Debbie McWilliams (Bath, United Kingdom, 1951) liked acting, but she did not want to be an actress. She discovered that she could develop her vocation by being in charge of choosing the casts of the films, after having worked as a secretary in a London theater. More than 40 years later, the British is one of the most respected casting directors in the film industry; She is the woman who has chosen the last three James Bond: Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

He is already preparing for the election of the next 007 agent, while working for years side by side with his niece Jemima (London, United Kingdom, 1988), to whom he has taught all the secrets of his profession. Just as the Broccolis have handed down the role of producers and guardians of the saga from father to son, they do so as casting directors. “It’s not so much about tradition as pure nepotism,” the older of the two points out with a laugh in a hotel in Thessaloniki (Greece) in mid-November, shortly before giving a talk about the secrets of her life with her niece. profession at the city film festival. “If Jemima had no worth, she wouldn’t be by my side,” the British assured EL PAIS, which in this time has changed the career of some Hollywood stars.

Penelope Cruz is one of the thorns in her long history, she confesses. “I met her when she was about 18 or 20 years old and I adored her from the beginning. She came to meet Baz Luhrmann to shoot William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. She was perfect for the role. I think it was a big mistake that she was not Juliet ”, she confesses about the role that Claire Danes finally played opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. If Williams’ criteria had been imposed, she could have made the Madrid’s career take other paths and, perhaps, she would not have shone in as many European productions as she has done up to now.

 Could Cruz be a Bond woman? “Definitely. I guess we haven’t had a suitable role for her in recent years,” replies Debbie McWilliams. Who has participated in the successful franchise has been Javier Bardem, as the villain of Skyfall (2012). “He got the role out of many options we had. I have to say that at that moment I was very surprised that an actor of his profile wanted to be in such a popular saga. But I’m glad it did. In addition to being talented, he is very easy and fun to work with,” she comments.

American agents don’t hold the Bond saga in high esteem.”

Although it may surprise you, there are many performers who, for one reason or another, don’t heed the McWilliams’ call to appear in a bond. An example is that of another recent villain: Rami Malek. “We were after him for quite some time for No Time to Die, but his agents didn’t even bother to answer us,” he recalls. “I went to a preview screening of Bohemian Rhapsody organized by the Hollywood Academy. He was not yet a well-known actor because the film had not been released. And I approached him there. He told me that his agents had not informed him. He made a short call and the next morning he was in our office,” he continues. How can an actor’s agent turn down an offer for a bond? “American agents do not hold the saga in high esteem or the offers that come from the United Kingdom,” says the veteran casting director. “They prefer to send their actors to do tests for Marvel, which is where they think the money is,” expands her niece.

Discovering Daniel Day-Lewis

For My Beautiful Laundromat (1985), McWilliams managed to get director Stephen Frears to pay attention to an actor barely known in the cinema at the time. He was one Daniel Day-Lewis, a legend ever since. She had had her eye on him at acting school and had followed in his footsteps to a small play at an East London theatre. “He was playing Dracula and he had platinum dyed hair. The image of him was awesome. But he was nowhere near an obvious choice for the movies. Fortunately, Stephen is one of those imaginative directors who does not cling to the ordinary and welcomes proposals. When she saw it, she loved it, but she didn’t know if such an aristocratic boy was going to be able to play the gay punk in his movie. And boy did he do it, ”she comments.

“The Daniel Day-Lewis thing is something that could not happen today. Most of the time you are forced to select someone who is already popular. It is increasingly difficult to bet on unknown talents for certain film projects. The first thing they ask you is how many followers that candidate has on Instagram ”, laments Jemima, while her aunt does not suppress a most eloquent“ yuck ”.

Another not very well-known actor for whom the largest of the McWilliams bet was Daniel Craig, to be none other than James Bond himself. Things have changed a lot in these 17 years since his name was announced. Now, a good part of the viewers are looking for a super spy that reflects the diversity of today’s world. In that 2005, the choice of Craig was filled with criticism: the fact that he was blonde was too disruptive for the character. “Nobody wanted him on paper. Only Barbara [Broccoli, producer of the saga], her stepbrother Michael G. Wilson, [also a producer and her stepbrother] and I defended that option. The press crushed him, but when Casino Royale was released he closed many mouths. And now nobody wants him to leave, ”he assures. “Daniel is a huge actor, although his suit does a lot.

 Jemima, who represents the future of the saga and of a profession that her aunt will soon leave, understands that the audience is asking for a renewal of the secret agent. “Movies have changed a lot since Daniel Craig first became Bond. The spectator goes to the cinema expecting something more, something different. And so they want the character to change, whether it’s his age, his gender or his race, as great as the Craig era was,” she comments. Although, more than the protagonist, where both find the most difficulties when it comes to closing the cast is with the Bond girls. “Starting with Goldeneye, we managed to make her characters more than vase women. But the expectations around them are still so gigantic and they are so exposed to criticism that you think several times before throwing an actress into that situation”, confesses Debbie. “When it was announced that Lashana Lynch was going to play a new 007 in the last movie, people went crazy thinking she was the replacement for Daniel. Her comments against her were savage, ”laments her niece.

There is still time to meet the new James Bond. “The script isn’t written yet and it’s a primary tool for a casting director,” explains Debbie McWilliams. “We can only say what Barbara Broccoli recently advanced: that Bond will be a man again… And that no name that the press has assured in all these decades that it was going to be Bond has been done with the role”, he assures with a loud laugh.