HMSS’s latest odds on spy movie projects

With recent developments, including bankruptcy filings and intriguing reports in the entertainment trade press, it’s time to revise our odds for spy movie projects in development once more.

Bond 23: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer filed for bankruptcy but is hoping it’s a quick trip and the company will shed that status next month. As part of its filings, the company said it wants to have the next Bond movie out in November 2012 and resume an every-other-year schedule after that.

For Bond fans, that’s been the best news in some time. Still, Eon Productions, which controls the other half of the Bond franchise that MGM doesn’t, hasn’t commented publicly. Eon’s hiring of screenwriter Peter Morgan apparently didn’t work out. We don’t really know how far along Bond 23 is and whether Eon could get a film ready for the time MGM envisions.

PREVIOUS ODDS: 10-1
NEW ODDS: 5-1 (mostly for uncertainty about time frame)

Mission: Impossible 4: When last we visited this subject in July, things were firming up, with Brad Bird confirmed as director and Tom Cruise returing to star. Filming is now underway and the filming of a stunt got a lot of publicity. Here’s a video by the Associated Press:

PREVIOUS ODDS: 3-2
NEW ODDS: Prohibitive. It would take an utter disaster for it not to happen. Paramount has targeted the film to premier in late 2011.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: In the past couple of weeks, the entertainment media has reported that Warner Bros. is negotiating with Steven Soderbergh to direct and George Clooney to star in a film version of the 1960s spy show.

At face value, that would indicate there’s some momentum building. But there also appears to be some manipulation going on. Earlier this year, there were reports that Warners was supposedly enthusiastic about a script by Max Borenstein. But under the Soderbergh-Clooney scenario, they’re starting all over on a new script. As Jerry Seinfeld said famously, “What’s up with that?”

Also, some U.N.C.L.E. fans aren’t so keen on the idea of 49-year-old Clooney playing U.N.C.L.E. ace agent Napoleon Solo. Clooney was quite fit in The American but do you want to build a multi-film franchise around him? Robert Vaughn turned 31 during filming of the U.N.C.L.E. pilot (that birthday was the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas). Vaughn turned 50 during production of the 1983 TV movie The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E., which had Solo being coaxed out of retirement.

Until Soderberg and/or Clooney sign on the dotted line, we’re still wary.

PREVIOUS ODDS: 25-1
NEW ODDS: 15-1. Where there’s smoke, there’s (sometimes) fire.

New (serious) Matt Helm movie: There hasn’t been any news or even rumors for months. Usually, there’s at least some buzz before a project becomes reality.

PREVIOUS ODDS:10-1
NEW ODDS:15-1. This is basically a hunch admittedly, given lack of news.

HMSS revised handicapping of spy movie projects

Back in mid-April, we did some handicapping on some spy movie projects in various stages of development.

Less than three months have passed and there have been some developments, some firm, some murky. So here’s a revised odds board.

Bond 23: This project is the latest in the news, though that would have to fall under the murky category. The Daily Mirror in the U.K. said Bond 23 had been “canned” because of MGM’s financial problems.

The paper cited a “glum insider” it didn’t identify and quoted a statement from Eon Productions that didn’t confirm but didn’t really deny it, either. Media reports about James Bond movies have a mixed record. Nearly 30 years ago, for example, there were reports that Eon was considering James Brolin to play 007 in Octopussy. In 1994, Brolin’s screen tests were shown at a 007 fan convention in Los Angeles, showing they were right even though Roger Moore ended up coming back for Octopussy.

It would be nice if we knew something, anything about the “glum insider.” Does he/she have direct knowledge? In theory, it could be anyone from Eon boss people Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, down to a grip. Still, even if you discount the Daily Mirror report, MGM hasn’t been making much progress on the financial front. Bottom line: the news isn’t good, the question is exactly how bad it is.

ORIGINAL ODDS: 4-1
FIRST REVISED ODDS (after Eon said Bond 23 was being delayed indefinitely): 10-1
REVISED ODDS (discounting Daily Mirror but noting lack of MGM progress): 15-1
REVISED ODDS (accepting Daily Mirror): 100-1

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 4: Some news has occurred since our original mid-April rankings. The Empire Web site quoted Tom Cruise as confirming that Brad Bird was definitely onboard to direct the film. But Paramount also announced in May the release date had been pushed back to December 2011. Still, all this showed that things were happening.

The biggest cloud now over the project may be whether Paramount is getting cold feet because of the disappoint box office receipts of Cruise’s recent Knight and Day movie, according to a story by Mike Fleming of Nikki Finke’s Deadline Web site.

ORIGINAL ODDS:2-1
REVISED ODDS: 3-2

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. A weblog of the Los Angeles Times reported June 28 that Warner Bros. likes a script commissioned earlier this year, wants to proceed with it but is still looking for a director.

We’ve been speptical since this latest version first surfaced earlier in the year, in part because have been lots of U.N.C.L.E. scripts that have gone nowhere. Things are still murky but something appears to be happening.

ORIGINAL ODDS:100-1
REVISED ODDS:25-1

New (serious) Matt Helm movie: Not much news on a movie that’d be a more faithful version of Donald Hamilton’s “counter assassin.”

ORIGINAL ODDS: 10-1, no revision.

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