James Bond celebrates his silver anniversary
The iconic introduction – "Bond, James Bond" – is there.
The beautiful Bond girls are there.
The megalomaniac villain is there.
The exotic locations are there.
"M" and "Q" are there.
The spectacular opening action sequence is there.
The memorable song (sung by Adele) is there.
And, most important, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are there.
If Broccoli and Wilson are there, you know that "Skyfall," which opens Friday, is the genuine article. Yes, 007 is back for his 23rd adventure.
Broccoli, whose father Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli and business partner Harry Saltzman started the Bond film franchise 50 years ago with "Dr. No," has been on James Bond movie sets since she was a baby. She started her film career as an assistant director on "Octopussy," and joined her half-brother Michael as a producing team on "GoldenEye."
Wilson, Cubby's stepson, went into the family business on "The Spy Who Loved Me" as an assistant to the producer, and later executive produced "Moonraker."
The siblings sat down with The Orange County Register just days before the opening of "Skyfall," in which Daniel Craig returns as the British secret agent with a license to kill, and Oscar-winner Javier Bardem portrays the villainous cyber-terrorist Silva, who is bent on destroying MI6 and its aging leader M (Judi Dench). The film was directed by Sam Mendes, who won an Oscar for directing "American Beauty."
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: You have been intimately involved with the Bond franchise for a long time, but you weren't involved in the early Bond films of the 1960s. What do those films mean to you?
BROCCOLI: Those movies created a whole new genre that didn't exist before. We look back to those films as inspiration, to remind ourselves that those films are the DNA of our films.
WILSON: They're classic films, and being classic films, they are used as templates by other filmmakers to tell stories.
OCR: Barbara, what are your earliest memories of the James Bond movies?
BROCCOLI: My earliest memories are of being in the Bahamas for "Thunderball," and then "You Only Live Twice." They're not exactly home movies for me, but they certainly trigger memories.
WILSON: We still watch those old films all the time, and I think "Goldfinger" had all the elements of the Bond movies you see today. Those early films set the world that people come to expect when they walk into a Bond movie.
OCR: How long did it take until you understood who James Bond was?
BROCCOLI: I thought he was a real person until "You Only Live Twice." He dominated the household. James Bond was all we talked about at the house. They were making them in rapid succession back then.
OCR: Given changing times and the public's fickleness, how has this franchise endured for 50 years?
WILSON: It is the ability to re-cast with actors who bring something new, so it always seems contemporary.
OCR: Are you too busy working in the trees to see the forest?
WILSON: No, we make the pictures in the trees but when we think about where we're going with the series, we always take the broad view and see the forest.
OCR: I don't want to use the word formula in a negative way, but it seems like there is a formula for putting together a James Bond film. Wouldn't you agree?
WILSON: There are elements that the public anticipates, and you have to give them some of them, and you have to re-work others.
OCR: Daniel Craig was a respected actor when you selected him for the role, but what did you see in him that made you believe that he would work as Bond?
BROCCOLI: He was very much an actor's actor, and we felt that we had to start from the beginning again (on "Casino Royale"). It was like when Cubby and Harry picked Sean (Connery). Up until then, the typical British leading men were David Niven types. Sean broke the mold because he played it like an anti-hero. He was the way Ian Fleming described him – a blunt instrument, with a really sexy polish to him. Similarly, we wanted to find someone who would reinvent the role in a really dramatic way.
OCR: But why Daniel Craig?
BROCCOLI: We had the rights to "Casino Royale," which really set the stage for Bond becoming Bond, so we had the challenge of finding someone who could reinterpret the character for the 21st century. We needed someone who was multi-dimensional and could give Bond the inner life he had in the books. Bond doesn't verbalize a lot, but he has an internal dialogue, and for someone to do that on the screen, you need a real actor. A real stunning actor (laughs).
OCR: Did you ever second-guess your decision after critics reacted negatively to your choice?
BROCCOLI: Not in the slightest bit. It was absurd what was happening in the media because we were already making the movie when that happened, and we knew that Daniel was phenomenal. We thought these critics were out of their minds. They hadn't even seen what he had done. That's the problem with the Internet. Everybody has a voice, so someone who doesn't know anything starts a campaign and people pick up on it.
OCR: The reason "Skyfall" is getting to theaters four years after "Quantum of Solace" is because MGM went bankrupt. Were you ever concerned that you'd never get this movie into theaters?
WILSON: They also went bankrupt before "GoldenEye," so this is nothing new. But, to answer your question, it delayed us and we were not sure we could make it in time for the 50th anniversary. We believed we would have a movie out there eventually, but we just weren't sure it would be now.
BROCCOLI: We definitely were interrupted in making our movie.
WILSON: We had to make an announcement at one point, freeing some of the people so they could get other jobs.
OCR: Could either of you verbalize on what Cubby passed down to you in regard to running the Bond franchise?
WILSON: How about everything? (laughs).
BROCCOLI: The headline on that would be the passion. He took his job very seriously. He was not an absentee producer. First guy there in the morning, last guy to leave at night. He was dedicated and passionate toward these films, without allowing himself to be distracted by anything. I think it is that passion and commitment that he gave us. He taught us not to take the franchise for granted.
OCR: I think that says a lot about the two of you. Obviously, both of you could have taken the money and led a nice, quiet comfortable life.
WILSON (laughs): It's not in our DNA.
BROCCOLI: It's that old-fashioned work ethic he instilled in us. Get up and do the work. Cubby worked into his 80s, and loved every minute of it.
OCR: Have you ever cringed at any of the Bond movies you've made?
WILSON: There are some things we wish we could do over, but that's the case with everything. Who doesn't wish they make some things better?
BROCCOLI: That's the trouble with movies. They're set in stone. There are individual scenes that we like to hurry through, but there are none of them in "Skyfall."
OCR: How does "Skyfall" reflect changing tastes in movies?
WILSON: We always try to be contemporary, but this film is fairly free from influences of other action films. It doesn't fit within the "Bourne" series, it doesn't fit within the "Batman" series and it doesn't fit within the "Spider-Man" series.
BROCCOLI: The influences usually come from within our own genre – the Bond world.
OCR: Why is James Bond still relevant?
BROCCOLI: He's a human hero. He suffers pain, but he's relentless, and that fits into how we all see the world. We invest a lot in our heroes, not just in cinema but in real life. We know that the human spirit is what survives, and what gets us through. We all know that it comes down to real human beings doing heroic things. That's what saves us, not machinery or technology. Technology helps but, in the end, it's James Bond being a man and doing his job.
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