James Bond Producers Are Focused on Figuring Out a Villain Before Casting the Next 007
James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are straddling the past and the future as they celebrate 007’s 60th anniversary and begin thinking of life post-Daniel Craig.
Sitting down with The Hollywood Reporter at The Beverly Hilton ahead of a dinner where they were presented with the 2022 Pioneer Award from the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, Broccoli and Wilson talked about casting considerations for the next Bond, what they would like to see in MGM leadership after the Amazon acquisition, and if Bond could ever be secret agenting on the small screen. Says Broccoli: “We have resisted that.”
This conversation comes amid a jet-setting tour worthy of a secret agent. The duo also participated in a hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Wednesday. Next is an Oct. 4 World Bond Day celebration that will include a concert at Royal Albert Hall ahead of the Oct. 5 release of Amazon doc Sound of 007, about the music of the Bond films.
In a conversation with THR, the half siblings also reveal that despite rampant speculation about who will play the next Bond, they are currently more interested in figuring out who his villain will be.
When you took up the mantle of James Bond, what were some of the concerns and anxieties you had on that first outing?
BROCCOLI I grew up around Bond, so I was imbued with everything Bond since I was a little girl. I always say that I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my father, because he was just such an amazing man. So, I was around a lot and it turned into me working with him and with Michael, learning at the feet of the master. When Cubby (Albert Romolo Broccoli) asked us to take over for GoldenEye he had a lot of confidence in us, which made a big difference. He had instilled in us the kind of passion that he felt for filmmaking and for the series, in particular. I suppose the anxiety was to live up to everything that had come before.
WILSON You don’t want to be the person that makes the last James Bond film.
Has that anxiety lessened as the years have gone on?
BROCCOLI We really appreciate the fans, the people that come to see the movies, and so we don’t want to let them down. So you try your very best to make the best film possible. You try and hire the best people, create the best atmosphere for people to do their best work, and then you just hope that you get it right. But with that, Cubby always told us, you can’t be fearful of change, you’ve got to take risks, and sometimes they’ll work, and sometimes they won’t. But you’ve got to keep it fresh. So, you’ve got to keep evolving, and that’s what we’ve tried to do.
The Sound of 007 is releasing soon. There are so many aspects of the Bond films that could warrant a doc, why start with the music?
BROCCOLI I think the sound is such an integral part of the films. It all started with John Barry — the John Barry sound with Monty Norman’s theme and John Barry’s hands. John created a new genre of film music with the Bond films and then of course went on to do so many other extraordinary scores on different films like Out of Africa. I think the combination of the soundtracks, the scores and also the songs have been very much a part of the success. Normally when we’re making a movie, everybody wants to know who’s going to play Bond, who’s the villain, who’s the lady and who’s singing the song. It’s very much been a part of the whole mystique of Bond.
The doc was originally at Apple but is now being released on Amazon Prime. How did that happen?
BROCCOLI Amazon, when they bought MGM, they’re very much about synergy, so I think they really wanted to have it in their orbit, which was very flattering for us. Apple were very kind about allowing that to happen.
Have you had any insights into how MGM will fit into Amazon and thusly how Bond fits into Amazon?
BROCCOLI Not really. It’s very early days. We’ve made a film called Till, which is about Emmett Till, which is being released by UAR, so Amazon have been incredibly supportive of Till because it’s under their auspices now. So we’ve been having a very good experience, a very positive experience [with Till]. They’re really behind the film. So, we’ve gotten off to a great start.
Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy have left MGM following the Amazon purchase. Have you been given insight into their potential replacement?
BROCCOLI We don’t yet. I don’t think they have. They certainly haven’t told us. I mean, those are big shoes to fill. We had a great relationship with them, and we look forward to seeing who is going to take over.
What would you like to see in terms of leadership at MGM?
BROCCOLI The theatrical business is very important to us. The Bonds are cinematic films and it’s very important to us that they’re on the big screen. So, we want someone who has the same passion for the theatrical experiences as we do. To be a studio head, we always say that the most important thing in the business is talent. So, we hope that studio head will be talented and appreciate talent and be a good partner.
WILSON Amen. (Laughs.) The thing is we’ve had great partners at the studio and we’ve had some difficult ones. We’ve been through it all. We will just see who comes up next.
Bond is a survivor. If he can survive Hollywood, he can survive anything.
BROCCOLI You said it.
Bond is a member of “Her Majesty’s secret service.” With the queen’s passing, I wanted to ask what she meant to the franchise?
BROCCOLI Well, as you say, Bond worked for queen and country, and will now be working for king and country. He was a very loyal servant of the British government. He’s a classical hero that cares about the world and cares about humanity more than his own personal desires. It’s a very sad time in Britain, obviously, it’s a big time of transition, but she certainly has left a very extraordinary legacy.
WILSON She’s been a great supporter of the Bond films over the years. And so have everyone else in the royal family — Charles and William and everyone else. She’s been a steady hand. You don’t think of her so much as a person. It is a shock, no matter how much you anticipate it may happen.
Did you have any personal experience with the queen you would be willing to share?
WILSON We just took her around and introduced the cast and crew every time she came to the openings. Prince Phillip was also a great Bond fan. He was very reactive. We’d be in the box with him and he’d laugh and clap.
There is already a lot of speculation about who will be the new Bond. Is the intense level of speculation something that affects you as creatives?
BROCCOLI When we get to a point, like we are now, we have to think about the trajectory of the Bond films and the storylines and where we want to take them. So, that’s really the main focus at the beginning. Once we have a sense of where we want to go, then we’ll start thinking about casting. We’re not just casting someone for one film. We’re casting someone hopefully for a decade, at least. It’s a big decision to make, and we’re nowhere near making that decision.
What are the societal changes that you are looking at that could be reflected in the next Bond?
BROCCOLI It’s hard to know. We always sit down with our writers, and we start by thinking about “What is the world afraid of?” We start by thinking about, “Who’s the Bond villain?” We try to focus on that as the sort of uber story, and then we want to also look at Bond’s emotional life, and what he’ll be facing personally that he hasn’t had to deal with before. So he has two big issues in the films — one is the geopolitical one and the other is the personal one.
WILSON Everyone thought that [when] the Berlin Wall came down it was all hunky dory and there would be no stories to tell anymore. Well, that proved wrong. The world is so unpredictable and it’s a rich environment for storytelling.
What other considerations would you present to actors weighing the Bond role?
BROCCOLI Any actor that would be thinking about this has got to think about how it would change their life. Daniel certainly was reluctant when we first approached him and as I say about him, his life changed, but he did not change. He’s always been the same amazingly wonderful human being at the beginning as he is now. You become an ambassador for the cinema and people recognize you as being associated with the character. It’s got a lot of different elements to it. But the time commitment is certainly a long-term commitment, and not everybody is willing to do that — multiple pictures over many years. Daniel’s done 16 years’ time.
What are you looking for when it comes to assessing any projects that will dip into or be adjacent to James Bond?
BROCCOLI We’ve really enjoyed the documentaries. We did the one, Being James Bond, about Daniel Craig, and we’ve enjoyed this music documentary. We have stayed away from other projects and the one that we’ve just done with Amazon is a nonscripted [007’s Road to a Million]. We’ve had tons of people coming to us with all kinds of ideas about doing that. One of our big concerns about that is we never wanted to put any members of the public in physical danger. A lot of the ones that they had proposed to us were these high-risk adventure type things, and we just did not want to do that. This is more like a scavenger hunt, and it’s really fun. That is why we went along with that project.
Is there a world where Bond could end up on television?
BROCCOLI We have resisted that. Many years ago, we did do an animated children’s thing, but we’ve resisted doing anything, because you know, we really like to put all of our efforts into the theatrical features.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.