Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, ‘Skyfall’ Producers, Talk the Coming-of-Age of James Bond

By  · Published on November 10th, 2012

Skyfall is the conclusion of James Bond’s coming-of-age story. At the end of Casino Royale, he may have declared himself Bond, but the young .00 wasn’t there just yet. As shown by the divisive Quantum of Solace, Bond was still a rebel ‐ a guy who took advantage of having a license to kill. He was dangerous.

The Bond we see in Sam Mendes’s Skyfall is still a “blunt instrument,” as producer Barbara Broccoli calls him, but he’s wiser and older now. By the end, all three films tie together nicely, even if you’re not a fan of Quantum of Solace. Broccoli and her fellow producer, Michael G. Wilson, say that was the intention. Here’s what Wilson and Broccoli had to say about now bringing in auteur directors, how James Bond has grown since Casino Royale, and why Steven Spielberg hasn’t made a Bond film yet:

I’m guessing it must be nice hearing all the positive reactions today.

Broccoli: Yeah, it’s been extraordinary.

Wilson: Sam doesn’t read the reviews, but we do! [Laughs]

[Laughs] He discussed the experience of sitting in on one of the test screenings. How often does a Bond film usually test?

Wilson: We screen it for a test audience, exhibitors, and the people who have to distribute it. That’s it. We don’t get much feedback.

Plus, I’m sure you trust Sam Mendes more than maybe the average test screening card.

Wilson: And we have to trust ourselves, in a way. We just like to know if things are coming across. For example, if something is confusing or not clear, and those are things you learn from a test audience.

Broccoli: The thing is, you don’t really know until you hear the reaction of an audience, which is very exciting. We’ve seen the movie hundreds of times in different stages, but when you’re sitting in a room with an audience, and they laugh when they’re supposed to laugh, it’s exhilarating.

With Skyfall and Quantum of Solace, you’ve brought in auteur filmmakers have been brough in, rather than your average work-for-hire. Are those the type of directors you now want to put their own stamp on the franchise?

Broccoli: I think when you have an actor like Daniel Craig there’s all kinds of possibilities of where you can take the character. Since Casino Royale, I think, we’ve wanted to push the emotional side of Bond. With Daniel, he’s able to convey the inner-workings of Bond’s psyche, the demons, and the inner conflicts. He’s able to do that without having to verbalize it. Bond isn’t a very verbal character. By casting him, we’ve wanted to go more into the direction of Bond’s inner life. He’s attracted a lot of more interesting directors. You know, auteur directors, like, Marc Forster or Sam Mendes.

Confronting aging is a big part of Bond’s internal conflict in the film, and, because of that, he seems to be less of a rebel than who we saw in Quantum of Solace.

Broccoli: Yeah, the three films are a trilogy, it’s been an evolution of the Bond character. In the beginning, with Casino Royale, he is a blunt instrument, which is what [Ian] Flemming described him as. Coming out of this film, he is a Bond who has a lot more humanity. The decisions he has to make are very difficult. He’s come out of this on top.

Did you see it as a trilogy when you started, that Bond would end up this way?

Wilson: They seem to work quite well together. The second one was obviously a direct carry-on, since it started five minutes after the first one. With Skyfall, it’s just the way the character is evolving.

That’s not something we see in most of the Bond movies. Going forward, would you want to continue avoiding episodic Bond adventures?

Wilson: We’ll have to see.

Broccoli: I think Casino Royale was very much the coming-of-age story for Bond, since it’s about Bond becoming “Bond.” The character is defined by two very traumatic events of that film, with the whole torture scene and Vesper’s betrayal. He realized he can never live with a wife and a child. It’s one thing putting direct torture on your own self, but he couldn’t be in a situation where you’re being tortured with the possibility of something happening to your wife or child. All of that was very much about defining Bond. Quantum of Solace was him being driven by revenge, and it was very dark. I think he needed to go through that episode to enable him to come out of this film, in the way that he has. We did see that as a trilogy. With the next one, we’ll have to see where we take him beyond.

The villain, Silva, also seems to be defined by a traumatic event. There’s a hint in the movie where he gives Bond an empathic look when his “childhood trauma” is mentioned.

Wilson: Yeah, of course. They’re mirror images of each of each other. They both feel some elements of betrayal. Bond can see compromises are necessary, while Silva can’t get past what happened to him. He’s taking his revenge. They are very parallel, with their background, where they came from, and their relationship with M. It is an intimate story about the three of them, so it had to be contained.

Before I go, I have to ask, since he’s always discussed dying to make a Bond movie, have there ever actually been serious talks with Steven Spielberg about making a Bond film?

Broccoli: Well, early on it was very sweet, because when he was a young filmmaker he approached my father. My dad said, ‘Yeah, kid, ya gotta get some more [films] under your belt. Years later, when he did Schindler’s List, my father wrote to him about how much he loved it. Spielberg then sent a really sweet note saying, ‘Now will you let me direct a Bond movie?’ [Laughs] My father said, ‘Now I can’t afford you!’ That’s the way of the world.

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Skyfall is now in theaters.

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Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.