James Bond producers on the hunt for the next 007

Landing James Bond may be the biggest acting gig in Hollywood, but 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson say they have yet to come up with potential actors for the role.

When Variety catches up with the most famous British producers at the end of August, they are busy preparing for Bond’s 60th birthday in October. But the search for a new actor to play the world’s most famous spy rumbles quietly in the background. It’s still “early days,” they claim, but whoever lands the role has to be in it for the long haul.

For a moment, that person appeared to be Idris Elba. But the ‘Luther’ star recently said he didn’t see Bond when he ‘looked in the mirror’ – remarks some have interpreted as Elba’s farewell to 007.

Broccoli and Wilson had not recently spoken to the longtime Bond contestant at the time of this interview, but they say they understand. “He’s awesome,” Wilson says, and Broccoli quickly adds, “We love Idris.”

“The thing is, it’s going to take a few years,” she notes. “And when we cast Bond, it’s a 10, 12-year commitment. So he’s probably like, ‘Do I really want this stuff? Not everyone wants to do this. It was pretty hard d ‘obtain [Daniel Craig to do it].” Wilson chimes in: “And he was in his early thirties at the time!”

The producers sit at a round table in their spacious office at Eon House, the headquarters of their production banner 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, Bond’s co-founding producer — have been Bond’s guardians since “GoldenEye” (1995), which starred starring Pierce Brosnan. They worked with the ‘Remington Steele’ actor for three more films – ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ (1997), ‘The World Is Not Enough’ (1999) and ‘Die Another Day’ (2002) – before hiring Craig for “Casino Royale”. (2006).

The duo formed a strong bond with Craig and together evolved the character over the course of four more films, including ‘Quantum of Solace’ (2008), ‘Skyfall’ (2012), ‘Spectre’ (2015) and the last year’s pandemic-delayed ‘No Time to Die’, before Craig stepped down as 007. Long before the star’s final tour, however, speculation swirled about his replacement, and Broccoli and Wilson have been asking about the franchise’s next chapter for years.

Most young actors, Broccoli and Wilson say, think they want to do Bond, but don’t fully understand the commitment of carrying a franchise for many years. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh yeah, that would be fun to make one,’ Broccoli laughs out loud. “Good. It will not work.

It is also a question of resources for Eon Productions, explains Wilson. “It’s a big investment for us too to release a new Bond.”

Ultimately, the casting process isn’t just about choosing someone for a role in a movie, they point out.

“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 reimagining, and ‘Where are we taking him? What do we want to do with the character?'” Broccoli says “And then, once we figure that out, who is the right fit for this particular reinvention?

“With [Craig]when we had the conversation at this same table about, you know, [whether he was] going to do it, he said, ‘Well, I’ll do it. I really want to be a part of it all. And he lived to regret it,” Broccoli said with a laugh. “But it’s a big commitment. It’s not just about showing up for a few months of filming.

As Brosnan once said, she quotes, “More people have walked on the moon than they have played James Bond.” (Indeed, there have only been six Bond actors to date since the first movie, “Dr. No,” in 1962: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Brosnan and Craig.)

Wilson and Broccoli, who is director of the UK section of the women’s advocacy organization Time’s Up, have left their mark on Bond, in particular by humanizing the once-feminist spy and securing more fulfilling and fleshy roles for women. female stars of the franchise. These are qualities that will continue in future films, says Broccoli.

“It’s an evolution,” she says. “Bond evolves just as men evolve. I don’t know who is moving at a faster rate.

Craig, she adds, “opened Bond up emotionally”, bringing the audience into the character’s inner life. “The films of his tenure were the first time we really connected the emotional arc.”

Another first for the producers was getting on board a Bond-based TV show. As Variety revealed earlier this year, Amazon’s Prime Video kicked off its first TV series based on the iconic British spy with the adventure reality show “007’s Road to a Million,” a version Bond style of a race around the world.

“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 danger and make 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 – 72 British Films (“The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty”) – approached the couple with an idea that seemed both “fun” and also safe. “It wasn’t going to be dangerous for the participants, that’s the main thing,” Wilson notes.

Broccoli and Wilson are producing the eight-part series alongside 72 Films and MGM Studios. The show is now in production and “it looks really awesome,” enthuses Broccoli.

“The audience will get great pleasure out of it, and that’s why we agreed to do it,” she says. “I mean, it surprised us and everyone. Like, wow, we’re gonna 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 seen as a strong driver of the acquisition.

When the proposed deal was first announced in 2021, Broccoli and Wilson quickly shut down any speculation of a streaming game for Bond and released a statement assuring the public that the films would remain in theaters. (Even in that interview, when asked if Amazon might request a Bond narrative TV show, Wilson notes, “We try to keep it theatrical,” and Broccoli quickly replies, “Well, we’ll keep it theatrical. We “I won’t try; we have to. It’s just a theatrical franchise.”)

But the biggest shock around the Amazon takeover, they say, was the sudden departures of MGM film bosses Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy in April.

“It was a real blow when we lost Mike and Pam,” Broccoli says warily. “I mean, it was just – you know, we’ve had a roller coaster ride over the years with MGM and United Artists and stuff, for many, many years. There were a lot of ups and downs and we were so happy with their leadership and looking forward to a smooth ride. And then a hurricane came and things changed.

Broccoli is “eager to know” who will replace studio heads at MGM, which has yet to name a successor. In the meantime, the 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 incredible, wonderful, talented woman,” Broccoli de Mayo says. “I absolutely love working with her on this film, and UA is a great team.”

If breaking up with Bond accomplished anything, it gave the producers time and space to focus on “Till” and other projects, of which there are many. Alongside the release of “Till’s” in October, Broccoli has a musical “Sing Street” set 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 set up.

As well as serving on the board of Time’s Up UK, Broccoli is chairman of First Light, a youth-focused film initiative, founding member of the London Screen Academy and chairman of the National Youth Theatre.

The work of Time’s Up UK, Broccoli says, is “vitally important” and plans to form an independent standards authority to deal with issues of sexual harassment and abuse are underway. “It’s important that people have a place to go to hear their grievances and that some system helps them solve this problem,” she says.

Broccoli and Wilson are also key industry leaders for the British Film Institute, which will soon set out its next ten-year policy. Former chairman of the BFI UK Film Skills Taskforce, Broccoli admits that while demand for production in the UK is “great” it needs to be “supported by a workforce”.

“We have a skills shortage and we have a diversity problem,” she says. “For me, I kept saying, ‘Let’s put them together. Let’s train people from diverse backgrounds for the jobs that are needed. There are a lot of people who are super talented but haven’t necessarily felt the film industry was for them.

And as well as giving advice on the future of the UK film industry, there’s of course the question of Eon’s next chapter. When asked about running the business in the years to come, Wilson jokes that broccoli is “the chicken of spring” and at the height of its ability.

Broccoli laughs, but then gets serious.

“I’m going to die with my boots on,” she said. “My joy is my family and my work. I don’t see it as a difficulty. Every day you face new challenges, and it’s fun and it keeps you young.

On September 21, Broccoli and Wilson are the recipients of two Hollywood accolades. In the morning, they will leave their hand and footprints in a ceremony on the forecourt of the TCL Chinese Theatre. Later that day at the Beverly Hilton, they are the recipients of 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] are in many ways unsung heroes because times have been very difficult,” says Broccoli. “Cinemas are where people go to dream, and we have to fight to keep them going. It’s the people who are fighting the good fight. We have to support them.”

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