Born the daughter of James Bond producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, Barbara Broccoli has a long history with 007. She watched her father and his partner Harry Saltzman develop and produce nine James Bond films, before, at the age of 17, she entered the fray, working in the publicity department for THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. She went on to then work her way up to serving as an assistant director on Roger Moore's last two pictures as James Bond - OCTOPUSSY and A VIEW TO A KILL. For Timothy Dalton's two-film run as Bond, Broccoli became an associate producer which eventually catapulted her up the ladder to producer, alongside her half-brother Michael G. Wilson, with the introduction of Pierce Brosnan at 007 in GOLDENEYE. Broccoli has served in that capacity since, and, with this year's SKYFALL, it will mark her seventh film produced in the Bond catalog.
After some scheduling snafus that had us missing each other, I was able to talk to Barbara yesterday on the eve of James Bond's 50th anniversary. She was very gracious and apologetic about our times having not matched up to that point, and for that, did her absolute best to make sure we did have a chance to chat before the Epix premiere of the Bond documentary EVERYTHING OR NOTHING: THE UNTOLD STORY OF 007. We were able to chat about the Bonds of yesterday, today and tomorrow, with some emphasis on the transitions between actors taking on the role, and, of course, SKYFALL managed to come up as well. So as we wish 007 a Happy 50th today on James Bond Day, enjoy my conversation with Bond producer Barbara Broccoli.
The Infamous Billy The Kidd - There’s never really been anything quite like James Bond in the movie industry. You have a franchise that’s been around now for 50 years, you’ve gone through multiple recastings, and yet somehow the franchise keeps going strong without missing a beat, really. What is it about the series, do you think, that really continues to endure through all of these changes within society, as well as within the series itself that keeps people coming back?
Barbara Broccoli - I think, obviously, the key is the character of James Bond which was the creation of Ian Fleming. I think he created a character that was multidimensional and complex enough... He’s a classical hero, but he’s very human. I think that all begins and ends with the character. So I think it’s Ian Fleming, and obviously the actors who have all re-interpreted the character for the times. So, starting obviously with Sean Connery who... If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t think we would be here 50 years later. He created the cinematic character, and then with each subsequent actor, they reimagined it for the times, and moved it forward.
The Kidd - There never really seems to be... “Bond Fatigue,” I guess. You’re coming up on your 23rd, 24th, 25th films, and even the most successful franchises have usually tapped out around trilogies... Maybe four or five. But Bond continues to survive, and keeps having it. Even when you have recastings that seem to take a little bit of time to settle in with the fanbase, it still seems like the fan base keeps coming out to support it.
Barbara Broccoli - Well I think we really do have to really acknowledge the support of the fanbase. I think they are very much a part of why the series has lasted so long. They come to the movies with a tremendous amount of goodwill, they want to like the movies, and I think they’ve stuck with us through the ups and downs that we’ve had over 50 years. We obviously make movies for them. We make movies for the audiences. We want to make a film that is going to satisfy the Bond audience, and also the wider audience. Because they have to stand alone as independent films as well, as well as within the whole library of films. So I think we owe a great deal to the audiences.
The Kidd - One of the most heartfelt moments in the documentary, to me, was actually the segment on George Lazenby, and his really brief run was 007. He only had the role for one film, but that film is widely regarded as one of the better Bond films in the overall catalogue. Do you think that he gets his due for his contribution to the Bond series?
Barbara Broccoli - Well I certainly acknowledge his contribution. I agree that it’s one of the best of the films, and I think he did incredibly well. As he points out, he’d never acted before, and I think his passion for the role obviously was responsible for him getting the role. I think Peter Hunt did a really wonderful job working with George to create such an effective performance. As he says himself in the documentary, I think... It was other factors and forces that became untenable for him to continue. And I think he was very brave and wonderful to have participated and have been so candid in his reflections about himself at that time.
The Kidd - He’s very honest, he says flat out, “I blew my chance at this role.” There’s kind of this perception of him as almost this... As a joke within the Bond actors because he only did the one film, but as we said, it is a rather important film in the overall scope of things.
Barbara Broccoli - Yeah. And I mean, we certainly never joke about him. We take his contribution very seriously, and it’s very important. I think it was very brave of him to be so candid and honest, and I think it says a lot about him as a person that he’s able to do that. I think it’s also an interesting commentary on fame, and what it’s like to be instantly a household name at the time, and how that fame and other people’s reaction to it can warp you. Warp your sense of reality. It’s a bittersweet story, and I applaud him for being so open about it.
The Kidd - Your first film as a full fledged producer was GOLDENEYE, which was the first bond film in about six years, following Timothy Dalton’s run. How important was Pierce Brosnan in rebuilding James Bond and kind of repairing the relationship with the fanbase that never seemed to warm to the Dalton films?
Barbara Broccoli - Well I think Timothy Dalton was a phenomenal Bond, and he’s a brilliant actor. I think all of his intuition and instincts about going back to the Fleming books and recalibrating the character of James Bond was absolutely spot on. I think it was ahead of its time. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS was certainly a fantastic film, and extremely well received. The trouble was that when we went to make LICENSE TO KILL, we, the producers, took a much harder look at the series, and we went too far in terms of being too violent. The film was just too violent. It was the first one that had a 15 rating in the UK... I think the audiences felt very uncomfortable about it. I think we were planning to make another film with Tim, and we ended up in this MGM debacle, which caused a six year period in which Bond was off the screen, and that was the issue. Bond was off the screen for six years and... The wall came down. The Berlin Wall came down, and everyone was... The world is now at peace, there are no enemies, what relevance does James Bond have now in the modern world? The post-Cold War era? So that’s what we were up against, and, of course, as we all know, the world wasn’t any safer. Because the Berlin Wall came down, there was even more villainy out there, because... The parameters had changed.
The Kidd - There were just less defined enemies, I guess.
Barbara Broccoli - Yeah, exactly. So there were people operating in the shadows. So we used that thematically as a way to posit that the world needs James Bond more than ever. Fortunately, it was a resounding success. And obviously Pierce was very much a part of that. He redefined Bond for the post-Cold War era. He did an incredible job, and was very successful.
The Kidd - Let me ask you about the decision to move on from Pierce. At that point he had four Bond films under his belt, all of which were wildly successful in terms of redefinition of the character. How difficult was it to pull the plug on doing films with him and moving into the Daniel Craig era when he was so integral in bringing Bond back?
Barbara Broccoli - It was incredibly difficult. Because you have to understand, when we’re making these films over a period of time... You have a relationship with the actor. Like we had a wonderful relationship with Timothy Dalton, we had a wonderful relationship with Pierce Brosnan, and when we got to a point with the Pierce Brosnan films... I mean, DIE ANOTHER DAY was incredibly successful, the most successful one up to that time... But the thing was that there was this horrific event of 9/11 that occurred, and we felt that we had gone too far in terms of fantasy... In terms of DIE ANOTHER DAY we’d become too fantastical.
The Kidd - Yeah, the invisible car is...
Barbara Broccoli - Yeah. The invisible car. It’s kind of crazy, because the invisible car was based on some military technology about camouflaging military vehicles out in operations, and it kind of went from being something that was semi-practical, to being too fantastical. Our approach to it was misguided. So we felt... It wasn’t that we were unhappy with Pierce Brosnan, it was that we felt we had to take a change of direction in terms of the Bond character and the series, and we had to go back to reality, because we’re living now in a post-9/11 world. Frivolity didn’t seem appropriate. So around that time, or a year or two before, as a result of the settlement between all the legal wrangling, we’d gotten the rights to Casino Royale, which had been the Holy Grail of the Bond books. And the book that Cubby [Broccoli] and Harry [Saltzman] had wanted to make, but Fleming had sold the rights to TV and then to Columbia, who’d made a spoof out of it. So, the two events collided. One was a decision to take a change in direction, and the other was that we had the rights to Casino Royale. So Michael [G. Wilson] and I felt it right and appropriate to tell that story. And in order to tell that story, we needed to recast the role, because we had defined a Bond who... The whole point of that story is that it’s Bond becoming James Bond. So it’s the man who is basically a blunt instrument, who, through a sort of rite of passage transforms into the James Bond that we all know now, so we had to recast the role. And it was extremely difficult to say that to Pierce. Because A, he was incredibly successful, and the public loved him, and B, we loved him. We’re very close to him and his whole family, so it was a very tough decision. But we felt we had to do it for the longevity of the series. And he understood that. He took it like a gentleman, and we remain very close.
The Kidd - In the film, you talk about the concerns of Bond’s future being tied to a studio, which dates back to Harry selling his rights to United Artists, and I’m sure those concerns resurfaced when MGM was going through their financial issues recently, and plans for SKYFALL were on the shelf. Were you at all worried as far as the time frame as to when SKYFALL would actually get to happen? Because at that point Sam Mendes had already been attached to it. You had Daniel Craig who was still on the hook to do another film. Were you worried that it might be a lengthier process to get Bond back to the screen again?
Barbara Broccoli - Oh, absolutely, it was incredibly frustrating for Michael and I. Like you said, we had a window of opportunity for Daniel Craig... We also had a window of opportunity with Sam Mendes... We had a script we were working on that we felt confident about... So we had the kind of A-Team. Sam was bring Roger Deakins, we had Dennis Gassner... We had all the essential elements to get going. We were with a partner who was in financial disorder... We had great concerns that we would be able to meet the schedule that we had to keep all these people that were so essential to making the film. And also, we really wanted to have a film come out in the anniversary year. And so we didn’t want to disappoint the Bond fans. So it was a pretty tumultuous time, and we knew that Bond would prevail, but we just didn’t know that he was going to prevail on our timescale. Fortunately, he did.
The Kidd - It was recently reported that Daniel Craig had signed on for two films following SKYFALL, which would take his run to five pictures. What goes into the determination of when one Bond has simply had enough and it’s time to switch gears and move onto a new interpretation of the character?
Barbara Broccoli - Well, you know, it’s a combination of various things. The main thing is obviously the actor. There’s a point where an actor will say, “I’ve done it, I’m happy. I’ve done enough. I’m going to hang up the holster.” These are very, very demanding roles for an actor to play. You take someone like Daniel Craig... The physical... Six months of shooting... and a Bond actor is on every day. And this is intense physical... It takes intense physical stamina and peak performance condition, just on the physical part. Then you have all the concentration. The focus. The precision in terms of the acting. It’s a hell of an undertaking, and I think mostly it becomes of the actor unless outside forces intervene. As you saw in the documentary, the situation with George... We’ve just described what happened post-9/11... So, it varies, but usually it’s about when the actor says, “I’ve done enough. I’ve had it. I’ve done my... Let somebody else put the skates on and take off.”
The Kidd - Let me ask you one final question about SKYFALL, because I know things have been kept very close to the vest as to what to expect moving forward, so what can you tell me as far as what we might be able to expect from the next chapter of James Bond?
Barbara Broccoli - Well, I think Sam Mendes has crafted an extremely exciting and innovative emotionally charged film. I think we’ve got great action... A lot of surprises. I mean that’s why we’re being so guarded. To have an audience come in and discover the storyline for themselves without giving away spoilers. So I think it’s going to be a great Bond movie. That’s what we set out to do, is to make the best Bond film ever for the 50th anniversary, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job. I think people will really love this movie. I’m really proud of it, and I’m proud of the work that everyone’s done on it, and I’m really excited to see the audience react, which I think will be overwhelmingly positive.
The Kidd - Alright, thank you very much. I know we had some trouble hooking up here, and I appreciate you taking the time through all your travels. I’m sure you’re exhausted.
Barbara Broccoli - Well I appreciate you taking the time as well. Thank you so much.
The Kidd - Thank you so much, Barbara.
Barbara Broccoli - Thank you.
Barbara Broccoli can be seen in EVERYTHING OR NOTHING: THE UNTOLD STORY OF 007, which premieres tonight, October 5, at 8:00 p.m., on Epix, and SKYFALL lands in the UK on October 26 and in the U.S. on November 9.
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