Bond 23 to be released Nov. 9, 2012, Eon and MGM say

Agent 007 is officially out of limbo. Bond 23 has a Nov. 9, 2012 release date and production of the movie will start late this year, Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. said in an e-mailed release on Jan. 11.

The production company and studio, the latter fresh out of bankruptcy court, confirmed Daniel Craig is returning and Sam Mendes is directing. One tidbit of news: the script will be by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan.

Logan hadn’t been mentioned previously. Eon’s last word on the story was when it said Purvis and Wade would collaborate with Peter Morgan, but Morgan left the project without actually writing a script (while gabbing plenty about how he never really cared for the Bond character).

Logan, a 49-year-old, Chicago-born screenwriter, has credits including 2007′s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and 2000′s Gladiator.

No title was disclosed. Still, the release confirmed the obvious, especially concerning Mendes, whose ex-wife Kate Winslet had publicly confirmed the director was working on the film. Eon had suspended Bond 23 “indefinitely” last year because of MGM’s financial ills, which climaxed with with its trip to bankruptcy court where creditors exchanged debt for equity in the studio.

MGM also tipped its hand in bankruptcy court filings that it wanted Bond 23 to come out in November 2012. It remains whether the other part of the studio’s 007 plan — that Bond movies resume coming out every other year — comes to pass.

007 questions now that MGM is out of bankruptcy

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer exited bankruptcy on Dec. 20 in a slimmer form. So what better time for 007 questions about how the development affects the future of the 007 film franchise?

001. Is Daniel Craig coming back as James Bond? We know Craig has said he wants to return. In fact, he has said it more than once. We know he’s a favorite of the co-boss of Eon Productions, Barbara Broccoli, who has been quoted as saying Craig is the best Bond ever. With MGM’s financial plight this year, Eon has been mum on virtually everything. The answer may be an easy one but the answer still hasn’t really been given.

002. Is Sam Mendes really going to direct Bond 23? Mendes’s ex-wife, Kate Winslet, says he is, even the point she’s going to move to London so the director can see his kids during filming. But Mendes himself in a Wall Street Journal called such talk “speculation” even after his publicist confirmed the story. Again, the answer may be an easy one, but the time has come for a little candor.

003. Who’s going to write Bond 23? The grand experiment of hiring prestigious screenwriter Peter Morgan was a washout, mostly for reasons that had nothing to do with MGM’s financial plight. Eon announced Morgan’s hiring months before he actually got around to writing anything. In subsequent interviews, he has said he’s happy to have washed his hands of the project and was never that enthusiastic about Bond in the first place. Do Neal Purvis and Robert Wade press on (the Eon press release said Morgan, Purvis and Wade would write Bond 23)? Have the Wade-Purvis duo done any work? Or is somebody else going to get hired?

004. Who is MGM going to help finance and distribute Bond 23? MGM, in its bankruptcy filing said it planned to see a partner to co-finance Bond 23. Who’s it going to be? Also, MGM’s plan is to exit distribution and be primarily a maker of TV shows and movies. What studio ends up distributing Bond 23? Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures brand distributed Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Does Columbia pull a repeat? Or does somebody else step in?

005. Can Eon Productions actually make Bond 23 for a November 2012 release date? In the MGM bankruptcy filing, the studio said it wants Bond 23 out in November 2012. MGM, though, needs Eon Productions to actually make the movie. Do the problems with the Bond 23 script process demonstrate broader problems at Eon? Or was that a bit of bad luck?

006. Can Eon Productions actually produce 007 movies on an bi-annual basis? MGM’s bankruptcy filing said it also wants Bond movies to come out on a regular, every-other-year schedule. Is Eon capable of that? Assuming Bond 23 comes out in November 2012, the Bond franchise will have been in hiatus for more years than not between 1989′s Licence to Kill and Bond 23. Barbara Broccoli and half-brother Michael G. Wilson seem to have trouble keeping up the pace of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

007. When can we get answers to the other questions? Eon has stayed quiet because a) that’s how it operates and b) the MGM financial situation. But it has been so quiet, it’s beginning to look ridiculous. When the director’s (excuse us, would-be director’s) ex-wife provides more information, Eon loses control of the message. That’s Public Relations 101. Maybe shortly after the first of the year, Eon can start trying to get back that control with a little basic information.

UPDATE: Variety in a story it has about MGM, has this nugget:

MGM has been working up plans for a 2012 yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first Bond pic, 1962′s “Doctor No,” so the studio will probably move as quickly as possible to lock down Craig and to secure a director. Sam Mendes has long been rumored to be the leading candidate to helm.

Bond 23: everybody’s talking except for Eon and Sam Mendes

All of a sudden, lots of people are talking about Bond 23, except for the people who’d actually supervise the making of the film: the co-boss folks of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

Exhibit A: David Arnold, composer of five 007 films, says in an interview on Comingsoon.net that Bond 23 is starting to gear up. Arnold told the Web site that, “We only just got the news that we’re back on. But ‘there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip’ So I will keep quiet until I get a script and then start writing ideas.’

Exhibit B: Actress Kate Winslet, in an interview with the U.K.’s Daily Mail newspaper, said she’s moving to London for a period so she and her children can be close to her estranged husband, director Sam Mendes, the presumed director of Bond 23.

Sam is doing the next Bond film, all being well, and we’ll all be in England if that happens. It’s such a massive commitment for him and it’s not fair for him to commute backwards and ­forwards to New York from ­London. It would be impossible. The children will be there with me,’ Kate told me (the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye) exclusively.

Exhibit C: Peter Morgan, who earlier disclosed this year he never got around to actually writing a Bond 23 script after a few months on the project.

Let’s recap: MGM said in bankrutpcy court filings it wants Bond 23 to come out in November 2012 and future 007 films to come out on an every-other-year schedule. One Eon contract employee (Arnold) says Bond 23 is back on, though he hasn’t gotten a script yet. And the soon-to-be-ex-wife of the man reported to be Bond 23′s director says she’s moving herself and the kids so the would-be director can visit his children on a regular basis while Bond 23 is being filmed.

Still silent: Wilson and Broccoli (but that’s no surprise because they rarely talk to the press except when it’s time to promote a Bond movie) and Mendes, who’s never said himself that he’s going to be the director. Stay tuned, there’s probably more Bond 23 nonsense ahead. Once MGM actually gets out of bankrutpcy court (its reorganization plan having already been approved by the court), things will probably start popping.

UPDATE: The Deadline Web site run by Nikki Finke has gotten into the act WITH A BREATHLESSLY WORDED POST BY TIM ADLER. It starts thusly:

There’s still no official word. But I’m hearing from 007 insiders that production should start on the next James Bond movie — “Bond 23″ — towards the end of next year for release November 2012.

Deadline’s report might seem more substantial if a) MGM hadn’t already laid out the November 2012 in bankruptcy court; b) David Arnold hadn’t already said the same thing *publicly in an on-the-record interview*; and c) Kate Winslet hadn’t already spilled the beans, also in an on-the-record interview.

By the way, insiders tell us the sun will rise in the East tomorrow.

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.

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.

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

Bond 23 by the numbers

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer says in its bankruptcy filing it wants to get Bond 23 out by November 2012 and get the film series back on an every-other-year schedule. It remains to be seen if that happens, but here are some statistics to keep in mind if it does.

5: The longest period (in years) the current Eon productions regime of Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli was able to maintain an every-other-year schedule. That occurred from 1994 (when they cast Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in GoldenEye, kick-starting pre-production of the 17th 007 film) to 1999 (when The World Is Not Enough hit theaters).

11: How long it has been (in years) since the longest period Broccoli and Wilson maintained an every-other-year schedule. By 2012, it will have been 13 years. Either way, it has been a long time.

2: Number of confirmed times that Wilson has talked about how tiring it is to produce a James Bond movie. He’s now 67, a year younger that his stepfather, Albert R. Broccoli, was when The Spy Who Loved Me came out in theaters in the summer of 1977. Cubby Broccoli produced another half-dozen Bond movies through 1989′s Licence to Kill. His last credit was as presenter of 1995′s GoldenEye, but he had no producer credit.

14: Number of years since Licence to Kill that the Bond film series will have been in some kind of hiatus ASSUMING Bond 23 actually comes out in 2012. This is comprised of 1989-1995 (lapse between Licence and GoldenEye), 2002-2006 (lapse between Die Another Day and Casino Royale, when Wilson and Broccoli pondered and pondered and pondered revamping the series) and 2008-2012 (time between Quantum of Solace and Bond 23 when MGM, half owner of the 007 franchise, fell into a financial crisis).

61: Percentage of the 23 years between Licence to Kill and Bond 23 (again, assuming Bond 23 comes out in 2012) that the Bond series has been in some kind of production hiatus.

29: Number of days that MGM would be in bankruptcy court if the company gets final approval of its reorganization plan at a hearing scheduled in bankruptcy court scheduled for Dec. 2.

7: The number (in years) of the Daniel Craig era of Bond movies, starting in 2005 (when he was cast) to 2012, assuming Bond 23 comes out with him as 007.

The only longer eras (in years) for the Eon-produced series:

–The Sean Connery era of 10 years (his 1961 casting through 1971′s Diamonds Are Forever,, overlooking a one-film gap).

–Roger Moore’s 13 years (his 1972 casting through 1985′s A View To a Kill)

–Pierce Brosnan’s 8 years (1994 casting through 2002′s Die Another Day).

Of course, Craig will have only done three films in his era (once again assuming he stars in Bond 23 and it comes out in 2012). Brosnan squeezed in four films. Then again, he was also 007 during the longest period that the Wilson-Broccoli duo was able to maintain an every-other-year schedule. Of course, he was also 007 when Wilson complained about being tired following The World Is Not Enough, which took the films off an every-other-year schedule.

MGM watch: MGM files for bankruptcy, says it wants to jumpstart the 007 series

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Nov. 3. The home studio of James Bond (and half-owner of the 007 film franchise) made its filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York City. The filing also indicates that jumpstarting the now-dormant 007 film series is a priority.

Here’s part of a story by Bloomberg.com:

New James Bond films may be released every second year starting in November 2012, MGM said. It aims to own 50 percent of Bond 23, due out that year, with an equal partner paying all of the production costs, it said. Later Bond movies would be wholly owned and funded by MGM, the company said.

MGM is going to bankruptcy court to wipe out almost $4 billion in debt. The studio’s financial uncertainty prompted Eon Productions, which controls the other half of the franchise, to suspend development of Bond 23. MGM’s filing is the first time any entity involved in the matter has provided any kind of timetable for Bond’s return to the screen following 2008′s Quantum of Solace.

Under the revamping plan, Spyglass Entertainment co-founders Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum will take command of MGM, which will only produce films and TV shows and cut distribution deals with other studios. While most productions will be modest, MGM would produce a few large films such as Bond 23 and The Hobbit. Eon’s boss people, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, haven’t spoken publicly about the Spyglass plan.

The studio’s statement on the filing tried to sound reassuring and said it’s anticipating the journey through bankruptcy court will be short:

MGM has sufficient cash on hand, and the consent of its lenders to use this cash, to fund normal business operations throughout the Chapter 11 process. MGM has filed “first-day” motions seeking immediate Court approval to continue paying its employees, vendors, participants, guilds and licensors in the ordinary course of business during the entire Chapter 11 process, for both pre-petition and post-petition obligations. MGM anticipates that the Plan will be confirmed by the Court in approximately 30 days.

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.

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