In a rare interview given to the UK’s ‘FT Weekend’ magazine, 007 producer Michael G. Wilson spoke about his work on the Bond movies, his career and his passion for photography.
The interview with Wilson appeared in the October 13th-14th issue of the FT Magazine, which is published with the weekend edition of the ‘Financial Times’. The article was adorned with three photos of Wilson: one taken at home with his wife, Jane; one taken in the Wilson Centre for Photography, which he helped found and still firmly supports; and one taken at Pinewood, on the set of ‘Skyfall’, showing Wilson at the end of a long bar where Production Designer Dennis Gassner is being served a drink by the Skyfall Lodge gamekeeper Kincade (Albert Finney)!
Indeed, the detailed interview and profile of Wilson strongly brought out his commitment to both old photographs (he has a large collection) and modern portraiture. The article contained some of the results of the work of photographers who were specially invited on to the set of the 23rd Bond movie by Wilson, who were given carte blanche by him to shoot what they wished, including a portrait of Wilson with Daniel Craig taken by Sam Taylor-Johnson (formerly Taylor-Wood); a beautiful series of photos of the Skyfall Lodge, taken by Simon Norfolk, and shot at Hankley Common in Surrey; and a portrait-style photo taken by Anderson & Low of director Sam Mendes sitting in his director’s chair.
Other special photos by Mary McCartney and Luc Delahaye showed scenes from the stunt training camp at Pinewood and ’97 figurants’ (portraits of extras from the Istanbul scenes of ‘Skyfall’).
The FT Magazine gave a detailed description of Wilson’s career. Wilson, whose mother Dana had moved from the USA to London to live with Cubby Broccoli, went to college in California to study engineeering, and then on to Stanford to study law. His first real taste of the film world came with ‘Goldfinger’, when he helped his stepfather Cubby on the Fort Knox scenes.
After a career as a lawyer, Wilson renewed his direct involvement with James Bond when he helped sort out some of the tensions and legal issues that had developed between Cubby and Harry Saltzman (they officially parted company in 1975). A short while later, Wilson became assistant to the producer on ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’.
Interestingly, Roger Moore’s third Bond movie, the first film without Saltzman, was apparently regarded as a watershed moment, as it was crucial that it succeeded. In fact, the FT Magazine revealed that the amazing parachute stunt in the opening credits was also seen as a metaphor for EON’s financial escape. As the magazine noted, it would be years before the rift between Broccoli and Saltzman was healed but, as part of the 5oth anniversary of the series, the two families of the original producers have allowed the new documentary ‘Everything or Nothing’ (currently on release) to be made and, for a cinema release, ‘it’s very near the bone in places’.
Wilson revealed to the FT magazine that EON is continuing with the tradition of being a tight family-run concern. His younger son Gregg is an associate producer now, while his other son David is working on independent projects and the video games. Wilson’s niece is also working for the company.
Asked about the ‘character’ of Bond and whether the latest movie, ‘Skyfall’, will continue with the recent humanisation of 007, Wilson said: ‘It’s something we were looking for the writers to deliver. I think, starting with Casino Royale, a new cycle, that we’ve done that. I think he’s very human. It’s very easy for the caper and the hardware and the locations to take on a life of their own in the mind of the director, and the character sort of gets left behind. But Sam Mendes is very involved with getting the best out of the actors, and with bringing in great talent’.
Wilson was also asked about the continuing problem of film piracy for the movie industry. He said it was an enormous problem for them, with only the US and parts of Europe as relatively safe territories: ‘It starts almost immediately, when you release the film; sometimes before’. He said there is no will within governments to police it. Internet piracy was also a problem, and Wilson similarly noted that internet service providers remain reluctant to police it: ‘they don’t want to be in the middle’.
Wilson was also asked about his now legendary cameo appearances in the Bond movies (he has appeared in 14 of them). Is he in ‘Skyfall’? Wilson responded: ‘Oh, I was cut out. There’s a glimpse of me, but you can’t really see me. So it’s going to be a “Where’s Waldo?” moment on this one’.