Sam Mendes wanted to spring a surprise on his high-calibre cast gathered at Pinewood studios for a script reading of the latest 007 adventure.
As the likes of Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes sat leafing through their scripts, each stamped ‘Highly Confidential’, with every page watermarked and coded, they must all have been wondering: who on earth could the Oscar-winning director be bringing in who might leave them shaken and (pleasantly) stirred?
Try Albert Finney, a legendary actor, revered by his peers and about to make his Bond debut at the age of 75.
Highly confidential: Sam Mendes (left) brought in actor Albert Finney (right) for the script reading
An executive close to the production told me: ‘It was one of those fabulous “This can’t get any better!” moments because Mendes has upped the game by bringing in Bardem and Fiennes — and they’ve already got Dame Judi Dench.
‘So you think, well, who else can they get to make this any classier?’
Finney, who has been in remission from cancer of the prostate for several years, will play a Foreign Office mandarin with powers over the Secret Intelligence Service, described to me as a reasonably big role and full of class.
The part probably makes him M’s boss, though she — as played by Judi — might not see it that way.
Interestingly, I thought Judi and Albert must surely have worked together before, because they were at the Old Vic in the late Fifties and early Sixties, but I could find no record of them ever having trodden the boards on the same stage or appearing in the same movie.
(If I’m wrong, I’m sure I’ll be set straight!) The thespians were joined at the studio by Naomie Harris who, as revealed here, will play Miss Moneypenny; Berenice Marlohe as the requisite femme fatale (are we past using the term ‘Bond girl’ in the 21st century?) and Rory Kinnear, who will play M’s chief of staff, Bill Tanner.
He will have more to do in this movie than when he played Tanner in Quantum Of Solace.
Ben Whishaw and Helen McCrory have as yet unspecified roles.
John LOGAN, who wrote Gladiator and who has been winning acclaim for his sublime script for the forthcoming film Coriolanus, has long toiled over the Bond 23 script.
And now Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, keepers of the Bond movie flame, have asked him to be involved in writing other screenplays based on Ian Fleming’s famous espionage officer.
Rehearsals and camera tests continue this week, and next week shooting will begin on Bond 23, which will be released next autumn on the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr No.
Simply sublime: Freida Pinto
Freida Pinto plays a young woman from rural Rajasthan in Michael Winterbottom’s film Trishna, which was shown at the BFI London Film Festival.
It’s a simply sublime adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess Of The d’Urbervilles. I went in with no expectations whatsoever, and found myself hooked.
Freida, who was in Slumdog Millionaire and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, plays Trishna and gives a performance that will break your heart as she’s taken away from her simple life and hurled into the big city by Riz Ahmed.
‘A lot of women like Trishna have accepted that they will just do what the men tell them. It’s down to tradition in certain places and a lot of women accept it. I’m lucky because my parents allowed me to study and to work,’ the actress told me.
HAYLEY ATWELL, who will play a detective who mixes it up with Flying Squad officers Jack Regan and George Carter, played by the great Ray Winstone and Ben Drew (aka rapper Plan B). Director Nick Love’s big-screen version of The Sweeney is based on the TV classic that starred John Thaw and Dennis Waterman.
Love co-wrote the script with John Hodge and they have set the story in present-day London, where there are still Jack-the-lad cops and fast cars. Shooting starts next week, with Damian Lewis, Steven Mackintosh and Paul Anderson also starring.
The film will be released next autumn through Entertainment One.
Canny Rupert Preston of Vertigo Films is one of the film’s producers.
KEN STOTT, who will play the title role in Uncle Vanya, which will be directed in the West End next autumn by Lindsay Posner.
The production will use the adaptation of Chekhov’s drama that Christopher Hampton wrote for the Royal Court in 1970, with Paul Scofield.
Kim Poster, who is producing with Nica Burns, told me Hampton will be on hand at rehearsals to amend the script as needed, but the version used by director Anthony Page at the Royal Court will be the foundation.
Ms Poster told me she has spent some time securing all the various rights, and that the play will open at one of the West End theatres controlled by the Nimax group.
PETER FIRTH, who barked out ‘Harry Pearce’ as he answered his phone for the final time in Spooks, which ended its long run last Sunday after ten series.
The way it was left, made me wonder if Kudos and the BBC are planning to do occasional two-hour Spooks specials. I can’t deny I will miss Harry and his gang. I liked gutsy Lara Pulver in the final run, and all the men and women who were in Spooks before her.
EZRA MILLER, who is certainly one of the faces to watch at the movies this year — and next — thanks to his scorching performances in Lynne Ramsay’s incendiary movie We Need To Talk About Kevin, which stars Tilda Swinton, giving one of the year’s best performances.
Miller was in a crazy little film called Another Happy Day and stole it.
We Need To Talk About Kevin has become a smash at the box office and the BFI London Film Festival named it best picture at a ceremony on Wednesday.
The film festival has become one of the most important celebrations of cinema in the world, and I put that down to the efforts over the years of LFF’s artistic chief Sandra Hebron — one of the unsung stars of the movie world.
Last night, Sandra stepped down from that role and is planning on leaving the movie business. Sad news, indeed.