'Spectre' Director Sam Mendes Dissects Mexico City Opening Sequence

Courtesy of Jonathan Olley/MGM/Columbia Pictures
The 'Spectre' opening scene

It wasn't quite the non-stop piece of filming people have been led to believe.

Much talk has been made of the opening scene in Spectre, a seemingly continuous four-minute sequence set in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead festival that has James Bond walking through the crowds, into a hotel, up a lift and into a room before enjoying a short but passionate kiss with a Bond girl and then jumping out the window and pacing across the rooftops towards his – spoiler alert – intended target.

But while many have been gushing about the skill levels required for such a fiendishly complicated shot, director Sam Mendes has revealed that it wasn't quite the non-stop piece of filming people have been led to believe.

"There are morphs in that shot that blend one shot to the other," he told an audience as part of his own BAFTA A Life in Pictures conversation, held in London on Monday evening. "So when you walk into the lobby of the hotel you’re walking into a hotel that actually isn’t there, it wasn’t there, it was further down the street. When you go into the hotel room you’re going to Pinewood, when you come out of the hotel room you’re going onto a rooftop in Mexico."

Despite the clever trickery deployed in order to deceive the eye, Mendes did admit that overseeing a shoot with some "2,000 costumed extras" plus a major crew was a rather momentous experience.

"Twenty-five hundred people working in tandem at the same time is a really big high for a director. When everyone gets it right it’s very exhilarating. And it’s not just for the director, for the crew as well," he said. "You have people who have been on crews for 40 years who have made 14 Bond movies saying, 'I’ve never seen anything like this,' and that was really exhilarating for me. I looked around on a couple of days of Mexico City and I thought: 'I’m never going to do this again. I’m never going to see this kind of thing again. I’m just going to soak it up.' "

Spectre may have opened to record-breaking figures in the U.K., but globally it currently looks likely to fall ever-so-slightly short of the $1 billion-plus box office set by its predecessor, Skyfall. Mendes, however, admitted that his first Bond outing had the benefit of coming out at "absolutely the right time."

"You know, Bond had parachuted into the Olympic stadium with the Queen and it was a sort of fever of nationalism and feeling good about the country, and it was just well timed," he said.

One of Mendes' titles that didn't have the same inspired scheduling was 2008's Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio-starring Revolutionary Road, which the director says had "absolutely the worst" timing.

"It was the middle of an economic crunch. People were really worried about where their next dollar was coming from in America, and there was a story about two very good-looking people living in a nice house, obsessing about whether they were going to move to Paris or not," he said. "And on top of that it was freighted with these sort of, you know, award expectations because of who was in it and who had made it and all of those things."

Despite Revolutionary Road not being quite the awards magnet many might have liked (although Winslet did get the best actress Golden Globe), Mendes said watching the film again seven years on, he's still proud of the work.

"One of the nice things about movies is that you can and you do look back with some sort of greater knowledge, you know, several years later, and I think what you see is actually a really well-made film with very truthful performances in it," he said.

Mendes also singled out Winslet's performance as "completely brilliant," although he admitted that the film may have had more autobiography references than he admitted at the time.

"I was directing my then wife in a movie about an unhappy marriage, so join the dots." he laughed.

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