Production on the 24th James Bond film – Spectre – is only about halfway through filming. That’s of particular importance because the movie – which is easily the biggest James Bond installment ever made – comes out in just seven months. Now, not only does it have to meet or surpass the expectations set by Skyfall (92% positive reviews on Rottentomatoes, 1.1 billion dollars at the box office), it also has the added pressure of doing it in a fairly short amount of time.
Screen Rant was in Mexico City on the set of the film last week – along with other outlets – and we got the chance to talk to veteran Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli (stepson and daughter of Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, the producer of every Eon Productions Bond film from Dr. No to Licence to Kill). In the interview, we discussed all manner of Spectre-related topics, including the fast-paced shoot, the recently released trailer, SPECTRE’s connection to Quantum, Moneypenny’s role in the film, and much, much more. Check it out below.
So you just released the teaser trailer yesterday, and I’m very curious – how did you figure out what you were going to put in it [since you’re still filming]?
Michael G. Wilson: It was done – we had to start it 6 or 7 weeks ago. But I think we wanted to create something that was a teaser and a bit of a puzzle and a mystery. From what I saw online, people are putting it together in a clever way. It’s a little puzzle that people can enjoy.
It’s a fascinating franchise for continuity, because it’s sort of there and it’s sort of not. What’s it like to dance around that?
Barbara Broccoli: It’s always a challenge. We try to get the right blend of classic bond with a contemporary twist and come up with new storylines. I think we’ve done a really good job on this one. I think Sam is an amazing director and we’ve got a great cast and a great director. So we’ve got to let the public decide.
There’s a link with Skyfall at the very least. As you move forward – and with this film – are you creating more and more of a continuity in the films?
Wilson: I think that we saw that Mr. White showed up and he’s been there since back in ‘Casino Royale,’ so something’s going on here. ‘It’s been a long time.’
How is Quantum [the evil organization from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace] related to Spectre?
Broccoli: Oh, you have to see the movie. [Laughter.] You thought you’d sneak that one in.
I feel like that’s a yes, though. I’m going to go ahead and take that as a yes. [Laughter.]
Do you feel more pressure with this movie than with Skyfall?
Wilson: I think when you come off a successful film. you really… I think all of us felt that we had to keep the momentum going and really come up to the plate and not rest on our laurels. Tremendous pressure is there.
I’m very curious when you might be announcing who’ll be doing the theme song? Are you having discussions now?
Broccoli: We’re still figuring that out. That’s one of the last pieces in the puzzle. But it’s one of the fun things we look forward to. It’ll be a while.
It’s a very fast schedule before release. Is that part of the thrill for you?
Wilson: No. [Laughter.] It puts Sam under huge pressure. Puts all of us under a lot of pressure. But the release date hovers there and we all aim for it.
Is there a shortlist you have for the theme song?
Broccoli: We’ve had a lot of interest from a lot of exciting people. It’s kind of been a long list and we’re working our way through it.
I’m curious about how you put the cast together. It must be one of these things where you call people and say, ‘You want to be in Bond?’ ‘Yes.’
Wilson: You’d be surprised how much people have to be talked into it. Because it takes over their life, you know.
Broccoli: Well, Daniel took a little talking. We had to talk him into it. It sure paid off.
Wilson: Whenever you have a high-quality cast, they always want to know what the script is and what they’re supposed to do. They think about it.
Broccoli: Sam is a magnet for actors. He’s a great actor’s director and great storyteller and as it turns out now after these two movies, a great action director, too. So I think he’s a real magnet for actors. They want to work with him. Putting a cast together is easy – they want to work with Daniel, they want to work with Sam.
The title is obviously very exciting for James Bond fans. How tricky was it to get [the rights to] SPECTRE back?
Wilson: We had a dispute over SPECTRE. After years of discussions, we finally got the rights to it. It was the last piece of the whole issues with rights that we have to deal with.
Can you talk a little bit about the rumors that Spectre could’ve been a two-part movie?
Wilson: That’s news to me. I suppose people feel that there’s been a lot of films now that don’t want to stop, so they double themselves up to make two movies. But this is not the case.
At what point in your process do you start thinking about the next movie?
Wilson: When does that happen, Barbara? [Laughter.]
Broccoli: Yeah, I think so much focus is on what we’re doing at the moment. The next movie seems very far away.
There’s such a wonderful line in Skyfall – and it seems like it’s carrying over to this – between having some nostalgia, but not getting immersed in it. How do you walk that fine line?
Wilson: I think Bond has such a long history and the novels – it’s fun to play around with those ideas. But we always try to make the pictures surprising. There has to be elements in it that are ‘Bond-ian,’ so that people won’t be disappointed in the picture. That’s the fine line.
The new cool thing in movies is the shared universe. You know, Marvel and Warner Bros. are doing it, as are a few other companies. Is there any interest in doing that with James Bond?
Broccoli: I think Bond lives in his own universe. [Laughter.] I don’t think he wants to share it with anyone else.
Wilson: Like ‘Mission: Impossible’ and Bond pairing together? I don’t think so. I think that’s the comic book world. They’ve done very well with that, and more power to them.
Recently, Oculus Rift, Samsung, and Sony are all coming out with their own virtual reality headsets. Have you thought about or started talking about using that kind of technology with Bond, even if it’s just like a short teaser? Has Sony approached you about it?
Broccoli: Not yet. I’m sure they will. But we haven’t discussed it with them yet.
Wilson: We’re trying to prepare the things that we need to prepare, the next trailer and posters and stuff like that. We have our hands full just doing that without having to get involved with more things.
It seems like you guys have to be bigger with this film because Skyfall was so successful. When [the filmmakers] say they need 1500 extras for a scene, how does that make you feel?
Wilson: This is a big picture. I said at the trailer premiere that we’ve been doing these things for a while and we did the Carnival down in Rio [for ‘Moonraker’] and that was a big project restaging that, but [the opening action scene during the Day of the Dead] is much bigger. This is really pretty big. Those 1500 extras get duplicated around the square, so it’ll be a full square of 10,000 people when you actually look at it.
Broccoli: It’ s a lot of fun. That’s the thing, it’s a lot of fun. I don’t know if you guys met our team – the costume designer, make-up and hair – it’s very exciting for them. It makes everybody step up to the plate when you have a challenge like that. Sam had a real vision of his version of the Day of the Dead, and everybody from the design has really embraced it. The music – Tom Newman created special music – it feels like a big celebration to us.
Wilson: And it’s like a military operation. They arrive at 4 in the morning and they go through hair and make-up and go through wardrobe. They’re supposed to be in and out in 15 minutes. There are 80 stations they have to go through, so the whole crowd goes through them.
Broccoli: They’ve been very good-natured. They really seem to enjoy it – because it’s part of the cultural heritage of Mexico, so they’re really happy to be a part of it. We try to give them good lunch and take care of them. It’s very important. Because it’s important. They have very, very long days.
Now that you mention Mexican culture, there were reports that the Mexican government had influence in the script and made the country look better in the movie.
Broccoli: Well – the script has been in existence for a long time. The Mexican part of it – I mean, they’ve always looked good, because we’ve come here to show the Day of the Dead.
So I don’t know why that became an issue because it wasn’t an issue for us. We’re very happy to be here. In the script it was always the Day of the Dead, Mexico City is the obvious place to do it, and we’ve had tremendous cooperation from all the different departments and most importantly the public. Who we’ve, you know, inconvenienced a lot. But they seem to be very happy that we’re here, so we’re thrilled.
Can we talk about developing the script? What did John Logan do versus what [Neal Purvis and Robert Wade] did?
Wilson: It’s all lost in the process. Because they go back and forth. They talk together. It’d be impossible [to figure out]. You could go back and do a forensic thing.
Broccoli: It’s layers. These scripts evolve as we find locations and find different things, we try to be contemporary as possible. It’s an evolution every time. Each of the writers contributes a layer.
How long has the script been around?
Wilson: We started almost three years ago. Two and a half, certainly. You know, the first draft. Ideas, treatments.
You guys are filming for two more months. What are some of the locations and things you have coming up?
Broccoli: Well, our big ones are pretty much behind us. We have one more big foreign location, which is Morocco. And then we have London. Some really cool places in London. And Pinewood. But Austria, Rome, and Mexico are almost finished. We’ve got a few more days here and then we’re back home.
I’m curious about Moneypenny, revealed in the last film. What kind of Moneypenny is she going to be? Is she now going to go behind the desk, or is she going to be more active?
Broccoli: You can’t keep this one behind a desk. [Laughter.] This Moneypenny is very active. She is key to the story and key to helping Bond on his mission. So…she’s not deskbound.
Are there any cats in this movie?
Wilson: [Laughter.] Now that’s a good question. And…I don’t think we can say. You wouldn’t be thinking of a white one with a little diamond collar, would you?
The costume designer yesterday mentioned a skiing outfit, so I assume that means there will be a ski chase scene at some point in this movie.
Broccoli: We’ve been in the snow. We’ve been in the snow.
We also heard from the production designer that Sam Mendes wanted both hot and cold [locations]. Can you talk about finding that?
Wilson: Well, here we are. We’re in the hot [in Mexico City]. And in Morocco. And then the cold is up in Austria. And then of course we’ve been in Rome filming a car chase at night, which we thought was going to be very disruptive to the public, going all through the city at night, but the press really gave us a good review in the end. We managed to clean up a lot of areas the city hadn’t managed to clean up. So that’s going to be an exciting chase. That’s a lot of the big things that are out of the way.
One of the things I really love about the movies is not just the setpieces, but when Bond uses his intellect – the quiet moments. Can you talk about balancing those with the spectacle people expect?
Broccoli: I think that’s where Sam Mendes has really excelled. He’s a great director of drama and actors and suspenseful storytelling, but also he’s a 12-year-old Bond fan. He wants to bring that kind of action and excitement that he enjoyed when he first saw these movies. And he has a young son. I think he gets the balance right. He does the drama and the action. Like ‘Skyfall,’ I think he’s got it right with this one.
We have all the movies available on Blu-ray right now. What about the cartoon, James Bond Jr.?
Broccoli: [Laughter.] I don’t know. Never say never.
There’s been a lot of talk about Idris Elba playing James Bond. When you guys hear that stuff, how do you react? What goes through your mind?
Wilson: I think he’d make a great Bond.
Broccoli: I always say it’s like asking a woman who’s going up the aisle on her wedding day who her next husband is going to be. You know, Daniel Craig is Bond. And I don’t want to think about what happens when he goes. But I’m a huge fan of Idris, we all are, he’s a great actor and he could do anything. So ask me when we’re looking for a new Bond, which hopefully won’t be for a long time.
How many more movies is Daniel Craig contracted for?
Wilson: We want him for as long as he wants to do it, that’s the simple answer.
Broccoli: He has an open-ended contract with us.
So there you have it. We’re obviously still too far out from Spectre’s release date to get any truly juicy information, though there were a few interesting comments here and there (Moneypenny won’t just be a girl behind a desk, expect a car chase scene in Rome, and so on). And even the moments where Wilson and Broccoli avoided answering questions – on Quantum, ski chases, and felines – were pretty telling in their own way.
Spectre hits theaters November 6th, 2015.