MGM watch: Studio gets another debt extension

For James Bond fans who don’t like Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., July 14 wasn’t a good day. The studio, coping with $3.7 billion of debt got another extension where it doesn’t have to make payments. MGM put out this news release indicating the company would live to die another day:

MGM said today its lenders agreed to extend the forbearance period and
therefore will not seek remedies in connection with the nonpayment of interest
and principal due on the company’s bank debt, including the revolving credit
facility, until September 15, 2010.

That’s the sixth extension granted by lenders and would indicate the fate of the studio, which owns half of the 007 film franchise, won’t be settled until nearly the end of summer. As things stand now, no more work on Bond 23 will occur until MGM’s situation is resolved.

However, this week, there were other developments. Bloomberg.com, in a story by Ronald Grover and Michael White THAT YOU CAN VIEW BY CLICKING HERE, reported that Lions Gate Entertainment is sniffing around at acquiring MGM.

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., the independent film and TV producer, has approached creditors of ailing Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. to help shape a plan to acquire the studio, two people with knowledge of the situation said.

Lions Gate Vice Chairman Michael Burns has been meeting in New York with investors who hold some of MGM’s $3.7 billion debt, according to the people, who requested anonymity because the discussions are private.

Lions Gate has its own issues. The company has been feuding with one shareholder, Carl Icahn. The Bloomberg story adds this detail:

Any agreement to buy Los Angeles-based MGM, which won another loan reprieve from creditors today, would have to be approved by Carl Icahn, Lions Gate’s largest shareholder. He took a 10-day break from efforts to gain control of Vancouver- based Lions Gate’s board so the company could make a case for certain acquisitions. That standstill agreement expires on July 19. Debt-hobbled MGM is co-owner of the James Bond franchise.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported reported that Spyglass Entertainment may be a leading contender to gain control of MGM. Meanwhile, Time Warner Inc. earlier this year submitted a bid and said as recently as May that it was still interested at the right price.

The bottom line: MGM’s future, and James Bond’s, are still unsettled.

Alan Hume, director of photography for 007, the Avengers and Star Wars, dies

Alan Hume, director of photography for three James Bond movies, a Star Wars film and some episodes of the original Avengers television series, died July 13 at the age of 85.

The British Society of British Cinematographers has an obituary on its Web site. It reads in part:

A charming gentle man and consummate cinematographer who amassed over 100 credits in his career, his sparkling blue eyes and the warmth behind will be sadly missed. Elected to the BSC in 1964, Alan worked tirelessly for the Society, accumulating 22 years of service on the board; acting as President between 1969-1971.

Hume got his start in the 1940s, according to the BSC obit. In the 1960s, Hume photographed at least 26 episodes of The Avengers, according to his bio on IMDB.com. In the early to mid-1980s, he was director of photography on three consecutive James Bond movies: For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View To a Kill. During that period, he also photographed Return of the Jedi, the third Star Wars movie to be released or, officially, the sixth chapter in the Star Wars saga.

Here’s OBITUARY ON THE CINEMA RETRO WEB SITE THAT YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE.

And here’s the original theatrical trailer of For Your Eyes Only:

Playboy, 007’s old ally, may be subject of takeover fight

Playboy magazine and its parent company, Playboy Enterprises Inc., may be the target of a takeover fight. Why should James Bond fans care? Well, the magazine does have a half-century relationship with a certain gentleman agent.

First, the events of July 12 as described by Brett Pulley on Bloomberg.com:

FriendFinder Networks Inc., owner of Penthouse adult magazine, plans to submit a bid for Playboy Enterprises Inc., following a $123 million offer from Playboy’s founder Hugh Hefner.

Things began when Playboy issued a statement. Here’s how Pulley described it:

Hefner plans to offer $5.50 apiece in cash for the Class A and Class B shares, Chicago-based Playboy said in a statement today. Hefner, 84, is partnering with Rizvi Traverse Management LLC for the transaction. The offer, at a premium of more than 30 percent, values Playboy at about $185 million.

It was after that FriendFinder Chief Executive Officer Marc Bell gave interviews (to Bloomberg and elsewhere) that he was looking to counter. To read the entire Bloomberg story, JUST CLICK HERE.

Playboy has had a rough time. Hefner’s daughter, Christie, stepped down as CEO last year and the magazine has had some staff cuts because of declining advertising revenue and circulation. It’s a story that has been repeated at other storied magazines, including Newsweek (currently on the sales block by the Washington Post Co.).

Playboy’s situation is worth noting here because of the ties between the magazine and 007. Playboy published Ian Fleming’s short story The Hildebrand Rarity in its March 1960 issue. The magazine later serialized later Fleming Boind novels, including You Only Live Twice and The Man With The Golden Gun.

The magzine also published THE LAST INTERVIEW WITH FLEMING. And Playboy also had a MEMORABLE 1965 INTERVIEW WITH SEAN CONNERY that demonstrated the star was tiring of the 007 grind.

Bond films acknowledged thre relationship with the magazine. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the George Lazenby version of 007 looks over an issue of the magazine while a device is cracking the safe of a Swiss lawyer as Bond pursues Blofeld’s trail.

Two years later, in Diamonds Are Forever, we see Bond (Sean Connery) has a membership card at a Playboy club.

Over the years, there were various Bond-related pictorials. But the relationship, at least on the literary side, with Bond intensified during Raymond Benson’s 1997-2002 tenture writing 007 continuation novels. The magazine published Benson’s first Bond work, the Blast From the Past short story as well as another short story, Mid-Summer’s Night Doom, where Bond ends up at the Playboy mansion (strictly in the line of duty) and hanging out with Hefner.

The possible Playboy takeover fight is business, of course. But for Bond fans, there may be a bit more — including fond memories — at stake.

UPDATE: FriendFinder made its bid for Playboy on July 14 15. It’s bidding $210 million, which FriendFinder says is a premium over Hefner’s bid. We’ll see how it turns out.

Inception’s Christopher Nolan talks about his affection for 007 films

Christopher Nolan’s Inception has had its premier in the U.K. and the writer-director has commented on the influence of James Bond movies on his work.

Nolan told the BBC this:

“The Bond influence on the film was very intentional because, for me, growing up with the Bond films – they’ve always stood for grand-scale action,” said Nolan, who also directed The Dark Knight and Batman Begins.

The entire BBC report can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.

Meanwhile, over at Nikki Finke’s Deadline Web site, there were additional quotes by Nolan on the subject of 007:

“I’ve loved the Bond films since I was a kid. For me, they’re always about the expansiveness of cinema. The first Bond films set up infinite possibilities about the world they create. I’d love to do a Bond film.”

You can read all of that post by CLICKING HERE.

MGM watch: Nikki Finke Web site says nothing new on Bond 23

Nikki Finke’s Deadline Web site says it’s way too early to say Bond 23 is dead.

A post by editor Mike Fleming says reports from the Daily Mirror (and others) this past weekend that Bond 23 has been canceled are over the top:

While Sony, Fox, and Warner Bros would love to grab the Eon Productions franchise, I’m told reliably that as long as MGM’s debt restructuring is preceded by a pre-packaged bankruptcy, Bond isn’t going anywhere.

For the uninitiated, in a pre-packaged bankruptcy, a company first obtains agreements from its lenders on restructuring its debt. The company then files for bankruptcy, but the having the agreements in hand minimizes the time in bankruptcy court.

In an update to the post, Fleming added this:

“You are absolutely right, there is no new news. Development will resume once MGM is viable again, as Danjaq can’t go anywhere without them. So all bets are off. No idea when this will get resolved,” a source integral to the Bond franchise told Deadline London editor Tim Adler today.

To read Fleming’s entire post (which also says Daniel Craig and would-be director Sam Mendes aren’t going anywhere, click the above link or JUST CLICK HERE.

Here’s also a shoutout to the Commander Bond.net Web site, which had its own summary YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE. That summary, by Matt Weston, also includes a link to a related Hollywood Reporter link.

UPDATE: MGM, meanwhile, is seeking yet another extension of a moratorium on its debt payments, according to a July 7 story by Ronald Grover on Bloomberg.com:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., the film studio up for sale after falling behind on $3.7 billion in debt, will ask lenders to extend a moratorium on interest payments, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

The Los Angeles-based company will e-mail ballots to more than 100 creditors this week, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because discussions are private. The current forbearance expires on July 14.

You can read the entire story by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.

Inception’s homage to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Writer-director Christopher Nolan’s Inception is getting a lot of buzz. The movie, opening on July 16, concerns a thief who can take secrets from the subconscious mind. Nolan, who turns 40 later this month, is on a roll after The Dark Knight was a huge hit two years ago.

According to a review by “Mr. Beaks” at Ain’t It Cool News, 007 fans should have an additional incentive to check out the film.

For a film that’s clearly sprung from the deepest reaches of Nolan’s creative mind, INCEPTION is appropriately enhanced by his boyhood preoccupation with James Bond movies (he admitted as much in a recent interview). During the deliriously intricate set piece which encompasses a good deal of the second act and some of the third, Nolan gets to pay ecstatic homage to ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE – as Hans Zimmer’s score takes on lovely, invigorating John Barry dimensions.

You can read Mr. Beaks’ entire review (including some additional comments on the Bond-inspired sequence) by CLICKING RIGHT HERE. And here’s the trailer for the film:

ITN calls Bond 23 `cancelled’

ITN, on its Web site, has a video dated July 4 that refers to Bond 23 as being “cancelled,” saying it may be “several years” before another 007 movie hits the screen. “It’s goodbye, Mr. Bond, as time has been called on the latest installment of the 007 series,” it begins.

You can view the video by CLICKING HERE.

(July 10 modification of this post) OR: ITN uploaded the video on YouTube, so we can embed it below:

A few caveats:

ITN doesn’t cite how it learned this. The report just says “the money situation” at MGM (which isn’t named, just referred to as “the studio”) hasn’t improved so “the plug has been pulled indefinitely.”

ITN doesn’t cite a July 2 report in the U.K. newspaper Daily Mirror that kicked off this latest round of media reports saying the Bond 23 delay announced in April had become more serious. The Daily Mirror cited a “glum insider” it didn’t name. Thus, by implication, ITN is passing this off as their own reporting while not being very transparent about the details.

Finally, ITN presents no evidence it actually sought either MGM or Eon Productions out for comment before sending out the video.

In short, fans convinced this is all tabloid rubbish (as some are doing on message boads of 007 fan Web sites), probably won’t be convinced otherwise by this.

UPDATE: The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. is now getting into the act. In an entry in the newspaper’s FILM BLOG, WHICH YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE, the Guardian provides pros and cons whether the 007 film series should even continue or not.

The start of that blog entry writes of Bond 23 being cancelled as a given while providing no hard information:

Bond 23 – the Sam Mendes Bond, the Peter Morgan Bond, the Bond that was going to right all the wrongs of Quantum of Solace – is no more. Although its status had been set to “indefinitely delayed” since April, the continuing financial mess at MGM means that the film has now been cancelled altogether. It also means that we’re back in a situation where the next 007 movie could feasibly be several years away.

We’ll give a shoutout to “danslittlefinger,” who posted the link on the MI6 fan Web site message board.

A (minor) 007 connection to 1776

That’s 1776, the 1972 film version of the play, that is. The connection is actor David Ford, who played John Hancock in the Jack L. Warner-produced film. Here he is calling for the vote on independence:

And here he is a few years earlier, doing the voiceover work for a double feature of Thunderball and From Russia With Love:

PBS goes for the movie/tv spy cliches in describing Russian spy arrests

Last week’s FBI arrest of a Russian spy ring last week generated a lot of interest. And, at least two PBS programs couldn’t resist making puns or using cliches gleaned from movies and TV shows to describe it.

The McLaughlin Group: John McLaughlin, host of the gabfest that bears his name, introduced a segment he dubbed, “Secret Agent Man!” And just in case you didn’t get it, there was audio of the Johnny Rivers song “Secret Agent Man,” used in Secret Agent, the U.S. version of Patrick McGoohan’s Danger Man series.

Need to Know: Co-host Alison Stewart couldn’t resist a double dip. In her introduction for a segment about the busted spy ring, she said its members “wereSpies Like Us,” a reference to the 1985 John Landis-directed, Chevy Chase-Dan Aykroyd comedy. Stewart couldn’t leave it there, adding how the ring evoked a return to “Boris and Natasha,” the spies who did their best to make the lives of Bullwinkle J. Moose and Rocky the Flying Squirrel miserable.

Stewart also interviewed author Tim Weiner, who writes about intelligence matters. Weiner wasn’t impressed with the Russian spies, saying they were “the gang couldn’t spy straight.”

Agent Triple-X tops InStyle.com’s list of top female on-screen spies

InStyle.com, inspired by the recent arrest of real-life arrest of Russian spies, came up with its on-screen women spies.

Coming in at No. 1 was Major Anya Asamova, aka Agent Triple-X from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. As portrayed by Barbara Bach, Triple-X was James Bond’s equal as a secret agent and was part of the reason the 1977 film helped revive the 007 film franchise, which had shown signs of slumping.

At No. 7 was Vesper Lynd, as played by Eva Green from 2006’s Casino Royale. Also of note was The Avenger’s Emma Peel at No. 2, with InStyle using photos of both Diana Rigg, the television original, and Uma Thurman, the movie version.

You can see the start of the post, and the full list BY CLICKING RIGHT HERE.