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The stirring legacy of the Bond film mastermind

Broccoli and her half-brother share their father’s standards.

Broccoli and her half-brother share their father’s standards.

MIAMI

The most important "Bond girl" in the James Bond movie series doesn't have a suggestive name like Pussy Galore or Plenty O'Toole.

Her name is Barbara Broccoli, 48, daughter of the late producer Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli, mastermind of the longest-running movie franchise ever: 22 spy thrillers since 1962 and counting. Alongside her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, Broccoli preserves not only Agent 007's legacy but also their father's.

On a humid day in Miami, Broccoli is cucumber cool while discussing those responsibilities and the newest Bond adventure, Quantum of Solace, which opens nationwide Nov. 14. She's likely the most relaxed Officer of the Order of the British Empire anyone could meet, a producer who isn't pushy or prone to hyperbole in interviews.

Blockbuster confidence gleaned from her father is enough. Broccoli joined the family business at 22, serving as an assistant director on 1983's Octopussy. In six years she graduated to associate producer status, as the elder Broccoli's health began to fail. During pre-production for GoldenEye, her father handed over the keys of his Bond kingdom.

"He was very ill," Broccoli says. "He told us: 'Come on guys, it's time you take over. I'll be around, but you've got to pick up the baton now.' "

Broccoli and Wilson ran with the opportunity, revitalizing the franchise by hiring Pierce Brosnan to play the suave secret agent, then reinventing it with Daniel Craig as a leaner, meaner 007. Cubby Broccoli died of heart failure in 1996, certain that his life work was in good hands.

"We do feel very strongly about carrying on his legacy," Barbara Broccoli says.

"When my father and Harry (Saltzman) got the rights to these films they created this genre. There wasn't this type of movie before Dr. No and From Russia with Love. John Barry created this kind of music. Peter Hunt, who edited those first movies, revolutionized that concept. Terence Young, an amazing director, gave it a look and a style. And Sean Connery simply burst onto the screen.

"We stand on tall shoulders here, and we have to keep up what they began."

None stand taller for Broccoli than her father, a third-generation Italian-American who she says was "the embodiment of the American Dream." Cubby Broccoli grew his namesake vegetable — imported to the United States by his grandfather — on a Queens, N.Y., farm and made caskets before making his mark in the movies.

"I was very close to my father," Barbara Broccoli says. "Absolutely adored and worshipped him. I think if he'd been running a pizzeria I'd be making pizzas.

"It had a lot to do with who he was. He was great company, entertaining, a really down-to-earth guy and a great teacher because he shared his knowledge.

"His basic rule was: Put the money on the screen. He believed, as I do, that there's a lot of goodwill out there for the Bond movies.

"People constantly come up and say: 'Oh, my dad used to take me,' or 'We'd go as a family; I really knew I was grown up when they'd let me see a Bond movie.' All the stories we get from people are about the Bond movies being part of their family experience."

Cubby taught his children to never disappoint Bond's audience, including his reluctance to produce any other kind of movie except 1968's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, based on another Ian Fleming novel.

"He felt, like: 'No, I've got to pay attention, I've got to make these movies really good because there is an expectation.' That was something he conveyed to us. Michael and I feel strongly the same way."

In her father and Fleming's memories, Broccoli produced a London stage version of the fantasy adventure in 2002. The musical remains her only major producing credit outside the Bondsphere, just as her father and Fleming still influence Quantum of Solace and any 007 movies to come.

"We do think about them very much in these situations," Broccoli says. "(My father) said whenever you're stuck just go back to Fleming. That's something we've always done.

"In between movies we read all the books and short stories again, not because there are things there that haven't been shot but to kind of saturate ourselves in that world again. It's the character of Bond that has sustained these films."

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.

The stirring legacy of the Bond film mastermind 11/01/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 1, 2008 4:31am]

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