- Amazon announced last month that it would buy MGM, the film studio that releases James Bond movies.
- Speculation has swirled that Amazon could make a Bond TV show, if the film producers allow it.
- Martin Campbell, who has directed two Bond movies, gave his take on the franchise’s future.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
When Amazon announced last month that it would buy the MGM film studio, which distributes the James Bond movies, it prompted speculation that the long-running film franchise could expand into TV.
But producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, who have creative control over the franchise, will have final say on that decision.
“No one’s going to f— around with their success,” Martin Campbell, the director of Bond movies “GoldenEye” (1995) and “Casino Royale” (2006), told Insider. “It’s Barbara and Michael’s franchise no matter who’s providing the money. They’ve been through many changes and regimes and survived them all.”
Campbell, whose new movie “The Protégé” hits theaters in August, talked with Insider about Amazon’s purchase of MGM and the franchise’s future.
MGM splits the rights to the Bond movies with Broccoli and Wilson’s company Danjaq, which owns Eon Productions. Eon has produced 24 Bond movies since 1962’s “Dr. No” and the 25th entry, “No Time to Die,” hits theaters in October after a year-and-a-half delay.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has already said that the company intends to “reimagine” MGM IP “for the 21st century.” The Bond franchise, which has grossed $7 billion over the two dozen films, would obviously be at the forefront of that plan — if Broccoli and Wilson go along with it.
Campbell’s first instinct was to say that the duo would stick to theatrical features. There was never any talk of TV during his work with them, he said.
But he says to “never say never,” adding that the producing team have shown a willingness to embrace change over the years. With “Casino Royale,” the first feature starring Daniel Craig as Bond, the franchise went back to Bond’s origins, detailing how he became the super spy that audiences know today. It was far more edgy than the previous Pierce Brosnan-starring era of the character, which Campbell also launched with “GoldenEye.”
“They were all for roughing up Bond with ‘Casino Royale,'” Campbell said. “There was no hesitation making it darker.”
He noted the large action sequences and many locations of the Bond films (“Casino Royale” was filmed in five different countries, he said). A series would have to sustain that kind of scope, he said.
“Every Bond film is an event,” Campbell said. “The sheer size would have to be maintained.”
Amazon hasn’t been shy about dropping loads of cash for its TV ambitions. Notably, it’s spending $465 million for just one season of its upcoming “Lord of the Rings” TV series, including $250 million for the rights, according to The Hollywood Reporter. A sizable movie-like budget could possibly persuade Broccoli and Wilson.
The duo have shot down Bond TV ideas in the past, notably a “Smallville”-like series that would have followed a teenage Bond at Eton, according to Variety. But they’ve also seemed open to expanding the series outside of feature films.
“We make these films for the audiences,” Broccoli told Variety in a rare interview last year. “We like to think that they’re going to be seen primarily on the big screen. But having said that, we have to look to the future. Our fans are the ones who dictate how they want to consume their entertainment. I don’t think we can rule anything out, because it’s the audience that will make those decisions. Not us.”
But what would a Bond TV show look like, aside from having a big budget? Campbell isn’t sure about focusing on other characters: “I’m not sure who you’d spin off.”
“The movies have stuck to a formula: there’s always a guy who wants to take over the world or something and Bond takes him down,” Campbell said.
He said that the most recent Craig movies have broken from the formula somewhat, with success. The four movies — and soon to be fifth and final Craig film — have been more connected than previous eras, telling a continuing story rather than being purely standalone entries.
They have also portrayed women more respectfully than the Bond movies before them, in which women were mainly seen as “objects.” Campbell said that the women of the Craig-era films have been “tougher and more self-reliant” (which he credits to Broccoli). Campbell imagines that a Bond TV show would need to exhibit these traits in order to be successful.
“If it nailed the quality, if there was an arc to the character, then yes, it could be done,” Campbell said.