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This Friday marks 50 years since the release of the first James Bond film, Dr. No. Ian Fleming's Cold War-era MI6 agent has endured through 22 movies, evolving all the while to stay relevant to new audiences. The next installment is Skyfall, due out Nov. 9.
Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are the franchise's current producers and children of the original producer, Albert "Cubby" Broccoli. NPR's David Greene spoke to them about the family business.
Broccoli on Ursula Andress, the first "Bond girl"
"When Cubby and Harry [Saltzman] went to cast the role, they had great difficulty finding someone. And Cubby and Harry were going through a pile of photographs in their London office — the sort of reject pile. And they went through again and they pulled out this photograph of this extraordinary woman. And they called the casting director back in Hollywood at the studio. And they said, 'Tell us about this actress here. What is she like? Is she as beautiful as she appears in the photograph?' And he said, 'There is no photograph that can capture this woman's beauty.' So they said, 'Put her on a plane.' Basically. And they went down to Jamaica and Ursula arrived and of course the whole crew fell madly in love with her."
Broccoli on whether "Cubby" imagined people watching 50 years later
"When Ian Fleming was in Istanbul with Cubby, he said to him, 'You know, these films will go on beyond me. And you're eventually going to have to get people to continue writing these stories after I'm gone.' So I think even Ian Fleming envisioned the series to go on, you know, for certainly decades. I don't think anyone would have quite predicted 50 years. I mean it's, it's an extremely long period of time — I mean, almost half of, you know, cinema itself. I can guarantee you they'd be very happy."
Wilson on the idea of a quintessential 007
"I think all of them have reflected different aspects of the Bond character. Certainly Sean [Connery] was a fantastic first Bond. He really set the bar, and everyone else has to measure up to that. But every one of the actors, they're leading men and they bring their own personality to the role. And they find in the Flemming character, which is so rich, that these diverse actors could find something in it that they could reflect in their own personality."
Broccoli on Daniel Craig and going back to the literary conception of the Bond character
"You know, obviously when we got the rights to Casino Royale, we really felt, since this was the origin story, it was the original story that Fleming had written about the character, we felt we had to recast the role and choose someone who was going to redefine Bond for the 21st century. And I think that's what Daniel has done so extremely well.
"He has allowed the audience into Bond's inner life. Into the complexities, the conflicts that Bond expresses in the novels, which are very difficult to convey on the cinema screen because it's an internal dialogue — Bond doesn't talk about how he feels. And I think, you know, Daniel is such a superb actor, and I think this is one of the things that he very much wanted to do when he agreed to play the role, was to really go back to the original Fleming Bond. And that Bond is, yes, a lot darker and — but he also has vulnerability. I mean, in that film, his heart is broken. And he shuts down emotionally when Vesper commits suicide; he realizes that he can never have a relationship with a woman in the same way ever again. And I think that vulnerability is very powerful."
Broccoli on keeping James Bond relevant through the years
"Well, we've had this challenge many times. I mean, we had it when we were about to do Goldeneye. The press and everyone were saying, 'Well, now that the Cold War is over and the wall has come down, what relevance does Bond have? I mean, the world's at peace, do they need James Bond?' Well, you know the answer to that, don't you? The world certainly did not become a peaceful place — it became even more complex. And, you know, after 9/11, certainly the world changed again dramatically. And I think that, you know, Daniel's portrayal of the character has brought a lot more humanity to the role."