Peter Morgan says his `big hook’ is part of Bond 23 script

Peter Morgan, the prestige screenwriter originally hired to write Bond 23, says the movie retains his “big hook,” according to an interview on the Digital Spy Web site.

An excerpt:

“I hear that an idea, the central idea, is still there but not one similar thing other than that. I think they’ve still kept the big hook, which I’m not going to tell you!” (Morgan) said.

Of course, this was the same Peter Morgan who declared in another interview that that James Bond is dated and didn’t sound like he particularly cared for the character.

Morgan dropped out after financial problems, would lead to a short stay in bankruptcy court, at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. forced Bond 23 to shut down for almost a year. When MGM and Eon put out a release early this year that Bond 23 was back on, it said the script would be written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, with no mention of Morgan.

How much of this is hype, how much is real is anybody’s guess. But, from our standpoint, the hiring of Morgan — whose previous work is lathered in politics — was very suspect. His involvement is part of a broader trend where Eon seems desperate for prestige, rather than concerned about putting out an entertaining movie.

Bond 23 starts filming in November, Judi Dench says

Judi Dench, at a public appearance last week, said Bond 23 will begin production in November, according to a STORY ON THE WEB SITE OF THE U.K. EXPRESS NEWSPAPER.

Here’s an excerpt:

Dame Judi revealed the start date for filming during a visit last week to Hever Castle in Kent, to plant a rose bred for its gardens.

She said: “I am going to do the next Bond in November. I don’t know the location yet but hopefully it will be somewhere nice. I can’t tell you much more but I do enjoy ­playing M as she is such a strong character. I like being bossy and my grandson thinks its cool that I’m in Bond.”

Bond 23, which will have Daniel Craig’s third turn as 007 and be directed by Sam Mendes, has a release date of Nov. 9, 2012. The film was affected by the financial problems at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which led to the studio filing for bankruptcy. MGM shrunk itself and brought in the founders of Spyglass Entertainment, Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, to run the studio. MGM controls half of the 007 franchise, along with Eon Productions/Danjaq LLC, controlled by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

007 observations/opinions about Never Say Never Again (1983)

Never Say Never Again has always been an odd duck among the James Bond movies. It’s not part of the film series, yet it has the original film Bond. It’s the only movie that’s an actual remake of another James Bond movie, Thunderball. It’s the one time audiences have really gotten to see how a production company other than Eon Productions would fare making a 007 film; the 1967 Casino Royale was an out-and-out spoof that made no attempt to mimic (much less surpass) any of the Eon series.

Never Say Never Again also spurs debate among Bond fans. Because of that, we offer the following observations and/or opinions:

001. Making a James Bond movie is harder than it looks. Originally, Never was supposed to come out in the summer of 1983 and go up against Octopussy, the 13th film in the Eon series. But the film’s release date got delayed until the fall of 1983 (some of that history can be found by CLICKING HERE), giving Eon’s Octopussy the summer market for itself. (Not that Octopussy didn’t lack for competition — Return of the Jedi came out that same summer — but it didn’t have to worry about a competing Bond film).

Never was a sprawling production, with scenes shot in the south of France and in the Bahamas. While one can critique Eon’s series, you have to concede the company met its commitments once a release date was made. Jack Schwartzman, Never’s producer, apparently found out the hard way that making 007 films isn’t easy. Add insult to inury: after catering to Connery, the star later called Schwartzman “a really incompetent producer” while commenting on a radio show that was filmed and aired later on television. If Schwartzman heard those comments, one supposes he could have called up Eon bossman Albert R. Broccoli to trade war stories about dealing with Connery.

002., Never Say Never Again isn’t any more serious than any other 007 film made between 1971 and 1985. Bond informs Domino that her brother has been killed by SPECTRE chieftain Largo during a campy tango scene played for laughs. Rowan Atkinson provides a preview of the schtick he’d do as Mr. Bean while playing Nigel Small-Fawcett, a British diplomat. Bond defeats an attacker by using his own urine specimen as a weapon. High drama, this is not. It’s on a par with exploding villains (Live And Let Die), stuffing a murderous dwarf in a suitcase (The Man With The Golden Gun) or using a Beach Boys song for an action scene (A View To a Kill).

003. Many 007 fans give Sean Connery a pass for Never Say Never Again. Hey, some fans say, it’s Connery so it has to be good. Problem: Connery was a de facto producer of Never Say Never Again. Without him, the movie doesn’t get made. If Connery wants new writers (Ian La Frencais and Dick Clement? Get them! So if you like Nigel Small-Fawcett, Connery gets part of the credit. If you think Nigel is a silly, over-the-top character? Well, it can’t be Sir Sean’s fault. Can it? Put another way, Connery had more input on Never than he did with any other 007 movie, for good or for ill. But fans tend to concentrate on the former and ignore the latter.

Here’s another way of looking at it. Ask yourself the following two questions: 1) Is Never Say Never Again really better than Moonraker/The Man With the Golden Gun/A View to a Kill? 2) Are you really being honest?

004. It’s inferior to Thunderball. Never is a remake of Thunderball and, thus, begs for that comparison. Thunderball had spectacle (even if it had editing and continuity issues). It even had drama amidst the typical mix of action and humor (Bond telling Domino her brother had been killed as part of SPECTRE’s plot). Never often comes up short in direct comparison to its predecessor, in our humble opinion.

005. If Roger Moore had done Never Say Never Again instead of Octopussy, some of Never’s fans would scream it was too campy. Moore gets blamed by some fans for the tone of the Bond film series from 1973 to 1985. He was the star, so he does bear some responsibility. But he also was doing was directors Guy Hamilton, Lewis Gilbert and John Glen told him to do. Famously, Moore objected to a scene in For Your Eyes Only that called for Bond to coldly kick a car containing a killer off a cliff. Still, he did it, an indication that his input only went so far. Connery’s input on Never (and, for that matter, Diamonds Are Forever, his last film for Eon, where he publicly praised Tom Mankiewicz’s rewrite of Richard Maibaum’s early drafts) suggests he didn’t mind light stuff at all. Would Connery have really minded briefly disguising himself as a circus clown in Octopussy? We’ll never know, but the answer may not be as conclusive as some fans believe.

006. Michel Legrand’s score is a contender for worst 007 score of all time. Michel Legrand could make grown men cry with his score for the 1971 TV film Brian’s Song, he could do a serviceable score for the adventure film Ice Station Zebra, he could do musicals such as Yentl. But he was no competition for John Barry, who scored 11 of the Eon films and established the 007 musical sound, or even the likes of Marvin Hamlisch or Bill Conti, who provided the music for some of Eon’s films when Barry wasn’t available. Good news for Legrand: Eric Serra’s score for Eon’s GoldenEye (1995) does provide Legrand competition for the worst 007 film score so it’s not automatic that Legrand get branded the worst Bond movie composer.

007. Never Say Never Again generates strong arguments among fans. Some fans bristle at the notion of referring to Never as an “unofficial” Bond film (a typical description for Bond movies not produced by Eon) saying that’s an unfair label. POn the other hand some will attack it because how dare anybody other than Eon attempt to make a 007 movie. Now those are broad generalizations but visit a typical Bond fan site message board and it won’t take too much effort to find posts taking either position.

Judi Dench tells BBC she’s coming back in Bond 23 as M

Even if Eon Productions hasn’t officially announced it, or the revamped Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for that matter, 76-year-old Dame Judi Dench tells the BBC she’s coming back as M in Bond 23 for her seventh appearance as M, James Bond’s boss. To view a short story and a video, just CLICK HERE.

Eon and MGM when announcing that Bond 23 would be out in November 2012, didn’t disclose whether Dame Judi would return in Bond 23. Once again, Eon and MGM haven’t gotten control of the “the message” (a subject that’s covered in Public Relations 101).

MGM watch: bankruptcy court approves studio’s reorganization plan

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., home studio of the James Bond movies, today won the approval of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York for MGM’s reorganization plan.

MGM said in a statement that it expects to exit bankruptcy in mid-December. Studio lenders will exchange about $5 billion in debt and interest for a stake in the new MGM, that will be run by Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, the co-founders of Spyglass Entertainment.

The development comes less than a month after MGM filed for bankruptcy. In its filings, MGM said it wants to take Agent 007 off hiatus and have Bond 23 out in November 2012. MGM and Eon Productions jointly control the 007 franchise, and Eon said in April it was suspending development of the film while MGM worked through its financial troubles.

For more, you can read a story at Bloomberg.com BY CLICKING HERE. To read Reuters’s story (the news service that once employed 007 creator Ian Fleming), just CLICK HERE.

NPR asks whether James Bond is dead

NPR (the former National Public Radio) aired a story asking whether James Bond is dead. It’s NPR’s take on Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s financial crisis which has helped (but isn’t the sole reason) delay in Bond 23.

A lot of details are familiar to Bond fans but NPR’s Robert Smith does an entertaining version by making the story sound like a gathering of 007 villains talking about Bond’s plight, utilizing audio clips from Dr. No and .You Only Live Twice among other films There are also serious comments as well, including one by author Edward J. Epstein. Epstein says there will likely be a Bond 23 but the future of the series will depend whether Bond catches on with younger movie patrons.

“If it doesn’t click with the youth audience, the franchise is dead,” Epstein tells NPR. “MGM is dead. And so is James Bond. They live or die together.” Check out the link below. The story doesn’t mention how Eon Productions hired Peter Morgan, the writer of Very Important Films, who was unable to come up with a finished script draft despite months of work.

http://www.npr.org/v2/?i=131426010&m=131437232&t=audio

007 questions about how the MGM-Spyglass deal affects James Bond

We may not be able to provide the answers but we’re good at asking questions about James Bond. Here’s our special MGM financial restructuring edition.

001. How long will MGM be in bankruptcy court? Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. is going to file for bankruptcy as part of a plan that MGM creditors approved on Oct. 29. The filing will be what’s known as a “prepackaged” bankruptcy, meaning creditors are agreed on terms ahead of time to try to minimize time in bankruptcy court.

The Wall Street Journal, in a story about the vote by MGM creditors, said the studio might get out of bankruptcy court in “a month or two.” The Los Angeles Times said it might be as little as one month.

If these reports are correct, MGM would get out of bankruptcy court in December or early 2011. But given the twists and turns in the MGM financial saga, you might avoid betting on a specific date.

002. But Bond 23 will get back on track pretty soon, right? That depends on your definition of soon.

003. Once MGM gets through bankruptcy court, what else might hold up Bond 23?

For one thing, the revamped MGM will be smaller and no longer release films itself. MGM, which controls half of the 007 film franchise, will be run by Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, the co-founders of Spyglass Entertainment. The duo will have to cut deals with other studios to release films. There’s a lot of change ahead at the studio.

Meanwhile, there have been signs that Eon Productions, the other half of the Bond film franchise, didn’t exactly move quickly on Bond 23, even before it said in April development of the film was suspended indefinitely because of MGM’s financial ills. The production company issued a press release last year about how Peter Morgan, writer of Very Important Films such as Frost/Nixon, would help do Bond 23′s script. Morgan has disclosed he never got past the treatment stage while questioning the basic Bond concept. That raises the question whether Eon wasted its time before MGM’s situation worsened.

004. Can the revamped MGM properly finance a Bond movie? 2008′s Quantum of Solace, released by Sony’s Columbia Pictures, had a reported budget of $230 million. MGM’s business plan calls mostly for much-more modestly budgeted projects with occasional big projects. Presumably, Bond 23 would be one of those. The actual budget may depend on what studio ends up doing a deal with MGM to release Bond 23.

005. Does (and should) 007 face some budget tightening? Chances are unlikely Bond 23 would be a bargain basement production but it remains to be seen whether it’s as pricey as Quantum of Solace. A somewhat less expensive Bond 23 might not be a bad thing; Quantum, despite its ample budget, was seen by many fans as not being as good as the previous 007 film, Casino Royale. A major unknown is what studio actually ends up releasing Bond 23 and the terms of its deal with MGM.

006. What studio will release Bond 23? According to Mike Fleming of Nikki Finke’s Deadline.com Web site, there will be a lot of interest among major studios:

If MGM isn’t a distributor, the next installment of James Bond will be a jump ball. Expect Sony (which distributed Casino Royale) to battle it out with Warner Bros and Fox, but watch Paramount emerge in the thick of it because of the close relationship that the studio has developed with Spyglass since that company became co-financier of Star Trek and the followup that is in the works.

007. Is the MGM creditor vote good news or not for Bond fans? Assuming MGM gets out of bankruptcy court quickly, it’s a positive step — but it doesn’t appear to jump start Bond 23 by itself. The Spyglass deal is complicated and was arrived at only after MGM couldn’t sell itself at a price debt holders wanted. The new MGM management team’s job is just starting. We also don’t know what kind of relationship the new regime will have with Eon boss people Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

MGM watch: debtholders approve Spyglass plan

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which controls half of the James Bond film franchise, said its creditors approved a plan that would take the studio into bankruptcy court, cut its debt and install Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, the co-founders of Spyglass Entertainment, in charge of MGM.

MGM’s actual press release, WHICH YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE, merely says “that the secured lenders voting in the Company’s solicitation process have overwhelmingly approved its proposed plan of reorganization (“Plan”). MGM will now move expeditiously to implement that Plan, which will dramatically reduce its debt load and put the Company in a strong position to execute its business strategy.”

Here’s how the Wall Street Journal, in a story by Mike Spector and Lauren A.E. Schucker described what will happen next and why the plan got creditor support:

MGM plans to file for bankruptcy protection in coming days, said a person familiar with the matter, and could exit court in a month or two.

MGM’s largest creditors — led by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and hedge funds Anchorage Advisors and Highland Capital Management — fended off a late-stage bid by activist investor Carl Icahn to upend the vote. Mr. Icahn made several offers in recent days to buy debt from other MGM creditors in an effort to prevent the studio from receiving the votes it needed to proceed with the prepackaged bankruptcy. Mr. Icahn pressed Anchorage and other large MGM creditors to abandon the Spyglass plan in favor of a merger with rival Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., a company that Mr. Icahn has been trying to take over all year as its largest shareholder.

But Mr. Icahn’s offers to purchase debt at a premium to where it currently trades failed to gain enough traction.

Under a “prepackaged bankruptcy,” creditors agree before on terms before a bankruptcy filing and try to keep time in bankruptcy court at a minimum. Here’s an excerpt from the Journal about timing:

MGM had planned to file for bankruptcy as soon as Sunday, but the filing could be delayed until early next week, said the person familiar with the situation. The main reason: a deal just hashed out between MGM’s big creditors and Mr. Icahn.

MGM’s largest creditors were on the phone with Mr. Icahn and his representatives for hours Thursday night and from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, the person said. They made several tweaks to the Spyglass plan to appease Mr. Icahn and other creditors, the person said.

Eon Productions, which controls the other half of the 007 franchise, in April said it was suspending development of Bond 23 because of MGM’s uncertain financial situation. What’s not known is how quickly work on Bond 23 may resume or when the film could even be released.

Under the now-approved revamping plan, MGM will no longer release films itself, instead cutting deals with other studios. Also,the disclosure of Peter Morgan, hired last year to help write Bond 23, that he only wrote a treatment, or outline, and not a full script suggests Eon has a lot of work to do separate from developments at MGM.

Eon’s drive for ‘respect’ and how it affects the 007 film franchise

The Peter Morgan situation (fiasco?), where Eon Productions’ flirtation with a “prestige” writer didn’t pan out, got us to thinking about the state of the James Bond movie franchise. As Lt. Columbo on more than one occasion said, “little things” bothered him about a case. So it is with our concerns about the state of the James Bond movie franchise.

Peter Morgan wrote Frost/Nixon and other movies that had the label of being a Very Important Film. So, in 2009, when Eon announced that Morgan would be part of a writing team to script Bond 23, it got a lot of attention, especially among Bond fans. Months after ending his 007 writing efforts, Morgan gave an interview where he indicated he really didn’t care that much for the Bond concept.

In a way, that seems to seems to represent the approach of Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli after the death of Albert R. Broccoli, Eon’s co-founder, in 1996. There have been hints of this for awhile. Michael Apted got hired to direct 1999′s The World Is Not Enough, even though he had basically no experience directing action films. But the stepson and daughter of Cubby Broccoli really hit paydirt on the respect scale with 2006′s Casino Royale, which arguably got the best reviews of a 007 film in decades. Part of the reason was co-screenwriter Paul Haggis, known as a writer and director of Very Important Movies, despite the fact he also created the schlocky TV series Walker, Texas Ranger.

That’s a heady thing to ignore. So the duo hired Marc Forster, also known as a director of Very Important Movies, such as Monster’s Ball, to direct Quantum of Solace, with Haggis returning as the lead writer, getting first billing ahead of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The result: a $230 million-budgeted movie that was hard to follow in many places and seemed twice the length of its 106-minute running time, the shortest of the 22-film Eon/Bond series.

For an encore, the Wilson-Broccoli duo hired Peter Morgan to write Bond 23. Now the delay in Bond 23, understandably, is blamed on financial problems at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., 007′s home studio which also controls half of the Bond franchise with Eon. But even if MGM’s finances hadn’t tanked, there’s some reason to doubt the current Eon regime was up to getting out a Bond film in a reasonable amount of time. In April, when Eon said it was suspending development of Bond 23 because of MGM’s financial ills, it said the film was originally scheduled for a “2011/2012″ release. That would have been three or four YEARS after Quantum of Solace.

What’s more, Morgan revealed in an interview that after months of work in 2009, he had gotten no further than a “treatment” (essentially a detailed outline) and never had gotten around to actually writing a script. Aside from Morgan himself plus the grateful city of Vienna (where Morgan lives), it’s hard to see who else benefitted from the decision to hire Morgan in the first place. Morgan made his reputation on films that were lathered in politics. Bond films, while having a few referendces to the time they were made, tended to be as “timeless” as possible. Eon’s co-founders, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, de-emphasized the Cold War roots of Ian Fleming novels such as Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, which formed the basis of the first three films of the series. The Russians were the ultimate villains of all three novels; in the first two films the independent SPECTRE took the place of the Soviets while in Goldfinger, the title character was acting independently with the backing of the Chinese.

Bond 23 has been delayed primarily because of MGM’s financial ills, make no mistake. But even if MGM’s finances were fixed tomorrow, Eon would still have a lot of work to do to get a shootable script ready. The Broccoli-Saltzman team was able to do four films in four years and, after that, adhere to producing a film every other year (more or less). It’s unimaginable to envision the current Wilson-Broccoli regime sticking to such a schedule. They seem too busy worrying about their press clippings. The irony: Cubby Broccoli, a supposed hack, in 1982 received the Irving Thalberg Award, one of the most prestigious Hollywood gives to one of its own. Does anyone really think either Michael Wilson or Barbara Broccoli will receive that award anytime soon?

Peter Morgan, 007 fans hardly knew ye

Peter Morgan, screenwriter of Frost/Nixon and other prestige movies, joined a line of scribes such as Len Deighton and Anthony Burgess, who gave a try at writing a James Bond movie and couldn’t get it done. “The whole thing went to hell,” Morgan said in an interivew, published on the Indie Wire blog. “I’m so happy to be doing something else.”

Eon Productions put out a news release last year saying that Morgan would join Neal Purvis and Robert Wade in writing Bond 23. In the Indie Wire interview, which you can view for yourself starting around the 3:20 mark of the following video, Morgan says he “wrote a treatment, I never wrote a script…I went there with an orignial idea.” He never mentions Purvis and Wade.

Take a look for yourself:

In the next video, starting at the 0:15 mark, Morgan says the Bond is dated and “I’m not sure it’s possible to do it … I do think the absence of social reality in the Bond film…if they fix that, or they get that of if they get that in a script, which I’m so hoping they will, where you can actually believe in him, that he isn’t just a person in a dinner jacket…he is a creature of the Cold War, Bond….I just personally struggle to believe a British secret agent is still saving the world.”

Morgan goes on the praise Sam Mendes, the would-be director of Bond 23. You can see for yourself:

Eventually, the financial troubles at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which controls half of the Bond franchise, caused Morgan to cease his efforts, which he clearly doesn’t seem sad about. The fate of Bond 23 won’t be decided until MGM’s future is resolved.

Some observations and specuation about Morgan’s comments:

– Prestige apparently means more to current Eon boss-people Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli than it did to master showman Albert R. Broccoli, Eon’s co-founder with Harry Saltzman. Broccoli relied on Richard Maibaum, at least for first drafts, while Saltzman tried to entice more prestigious scribes, such as Paul Dehn (on Goldfinger) and John Hopkins (on Thunderball) to revamp Maibaum’s early drafts. Deighton also did some work on From Russia With Love, according to U.K. film historian Adrian Turner, and Burgess was among a gaggle of writers that pitched ideas for The Spy Who Loved Me. But the old Eon seemed to keep it all in perspective (i.e. they didn’t let the search for presige bog down the screenwriting process) than the current crew.

– Morgan sounds like he was never highly interested in the world of 007. You half expect him to sound like Sebastian Faulks, author of a 2008 Bond continuation novel, that it might be a jolly good romp to try writing a Bond movie.

– This is another case why press releases shouldn’t be viewed as any more than the tip of an iceburg.

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