Over the weekend, we were in Mexico City on the set of the next James Bond outing “Spectre.” This film marks the fourth time that Daniel Craig has inhabited the role of 007 and the second collaboration between Craig and his “Skyfall” director Sam Mendes. During the last phase of our trip, we were offered a special treat: a roundtable sit down with the longtime shepherds of the James Bond franchise: producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Broccoli is, of course, the daughter of 007 producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and is Wilson’s step brother (Wilson wrote several of the 007 movies, including “The Living Daylights,” which also partially took place in Mexico).
The trailer for “Spectre” having premiered just hours before, we had a lot of questions for the producing team (and surprisingly, they only refused to answer some). In our conversation, they teased the connection between “Skyfall” and “Spectre” (and to other Bond movies), dodged questions regarding the film’s villain, and shot down rumors that “Spectre” was being conceived as a two-part affair. This is a rare and fascinating look behind the making of a James Bond feature and one we hope you’ll enjoy.
Even though the trailer had just debuted, Wilson said that people were starting to figure out the mystery of the film. “We wanted to create something that was a teaser and a bit of a puzzle and a mystery,” Wilson said. “From what I saw online, people are putting it together in a clever way. It’s a little puzzle that people can enjoy.”
One thing that was definitely teased in the trailer was a connection to “Skyfall,” which isn’t that surprising considering it was the first Bond film to gross over $1 billion worldwide. (Also since Mendes and many of his key creative confederates are holdovers from the last film.) Broccoli addressed the issue of the wishy-washy continuity that, far from being a detriment to the franchise, has become something that the fans love. “It’s always a challenge. We try to get the right blend of classic Bond with a contemporary twist and come up with new storylines. I think we’ve done a really good job on this one,” Broccoli said. “I think Sam is an amazing director, and we’ve got a great cast and a great director. So we’ve got to let the public decide.” Wilson then added that, while the primarily link would be to “Skyfall,” there are other ways that this connections to the franchise’s history.
“I think that we saw that Mr. White showed up, and he’s been there since back in ‘Casino Royale,’ so something’s going on here,” Wilson teased.
Mr. White (essayed by Danish actor Jesper Christensen), a member of a mysterious organization called Quantum, also appeared in the underrated Craig outing “Quantum of Solace.” This obviously led to a question of whether or not Quantum is related to Spectre. “You have to see the movie,” Broccoli cheekily shot back. Wilson added that the legal wrangling over the use of the Spectre name was finally resolved (although it sounded like a huge pain in the ass). “We had a dispute over Spectre,” Wilson said, still sounding wary. “After years of discussions, we finally got the rights to it. It was the last piece of the whole issue with rights.”
One thing that they remained tight-lipped on was who was going to do the theme song (the last song was memorably performed by Adele). “We’re still figuring that out. That’s one of the last pieces in the puzzle. But it’s one of the fun things we look forward to,” Broccoli said. She later added: “We’ve had a lot of interest from a lot of exciting people. It’s a long list, and we’re working our way through it.”
Another thing the producers refused to talk about was speculation that Christoph Waltz, who supposedly plays Franz Oberhauser and Spectre higher-up, was actually Blofeld, a classic Bond baddie (his name was frequently referenced in leaked Sony emails). A colleague asked, innocuously enough, if there would be a cat in the movie. While several other journalists looked befuddled, Wilson knew exactly what the question was getting at — Blofeld famously had a fluffy white cat. “That’s a good question,” Wilson shot back. “I don’t think we can say. You wouldn’t think of a white one with a little diamond collar?”
Another rumor that was dismissed was one involving “Spectre” being conceived as a two-part movie. “That’s news to me. I suppose people feel that there’s been a lot of films that don’t want to stop, so they double themselves up to make two movies,” Wilson said. “But this is not the case here.” There were, of course, leaked emails that also suggested Idris Elba as the frontrunner for Craig’s replacement. “I think he’d make a great Bond,” Wilson said plainly. Broccoli added (memorably): “I think it’s always like asking a woman who is going up the aisle who her next husband is going to be. Daniel Craig is Bond. So ask me when we’re looking for a new Bond, which will hopefully not be for a long time.” Later, when asked how long Craig has left, Wilson said, “We want him for as long as he’ll have us.” Broccoli then added, “He’s got an open-ended contract.”
When asked about the Mexican government pressuring the studio to change certain things in the script (supposedly a scene involving cage fighting was turned into a Mexican Day of the Dead parade, etc.), Broccoli bristled. “The script had been in existence for a long time. The Mexican part had always looked good,” Broccoli said. “I don’t know why that became an issue because it wasn’t an issue for us. We’re very happy to be here. In the script it was always the Day of the Dead and we’ve had tremendous cooperation from the departments and more importantly the public.”
The producers also teased the importance of Moneypenny, now played by Naomi Harris (Broccoli: “You can’t keep this one behind a desk. This Moneypenny is very active. She is key to the story and key to helping Bond on his mission. She’s not deskbound.”), the ski sequence (Broccoli: “We’ve been in the snow”) and the size of the Mexico production team (Wilson: “It’s like a military operation”), all while remaining good-natured about the prospect of following up a success as astronomical as “Skyfall,” especially under such an extreme time crunch (Wilson: “The release date hovers there and we aim for it”).
Of course, a question arose about some kind of larger “shared universe,” like what Marvel has done (and DC and “Star Wars” are attempting to do). “I think Bond lives in his own universe. I don’t think he wants to share it with anyone else,” Broccoli laughed. Then Wilson chimed in: “Like Bond and ‘Mission: Impossible?’ I think that’s the stuff for comic books. More power to them.”
“Spectre” hits theaters November 6, 2015.