'Awards Chatter' Podcast — Barbara Broccoli ('Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool')

Barbara Broccoli - Mayfair Gala - Getty - H 2017
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"I love what I do," says Barbara Broccoli, a co-producer, with her step-brother and EON Productions partner Michael G. Wilson, of all eight James Bond films made over the last 22 years, and the producer of the unrelated 2017 release Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, an adaptation of her longtime friend Peter Turner's 1986 memoir about his relationship with the Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame, as we sit down at the offices of The Hollywood Reporter to record an episode of THR's 'Awards Chatter' podcast. "It's my passion. I love making movies. You know, to get up in the morning and be able to watch [Film Stars costars] Annette Bening and Jamie Bell, to have Elvis Costello write a song for you ["You Shouldn't Look at Me That Way" for Film Stars], to be with a maestro like [Film Stars director] Paul McGuigan, to see these stories come to life, is a gift and a privilege. And I don't take it for granted — ever."

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Broccoli was born in 1960 in Los Angeles and raised largely in London. Her mother was an actress and her father, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, was a frustrated filmmaker who was already 51 when she was born. In 1961, Broccoli's father and Harry Saltzman acquired the screen rights to Ian Fleming's James Bond books and partnered with United Artists to bring them to life, starting with 1962's Dr. No. At the time, though, nobody could have imagined that those books would spawn one of the most iconic, beloved and longest-running film franchises of all-time — one that would gross more than $6 billion in North America, and billions more abroad, over more than a half-century — but they quickly took off. And Broccoli remembers hearing about "James Bond" so often, as a child, that she, for many years, assumed he was a real person.

Broccoli began following her father to work at an early age not because she was enamored with the character he had helped to bring to the world, or any of the dashing actors who played him or any of the exotic locales in which the films were made — although she was — but because she loved spending time with her dad. "He was just such a magnificent character," she says. "And when he hit the jackpot — and boy, was James Bond the jackpot — he wanted everyone to come along, he wanted everyone to enjoy his success." Her personal contributions to the Bond films evolved over the years. She was an infant on the set of Dr. No, and later worked as a floor runner on other installments during her early childhood; in the publicity department at 17; as an assistant director at 23; and as an associate producer at 27.

In the early nineties, when Broccoli was in her early 30s, her aging father handed over the producing reins of the franchise to her and Wilson, who is 18 years her senior and whom she describes as a "very different" sort of personality — although "strangely enough, when it comes to Bond, we always agree." When the duo went to work on their first Bond film, GoldenEye, after casting a new actor, Pierce Brosnan, as Bond, it had been six years since the most recent installment, and some, even inside their circle of collaborators, were skeptical that the series would survive. Broccoli recalls, "They were saying, 'The Cold War is over. The world is in a safe place. Bond is dead. What relevance does he have to today's world?' So we had to come back with a story that would prove his relevance. GoldenEye was that." She adds, "Our thesis was that the world was more dangerous than ever. Unfortunately, we were right."

Broccoli's father saw GoldenEye — "It made him very happy," she recalls — and then, a year later, he passed away. Over time since, she and Wilson have reteamed on Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002), Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015), wielding greater creative control than almost any other producers in the business, even while working with the likes of Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes. "We are the custodians of this extraordinary character, James Bond," she explains, noting that it is both a great privilege and a great responsibility. "My father used to say, 'Don't let them screw it up. If you screw it up, you take the responsibility. But don't let other people screw it up.'" As Wilson has gotten older, Broccoli has increasingly taken the lead on the films, prompting the New York Times to write, "Yes, a woman is in charge of the world’s most aspirational male brand."

The 25th Bond film will be released in November 2019. Broccoli says its title and director are "still to be determined," as is its theatrical distributor, now that a four-film deal with Sony has come to an end. (Broccoli notes that MGM's Gary Barber is meeting on her behalf with lots of suitors: "It's exciting to be 'courted,' as you put it. There's a lot of interesting people out there. We'll hopefully be making that decision sometime early next year.") It has been confirmed that Spectre screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade will be returning, as will Daniel Craig — "Thank God," she says. "I'm really, really pleased that he's decided to come back for another one, because my heart was breaking."

It was Broccoli who came up with the idea of replacing Brosnan with Craig ahead of the Bond origin story Casino Royale. She had seen him on a British TV series and in the theater, but was sold on him after catching his brief appearance in the 1998 film Elizabeth: "There's a shot of him walking down the corridor, and I said, 'Oh, my God. He has the most incredible presence on the screen. You cannot take your eyes off him on the screen.' And that's been true of everything he's ever done. He's lit from within." Craig resisted the part when Broccoli offered it to him — "not wanting to be typecast," she says — but he eventually gave in and soon will have five Bond films under his belt, only two shy of the record shared by Sean Connery and Roger Moore.

Between Spectre and "Bond 25," Broccoli finally found a window of time — and financing — to realize her 31-year quest to make Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (the first film that she has produced outside of the Bond franchise). She and Turner met 40 years ago, when she was 17 and her then-boyfriend was working with him on a TV series, and they became close. Soon thereafter, Turner introduced Broccoli to his girlfriend, the much-older Grahame, and Broccoli admired their special relationship, particularly as Grahame's health deteriorated. Grahame died in 1981, Turner's account of their time together was published in 1986 (nine years before Broccoli had produced a film herself) and Broccoli has been trying to help him turn it into a film ever since. "It was supposed to get made several times," she volunteers, "but for various reasons it didn't."

Now, Broccoli insists, she is glad it took as long as it did to come together, because the delay enabled it to be made with Bening and Bell. "Peter always said that Gloria was sort of manipulating things from above," she chuckles. "I think it was right to wait until all the elements fell into place." She says, with some embarrassment, that during the making of the film — which was partially shot at Pinewood Studios, longtime home to the Bond films, and with a number of craftspeople who work on those films — she was often emotional. "It's about good, honest, hardworking people just accepting someone who happened to be a movie star," she explains. "The humanity of the story really gets to me." Nothing moved her more, though, than watching Bening at work. "It was a transcendental experience working with her," Broccoli gushes. "I think it's one of the most incredible performances I've ever seen."

Moving forward, should one expect Broccoli to abandon the gargantuan Bond movies for far more intimate ones like Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool? Absolutely not, she insists — but there may be room for both sorts. "There are similarities," she cracks. "One is that you never have enough money." For now, though, she'll be turning her attention back to Bond, the films of which she plans to oversee for as long as she can, and then pass along to the next generation of Broccolis. "It's a family business," she emphasizes. "I mean, it'd be nice to think that the family will continue with it. But, you know, again, Bond belongs to everybody. So we'll just see. He'll survive, whatever happens."