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Dench breaks a sweat in latest Bond outing

For seventh time Judi Dench plays spy agency boss “M” “Skyfall” James Bond movie opening Friday.  |  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

For the seventh time, Judi Dench plays spy agency boss “M” in “Skyfall,” the James Bond movie opening Friday. | Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions

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Updated: December 10, 2012 6:06AM



NEW YORK — In her seventh outing as “M,” the head of Britain’s MI6 spy agency, Judi Dench had to work far harder — physically — than in her previous six James Bond movies.

“Yes,” she said, “this one made up for all the times when I sat in the back room, behind a desk. … This film clearly gave me much more of a workout!”

The Oscar-winning actress’ 007 career dates back to “GoldenEye” with Pierce Brosnan in 1995 and continues with Daniel Craig in “Skyfall,” opening Friday. She admitted she “never, ever thought I’d make seven Bond films. I thought I’d do two — and I actually thought how wonderful it was to be doing one — when I was working on ‘GoldenEye’!”

The actress clearly has loved her 17-year run as “M” but revealed that there were many concerns at the beginning of this century about how to create an entertaining spy thriller following the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.

“We had to look at terrorism in a whole new way,” she said, “and it was difficult to put something together that was completely new and something we hadn’t imagined before.

“Fictional concepts suddenly seemed all too real and raw.”

Fortunately, the 007 producers and writers managed to keep Bond films relevant by integrating contemporary history and politics into the fictional storylines, building on the foundation originally created by Ian Fleming. Dench is “deeply grateful that this amazing franchise is now celebrating its 50th birthday,” noting the half-century celebration of the 23 James Bond movies released to date.

“Skyfall” marks her third time starring opposite Craig. On this film, “we had more of a chance to talk and I got to know him much better on this film than in the past — when he would suddenly be racing off to jump off something, or shoot a few people or whatever,” she said with a big throaty laugh.

“Plus we had a number of very long scenes together — with many takes — so we had a nice chance to catch up with what had been happening in our lives recently.”

While Dench admitted that many movie fans “think we all know each other — all the faces they see up there on the screen,” in reality some of the most famous folks on the planet really don’t know one another.

“Unless you have had the chance to work together, you sometimes only know about other actors either by reputation, what you’ve read or through people you actually have worked with.”

Of course, the opposite of that maxim can also be true.

Dench has known Albert Finney “for a long, long, long time. … But we had never worked together. So that was the glorious opportunity this Bond film presented: We suddenly got that chance.”

Finney portrays a Scottish caretaker who plays a critical role near the end of “Skyfall” — and shares virtually all of his scenes with Dench.

Javier Bardem plays Silva, the villain of “Skyfall” who is a major nemesis to both James Bond and M. They shared a number of scenes that were extremely physical.

“At one point Javier had to be quite violent with me, and at the end of every, single take he’d say — with such concern and every so gently — ‘Are you OK? Did I hurt you, Judi?’ … He’s adorable. I’d forgive him anything.”

A few years ago, Dench took the advantage of a unique offer from the former head of the real MI6 to spend some time at the headquarters of the agency that is the British equivalent to the American CIA.

“It was quite interesting and intimidating — all at the same time — as I realized the man sitting across from me was privy to the most sensitive and dangerous information in the world.

“Now, whenever, I pass that building at night and the lights are on, I think, ‘Yeah, I bet the lights are still on — and I also bet they will be having a very late night there tonight.’ ”

As for Bardem, the Spanish actor found his role “delicious to play” and notes, “It was a lot about the human experience as an actor that if you’re going to do it — to be in a James Bond film — you better be doing it with the right people.

“In this case, I really looked forward to going to the set every day to work with Judi and Daniel and all the rest. The thing is, you know they all are doing their best and so it just brought out the best in me — and that is what made it all so much fun.”

While a great deal of Silva’s sick sense of humor was already in the screenplay, penned by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, Bardem said that “as is often the case in all movies, things happened right there while we were shooting that just came up naturally.”

The director, “American Beauty” Oscar winner Sam Mendes, left in some of the on-the-spot ideas. “For me,” Bardem says, “a lot of it were things I wasn’t even conscious of. Sometimes those things are the best things you can bring to the film. Things like facial expressions, eye movements for a closeup, the turn of your head or a quick look back as you’re walking away.”

When asked about how the Bond films have remained so popular and relevant to each new generation of moviegoers, Bardem summed it up quite simply.

“They always remain in touch with something that is relatable to what is happening in the real world at the time. Yes, it is entertainment, but the terrorism that is central to ‘Skyfall’ — especially the kind of terrorism one mad man who is a computer genius can initiate — sadly is something we all can relate to in 2012.”



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