Ahead of receiving the David O. Selznick Award for lifetime achievement, the 007 producers spoke about their family-built franchise
As the latest instalment, starring a much-loved Daniel Craig, grossed a billion dollars at the box office, the producers admit that their constant challenge is pleasing the traditionalists but keeping James Bond films fresh and interesting for a wide audience. They cast their minds back to the announcement of Craig as 007 and the media backlash against a short(er), blonde-haired 007. "Thank goodness, Daniel didn't get rattled," Barbara Broccoli tells Variety about the storm that rose around his casting. "We didn't get rattled, and we just continued making the film. And it turned out to be a bloody good film, so everybody kind of shut up after that."
But the producers made a wise choice, and "Skyfall", "Quantum" and "Casino Royale" have been among the most financially successful 007 adventures in the series. And the producers carry on the tradition of hands-on producing that Cubby Broccoli and his partner Harry Saltzman championed back in the first three decades of the franchise. Of the partnership, Sony's Gary Barber says, "There's no one more hands-on from a producing standpoint than Barbara and Michael in every aspect of the process from cradle to grave."
Under the watchful eye of the producers, Bond has further embedded himself in popular culture, celebrated 50 years of screen outings, and even escorted Her Royal Highness to the Olympics. "It was just an extraordinary feeling," Broccoli says, "That Bond is so much of the current culture that he could be so instantly recognised. Then when (the cameras) went into Buckingham Palace, I'm sure they were expecting Helen Mirren but when it was the real queen, the roof went off."
Bond has always skirted the realms of the impossible, the producers acknowledge. The moment that epitomises this for Broccoli was the Komodo dragon sequence in "Skyfall": "We like to have a couple of those moments where we say, 'Only in a Bond movie would this happen,' and the Komodo dragon scene was one of them."
"It always is a challenge, particularly when you're starting with a new director or writer and brainstorming. They say, 'What about this?' and we say, 'We did that in 'Live and Let Die.' There is a whole catalog of stuff you have to kind of avoid because it's already been done."
Making a Bond film like "Skyfall", also requires a lot of time in London and surrounding areas, and although the producers are American by heritage, they have a deep affection for the UK. "Cubby and Harry were Anglophiles," says Michael G. Wilson. "They brought a sort of American sensibility to it, but they loved the British."
Broccoli reflects on what things would have been like if Bond's screen rights had been purchased by a Brit: "If it had been British producers, I think they may have been more strict in the portrayal of a British hero for example. They might not have cast a Scottish actor (Connery), but with Cubby and Harry's sensibility, they were much more open-minded about how to translate the books onto film and make it more appealing to an international audience."
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