'Spectre' Producer Expects Daniel Craig to Return for Another Bond Movie

Michael G. Wilson during the 'Hollywood Masters' series
Courtesy of Juan Tallo

Michael G. Wilson says he believes a new distributor for the film franchise will be chosen from among three suitors by February.

James Bond film producer Michael G. Wilson says he expects Daniel Craig will return for a fifth outing as the iconic 007.

"I think we've got Daniel Craig," Wilson tells The Hollywood Reporter in an interview, waving aside the actor's recent protestations that he was through with the role. Wilson makes a comparison to director Sam Mendes, who said he was done with Bond after 2012's Skyfall, only to return for Spectre. "[Mendes] said they were never going to make the picture again, and he told the press that."

Asked if Craig was legally bound to do another Bond film, however, Wilson acknowledges: "We don't have a contract."

As Spectre, the latest in the Bond franchise, opens in U.S. theaters (it already has set box office records in the U.K.), Wilson says he thinks there will soon be a resolution to the question of which studio distributes the Bond films. With Sony's deal up, MGM (which produces the series but does not release it) has been talking to three studios in all, he says, without naming them. (Warner Bros. and Paramount have been rumored to be interested in taking over Bond if the price is right, though MGM is expected to drive a hard bargain.) 

"It's not primarily our decision," he notes, referencing MGM. "We will consult with them, and they'll make sure we're happy, but they have to [decide]. It's their responsibility because it's for all their whole slate [of films]. It isn't just for us. And so they will do it, and then they'll talk to us about it. But of the three people they're considering, all of them are more than suitable with us. They’re all fine."

Wilson says he has met with executives from the prospective studios. Asked how one would be chosen, he continues: "It's almost impossible for us to evaluate it except on the basis of their past successes or failures. That's the only thing you can use. You know, until you work with people, you can't evaluate their marketing executives or their publicity people ...  And we pretty much run the marketing anyway, ourselves. So they execute it. We create it and they execute it."

In terms of timeframe, he says a decision will be made "probably in January or February."

Wilson, who has produced all the recent Bond films with his sister Barbara Broccoli, spoke to THR at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film & TV, where he took part in the ongoing Hollywood Masters interview series.

He praises Broccoli for believing Craig was the right man to play Ian Fleming’s secret agent from the very beginning, even when others expressed doubts. 

"I thought he was good, but she knew he was the right one," he says. "[Craig] was very reluctant. He didn't want to do it. And we kept asking him to come in, talking to him, and finally he says, 'Well, if I do it, I'll do it 100 percent. I'll totally do it.' So then, when we hired him, he went into a six-month physical thing that really transformed his body. I've never seen anything like it. He must have added, I don’t know, 10 inches to his thighs and the whole chest. He actually transformed himself. And he kept at it. And he eats this scientifically controlled diet all the time, and he goes to bed at nine o'clock at night when he's making the movies. He's like a monk."

A full transcript follows.

STEPHEN GALLOWAY: [To the audience:] I’m going to start this interview with an intellectual challenge: Imagine that today somebody said to you, “I’m going to put the reins of the most successful movie franchise in history in your hands.  You’re going to have to make it succeed for the next 40 or 50 years. You’re going to have to replace the leads, you’re going to have to live through political upheavals like the fall of the Berlin Wall and still make your franchise relevant.” It’s almost impossible to do, but our guest today has done it.  He has been a producer and writer on the James Bond films almost since the beginning. I’m delighted to welcome Michael Wilson.  

WILSON:  Hi.  Thank you very much for that, Stephen.

GALLOWAY:  Welcome.  So when you were a young man, if somebody had said to you, “Michael Wilson, in the next few decades you’re going to transform this franchise, and you’re going to have at the end of it two of the biggest hits ever, Skyfall, and — it looks like — Spectre, would you have taken on the challenge or would you have run for the hills?

WILSON:  Yeah well, you know, of course that’s never life, is it?  You take it as it comes.  But you know, I really didn’t want to get in the movie business at all.  I made a vow as a young student I wouldn’t ever, and that shows you how things work out in life.

GALLOWAY:  Why?

WILSON:  Well I was raised by two actors, and there’s nothing like being raised by two actors to put you out of the entertainment business altogether.  You don’t want to ever have anything to do with it.  So I was an engineer and a lawyer, and that was going to be my career.

GALLOWAY:  What kind of lawyer?

WILSON:  I was a tax lawyer.

GALLOWAY:  What was is you didn’t like about the entertainment business?

WILSON:  Well, it was a hand to mouth, and my parents were always fighting, and you know it was-it’s a very difficult family situation to be raised in.

GALLOWAY:  1958 your mother, who was an actress, met Cubby Broccoli, producer, who had not yet made the first James Bond film.  In a few years he’d call you for help.  You’re a lawyer, he was having conflicts with his partner, Harry Saltzman.  What was going wrong and how did you resolve it?

WILSON:  Well Cubby, you know, Cubby had been an assistant director here in Los Angeles, working for Howard Hughes and RKO and that, and then around 1952 he went over with the director, and they set up a company called Warwick Films.

GALLOWAY:  In London?

WILSON:  Yes.  And they were taking advantage of the Eady Plan, and they started making international pictures for the US market.  It was unheard of at the time.  And they made action films and some dramatic films.  They made 18 films altogether.  And then they split up, and he wanted to work in and do James Bond, and he ended up meeting Harry Saltzman, and they hit it off.  And they started making the James Bond series.  But about in the early 70s they had a falling out, and Harry Saltzman had some financial difficulties, and it put the whole company in jeopardy.  So my dad asked-I was working in a law firm, partner in a law firm at the time, and Cubby asked to me to, you know, help out, which I started doing, and then I took a leave of absence for two years and I never went back.

GALLOWAY:  What was their fight over?

WILSON:  Well, you know, it’s always a mixture of business and personalities and things like that.  I think, you know, Harry was a super salesman.  He was a good filmmaker, but he got himself in a lot of financial troubles, and because of that, when you have a partner that’s on the verge of bankruptcy, that puts your whole company in jeopardy, even though you aren’t involved.  So you have to figure out how to protect yourself and resolve the situation, which was what-well, I was part of a battery of lawyers, but I was the in-house lawyer.

GALLOWAY:  Then how did you resolve the situation?

WILSON:  We ended up having United Artists, which was the distributor, buy out Harry’s share, and they were going to sell it to us, which they decided they didn’t want to do, so they reneged on that.  And then we had a fight with them for many years to resolve that.

GALLOWAY:  It’s interesting that you’ve been partnered with your half sister, Barbara Broccoli, but you haven’t taken on any other partners.  Is that because of what you saw between Cubby and Harry Saltzman?

WILSON:  Well, we haven’t needed any partners.  You know, just a family business now.  I’ve produced with Cubby for, I don’t know, 10, 15 years, and then I was writing the series at the time, and that, and so we didn’t seem to feel we needed partners.  [LAUGHS]  

GALLOWAY:  You went from being an engineer and a lawyer to being a writer and producer.  What did you training as a lawyer and your skills as an engineer bring to that?

WILSON:  Everything you do adds up to what you-your experiences in life…  I think, everything I’ve done adds to your experience.  And experience is a lot to do with life experience, it’s a lot to do with writing and making movies, you know.  Sometimes you have to live —

GALLOWAY:  They don’t believe this but it’s true.

WILSON:  [LAUGHS] Well, no, some people hit it off right away, but it does take, you know, time.  

GALLOWAY:  It’s interesting, because your son who’s here, by the way, Gregg, works on the films too.  Do you believe in film school?  Do you believe it’s a good thing to go through?

WILSON: I’ve met people who had come out of film school in our business that looked great, and I met plenty of people that haven’t, and you know, I think it’s what you make of it.  All your experience, you know.  It’s nice to get down some of the technicalities.  And I taught at USC one semester, and I thought the kids there, I have to say, I think they have real unrealistic views of what the future…

GALLOWAY:  Well give them a dose of realism before it’s too late.

WILSON:  No, but you know, and I said to them, look, there’s, you know, they all want to be directors and writers, which is a great ambition, but there’s no room for all those people in the business, so…  But I said, you know, there’s 200 other jobs on our films that you can make a decent living from, you can actually raise a family, and you can, you know, have a good life.

GALLOWAY:  Were you ever interested in directing?

WILSON: Not particularly. I think everybody secretly wants to do it, so that’s fine.  The question is, you know, can you be satisfied in your life if that doesn’t happen.  You can’t let it ruin your life.  So you have to figure out, you’re going to film school, there’s plenty to learn here, and you know, if you look at our heads of department, I don’t know, do we got 10? And every one of those people, you know, made close to a million dollars a year, you know, working with us, and they all have a lot of creative input.  You know, a picture is just not made by a director, or…  And they get a lot of satisfaction, personal satisfaction out of what they do.  So, you know, you have to look at it that way, you know.

GALLOWAY:  When you taught the class, which I presume was on producing…

WILSON:  Producing, yeah.

GALLOWAY:  What were the things you were most keen to get the students to understand?

WILSON:  Well, it’s hard to say.  I think they were a bit disappointed, they thought we were just going to look at movies all day, but I wanted them to actually go through the experience.  

GALLOWAY:  And so what did you teach them?

WILSON:  I just started with: how you start a project as a producer.  You might, you know, how you get the rights or whether you dream up something, hire a writer.  How you kind of start it all off.  You go from there all the way to the final marketing thing, and I just took ’em through the whole process week by week.  It was 15 weeks and we covered…

GALLOWAY:  Which part is the hardest?

WILSON:  They’re all exciting, they’re all fun.  I find, let’s say the making the picture for a producer is, you know, doing the filming, the actual filming is kind of, you know, you’re more of a logistical person.  You’re taking on these different roles.  In the beginning you’re a creative, working with the writers and the director to create a project, and then you have to execute.  And during post, you’re preparing the marketing.  And then you, what we’re doing now is taking the, touring everyone now, going around the world.  We just came from Mexico City last night with the opening there, and presenting the film…

GALLOWAY:  We’d have come if you invited us.  

WILSON: [LAUGHS]  Plane wasn’t big enough.  [LAUGHTER]  

GALLOWAY:  You started writing, you co-wrote a lot of the films.

WILSON:  With Dick Maibaum.  He was a great guy.  I loved him.  He was a great mentor to me, taught me a lot about writing.

GALLOWAY:  What did he teach you?

WILSON:  Well, it’s more of an apprentice process.  I don’t think you can enumerate the things.  I think you get a certain way of looking at things and a certain way of solving dramatic problems.  It isn’t anything you can enumerate.  It’s more of a, just working with somebody.  It’s what you learn from the experience.

GALLOWAY:  Do you learn from watching other films?

WILSON:  Of course, all the time.  You can learn from making your own filming, or you can learn from watching other people.  You learn from your mistakes.  That’s the best learning you can do.

GALLOWAY:  What’s the biggest mistake?

WILSON:  [LAUGHS]  I don’t want to reveal it.  

GALLOWAY:  Is there a Bond film that you wish you’d done differently?

WILSON: I think you probably look back over the years and think god, we could’ve done that and could’ve done this instead, but you can’t really dwell on that.  You just move to the next movie, and what it is it is, so…

GALLOWAY:  You had this very difficult transition of going from Sean Connery, who became iconic, obviously still is, to very briefly George Lazenby. By the way, I’m sure you’ve all seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but before we met, I asked Michael did any Bond film not make money?  And he said that was the only one that came close to not making money.

WILSON:  It took a long time. And yet people think it was the best story, and it was the best made film.  A lot of critics and Bond fans.  

GALLOWAY:  Why do you think it didn’t do better?

WILSON:  Well, I think George was difficult for people to accept after Sean Connery.  Also it was very expensive at the time.  It was much more expensive than any of the previous films.  

GALLOWAY:  But now your latest film is $300 million plus.  

WILSON:  Well, that’s what they say, I can’t really comment.   

GALLOWAY:  OK.  That’s pretty expensive.

WILSON:  You live in your own time.  You know, I think it was $9.5 million for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And $30 million for Moonraker.  All those films were pretty much the top, the most expensive films of the time.  Of course there was some huge disasters that have broke those records, but basically, in their time they were pretty expensive.

GALLOWAY:  Were you involved with the decision to cast Roger Moore?

WILSON:  Yeah.  

GALLOWAY:  So what were those conversations? Because I think this is one of the toughest things you have at this job, you’re the guy suddenly now, you and your sister are going to make the decision who is the next James Bond.  When you cast Roger Moore what were the conversations?

WILSON:  I wasn’t that close in it, but I knew, I was privy to it as a lawyer, really, at the time.  I think they thought he was closer to what [author Ian] Fleming wanted.  I mean, Fleming didn’t like Connery at all until he saw him in the movies and he like him.  But when he was first cast he said Sean’s not the kind of guy.  You want an English gentleman, not this kind of a guy.  So I think the feeling was that…  And Roger was considered as too young at the time, although he’s actually older than Sean by a year or something. And in the times, it was the 70s, so I think they were looking for someone a little more lighthearted, and I think for his time he did a great job.  A lot of people who first saw him…  I find people, when you meet them, the first time they went to the movies and saw James Bond in the movie, that’s the Bond they think represent James Bond.

GALLOWAY:  Not all of them.

WILSON:  Oh, no, you’re wrong about that.  If you remember, when we were casting Daniel Craig, fans were up in arms.  They ridiculed him and said he’ll never be Bond, and…

GALLOWAY:  Sam Mendes went on the record — now a great Bond director — saying Daniel Craig was wrong for the part.  Have you teased him about that?

WILSON:  He admits that was probably an overstatement.

GALLOWAY:  Slight mistake.  So it’s really interesting that you have this switch to Roger Moore.  I think Live and Let Die didn’t do so well, and…

WILSON:  No, it didn’t, no.

GALLOWAY:  And then you came back with really one of the defining Bond films that has one of the best openings in Bond film, and we’re going to show the opening.

WILSON:  This is Spy Who Loved Me.

[CLIP]

GALLOWAY:  Were you at the premiere in London when that film was shown?  People went crazy for it.  

WILSON:  Oh yeah, it was fantastic.  And it’s considered to be the best stunt in the Bond series, I guess.

GALLOWAY:  Was it hard to pull off?

WILSON:  Well, we were looking around for an opening at that time, and Cubby and had a desk, we had a partners’ desk.  You sat on one side, I sat on the other, and I was looking, you know, we were always looking around for ideas.  So I’m looking through a magazine, and Canadian Club had this stunt of a guy skiing off of El Capitan, and then dumping the skis and doing a parachute, so I said to Cubby I think this could be a great opening.  He said fine, let’s get the guy.  So I called up Rick Sylvester out in California, he lived down there. He was the guy that did the jump.  And you know, we got him to come over the London.  So I said do you think we could do this in the movies, you know?  He said, “Oh, I didn’t do it.  I jumped out of a helicopter, I didn’t — ”

GALLOWAY:  Oh.  [LAUGH]

WILSON:  But he said you can’t jump of El Capitan.  It doesn’t work, etc.  And so he said, “But I could do it up in northern Canada.  There’s this cliff, 3,000-foot cliff there, and I could do it there.”  So we talked to the director, and he said well that’s great.  So we got John Glenn, who was our second unit director and editor, to go up there and do it.  And we went, put a group together, and went up there.  Oh, and it was snow the whole time.  It was summer but it was raining and snowing.  It was about three months before again we start the movie, just to get this shot.  And the costs started to mount, and I started to getting feeling god, what have we done?  You know, this is the first movie I worked on, really, and you know, I’m starting to sweat it.  Cubby said, “No, they’re going to stay there until they get the shot.  Whatever happens they’re going to get the shot.” And the studios are calling up. Now, in those days, a quarter-million dollars and nothing’s rolled over yet.  They’re all sitting up there.  So finally they get a break, and they went up in a helicopter.  And they shot in about, they had one half hour, they shot it.  And everybody got one shot.  They had all these cameras on it but they only used one shot.  And you saw that ski almost collapsed his parachute, which could have been disaster. It almost hit him, but it actually hit the parachute and bounced off, but it collapsed the parachute for a second.  And then it started to close in.  They all ran in the helicopter.  They had to leave equipment there, […] So the helicopters, the equipment stayed up there for a year before could get it down again.  And the bit about the parachute with the Union Jack on it.

GALLOWAY:  Yeah, the British flag.

WILSON:  That was Christopher Wood, our writer.  He said, “Let’s do that.”

GALLOWAY:  That’s the great touch

WILSON:  I know, it was great. Christopher Wood.  He just died this year.  Great guy.  And then we had to figure out what leads up to that.  So that was done in Switzerland much later, all the other material.  Just the one jump was there, and that’s pretty much put together by writers, director, second unit director, stunt people, a lot of people who are experts in skiing, they all come together.

GALLOWAY:  Is this all storyboarded in advance?

WILSON:  Yes.

GALLOWAY:  And do you look at the storyboards and approve them and…

WILSON:  Yeah. I mean, this is a collaborative process among the director and the producers and the writers and the second unit directors and the stunt people. Everybody gets involved, because you want the best input you can get.

GALLOWAY:  What was Roger Moore like to work with?

WILSON:  Oh, he’s a great guy, he still is.  You know, he goes around the world UNICEF.  Been their spokesman for 20 years.  And he’s a charmer.

GALLOWAY:  Was there anything he said he didn’t want to do?

WILSON:  He goes along with the script and that, but he’ll talk it over with the director if there’s an issue about…  But there was never any of that, never a confrontation over anything.  But you might say, “Oh, I could do this this way better than that,” you know.

GALLOWAY:  He was very easy.  Sean Connery was not so easy.

WILSON:  I wasn’t there for Sean, you know, I met him a few times and that, but I never worked with Sean, so…  But I know at the end he got fed up being James Bond.  You know, he didn’t like the way the public reacted.  They were somewhat obsessive and they were very intrusive.

GALLOWAY:  He also resented Cubby Broccoli.  How did that impact the franchise?

WILSON: I can’t really say why there was a falling out.  I just don’t know enough about it.  I know that he didn’t get on with Harry very well.  Cubby was pretty easy to get on with, as far as I know.  But I don’t think he, Sean just, you know, he just didn’t seem to get on with him.

GALLOWAY:  You then have this extraordinary situation in the 80s where Sean Connery went to make a Bond film, and you were making your own Bond film.  Were you worried?  Did you think this is the end of our series?

WILSON: Never Say Never Again, that was his comeback.  I think it’s very hard. I don’t mind other spy films or action adventure films.  They’re very good for us, because it’s very important that the public get used to going to the cinemas.  And they like action adventure films, because you know, it gives you a public that can come and see your movie.  So good movies are good for the business, and they’re good for everybody.  But having another James Bond film competing with you virtually six months later is not a good thing, obviously.  It oversaturates the market.

GALLOWAY:  But I think your film, Octopussy, did better?

WILSON:  Yeah, we did.

GALLOWAY:  Why did you replace Roger Moore?

WILSON:  Well, Roger realized that he was getting too old to do the work know.

GALLOWAY:  So we then come to Timothy Dalton who followed him, and let’s take a look at a clip from The Living Daylights.  

[CLIP]

GALLOWAY:  So this still feels like a Roger Moore film.  It seems like it hasn’t quite made the transition.  

WILSON:  Yes.  Very much so.

GALLOWAY:  Was it written with Roger in mind?

WILSON:  It’s a mixture, especially in the action sequences, I think there’s a kind of, still a very lighthearted. But Timothy wanted more to be more of a Fleming Bond, he wanted to go back.  So if you see the set of a more dramatic, you know, he wanted to play it more seriously than Roger would have, and the other scenes, you know.

GALLOWAY:  Pierce Brosnan was your first choice for Bond at that point.  Why didn’t he play the part?

WILSON:  He was Remington Steele at the time, couldn’t get out of the contract.  They wouldn’t let him out, and they insisted he make a couple more, and we couldn’t have him being… he said he was going to get out of it, and his agent thought he would, but the studio, I don’t know if the studio, but the…

GALLOWAY:  The network?

WILSON:  I don’t know if it was ABC or whichever network it was, they said wouldn’t let him out, so…

GALLOWAY:  Was Timothy Dalton the right choice for Bond, do you think?

WILSON: I think he was a good choice.  I don’t think the public accepted him at all.  He was good to work with, you know, but he’s a very dramatic actor, you know, theater-kind of dramatic, so I guess it didn’t sit well with him.

GALLOWAY:  Why did the public not accept him?

WILSON:  I don’t know. We make the films for the public, not for ourselves.  No, it was funny, there’s a funny story about him that he tells, so I’m not telling it out of school, but it’s funny.  He took the part and he thought, it’s another part and all that, and then when we announced him it was press all over the world, and he had a big press conference and all that.  Then about two or three days later he went, he was living at home, you know, still I mean at his house in London, and he’d go down to the video store.  In those days they had video stores, and pick up a video.  And you know, he’d been going there for years.  It was a neighborhood video store, and you know, the people had seen him in that.  And so he looked around, he saw one, and he saw oh, he saw sort of a R rated, sexy kind of video, he thought, “Oh, well, I’ll take that one.” So he starts going up to the counter, and the woman says, “Oh, you’re the new James Bond.”  And he said, “Yes, I am.”  And he went back and put it back on the shelf. [LAUGHS] So, he said then realized, it changed his life. You can’t do anything.

GALLOWAY:  And that’s before social media and everything. How does that impact you today?

WILSON: You’re just living in a fishbowl.  It’s the worst thing, for my thinking, to be a celebrity.  

GALLOWAY:  What about your scripts?  How do you keep them under wraps?

WILSON:  I don’t know. I say that advisedly, because we have — what? — four or five hundred scripts out there with all the people working on the film.  It’s first unit, second unit, 150 in each unit and then we have, you know, all the people in the art department and all the other departments.  And nothing ever gets leaked.  I can’t figure it out.  Our people are really professional, which is good.  But they’re very careful.  I mean they destroy their scripts.  You know, they really watch ’em, yeah.

GALLOWAY:  Do you watermark the scripts when they’re sent?

WILSON:  Oh, we do, but they are very careful.  The only time we’ve had a leak it’s come out of the studios here.  We’d get the watermark and it says oh, from the office of so and so here. Not on our crews.

GALLOWAY:  How did the Sony email leaks impact you?  

WILSON:  First of all, you can’t believe everything you read in this emails.  So as far as we’re concerned —

GALLOWAY:  Even when they’re from you and from Barbara? There was one where they were worried that the movie was running up to $350 million.

WILSON:  Yeah.  It wasn’t anything like that, but anyway…  But they also, the worst thing was they put our script on the [web]. And we got it taken down immediately with the lawyer, ’cause it’s a copyrighted thing.  But that was an out-of-date script, luckily, so it wasn’t what we shot, but that was an impact.  But in a way it was minimal impact on us, but think of all the employees there, all of their emails out there at Sony, some people with their personal information on, financial information, all that, it was a horrible thing for them, and I really feel sorry for those people.  They suffered, truly suffered.  You know, there were just a few little funny things from us.  You know, it’s big revelation that the producers argue with the studio about the budget?!

GALLOWAY:  Yeah.

WILSON:  My God, you know! News.  [LAUGHS]  

GALLOWAY:  Yes.  How, as an independent producer, do you handle the studios?  Do you like to keep them very close or do you keep them at a distance?  Do you have a point person that you like?

WILSON:  Well, normally what happens is someone will come in and you’ll find out what they’re like.  Sometimes they’re great and sometimes they’re terrible, and you have to deal with them accordingly.

GALLOWAY:  What makes a great studio executive?

WILSON:  All we want to do is make a good film, and we try to do it for a reasonable amount of money considering what the script is.  And that’s, we put all the money on the screen, you know, that’s what it is.  So anyone who helps us to do that, if they have an issue with some stuff we’ll work with them.  That makes a good studio executive.  There’s plenty of people in this town that have problems with their egos, and they like to be in charge.

GALLOWAY:  I’m shocked. Really?

[LAUGHTER]

WILSON:  And those kinds of people are not so, you know, they don’t make good collaborators, so you just have to deal with them accordingly, which is usually…

GALLOWAY:  You’re really in this interesting situation now where your deal with Sony is up, you know, MGM makes the films with you but Sony has distributed them.

WILSON:  Yeah, that’s been a recent thing.  MGM went bankrupt, so they couldn’t mount a distribution organization.

GALLOWAY:  Are you now talking to other studios or will you stick with Sony?

WILSON:  I don’t know, because it’s not primarily our decision.  We’re one picture, we will consult with them and they’ll make sure we’re happy, but they have to [decide]. It’s their responsibility, because it’s for all their whole slate.  It isn’t just for us.  And so they will do it, and then they’ll talk to us about it.  But of the three people they’re considering, all of them are more than suitable with us.  They’re all fine.

GALLOWAY:  Have you met with those studio executives?

WILSON:  Yes.

GALLOWAY:  And what are you looking for when you have those talks with them?  What do you want to know?

WILSON:  It’s almost impossible for us to evaluate it except on the basis of their past successes or failures.  That’s the only thing you can use.  You know, until you work with people you can’t evaluate their marketing executives or their publicity people, or their…  Which is primarily our point of contact with them.  And we really run, we pretty much run the marketing anyway ourselves.  So they execute it.  We create it and they execute it.

GALLOWAY:  When do you think there’ll be a decision on that?

WILSON:  Probably in January or February.  I don’t know.  

GALLOWAY:  So Timothy Dalton did —

WILSON:  Two, yes.

GALLOWAY:  Two movies with Bond, but had a three-picture contract.  What happened to number three?

WILSON:  I don’t think he had a three-picture contract, but as far as I know, but…  Anyway, what happened was MGM became bankrupt again, after-well…  I guess that was the first time, was it?

GALLOWAY:  That was the first time.

WILSON:  Yeah, and so we had like a five year…

GALLOWAY:  Six years I think.  So when you did come out, you had that very long hiatus of about six years.  Did Timothy Dalton say I don’t want to come back or did you say to Timothy —

WILSON:  I think it would be inappropriate for me to discuss it, about his personal thing.
We’re very good friends.  He comes around all the time, and we talk.

GALLOWAY:  OK, and then you had to replace him, and you went back to Pierce Brosnan.

WILSON:  Pierce Brosnan was now available.

GALLOWAY:  Right. Very convenient.  So let’s take a look at a clip from Goldeneye.  

[CLIP]

GALLOWAY: It’s a great opening.

WILSON:  Probably as big a change as changing the actor was changing from John Glenn —

GALLOWAY:  The director.  

WILSON:  — to Martin Campbell. And you know, there’s a different style and everything in that.  And the operator was fantastic.  That operator on the tight long shot, you know, the wide, you know, the long lens, boy that was good operating.

GALLOWAY:  How did you do this?  And I think this is the first bond film where you really used CGI, right?  

WILSON:  No, this was all real.  

GALLOWAY:  Real? Have you ever gone bungee jumping?

WILSON:  They only rehearsed that with a 200-pound sack of beans or something. [LAUGHTER] You know, first time with a person. The guy had to get it just right, you know, keep right in there.

GALLOWAY:  How many takes did you do of that?

WILSON:  Well, that was it. In the movie he goes down and he fires a gun, right?  But here, you go down and now the bungee cord comes up, right?  And this is a dam that’s concave.  So you’re not quite sure how the guy’s going to come up, and he can scrape himself along the side of the dam.  It’s a very, you know, we had a crane that put him out, but even so you’re not sure if he comes, you know, you usually do bungees off bridges so you have some latitude, but this, you know, so you can only do this once.

GALLOWAY:  This has been called the greatest stunt in film history.

WILSON:  This one? The first one we saw looked pretty good.  [LAUGH]

GALLOWAY:  So how did you conceive of this opening.  Did a writer come up with it?

WILSON:  Oh God, I can’t remember.  I know that Martin Campbell was very good at storyboarding all of this.  It was all worked out.  And he’s very good at these, you know, and so is John Glenn, they’re very good at storyboarding and getting every frame right, you know.

GALLOWAY:  You only used him twice as a director, and the other film, we’re going to take a look at it a bit later, is Casino Royale, which is one of my favorite Bonds.

WILSON:  Me too.

GALLOWAY:  I thought he did an exquisite job directing it.  Why did you not bring him back after that?

WILSON:  He didn’t want to come back after, you know, he said I’ve done that, and he was off doing Zorro and all this other stuff.  And he doesn’t want to get stuck into something.  But he said, “Oh, well,  if you get a new guy I’ll come back again.” [LAUGHS]

GALLOWAY: Have you talked to other directors like Paul Greengrass, David Fincher?  

WILSON:  Oh well, we meet ’em, sure, yeah.

GALLOWAY:  I’m sure they would want to do Bond.

WILSON: I mean if the script’s right and everything, yes, maybe.

GALLOWAY:  Would you give a director final cut?

WILSON:  I don’t think it’s a good idea. For us. But some projects, it’s a good idea.

GALLOWAY:  What do you look for in a director?

WILSON:  Someone who can tell a good story and can work well with the actors.  Being an action-oriented director is not important. Because we could supply all that.  We have a whole team of people that can do that.  You know, when Sam Mendes came on, he said, “Well, I haven’t done anything really in action, you know.” So I said, “Don’t worry about that. We want to make a good dramatic story.”

GALLOWAY: Was Goldeneye made at United Artists under John Calley?  For those of you who don’t know, John Calley was sort of a legendary executive who had been a huge figure at Warner Bros., turned his back on the business, left it altogether, went to live on his yacht sailing around the world for a couple of years, and then came back to run United Artists and took over the Bond franchise.  He then became the chairman of Sony and tried to setup his own Bond franchise, not for the first time.  What happened?

WILSON:  We sued him.  Well, first of all, he’s a legend and all that.  Of course, we didn’t get on with him.  He’s one of the guys we didn’t get on with. He’s passed away now, so there’s no point in kind of dwelling on it, but he had a responsibility as being president of United Artists, MGM, to — I guess he had a corporate responsibility, and a position of trust, and then to go to another studio and violate that is typical of John Calley. Anyway, it’s one of the things: you get the luck of the draw with these guys at the studio.  There’s plenty of guys that were just as bad as he was, but there were plenty of good ones. We’ve probably been through, if you stay long enough at MGM you kind of run through all the guys in Hollywood, you know?

GALLOWAY:  Are you happy at MGM now?

WILSON:  Yeah, Gary’s pretty good.

GALLOWAY:  Gary Barber.

WILSON:  He has a fierce reputation, but once he’s on your side he’s like your Rottweiler.  He does, he’s just great.

GALLOWAY:  The Calley thing, just like Never Say Never Again, stemmed from an issue over who owned the rights to Thunderball.  A producer named Kevin McClory had been involved with creating that story, and this dogged you for decades.

WILSON:  50, 45 years.  

GALLOWAY:  Explain what happened and explain how it was resolved.

WILSON:  Well, what happened goes back to the writing of Thunderball, which was…

GALLOWAY:  Ian Fleming.  

WILSON:  Before we ever got involved, about 1958.  They had worked on a script together, nothing came of it, so Fleming wrote a novel.  And when the novel came out Fleming then was sued and they settled the case by agreeing to give McClory the film rights.  He was the person behind, one of the people behind writing the screenplay that the novel was based upon.  Fleming had the idea…

GALLOWAY:  Oh, that’s right, he’d written a screenplay, and then Fleming took the idea for the screenplay and wrote the novel.

WILSON:  Of course, Fleming’s attitude was, “Well, we worked on this thing together, it didn’t work out.  I’ll write a novel based upon my input.” That was in his mind.  But of course, legally it got him in hot water.  So then when Thunderball was made, Kevin McClory was producer, Cubby and Harry were executive producers.  And he had a 10-year restriction.  He couldn’t make another film for 10 years, and then when that was up he started saying he wanted to make another film.  He made Never Say Never, and then that didn’t do so well, and so then what happened was that 20th Century Fox had made Casino Royale as a farce…

GALLOWAY:  With David Niven.

WILSON:  Yeah, with Niven, 1964.  So then when Calley went over [to Sony], he knew that there was a problem with Kevin McClory from when he was working at MGM, so he went and he said, “I can get the McClory rights. You guys {at Fox] have Casino Royale, right? Let’s start our own series, because with two novels we could claim a series, right?  You got series rights.”  So we had another lawsuit.

GALLOWAY:  Did that delay the next Bond?

WILSON:  No, not particularly.  It was just, lawsuits are emotionally trying.

GALLOWAY:  Are they?

WILSON:  When your livelihoods on the…

GALLOWAY:  Did you think at any point this might be the end of Bond?

WILSON:  It’s never going to be the end of Bond.  Someone’ll make Bond films if I’m not [around], none of us.  He’s a fictitious character like Superman, Batman and Sherlock Holmes, he’s going to be around forever.  So it’s the end of our James Bond maybe. But it was long, and [with] the lawsuit, it turned out I was the only witness.  It was done on a certain technicality called “laches,” and when we got into court the judge said, “Well, I’m going to have a trial without the jury, first on latches questions, so call your witnesses.” I was the only witness in the case.

GALLOWAY: How did you celebrate when you won the case?

WILSON:  We took everybody out to dinner, we took all the lawyers out to dinner.  We had 41 lawyers.  

GALLOWAY:  What were the legal bills for that?

WILSON:  With all their people.  Eh, you know, whatever.

GALLOWAY:  Millions.

WILSON:  It doesn’t make any difference.

GALLOWAY: You did what, four films with Pierce Brosnan?

WILSON:  Yes.

GALLOWAY:  And then who had to call him and say it’s over?

WILSON:  Well, , what happened was Barbara and I were in London, and we’d had some writers starting on the next picture.  We also were having problems with his agent, you know. He had recently changed agents.  So, I have a habit when things are going frustrating of putting my hands on my head, like this.  And I was sitting there at my desk like that, ’cause I had just read the newest draft of the treatment. Barbara said to me, “What do you want to do?” And I said — because we had just settled, we had just won the lawsuit, and now we owned Casino Royale — I said, “I’d just like to start all over again. I’d just like to make Casino Royale and just clear the whole thing out.” She said, “Exactly what I want to do.  Let’s do it, let’s do it.” And she got on a plane and came out here and said to the studio, “We want to start all over again and do Casino Royale.”  And they’re kinda like, “What? You know, that’s a big risk.” And we just started with Sony, so then we went over to see Amy.

GALLOWAY:  Amy Pascal.  

WILSON:  Amy Pascal at Sony.

GALLOWAY:  The then head of Sony.

WILSON:  And she said, “Oh, it’s going to be so great working with you.” You know, she’s very enthusiastic. “Oh, we can’t wait to work with you guys, it’s so great” and all that.  “So when are we going to have Casino Royale? Who you going to have as Q and Moneypenny?  So we say, “They’re not going to be in it.”  “Oh,” she said, “Well, what about the girl?”  Girl dies in the end.  

[LAUGHTER]

WILSON:  She said, “This is a Bond film?” “Yeah, it’s a Bond film.” She said, “Oh my God, no, no, no.”  I said, “This is what we’ve got to do, because we’ve just gotten too fanciful, the invisible cars and all that stuff. We’ve got to bring it back down to earth.” And to their credit, the studios all went along with us, both Sony and MGM.

GALLOWAY: Why break a thing that’s doing great?

WILSON:  We said, “If we keep going this way, it’s going to kill off the franchise.  So we can’t do it.”

GALLOWAY:  That’s a fascinating decision.  I mean, going back to how we started this interview, you’re taking such a bold move.

WILSON:  Well it happened with Moonraker. We got the same thing. We stuck with Roger, but we just couldn’t keep going with that. We had to change direction because it was getting ridiculous.

GALLOWAY:  Over the top.

WILSON:  So you know, we have to change. But it was the most successful picture, and the next pictures weren’t as successful. It was important to change, to change direction.

GALLOWAY:  Are you now having conversations about which direction and tone the future Bonds will take?

WILSON:  We haven’t even talked about that.

GALLOWAY:  Do you have a script in the works for another Bond?

WILSON:  No.

GALLOWAY: Do you have an idea?

WILSON:  No.

GALLOWAY:  Do you have a title?

WILSON:  No.

GALLOWAY:  Do you have a Bond?  

WILSON:  I think we’ve, well —

GALLOWAY: [LAUGHS] Almost caught you there.

WILSON:  I think we’ve got Daniel, yeah.  

GALLOWAY:  Is it Daniel Craig or is it not?

WILSON:  Yeah. I mean, we hope to have Daniel.  

GALLOWAY:  Well ,he said he’s never going to do it again.

WILSON:  I know, well, he said that.

[LAUGH]

WILSON:  Sam [Mendes] said they were never going to make the picture again, and he told the press that.  

GALLOWAY:  I know.  But do you have a contract with Daniel to do another picture?

WILSON:  No, we don’t have a contract.

GALLOWAY:  Oh well, you’d better be very persuasive.

WILSON:  My sister is more persuasive than I am.

[LAUGHTER]  

GALLOWAY:   OK. So she was the one, I think, who really wanted Daniel Craig?

WILSON:  Oh absolutely, yeah.  She was.

GALLOWAY:  Did you have doubts?

WILSON:  No. I thought he was good, but she knew he was the right one.  

GALLOWAY:  Did you write up a list of potential Bonds?

WILSON:  Well, the studio gives a list, like: “How about these guys?”

GALLOWAY:  Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise.  

WILSON:  You can name ’em.  They’re all on the list.  Everybody that you can imagine’s on the list.

GALLOWAY: So how did Daniel Craig get the job?  Did you go and have dinner with him?  What was the process?

WILSON:  He was very reluctant.  He didn’t want to do it.  And we kept asking him to come in, talking to him, and finally he says, “Well, if I do it, I’ll do it 100 percent. I’ll totally do it.” So then, when we hired him, he went into a six-month physical thing that really transformed his body.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  He must have added, I don’t know, 10 inches to his thighs and the whole chest.  He actually transformed himself.  And he kept at it, and he eats this scientifically controlled diet all the time, and he goes to bed at nine o’clock at night when he’s making the movies.  He’s like a monk.  

GALLOWAY:  What did you say to him that tipped him to doing it, or what did Barbara say?

WILSON:  He came to the conclusion himself.  You know, it took some convincing, but I think he finally decided to do it.

GALLOWAY:  Were you saying to Barbara, “Look, why don’t we go with this other guy?”

WILSON:  No, never.  I thought he was too good a prospect.

GALLOWAY:  So let’s take a look at this incredibly good film, Casino Royale, so beautifully directed. Also, we don’t have her in this clip, but Eva Green adds so much. It’s a shame we can’t watch the whole film.

WILSON:  The torture scene is something, isn’t it?

GALLOWAY:  It’s very tough. Did you have conversation, like, “How far can we go there?”

WILSON:  Well, we’re sitting down with Martin Campbell, and the studio. We said, “We want to do it.” Because it’s in the book, and it’s pretty [graphic]. And it’s amazing that we got a [reasonable rating] everywhere on that.  

GALLOWAY:  All these decisions are so difficult.  You’re shifting tone for the movie, you’re shifting the lead, you’re deciding if this torture scene is too little or too much, you’re casting the romantic lead who just added something to him, you’re deciding to kill her off.  They’re major, major decisions.  

WILSON:  And then he says at the end, “The bitch is dead.”

GALLOWAY:  Who is good cop bad cop when you’re doing these things, you or Barbara?
Who’s the stickler for sticking to the way it was done?

WILSON:  We were 100 percent on this.

GALLOWAY:  Do you divide up the chores?  

WILSON:  She does all the work and I take the credit.

[LAUGHTER]

GALLOWAY:  Let’s take a look at Casino Royale.

[CLIP]

GALLOWAY: What are the steps to creating that?  

WILSON:  You know, looking at that, there’s a sign that says some embassy. That was a fictitious country that he was being taken into. So this is the first time we opened a Bond film in China one.  And that’s the one thing the Chinese, we had to change. We had to say it was a country club.  So in China the sign says it’s a country club and not an embassy.

GALLOWAY: That’s so interesting.  Why would that upset them?

WILSON:  It’s just the view they have of the world, that a hero never would enter a foreign embassy and shoot it up.

GALLOWAY:  Right. How was this created?  What were the steps?

WILSON:  Well, first of all we wanted to do free running.  And we thought we’d have Bond chasing a free-running expert. That was the kind of concept.  And the guy was a terrorist that he was tracking down.  And so that was the chase.  

GALLOWAY:  So first of all do you script over several pages, and…

WILSON:  An opening sequence is just like a little movie in itself, it’s a story, so it’s just written that way.

GALLOWAY:  How many rewrites does that go through?

WILSON:  Innumerable.  

GALLOWAY: How do you find the location where you’re going to shoot that?

WILSON: The thing is, if you say in a script, I want to go and shoot in a building that’s under construction, there’s no way you’ll ever find that.  You go look at a building and by the time you come back to shoot, [it’s completed]. And you can’t interrupt construction. [But] I knew that in the Bahamas, from when I was there in the 70s, there was a building that was being built there, and it had been vacant.  It was a hotel that had never been finished.  So this was the perfect place to go film it.  So we went down there and filmed in the Bahamas, and it looked like it was under construction, but it was just an unfinished building.  It had been there for 25 years.

GALLOWAY:  Was it a difficult sequence to shoot?

WILSON:  Well they’re all difficult like this.  I mean, it’s challenging, but that’s what we do.  That’s what our team does.

GALLOWAY:  Did anything go wrong during the shoot?

WILSON:  There’s always things that go wrong, but nothing bad enough…

GALLOWAY:  Like what?

WILSON:  Just a few people, you know, stunt people and the like…

GALLOWAY:  Few people die?  

WILSON:  Well, they don’t die, but they could hurt themselves, yeah.  

GALLOWAY: This is incredibly well edited.  How involved are you with the editing?

WILSON:  It’s a process involving the director and the editor and ourselves.  But we edit as we shoot. Usually we see assemblies as we’re going along, and we can comment about them.

GALLOWAY:  I want to take a look at the last film you did with Daniel Craig, Skyfall, which I think is the most successful Bond to date.

WILSON:  Yep, well, I assume it is, but it’s so hard to judge.  You know, the early films were very successful in their time, so how do you judge?

GALLOWAY: I’m wondering how much damage is done by piracy that wouldn’t have been done in the first Bonds.

WILSON:  If you look back at the movie industry, there’s no piracy in the early days because there’s nothing but the film business. Goldfinger cost $3 million and it made $60 million, something like that.  But it has no other ancillaries. Skyfall might cost $200 million and made $1 billion, so that’s only five times negative, right?  But we have lots of other ancillaries.  So how do you ever judge a film? You have to judge it in its own time.  How can you say what’s the most successful?

GALLOWAY:  What percentage of the revenue for a film like this comes from theatrical compared to cable, broadcast, home entertainment?

WILSON:  Theatrical is extremely expensive in its costs.  So almost all the marketing is on it, and even the most successful films, you probably get 45 percent of the revenue back from the box office, for the film rental, and then you’ve got to pay everything.  You’ve got to pay your negative and all your marketing costs and everything out of that.  So a film that actually breaks even in theatrical is considered a runaway success, a runaway success.

GALLOWAY:  And of the revenue, how much comes from that?

WILSON:  Well, there there’s the other types of revenue, the costs are less.  You know, the marketing costs, let’s say when they had DVDs, DVDs are dying out now, the marketing costs were very low, mostly point of sale, few other things, but…  And it used to be just the manufacturing costs were very low and the sales costs were very high, but there was a retain in between, so you only got half that.  Now with something like streaming, you got a much higher return.

GALLOWAY: International has become a huge component now.  What percentage of the revenue for Bond comes from international, and how much that does that factor into the decisions you make, in terms of casting…

WILSON:  When you go back to Bond films, if you look at the 1960s, Bond films made about 50 percent of their revenue in the United States, totally unheard of.  Usually you’d make 80, 90 percent in the States, hardly anything overseas.  But from the very beginning we were[more international]. Now we make probably 70 percent outside the United States.

GALLOWAY:  Does that factor into how you make the films?  Clearly in the Chinese situation it did.

WILSON:  We’ve always had international stars.  You could find people like Gert Frobe, who was Goldfinger, or any of these people. They were stars in Germany but they’re unknown in America.  And yet they’re great actors.  So in a way you could present the audience with new, great actors, great cinema actors and fresh people, and it was a way of introducing them.  

GALLOWAY:  Well for instance, with Spectre you have Lea Seydoux, great French actress.  Did you deliberately say, “We must have a European actress for this”?

WILSON:  No, we looked at a lot of different people.  For this part, in Spectre, it’s really important because she changes his life, and so you have to get someone who is convincing, like Eva Green was in Casino Royale.  She was convincing in her part, and in a way they’re enigmas to American audiences, and to most audiences.  Who are these people?  What are they?  What is she going to be like?  You know, we’ve never seen her before.  They don’t come with any baggage.  You don’t know: is she going to be good or bad? You don’t know where it’s going, which is the fun of it.

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