Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson interview: producing Skyfall
In the latest of our interviews to mark the arrival of Skyfall, we talk to producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson…
As the various actors and filmmakers working on Skyfall have already said elsewhere, making Bond movies has long been a family affair. Producer Barbara Broccoli is the daughter of the legendary Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, who was responsible, in large part, for founding EON productions and getting Dr. No on the screen exactly 50 years ago.
Both Barbara Broccoli and her half-brother Michael G Wilson grew up surrounded by Bond lore, with Barbara working as assistant director on Octopussy at the tender age of 23, while Wilson acted as producer or writer on numerous movies, from Moonraker to 2008’s Quantum Of Solace, while also popping up repeatedly in various cameo roles.
Since 1995’s GoldenEye, Broccoli and Wilson have worked together as producers on the Bond series, and Skyfall, of course, marks not only the anniversary of the famous agent’s cinematic adventures, but also a major milestone in the legacy Albert R Broccoli began all those years ago.
As Skyfall arrives in UK cinemas, here’s what the duo had to say in a round-table inreview about the film’s making, Bond’s birthday, and who we can expect to see in the 24th movie.
There are very mild spoilers for Skyfall ahead.
Bond seems a lot older in this film than he was in Casino Royale. He seems a lot older and more cynical.
Wilson: I think that he starts out in a very vigorous way, but after he goes through the [story] he has to prove himself again. A lot of his angst is about that more than about his age. Daniel’s very fit – he’s a star athlete, really, if you look at him that way. In fact, it’s just the role where that comes in, and there’s the theme of M coming up to retirement.
Can we assume there have been some adventures between Skyfall and Quantum Of Solace?
Do you think the hiatus helped between this film and Quantum Of Solace and this film? You’ve had a long time to think about it. Did that result in a better movie?
Wilson: Well, we were worried we weren’t going to make the 50th anniversary film, so that was a concern in our minds. But in the end, it turned out to be fine, and Sam [Mendes] has said that it gave him more time to work on the script, and that’s true. So perhaps it has worked out – it’s worked out fine.
How did Sam come on board? Apparently he and Daniel were talking at a party.
Broccoli: That’s right. They were at a party in New York, and we got a call the following day from Daniel who said, “I was at a party, had a few drinks, met Sam. Think I offered him the job, which I’m not sure I was allowed to do, but what do you think?”
And we said, “My God, is he interested?” and he said, “Yeah.” So we leapt on a plane, went to New York, had dinner with Sam and discussed it.
Was he excited from the get go?
Broccoli: He was. We didn’t realise he was a Bond fan. We were surprised, and he really clearly said to us that he wanted to make this the best James Bond film to date. He’s done an amazing job. We’re very excited.
Have any preparations been made for Bond 24 yet?
Broccoli: No, no.
How long a space do you think you’ll need?
Wilson: If we’re rapid it’ll be two years, if we’re not it’ll be three. It’ll be in that time period.
Have you engaged [writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade] yet?
Broccoli: We haven’t done too much about doing deals over the next film, because we’ve literally just finished this film last week. It’s that close. So I think we just want to open this one, have a bit of a break and get on with the next one.
When did the last major change occur in this film? Was it in the edit? In the script?
Wilson: There wasn’t too much done in the edit. The film is pretty much as shot – there a few some scenes that aren’t in there or trimmed, of course. The biggest thing that happened was that the end sequence was reconsidered fairly late, about how elaborate it should be.
What’s the significance of having the premiere at the Royal Albert Hall? Does that make it extra special?
Broccoli: Of course it does. We did it on the 40th, and it when it came to the 50th, we wanted the classic and the new. And what could be better, more classic than having the actual screening at the Royal Albert Hall, with the party afterwards at the Tate.
Going back to Bond 24, Daniel’s confirmed that he’ll do two more…
Broccoli: Uh, at least two more. [Laughs]
Can you confirm that?
Wilson: Well, we don’t want to limit ourselves to just two.
Broccoli: At least. At least two more.
Do you think he could be the longest serving Bond?
Broccoli: Once you’re James Bond, you’re James Bond for life. Pierce Brosnan once said that more men have walked on the Moon than played Bond, so it’s a pretty unique club. I think they’re all very proud to have served in the club, and we’re proud to have had them. They’re all James Bond for life.
This one’s a lot more fun than the previous two Bonds. Was that a reaction to the previous one?
Broccoli: It has to do with the story. Casino Royale, which is the first book, and very much the Holy Grail of the Bond series, is about Bond falling in love with someone who turns out to be a double agent. He’s tortured in one of the worst ways imaginable, so it’s really hard to make that fun. Quantum was about Bond seeking revenge for Vesper’s death, so with this film, Skyfall, we created a new story. I’m glad you think it’s more fun. It’s more appropriate for the story, and I think it’s a really good third film for Daniel.
With the film released in IMAX, do you see any future in 3D, 4D, that kind of thing, for Bond?
Wilson: I think IMAX was possible because we filmed it with a high-resolution digital camera, which means we could screen it at IMAX without losing the resolution you need, which we couldn’t do when we had 35mm negatives. So I think that’s something we’ll be pushing again. The 3D? Who knows. It has to be film-appropriate – it seems to work on fantasy and sci-fi stuff.
Can you see Bond going back into space again any time soon?
[Laughs] Wilson: Not for a while.
What were your thoughts when you saw Javier Bardem in the role for the first time?
Broccoli: Oh my God, what an extraordinary actor. That day, being on the set, and you have Javier Bardem in a scene with Daniel Craig and Judy Dench, you want to pinch yourself, really. It doesn’t really get much better than that.
What do you think makes him a good villain?
Broccoli: He brings so many dimensions to the character. The villain has a reason to have a grudge. He just takes it to a really terrible conclusion. But I think the fact is that he makes you feel for the villain. You’re repelled by him, but you’re enthralled by him. He’s very charismatic, very sexy, he punches the envelope with Bond. The scene between he and Daniel is a real poker game, and electric. It’s sexy and repulsive at the same time. They’re two magnificent actors in a face off.
I read somewhere, again, that Daniel met Javier at another party… [Laughs]
Broccoli: Very sociable guy. I think they met somewhere along the line a long time ago at a festival or something. We’d always talked about having Javier on board, and the writers wrote it with him in mind. But we didn’t approach Javier until we had a script, and Sam was on board. I think they all wanted to work.
The disfigured Bond villain is a familiar trope in the series. Why is that, do you think?
Wilson: It’s very much a Fleming device that he uses throughout the stories – the idea that physical deformity and personality deformity goes hand in hand in some of these villains. Sometimes it’s a motivating factor in their life, and what makes them the way they are. He had that as part of the characters that he devised.
It’s something we use from time to time, but not all the time of course. But when it seems appropriate.
It’s a bit of a minefield, though, right, in terms of the way the media might write about it?
Wilson: It’s just part of the writing tradition, though, really. In Javier’s case, it’s part of his motivation for coming back.
In the documentary, Everything Or Nothing, Barbara, you said that 9/11 made you think that it might be time to move on from the Pierce Brosnan style of movies and do something more serious. I wondered how far you think Bond can drift into the real political world?
Broccoli: Well, I don’t think we ever have real politics in these movies. They’re fantasy action adventure films. Bond lives in a slightly heightened version of the real world. A world which is a bit more glamorous, with casinos and very exotic villains and women inhabiting it.
It’s a parallel world, but it’s a heightened reality, and that’s where we feel very comfortable. In terms of 9/11, we thought Die Another Day had become too fantastical. That’s something that’s happened in previous Bond films along the way – there comes a time when you have to recalibrate the tone of the films to fit the times we live in.
Do you think this is a move back to a traditional Bond as well?
Broccoli: We wanted to make a classic Bond film that honoured the past, but give it a contemporary film, and I think we’ve done that as best we can.
Was anyone else ever in the running for the theme song, because there were rumours that Muse may have been in the running for it, and a recent song of theirs has a very Bond sound to it.
Broccoli: Oh well, we haven’t heard it. Adele was always our first choice.
Do you receive loads of commissions from other artists?
Broccoli: Well, we don’t. It’s possible that some maybe went to Sony, but we don’t. We never heard any. We just went for Adele.
A few years ago it sounded like Amy Winehouse’s gig to lose, really. Did you consider that she was right for the job?
Wilson: She would have been great, you know? Wonderful. It’s tragic.
That’s another tiny footnote in the tragedy.
Broccoli: She was a wonderful artist. But she’s with us forever.
Michael, you’ve had a cameo role in the last dozen or so Bond movies; are you in Skyfall?
Wilson: Well, I had to give away a bottle of champagne yesterday to one of your colleagues, who at a press conference announced that he had found me on a second viewing. [Laughs] Because I primarily got cut out, I offered a bottle of champagne to the person who spotted me. He got it, so he got his champagne.
Broccoli: How long is this offer running for?
Wilson: Oh, that’s it. [Laughs] No more bottles.
Broccoli: That’s it? They can’t all go see it and get a bottle of champagne? I’m just checking…
Wilson: I’m going to be out of champagne!
Can you talk about casting Ben [Whishaw]?
Broccoli: It was tough to fill Desmond Llewelyn’s shoes after all these years, so it was a tough one to figure out. We thought of Ben – I think he was the only person we thought of, to be honest. And we approached him, and he said yes. He’s a real busy guy – it’s amazing that we could figure out a time when he could come and work on the film.
Is there a better young actor coming out of England? I don’t think so.
Do you have Ben and Ralph [Fiennes] signed up for multiple pictures?
Broccoli: Well, yes, they know they’re recurring roles.
Wilson: Ben and Ralph and Naomie [Harris].
How difficult was it to shut down large parts of London?
Broccoli: We had unbelievable cooperation. Obviously, it’s still tricky, because we had to do things well in advance of the preparations for the Olympics. We had to be very swift, and fleet of foot. There were serious restrictions on, for example, Whitehall, which we had to do on a Sunday and be finished by nine in the morning.
We had to be very well prepared and be very quick. I have to say, it’s the most memorable moment of the film, with Daniel running through Whitehall. It just gets me every time – it says everything that needs to be said about Bond and who he is.
Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, thank you very much.
Skyfall is out on the 26th October. You can read our review here.
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