Sam Mendes is happy to reveal the key to directing a James Bond movie: "You have to rediscover your 13-year-old self."
The filmmaker, who is raising two children with former wife Kate Winslet, says, "It was a great delight for me, as someone who also has kids, to find that part of myself in making a film again. Because, you know, all my films have been R-rated. Here, I was trying to get in touch with that part of myself that loved the DB5, as every boy of my generation."
Mendes' interest in the Bond franchise was renewed by Daniel Craig and Casino Royale. "What I saw in Casino Royale was a Bond who was capable of handling a much bigger personal journey. He had some emotional stake. He actually fell in love. It's no coincidence that it's the first Bond in years that was based on a Fleming novel, and to find that level of personal weight in the centre of the movie was really important."
Mendes, 47, has known Daniel Craig for 10 years, since directing him in The Road to Perdition. Craig approached Mendes at a party and suggested he think about directing a Bond film, and the rest is most assuredly history. The movie is smashing box office records all over Europe.
This fits with the rest of Mendes' achievements. The only child of academics, Mendes was greeted as a bit of a wunderkind at the beginning of his career. He was 24 and had just graduated from Cambridge when he directed Judi Dench in a production of The Cherry Orchard; Mendes was already a hugely successful theatre director and the recipient of several Laurence Olivier Awards before he took on filmmaking. His very first feature, American Beauty, won five Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture. Mendes has directed only five other features: The Road to Perdition, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, Away We Go and Skyfall.
And Skyfall almost wasn't. "We had a stroke of luck on this movie, although at the time it was most frustrating thing, and that was the temporary bankruptcy of MGM," says Mendes.
"For me, it was a particular nightmare as I had prepped the movie and was ready to go into full scale pre-production."
Then everything got put on hold for nine months while the studio worked out the financial situation. And therein came the miracle.
"So in that time, we worked on the script. And that was the key to everything for me. I knew every scene intimately, we did two weeks of rehearsals ... and when we got to those scenes, every nuance, every inflection, every moment had been discussed."
Of course, adds the filmmaker, it didn't hurt to have an exceptional group of actors involved.
"I was unbelievably lucky, in that every single person I asked said yes."