Barbara Broccoli was born into Bond as her father was “Cubby” Broccoli, also known as the man who brought 007 to the big screen. Working with her on the franchise as early as 1979 was Michael G. Wilson, who went on to write a number of the Bond film before settling into his role as one of the series’ producers. The two sat down to talk about their latest, and possibly best Bond endeavor, Skyfall.
With this film, I believe your first film officially was Moonraker, so since 1979 but you’ve got a bit of a history before that, it’s one of the best film you’ve done. Was there anything that felt special about this one when you came into it, can you tell you’re hitting out of the park after so many years?
Michael G. Wilson: I think you always go in with the idea that you want to make the best possible film, I think we knew with the cast we had, with Daniel (Craig) and Sam (Mendes) we had a really good chance, but you can never be sure. Ever sure.
Barbara Broccoli: It felt exciting, it felt great, you go every day to the set and you’ve got Daniel and Sam and Naomie (Harris), and Judi (Dench) and Javier (Bardem) and all these extraordinary young people, Ben Whishaw, such an extraordinary young guy, it was pretty hard not to be swept up in the excitement of it all and you hope it’s all going to be as good as it’s unfolding in front of you, you hope that it’s going to capture the hearts and minds of the audiences.
Internationally, it looks like you have.
BB: Yeah, you hope for that. Particularly because it was the fiftieth anniversary we really wanted to hit it out of the park, and we seem to be doing pretty well, so let’s hope it continues.
MGW: We hope they like it as much in the US as they do in Europe.
With this one you had problems at the start with MGM’s bankruptcy, was this one of the hardest ones to get going, and obviously you’re following Quantum of Solace, which was hit by the writer’s strike…
MGW: We had tough times right before Goldeneye with MGM which was going through bankruptcy and we had a lawsuit, this time we just knew we’d be delayed, but we didn’t know how long. Could we make the fiftieth anniversary film? Would they come around in time, would we be ready when they did. We had to face that but luckily it all worked out.
There’s some consideration with this film that it be reflective of the past because it is the fiftieth anniversary, which there was also in Die Another Day, which reflected the fortieth anniversary, but it was a little more explicit with all of the past adventures, was that something you wanted to tone down with this one after doing Die Another Day?
MGW: We had plenty of references here, we just didn’t have Q’s workshop (laughs) with that little walk down memory lane, but here we have DB-5, and some other things. The references aren’t even subtle, but they’re there.
Speaking of the fiftieth anniversary, there’s been word around the internet that there was a part to be played by Sean Connery.
BB: That was a rumor. The thing is that – I guess – as part of the excitement of having a franchise like this is that people are always talking about it, and a lot of rumors are circulated that don’t start with us. I don’t know where that came from, but I think Albert Finney – that was the role they were talking about – Finney in that role, he’s such an iconic actor, and he’s got such warmth, he’s just such a delight in that role. We needed to cast someone who the audience would have a sense of familiarity, though he’d never been in a bond film before. We wanted Bond to see him and feel he’s an authentic authoritarian figure from his childhood, but also have the warmth and affection for him that was necessary, I think he’s done a great job, I can’t imagine anyone else in the role.
I don’t think you can ever go wrong with Albert Finney. With the introduction of Q and some other familiar elements, was there a sense of trying to steer it back to the classical Bond framework, and making this something of a trilogy?
MGW: Well, certainly after Casino and Quantum, which were basically that same sotry about Vesper and Betrayal, and Bond falling in love, and setting himself up as an agent, 007, that finished off that. So the question was “where does Bond go from here?” And I think it’s not exactly a trilogy, but it’s the next phase of where we go with Bond.
Barbara, as Cubby Broccoli’s daughter, are you trying to channel your father when you make these movies?
BB: He was a mentor for both of us, so he’s very much part of who we are and how we view the series and how we do our job. I think he’d love this movie, and I know he’d love Daniel. That’s one of my real regrets is that he never got to see Daniel as Bond, because I think he would have thought he was a phenomenal Bond.
Michael, as someone who’s written a couple of Bonds, how much input do you have on the scripting process?
MGW: We both work with the writers pre-the director to see what we can explore, what themes we can explore, take the time to figure out where it can go, so it’s that sort of producing, supervising writers, that’s what Barbara and I do, rather than any writing as such. I think we both understand story, and we understand character.
In the last two films you’ve had Paul Haggis, Academy award winner, and with this latest film you have John Logan, Academy award nominee, was there a sense of pursuing these people. I know with the Bond franchise, a number of people have expressed interest over the years.
BB: I wouldn’t discount the enormous amount of work that Rob(ert Wade) and Neal (Purvis) do, because they are really the architects of the story and then collaborated with John and Paul. These movies are a bitch to write, they really are, they’ve made enormous contributions, to these last couple films in particular, and Haggis came on toward the end of Casino, and worked for some time on Quantum until the Writer’s Strike, and Logan was brought on when we got Sam, so with each writer there’s several layers of contribution, so it’s very complex thing to write one of these, because there’s so many elements, you have to come up with story, you have to come up with action, dialogue, character. It’s quite complex.
One of the things I love about this franchise is that even in the worst of Bond films, the practical stuntwork is always top notch. Obviously here there’s some digital assistance, but the adherence to do as much as you can practically, is that an ethos?
MGW: Yeah, that’s very much something we like to do. Of course when the films got more fantastical there’s a lot of help, but it’s amazing how much visual effects there are in our film that you don’t notice because we try to make it seamless with reality, and that’s even more difficult that the fantasy films where you know you’re dealing with a fantasy world so you accept whatever the artifices are. But you can’t have them in the real world. So it’s a big challenge for our people to make the real world seem seamless.
I’d say that Daniel Craig brings it back to the early Connery, where the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan films would get a little more heightened, the most notable thing about these films is that they are down and dirty. Was that intentional? One of the great things about this movie is that when Q gives him stuff, it’s pretty much just a gun.
BB: I think it’s a reflection of the post-9/11 world. Michael and I were making Die Another Day when 9/11 happened and it was quite surreal because we were sitting around talking
MGW: about terrorism
BB: And we were pretty advanced into the production, and we were about to start. And I think we felt – after Die Another Day – that we’d gotten too fantastical, given the world we now living in, which was a darker and much more realistic with real terrorism. So it seemed appropriate that we make a shift in direction, and fortunately we acquired the rights to Casino Royale the year before, so it seemed like the right move to make that story. And that story is much more personal and internal journey that Bond is one, the chrysalis, the genesis of the character. Once we did that we had to cast it and cast it with someone who was appropriate for the 21st Century, someone who could explore a lot more the internal conflicts and show more vulnerability and humanity, and I think Daniel has brought all of that to his conception of the character, so it feels like we’re on the right journey for the time. And maybe in a few years time the world will be safe and jolly, maybe we can go back into outer space again. Enjoying life and being a little more frivolous and les sput upon but who knows.
It’s interesting to think about how, for instance, Bond has stopped smoking, he doesn’t sleep around as much as – say On her Majesty’s Secret Service where he’s bedding women left and right.
MGW: George (Lazenby) seemed to live that life in reality, so it was part of the scene.
Now, correct if I’m wrong, but the original idea was that only British director could helm the franchise…
BB: The Commonwealth, people who understood the British sensibility. The only time we haven’t had someone from the Commonwealth was Marc Forster.
Have you guys changed that? I know the word is that Steven Spielberg expressed interest at one point.
BB: The Spielberg story is a cute one. He wrote to Cubby and he was a huge, huge fan, and early on in his career he approached Cubby, and he said “get out of here kid, you havent’ got enough experience to do one of these.” And the rest is history. And when Spielberg did Schindler’s List I know Cubby wrote to him and said it was a considerable achievement, and Spielberg wrote back “Now will you let me direct a Bond film?” (laughs)
Have you opened the door at all to an American?
MGW: I think we have to see who’s around, right now Sam is our director and he’s as British as they come.
STILL SERIOUS, SPOILERS
I’m curious, there’s the Bulldog, and I was wondering was there any thought of the bulldog being a hat? Because there’s that moment at the end…
BB: We talked about doing the hat and not doing the hat, and it would be fun to do at some point, but given the tonality of the film at that point, it didn’t seem the right moment for something cheeky.
MGW: I think the last time we tossed the hat, Bond didn’t even wear it, he just tossed it.
Skyfall opens in America November 9.