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Producer Barbara Broccoli talks indepth about Casino Royale and the shift in direction

26-Nov-2006 • Casino Royale

Casino Royale marks the start of a new James Bond Franchise - reports IF Magazine in a two part interview (part 1) (part 2).

Before production even started on this film, there was a swirl of controversy about the letting go of Pierce Brosnan and the hiring of Daniel Craig as the new Bond. The woman with the power behind the Bond franchise, Barbara Broccoli, claims that they were pleased with Pierce and it was just time for a change that prompted the re-cast and it was time to make Bond a bit more realistic on the big screen.

“We were very happy obviously with DIE ANOTHER DAY,” Broccoli explains. “It was the most successful film we'd had. We loved Pierce and he had made four great films for us. We then sat down to figure out what we were going to do with Bond Twenty One, and Michael and I felt at the end of DIE ANOTHER DAY that we had sort of taken 'Bond' along a sort of fantastical journey and that we had kind of reached the point of no return in terms of a little bit too much CGI, the invisible car and things like that. We felt that the world had changed. The world was much more serious and we were trying to figure out where to go, and Michael [Wilson] said, 'Well, you know, maybe we should do CASINO ROYALE.”

ROYALE had always been part of the Bond franchise plan, but according to Broccoli her father Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and his producing partner Harry Saltzman couldn’t acquire the rights in the 1960’s when the first Bond films were being produced.

“Now, CASINO ROYALE was the first book that Fleming wrote about James Bond and when my father and his partner Harry Saltzman had gotten the rights from Ian Fleming CASINO ROYALE was not available,” she explains. “It had been made for TV -- CBS. They said, 'Well, we can't do that.' It was a shame because they really wanted to do it because it's the first story. So they ended up doing DR. NO. They started there, and in fact later on, yes, CASINO ROYALE was made by Columbia as a spoof. So we got the rights to CASINO ROYALE in the '90's. We really wanted to make it and Michael said, 'Lets just do it now.'”

Fans were behind the CASINO ROYALE story, but why the sudden change of actors to play Bond? Brosnan had been established as an excellent Bond, and popular with the fans, so why the switch to the less popular Craig?

“It was his first mission and it couldn't be someone who had played the role before,” explains Broccoli. “That was the kind of difficult part to it because it meant that we had to make a change. We did discuss it with him [Brosnan] and he was very gracious about it, and he's a great guy. He was a great Bond and he did four wonderful films for us.”

Daniel Craig was always the first and foremost choice for the producers as far as their leading man was concerned. Yes, they did see other actors, but Broccoli refuses to talk about who else they were seeing analogizing it to sex before marriage.

“I'll tell you that Michael and I wanted Daniel [Craig] from the very beginning,” she says. “I won't comment on who we met or didn't meet. That's like saying, 'Who did you sleep with before you got married?' [Laughs] The thing is that we always wanted him, but obviously we didn't know if he was going to do it. So, we met other people and we looked at other people, but we never offered it to anyone, but him. We offered it to him. He read the script. He said yes and we announced it. “

So what were the qualities that Craig brought to the mix that made him so perfect for James Bond? According to Broccoli there were several levels of dedication to the role that she and her fellow producers felt Craig had the ability to tackle.

“He just seemed like he was a man who is a 21st Century Bond,” says Broccoli. “This script was very complex and we needed and actor who could handle all of these things because he has to be agile physically, tough, you've got to believe that he can kill people, but in this script, as you saw, you also get to see inside of him. He has to be vulnerable, but remain tough, and I think that he's done a hell of a job. I think that he's fantastic.”

High praise indeed from the powers that be for the new Bond, and where does that leave the future for Craig…the sky’s the limit according to Broccoli stating, “I think that he will get an Academy Award at some point in his career because I think that everything he does he does to the best of his ability and it's extraordinary.”

The world is not enough for James Bond, and it is certainly not enough for the producer behind the James Bond franchise, Barbara Broccoli. Broccoli is the daughter of series originator Albert "Cubby Broccoli who started 007’s journey on the silver screen over forty years ago. With the release and warm reception of the latest Bond film, CASINO ROYALE, Broccoli has secured a place in contemporary cinema for the new version (re-boot if you will) of the agent with a license to kill.

Over the years, the Bond films have been attacked by female movegoers, but Broccoli has always been perplexed by that criticism especially since Bond girls are generally women who are powerful and use all of their wiles to gain what they want.

“I think that over the years the films have had a bit of battering by people about that because in fact when you look at the early films the women were very extraordinary for the '60's,” explains Broccoli. “They were pilots and tough and strong women who did extraordinary things who were sexual and had an equal sort of sexual appetite. They weren't the wilting flowers. I think that what happened was that maybe in the '70's and '80's it became more window dressing. We had groups of girls in bikinis sitting around swimming pool, and I think that's where we go that sort of attention.”

In fact in this new movie, the opening credits are curiously lacking the usual nude women that decorate the screen. This was a conscious choice, not to make the films more female friendly, but rather to represent a starting point for Bond himself.

“Well, he's been among girls in the opening sequence before, on this one, we felt, since we're telling the story of him becoming a Double O, and you see the two killings and he becomes a Double O – the black and white is supposed to be his life before,” she describes. “Once he becomes a Double O everything explodes around him. We thought that it would be better to have him in the sequence to explain that this is now what his life is going to be like.”

The casting of the leading lady in CASINO ROYALE was a terribly delicate matter, and one that required an absolutely perfect fit with an actress that Broccoli and her fellow filmmakers had their eye on from the start.

“We had seen Eva Green in KINGDOM OF HEAVEN and THE DREAMERS and we thought that she was fantastic,” she says. “The thing is that this character of Vesper, in Bond lore she is the most important character because she affects his life forever. So we had to cast it really well. She had to be alluring and beautiful. She had to be a great actress, but she had to have this kind of mystery about her. She has to be a kind of enigma because he falls in love with her and instinctively he knows that there is something missing, there is something wrong and he can't quite put his finger on it. It's a very difficult role to cast, and we'd seen Eva and we called up and they said, 'No, she's not available. She's doing a film in France.' We started looking at a lot of people and no one just seemed right. I kept saying to the casting director, 'Just ring her agent every week.' And this went on for months and months.”

Having found their perfect actress, the battle was on to get her in the picture. Due to other projects she was working on, Eva Green almost was not in ROYALE, but at the last minute she became available, came to the set, and stole the breath of everyone present.

“Eventually they said, 'Well, the film may not happen,’ “she continues. “It was one of those European finance films and sometimes they're tricky to get together, and so I said, 'Please, please get her in.' I felt like she had to do it. It was just fate that at the end, her other film, the dates moved and we were already shooting. She came to Prague and we were all kind of anxious because sometimes when you meet someone it isn't exactly what you thought. She walked in and Martin [Campbell] and Michael [Wilson] and I went, 'Oh, my God. She's it.' Then she came in and read with Daniel and he was like, 'Oh, we've got to have her.' So it was fate that things shifted and she was able to do it.”

As much as they loved her in the film, Eva Green will not be returning for sequels. When people die in the new 007 series, they stay dead.

“There is a rumor circulating that she's in the next film,” says the producer. “The fact is that the impact that she has on him in this film may be referred to in the next film, but we're still working on the script. But she doesn't come back to life.”

This film was based on the original novel by Ian Fleming and is the first in some time to bear that seal of original author authenticity as Broccoli explains.

“Basically, for the last several films they've been original scripts, but what's great about this is that this is based on one of the original books, and it's pretty faithful to the book, but updated," she says.

From this point on it is only moving forward with new stories told from the Bond re-boot point of origin in CASINO. There will be no more remakes of classic Bond films like DR. NO, only new stories.

“The plan at the moment is to continue along in the way that we've set Bond up on this sort of new story, a contemporary story of him moving forward,” she clarifies.

Broccoli was caught completely off guard by the sudden vicious backlash from the media and fans about Craig taking over as Bond.

“It was bizarre,” she says. “I mean, I was perplexed by the whole thing. We were in the Bahamas and we'd been shooting for a month and all this stuff was coming out, and I thought, 'How can people be judging something that they haven't seen?' It's the most bizarre thing.”

Of course she is reminded that during her father’s time period, Ian Fleming himself did not approve of the now legendary Sean Connery as James Bond and it was only after seeing Connery on screen that Fleming liked the actor in the role.

“When my father and Harry hired Sean Connery, everybody from Ian Fleming to everyone was saying, 'Oh, what about –' even the studio when they sent the screen test for Sean Connery – Ian Fleming was surprised,” she recalls. “Once he saw him play the role he then said, 'Wow, he's fantastic.' ”

In the end it’s the response to the product that matters, and Broccoli feels that CASINO ROYALE has had a great response from audiences and critics alike.

“It's always a relief when you see it finished and you get a positive response, but during the course of the making of the film we felt very confident because we were seeing the film and we were seeing how great he was,” the producer smiles. “So it was really exciting. I mean this just feels really nice because we're getting a positive response. I just hope that the public loves it.”

She isn’t committing, however, to how many films Daniel Craig will be doing as James Bond. Craig has been telling one story to reporters, but Broccoli states, “He’s saying three. I tend not to discuss contractual matters.”

Thanks to `Brokenclaw` for the alert.

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