The year 2012 could be considered the year of Bond…James Bond. While this year features the return of 007 in his 23rd big screen adventure, Skyfall, it also marks the 50th anniversary of James Bond’s first big screen adventure in Dr. No. If it weren’t for producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman who brought Ian Fleming’s creation to life on the silver screen, moviegoers would not have gotten to see 50 years of cool gadgets, over-the-top villains and beautiful girls that have been featured in the Bond franchise. I had the opportunity to speak with producer Barbara Broccoli, who continues her father’s legacy as Bond producer with her half-brother Michael G. Wilson, as she talked about the process of writing a story for a Bond movie and what it was like growing up with the Bond films since she was little.
Originally, you were going to shoot Skyfall in 2010 until it was delayed. Was there any concern on your part that you guys would not resume production?
Barbara Broccoli: Yes. It was a huge concern on Michael and I wanted to have a film on the 50th anniversary of James Bond. It was looking like it wasn’t going to happen. MGM went bankrupt and there were tremendous financial difficulties. We were already working on the script and we also had (director) Sam Mendes, who decided to come aboard. We were amassing our team of (cinematographer) Roger Deakins, all the key crew people and we had a blocked out set of time with Daniel Craig so…we were loading up the jet on the runway and we kind of had to put the brakes on. It was very scary for a while, but fortunately, everything got resolved in time.
What’s the process like in terms of getting the basis of who the villain might be or what the plot might be before it is given over to the writers?
Broccoli: Typically, Michael and I sit down with the writers and we brainstorm for a considerable period of time. Our story point is always “What is the world afraid of?” We sit down and think. With this one, it was the idea of cyber terrorism. After that, we create a villain. Sort of a personification of that fear as we did here with Silva and then we say “What is the personal kind of journey that we are going to put Bond on and what we can do emotionally to test him?” With this one, it was the character of M. We put the person who means the most to him and his life in jeopardy. That was the basis from which we started the process and this story turns to be a very personal story and I think it’s very effective that way.
A lot of critics have been calling Skyfall one of the best Bond movies ever made. What do you think about this particular franchise that is different from the ones in the past?
Broccoli: I think Daniel coming on board and recalibrating the character for the 21st Century has given audiences an ability to kind of feel what he’s feeling and seeing the inner life of the character James Bond, because Bond doesn’t really talk about his feelings very much. When you read the books, you get into his mind and read what’s he thinking and how’s he feeling, but in films, it’s very hard to do that with a character that is very enigmatic and doesn’t talk about it. I think he’s managed to kind of portray all of that range in a really engaging way.
I felt when I was watching the movie that there was this feeling of growth with Bond. I would like to talk you about growing up with Bond since you were little.
Broccoli: He means a great deal to me and I think that as he did to Ian Fleming, who wrote this incredible character and was passionate about him for the same reasons because he admired heroism. He was working during the war and he saw a lot of heroism. He wanted to somehow translate that to a fictional character that would represent all the types of people that he had seen. I think (Fleming) had a lot of passion and so did my father and his partner Harry had a lot of passion for Bond. It’s something that was contagious because Bond was always talked about in our house. They were always making a film or planning a film or opening a film. It was this constant thing. Bond was like a family member and so I feel very passionate about it and it’s just really exciting when you make a film that people really respond to. That’s the biggest thrill to me: watching the film with an audience that is getting excited and cheering.
With the island scene in the movie, there seemed to be some theatricality with this movie than in some of the other Bond movies.
Broccoli: I think Sam Mendes has something to do with that because he is a phenomenal theatre director as well as a film director. I think that the film has a lot of drama to it and a lot of theatricality to it. It’s a combination of having the greatest cinematographer in the world Roger Deakins, who just makes everything look so incredibly beautiful and Dennis Gassner, who is the production designer. There were a lot of talented people who contributed to this film and they were giving it their all. I think that maybe it was something about the 50th as well that we were all really wanting it to be the best Bond film ever and to honor all the people who came before us that helped create Bond movies, like Ken Adams and John Barry.
Barbara, you said Sam brought in an element of theatricality to the Bond franchise with Skyfall. With Sam being the third director in this particular part of the franchise, what else did Sam bring that was different compared to what Martin Campbell and Marc Forster brought to previous films?
Broccoli: Each director brings all of their passion to these films. With Sam, I didn’t realize he was a big Bond fan until we met him. The first thing he said to us was “I want to make the best Bond film ever.” It was music to our ears (laughs). He wanted to create a film that would satisfy the 12-year-old boy in him (laughs). Everything was about that. It was a challenge for him because he has never done action before. He sat down and wanted to play with trains and helicopters (laughs) and do all the things that 12-year-old boys wanted to do. I think he brought that kind of sense of magic and wonder to the film that has made it so good.
Do you see there being a 75th anniversary or 100th anniversary of Bond in the future?
Broccoli: I might be around for the 75th [laughs]…but not sure about the 100th. I think these movies could go on for another 50 years. I really do. As long as the world has the need for heroes, these films can be made. Bond is kind of a cultural icon. He’s someone like Batman or Superman or Sherlock Holmes. He is one of those fictional characters that is embedded in the culture. I don’t know if we will be around for the 100th anniversary, but our family will continue to make these films. I think James Bond will still be around in the consciousness of moviegoers and hopefully, people will still be going to Bond movies.
Of the Bond films that both you and your father have produced, which one has the most personal significance to you?
Broccoli: Oh wow. It’s so hard to tell. This movie means a lot because of the 50th year doing Bond movies and Casino Royale meant a lot to me because that was when Ian Fleming sold the right before my father and Harry got the Bond series. They have always wanted to make, but they couldn’t. When we got the rights in 2000 and we were able to make, that meant a great deal to us as well because that tells the whole story of Bond becoming James Bond. I would think that movie has enormous significance because it was the first book and it was the one that really explained why he is the way he is. It explains two incredibly important things. One is why he can’t ever make an emotional commitment to a woman because he falls in love and gets betrayed by Vesper, who then kills herself. The other is the torture scene because he realizes that if he is going to do this job, he can never have a normal life or have a family because it’s one thing put himself in danger, but he couldn’t allow that to happen to someone else. He wouldn’t betray his country because it’s only him, but if someone put a gun to his wife’s head or his kid’s head, what would he do? I think for that story, it shows who he is as a character and that has a real personal significance for me, but I think Skyfall being release on the 50th anniversary of Bond feels like we made this film as a sort of love letter to everyone who has been a part of these films for 50 years.
Skyfall will be playing in Hialeah theaters starting this Friday. Click here for showtimes.