Bond 25 speculation heats up via Mark Strong video

Screen capture of now-withdrawn Instagram post by Mark Strong’s trainer.

Nature abhors a vacuum. So do James Bond fans interested in news — any news — about the next 007 film adventure.

In this case, the trainer of actor Mark Strong posted a video of Strong working out on Instagram. “Me and Mark Strong working to a new project,” read the caption. What followed was a series of Bond-related hashtags such as #bond25, #DanielCraig, #MarkStrong, #DannyBoyle and more.

The Instagram post was deleted as was a post on Twitter. Didn’t matter. In the absence of confirmed Bond 25 casting news, it took on a life of its own.

After appropriate qualifications, the Birth.Movies.Death website said this:

Mark Strong, meanwhile, is a great choice for Bond 25, particularly in any kind of action capacity. He’s a rock-solid performer with range, easy-going charm and a great comic sensibility, not to mention a known quantity for Boyle, who directed him in Sunshine.

Or, put another way, “We don’t really know, but here’s why it’s a good idea.”

It should be noted that Strong is a friend of 007 star Daniel Craig. Strong made comments in 2016 that Craig was done as Bond. It wasn’t a correct prediction.

In April, there was a similar reaction, when Dave Bautista put out an Instagram post of himself with a SPECTRE tattoo on his finger where a SPECTRE ring should be. Naturally, there was speculation whether he’d be back in Bond 25.

A year earlier, actor Jeffrey Wright put out a photo of himself from Quantum of Solace which geared up speculation he was going to be in Bond 25.

All of this was taken very, very seriously at the time.

So, we’ll see.

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A 007-licensed Lego Aston Martin is teased

Lego logo

A 007-licensed Lego Aston Martin was teased this week.

It began with a June 14 tweet from Lego:

“We’ve been thinking about creating a special Secret (Service) model that could help an agent out in a tricky situation. Any ideas? @astonmartin #LicenceToBuild.”

Twenty-four minutes later, the official Twitter feed of Aston Martin responded:

“We may have a few ideas for what the special model could be…” The response also had a smiley and the  #LicenceToBuild hashtag.

After another five minutes, the official James Bond Twitter feed of Eon Productions responded: “Licence to build is authorised #LicenceToBuild”

For now, no additional information is available. (It’s classified “Eyes Only.”) Here’s the post from the 007 Twitter account to give you a little flavor.

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So who is going to buy 007’s home studio?

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

It seems as if Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s days are numbered as an independent studio. So who ends up with 007’s home studio?

A new era of media consolidation is underway. And MGM is a small fry.

AT&T Inc. has completed its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, parent company of Warner Bros., CNN, TBS and other media properties. The move comes after a U.S. court approved the deal earlier this week.

Comcast, parent company of Universal, is trying to buy most of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox movie studio.

Comcast is offering $65 billion in cash after 21st Century Fox agreed in December to accept $52.4 billion in stock from Walt Disney Co. An all-out bidding war is expected from the two media giants.

MGM supposedly is trying to go it alone. But, in this new media reality, that seems a long shot at best.

MGM is mostly owned by hedge funds following the company’s 2010 bankruptcy. Hedge funds rarely invest for the long run. They mostly look for a quick turnaround. The fact that the hedge fund owners have held on to their ownership for eight years is remarkable enough.

Given how volatile the situation is, making a prediction about who will buy MGM seems foolhardy. But it seems likely somebody will at some point.

Comcast’s Universal recently won the rights to distribute Bond 25 outside the U.S. So Universal may have a foot in the door. Maybe.

Here’s another question worth asking.

Would a bidder for MGM get out its checkbook and buy out Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions?

After all, if you’re going to go to the trouble of buying MGM, shouldn’t you buy all the James Bond film rights? Especially if media companies are throwing around tens of billions of dollars for acquisitions?

Some Bond fans feel the Broccoli-Wilson family would never sell out. Star Wars fans used to say to the same thing about George Lucas before he sold the franchise to Walt Disney Co.

Interesting days may lay ahead.

MGM pays ex-CEO a lot of money to go away

Gary Barber, former MGM chief, has reason to smile.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has bought shares and options from former CEO Gary Barber essentially to make him go away, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Barber received $260 million for 274,392 shares the former chief owned plus options for almost another 3.9 million shares, according to the entertainment news website.

That was on top of about $15 million in severance compensation that Barber received after being fired in March.

Deadline said in return Barber agreed “not to engage” with MGM for three years. Reuters reported last month that Barber was looking into making a bid for MGM. This new deal would preclude that.

What does this mean for Bond 25? Not much. The main effect is Barber goes away, albeit with a lot more money in his bank account.

Had Barber actually mounted a takeover bid, it had the potential to be a sideshow as MGM and Eon Productions are in the midst of getting Bond 25 off the ground. Sideshow averted.

MGM’s credit rating downgraded by Moody’s

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s credit rating was downgraded, in part because of increased film and TV spending, including Bond 25.

“We believe that the front-end spending on the company’s film (including the next Bond film) and television slate are strategically beneficial,” Moody’s Investors Service said in a statement. At the same time, the New York-based ratings company said “financing the build up with all debt adds financial risk to business risks that are higher than average.”

MGM debt already was below investment grade, known popularly as “junk bonds.” Moody’s lowered its rating on MGM to Ba3 from Ba2. The minimum investment rating at Moody’s is Baa3. MGM, which exited bankruptcy in 2010, now is three levels into junk at Moody’s. The company said it doesn’t expect MGM’s rating to improve through 2019.

Essentially, Moody’s is saying MGM’s increased debt has increased the company’s risk.

MGM has been increasing its debt as it seeks to upgrade its Epix cable channel. Moody’s said the studio’s increased debt ” is a departure from the company’s very conservative financial policies espoused by its departing CEO Gary Barber.”

Barber led MGM out of bankruptcy in 2010. He was ousted earlier this year. A successor has yet to be named.

MGM is home studio to the 007 film franchise, which it controls with Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions.

Sylvia Trench, an appreciation

Eunice Gayson (as Sylvia Trench), Zena Marshall (as Miss Taro), Sean Connery (as James Bond) and Ursula Andress (as Honey Rider) in a publicity still for Dr. No.

The character of Sylvia Trench, as portrayed by the late Eunice Gayson (1928-2018), has a special place in 007 film lore.

Sylvia was the only Bond woman character (aside from M’s assistant, Miss Moneypenny) to appear in more than one of the Bond films made by Eon Productions. Maud Adams appeared twice as two different characters in the Man With the Golden Gun and Octopussy.

Sylvia had less than 20 minutes of screen time combined for Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

Still, Sylvia was Bond’s first film on-screen conquest. Or was Bond her conquest? In Dr. No, Sylvia is the one who takes the initiative.

Sylvia Trench wasn’t an Ian Fleming character from his 007 novels. The idea was Sylvia, devised for the films, would be a recurring character. Bond would be rushing out to go on a mission but would, eh, spend some quick time with Sylvia before doing so.

At the same time the basic notion behind Sylvia’s character likely would have gotten old had it gone beyond two films.

How would you put Sylvia into Goldfinger? Asking Bond why he was morose after Jill’s death from being pained with gold paint?

Where would you place Sylvia in Thunderball? “Sorry, Sylvia. I have to go to this health clinic. Maybe I can see you when I get back.”

In You Only Live Twice? Maybe she’s sobbing after Bond has faked his death.

What about On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Bond (with George Lazenby replacing Sean Connery) already tosses his hat to Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) at his wedding. It’s a small emotional moment. What would he do for an encore for Sylvia?

The Sylvia Trench character actually helps make the first two 007 films, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, special. There’s a fair amount of continuity between the two movies without getting bogged down.

What’s more, Bond’s initial encounter with Sylvia in Dr. No  helps establish a lot about the 007 character in a very tight, economical way. The character, as played by Eunice Gayson, was a key part of that.

So with the passing of Eunice Gayson, let us also remember Sylvia Trench. The character was important to getting the film 007 off the ground. At the same time,  she certainly didn’t overstay her welcome.

Sometimes, less is more. But Sylvia stayed around long enough to have an impact.

Eunice Gayson, 1st Bond woman, dies at 90

Eunice Gayson in a publicity still.

Eunice Gayson, who played Sylvia Trench, the first Bond woman of the 007 film series, died June 8 at 90.

Gayson’s death was announced by her official Twitter feed.

The British actress played Sylvia Trench in Dr. No and From Russia With Love. The character wasn’t in Ian Fleming’s novels but created for the movies.

When first seen in Dr. No, she’s gambling at the same table as Bond. Sean Connery’s Bond initially isn’t seen to build up his introduction to audiences.

The audience witnesses Sylvia Trench losing twice to Bond. She then arranges to get more funds (“I need another thousand.”).

“I admire your courage, miss…” Bond says.

“Trench, Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, mister..”

“Bond, James Bond,” as the character’s face is finally shown. Later, Sylvia surprises Bond in his apartment only wearing a pajama top.

The casino scene “locates Bond in this exclusive environment of high-stakes gambling, but what’s also interesting is that Sylvia Trench is there as an independent woman,” James Chapman, an academic who has written extensively about Bond, said in a sidebar to a 2012 BBC story.

“She’s the one who comes on to him with a double entendre-laden dialogue,” Chapman said. “”It’s 1962 and right on the cusp of sexual revolution. The scene is saying it’s OK for this woman to be unaccompanied in a casino, picking up men.”

Trench again played Sylvia Trench in From Russia With Love but the character was retired from the series after that.

During her acting career, Gayson also appeared in episodes of Danger Man/Secret Agent and The Saint.

Here was the post on Twitter announcing her death.

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UPDATE (9:50 a.m. New York time): Eon Productions issued a statement via Twitter by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson about Gayson’s death. “Our sincere thoughts are with her family.”