'Skyfall': The story behind James Bond's slinky opening credits
Music video and advertising director Daniel Kleinman has been creating the complex and abstract opening credit sequences for the James Bond movies since 1995’s GoldenEye. He sat out the titles for 2008’s Quantum of Solace, but he’s not surprised to be returning for his sixth go ’round crafting the slinky, smoky credits for this year’s Skyfall, with Adele’s hit title song as his soundtrack.
“The way it’s set up by the producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, it’s quite a family affair,” he says. “A lot of the same people get asked back onto the films on a regular basis. It makes it a nice project to do.” That loyalty cuts both ways: Kleinman’s credit sequence services are pretty much exclusive to the Bond franchise. “I’m not really a title sequence director per se,” he says. “I do it for James Bond because I was a fan when I was a kid, and I was always very taken with the Bond credits when I was at art school. Also, it’s James Bond. If one’s going to do any title or credit sequence at all, James Bond is the one to do.”
Here’s how he makes it happen. For more stories behind this year’s top TV and movie moments, click here for EW.com’s Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes) coverage.
As told by: Daniel Kleinman
It’s pretty much always the case that I have to start working on the ideas for the titles way before I hear the music. The first time I get involved, I read the script, and that’s quite early on, sometimes before they’ve even started filming — even who the artist is going to be singing the main song is not tied down. It’s quite a laborious process — which I’m not involved in at all — choosing that artist, getting the song written, demo’d, approved, mastered, mixed, and edited to the special arrangement it needs to be for the movie, rather than the single that’s released.
I got a rough demo of [Adele’s] song probably about halfway through my process of working on the ideas. I thought it was a really great song. And it changed quite a bit during the recording process and got better and better.
Usually, I’m about halfway through before I hear at least a fairly finished version of the song. At that point, I usually have to maybe change a few things and swap things around to make it work. There’s a slightly hair-raising moment when I have to put the final mix of the song against the image that I’ve created and hope that they all work together. They seemed to work reasonably okay this time, so it was good.
I knew from the beginning, from the script, that it starts with Bond being shot and falling into the water. That was my kick-off point to come up with the ideas for the sequence. It felt kind of appropriate that a lot of it seemed to be a sequence where you feel he’s in some sort of underworld, or perhaps his life is flashing in front of his eyes as he thinks he’s going to die.
NEXT PAGE: Shooting with Daniel Craig
I use a lot of special effects. I did shoot certain sequences with Daniel Craig, and I shot with Javier Bardem very briefly in order to create elements within the sequence and one of the main themes within the title sequence, which is to do with shadows. It’s riffs off something in the dialogue in the film. It’s mentioned several times about how secret agents work in the shadows, and MI6 is a shadowing organization, and how threats come from the shadows.
We shot [with Daniel Craig] for about a day doing different bits and pieces. We shot just as the main unit of the movie had finished, so he was pretty tired. It was a long shoot, I think. It was very kind of him to come and spend a day with me. I think that is really a testament to how much he cares about making the films good. He got the ideas, and he understood what I was going to do. He really felt he wanted to contribute, and it’s very sweet of him to make the effort to try to make the titles as good as they can be. He’s a real perfectionist; it’s a real pleasure to work with someone like that.
I do physically edit the material myself, which doesn’t take too long. What really takes a long time are the post-production effects. It’s quite a long sequence — it’s getting up to four minutes. It’s done at a very, very high resolution, so it’s a very slow process to create special effects of that quality for that length of time. So that really takes several months. It’s pretty much a year from beginning to end, but the real serious hands-on effects, grinding out the editing and the final part of it, is about four months.
In Bond films, the credit sequence comes after the first ten minutes of action. It’s always important that it has some relevance to the narrative of the film. I also did want to put in suggestions of things that might happen so that it has some narrative connection to the movie. I don’t want to give too much away. But another thing I’m aware of is that Bond films have a longevity after the actual theatrical release. Particularly in Britain, they get shown on TV every Christmas for many, many years to come. People will buy the DVDs and will probably watch the films more than once. I’d like it when they see that sequence again to be continually able to get meaningful moments from it.