After 50 years, 23 films and six different 007s, “Skyfall” turned out to be the biggest James Bond film of them all.
As the latest entry in the film franchise that launched in 1962 proved to be as unbeatable as author Ian Fleming’s superspy himself, “Skyfall” emerged as not only as the highest grossing and best reviewed Bond film of all time, it also earned five Oscar nominations – an unprecedented feat even for 007 – and a golden anniversary tribute at the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony.
As the crowd-pleasing blockbuster makes its Blu Ray debut, longtime Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli reveal the secrets of “Skyfall’s” success.
What has it meant to you to have this film perform so well and become the hallmark of the golden anniversary?
Michael G. Wilson: We always wanted to have a 50th anniversary film, and we weren't quite sure with MGM in bankruptcy if we could make it, but they pulled themselves together in time. And then we were working on this film, and you always have hopes that it's going to be fantastic. But this has really measured up quite well.
What did it mean to have those little touches in the film to evoke all the older films?
Barbara Broccoli: Well, obviously, it was tempting to do that because of the 50th, and we make these movies for audiences – Bond audiences. And so we felt that it would bring pleasure: the nods, the DB5, the various things that they would remind audiences of what's come before and honor what's come before. And all the response we've had is that people seem to love the fact that there are nods to the past in this one.
This is such a singular franchise, and it's gone through the ups and downs behind the scenes. Why do you think the character of Bond, this style of Bond storytelling has stayed so potent after five decades?
Wilson: I think we should start with Fleming as the originator of the character and writing a character that's complex enough and putting him into situations that explore his character well enough, a really well-defined character, and then we have six actors who come in, taken over the role, each of them bringing something to the part – keeping it fresh, always keeping it contemporary. And I think those elements have kept it going.
What are the elements that have made Daniel Craig a Bond that contemporary audiences today respond to so strongly?
Wilson: Besides being handsome and sexy and the best actor of his generation, what are the other elements [Laughs]? First of all, he's a great guy, just always ready to work with you. You can discuss things with him, and he gets it. He's very creative in what he adds to the character, and he understands the character really well. But he's also the most dedicated actor I've ever met, in terms of preparing for the part. When he's working on the film, he's like an Olympic athlete. He works out. The regimen that he goes through every day is amazing. When he goes out to rehearse an action sequence, he totally rehearses it physically, very demanding, but that's the way he does it. He has to work that way, and that commitment pays off because it makes him act and feel like the character.
This one pays such great service to the enduring character of Bond, but also gives the modern audience the Bond they're going to respond to. How do you take the temperature and figure out that balance?
Broccoli: You're always recalibrating. The thing is, we have an amazing team of people who've worked on the movies, and then we bring in new people like Sam Mendes who brings in Roger Deakins, so you have the most talented people on earth coming together to try and make the best Bond movie ever. It's a day-to-day discussion about ‘Is this good? Is this right? How can we make this better?’ And there's so much enthusiasm – that's the thing. As grueling as it is to make these pictures, it's a real privilege. And people come to it with a tremendous amount of excitement because Bond fortunately means a great deal to people, both people working on it and also the audiences. And we always start off, everyone, saying, ‘We want to make the best Bond film ever.’ And that's the thing that motivates us and excites us.
In prior Bond movies, most of the casting has centered on actors who were not-quite-star names in the moment, though many have gone on to become stars. Today well-known performers – Javier Bardem, Ralph Finnes, Albert Finney – are having some fun in the world of Bond. Is that the way you're going to go going forward? Is Bond at the point where so many people are excited to play in Bond's world that you can get that level of talent every time out?
Broccoli: I think that's certainly been the case the last couple of movies. I think the casting of Daniel. Daniel is an actor's actor, and I think actors of a certain standing and stature want to work with him. So I think that's part of the reason why we've got such an incredible cast, and also Sam Mendes has attracted a lot of people. And of course Judi Dench, she started back in 'Golden Eye,' and she did not have a huge film career at that point when we cast her. But she's become such an important film star. So I think it's a combination of wanting to just cast the best people for the role, and people being really excited and interesting in being in a Bond movie with Daniel Craig and working with a director like Sam Mendes.
You've run through all the Ian Fleming titles from the literally properties, and yet you were still able to come up with this very Bondian phrase with “Skyfall.”
Wilson: Well, it gets harder and harder! That's something we wrestle with all the time, and so we're open to new suggestions. I think we had a four-page single-spaced list of titles. We still couldn't find a good one there.