Believe it or not, this week marked the 10-year anniversary of Skyfall's release. Still considered the best James Bond movie by many 007 fans, The Hollywood Reporter recently celebrated the blockbuster by sitting down for a conversation with the creative team responsible for bringing it to our screens.
Peter Morgan was the first writer to work on what was then called Once Upon a Spy, though Neal Purvis and Robert Wade later worked with director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig to fine-tune it. However, the plan from the start was to kill Judi Dench's M, an idea that first came up during pre-production on the previous movie.
"[Killing M] was a given back when we started Quantum of Solace," Purvis reveals. "And I wouldn’t say it was a throwaway scene or anything [in Quantum] because it was still emotional - but it was a very sudden thing that happened roughly in the middle or two-thirds of the way into an early draft of that story."
The team working on the disappointing Casino Royale sequel ultimately jettisoned that idea, deciding a moment this huge needed to be done "properly."
Purvis says it had to have "the right amount of emotional depth that that movie just didn’t seem to have the time or room for. We did write that scene, but thankfully it was cut."
How M's death and its aftermath would be handled came up during his and Wade's first meeting with Mendes and Craig. "When we first saw Daniel and Sam together in New York, we talked about, 'What if we see her funeral?' We talked about a new M taking over."
That new M would be Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes, though the character was going to be called "Mallender" at one point in Skyfall and was considered for the movie's lead villain. In case you couldn't tell, the script went through lots of changes, but bidding farewell to Dench's spymaster was clearly a longtime plan for the Craig era of this franchise.
You can find more details by reading the full story, but Skyfall certainly served as a powerful and emotional farewell to Dench's M, so waiting was the right decision.