Back to school for Bond director as South Shields lecture welcomes Oscar winner

Sam Mendes addresses the audience as former South Shields Labour MP David Miliband hosts the talk.

Sam Mendes addresses the audience as former South Shields Labour MP David Miliband hosts the talk.

Bond director Sam Mendes made his South Tyneside debut as he swapped life behind the camera for the lecture theatre.

The man tasked with bringing Spectre and Skyfall to the big screen was welcomed to Harton Technology College this evening as the town's former Labour MP David Miliband returned to town to host the South Shields Annual Lecture.

Film director Sam Mendes CBE pictured during his visit to Harton Technology College to appear at the South Shields Annual Lecture.

Film director Sam Mendes CBE pictured during his visit to Harton Technology College to appear at the South Shields Annual Lecture.

Mr Miliband, now president and chief executive officer of the International Rescue Committee based in New York, invited his school friend from their days at Primrose Hill Juniors to lead the talk, entitled Bond and Me.

It was the 14th time the event has been held and the eighth to be hosted by the school.

In the run up to his appearance, Mr Mendes, who won an Oscar for his work on his directorial debut American Beauty, met the school's media studies students and was then interviewed by 17-year-old A-Level student Ollie Burgin-Plews on film for the school's website.

Mr Mendes CBE, who also directed Road to Perdition, had previously visited the region when staging productions of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Newcastle.

The talk was opened as the men discussed their shared childhood.

The talk was opened as the men discussed their shared childhood.

Ahead of the talk, he said: "David mentioned it when I was in New York visiting and then emailed me to check and I said yes.

"I'm in the middle of taking some time off and it suited me just fine and I always think about these sorts of events when I have some time off, that they would be lovely to do.

"It fell exactly into that sweet spot, bringing me to a place I otherwise wouldn't have come to.

"It's a way of showing my support and admiration for what David's done over the years and it's also the immense gratification of having one's ego stroked."

Junior school friends Sam Mendes and David Miliband reunited for the event.

Junior school friends Sam Mendes and David Miliband reunited for the event.

After speaking to the audience about his experiences of getting into the theatre, including seeing his first play with Mr Miliband and his mother, he discussed working with names such as Kevin Spacey and Tom Hanks, as well as lead an Oscar speech and the challenge of managing the production of the Bond films.

During a question and answer session with the audience, he offered advice to a leader of young film makers at the Customs House and spoke of how people from all backgrounds should have an opportunity to make it in the industry.

Mr Mendes had opened the talk by recalling the men's childhood, including a memory of Mr Miliband's "annoying younger brother" Ed during a car journey on a holiday to Cornwall.

The siblings both ran for leader of their party in 2010, with David stepping down from his MP position in 2013 after 12 years in the role and Ed as leader last year after Labour lost the election.

The evening closed with a presentation of artwork bringing together elements of his career created by South Shields artist Bob Olley.

Mr Miliband, who stopped off in the region on his way to visiting the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, had already visited the South Shields seafront and called into Minchella's before tonight's event.

He said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for me to come back to South Shields to see old friends and repay a bit to the community.

"After last year with Sting, and before that with David Walliams and Sir Patrick Stewart, the idea is to have people from across the cultural boundaries of Britain and that is really appealing."

The audience at the lecture were entertained in the lead up to the discussion by the school band, who performed Skyfall among other Bond tunes.

Executive headteacher Sir Ken Gibson said: "It's lovely to see David returning.

"He's been a big supporter of this school, and other schools in South Tyneside and South Shields.

"We are incredibly delighted and privileged to have Sam Mendes CBE with us."

Ollie, who lives in South Shields and is studying history, English literature, law and media, has an eye on a career in film and journalism.

He has previously helped interview Jo Brand when she led the lecture.

He said: "It's exciting to be able to meet these different celebrities.

"It's very enjoyable to be able to talk to them and I think it's good experience, especially considering what I would like to do in the future."

Previous lecture guests have included Tony Blair, Ken Livingstone, Alan Bennett, Estelle Morris, David Puttnam, Bill Bryson, Trevor Phillips and Neil Kinnock.