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Shaking, Stirring Up The James Bond Franchise

Oct 2, 2012
Originally published on October 2, 2012 1:08 pm

This Friday marks 50 years since the release of the first James Bond film, Dr. No. Ian Fleming's Cold War-era MI6 agent has endured through 22 movies, evolving all the while to stay relevant to new audiences. The next installment is Skyfall, due out Nov. 9.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are the franchise's current producers and children of the original producer, Albert "Cubby" Broccoli. NPR's David Greene spoke to them about the family business.


Interview Highlights

Broccoli on Ursula Andress, the first "Bond girl"

"When Cubby and Harry [Saltzman] went to cast the role, they had great difficulty finding someone. And Cubby and Harry were going through a pile of photographs in their London office — the sort of reject pile. And they went through again and they pulled out this photograph of this extraordinary woman. And they called the casting director back in Hollywood at the studio. And they said, 'Tell us about this actress here. What is she like? Is she as beautiful as she appears in the photograph?' And he said, 'There is no photograph that can capture this woman's beauty.' So they said, 'Put her on a plane.' Basically. And they went down to Jamaica and Ursula arrived and of course the whole crew fell madly in love with her."

Broccoli on whether "Cubby" imagined people watching 50 years later

"When Ian Fleming was in Istanbul with Cubby, he said to him, 'You know, these films will go on beyond me. And you're eventually going to have to get people to continue writing these stories after I'm gone.' So I think even Ian Fleming envisioned the series to go on, you know, for certainly decades. I don't think anyone would have quite predicted 50 years. I mean it's, it's an extremely long period of time — I mean, almost half of, you know, cinema itself. I can guarantee you they'd be very happy."

Wilson on the idea of a quintessential 007

"I think all of them have reflected different aspects of the Bond character. Certainly Sean [Connery] was a fantastic first Bond. He really set the bar, and everyone else has to measure up to that. But every one of the actors, they're leading men and they bring their own personality to the role. And they find in the Flemming character, which is so rich, that these diverse actors could find something in it that they could reflect in their own personality."

Broccoli on Daniel Craig and going back to the literary conception of the Bond character

"You know, obviously when we got the rights to Casino Royale, we really felt, since this was the origin story, it was the original story that Fleming had written about the character, we felt we had to recast the role and choose someone who was going to redefine Bond for the 21st century. And I think that's what Daniel has done so extremely well.

"He has allowed the audience into Bond's inner life. Into the complexities, the conflicts that Bond expresses in the novels, which are very difficult to convey on the cinema screen because it's an internal dialogue — Bond doesn't talk about how he feels. And I think, you know, Daniel is such a superb actor, and I think this is one of the things that he very much wanted to do when he agreed to play the role, was to really go back to the original Fleming Bond. And that Bond is, yes, a lot darker and — but he also has vulnerability. I mean, in that film, his heart is broken. And he shuts down emotionally when Vesper commits suicide; he realizes that he can never have a relationship with a woman in the same way ever again. And I think that vulnerability is very powerful."

Broccoli on keeping James Bond relevant through the years

"Well, we've had this challenge many times. I mean, we had it when we were about to do Goldeneye. The press and everyone were saying, 'Well, now that the Cold War is over and the wall has come down, what relevance does Bond have? I mean, the world's at peace, do they need James Bond?' Well, you know the answer to that, don't you? The world certainly did not become a peaceful place — it became even more complex. And, you know, after 9/11, certainly the world changed again dramatically. And I think that, you know, Daniel's portrayal of the character has brought a lot more humanity to the role."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Just so you know, it's Bond Week on MORNING EDITION. This Friday marks 50 years since the release of the first James Bond film, "Dr. No." Ian Fleming's Cold War-era secret agent has continued through 22 movies, finding new ways to stay relevant with audiences. And the next installment, "Skyfall," is out next month.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are the current Bond producers and children of Albert Cubby Broccoli, the man who brought 007 to the silver screen.

MORNING EDITION's David Greene spoke with them.

MICHAEL WILSON: The introduction was magnificent, the way it's played out in the film. The first words that Sean Connery says on screen are...

(SOUNDBITE OF A MOVIE, "DR. NO")

SEAN CONNERY: (as James Bond) Bond. James Bond.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Important words, a few important words.

(LAUGHTER)

WILSON: And it was an instant icon. Ursula Andress coming out of the sea is an instant icon for all movie-goers.

GREENE: I wanted to ask you about Ursula Andress because she was the first Bond girl in film, as it were. And I read - after going back and watching the movie - that there was such a feeling that she was the right person visually. But you weren't happy with her voice and you actually used a different voice of a different woman to cover up her voice onscreen.

BARBARA BROCCOLI: Well, when Cubby and Harry went to cast the role, they had great difficulty finding someone. And Cubby and Harry were going through a pile of photographs in their London office, the sort of reject pile. And they went through again and they pulled out this photograph of this extraordinary woman. And they called the casting director back in Hollywood at the studio and they said, Tell us about this actress here. What is she like? Is she as beautiful as she appears in this photograph?

And he said, There is no photograph that can capture this woman's beauty. So they said put her on a plane, basically. And they went down to Jamaica and Ursula arrived, and of course the whole crew fell madly in love with her.

GREENE: Barbara, you brought up these names, Cubby and Harry - that, of course, your dad, Albert Broccoli, and Harry Saltzman, who created "Dr. No" and the films following it. I guess I wondered, did your father imagine that people would still be watching Bond, you know, 50 years after that first film?

BROCCOLI: When Ian Fleming was in Istanbul with Cubby, he said to him, You know, these films will go on beyond me and you're eventually going to have to get people to continue writing these stories after I'm gone. So I think even Ian Fleming envisioned, you know, the series to go on, you know, for certainly decades. I don't think anyone would have quite predicted 50 years. I mean it's - it's an extremely long period of time. I mean almost half of, you know, cinema itself. I can guarantee you they'd be very happy.

GREENE: People love having the debate over who their favorite actor was who played James Bond. And each actor changes the character in his own way. Is there one of them that you felt kind of play the quintessential 007?

WILSON: I think that all of them have reflected different aspects of the Bond character. Certainly Sean was a fantastic first Bond. He really set the bar and everyone else has to measure up to that. But every one of the actors, they're leading men and they bring their own personality to the role. And they find in the Fleming character, which is so rich, that these diverse actors could find something in it that they could reflect in their own personality.

GREENE: As a moviegoer, I kind of feel like Daniel Craig - I mean the new blonde Bond - I mean he really has the coldness that you hear about, you know, and think about from Fleming's books. And I guess - when you made "Casino Royale," were you reconsidering that, that this was going to be a moment to go back to the literary conception of the character?

BROCCOLI: You know, obviously when we got the rights to "Casino Royale," we really felt, since this was the origin story, it was the original story that Fleming had written about the character, we felt we had to recast the role and choose someone who was going to redefine Bond for the 21st century. And I think that's what Daniel has done so extremely well.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "CASINO ROYALE")

DANIEL CRAIG: (as James Bond) Go find Mathis. Tell him I've hidden the bodies down in here and I wanted to get rid of them. Do that now. Go. Go. Go!

BROCCOLI: He has allowed the audience into Bond's inner life. Into the complexities, the conflicts that Bond expresses in the novels, which are very difficult to convey on the cinema screen because it's an internal dialogue. Bond doesn't talk about how he feels. And I think, you know, Daniel is such a superb actor, and I think this was one of the things that he very much wanted to do when he agreed to play the role, was to really go back to the Fleming, original Fleming Bond. And that Bond is, yes, a lot darker and - but he also has vulnerability.

I mean in that film, his heart is broken and he shuts down emotionally. When Vesper commits suicide, he realizes that he can never have a relationship with a woman in the same way ever again. And I think that vulnerability is very powerful.

GREENE: Barbara, you said something interesting: redefining the character for the 21st century. And it makes you wonder how tough it is to keep James Bond relevant, as we move on from the Cold War and now into, you know, an entirely new generation and a new time.

BROCCOLI: Well, we've had this challenge many times. I mean we had it when we were about to do "Goldeneye."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "GOLDENEYE")

JUDI DENCH: (as M) You don't like me, Bond. You don't like my methods. You think I'm an accountant, a bean counter more interested in my numbers that your instinct.

PIERCE BROSNAN: (as James Bond) The thought had occurred to me.

DENCH: (as M) Good, because I think you're sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War.

BROCCOLI: The press and everyone were saying, well, you know, now that the Cold War is over and the Wall has come down, what relevance does Bond have? I mean the world's at peace - do they need James Bond? Well, you know the answer to that, don't you. The world certainly did not become a peaceful place, it became even more complex. And you know, after 9/11 certainly the world changed again, dramatically. And I think that, you know, Daniel's portrayal of the character has brought a lot more humanity to the role.

GREENE: Well, best of luck with the new film and enjoy your marking this anniversary. It was great to talk to you both.

WILSON: Thank you very much.

BROCCOLI: Thank you so much. Great pleasure talking with you.

MONTAGNE: Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson speaking to our own David Greene.

INSKEEP: On Bond Week tomorrow, meet the man who played the signature Bond guitar riff.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES BOND THEME MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.