SPECTRE Interview: Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

     March 29, 2015

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Over the past few days, I got to visit the Mexico City set of the next James Bond movie, Spectre. Directed by Sam Mendes (Skyfall) and starring Daniel Craig as Bond, everything I saw and learned during my set visit makes me extremely confident that the upcoming sequel will be something special. For more on the film, here’s a description of the awesome-sounding opening chase sequence that will be between twelve and fifteen minutes of screen time.

The day after my set visit, I got to participate in group interview with Spectre producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. While they were tight lipped about revealing the secrets of Spectre, we got updates on the theme song, how they decided what would be in the teaser trailer, putting together the cast, the rumors that Spectre could have been a two-part movie, if James Bond could exist in a shared universe, the script, how Moneypenny will not be desk-bound in the film, if we might see a white cat, their thoughts on Idris Elba as Bond, and so much more.

If you’re a James Bond fan you’re going to like what they had to say. Click here to listen to the audio or read the full transcript below. Spectre opens November 6th and also stars Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes as M, Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser, Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra, David Bautista as Mr. Hinx, Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann and Stephanie Sigman as Estrella.

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Image via Sony Pictures

Question: You guys just released the teaser trailer yesterday.

BARBARA BROCCOLI: We did.

How did you guys figure out what you were going to put in the teaser trailer, how much you were going to tease, how much you were going to do with limited footage?

MICHAEL G. WILSON: Yeah, in fact it was done –We had to start six or seven weeks ago. But I think we wanted to create something that was a teaser that’s a bit of a puzzle and a mystery. From what I saw online, people are really putting in together in a clever way. It’s something that’s a little puzzle that people can enjoy.

It’s a fascinating franchise for continuity, because it sort of is there and it sort of isn’t, so it’s interesting to hear Christoph Waltz on the trailer say, ‘It’s been a long time’ What is it like for you guys to dance around that?

BROCCOLI: It’s always a challenge, you know. We try to get the right blend of classic Bond with a contemporary twist and come up with new storylines. I think we’ve really done a good job on this one. I think Sam [Mendes] is an amazing director, we’ve got a great cast and a great story. So we have to let the public decide.

There is a link with Skyfall at the very least, are you –as you move forward with this film– going to continue to create more, and more of the continuity, at least for a part of the film?

WILSON: Well, I think you saw also that Mr. White [Jesper Christensen] showed up, and he’s been –I think it was back in Casino Royale, so there’s something going on here [Laughs]. It’s been a long time, you know.

Is Quantum related to Spectre?

BROCCOLI: Oh, you have to see the movie [Laughs]. No, we’re not gonna give you any of this. You thought you’d sneak that one in didn’t you? [Laughs].

Do you guys feel more pressure in this movie than Skyfall?

WILSON: I think when you come off a successful film, you really –I think all of us felt we had to keep the momentum going. We wanted to really come up to the plate and not try to rest on our laurels. So there, the pressure’s there.

I’m very curious when you might be announcing you’ll be doing the theme song? Are you having discussion now?

BROCCOLI: Well, we’re still figuring that out. That’s one of the last things, one of the last pieces of the puzzle. But it’s one of the fun things that we look forward to, so, it’ll be a while.

It’s a very fast schedule before the release.

BROCCOLI: Yeah [Laughs].

Is that part of the thrill for you or…?

WILSON: No [Laughs]. That’s a lot of pressure. Puts Sam under huge pressure, puts all of us under a lot of pressure. But a release date hovers there and we all gotta aim for it.

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Image via Sony Pictures

Is there a shortlist of people you guys might have an idea to do the theme song for this?

WILSON: We’ve had a lot of interest from a lot of exciting people, so, it’s kind of been a long list and we’re working our way through it.

I’m very curious about putting the cast together. It must be one of these things where you call people and say, ‘Do you want to be Bond?’ ‘Yes’ it’s not like there’s a lot of…

[Both laugh]

WILSON: You’d be surprised how much people have to be talked into it, because it just takes over their life, you know.

BROCCOLI: Well, Daniel [Craig] took a little talking into. I mean, we had to talk him into it, and it sure paid off so…

WILSON: But the other cast members, again, just –I think whenever you have a high quality cast, they always want to know what the script is, what they’re supposed to do. They think about it.

BROCCOLI: But Sam is a real magnet for actors. He’s a real actor’s director, a great storyteller, and as it turn out now, –after these two movies– a great action director too. So I think he’s a real magnet for actors, they want to work with him. So putting a cast together is easy [Laughs]. They want to work with Daniel, they want to work with Sam.

The title is obviously very exciting for James Bond fans. How tricky was it to get Spectre back?

WILSON: Well, we had a dispute over Spectre. After years of discussions, we finally got the rights to it. It’s our last piece of the whole issues with rights that we had to deal with.

Can you talk a little bit about all the rumors that were saying that Spectre could have been a two-part movie.

WILSON: It’s news to me [Laughs]. Well, I suppose people feel that there’s been a lot of films now that seem to not wanna stop and they double themselves up to make two movies, but this is not the case here.

At what point in your process do you start thinking about the next movie?

WILSON: When does that happen, Barbara? [Laughs].

BROCCOLI: I think so much focus is on what we’re doing at the moment that the next movie seems very far away.

There’s such a wonderful line in Skyfall that looks like it’s between having some nostalgia but not getting immersed in nostalgia, I wonder if you can talk about walking that fine line.

WILSON: Bond has such a long history and has the novels, and it’s fun to play around with those ideas. But we always try to make surprises in the pictures, things that will surprise the audience; but there has to be elements in it that that are Bondian, in the sense that the people won’t be disappointed in the picture when they go see it. That the fine line we gotta thread.

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Image via Sony Pictures

The new cool thing in movies is the shared universe –You know, Marvel and Warner Bros. are doing it, and a few other movie companies. Is there any interest in doing that with James Bond possibly?

BROCCOLI: I think Bond lives in his own universe.

[Both Laugh]

BROCCOLI: I don’t think he’s gonna want to share it with anybody, to be honest.

WILSON: Like, Mission Impossible and Bond. I don’t think so. I think that’s the comic book world. They’ve done very well with that and more power to them.

Recently, Oculus Rift, Sony, have been coming up with some virtual reality headsets in a immersive –There’s a lot of cool stuff coming. Have you thought about or have started talking about using that kind of technology with Bond, even if it’s just like a short teaser or has Sony approached you about that? Because they have a headset coming for the PlayStation.

BROCCOLI: Not yet. I’m sure they will, but we haven’t discussed it with them yet. Not on this film.

WILSON: We’re trying to prepare the things we need to prepare. The next trailer, posters and stuff. We have our hands full of just doing that without having to get involved with more things.

The guys have to be bigger with this film because Skyfall was so successful and was pushing boundaries. When they say to you like, ‘We need fifteen-hundred extras for a scene’ how does that make you guys feel like, ‘Wow, can we pull this off?’?

WILSON: This is a big, big picture. I said when I introduced the trailer that we’ve been doing a lot of these things for a while. We did a carnival down in Rio and that was a big project, but this is much bigger, this is really pretty big. Those fifteen[hundred] extras get duplicated around the square, it’s gonna be a full square of ten-thousand people when you actually work at it.

BROCCOLI: It’s a lot of fun, that’s the thing, it’s a lot of fun. I don’t know if you guys met a lot of our team, the costume designer, make-up and hair, and everything. It’s very exciting for them, so it makes everybody really step up to the plate when you have a challenge like that. Sam had a real vision of his version of Day of the Dead and everybody –from the designers, and everybody– really embraced it. The music, Tom [Thomas] Newman created special music and everything, so it feels like a big celebration to us.

WILSON: It’s really like a military operation in the morning. They arrive at four in the morning, they go through a process where they go through hair and make-up, then they go through wardrobe, supposed to be in and out in fifteen minutes. So it’s eighty stations that they have to go through so the whole crowd goes through a parallel.

BROCCOLI: They’ve been very good-natured, really good-natured. They really seem to enjoy it, because it’s part of the cultural heritage of Mexico and so they’re really happy to be a part of it; and we try to give them good lunch and feed them well and take care of them, because it’s important, they have very long days.

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Image via Sony Pictures

Now that you mentioned Mexican culture, there’s rumors out there –I’m pretty sure you guys already heard– that the Mexican government had influence in the script to make the country look better in the movie.

BROCCOLI: Well, the script has been in existence for a long time and the Mexican part of it, they’ve always looked good, because we’ve come here to show the Day of the Dead. 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 Day of the Dead. Mexico City is the obvious place to do it and we’ve had tremendous cooperation from all the different departments, and most importantly, from the public, who we’ve inconvenienced a lot. But they seem to be happy that we’re here so we’re thrilled.

Can you talk about developing the script and sort of what [John] Logan did versus the other two [Neal Purvis and Robert Wade]?

WILSON: Oh, it’s all lost in the process, because they go back and forth. They talk together. So it’s been very – It’d be impossible.

Did they work well together?

WILSON: Yeah, they’re friends.

BROCCOLI: It’s sort of layers. What happens is, these script evolve, as we find locations and as we find different things we try to be as contemporary as possible. It’s an evolution all the time and each of the writers contributes a layer.

How long has the script been around?

BROCCOLI: It started two years ago.

WILSON: Almost three years ago, two and a half certainly. The first draft of ideas, treatments.

You guys are filming in London after –You’re filming for two more months.

WILSON: Yeah.

What are some of the things you guys have coming up, some of the locations, and some of the things you get to go do?

BROCCOLI: Well, our big ones are pretty much behind us. We have one more big foreign location, which is Morocco, which is towards the end of the schedule. Then we have London, some really cool places in London and Pinewood. But Austria, Rome, and Mexico are almost finished. We got a few more days here and then we’re back home.

I’m curious about [Eve] Moneypenny [Naomie Harris], she was revealed in the last film. Can you talk about Moneypenny, who she’s gonna be, does Eve now just sit in a desk or is she gonna act in this film?

BROCCOLI: You can’t keep this one behind a desk [Laugh]. This Moneypenny is very active and she’s key to the story, and key to helping Bond on his mission. So she’s not deskbound.

Are there any cats in this movie?

BROCCOLI: Cats?

[Both laugh]

WILSON: Now that’s a good question, that’s a really good question, and I don’t think we can say. You wouldn’t think of a white one with a little diamond collar, would you?

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Image via Sony Pictures

The costume designer yesterday mentioned a ski outfit, so I assume there’ll be a ski chase scene at some point in this movie?

BROCCOLI: We’ve been in the snow, we’ve been in the snow.

WILSON: Yeah, in the snow.

We heard from the production designer yesterday that Sam wanted both hot and cold, can you talk about finding that?

WILSON: Well we are, we’re in the hot, in Morocco. Then the cold up in Austria. Then of course we’ve been in Rome filming a car chase at night, which we thought was gonna be very disruptive to the public, through the city at night running our cars and that. The press really gave us a good review at the end of it all, they said we managed to clean up a lot of areas the city hadn’t managed to clean up. That’s gonna be an exciting chase too. So that’s a lot of the big things that are out of the way.

One of the things I really love about the movie is not just the set pieces but when Bond uses his intellect and some of the quiet moments, can you sort of talk about balancing those moments with the spectacle that people expect from the franchise?

BROCCOLI: I think that’s where Sam Mendes has really excelled, because he’s a great director of drama and actors, but also suspenseful storytelling. He’s a twelve-year-old Bond fan in the middle of all that. He’s like a twelve-year-old boy at times, in terms of wanting to bring the kind of action and excitement that he enjoyed when he first saw these movies when he was a twelve-year-old; and he has a young son. So I think he gets the balance right because he does the drama and the action, like Skyfall, I think he got it right with this one.

I have a very nerdy question about my own childhood connection to Bond, which is, we have all the movies available on Blu-Ray now, what about James Bond Jr.?

[Both laugh].

BROCCOLI: I don’t know.

Is that one of those ones that would just never happen?

BROCCOLI: Never say never.

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Image via Sony Pictures

There’s been like a steady rumor that’s being going on for like years that Idris Elba was going to play Bond. When you guys hear that stuff, how do you react, what goes through you mind, is that a possibility?

WILSON: I think he’d make a great Bond.

BROCCOLI: I always say it’s like asking a woman who’s going up the aisle on her wedding day who her next husband is going to be. Daniel Craig is Bond, and I don’t want to think about what happens when he goes, but I’m a huge fan of Idris and we all are, he’s a great actor and he could do anything. Ask me when we’re looking for a new Bond, which hopefully won’t be for a long time.

I just wanted to know, how many more movies is Daniel contracted for? Is it one more, is it two more, is it picture by picture now?

WILSON: We want him for as long as he wants us. That’s the simple answer.

BROCCOLI: He has an open-ended contract with us.

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