When Variety catches up with Britain’s most famous producers at the end of August, they are busy preparing for Bond’s 60th anniversary in October. But the search for a new actor to play the world’s most famous spy is quietly rumbling in the background. It’s still “early days,” they say, but whoever gets the role has to be in it for the long haul.
For a while, that person seemed to be Idris Elba. But the “Luther” star recently said he didn’t see Bond when he “looks in the mirror,” comments some have interpreted as Elba saying goodbye to 007.
Broccoli and Wilson had not recently spoken to the Bond candidate in a long time at the time of this interview, but they say they get it. “He’s great,” Wilson says, and Broccoli is quick to add, “We love Idris.”
“The question is that it will take a couple of years,” he says. “And when we cast Bond, it’s a 10-, 12-year commitment. So you’re probably thinking, ‘Do I really want that thing? Not everyone wants to do that. It was hard enough to get [Daniel Craig to do it].” Wilson chimes in: “And she was in her early 30s at the time!”
The producers are sitting at a round table in their spacious office at Eon House, the headquarters of their production company Eon Productions, a stately and imposing Edwardian house on London’s Piccadilly, overlooking Green Park and nearby Buckingham Palace.
The half-siblings, whose mother Dana Natol was married to Broccoli’s father Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, co-founding producer of Bond, have been Bond’s caretakers since “GoldenEye” (1995), starring Pierce Brosnan. They worked with the “Remington Steele” actor on three other films: “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997), “The World Is Not Enough” (1999) and “Die Another Day” (2002), before hiring Craig to ” Royal Casino”. (2006).
The duo formed a strong bond with Craig, and together they developed the character over the course of four more movies, including “Quantum of Solace” (2008), “Skyfall” (2012), “Spectre” (2015) and Pandemic of the Year. past. delayed “No Time to Die,” before Craig retired as 007. Well before the star’s final turn, however, speculation abounded about his replacement, and Broccoli and Wilson have already been fielding questions about the next chapter of the franchise for years.
Most young actors, Broccoli and Wilson say, think they want to play Bond, but they don’t fully understand the commitment of running a franchise over many years. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh yeah, that would be fun to do one,’” Broccoli laughs out loud. “Fine. That’s not going to work.
It’s also a question of resources for Eon Productions, explains Wilson. “It’s also a big investment for us to get a new Bond out.”
Ultimately, the casting process is not simply about casting someone for a movie role, they stress.
“That’s why when people say, ‘Oh, who are you going to get?’ It’s not just about casting an actor for a movie. It’s about a reinvention, and ‘Where do we take it? What do we want to do with the character?’” says Broccoli. “And then once we figure that out, who is the right person for that particular reinvention?
“With [Craig]when we had the conversation at this very table about, you know, [whether he was] was going to do it, he said, ‘Well, I’m going to do it. I really want to be a part of this, of everything. And he lived to regret it,” says Broccoli with a laugh. “But it is a big commitment. It’s not just about showing up for a couple of months of filming.”
As Brosnan once said, he quotes: “More people have walked on the moon than have played James Bond.” (In fact, there have only been six Bond actors to date since the first film, “Dr. No,” in 1962: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Brosnan and Craig.)
Both Wilson and Broccoli, who is director of the UK chapter of the women’s advocacy organization Time’s Up, have made their mark on Bond, particularly by humanizing the once-womanizing spy and securing more fulfilling and meaty roles for women. female stars of the franchise. These are qualities that will continue in the upcoming films, says Broccoli.
“It’s an evolution,” she says. “Bond is evolving just like men are evolving. I don’t know who is evolving at a faster rate.”
Craig, he adds, “opened up Bond emotionally,” bringing the audience closer to the character’s inner life. “The movies during his tenure were the first time we really connected the emotional arc.”
Another first for the producers has been tackling a television show based on Bond. As Variety revealed earlier this year, Amazon’s Prime Video greenlit its first television series based on the iconic British spy with the reality adventure show “007’s Road to a Million,” a Bond-style twist on a career worldwide.
“People have always come to us to do a TV show, [saying,] ‘Oh, you should do a Bond challenge,’ but we always stayed away because we didn’t want to put people in harm’s way and have them do dangerous things, because it’s not for members of the public, it’s for trained professionals,” explains Broccoli.
But “007’s Road to a Million” was the first time a producer, Britain’s 72 Films (“The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty”), had approached the pair with an idea that seemed “fun” as well as confident. “The key is that it wasn’t dangerous for the participants,” says Wilson.
Broccoli and Wilson are producing the eight-part series in conjunction with 72 Films and MGM Studies. The show is already in production and “it looks really cool,” enthuses Broccoli.
“The public will love it, and that’s why we agreed to do it,” he says. “I mean, we were just as surprised as everyone else. Like, wow, we’re going to do this.”
News of the show emerged just a week after Amazon closed its $8.5 billion deal for MGM in March, with the Bond franchise believed to be a powerful driving force behind the acquisition.
When the proposed deal was first announced in 2021, Broccoli and Wilson were quick to stamp out any speculation about a broadcast play for Bond and issued a statement assuring the public that the films would remain in theaters. (Even in this interview, when asked if Amazon might apply for a narrative Bond TV show, Wilson notes, “We’re trying to keep it theatrical,” and Broccoli quickly replies, “Well, we’re going to keep it theatrical.” try; we have to. It’s just a theatrical franchise”).
But the biggest shock surrounding the Amazon acquisition, they say, was the sudden departures of MGM movie bosses Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy in April.
“It was a real blow when we lost Mike and Pam,” says Broccoli cautiously. “I mean, that was just, you know, we’ve had a roller coaster ride over the years with MGM and United Artists and all of that, for many, many years. There have been many ups and downs and we were very happy with his leadership and looking forward to sailing smoothly. And then a hurricane came and things changed.”
Broccoli is “eager to find out” who will replace the studio heads at MGM, which has yet to name a successor. Meanwhile, producers are working “very closely” with Alana Mayo of MGM’s Orion Pictures division on the film “Till,” about Emmett Till, an African-American boy who was brutally murdered in a hate crime in Mississippi in 1955.
“She’s an amazing, wonderful, talented woman,” Broccoli says of Mayo. “I really love working with her on this movie, and UA is a great team.”
If the break with Bond has done anything, it has given producers time and space to focus on “Till” and other projects, of which there are plenty. Along with the release of “Till” in October, Broccoli has a “Sing Street” musical coming up in Boston, and another theater project with director Erica Schmidt in the works. Meanwhile, Wilson has written a TV show that the duo are looking to put together.
As well as serving on the board of Time’s Up UK, Broccoli is Chairman of First Light, a youth-focused film initiative, a founding member of the London Screen Academy, and Chairman of the National Youth Theatre.
Time’s Up UK’s work, says Broccoli, is “critically important”, and plans are under way to form an Independent Standards Authority to handle issues of sexual harassment and abuse. “It’s important that people have a place to go to hear their complaints and some kind of system to help resolve them,” he says.
Broccoli and Wilson are also industry leaders for the British Film Institute, which will soon set its policy for the next 10 years. Broccoli, former chair of the BFI UK Film Skills Task Force, admits that while UK production demand is “excellent”, it has to be “sustained by a workforce”.
“We have a skills shortage and we have a diversity problem,” she says. “To me, she kept saying, ‘Let’s put them together.’ Let’s train people from diverse backgrounds for the jobs that are needed. There are many people who are very talented but have not necessarily felt that the film industry was for them.
And as well as advising on the future of the British film industry, there is, of course, the question of Eon’s next chapter. When asked about managing the company in the next few years, Wilson jokes that Broccoli is “the spring chicken” and that he is at the height of his skills.
Broccoli laughs, but then turns serious.
“I’m going to die with my boots on,” he says. “My joy is my family and my work. I don’t see it as a difficulty. Every day you face new challenges, it’s fun and it keeps you young.”
On September 21, Broccoli and Wilson will receive two Hollywood Awards. In the morning, they will leave their handprints and footprints at a ceremony on the forecourt of the TCL Chinese Theater. Later that day at the Beverly Hilton, they will receive the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation Pioneer Award, which honors industry leaders with outstanding philanthropic efforts and provides financial support to those in need in the distribution and exhibition sector. .
“[Those who work in distribution and exhibition] they are in many ways unsung heroes because these have been very difficult times,” says Broccoli. “Movie theaters are the places that people will dream of, and we have to fight to keep them running. These are the people who fight the good fight. We have to support them.”