So too Martin Scorsese with our Howard Hughes biopic, “The Aviator.” A subject like Mr. Hughes naturally invites controversy and high emotion. The push from outside the creative circle was for the lurid and sensational, but Marty stared down every challenge that threatened our more humane version of the story. He sometimes said, “Yes, that would make an interesting Howard Hughes movie, but it’s not our Howard Hughes movie.” Significantly, in the case of both “Gladiator” and “The Aviator,” we were working with brave producers who defended our choices. They cared more about the art than about the bottom line.
When you’re making a movie, you need a champion to fight battles like these. Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are the champions of James Bond. They keep the corporate and commercial pressures outside the door. Nor are they motivated by them. That’s why we don’t have a mammoth Bond Cinematic Universe, with endless anemic variations of 007 sprouting up on TV or streaming or in spinoff movies. The Bond movies are truly the most bespoke and handmade films I’ve ever worked on. That’s why they are original, thorny, eccentric and special. They were never created with lawyers and accountants and e-commerce mass marketing pollsters hovering in the background.
This is also why they can afford to be daring. Here’s an example from “Skyfall” — my favorite day working on the movie, in fact.
Sam Mendes, the director, and I marched into Barbara and Michael’s office, sat at the family table and pitched the first scene between Bond and the villain, Raoul Silva. Now, the moment 007 first encounters his archnemesis is often the iconic moment in a Bond movie, the scene around which you build a lot of the narrative and cinematic rhythms. (Think about Bond first meeting Dr. No or Goldfinger or Blofeld, all classic scenes in the franchise.) Well, Sam and I boldly announced we wanted to do this pivotal scene as a homoerotic seduction. Barbara and Michael didn’t need to poll a focus group. They didn’t need to vet this radical idea with any studio or corporation — they loved it instantly. They knew it was fresh and new, provocative in a way that keeps the franchise contemporary. They weren’t afraid of controversy. In my experience, not many big movies can work with such freedom and risky joy. But with the Broccoli/Wilson family at the helm, Bond is allowed to provoke, grow and be idiosyncratic. Long may that continue.
James Bond has survived the Cold War, Goldfinger, Jaws, disco and Ernst Stavro Blofeld, several times. And I can only hope that the powers-that-be at Amazon recognize the uniqueness of what they just acquired and allow and encourage this special family business to continue unobstructed.
Bond’s not “content” and he’s not a mere commodity. He has been a part of our lives for decades now. From Sean Connery to George Lazenby to Roger Moore to Timothy Dalton to Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig, we all grew up with our version of 007, so we care deeply about him.
Please let 007 drink his martinis in peace. Don’t shake him, don’t stir him.
John Logan co-wrote the screenplays for the James Bond films “Skyfall” and “Spectre.” He was nominated for Academy Awards for best original screenplay for “The Aviator” and “Gladiator,” and for best adapted screenplay for “Hugo.” He won the Tony Award for best play for “Red.”
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