Daniel Craig in 'Skyfall' (Francois Duhamel / Columbia…)
The monumental success of "Skyfall" -- the movie crossed $100 million at the domestic box office Monday -- proves that the appetite for James Bond is as strong as ever.
In the world of Hollywood franchises, that usually means a fast turnaround on a follow-up movie. But the stewards of the spy series say they're not in any rush to throw a new Bond into the pipeline.
Just before the film's release, I spoke to Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, the producers behind "Skyfall" and the last two decades of 007 fandangos. Though they expressed frustration at the legal challenges that led to a four-year gap between the most recent Bond movies, they say they won’t allow themselves to be governed by the calendar, either.
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"Sometimes there are external pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit, and sometimes we’ve given into that," Broccoli said. "But following what we hope will be a tremendous success with 'Skyfall,' we have to try to keep the deadlines within our own time limits and not cave in to external pressures."
The property has an unusual studio arrangement: rights for it reside at MGM but the company as it's currently constituted does not have a distribution arm. Sony released “Skyfall” in exchange for 25% of the revenue. It does not have a deal for any new films.
(The longest period in the last half-century without a Bond movie, incidentally, was the six years before 1995's "GoldenEye," owing to a legal battle. More common is two or three years, as with the gap between 2006's "Casino Royale" and 2008's "Quantum of Solace.")
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Part of the reason why Broccoli and Wilson would wait before moving on to another Bond movie is because they’ve yet to settle on a future direction. "We like Daniel [Craig], obviously, and we like the way he portrays the Bond character," Wilson said. "Our challenge is to find situations that will feel different and fresh and new and put Daniel and that character into those situations. It’s daunting."
That said, there’s some room for the franchise to maneuver. The end of "Skyfall" [spoiler alert: please skip ahead to the next paragraph if you'd rather not know] sets the table nicely for a new chapter. Bond has triumphed over his latest nemesis, Moneypenny is being given an increased role and Ralph Fiennes' newly introduced government bureaucrat is primed to become an important character. (His back story is already teased in "Skyfall" via a reference to his work as a field agent in Ireland.)
But Broccoli said that no matter the plot possibilities, she and Wilson will face a particular obstacle.
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"With this excitement of the reaction to this film there is a sense of dread, like oh my God,” her voice trailed off, suggesting the specter of heightened expectations.
Wilson said he agreed. "After the critical reaction to this one you think, 'How in the world are we going to top this?'” he said. "I for one don’t have a clue yet how we’re going to do that.”