‘Skyfall’ Interview: Barbara Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson on Bond Franchise Challenges

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

As the daughter of longtime Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, and a longtime 007 producer herself, paired with Michael G. Wilson, you’d think Barbara Broccoli would have the franchise down to a science. However, with sights always set on raising the bar, the producing duo is bound to encounter more challenges - and thanks to their latest iteration, Skyfall, in looking ahead towards films 24 and 25 Wilson said, “We gave ourselves a big hill to climb.”

What sets Skyfall apart from most of the other James Bond films is that the mission highlighted here is far more personal. After losing a hard drive containing the identities of embedded agents, MI6 is under attack. Bond (Daniel Craig) is bruised and emotionally broken, but must pull himself back together to defend M (Judi Dench) and the institution that’s one of the world’s few lines of defense against the sinister Silva (Javier Bardem).

Even with relationships and feelings at the forefront, of course, in order for Bond to get the job done, he still bops from location to location, engaging in a number of wicked battle sequences with intense fistfights and powerful explosions and, therefore, a multitude of producing challenges.

Check out what Broccoli and Wilson had to say about their lives with Bond, why the franchise needs a female producer’s touch, what happens when stunts get dangerous, and more: 

Bond has been with you your entire life, but when was it that it clicked and you realized this incredible thing that was part of your family?

Barbara Broccoli: “I don’t think there was a specific moment. I think I’ve always just led an extremely exciting life and a great childhood. My friends were always kind of excited about the fact that my family made James Bond films, but it’s just sort of been seamless in terms of, I don’t remember a specific time.”

Cubby Broccoli, Sean Connery, Ian Fleming and Harry Saltzman

Did everyone want to be your best friend as a kid?

BB: “[Laughs] Yeah, I think people would like coming over to the house because there were interesting people around, but I’ve never known anything different!”

How about your first contribution to the franchise as filmmaker? Do you remember that first task you completed and getting to see the results on screen?

Michael G. Wilson: “The first thing I did was to help Dick [Maibaum] with some research, but I actually went on Fort Knox during Goldfinger and was a runner on that film, but just for the two weeks at Fort Knox.”

BB: “The first thing I did, Spy Who Loved Me, was captioning stills in the publicity department, which is a pretty boring job. But what’s great about the fact that I sort of did a lot of different things is that you have great empathy for the crew. [Laughs] When you’re thinking assistant director and all that stuff, you sit there and think, ‘Christ, I remember. You had to be one of the first people on the set and one of the last people leaving,’ and so it’s good to know what everybody does.”

The Spy Who Loved Me

Is it just luck that you happened to have that producer gene in you and you were able to carry on this franchise?

BB: “I’m going to be incredibly sexist here, but I think all women have the producer gene in them, to be honest. It’s a juggling act and I think that we are constantly having to manage our time and get a lot of things done in a very short space of time.”

MGW: “Barbara’s one in a million. Don’t let her talk herself down. She really has abilities that are …”

BB: “… Michael, that’s ridiculous!”

MGW: [Laughs]

BB: “I think that all women do that. They’re balancing the family income, they’re trying to figure out what to spend on what, all the things that you need to be a producer.”

MGW: “Some women. [Laughs]”

BB: “Mothers!”

I’m only a mother to a cat right now, but I can see the connection!

BB: “Exactly! You gotta make sure the cat’s fed. It’s all that stuff. So I think women are particularly suited and I hope that more women will become producers because I think they are so suited to it. We’re caretakers. We make sure everybody’s doing what they need to be doing.”

How do you feel being a woman producer on this film with a male protagonist, and especially someone who’s just so damn sexy and gets every woman he wants?

BB: “There is no hardship getting out of bed early in the morning when you know when you get there you’re gonna be meeting Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Albert Finney, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw, it goes on and on and on. And also hang out with the girls because the girls are a lot of fun. Judi [Dench] is such a delight, and Naomie [Harris] and Bérénice [Marlohe] …”

MGW: “… and all the heads of the departments that you hang out with are great.”

BB: “Yeah, it’s a family. It’s hard work, but it’s really exciting, fun stuff.” 

Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem

How do you feel about where you are right now with Skyfall?

BB: “Terrified, to be honest, because people like the movie and we’re thinking, ‘Christ, how are we ever gonna make one as good as this again?’”

MGW: “We gave ourselves a big hill to climb.”

At this point, does anyone ever say no when it comes to shooting locations, car chases, etc.?

MGW: “No!”

BB: “It’s challenging. We were very very lucky with Britain because in London they were really great about giving us permissions and things, but we were also shooting at a time leading up to the Olympics, so it was very challenging because there were all kinds of things going on and restrictions going on. They certainly bent over backwards to accommodate us. And also in Turkey. We shot in three major places in Turkey and for very long periods of time and inconvenienced the citizens of all the places we shot in.”

Do people notice you when you’re there? I know during the press conference you said that sometimes you use a surprisingly small crew for this kind of movie.

MGW: “They notice us when we’re there because it was so many …”

BB: “… in Istanbul.”

MGW: “We were camping and kind of blocking one of their major bridges across the rail bridges and also on the railways. We were blocking the line for …”

BB: “Weeks!”

MGW: “And they had to reschedule the freights and everything, but they were very accommodating in that sense. Not all countries will do that. We went to several other places to have a look beforehand and ruled them out because we weren’t going to get the cooperation we needed.” 

Istanbul Chase Scene

Has producing these films become second nature to you or are you still learning from film to film?

BB: “Every day you learn something new! I mean really, every day! You think we’ve been doing this long enough we’d know what we were doing, but you’re always doing something new, no matter where you are and you’re always learning things and thinking, ‘Wow, this is a new one for the books!’ [Laughs]”

MGW: “Just look at the end credits. We now have all these visual effects people that we never had in the earlier films. Everything seems to get more complex as you go on.”

BB: “And also we were shooting digitally on this film for the very first time, so that brought its own challenges. We shot with Roger Deakins for the first time and he was just absolutely, hands down, the greatest cinematographer you could ever wish to work with. There’s constantly new things that you’re learning with the changing technology, as well as everything else. Whenever you involve yourself with hundreds of human beings, you’re gonna come up with new challenges.”

So it isn’t just your family here, you’ve got this family of hundreds of people. And I was watching you on stage earlier with Daniel. You really seem so close!

BB: “[Laughs] Oh, wow, yeah. You know, when you’re working with someone so closely for such a long period of time and you’re on locations and things – these films take a long time to make and when you work with the same people again and again, of course you go through all the human dramas with everybody. You go through the ups and downs of life and so you get to know each other very well, and you rely on each other for a lot of things. It’s a privilege.” 

Is there anything you had Daniel do on this film that he was like, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know if I could do that.’

MGW: “Barbara likes to get him wet all the time.”BB: [Laughs]

I don’t blame you!

MGW: “He’s very game. We have to keep him from trying to do stuff that’s too dangerous or too difficult.” 

Daniel Craig

What does your insurance provider say when you tell them you’ll have motorcycles on roofs, a fight on top of a moving train and a big star and massive explosions?

MGW: “We have to be careful. They’re on board. Safety is prime. It’s about illusions. We create illusions. We never want the thing to be more dangerous than it is. Sometimes, you know, that happens on film. You find out that people are doing things that are more dangerous than it looks on the screen. You have to really pull them back.”

BB: “That’s the thing, to make something look more dangerous than it is. And, of course, when you’re doing things that are very serious, everybody is very alert. Unfortunately, what happens sometimes, you have an accident, it’s usually something that you just couldn’t predict because it’s a minor thing. But we take safety very seriously and so do all the people we employ.”

MGW: “And it’s not just the actors. It’s on construction, it’s on stuntmen, it’s on everything we do.”

BB: “Yeah, the construction, electricians, people like that, they’re under risk a lot when you think about what they’re doing, camera crews and stuff like that. It’s not just the stunt guys and the actors. And anytime you’re responsible for five, 600 people, you take it very seriously.”

MGW: “Do you remember there’s a shot in the bazaar in the opening sequence where the motorcycle starts flying? Well, that got out of control. It hit the camera that it was on! And luckily, it was a remote camera that was pulling back as it came at him, but there could have been people right around that camera. And I was right behind it. I got hit myself. When it hit the barrier, it hit me. I was taking pictures. So those things are totally unforeseeable. You have to be careful.”

But now everyone is safe and sound, you’ve got a great film here, and you’re all ready for more!

BB: “I know! That’s always the thing when we finish shooting that you always think, ‘Oh, thank God we got through this one okay.’” 

What about 3D? I'm certainly not recommending it, but with movies like this, it's somewhat becoming an expectation.

BB: “I think probably more in what you want to do. I think more in horror and science fiction, stuff like that. I think they're more suited to 3D than these, really. We're in IMAX, which we're very excited about and I think that experience will be great. Not quite ready for 3D yet.”


Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.

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