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James Bond is a family business for producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. They’ve followed in the footsteps of their father Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, working together to bring 007 to big screens since his death in 1996. Skyfall, the 23rd Bond movie, is even more personal for the two, as it opens on the 50th anniversary of the franchise.
Spinoff Online spoke with Broccoli and Wilson about one day welcoming an American Bond director into the fold, their special relationship with Bond actors, Daniel Craig’s reluctance to sign on for the films, and more.
Skyfall feels a bit meta, considering your long-standing and very personal involvement in this franchise — these themes of family, passing the torch, and the fact that it’s being reiterated in Bond’s 50th year. Is this movie even more personal to you than the others?
Broccoli: Bond is always very personal. It’s the family business, it’s so interwoven within my life. It’s hard not to take it as a very personal thing.
Wilson: It’s the 50th anniversary – it’s all part of it.
Broccoli: He’s amazing, because he’s so modest and he’s just such an incredible guy to work with; he’s so conscientious. And this was the first film that we’ve done digitally. And for him to have converted to digital – it’s the second film he’s done digitally – but it looks amazing. And I think it’s the best kind of advertisement for the digital system.
Speaking of first times, you guys have never had an American director helm a Bond movie. Is that something you’d consider in the future?
Wilson: As they say, never say never! I think the British directors do keep the British-ness there, they understand it – they don’t parody it. I think Americans … you have to be a little careful they don’t parody the British. But so far we’ve found great British directors.
Broccoli: Or Commonwealth, at least.
Wilson: You know, we’ve had some from Australia or some from New Zealand.
How do you guys feel about the outright Bond parodies – the Austin Powers and Johnny English films?
Broccoli: When you hear Mike Myers or Rowan Atkinson talk about Bond, I mean they’re big Bond fans, and that’s where it comes from. It’s an homage, and it comes from a really warm place. And I think it’s all very good-natured, I think the fans enjoy them as much as we do. I mean, I like them – I think they’re fun!
Wilson: I don’t know if they bring in different generations … as far as the audiences that go to those films, but the kids usually know about Bond from their parents – it’s kind of a family tradition.
Throughout the years, your family has had varied relationships with some of the actors who play Bond. How does that inform your process when looking for a new Bond actor, or working with current actors?
Broccoli: I’ve only worked with Roger [Moore] and Pierce [Brosnan] and Tim [Dalton] and Daniel [Craig], so four of the six – I was too young for George [Lazenby] and Sean [Connery]. But they’ve all been amazingly wonderful relationships that have gone on. I mean, we’ve been in contact with all of them, within, certainly last week. I’ve spoken to all of them, seen Roger, I’ve seen Pierce, Tim.
So it really is like a big extended family.
Broccoli: It really is. I mean, you spend years with people and you become very close to them and their family, I’m in constant communication with the children of all the people that we’ve talked about.
That must make bringing a new Bond into the fold that much more difficult, because it’s basically recruiting someone into your family – it’s not just an acting job.
Broccoli: It is! Well, I always think it’s like getting married. It’s like choosing a husband – because you know, you go into it thinking, “This is the only one. This is the only person who can do it!” And it’s for a lifetime. The lifetime might be a cycle of four or five films, but it’s a lifetime. And you’re entrusting them with a lot, something that’s very important to you.
You mentioned, Barbara, that your daughter has known Dame Judi Dench since she was 3 years old. And both of you have grown up with these larger than life actors sitting at your dinner table. When was the moment for you when you realized these people were huge movie stars and not just dinner guests?
Broccoli: The thing is, they’re all human beings. When you’re making a film, you’re so intimately involved with everyone that you see them as human beings. Because when you make films with people, you’re traveling, they have family things that are going on that you may be involved in or privy to, they have all kinds of personal challenges and heartbreaks. So you don’t really see them as these other people, you see them as who they are. And it’s all of those things that make them so special. The human elements of those people and the challenges that they face that make them who they are.
How did you guys convince Daniel to sign on for two more Bond films?
Wilson: It was hard to get him to do the pictures in the first place – Barbara had to talk him into it.
Broccoli: Well, we both talked him into it!
Wilson: He was very reluctant, really. I think it’s not a matter of just being typecast. It’s also recognizing how much his life would change when he became Bond. He’s a great actor, he’s done a lot of things – but becoming a Bond is a different thing than being in anything else, really. You become an instant legend. And it affects your personal life immensely.
I looked for your cameo, Michael. I’m sorry to say I couldn’t find you!
Wilson: Oh, it’s there. There’s a little tiny bit of me in the film, and if you find it I’ll send you a bottle of champagne. [laughs]
Is that a challenge? Because I’ll take you up on it! I’m seeing it opening day in IMAX.
Wilson: Maybe in IMAX you’ll see it!
Broccoli: Can I give her a hint?
Wilson: No, no! You’ll have to see the picture over and over again. [laughs]
I love the cameo tradition, it’s great to see you show up in the films here and there. Do you have any interest in getting in on the on-screen fun, Barbara?
Broccoli: [shakes head no] I’m a behind-the-scenes person, definitely.
Wilson: She’ll have to take over one day!
Skyfall opens Nov. 8 nationwide.