The business of Bond


It’s not just the most successful film franchise in history – James Bond is also a shop window for the best of British manufacturing. To celebrate the release of Spectre, we reveal who’s seeing the action when the lights are ready and the cameras roll

Bond means business. Not just the gritty determination with which he carries out his outlandish espionage missions, but the vast commercial impact this powerful cultural icon has on the country he serves so proudly.

We’re talking about a franchise which, ever since Dr No hit cinemas in 1962, has featured products made in every corner of the UK industrial network: from the Isle of Skye (Talisker whisky) down to Poole, Dorset (Sunseeker yachts) via Hethel, Norfolk (Lotus), Castle Donington, Leicestershire (Norton Motorcycles) and Coventry (Jaguar Land Rover).

And it’s not just the nation’s manufacturing plants, but its creative hubs and tourist industry that bask in the massive trickle-down benefits of a decades-spanning movie series.

British films contribute more than £4.6bn to the country’s GDP and more than £1.3bn to the exchequer, according to an independent report published last year by Oxford Economics.

Skyfall (2012) was the highest-grossing film of all time in Britain, earning nearly £103m (it took more than $1bn, or £650m, worldwide), and Spectre is expected to at least equal its predecessor’s vast commercial harvest. One can only speculate as to how much hard currency, as well as cool capital, 007’s licence to kill brings into Brand Britain.

“Demand from our customers to see the 24th Bond film has been huge, and highlights the incredible appeal and longevity of this franchise – how its popularity transcends generations and genders,” says Tim Richards, Founder and CEO of Vue International, the largest cinema group outside of the US. “The sheer number of Bond fans out there is staggering, reaffirming that Bond is an important part of Britain’s cultural landscape and cinematic experience.”

The Bond effect is not lost on VisitBritain, whose campaign around Skyfall included promotion in 21 countries, with a chorus of cinema, press and outdoor advertising created around the slogan ‘Bond is GREAT Britain’.

The tourist authority claims that international promotional coverage reached 653 million people, equivalent to £3.5m-worth of exposure, and that 16 per cent of those who recalled the campaign subsequently booked a trip to Britain (incidentally, visitor numbers to Glencoe, Scotland, a key location in the film, rose 41.7 per cent).

The revamped version of the ‘Bond is GREAT Britain’ campaign being launched for Spectre will pull the stops out even further, reaching out to more than 60 countries and adding digital and social media to the mix (including exclusive behind-the-scenes footage for streaming on its dedicated campaign page, which also features immersive 360-degrees images of locations in the new movie, including Blenheim Palace, Westminster Bridge and City Hall).

“The potential of ‘set-jetting’ in promoting destinations to international visitors is becoming an influential source of tourism,” VisitBritain’s chief executive Sally Balcombe tells Director.

“The launch of the latest Bond film and VisitBritain’s tie-in provides a lucrative opportunity for us to inspire even more visitors to holiday in the home of Bond.” No doubt previous filming locations such as The Four Seasons Canary Wharf, Stoke Park and Chalfont Park House in Buckinghamshire will be willing the new campaign’s success.

Business of Bond - James Bond

Spectre stars Naomie Harris and Dave Bautista with Jaguar Land Rover vehicles from the film

Harnessing the hype

What VisitBritain is seizing upon is the fact that a Bond release is like Christmas – much of the commercial potential lies in the buzz of the build-up. And at the focal point of that build-up is the Bond theme tune: something which occupies a vibrant commercial ecosystem all of its own.

Spectre’s theme, Writing’s on the Wall by Sam Smith, has received a mixed critical response (causing Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger to spike massively on Twitter), but landing the gig at all puts Smith and his label, Capitol Records, at the centre of the media maelstrom.

“While the film is always the ultimate star, the theme tune and artist are at the core of the advanced PR storm,” says AEG Live’s Colin Chapple. “The single shouldn’t be the only measurement of success – awareness of the artist will be spread across the globe. People will be merrily humming along to it for many years to come.”

The longevity of Bond-related commercial fallout is worth dwelling on. Consider the domestic collectors’ market, which sees fans clamour to part with money for rare collectibles whenever a new release comes out.

The price of one first-edition copy of Casino Royale, sold four times over by the same Fulham bookshop, Peter Harrington, increased by almost 130 per cent over 11 years – from £22,000 in 2002 to £50,000 in 2013 – its value bolstered in 2006 when Daniel Craig’s debut lit up Fleming’s first Bond novel with a contemporary flare.

Meanwhile artwork for You Only Live Twice and Thunderball is expected to fetch up to £1,800 and £3,000 respectively in an online auction of original Bond film posters being held by Christie’s London to coincide with Spectre’s world premiere.

Then, of course, there’s the much-debated area of on-screen roles for luxury products – something producer Barbara Broccoli defends by pointing out that Fleming’s Bond lived in the moment in response to his perilous circumstances.

In Spectre, Range Rover and Jaguar models will line up alongside Bond’s trusty Aston Martin (Jaguar has even launched a microsite, including a video of the C-X75, the model driven during a climactic car chase in Spectre, with commentary by the film’s cast and crew) and the synergy is strong. “The James Bond franchise, like Jaguar Land Rover, is a fine British export, loved and enjoyed by millions of people worldwide,” says Jeremy Hicks, Jaguar Land Rover UK managing director. “Just as the franchise celebrates the best of British, so do we. It’s a perfect fit.”

But for every household-name luxury British brand appearing in the movies, there’s a host of lesser-known ones – such as the purveyors of hand-blown, cut-crystal tableware Cumbria Crystal, whose Grasmere Double Old Fashioned glass has been Craig’s whisky receptacle of choice throughout his tenure as 007.

“There’s a direct correlation between a broadcast or release of a film and the sales of our glass,” says the company’s managing director, Chris Blade. “After a recent airing of Casino Royale on TV, 39 orders for that glass used by Daniel Craig were taken in only a few days. People aspire to the luxury, dramatic and carefree lifestyle portrayed by James Bond, and the product being portrayed in the films makes it possible for those of us not licensed to kill to indulge our fantasies and savour a little of the associated panache.”

Jeff Vaughn, chairman of luxury luggage maker Globe-Trotter – whose custom-made ‘Stabilist’ case traverses the world with Bond in Skyfall – is equally enthused. “We were invited to be part of the Bond franchise because Daniel Craig is a big Globe-Trotter fan, and genuinely uses our product,” he tells Director.

“We’re a small British brand fighting to get recognition on the world stage – our major competitors have vast marketing budgets we cannot hope to match – so our Bond association gives us incredible exposure; to be operating alongside such brands as Omega, Bollinger, Aston Martin and so on is exactly where we wish to be.”

Business of Bond - James Bond

Daniel Craig sporting Sunspel in Quantum of Solace

Dressed to kill

Elliot Mason of Anthony Sinclair – the tailoring firm which dressed Sean Connery for the early movies – points to the powerful impact of online interaction when it comes to the Bond effect on menswear sales.

“There are several branded jackets he’s wearing in the new film, including ones by [London brands] Matchless and John Varvatos, and the moment they go live on websites they sell out instantly,” he says.

“There are forums of Bond fans online 24/7 trying to identify every single item of clothing he wears, and then trying to get hold of them. Even down to his underpants – he’s wearing Sunspel in the new film, and they’re all buying those now.”

The chief executive and co-owner of Sunspel, which also designed the Riviera polo shirt worn by Craig in Casino Royale, describes the company’s involvement as “an extension of our word-of-mouth approach to marketing”.

Bond’s commercial reach extends way beyond the box-office receipts, the hype-soaked theme tune and the on-screen luxury cars, champagnes and ultra-luxe accessories, though.

Think of the thousands of UK professionals quietly and anonymously involved in this vast franchise. For every master cordwainer ensuring Craig remains literally well heeled on screen, there are several retired welders who were working for Midlands-based fabrication company Steelway when it provided components for the sets of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever.

What of those who do the meticulous digital playback polishing provided by The Digital Orchard, the archivist which handles Bond material for Getty Images and the London Film Museum, or the operational support staff for Flying Pictures, the London aerial filming company founded by former US army helicopter pilot Marc Wolff which now has 13 Bond films on its CV? Or the boffins behind tiny Greater London firm Selectamark Security Systems’ unique identity signature, which will be protecting the Jaguar XKR roadster used in Die Another Day, among other vehicles, at the world-renowned National Motor Museum in Hampshire?

How many people took part in either designing, manufacturing, packaging or delivering the night-vision goggles commissioned by UK cinemas to give staff as part of a crackdown on movie piracy being prepared in advance of Spectre’s cinematic release? Or facilitated the digital format releases of every movie, along with spin-off products such as Hornby’s special Spectre Scalextric set? Or designed and coded websites for gamblers wanting a punt on whether John Hamm, Henry Cavill or Idris Elba will one day replace Daniel Craig as 007?

For anyone with a stake in Britain’s economy, every new Bond release surely offers more than a quantum of solace.

Click here to see VisitBritain’s exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from Spectre.

Business of Bond - James Bond

Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli

Family bond

The half-sibling co-producers behind a mammoth movie series

If you’re convinced that no woman ever has a long-term relationship with the world’s most famous gentleman spy, think again. “He’s been with me since I was born,” says New Yorker Barbara Broccoli, whose father was the original James Bond co-producer (with Harry Saltzman) Albert R ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and who is now vice president of production and development at Eon Productions and holding company Danjaq LLC.

“Until I was seven, I actually thought James Bond was a real person. My father would talk endlessly about him at the dinner table. I was fascinated by this man, and couldn’t wait to meet him.”

Since 1995, Broccoli has been co-producing the Bond films with her half-brother Michael G Wilson, who is Broccoli senior’s stepson. But there was no silver spooning – the siblings were made to work their way up to the summit of the Bond hierarchy.

“I started as an assistant and worked through so many different departments, then as an assistant director on Octopussy,” says Broccoli, who earned a film degree at the Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, before taking to the set. “Bond was my education, my evolution. And I got to work with Cubby closely. I was with him day and night.”

If there’s one thing Broccoli and Wilson learned from the patriarch, it was the tactical power of patience. The elder Broccoli endured a dispute over the ownership of narrative elements of 1965’s Thunderball, while the siblings found themselves in a protracted contractual wrangle over the rights to Spectre – the globe-spanning criminal conspiracy, not the film – which was finally settled in 2013.

“It was something that was going on for so long that when you resolve it, you think, ‘Wow, that’s all over,’” she says.

But the clearest example of how adept Broccoli and Wilson are at the tactical long game is the way they managed to retain Sam Mendes to direct Spectre, in the hope that he’d repeat the gargantuan commercial and critical success of Skyfall, which earned more than $1bn (£650m) at the box office worldwide, and was the first Bond movie to win two Oscars. Broccoli and Wilson gave themselves time to recruit their man.

Agreeing to postpone production (at one point Spectre was due for release last summer), they slowly convinced the stage and film auteur to oblige. “Sam is the sort of person who takes a challenge,” explains Broccoli. “If he doesn’t think he can do any more, he won’t come back, but we presented him with some ideas where he felt he could be challenged.”

Respectful collaboration is key to the relationship, she says, as it is to the production dynamic. “If we want to [shoot a costly sequence], we may have to cut somewhere else and [Mendes] is very open to that. All of our departments are very collaborative – our art department is extraordinary that way. They’re problem solvers and that’s what it is in movies – how you spend the money. We want it all up there on the screen.”

Also key to Broccoli and Wilson’s management philosophy is creating a sense of camaraderie on set – which trickles down from the very top all the way to the 1,500 extras used in a Spectre action scene set at the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City, which Wilson likens to “a military operation”.

“[The extras] have been very good natured,” adds Broccoli. “It’s part of the cultural heritage of Mexico so they’re really happy to be a part of it. We try to give them a good lunch and take care of them. The team – costume designers, make-up and hair – it’s very exciting for them. It makes everybody step up to the plate.”

So what about the rapport between this extraordinarily successful, half-brother-and-sister production duo? “It’s very calm,” she says, “not what you’d expect from siblings. There’s no conflict – that’s why it’s successful. We’re always on the same wavelength and much of that has to do with Cubby. We have good ideas and intuition, like him. It’s travelled down the generations.”


Business of Bond - James Bond

Pinewood Studios – the ‘home of Bond’

Home produce

The world-famous Pinewood reaps the rewards of the British film industry’s rude health

The James Bond of Ian Fleming’s sharp prose resided on a trendy tree-lined square off London’s King’s Road. But the home of the movie juggernaut that arose from Fleming’s 14 Bond novels is surely the 200-acre estate near Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, that goes by the almost mythical name of Pinewood Studios.

Founded by flour mill magnate and fervent Methodist, J Arthur Rank, with a view to making movies to spread the Gospel, Pinewood was also behind musicals Bugsy Malone, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Les Misérables and Mamma Mia!, and all 31 Carry On films.

James Mason, Richard Burton, Warren Beatty, Liz Taylor, Diana Dors and Alec Guinness all regularly passed through its mock Tudor entrance. Superman and Harry Potter both played out scenes there, as will characters from the forthcoming Cinderella and Star Wars films.

But, as Skyfall and Spectre director Sam Mendes once put it, “Pinewood is the spiritual home of James Bond.” Apart from Moonraker, Licence to Kill and parts of GoldenEye, all the Bond movies, from 1962’s Dr No onwards, have essentially used Pinewood as their production HQ. The site boasts the famous 007 stage, the M16 bunker and the site of the Tube disaster scene in Skyfall, as well as a Goldfinger Avenue and another road named after former Bond producer Cubby Broccoli.

Pinewood’s year hasn’t been entirely rosy. It recently emerged that its chairman since 2000, Lord [Michael] Grade, has sought re-election only once since 2010, which piqued the not altogether favourable interest of one activist investor. But, thanks in large part to income generated by the production of Spectre, the studio celebrated its 80th birthday in May having increased revenue by 17 per cent from £64.1m to £75m over the year to 31 March, with operating profit increasing from £4.9m to £5.8m in that time.

It’s also recently won permission for a £200m expansion of its main site and, adding to the second Pinewood studio in Shepperton, Surrey, a new branch opened just outside Cardiff earlier this year (there are also facilities in Toronto, Atlanta, the Dominican Republic and Malaysia).

Recent rumours that Hollywood would start moving European operations to eastern Europe have proved unfounded, and now the European Union has approved film production companies claiming 25 per cent tax relief against the cost of production.

Meanwhile Star Wars: The Force Awakens promises to be another global smash hit, and the Bond juggernaut looks set to roll on indefinitely. It would seem that the future is bright for a commercial entity which doubles as the nearest thing James Bond – the movie iteration, that is – has to a home.

Watch: Spectre, the royal world premiere – live from the red carpet

Streamed via Sony Pictures Releasing UK

About author

Nick Scott

Nick Scott

A former editor-in-chief of The Rake and deputy editor of the Australian edition of GQ, Nick has had features published in titles including Esquire, The Guardian, Observer Sport Monthly and Rolling Stone Australia and is a contributing editor to Director magazine. He has interviewed celebrities including Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig and Elle Macpherson, as well as business people including Sir Richard Branson, Charles Middleton and Nick Giles and Michael Hayman MBE.

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