Landing James Bond may be Hollywood’s biggest acting gig, but 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael J. Wilson say they still have to impress would-be actors on their part.
When diverse Catch up on top British producers in late August, as they are busy preparing for Bond’s 60th anniversary in October. But the search for a new actor to play the world’s most famous spy is quietly raging in the background. These are still “early days”, they claim, but the role has to be in the long run.
For a while, that person seemed to be Idris Elba. But the “Luther” star recently said he doesn’t see Bond when he “looks in the mirror” – statements that some have interpreted as saying goodbye to Elba with the number 007.
Broccoli and Wilson have not recently spoken to a longtime Bond candidate at the time of this interview, but they say they understand. “It’s great,” says Wilson, and Broccoli quickly adds, “We love Idris.”
“The thing is, it’s going to be a few years,” she notes. “And when we play Bond, it’s a commitment for 10, 12 years. So he’s probably thinking, ‘Do I really want this thing?’ Not everyone wants to do this. It was hard to get [Daniel Craig to do it]. Wilson interjects: “And he was in his early thirties at the time!”
The producers are seated at a round table in their spacious office at Eon House, home of their Eon Productions banner – a stately, high-rise Edwardian home in Piccadilly, London, overlooking Green Park and nearby Buckingham Palace.
Half-siblings – whose mother, Dana Natoll, married Broccoli’s father, Albert R. “Kobe” Broccoli, Co-Founder Producer of Bond – They have served as Bond sponsors since the movie GoldenEye (1995), which starred Pierce Brosnan. They worked with the “Remington Steele” actor for three more films – “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997), “The World Is Not Enough” (1999) and “Die Another Day” (2002) – before hiring Craig on “Casino Royale.” (2006).
The duo formed a strong relationship with Craig, and together they developed the character over four other films, including “Quantum of Solace” (2008), “Skyfall” (2012), “Specter” (2015) and last year’s pandemic-delayed “No Time” to die” before Craig pulled out as 007. Long before the star’s final role, speculation about his replacement was brewing, and Broccoli and Wilson had already been asking questions about the next chapter of the series years ago.
Most young actors, Broccoli and Wilson say, think they want to play Bond, but don’t fully understand the commitment to carrying the franchise over many years. Broccoli laughs out loud: “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, yeah, that would be fun to do.'” We would. This will not work. “
Wilson explains that it is also about resources for Eon Productions. “It’s a big investment for us as well, to bring out a new bond.”
In the end, the casting process is not just about choosing someone for a role in a movie, they assert.
“That’s why, when people go, ‘Oh, who are you going to get?'” It’s not just about picking an actor for a movie. It’s about reinventing, and ‘Where are we taking it?’ What do we want to do with the character? “And then, once this is figured out, who is the right person for that particular regeneration?
“with [Craig]When we had a conversation at this very table about, you know, [whether he was] I’ll do it, he said, “Okay, I’ll do it. I really want to be a part of it, everything. And he lived to regret it. But it’s a big commitment. It’s not just about showing up for two months of filming.”
As Brosnan once said, she cited, “More people have walked on the moon than James Bond.” (In fact, there have only been six Bond actors so far since the first movie “Doctor No” in 1962: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig.)
Wilson and Broccoli, director of the UK chapter of the feminist advocacy organization Time’s Up, have left their mark on Bond, particularly in humanizing the once-female spy and ensuring more fulfilling and fulfilling roles for the franchise’s starlets. Broccoli says these are traits that will continue in upcoming films.
“It’s an evolution,” she says. “Bonds develop like men do. I don’t know who develops faster.”
Craig adds, “Bond opened emotionally,” bringing audiences into the character’s inner life. “The films during his presidency were the first time we really tied an emotional arc.”
Another first thing for producers is getting into a TV show based on Bond. As Variety revealed earlier this year, Amazon Prime Video has lit up its first TV series based on the popular British spy with the adventure reality show “007’s Road to a Million,” a Bond-style spin on a race around the world.
“People always come to us to do a TV show, [saying,] “Oh, you should do the Bond Challenge,” but we always walked away from that because we didn’t want to put people at risk and have them do something dangerous, because it’s not for members of the public — it’s for trained professionals, Broccoli explains.
But “007’s Road to a Million” was the first time a producer – 72 British films (“Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty”) – approached the pair with an idea that seemed “fun” and also safe. “It won’t be dangerous for the participants, that’s the main thing,” Wilson notes.
Broccoli and Wilson produce the eight-part series along with 72 Films and MGM Studios. The show is now in production and “it looks really cool,” enthuses Broccoli.
“The public is going to get a huge boost from it, which is why we agreed to do it,” she says. “I mean, it surprised us as much as anyone else. Like, wow, we’re going to do this.”
News of the offer emerged just a week after Amazon closed its $8.5 billion deal to MGM in March, with the Bond franchise believed to be a strong driving force behind the acquisition.
When the proposed deal was first announced in 2021, Broccoli and Wilson quickly quelled any speculation about a streaming Bond play, issuing a statement assuring audiences that the films would remain in cinemas. (Even in this interview, when asked if Amazon might order a narrative television show for Bond, Wilson notes, “We’re trying to make it theatrical,” Broccoli quickly replies, “Well, we’ll keep it theatrical. We’re not going to try; we have to. Just a theatrical franchise.”)
But the biggest shocker about the Amazon acquisition, they say, was the sudden departure of MGM film chiefs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdi in April.
“It was a real blow when we lost Mike and Pam,” Broccoli says cautiously. “I mean, that was just – you know, we’ve had roller coaster rides over the years with MGM and United Artists and all that stuff, for many years. There were a lot of ups and downs and we were very happy with their ride and looking forward to a smooth sailing. Then a hurricane came and things changed” .
Broccoli “is keen to find out” who will replace the studio heads at MGM, which has not yet named a successor. Meanwhile, producers are working “closely” with Alana Mayo of MGM’s Orion Pictures on “Up” about Emmett Till, an African-American boy brutally murdered in a Mississippi hate crime in 1955.
“She’s an amazing, amazing, talented woman,” says Broccoli of Mayo. “I really love working with her on this movie, and UA is a great team.”
If the breakup with Bond achieved anything, the producers would be given the time and space to focus on “Up” and other projects, of which there are many. Alongside the October release of “Till’s,” Broccoli also presents a musical performance of “Sing Street” in Boston, and another theater project with director Erica Schmidt in the works. Meanwhile, Wilson has written a TV show the duo is looking forward to setting up.
In addition to his service on the board of Time’s Up UK, Broccoli is president of First Light, a youth-focused filmmaking initiative, a founding member of the London Screen Academy, and president of the National Youth Theatre.
Broccoli says Time’s Up UK’s work is “extremely important”, and it plans to set up an independent standards body to deal with cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault. “It’s important for people to have somewhere to go to hear their complaints, and to have some kind of system in place to help solve this problem,” she says.
Broccoli and Wilson are also industry leaders at the British Film Institute, which will soon set its next ten-year policy. Broccoli, former head of the BFI UK Film Skills Taskforce, admits that while demand for production in the UK is “substantial”, it must “maintain a workforce”.
“We have a skill shortage, we have a diversity problem,” she says. “For me, I kept saying, ‘Let’s put it together.’ Let’s train people from diverse backgrounds for the jobs that are in demand. There are a lot of very talented people out there but they didn’t necessarily feel like the film industry was for them.”
Aside from advising on the future of the British film industry, there is, of course, the matter of Eon’s next chapter. When asked about running the company in the coming years, Wilson jokes that broccoli is a “spring chicken” and at the height of its capabilities.
The broccoli laughs, but then gets serious.
“I’m going to die putting my shoes on,” she says. “My joy is my family and my work. I don’t see it as a difficulty. Every day, you face new challenges, and that is fun and keeps you young.”
On September 21, Broccoli and Wilson received two Hollywood Awards. In the morning, they will leave their hands and footprints at a party in the front yard of the TCL Chinese Theatre. Later that day, at the Beverly Hilton, they received the Pioneer Award from the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, which honors industry leaders with outstanding charitable endeavours and provides financial support to those in need in the distribution and exhibition sector.
“[Those who work in distribution and exhibition] They are in many ways unknown heroes because they had very difficult times,” says Broccoli. Movie theaters are places where people go to dream, and we have to fight to keep them going. These are the people who fight the good fight. We have to support them.”