Ten things we know about James Bond 23

Tom Huddleston forages for details of the new James Bond movie

Daniel Craig in 'Casino Royale' Daniel Craig in 'Casino Royale'

The received wisdom that the James Bond franchise will continue as long as movies are being made has been put to its toughest test in the past two years, with legal issues, scripting problems and financial wrangles all delaying production. But as the new movie – ‘Skyfall’ – finally goes before the cameras, the rumour mill has gone into overdrive trying to figure out exactly what we’re likely to see when it hits cinemas `on October 26 2012. Here, we round up a few of the facts – and some of the fiction – to kick off our coverage of the biggest event in 2012’s British movie calendar.

1. The title is ‘Skyfall’!

Since an eagle-eyed Bond geek spotted that Sony had been busy registering online domain names including ‘jamesbond-skyfall’, ‘jamesbondskyfall’ and ‘skyfall-thefilm’, speculation has gathered apace. It’s not the worst title in the world – that was ‘Quantum of Solace’ – but it’s hardly an earth-shatterer, either. Perhaps it’s just the sonic similarity to last year’s shabby alien-invasion shocker ‘Skyline’, but we’re finding it hard to get too excited. The worst kept secret in the world was confirmed at a press conference in London in November 2011.

2. There is a script (but no one knows what it’s about)!

It’s remarkable that not a single tidbit of hard truth about the film’s plotline has been leaked to the press – but then again, even if it was, you’d never know whether to believe it. The scripting process for ‘Bond 23’ has been arduous in the extreme: ‘Frost/Nixon’ screenwriter Peter Morgan jumped ship after writing an initial treatment, talk of ‘The Day Today’ icon and ‘Closer’ scribe Patrick Marber replacing him proved false (unless he’s uncredited) and the final draft was bashed out by a three-man team comprising ‘Casino’/’Quantum’ scribes Robert Wade and Neal Purvis in collaboration with ‘Gladiator’ author John Logan. Morgan’s draft reportedly included a ‘shocking’ twist – M dies, anyone? – but the exact nature of the current shooting script remains shrouded in mystery.

3. Daniel Craig is back (and possibly bearded)!

Pierce who? Timothy why? Sean what? Despite having only appeared in two films, Cheshire bulldog Daniel Craig fits the part of James Bond so snugly it’s hard to remember how the series managed without him. Whether, as some have suggested, the upcoming instalment will prove to be his last remains uncertain, but we’d be perfectly happy for Craig to stay in the spy game until he’s old and grey. It has also been suggested that Dangerous Dan is planning on sporting a spot of facial furniture in the new movie – beards in action movies usually suggest our hero is facing some kind of (possibly alcohol-enhanced) emotional crisis, which is perfectly in keeping with the darker tone of recent entries. But a Time Out writer interviewed Craig in September 2011 and there was no sign of any chin whiskers at that stage.

4. Sam Mendes is directing!

This one’s hardly news, but it bears repeating. The British tabloids have had a field day with conjecture that the erstwhile darling of the London stage was planning to tone down the action in favour of a more dramatic tone, perhaps (it was suggested) spurred on by a desire to make the first Bond film to win a Best Picture Oscar. We have two responses to that: first, it’s almost certainly untrue as producers the Broccoli family are unlikely to sanction any Bond flick which doesn’t have its requisite share of fisticuffs, car chases and balletic violence. And second, is it such a bad thing? ‘Quantum of Solace’ was crammed to the gills with gunplay, and it didn’t exactly set the pulse racing. If Mendes can work a little harder on character at the expense of kiss-kiss-bang-bang, we’re all for it.

5. It’s going to be cheap!

Well, not exactly cheap, but rumours abound that the budget has been somewhat slashed. ‘Quantum of Solace’ was far from a box office flop, but its massive production outlay meant that returns were lower than the blockbusting ‘Casino Royale’. As a result, the Broccoli family have, perhaps wisely, trimmed back some of the more elaborate location work – all of which dovetails neatly into rumblings about Mendes’s supposed dramatic emphasis.

6. They’re not going to India!

The original outline for ‘Bond 23’ contained extensive location shooting in India, but a number of setbacks – including government demands that a key stunt in which Bond drives a motorbike onto the top of a moving train be rewritten so as not to encourage copycats – have forced the producers to look elsewhere. Enter Johannesburg, whose officials have been publicly falling over themselves to attract Mendes and crew. There’s been no confirmation as yet, but India seems to have been decisively stricken out.

7. They are going to Istanbul! And Shanghai!

Turkish officials have confirmed that the opening scenes of the new movie will take place in and around some key Istanbul tourist attractions, including historic Sultanahmet Square. As the script for the movie is still so secret, we can only assume that it’ll involve Bond running through a crowded market, being chased by miscellaneous foreign types, and probably falling from a high place only to land on a convenient shop awning. When Time Out spoke to Craig in late September, he told us too that the production would also definitely be visiting Shanghai in China.

8. They’re definitely coming to Britain!

As with most previous Bonds, the bulk of the film is to be shot at Pinewood Studios outside London. But there’ll be some location work on these shores too, including scenes on London’s Vauxhall Bridge, so capital dwellers should keep an eye out over the coming weeks. They’re also planning to head north of the border to Duntune Castle in Argyll, where, it has been alleged, the climactic action scenes will be shot. We’ve already seen Craig in a swimsuit in ‘Casino Royale’ – could costume designer Tom Ford be pitching for the feminine vote by sticking 007 in a flapping kilt? And does anyone actually want to see that?

9. The cast is brilliant!

We’ve known for a while that scowling Spaniard Javier Bardem was up for the role of the villain this time around, and that is now locked in. It has been confirmed that Ralph Fiennes is playing another bad guy: we imagine Bardem as the gun-happy heavy, with Fiennes as the louche tycoon pulling all the strings. Other cast members include Albert Finney in an unconfirmed role (another villain, perhaps, or an MI6 bigwig?) and Judi Dench returning as M.

10. There will be women (but we don’t know who they are)!

After Eva Green’s dynamic, duplicitous turn in ‘Casino’, the role of the Bond girl seemed to be almost forgotten in ‘Quantum’. Sure, the idea of having a pretty girl kicking about the place just to keep the dads happy is a crass anachronism in the modern age – but so is almost everything that makes Bond popular. ‘28 Days Later’ star Naomie Harris and French actress Berenice Marlohe have both joined the cast. ‘Lust, Caution’ star Tang Wei, former ‘Harry Potter’ bit-player Helen McRory and Virginian fashion model Brianna Meighan are all tipped for a role.