`All the money’s going to go on the screen’

There’s a quote attributed to Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli to the effect that with James Bond movies, the money is all up on the screen. In Broccoli’s time at the 007 helm (1961-1996), that explained why the production team often cast unknowns for key roles, especially the female leads. Eon would save money on such roles and use it toward putting spectacle during the film.

Albert R. Broccoli, co-founder of Eon

When the modestly budgeted ($1 million) Dr. No came out 50 years ago, the crew still spent weeks in Jamaica. As budgets increased, Eon increased location shooting. “Kids that watch that watch television and watch films today, they’re very smart,” Broccoli told ABC’s Good Morning America in 1987, a quarter-century after Dr. No, when discussing The Living Daylights. “They know just where you are. They know you’re in Hollywood behind a palm tree and not in Quarzazate or not in Morocco.” (We were reminded about this in a post on the Bond and Beyond message board. You can CLICK HERE to see a 9:20 video on YouTube that has two segments from Good Morning America about The Living Daylights. The Cubby Broccoli quote starts at about the 6:20 mark.)

Sometimes, as in the case with The Living Daylights, Vienna substituted for the then-Czechoslovakia or Thailand for Vietnam (Tomorrow Is Not Enough Tomorrow Never Dies) or Spain for Cuba (Die Another Day) if going to the actual site was too difficult for political or other reasons. Still, Eon emphasized location shoots. Meanwhile, Broccoli and Eon would pass over some actors, such as Faye Dunaway in Octopussy, deeming them too expensive, in favor of spending money elsewhere.

Barbara Broccoli, Eon’s co-boss and Cubby Broccoli’s daughter, cites the “putting the money on the screen” line in places like Quantum of Solace DVD extras and the November Skyfall news conference. At the latter, a reporter asked if the Skyfall’s budget might be reduced compared with 2008’s Quantum of Solace. “Does it look like we’re cutting back?” she asked, gesturing toward director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig. “All the money’s going to go on the screen.”

Since then, it has emerged that the first unit isn’t going to Shanghai, with U.K. locations subbing for the Chinese business center (Ascot Racecourse subbing for Shanghai International Airport, for example), while the second unit films in China. The first unit will film in Turkey. By contrast, Quantum of Solace, with a reported $230 million budget, filmed in Chile, Mexico, Italy, Panama, Austria and the U.K.

Javier Bardem, who plays Skyfall's villain

Has the budget been cut? Michael Wilson, the other Eon co-boss, said in November that Skyfall’s budget is in the same range as Quantum. That’s despite the fact the world economy is weaker than 2008, when Quantum was filmed. Also, Quantum’s reported budget was almost as much as some Harry Potter movies without delivering the same level of return.

Still, let’s take Wilson at his word for a moment. Skyfall may be taking on higher costs that its predecessors. The 23rd James Bond film is employing an Oscar-winning director (Sam Mendes), an Oscar-nominated screenwriter (John Logan, who had two nominations when he was signed and just picked up another for Hugo), an Oscar-nominated director of photography (Roger Deakins) and a cast that includes Oscar winner Javier Bardem, whose earning power is at a peak, thanks to 2007’s No Country for Old Men, Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes and five-time Oscar nominee Albert Finney.

Perhaps “all the money’s going to go on the screen” has a new meaning under Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Examples of all the money going to the screen for Skyfall may be the “Directed by Sam Mendes” credit in the titles or a dialogue scene between Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem, or between Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney. That doesn’t mean there won’t be action. (The second unit has been filming driving sequences in China, according to the MI6 fan Web site.) But the increased salaries may mean shifting priorities, even if Skyfall’s budget isn’t one penny less than Quantum’s — and even more so if Skyfall’s budget really is lower than its predecessor.

4 Responses

  1. I was also wondering if they were being less than truthful about the budget for Skyfall being in the same range to Quantum – it certainly does seem that they are cutting back and those tabloid rumours have an element of truth to them.

  2. Without going back to any origins of the comment, it’s certainly struck me as both non-responsive and condescending in recent years.

  3. […] of this Star Trek history immediately came to mind the other day when I read a column by my friends at The HMSS Weblog, “All the money’s going to go on the screen.” As […]

  4. […] of this Star Trek history immediately came to mind the other day when I read a column by my friends at The HMSS Weblog, “All the money’s going to go on the screen.” As […]

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