As you probably guessed from my rampant writing on the subject, I’m a very, very big Bond fan. Like to a stupid degree. This past week I’ve basically been doing nothing but watch Bond movies back to back. It’s been amazing. So you can imagine my excitement when I got the chance to sit down with Barbara Broccoli, daughter of Cubby Broccoli (one of Bond’s original producers) and current producer of the Bond films.
Broccoli is promoting the 50th anniversary of Bond on the big screen, and a documentary called Everything or Nothing: The Untold James Bond Story. It’s screening on EPIX and premiered last Friday. You’ll be able to catch it again on Oct. 20. If you’re a Bond fan it’s well worth your time as it has a lot of interviews that reveal a lot about the behind the scenes history of Bond.
Of course, after I had stopped not being able to speak from excitement, I promptly directed questions away from the documentary and to a very interesting discussion on the history of Bond.
Not to start off with an omission, but I noticed the documentary discussed every Bond film, but the Peter Seller’s Casino Royale. Do you know why that was omitted?
There was the television play with Barry Nelson, which was talked about, but you’re talking about the 1968 version.
You know it’s such a long history and they made decisions about what to take out and what to leave in. I guess there wasn’t really a lot to say about that film. You know it’s there in the canon of Bond films, but we certainly didn’t have anything to do with and I’m not sure what the decision was to leave it out. It wasn’t as if we said it couldn’t be part of the film.
I just re-watched it recently and that stuck out a bit.
It is a hoot, isn’t it?
It is. I’m not sure you see too many films falling apart on the screen.
It’s interesting. It reflects that psychedelic time, definitely. It’s a spoof, and I suppose when you look at it now, you know, having had the benefit of the Austin Powers films it’s quite funny to look back at it as a spoof.
Talk a bit about picking up the Bond mantle after you father passed. Was it a big decision for you?
Well, I grew up around Bond my whole life, and it was such an integral part of my life. I had the benefit of working with my father for so many years, and I learned so much from him about how to make movies and James Bond. His passion for it was extraordinary and very contagious. It was hard to go on without him, but I feel like his mark on the series is so indelible, and everything he has imbued on the series and the what he gave to Michael (Wilson, co-producer of the Bond series) and me is so strong that he’s reflected in everything we do. I feel like he’s with me.
You took over back in the early 90s with the relaunch of Bond and GoldenEye. Back then everyone was saying that Bond is dead since the Cold War had ended. How nerve wracking was it for you to be bringing Bond back in a world that might not want him?
It was difficult. It was after the lawsuit so there hadn’t been a Bond film on screen for six years. We we’re introducing a new actor in Brosnan, and everyone was saying that Bond wasn’t relevant anymore because the Cold War was over. There was a lot going on at the time. A lot of cause for concern. But, you know, we just did what we were use to doing, which was putting our heads down and trying to make the best film possible. It turned out pretty good. We had a great director Martin Campbell and Pierce was a sensational Bond. I think we proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the world still needs James Bond.
One of the aspects that makes Bond endure like he has it that whenever the series seems to get too big you bring it back down to earth. Was that something that your father and you tried to do?
Yes. Absolutely. These films very much reflect the times we’re in and it also a reflection of the actor that portrays Bond at the time. I think in certain cases — certainly when it came to Moonraker — we went pretty far out there. It’s a terrific movie and well appreciated, but I think there was then a desire to go back to a more realistic Bond. My father always use to say, “Whenever you get stuck go back to Fleming.” That’s a pretty good rule of thumb and that’s what we do. You know after Die Another Day, an extremely successful film, after 9/11 it seemed inappropriate to make light of Bond’s ambition to save the world. So we went back to the books. We got Casino Royale, which had eluded Cubby and Harry (Saltzman) initially, and we went back to tell the original story. I think it was very appropriate for our times and I think Daniel Craig has made an astounding Bond, who is very appropriate for the 21st century.
Speaking of Craig, I was one of the naysayers when he was announced as Bond, but you were behind him all the way. What made you believe in him as Bond?
He’s a great actor. I saw him do a lot of different varied performances, and you can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on the screen. He just captures you and he invades every character that he takes on, and he made a real commitment to re-finding James Bond and bringing the character humanity that I think is crucial to the Bond of now.
Looking back Craig’s new Bond really cast Dalton’s films in a new light. You see people looking back and saying that they see what was happening there.
Absolutely. Tim very much wanted to go back to the Fleming origins and I think he was right. I think he was ahead of his time. Those films really stand up. He’s an extraordinary actor and a very important part to the history of Bond. He gave it another dimension and a new insight.
Obviously the Bond actors are important, but the thing that makes a great Bond film is a great villain. How do you go about casting villains and how important is that?
I think the villains are essential because they’re the counter point to James Bond. The better the villain, the better the Bond movie as far as we’re concerned. I think with Javier Bardem we hit a real home run. He’s a spectacular actor and he created such an extraordinary character. The combination of him and Daniel is just extraordinary. To watch them on the set is a real privileged.
Have you seen the completed Skyfall?
Oh, yes. We’ve seen it and it’s pretty great. I’m really relieved because it was very, very important to us, particularly for the 50th anniversary, that we made a film that would stand up to the high benchmark that was created by all the original filmmakers. I’m very, very proud of it. We just hope that the fans will love it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.
In Skyfall the evil Quantum organization story line has been pushed to the side. Why was that? Was it tough to do after the last two movies built it up?
We thought that after what Bond had been through on Casino Royale we felt we really need to complete that story line. So Quantum is very much about revenge on the Quantum organization for Vesper’s death. I think we successfully put that story line to bed and we felt we could start with another story. It’s a new chapter with Bond getting back to being Bond.
And Blofeld? Will he ever be returning?[laughs] Blofeld has obviously been an important part of the history of Bond, and as much as we love him we’re focusing on trying to create new villains. Certainly when you see Javier Bardem you’ll see that he serves up a pretty dangerous cocktail for Bond. I think that he’s a new version of the lethal adversary that Blofeld has been in the past.
There doesn’t seem to be any stopping Bond now. The last hurdle — the Cold War ending — was defeated and he seems to have an obvious place in cinema. Is Bond eternal now?
I think Bond is a classical hero and I think as long as there is villainy out there there is a place for James Bond. I imagine villainy will continue so… I think there will always be a need for James Bond. In terms of the films we’ll keep making them as long as audiences want to go see them. I just hope that Skyfall lives up to what everyone believes it can. We make these movies for the audience and they are the ones that keep us going.
I’m not sure how involved you are with the gaming aspect of Bond, but how important are the videogames to the Bond franchise?
Well, I think when GoldenEye came out it certainly brought a whole new audience to the Bond films and you can’t underestimate its impact. We try to make the games with as much style and panache as the films. All the time I hear people telling me how good they are and how impressed they are with them, so I think they’ve been very helpful. I’m not really a gamer myself so I can’t speak with any great authority other than that we seem to have the best designers in the business creating them, and they’re doing very well.