As with so many other organizations these past couple of years, the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation had been unable to meet in person. But on Wednesday, the charity, which provides assistance to theater workers, gathered at the Beverly Hilton to honor producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson as pioneers of the year.
Presenting the award to the producers most famous for the James Bond franchise were Michelle Yeoh (“Tomorrow Never Dies”) and Daniel Craig, who starred as 007 in five of the films since 2006’s “Casino Royale.”
“They just give and give, quietly and generously,” Craig said of Broccoli and Wilson’s philanthropic work. “They are like giving first responders. They see a problem and march right in.”
Talking about their stewardship of the Bond franchise, he said, “They never shy away from taking that risky decision that will lift the film from mediocrity.”
Yeoh said she was there to celebrate six decades of the franchise. “I can’t sing, I can’t tell jokes and Barbara will say I can’t act,” Yeoh joked. “Me and Bond know it is cool to be 60 and still hot.”
Since taking over the series, Broccoli and Wilson had made changes such as making M a woman and giving the “Bond girls” more dimension, Yeoh said. But “Michael and Barbara are old school in one aspect, they believe in the cinematic experience,” she added.
Sam Smith sang a couple of numbers, including the Oscar-winning “Writing’s on the Wall” from 2015’s “Spectre.” Jonathan Glickman, screenwriter Bruce Feirstein and Erik Lomis were also among those who praised Broccoli and Wilson with on-stage appearances while video tributes came from Pierce Brosnan, Judi Dench, Eric Fellner and Halle Berry.
Accepting the award, Wilson thanked those who had then foresight to turn the Ian Fleming novels into films beginning with MGM’s Arthur Krim and others of that era, to later executives at Amazon and elsewhere, writers, stars and crews that worked to make the series such global hits.
He also offered the Thunderbird, which is one of 700 in a limited edition and driven by Berry in “Die Another Day,” in an online auction to help the foundation.
The event raised about $1.5 million for the charity, which provides aid to those in the film distribution and exhibition field who suffer from a catastrophic incident such as an illness.