Even more has been written about how these suits raised the bar in the body-conscious category. This is correct. The suits are tight the way latex gloves are tight. They’re so tight that, according to Temime, Craig had to have his underwear customized to prevent VBL (visible boxer line). Temime claims every suit is a work of art, but the formalwear, in particular, is the height of Bond’s bespoke splendor. “When we unpacked the tuxedo, and Daniel put it on, I think we all cried because it was so gorgeous. It was beautiful. The fabric was superb. I still remember the emotion.” That’s some suit.
The real fashion statement in Skyfall is the outerwear. There are two formidable pea coats: one, by Billy Reid, shows up in some of the Shanghai scenes; the other, a longer, more formal Tom Ford interpretation (1), is worn by Craig as he assumes a particularly heroic stance on the MI6 HQ rooftop. No less impressive is the brown leather Menlo jacket, actually a reissue of a vintage 1930s pattern unearthed from the Levi’s vault. Zipper front, adjustable side tabs, button cuffs. It looks like the same jacket John Garfield and James Cagney wore in the Warner Brothers films noir. But of all these garments, the scene-stealer is the Barbour x To Ki To sports jacket (2). In the climactic confrontation where Bond returns to his family estate in Scotland to battle Silva and his henchmen, director Sam Mendes wanted to create a “1960s feel.” This retro Barbour jacket, designed by Tokihito Yoshida, fits Mendes’s mise-en-scène perfectly. It has the same beefy six-ounce waxed-cotton shell and tartan lining, the same removable hood and zippered game pouches that Barbour is famous for. The twist is a fashionable fit, with higher armholes, slimmer sleeves, a shorter drop, and a pronounced cinch through the chest. It’s part of the Beacon Heritage collection, inspired by the company’s sporting, motorcycle, and military roots.
When Bond pays a visit to his antagonist’s island sanctuary, he doesn’t traverse the deep blue sea in a sixteen-foot outboard like the one Sean Connery used in Thunderball (1965). This is, after all, a film with a budget north of $200 million. Audiences want to see that money squandered in good faith. Besides, the ocean spray from a small boat would sully 007’s bespoke Tom Ford tuxedo. So MGM paid for an eight-day charter on a 183-foot luxury yacht to get less than a minute of footage onscreen. That’s the kind of profligate spending that makes Hollywood great. To call the Regina (referred to in Skyfall as the Chimera) a luxury yacht does it a great disservice. It’s actually a “high-performance schooner-type superyacht.” And a pretty famous one, too, among billionaire yachting enthusiasts anyway. The Regina was a finalist at the 2012 World Superyacht Awards. It came down, as it always does, to politics. Regina flies a Turkish flag and is docked in Bodrum. It was rumored the swing vote was cast by a Greek. Daniel Craig isn’t swayed by such petty geopolitics. He enjoyed the Regina so much that he recommended it to friends like Salma Hayek as a rental. What do you get for the six-figure charter fee? Among other things: accommodations for twelve guests (seven crew members); a cruising speed of twelve knots (13.8 mph); water sports (115-horsepower speedboat, Jet Ski, water skis, canoes, fishing tackle, snorkeling equipment, pallets); a white grand piano; mutiple 3-D LED televisions, with movies and video games for the kiddies; deck shower; a professional chef; and a canopied “sunpad” for deck lounging. Don’t worry about sailing into the perfect storm. This girl is imminently seaworthy. Her steel hull is built on both vertical and longitudinal frames to ensure structural integrity under even the most challenging conditions.
Like all real estate, when it comes to Bond villain lairs, location is everything—the more remote the better. The property must also be spectacularly imposing and strike just the right balance between sinister and fabulous. In You Only Live Twice, Blofeld plotted world domination from the subterranean depths of a volcano. In The Spy who Loved Me, Stromberg sought sanctuary in his underwater Atlantis, a futurist hideout with huge parabolic arches that resembled spider legs. In Moonraker, Hugo Drax moved completely off the grid and set up shop in a space station orbiting Earth. For Skyfall, cyber-terrorist Raoul Silva has broken with tradition. There is no industrial chic décor or shark tanks, no Jumbotron screen or missile silos. Even the requisite Danish modern–inspired oversized power chair has been dispensed with. But while it may lack the usual creature comforts an evil megalomaniac craves, it does offer privacy. Silva’s man cave is located on Hashima Island, a desolate spit of land 18 miles off the coast of Nagasaki. Once home to a thriving mining community, the tiny island (less than a square kilometer in area), has been abandoned since 1974. Battered by typhoons and neglect, the buildings have been reduced to ruins—which suits some Japanese just fine, because the place dredges up bad memories: during WWII, Chinese and Korean laborers were enslaved there. Hashima is a secure fortress, isolated from the mainland by rocky outcroppings and treacherous waters. Imagine Alcatraz, but without the standard amenities—like roofs and windows.
Although the Hashima scenes in Skyfall were re-created at Pinewood Studios in London, the aerial shots of the island are authentic. For those who get a thrill out of post-apocalyptic tourism, Villa de Silva is only a reservation away. According to an online brochure, the island “represents the birth of not only modern Japanese industry, but also modern architecture in Japan.” The 45-minute tour, which includes such memorable highlights as the first concrete apartment complex in Japan and the first rooftop garden, will rival any destruction and dilapidation this side of Chernobyl.
The world’s greatest spy doesn’t curl dumbbells, cross-train, or do cardio. That’s part of the whole James Bond mystique. Every skill he possesses, whether it’s speaking Serbo-Croatian or dismantling nuclear warheads, is innate. No need for gyms and personal trainers: Agent 007 is naturally buff. This, of course, is sheer nonsense. The last Bond to flash as much skin as Daniel Craig was Sean Connery, a former professional bodybuilder who pumped enough iron to place third at the 1953 Mr. Universe competition. The responsibility of sculpting Craig’s physique into the classic inverted V, with all the attendant vascularity and striations, fell to Simon Waterson, an exercise guru who learned about physical fitness the hard way: serving seven years in Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. In addition to Craig, he has trained Pierce Brosnan as well as Bond girls Denise Richards and Halle Berry. Waterson’s philosophy is quite unlike the usual no-pain no-gain gym rat routine. “I’m a stickler when it comes to attention to detail, so posture, definition, movement, and confidence were at the top of the list,” he told GQ magazine, explaining Craig’s goals. “He also wanted functioning muscle—there’s no point in having great muscles if they can’t be used in a beneficial way, like speeding across the ground, climbing, jumping, and fighting.” Waterson calls the Skyfall regimen “a blend of power lifting, with a lot of compound exercises thrown in.” This description is intentionally vague in order to generate interest for “The Plan,” a personalized exercise program Waterson hawks online that promises results in 28 days. Click PayPal and feel the burn.
There’s a scene in Skyfall where Bond and Q meet in Room 34 of The National Gallery. It’s one of those sober interludes, fraught with subtext and symbolism, intended to illustrate that not all screenwriters are, as Jack Warner so famously labeled them, “schmucks with Underwoods.” This is Bond’s first introduction to Q. The two men are seated in front of William Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire, a poignant tableaux depicting a famous British warship being towed to its final resting place at sunset. Contemplating this image of a heroic but aging ship escorted by a tugboat to the naval yard is like watching an old man being led to his grave by a child. Both men sit in stony silence. Q is well aware that he’s sharing the bench with 007. Bond, however, has no idea that this impertinent youth is his new Quartermaster. Q decides to have some sport at Bond’s expense. “It always makes me feel a little melancholy: a grand old warship being ignominiously hauled away for scrap. The inevitability of time, don’t you think?” The two never make eye contact, which only serves to elevate the drama. Unable to resist another dig, Q asks: “What do you see?” As if he’s the shrink and the framed canvas is a Rorschach test. Bond’s comeback hits the mark: “A bloody big ship.” It’s only then that Q reveals his identity. Neither of them is pleased with the “odd couple” dynamic. Bond is shocked that MI6 would saddle him with someone as young and inexperienced as this. Q isn’t that impressed with Bond, either, and says as much: “I’ll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field.” Agent 007 makes a crack about M’s spotty complexion. “Age is no guarantee of efficiency,” says Q. To which Bond ripostes, “And youth is no guarantee of innovation.” It’s pretty snappy dialogue, the kind that used to be written in Hollywood when directors like Preston Sturges and Howard Hawks made pictures. It’s also a pretty snappy painting. Indeed, The Fighting Temeraire is frequently referred to as “Britain’s favorite painting.” It has something to do with Napoleon and the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). Visit The National Gallery and see the bloody big ship for yourself.
Nobody is suggesting that Tom Ford sunglasses should be part of every investment portfolio. However, the TF108 shades that Daniel Craig wore in the previous Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, are currently selling on eBay for over $1,000. Not a bad return on investment. Especially compared to the Fortune 500 dogs, like jcpenny and Best Buy, that your broker recommended last year. For Skyfall, the house of Ford outfitted Mr. Craig with the Marko (TF144), a slightly modified version of the classic 108 aviator style. Insider information: savvy Bond collectors discourage potential investors from taking an overly ambitious position on the Marko. Unlike the TF108, which was a limited edition that shipped with special 007 packaging, the Marko is a standard model pulled from Ford’s eyewear line (handmade in Italy by Marcolin). Like the TF108 seen in Quantum, the signature Bond model is once again silver frame/blue lenses, a subtle homage to Steve McQueen, another Hollywood star who favored blue lens shades and inspired much of Daniel Craig’s rugged on-screen style. For sun worshipers who prefer more solar protection, the TF144 is also available in brown, green, and grey lenses.
A James Bond history lesson: the pale-blue swimsuit that Daniel Craig wore in Skyfall references the pale-blue swimsuit that he wore in Casino Royale (2006), which in turn references the pale-blue swimsuit Sean Connery wore in Thunderball (1965). A half-century of blue trunks; this is what costume designers call visual continuity. Unlike the Casino Royale suit, which immediately sold out in fancy boutiques from St. Tropez to Beverly Hills and offered a most unforgiving fit, the Skyfall suit is relatively modest, almost baggy, like something Don Draper might wear on his Hawaiian honeymoon. Jany Temine, Skyfall’s costume designer, explains her controversial decision to revert to a more retro silhouette for 007’s bathing attire. “Bond is in a moment of his life where he is not too high, so the very sexy swimming suit was not what he would be wearing.” A poor excuse, according to many Bond groupies.
Money is scarce in Hollywood. How scarce? So scarce that even an established franchise like Skyfall had its production start-date delayed two years due to insufficient funding. In such uncertain economic times, producers bow their heads and thank the movie gods for the windfall of product placement. The Heineken deal alone was worth $45 million. Before inking that record-setting contract, a gaggle of other sponsors—Sony, Coke Zero, Jaguar Land Rover, Procter & Gamble, et al.—kicked in another $47 million. That’s a significant chunk of the picture’s budget, reported to be $150 to $200 million, depending on which studio accountant is massaging the numbers. Throw in the exorbitant marketing costs a global blockbuster demands (another $100 million, give or take), and suddenly ulcers start flaring at the studios. So get used to Bond throwing back a Heineken and tapping on a VAIO laptop. This is the future of big-budget filmmaking. Still, not every product cameo in Skyfall was paid for. Some props received free exposure just by virtue of their cool factor. Take, for instance, the Tolomeo lamp perched on M’s desk. The polished-aluminum arms and parchment shade, an inspired synthesis of modern and traditional, project the ideal metaphor for MI6 (and Britain in general): a computer-driven agency still clinging to its glorious past. But, as is often illustrated in the film, sometimes clinging to the past isn’t such a bad thing. Released by Artemide in 1987, the original Tolomeo was an instant sensation when it premiered at Euroluce, the most prestigious lighting trade show in the world. The lamp’s two designers, Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina, were awarded the Compasso d’Oro, the Italian Oscar of industrial design. This slightly tweaked model, the Tolomeo Basculante Tavolo (2004), has also become a best-seller for Artemide. Critics admire the clean lines and the soft golden light it throws off, highly unusual in a contemporary task lamp. For someone like M, a civil servant long past pensioner status, flattering light isn’t something to be taken lightly.