LOS ANGELES >> Before James Bond could even get himself into his first pickle, a shadowy international threat loomed.
About a week into shooting "Spectre," James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson got some bad news. Not only had a draft of the highly secretive script been leaked in the infamous Sony hack, but it came along with a slew of private communications about the film, highlighting its third act problems, multiple rewrites, ballooning budget and one very significant spoiler.
Broccoli and Wilson didn't find this out from the Internet or even Sony — the distributor and co-financier on "Spectre." They read about it in a newspaper. With phone lines and email servers down, they couldn't even get in touch with their partners in the immediate aftermath.
"It was a bit tricky for us," Broccoli acknowledged. But beyond making sure the copyrighted script was taken offline, she said they essentially just proceeded with making the film.
"You know what they say, you shouldn't see how a sausage is made," Wilson said in a recent phone interview from Mexico City. He and his step-sister Broccoli were in the capital to attend a premiere of "Spectre," the 24th in the 53-year-old film series, which bows in North America on Friday.
The purported drama that the hacked emails exposed is no more or less than they've experienced on any other film in the franchise, noted Broccoli in the phone interview.
"They're challenging films to make because of the size of what we do," she said. "I always say, if you don't like problems, don't become a film producer."
"Spectre" certainly doesn't skimp on size. The film, which finds the martini-swilling spy on a multi-continent quest, opens with a complicated tracking shot in the streets of Mexico City for the Day of the Dead parade, featuring over 1,500 extras dressed and painted to perfection. It required 1,500 unique costumes, 75 costumers, five months of preparation, two helicopters and police escorts for the busses used to transport the extras.
And that's only one of the film's exotic set pieces. There's also the 400 tons of man-made snow that they had to use in Austria, the 18 nights they spent shooting a car chase in Rome, and the sand storms and 113-degree temperatures they found in Erfoud, Morocco. The film's budget is reported to be near $250 million.
But Bond is big business and the series has been on an upswing. The last film, "Skyfall," was produced for a reported $150-$200 million and became the highest grossing Bond film ever with over $1.1 billion in ticket sales worldwide. "Spectre" sees the return of "Skyfall" director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig in his fourth film as 007.
Broccoli and Wilson have been around the franchise for most of their lives (Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli, Barbara Broccoli's father, is largely responsible for bringing Ian Fleming's character to the big screen). To them, success isn't necessarily money, it's just pleasing audiences.
As they roll out "Spectre" in theaters, though, the future is more in flux than usual. For one, the contract between MGM and Sony is up and the franchise is in the market for a new distributor. (They may still end up renewing with Sony, their partners for 10 years).
There's also the issue of Craig, who early in his press appearances for the film said he'd rather "slit his wrists" than return for another, despite being contracted for one more 007 appearance.
"We had an 8-month shoot and he was tired," Broccoli said regarding Craig's coarse comments. "I think we all feel at the end of a movie that the thought of doing another one right away is always a little bit too much to contemplate. It's like childbirth. You don't ask a woman who's just given birth, 'oh when are you going to do it again?'"
Craig later stated that he'll keep going as long as he's "physically able." The 47-year-old actor injured his knee while shooting "Spectre."
Neither Broccoli nor Wilson will even entertain the question of which actor, or actress, might take up the mantle if Craig decides not to continue, and they definitely won't comment on the Internet's favorite dream Bond: Idris Elba.
"Daniel Craig is our James Bond and until that's no longer the case we're not going to speculate," said Broccoli. "We love him and we want to hang on to him. Let's hope we can."
These days, more and more franchises are playing the long game — announcing film titles, release dates directors and even casts up to five years in advance. The Bond films are a different beast. While there are deals in place for how many films a particular studio might distribute, they're not staking claim to release dates or even committing to a particular year for No. 25.
"Good for them if they can do it," said Wilson, of the strategies of Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and others making grand promises and outlines for fans (and shareholders).
"We just set about trying to make a good movie and we do it the best we can. And in our time," added Broccoli. "I don't think we can comment on other people's process, but that's our process. We'll just stick to that."
As Bond would probably attest, why mess with the formula? Shaken, not stirred, works just fine.