Ahead of the 60th anniversary of the James Bond films on 5 October, 2022, the BFI held a weekend of events across its London venues with fans coming together to celebrate the movies of the sexagenarian spy series.
The weekend of screenings, premieres and panels kicked off on Friday with a conversation with producers Michael G Wilson and Gregg Wilson, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, casting director Debbie McWilliams, actor Rory Kinnear, and production designer Mark Tildesley, in NFT 1 hosted by Samira Ahmed.
Read more: 16 actors who could be the next James Bond
The wide-ranging 85-minute chat kicked off with clips from 1962's Dr No, the very first James Bond film, and covered a huge range of topics from actors and directors, to sets and stunts. These are some of the highlights from the panel.
The James Bond scene that set the tone for the next 60 years
Long time Bond producer Michael G Wilson, the step-son of original Bond producer Albert R Broccoli, pinpointed the moment in 1962's Dr No that he believes set the series apart from other spy films of the era.
It sees Sean Connery's Bond waiting to ambush the duplicitous Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson), who he promptly dispatches in a brutal fashion.
Read more: Bond producers share update on Bond 26
"People ask 'What was different about Bond films, and why did at launch a whole new genre of films?' and this is an example of [the difference]," Wilson explained. "This one is the first [spy film] that we ever saw a hero in film shoot someone in cold blood.
"Basically it's an execution and that was the change. And, of course since then many films have done that, but this is the first one."
Timothy Dalton 'was never comfortable' as Bond
Timothy Dalton took over the role of James Bond for 1987's The Living Daylights, picking up the mantle from Sir Roger Moore. Talking about the two actor's opposing aptitudes for delivering Bond's trademark quips, Wilson, who co-wrote several Bond films, said "Roger Moore was the past master of the quips. To go from him to another actor with a shift was difficult as a writer."
Casting director Debbie McWilliams, who helped cast Dalton as Bond after Pierce Brosnan pulled out at the eleventh hour, said the Welsh actor never really settled into delivering the one liners.
"It was a very different shift [for Dalton], I think, to be honest with you, I don't think he ever felt quite comfortable," said McWilliams. "It was so different from anything he'd ever done. And the way he was cast was a very sudden event.
"Because we had Pierce Brosnan lined up. And then suddenly, at the last minute, Remington Steele, called in his option, and literally over a weekend... well obviously, you always have to have somebody up your sleeve, whatever happens. And so he was kind of standing by in the wings. And quite literally over the weekend, he was cast, I think it was all a bit of a shock for him."
Mark Tildesley came up with the Queen parachute jump for the Olympics
In recent weeks, much praise has been heaped on the James Bond sketch performed by Daniel Craig and the late Queen Elizabeth II for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. The skit saw Craig's Bond accompanying the Queen to the opening ceremony, and both parachuting into the stadium.
Credit for the sketch has generally been attributed to director Danny Boyle, and writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce but No Time To Die production designer Mark Tildesley confirmed at the panel that it was all his idea originally.
Casino Royale director Martin Campbell didn't know anything about poker
The centrepiece of Daniel Craig's James Bond debut Casino Royale was a high-stakes game of poker with Mads Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre. A gripping clip from the film was shown during the event, and McWilliams revealed why it was so important to cast the right people as the other poker players at the gambling table.
"Somebody at the very beginning [of pre-production] said to me 'they never get cards right on films. It's always looks phony.' So that's my challenge. I spent a ridiculous amount of time going around casinos meeting people, finding out how the game was played.
"Although you don't really see it in that scene, it was important that everybody did know what they were doing, and how to handle cards and how Mads twiddled with his chips and everything. I mean, it just looks wonderful, I think. And I also knew that Martin Campbell didn't know anything about [poker], so I had to steer him in the right direction. And it worked."
No Time To Die's poison garden was originally in Die Another Day
Rami Malek's No Time To Die villain Safin memorably had a poison garden in the most recent Bond film, and fans of the Ian Fleming novels that the films are based on will know that was idea lifted from his 1964 novel You Only Live Twice.
Michael G Wilson revealed that Fleming fans — and seven-time Bond film screenwriters — Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had tried to include the 'poison garden' concept in every one of their Bond films 'at some point' during the writing process.
Read more: How each actor landed the role of James Bond
"[We always try] using Ian Fleming as a touchstone," explained Wade. "There's something macabre about a lot of his stuff. And this poison garden was a place where people go to commit suicide. It's not very nice. But we really wanted to get that in there. And we did literally write it into several scripts."
"Yeah," added Purvis, "It was in Die Another Day at one point. And we always wanted to use it. But what was good about this was [No Time To Die] was actually about poisons. It was relevant."
They also revealed that in early drafts of No Time To Die, Safin's poison island was in Cuba rather than Japan, and had been a missile silo during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
They won't change the Bond films to reflect current times too quickly
Host Samira Ahmed challenged the screenwriters and producers over a scene in Skyfall in which Daniel Craig's Bond beds Severine moments after she revealed that she had been a victim of human trafficking. The BBC presenter challenged the panel on whether future films would include more explicit verbal consent from Bond and his conquests, and — while accepting her comments — Wilson said that the films do move with the times.
"The thing about making these films is that they're classics," Wilson said in Skyfall's defence. "At least I think, and I hope they are. I hope they stand up. Every time, every era has its kind of new age look at things or interpretation. And I think you just have to ease into it and not just embrace everything immediately. The world doesn't change overnight, it changes slowly. And sometimes, things that we think are really important and key, ten years later are completely out of date."
"I wasn't disturbed by the scene [in Skyfall] because to me, just because a woman has been had trauma in her life doesn't mean she can never enjoy pleasure."
"[Bond] killed a guy that was exploiting her. And I think she kind of enticed him to come on the ship, and she was waiting for him. That's the way I think all of us interpreted. But you can have another interpretation. And that's fine. All this stuff's open to interpretation."
James Bond Day, celebrating 60 years of Bond, is on 5 October, 2022. A new documentary, The Sound of 007, will hit Prime Video as part of the celebrations. Watch a trailer below.