October 5th, 2012 has been declared Global James Bond Day in honor of the 50th anniversary of the release of "Dr. No," the first film adaptation of Ian Fleming's series of novels about the legendary superspy. Directed by Terence Young and starring Sean Connery as the premiere Bond, the film was produced by the team of Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who would shepherd Bond through global adventures and changes in lead actor.
Epix is marking the occasion of a half-century of Bond with the exclusive documentary "Everything Or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007," airing tonight, October 5th, at 8pm and several more times over the coming weeks. Directed by Stevan Riley ("Fire in Babylon"), the film looks at how Broccoli, Saltzman and Fleming made Bond into the generation-spanning icon he is today. Indiewire had the chance to speak with Barbara Broccoli (who, with half-brother Michael G. Wilson, now co-produces the series) and Hilary Saltzman about the series their fathers started and just how it's managed to stay not only relevant but vital for decades.
The Bond franchise is now 50 years old, with several distinct chapters, and a certain amount of reinvention has been necessary as a part of that process. How much of that has been thrust upon you, as producers, and how much was the result of deliberate choice at each step?
Barbara Broccoli: I think it's a combination of both. The thing about this franchise is that it's lasted 50 years because it's changed with the times. The films reflect the times. And each actor that's played the role has taken certain elements of the character and expanded on things based on their interests and their abilities. I think it's a combination of both: the time and place, and the actor that's playing the role.
One very large change was, with "GoldenEye," bringing in Judi Dench to play M. Of course, that's going to change a bit of the dynamic between Bond and M.
BB: I'd love to take credit for that, but it wasn't my idea, it was the writer, Bruce Feirstein, and Martin Campbell, the director. But I thought it was a great idea — my concern was, as long as it's not a gimmick. The character has to be even more interesting because she's a woman, and you've got to mine new territory. I was very concerned about who we were going to cast, because I wanted someone who was going to be able to bring a lot of different layers. So when we settled on Judi Dench I knew we were secure. I think that relationship is vitally important to [Bond]; M is the only authoritative figure in his life, the only person Bond answers to. The fact that it was a woman brought in a great dynamic, and I think she's such an extraordinary actor.
Hilary Saltzman: And it modernized everything, because that's what happens today: women have higher places in our industries. I think it really brought it into present time.
I also couldn't help but notice, even though it turns out it was a coincidence, but Barbara, when you took over from your father: woman producer, woman M.
HS: [laughing] Sign of the times!
I was just hoping it was some, “It was my auteurist vision as a modern feminist!”
BB: [laughing] Not at all, not at all. I think… men are having to get used to women being bosses whether they like it or not. I think it's only benefited the world. Look at all the women who've been world leaders and things like that. Women have made a big change in the world. If only they'd get paid the same.
HS: One day.
Shifting gears, then–
HS: And no, there won't ever be a female Bond. [laughing]
Again, regarding the idea of Bond turning 50, it's a cool bit of irony to see that a lot of the issues that Daniel Craig's Bond has been having to deal with are a younger man's problems — like his impulsiveness, for instance — compared to what other Bonds have had to deal with. Again, this is a similar sort of question to the first one about cause and effect, was it something that came up before casting Daniel Craig as Bond, or was it something that came out of having a relatively younger actor playing Bond?
BB: Well, what happened was, 9/11 happened. We were making "Die Another Day," and that Bond was quite fantastical. And it was extremely successful, but following that film, Michael and I said, it just doesn't seem right, given 9/11 and the circumstances in the world, having a frivolous, fantastical Bond. So we thought, well, what are we going to do?
Fortunately, shortly before that time, as result of a settlement of a lawsuit with Columbia and MGM, we got the rights to "Casino Royale," which is the book that Cubby and Harry had always wanted to make, but Fleming had optioned it to someone else. So we said, it really feels like now is the time to tell the origin story, which was: how did James Bond become “James Bond”? And Casino Royale was the Holy Grail, basically, of the whole series.
We made a very tough decision. We had to recast the role, which was difficult because Pierce had been a great Bond. We loved him, and were very close, personally, to him and his family. It was a tough decision, and he took it like a man, on the chin. And we decided to embark upon making "Casino Royale," which was very challenging, because we wanted to do it justice. Casting Daniel, we wanted someone who would be able to convey all the kind of inner conflicts that appear in the character in the books. And he has given Bond that inner life, and given him the humanity that is required for a contemporary hero.
Something that came up in the documentary, is that it seems as though Sean Connery could be a bit difficult to work with.
HS: At the beginning, no. At the beginning he was great. To this day when I see Sean, he's very pleasant to me and to my family, and kind. He was thrown into an extraordinary world that was very difficult to manage. After a few films I think he was done, and it just got acrimonious. The first few films, he was great, everybody enjoyed working together–
BB: They had a lot of fun. And the fact is, if he hadn't done "Dr. No," we wouldn't be here.
BB: So we all celebrate him, he's a huge part of this series.
It's just, there's this palpable sense in the documentary, some of the interviews, ehh, something happened…
BB: I think you can see, the footage there, he speaks for himself. He had enough. And, you know, fair enough. And fame, particularly that kind of fame–
HS: It gets very intense. But, you know, someone asked me at the screening we were at the other night, “What do you think about Sean Connery not being here?” I thought, really? He's not here? I feel he's here. You can't even say “James Bond” without connoting his image and his presence. So if he chooses not to be at an interview or a screening, it certainly doesn't take away anything he did on those first few films.
The Bond franchise has been fairly unique in that it's been a family business, to a large degree. Do you feel as the second generation like this is as much personal as it is business, having been with Bond your whole lives?
BB: It's more personal than it is business. I mean, we're trying to live up to what the original team created. We do it, not for business, we do it because we care about it as much as they did. It meant everything to them.
HS: It's a passion project, I feel. Every time, it's passion.