Skyfall producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson were game to talk about SPOILER questions, since the film raises so many interesting ones, so out of respect we’ve held this interview until after the film’s U.S. opening. Still, if you haven’t seen Skyfall yet, don’t read this interview until you do. Heck, I even interviewed both Broccoli and Wilson separately for the documentary Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 and I still had a full interview’s worth of new questions to ask them. And my second opinion aside, I’m thrilled to talk to the keepers of the franchise about all things Bond any chance I get.
[Editor's Note: This interview is FILLED with spoilers for Skyfall. We'll warn you when some of the biggest spoilers are coming, but you have been warned.]
When you started with Casino Royale did you think you would still be evolving by the third movie after?
Barbara Broccoli: After Casino Royale, we felt we couldn’t just have him go into the next movie like having a whale of a time and going out with a lot of girls, acting as if nothing had happened. So we needed Quantum to be his kind of revenge, get to the bottom of who killed Vesper and track down the Quantum organization and put that story to rest before he could move onto another episode. The next episode is obviously this and it’s a story about the second most important person in his life. After Vesper, that story, who else is important to him emotionally and it’s M who represents authority, home, everything to him. Putting her in jeopardy and having this story of the gray area of good and evil seemed like the right place to go.
I don’t imagine Daniel Craig’s Bond ever just having a good time as you jokingly put it. Is that really where you see him going?
Barbara Broccoli: Yeah, in the mid-‘70s he frolicked around a bit but I don’t think that’s really appropriate anymore.
So far these three films have been so personally connected to Bond, do you think this Bond would fit in an objective mission? I don’t mean that it would be frivolous, but that it would be more of an assignment where we see this is the man we want on the job.
Michael G. Wilson: It’s tough because Daniel is such a great actor, you want to give him something to work with besides just the job, something internal, something personal, something that is meaningful to him as part of the experience.
Barbara Broccoli: Conflict.
That’s why I said it wouldn’t be frivolous, but I don’t think any of them were frivolous.
Barbara Broccoli: But in the Fleming books, a lot of the story parts are about his inner conflicts and complexities of his character.
[BIG SPOILER QUESTION] - How did you decide which characters you’d reintroduce in a new version, like a young Q and a black Moneypenny, and which would come back in the more traditional form?
Barbara Broccoli: We didn’t set out to say, “Oh, we’re going to have a black Moneypenny.” We set out to write a more contemporary type Moneypenny. She was originally a RN in the Navy. That was her background so we wanted to update her to someone who had been a field agent. We looked around and said who’s the best actress we can find for this role, who’s got the beauty and intelligence and the sass and kickass kind of qualities who could be a contemporary of Bond, who could give as good as he gets? We looked around England and found one of the best young actresses there is. We got Naomie Harris.
And then Ralph Fiennes looks more like Bernard Lee’s M.
Barbara Broccoli: Oh, do you think so? Really, how interesting.
Michael G. Wilson: I thought he looked a lot like Bond. He could be a Bond figure. He’s just slightly more mature but he himself could play that. He’s a man of that ability and stature.
Will you do me a favor? In the next movie, will you please put the gun barrel back at the beginning?
Michael G. Wilson: Our directors love to play around with that gun barrel.
Barbara Broccoli: I mean, it was going to be at the beginning. It just visually didn’t really work so well.
Michael G. Wilson: That first shot, usually we go onto something, [the circle] goes down like that. This, he’s coming blurry through the door and in the half darkness he comes into the light and focus. That was really hard to put that gun barrel there but I know what you mean. I agree with you. I’d like to see it at the beginning too.
It was such a different thing at the end of Quantum of Solace and I loved that, but putting it at the end again, does that establish it as the new tradition?
Barbara Broccoli: No, no. It also gave us an opportunity to do the 50th, a little nod to the 50th.
I always have anxiety that you’re going to forget the title sequence too. World is Not Enough and Die Another Day had such long pre-title sequences, do I have to worry about that? You’re never going to forget the song, are you?
Barbara Broccoli: You remind us in case we do, okay Fred? You make sure.
Michael G. Wilson: The studio might remind us if we forget.
Of course we fans followed John Logan’s cryptic Blofeld comment that Bond is nothing without Blofeld, and I think I know how that applies to Silva in Skyfall. If he chose to include Blofeld in the next movie, do you guys have the rights to that character back?
Barbara Broccoli: I mean, we’ve talked about Blofeld over the years. The thing is Blofeld was fantastic for the time but I think it’s about creating characters that are, villains that are more appropriate for the contemporary world. It’s more exciting for us to create somebody new.
What does it mean that Judi Dench was the new M to Pierce Brosnan and the old M to Daniel Craig?
Michael G. Wilson: [Laughs] What does that mean? I don't know.
Barbara Broccoli: It means that Bond’s around a long time. That’s what it means. [Laughs]
Michael G. Wilson: It means the James Bond character I guess in our minds is not necessarily the same person.
Really? I didn’t think you’d go there.
Michael G. Wilson: Well, I mean, you kind of have to go there if you think she was Pierce Brosnan’s M and for Daniel.
That reminds me when I interviewed Lee Tamahori for Die Another Day. He said his idea was to specify in continuity that each James Bond was a different person given that name. When I reminded him that Roger Moore had visited Theresa’s grave he didn’t know that, but what was your take on Lee’s idea?
Michael G. Wilson: I don't think we’re that [self-referential.]
Barbara Broccoli: You know, Bernard Lee was M through different Bonds. What M represents is authority so I think that’s what’s relevant. In each story, whoever’s playing it, the M character is the authority figure. I think that’s where you’ve just got to accept that, whether it’s the same actor or different actor. You just have to take each film as it comes.
Michael G. Wilson: How many Qs have we had? Desmond Llewellyn played it for four [different Bonds.]
Barbara Broccoli: It’s part of the family, you know.
Congratulations on signing John Logan for two more scripts.
Barbara Broccoli: Well, we are working on another film in the future but we actually haven’t announced that we’re going to do two. We don’t know what we’re going to be doing.
Oh, so what was the news that he had a two-story arc?
Barbara Broccoli: That was a Hollywood announcement, not from us if you notice.
So my follow up questions: Would it be a cliffhanger? Would you shoot them simultaneously? Would you have one director for both?
Barbara Broccoli: We have no idea. We’re going to be working on another Bond film sometime next year but we haven’t specified anything more than that.
Michael G. Wilson: It’s very early days for us. In fact, we haven’t finished this one yet.
It would be something to know we can anticipate two more.
Barbara Broccoli: Well, I hope you’re going to be able to anticipate a dozen more.
I’ve been nicknamed “Franchise Fred” because I love continuing series and I seriously believe no story should ever end. Will James Bond always return?
Michael G. Wilson: I’m sure he will because he’s a fictitious character in part of our culture. He’s like Batman or Superman, these characters that are perennials.
Would there ever be an end point to his story?
Michael G. Wilson: Well, whoever ends it, someone will come back a few years later and renew it, right?
Obviously when they ran out of books they stopped announcing the next title. Have you ever thought about maybe announcing an ambiguous title for “James Bond will return in…”?
Michael G. Wilson: We can’t even agree to the title until just before the picture runs. It’s the hardest thing.
Barbara Broccoli: It’s one of the hardest things to come up with.
Michael G. Wilson: Skyfall, when did we actually agree to that? Must’ve been in April or something.
Barbara Broccoli: It was a bit earlier than usual but yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard to come up with a title that is as good as the titles that Fleming came up with.
Michael G. Wilson: Licence Revoked became Licence to Kill. We even had that for a while and we had to change it. We also announced one at the end of one picture that turned out it wasn’t the one we did. What was that, Moonraker? We announced [For Your Eyes Only] and then we did another movie.
What’s your involvement with the video game licenses? Goldeneye remains one of the best games ever.
Michael G. Wilson: We’re still involved with them and still working with Activision on that. We just have to see. The business is changing rapidly. We have to see what the future is for that.
Could you put some of those games on phones?
Michael G. Wilson: It’s a long discussion.